Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lesson Learned

The second pair of Lucchese boots also suck. The leather is dry and cracked, and there's a white film on them. Not cool.

How disappointing.

But if I didn't believe it before, I believe it now: I am not supposed to order anything. I mean, everything I've ordered in the last seven months has had to go back. I don't even want to think about how much I've spent on shipping. I'm sure it's a lot.

And I'm also sure that I need to stop ordering clothes and shoes online.

The good thing is that almost three hundred bucks will be refunded back to my credit card. Can't complain about that. Granted, given past experience, it'll likely be the end of February before that happens. Still, at least the balance is heading in the right direction: down.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Glimmer of Light?

My employer pays its employees once every two weeks. This mostly works out to be twice a month, but twice a year, we get three paychecks in one month.

During two-check months, it works out very cleanly: The first check goes to bills -- credit cards, utilities, groceries, and gas; whatever is left is spending money, but to be honest, there isn't much left. The second check, the one that comes later in the month, is for rent. There's usually a little left, but it's an unremarkable amount.

So three-check months are something we look forward to. But I have learned that as much as I'd like to treat that third check as an "extra" check, I can't. Years ago, when I treated it as an extra check and bought some items I'd been wanting, I realized during the lag time between that extra check and the next first check that my car payment was due, as were a couple other bills. I had to shuffle some money from my savings account to cover some bills. And back then, there wasn't a lot of savings, so it hurt.

Since then I've learned to treat every paycheck according to the current schedule: One check for bills; one check for rent. Do not deviate. The benefit of those two extra checks will show up later.

That benefit has happened for me this month. My next paycheck will be that extra check. And because I did not deviate from my schedule last year, I'm far enough ahead that this next paycheck will actually feel like an extra check. According to the calendar, there are no bills that are due between that extra check and the next first check of the month. So while I do have to pay a couple bills from this extra check, a considerable portion of it can -- and will -- go into my savings account.

A word about saving: My parents and I are going on a cruise later this year. While I don't have to pay for the trip (thankfully, my parents are treating me!), I do have to cover my spending money. So I'm trying to sock away at least $500 for that. That is, an extra $500. I don't want to use any of my regular savings for this. Also, I'm working to create the all-important fund for incidentals. The goal is to save an extra $800 for that fund.

I'd been planning to use my tax refund to cover some of that, but now, with things working out with the extra paycheck, I can put a lot of that refund into my regular savings. I know I could use some to pay down the debt, but I really want to have a decent savings balance when my debt is paid off.

So there's a glimmer of light shining at the end of this dark debt tunnel. This year is starting off on the right foot.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Only the Lonely

Part of the reason I decided to start a blog about my debt was because it made me feel accountable. Even though I know no one is reading this, knowing this blog is out there and that I'm charting my progress -- and that I have to share my missteps -- is helping me stay on track.

I was encouraged by a news article I read online regarding the popularity of debt blogs and how they were helping people achieve their goal to pay down their debt. But neither then nor now have I encountered a blog by someone whose situation is similar to mine. That is, a 40-something single woman without kids and without home equity. Everyone out there seems to be married or in their early 20s or homeowners -- or a combination thereof.

Not the same. Is there anyone out there like me? I can't be the only one, can I?

Just the same, I added over there on the side a list of the scant few links to blogs I like. If nothing else, one of them makes me feel very happy I'm not married.

In other news, over the last year, I've also kept a written journal. I'd been using it to contain my random thoughts, but my random thoughts tend to get repetitive, so much so that many of the pages I've written have been not much more than a waste of paper. So I've started a new one to mark the beginning of the great debt payment plan -- aka January 2008 -- and am going to try to limit my entries to only a couple times a month. In Broke Ass Student's blog entry on a holistic approach to life and finances, she writes, "Obsessing and fretting over financial situations which do not directly affect day-to-day situations sabotages" finding financial peace of mind. I've been obsessing about my debt payment. It's one thing to be excited about tackling it head-on, but my wanting to blog it or journal it so much is getting out of hand.

It's going to take me some time to get this done. Journaling and blogging every bit of minutia is pointless, and it's making me one-dimensional. There's more to life -- my life -- than debt repayment. It's time I get started on living it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mercury Is in Serious Retrograde

On Saturday, my iPod broke. When I tried to reset it, a little icon of an iPod came up with sad face on the screen.

