Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank You

Several years ago, when I was working for a nonprofit arts center and making no money, there would be the occasional week when I'd have all of a buck to get me to the next payday. And I mean a buck. No savings to cushion the blow. But you know what? I almost never went without lunch. Somehow, some way, it always worked out. Sometimes I managed to bring in leftovers. But sometimes food would just appear during the day. For example, there would be leftovers from a meeting. Or a coworker would have too much lunch and end up sharing with me. Once, someone who had just opened a deli and was eager to drum up business dropped off an entire tray of sandwiches for the staff. For free.

I learned not to worry. I wouldn't go hungry.

I say all this because I've had the same six bucks in my wallet since last Friday. Granted, I have more savings these days, but I still use times like this to get creative with what I have and to trust that when my creativity runs out, the food will come. And so it has been. Last night I got rid of some things in my fridge and freezer and made a stir-fry -- enough for two meals. Today I had some soup that I'd stored in the freezer for a rainy day. Tonight a friend treated me to dinner; I have leftovers, enough for tomorrow night. Someone is throwing a baby shower lunch tomorrow at work, and I'm invited. And I've been invited for dinner Friday night at a friend's place, complete with appetizers, cocktails, and dessert.

So though things are tight until payday, I'm not going hungry. I am so grateful to the power that keeps me safe, healthy, and fed. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Blip on the Radar

Not long ago, I came across photos of San Antonio's Riverwalk and was blown away. Before then, my only Texas experience was a visit to a friend in Fort Worth. I was underwhelmed to the point of vowing I'd never visit Texas again. (Yes, I'm sure there are some people who love Fort Worth. I'm just not one of 'em.) But those photos of the Riverwalk had me reconsidering. Besides, it was unfair of me to judge an entire state based on one small part of it.

I mentioned it to a good friend of mine. She's a former resident of Texas, a graduate of UT, in fact. "You'd love it!" she declared. And then: "That should be our next trip. You should see Austin too." We'll go in January, she said.

While I'm off daydreaming about this, that, and the other, she's doing. And one of the things she does is travel. Her forte is the road trip -- she once drove 700 miles to try a specific pie. It is because of her that I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge.

While I was daydreaming about seeing San Antonio's Riverwalk, she was planning our trip. It's not that I thought she was joking, but she had other trips she was planning next year, so I thought Texas was on the back burner.

Nope. She still wants to go in January.

Why am I mentioning this in my debt blog? Well, because this will affect the savings somewhat. There will be airfare, hotel costs, car rentals. But you know what? So what! In fact, I think I can enjoy a nice trip away for a few days and still meet my debt and savings goal for 10/10/10. Admittedly, it will be tight, but it can -- and will -- be done. And in addition to being debt free and having decent savings, I'll also have some great memories of another fun trip.

So although there's a blip on the radar, it's a good blip.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What I Miss

While I abused the act of shopping by using it as retail therapy, there is something about it I really miss.

I used to be known for my fashion sense. These days? Well, most days I embarrass myself. It doesn't help that my company doesn't have a dress code. That doesn't exactly motivate me to make an effort when I get dressed in the morning. Though on the flip side, maybe it's a good thing --

Most days it's a pair of jeans and some kind of knit top and a sweater. During the summer I can mix it up a bit more; I've got some cute skirts. But the colder months are a different story.

Most of the knit tops are too short for my long torso. The sweaters have pills on the arms. Hardly any of the jeans fit properly. I don't have any decent jackets. No dress pants. No good shirts or blouses. My one good suit is 10 years old. I don't have a good dress winter coat.

I get the new J. Crew and Anthropologie catalogs and am filled with longing for this skirt and that sweater, this shirt and those shoes. But then the reality hits: I can't afford it. None of it.

It would be so much fun to go shopping without worrying about whether something fits in the budget. On those days that I look especially crappy -- like today in my old sweater and too-short jeans -- I tell myself that I just need to hang in there. That when I'm debt free, I won't have to pick between buying everything I need from the grocery store or a new sweater. Heat or a new pair of boots. A credit card payment or a new suit.

You get the idea.

But it's so hard to look at myself in the mirror when I look such a mess. I look ... worn. Like my clothes. I made it through last year, so there's no reason I can't make it through this year. I just hope the warm weather comes back soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Room to Dream

Even though I have two more years before I'm debt free, recently I've started thinking about how to celebrate. I should do something good, something worthy of my achievement.

Things like flying to Miami for a few days. Or maybe going on a yoga retreat. How about a weekend at a spa? Or to NYC for a visit to the Metropolitan Museum?

And then there are the tangibles. I could finally replace my sagging mattress. Or my sagging couch. Or I could join a gym and fix my sagging -- well, you get the idea. ;-)

The goal is to have 10 grand in savings by then. I don't want my reward to require dipping into that amount. Anything I do will have to come out of whatever exceeds that amount. (More incentive to save extra, wouldn't you say?)

A year ago, I couldn't even imagine there being an end in sight. I didn't have the room to dream. Now? Well, I'm no fool, and I know I have a way to go. But I don't feel as hopeless as I did three years ago when I owed $9,000 on my car and $15,000 on credit cards. I barely had any savings, and my 401(k) was virtually nonexistent.

So yeah, I've got a little room to dream. And that's what I'm gonna do.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Foundation

For the past several days, I've been setting up my other blog. It's not that I have so much to say, but a couple years ago, I started posting over on zaadz. I've since removed my content from that site and have found a new place for it. In moving those posts, I reread a few things. One post, from December 2007, struck me in particular.

