Accountability Confessions

This weekend was bad for my budget. And since this blog is intended to keep me honest about my debt repayment, it’s time to confess my sins.

  1. I invited a co-worker out on Saturday. We went to a restaurant. I did both of those things knowing I had NO CASH to spend on such activities. $15 out the door
  2. My friend and I took our annual trip to the Outlet Mall and got Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s. We also got lunch at Sonic (because we were desperate and at the Outlet Mall). I spent $90 on two dress, $4 at Sonic, and $2.50 at McDonald’s. None of these things were in my budget. They all went on my credit card. I sent the payment in the moment I got home. But that money is coming from savings, not allocated funds.

I’m trying to think deep and hard about why I did these things. Part of it has to do with a need to fell social. I haven’t been doing much since I decided to hunker down on my debt repayment. The other part has to do with the fact that I am a sucker for Outlet Malls. And I really wanted new dresses to wear to work. And now I have them. So I can wear them, and hopefully, feel more put together rather than slob like.

Debt Repayment, I love you. But you’re bringing me down.

Listen to this while reading:

I was gifted some money for Christmas (thank you, family!). Being a tried and true and dedicated debt repay-er, I earmarked every dollar to my top priority CC. And yesterday, the checks cleared, and money was sent to the CC company. This morning, I checked my balance, and it was lower (as expected). But instead of feeling joy and exuberance and motivation to continue to kick debt’s ass, I felt bummed. Because the balance is still super high.

This is the part of debt repayment that sucks the most. You make a big stride. But it’s still not even close to what it needs to be. And you’ve given up manicures and new shoes and book binges for so long that you begin to not even recognize yourself. And you think, “will this ever end????”

That’s where I’m at today.

Super Proud Gloaty Pants, Reporting for Duty.

It’s January. Which means resolutions (that most of us won’t keep) and freezing temperatures and health kicks and debt depression. January is basically the month reflecting on one’s past choices and behaviors, believing them to be unwise/unhealthy/irresponsible, and dedicating oneself’s to improving upon them with vigor. In 12 short months. It helps that January is preceded by December, the month of all decadence–emotional eating, emotional drinking, emotional shopping. Nothing sets you up for contemplating poor choices like being hungover and bloated on your couch on January 1 and then checking your credit card balance.

This January is the first January that I can ever recall in which I came out financially ahead. Now don’t get too jazzed. I didn’t magically pay off my debt with a wave of my fairy wand. (In truth, I think my fairy wand is broken…sad….) What I mean is that I planned for the holiday cost bumps. I used my credit cards, yes. And then I immediately paid them off.  I made “unplanned” purchases, yes. And I paid for them from the plush fund I had set up for holiday spending. So my credit card balance as of January 1 (and now January 11) is less than it was on December 1. I truly don’t think this has ever happened before in all the years that I have been a credit card holder.

So I am freaking PROUD. I am proud and pleased and grateful that this January I will not be falling down into the debt depression rabbit hole that I typically fall into when my credit card has escalated. No ma’am! I’m a woman on mission. And this small victory is all the positive motivation that I need to keep moving forward, aggressively and wisely, towards freedom from my debt.

Watch out! I’m on fire!!

A very long post about money

I have struggled with money since college. But I never realized that I struggled with money until I moved away from home and had my first big girl job with benefits and retirement plans and dental (oh my!). For me, the light bulb moment happened when I had to go to the emergency room. The visit, the meds, and the many many follow-ups that resulted had to go on my credit card. They had to because I had maxed out what little savings I had by moving for my job. That was the big great oof of my financial life. This was December 2011.

 

Since that moment, I have been searching for ways to be better with money. In retrospect, I failed. I know this because in January 2012 I decided to get smart and write down what I spent. I tracked it all in spreadsheets. And then never looked at it again. However, as I have been tweaking my financial plans, I have looked back at those old documents. And boy did I notice an epic surprise. In January 2012 my credit card debt levels were around $5000. Not great. But not abominable. Especially since, as I just said, 2012 was going to be all about the big financial fix! So how did I do? Well, let’s look at January 2013, shall we? My credit card debt was just under $9000. WHAT!

 

Despite this blunder, I have managed to make significant progress on debt reduction this past year, getting my credit card balances back down to where they began two years ago. But having wasted 2 years of my life, I have been thinking alot lately about why, when I thought I was in “get my shit together” mode, I managed to overspend so much.

 

The answer: my psychological relationship with money.

 

I have a terrible relationship with money. I am not sure how or where it started, but’s it’s real and it’s deep and it’s incredibly unhealthy. It’s the boyfriend who pinches your hip and says, “Time to lay off the donuts!”. It’s the well-meaning but harsh mother who constantly bemoans your lack of relationship and comments on the barrenness of your womb in public. Not good.

