Sunday, November 23, 2008

Going With the Gut

I mentioned a little while ago that I'd be taking a trip to Texas. Of course, that was before I spent over 900 bucks on car repairs. Since then, I've been feeling less excited about the trip. I felt like I was only going in January so as not to disappoint my friend.

But preventing disappointment isn't the point of vacation. The point is to have fun and relax.

Every day that's gone by, I've felt more and more anxious about it. Instead of looking forward to the trip, I was worrying about the financials. It dawned on me that maybe the reason I was feeling this way was because it's not right for me to go, not so soon. So I finally worked up the nerve this evening to tell my friend that though I want to go, January is too soon. The camera purchase wasn't the issue -- I've been planning that for a while. But that car repair was a surprise. To get back on track, I've got to mind some P's and Q's for a couple months.

She was very understanding, thankfully. She's dealing with some health issues, so I think she was relieved that I brought it up. It's possible that she'd been feeling some anxiety and like me, was afraid to bring it up.

I could tell it was the right decision because as soon as I e-mailed her, I felt lighter. A weight lifted from my shoulders. It felt like the right thing to do.

My ultimate goal is to be debt free and to have $10,000 in savings in 23 months. To do that, sometimes these kinds of decisions have to be made.

And since I mentioned the camera, I just want to add that I've scheduled the payment to cover its purchase. I didn't want interest building on the amount. Also, the monthly update for December is coming up soon and I wanted the debt amount to be where it should be. Granted, the savings picture will be lower, but that'll change between now and December 31. You'll see.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me

I know it's not Christmas yet, but I've bought myself a present. A digital camera. Not the most expensive version out there, but not the cheapest either. I've stalked this camera for months and it's a good compact with pretty much all the features I've wanted. I've been planning for it. So yes, though I did charge it, I will be paying for it. My next freelance check will cover most of it.

And right now? No buyer's remorse.

From the Obsessive-Compulsive Debt Payer

Yep, I was right. I couldn't rest until I got my debt balance on track for the schedule. So I scheduled an extra payment. A small one, but a payment nonetheless.

If I stay on schedule and am able to kick in a little extra, it is entirely possible I will be below the $13K mark by the end of December. Can you imagine! And to think I owed more than $19,000 last January.

Oh, and I should mention that my so-called friend who owed me money has since moved and changed his cellphone number. Yep. Just before he changed his phone number, he called and said he was on his way to the bank and asked me to send him my address again. An elaborate lie. And he had the audacity to end the call with "love you!"

It's a wonder lightning doesn't strike him when he's in church singing songs of praise and serving as a deacon. What a joke. So much for trying to help a friend, huh? Lesson learned. Now I just have to find a way through the anger and disappointment -- in him and in myself.

Mostly in myself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In Praise of Payday

Today is payday for me, and allow me to take a breath of relief.

The bills were all already paid (I set up their payments from the last check as soon as I got paid), but I was down to the dregs. On fumes, as it were. So payday was welcome.

Of course, this particular paycheck pays for rent and electricity, so I'll have all of 40 bucks in the end. But at least I have enough to buy some cheap stuff for lunch.

And allow me to remark on my debt progress: It's now below $14,000. Well below, actually. It's $13,621. Mind you, according to my payment schedule, it should be $13,620, so I'm a dollar over. At the risk of sounding obsessive-compulsive (which I kinda am, but that's another story), I really want to pay extra to make up for it. I'd rather be ahead than even a dollar behind. Whatever gets me debt free faster.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And a Decadent Reward to Boot!

I know the cliché is that women love to shop. And years ago, that was somewhat true for me. But that's not the case now. Far from it. My problem is the spending, not the shopping. I know they're not mutually exclusive, but that's how it's worked out. I hate shopping. I get easily overwhelmed and frustrated. I know what I want but hate having to hunt for it. It is because of this that I usually stick to smaller stores. Department stores require much too much hunting.

But there I was at Nordstrom Rack this afternoon determined to find some tops, and to do that, I had to hunt. And it paid off. I don't know if there was some kind of special planetary alignment or what, but the things I really needed, I found. And I even found something I didn't need but that I treated myself to just the same: cashmere and silk PJ bottoms. Despite my sensitivity to wool, these are fabulously soft thanks to the silk. And the best part? They were marked down to the point that I would've been a fool to leave them: Originally $165, marked down to $45, and then 50 percent off. You read that right. I paid 22 bucks and some change for decadent cashmere and silk lounge pants. The checkout clerk did a double take when she rang them up.