On Sunday, in the middle of typing an e-mail, my Internet went bye-bye. After an hour on the phone with my provider, it was finally determined that my modem had gone kaput.

On Monday evening, when I got home from work, I turned on my space heater in my living room. I noticed a strong electrical odor. I didn't think it was a good sign, but then I thought that maybe, just maybe, a piece of lint had burned, causing the odor. But about a half-hour later, I heard the heating element clicking. I immediately unplugged it and threw it away.

Today, Tuesday, I got chilly at work. Because we can't have space heaters (and with good reason), I have a heating pad that I turn on whenever I get a little cold. After about 15 minutes, I realized that I was still chilled. Turns out that my heating pad no longer worked.

Four days. Four pieces of electronic equipment D-E-A-D.

Thankfully, I have a new modem, and all is well with that. But I still need a heater for my living room, a heating pad for work, and though I don't "need" another one, I really miss my iPod. I'd done so well on not spending any money, and now I'm looking at having to spend some serious coin.

I'm going to try to go without the iPod and space heater for a while, but I've gotta get a new heating pad or I'll freeze at work. At least at home I can wrap up in a quilt. Folks tend to look at you funny when you do that at work. :-)

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Et Tu, Lucchese?

After dreaming of them for over two years, I finally splurged on those cowboy boots. They came and yes, they were gorgeous. Still, I felt a bit guilty.

And then I noticed the flaws. Yes, the handmade Lucchese boots that I blew my budget for had flaws. Can you believe that? I was so annoyed. But it seems like whenever I order something I (probably) shouldn't have ordered, something goes wrong. Either the item is screwed up (remember the armoire?) or the return process turns out to be a real pain in the ass.

I had to e-mail the company to get a return authorization number. Of course, because it's holiday season, it took almost a week before I got a reply. But I finally received the authorization number, and I packed them up last night -- complete with a rather lengthy explanation about the problem -- and FedExed them this morning.

The company I ordered from supposedly has free shipping for exchanges, but apparently that only means the shipping of the new pair will be free. I still have to pay to return them. Great.

It's like this: I'd love for them to be exchanged for boots without flaws. But if they're out? Well, that's OK too. I'll have almost $300 credited back to my credit card, and that's not a terrible thing. Nope, not at all.

I chose FedEx's Express Saver option so that it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg to ship them back, but it's going to take longer than FedEx usually takes. And then only God knows how long it'll take for the return/exchange to be processed. If it happens by the end of January I'll be surprised. Care to place a wager, anyone?

If this isn't a lesson for me to stop ordering stuff, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, it's 2008, the official start of the great debt payoff. Everything before now has been practice and prologue. Now the real work begins.

I've updated the balances for the Bad and Good and plan to update them on the first of every month. Of course, they're never going to be entirely accurate: The first of the month comes in the middle of the credit card billing cycles, so interest hasn't been added yet, and in some cases, payments haven't been credited. But I figure that after a few months, progress will become evident by the changes in the balances.

I have to say, though, that I'm not impressed with my progress over the last couple months. I'm trying to remind myself that the unimpressive savings balance is the result of responsible financial behavior. That is, some of the things I've paid for with the credit card -- namely, the class and the car maintenance -- I've repaid out of savings so that the debt balances don't increase. Frankly, if I were being really responsible, the savings balance would be even lower, since I charged the cowboy boots and should repay that amount with my savings.

And of course, there was Christmas. Since I had to buy gifts, I couldn't pay down the debt or increase the savings.

But now it's January, and so far, it looks like things will start off right. I'm encouraged. The credit card payments are planned for and there's still a reasonable cushion, thanks to the overtime a few weeks ago. The way the payday schedule falls, we get three checks instead of two this month (that always helps, though it usually takes a few months to show). I've got freelance work coming and invoices to mail, so that's money that'll come in. And it's tax season. Yes, yes, I know it's supposed to be better to structure exemptions so that you don't owe or get a big refund, but I really like getting that refund.

So, January is starting on a good financial foot. I'm trusting that this a sign of things to come this year.

Here's to a happy and prosperous 2008.