 

So I am trying to repair the damage and build a healthy cozy relationship with my money. One where we respect one another’s opinions and vantage points. Where we support each other’s career moves and personal choices without judgement. Where we bring each other cups of hot cocoa on cold winter days “just because”.

 

Step one: change my language around money. For me, the words “budget” and “debt reduction” are associated with negative feelings and deprivation. To be on a “budget” means living without. It means restriction. It means passing on all the things that I think provide a full and rich life. The idea of “debt reduction” echoes through my brain like a mean old school marm scolding me for my impractical choices. It’s the doctor telling me to lose those extra 10 lbs. It too means restriction and denial of my instinctive wants (a.k.a., donuts).

 

Most people can handle these negative words just fine. But I can’t. I hear them, and like a stubborn three year old who refuses to adhere to bedtime, I shout back at my subconscious “I DON’T WANNA!”. I devolve into the “treat yourself” mentality, where a bad day at work or the grief of difficult break up yields additional interest collecting on a credit card. It’s more destructive than soothing. (And just in case you were wondering, I have the same type of psychological relationship with the word “diet”).

 

So taking a nod from the Positive Psychology movement, I have decided to reframe the language I use to talk about my personal finances. I choose to use words and phrases that put an empowered spin on my financial situation. My “budget” has been renamed my “financial plan”. And my “debt reduction strategy” is now my “road map to financial freedom”. These phrases sound fluffy and have a lot of syllables between them. It’s been difficult to implement and stick to it. But there is something profound in saying no to lattes out with my co-workers because “it’s just not in my financial plan right now”. The other nice thing is that these phrases are not just limitted to describing my primary financial goal (debt elimination) but they expand to fit the next steps in my journey–building up an emergency fund, funding my retirement, saving for law school, saving for a house, and saving so that I can someday achieve financial independence.

What about you? How do you feel about the language of money? Are you renaming your “budget” too?

One Day In. Already failing.

Recently, I started slipping financially. I had a pretty great year. But then I broke up with my boyfriend. And the emotional spending started. I got that under control only to have my car flip out on me and to have to make some unplanned doctor’s appointments. Needless to say, this fall I have been slipping. So I decided to start blogging again to hold myself accountable. Well, here goes:

I’m still slipping.

This morning, I bought 2 birthday cards and a cup of tea. This ran me $8.45 (since when are greeting cards so damned expensive??). $8.45 that were unplanned. And unnecessary. Sort of. Really just the tea. The birthday cards were important. I just wish I had planned for them instead waking up, going “oh snakes on a plane, it’s XXXXX’s birthday!!”. The tea was just stupid. It was my cover. One of the birthday friends works with me. So I excused myself to Starbucks for some “tea” and then went to BN and got the cards. Starbucks made a killing off me to today. $2.69 for BOILED WATER and HERBS IN A SACHET! $2.69 is a BOX OF TEA at Target. UGH. Can you sense my rage?

So there you have it. Accountable to my own unplanned actions. And so pissed off that I slipped not 24 hours after reinstating this bad boy.

Next year, everyone is getting homemade cards. And I’m giving up tea (let’s get real…..no I’m not). Ok, I’ll bring my own tea from home!

Back in the Saddle….Again

Ok! Let’s try this again!

Here I am, reader. Yet again trying out the world of Personal Finance blogging as a means of accountability for my financial journey. You may not know it, but this blog has existed for years. You may not know that because it’s been private for a few months. And I just deleted all of the previous posts. Why you ask? Well, of course I’ll tell you why! I just had a birthday. And the year is coming to a close. And I’m feeling the need to clean out my figurative closets and start a fresh. So let’s try this blogging thing again. From the beginning!

So the first thing to settle is, “What will this blog be?” The short answer could be, “It’s a personal finance blog!” But do I really want to call myself a PF blogger? I suppose I do. I created it to give myself a forum to account for my actions and to share my journey towards financial intelligence. But if I’m being truthful, it’s not really a PF blog in the traditional sense. Most PF bloggers have been around the block. They have already lived what I’m currently in the thick of. They can tell you how to save $3 on organic peanut butter because they have spent years perfecting the art. I’m still at a loss for the elusive affordable organic crunchy peanut butter. So really, I hesitate to say this blog is truly PF. Because you’ll find no sage-like wisdom here. You won’t get advice or recommendations. You won’t get a list of the top five rewards credit cards or a lists of the best investment firms. No sir. Trust me, you don’t want my advice on these topics right now. That’s how I wonder up in the red in the first place! No, what you want is my story. My narrative. My hilarious battle with the psychological thriller that is personal finance for this late twenties American nerd.

And I promise to deliver just that. No more. No Less. Ok, maybe more. Like cupcakes. And stuff. Stay tuned for my zany adventures with trying out frugality tips, debt reduction, at-home cooking, and figuring out how to save money!