I also hit the Banana Republic outlet (cords for 50 percent off) and TJ Maxx (a white button-down shirt for $17).

And yes, I stayed pretty much on budget. The allowance thing worked out really well.

There are some other things I'd like to have, but today's fashion finds will get me over the hump.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Paying for (Retail) Therapy

A couple months ago, I decided that from then until the end of the year, I'd put away any overtime pay in an envelope and use it as an allowance for clothes shopping. I was very serious about it: Rather than let the money hang out in my account (and eventually get spent on other things), I went to the bank and withdrew the cash amount to set aside.

It hasn't been a lot but it has added up. And I couldn't do it at all this past week (I used my overtime to pay for my car registration). Still, there's a reasonable $150 saved up. And because I keep it locked away, I kind of forget about it until it's time to add to it. You know what they say: Out of sight, out of mind.

So last night I was thinking about how I really need to find some tops and sweaters for the cold-weather months. When I transferred money from savings last week to pay for my car repair, I transferred more than I ended up needing. I thought last night that I could just use that extra amount to shop with.

But then it hit me: I have allowance! So I can shop this weekend completely guilt free. Of course, now the goal will be not to spend it on something I don't need -- like a frying pan or book.

So off to the outlet mall I go this weekend. I'll check in and let you know how I did.

Oh -- and I've already paid the credit card for the car repair. Didn't want that interest adding up. So everything is back on schedule, finally.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

There IS Such a Thing as a Free Lunch!

Not even a week ago I thanked the almighty power that makes sure I get fed. It happened again today. I left work today without lunch or lunch plans. I said to myself, "Let's see if the food comes." And it did.

I didn't eat breakfast, but when I got to work, there was a piece of pound cake on my desk. That plus the coffee made for a decent breakfast. A few hours later, while fixing a cup of tea, I discovered leftover pizza from a meeting that had just ended. And if that weren't enough, we celebrated a coworker's birthday with a double chocolate cake.

Even when I feel all alone, there's a power greater than myself looking out for me. When I'm having a dark day, I'll have to remember moments like this.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Car Repair Update

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had a very unexpected and expensive car repair. The gas station that I'd taken it to for the state inspection quoted $917 for the repair and the alignment that would be needed as a result of that repair. When I told my dad, he suggested that I take it to Honda dealership instead. Though he doesn't usually advocate taking cars to the dealer (he's old-school; in a perfect world, we'd all fix our own cars), he felt that if I at least went there, they'd back up their work.

So I got up at the crack of dawn this morning to get to the dealership before 7. I've taken my car there before, for random maintenance items, and as usual, they were great. The quote was almost a hundred dollars cheaper -- and they did more stuff. And at least it's all done, and my car has its lovely inspection sticker. And it feels much better when I drive. A good thing.

I've already transferred money from my savings so that I can pay off the credit card for the repair, so at least the debt situation will stay on schedule. The savings? Well ... that's what it's there for, yes?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November 2008 Update

I've had a full day, and I'm exhausted. So without further ado:

The Debt: $14,127.44
The Savings: $6,138.89

But there's a "but" -- and it's a big one. I have to have a fairly major car repair. The current estimate is just over $900. I went in for a simple oil change and state inspection, and this was the news I got when I picked up my car. My car won't pass without this repair, and I have 14 days.

I about fainted dead away in that shop.

I like the guys at this shop, though, and they used to do good work on my old car. Still, I'm going to get a second opinion next week. I have a friend who goes to a shop that's not far from where we work. She says they're honest and do good work.

I am bummed, of course. But I keep reminding myself that this is why I have worked so hard to have some savings. Four years ago, this would've crushed me. And while I'd like to do a bunch of other things with that money -- say, for example, keep it in savings! -- I won't be wiped out completely. Also, I have a great little car, and it hasn't required much in the way of repair (unlike the Jetta, which seemed to always have something wrong with it). There have been the occasional maintenance items, but it's been a great car.

In other money news, I recently had to stand up for myself as a consumer. The yoga studio I go to recently replaced all the old, worn-out blankets with these bigger, heavier wool blankets. They're these Italian Army surplus blankets. Itchy, yes, but warm, which is what I need on my bed during the winter. (Plus, they're really cool looking.)

When I received my blanket, I thought something was ... off, and it wasn't just the overpowering stench of moth balls. A week or two later, I measured it: 47.5 x 68 inches. The blankets are supposed to be approximately 60 x 80 inches. That's a big difference. So I e-mailed the company and they were very nice. The sent me a replacement (got it today) and included a postage-paid mailing label for the return.

So that's the monthly update for November. Not all good news. But it is what it is.