It was all about clearing the rubble. In it, I wrote:

For the last several months, I have been getting the message that I have to get my debt out of the way if the next chapter of my life is to be written. A few times this year, I’ve practiced going a month or so without making any purchases outside of necessities. (For someone for whom shopping is retail therapy, this was difficult the first couple times. But it’s gotten easier.) I have a deadline to be debt free and am driven to see it happen. I’ve put a plan together and January will find me beginning that plan in earnest.

I'm now 10 months into that plan I mentioned last year, and I'm delighted to say I've done quite well. Wait -- scratch that. I've done very well. (I've gotta stop selling myself short!) I am right on schedule with my debt payoff and savings goal.

2008 was meant to be a foundational year, and you know what? I believe it has been. I've gotten frustrated with myself a lot this year, feeling like I'm supposed to be doing something and not sure what that something is. But maybe I have been doing that something: paying off that debt so that the next chapter of my life can be written. (Maybe 2009 will find me working on my patience as well.)

My healthy financial habits have also helped me feel better about the economic downturn. Mind you, I'm still kinda freaked out, but I'm not half as freaked out as I would be if I still owed more than $20,000 and had no more than $1,000 in savings. I am still trying to calm down about the 401(k) issue, but I won't be retiring for quite some time (unless I hit the lottery, but that's another story).

Friday, October 10, 2008

October 10, 2008

I woke up this morning (a full hour before my alarm went off, unfortunately) with the realization that today is October 10 -- the date I've selected to be debt-free day in 2010. I thought it might be a good idea to say a few words today and on the next two October 10 dates.

How 'bout a little snapshot? Last October my total debt was a scary $19,774.47 spread between two credit cards. Today, at this moment, my debt is $14,631.93 (more on that in a minute). For those of you who suck at math as much as I do, that's a $5,142.54 difference. And one of those cards from last year was paid off this past July.

And since we're making comparisons, the savings in October 2007 was $3,690. Today, $5,663. That's a difference of $1,973.

This means that in the last 12 months, I've invested $7,115.54 ($5,142.54 + $1,973) in myself. That's nothing to sneeze at.

I should note that the reason the debt and savings balances are a bit different than they were just last Sunday is because I decided to pay from savings the last half of September's snowball payment amount. Also, there were a few credits from boot returns (from the failed boot quest) that have finally been processed.

It hasn't been all roses this year, though. There have been missteps. The first was the haircut in July. That was a lot of money right down the drain. The second was my loan to one Danny O'Neal, who still hasn't paid me back the $193 he owes me. I'm trying to think about it in terms of "well at least I tried to help a friend," but you know what? I'm really pissed off about the whole thing. I thought he was a better friend. And for someone who is so involved in the church -- he's a deacon, for crying out loud! -- he should know better. I left him a message yesterday telling him just what I thought about his behavior. Obviously we can't be friends -- there's no trust. I'm really hurt. Worse, I'm embarrassed for being so stupid.

So that's October 10, 2008. Here's hoping I make it to October 10, 2009.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I know this is a debt blog and not a boot quest blog, but given I've detailed said quest here in the context of my shopping and charging (for example, here and here), I had to come back to comment on the latest development.

So I mentioned that I'd finally found a pair of boots. The right color, the right heel, the right heel height -- and all for the low, low price of 40 bucks.

Imagine my surprise when today I went to show them to a friend only to discover that the &*^$%#@ zipper was broken. This is the fifth pair of boots -- the fourth pair in two weeks -- that I have bought and have had to return. Really, when you count the second pair of Lucchese boots last year, it makes six.

On the plus size, my credit card will be credited the 40 bucks plus tax. And until I find the perfect pair of boots, I give up.

October 2008 Update Follow-Up

Lately, whenever I think about what I want, the answer that comes to mind is to be debt free. I hated the idea of having to "pay back" the extra payment over the next few months to catch up: $40 here, $60 there ... I just didn't want to be bothered with all that. So last night I decided that my savings could take the hit and I transferred money from savings to pay that extra amount. Now I'll be back on my payment/balance schedule, and any extra money I get can go to savings without my having to deal with how to divide it.

I knew I'd made the right decision when, after I made the transfer, I felt calmer about things.

I'm not going to bother with changing the savings and debt balances for the October update. They'll be reflected when I do next month's update.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October 2008 Update

It ain't pretty:

The savings balance has gone down. Not by a lot -- almost $45 -- but considering it should be up by at least $100, it's not good. This means I'm down $145.

As for the debt balance, it's not where it's scheduled to be. Rather than pay the full amount last month, I only paid half so that I could have some extra spending money during my mother's weeklong visit. It will be December before I get back on schedule. The debt balance is also in its proper place.

One good thing is that the debt balance includes $139 for boots that I've since returned. And it also includes two clothing purchases made last week. I plan to pay off those amounts next week from my overtime (which, until January 2009, is earmarked as a clothing allowance).

I'm hoping that October will be the month September was intended to be -- that is, the month to recover from summer and get everything back on track. But I will have to overcome my usual challenges:

  • giving up hope;
  • obsessing about the short-term stuff;
  • giving in to panic and anxiety; and
  • having unrealistic goals.

I should be getting a freelance check soon, so that'll ease things up a bit. I'd like to use the whole thing for either savings or debt, but I think it would be best in the long term if I use the rule of thirds for it: one-third in savings, one-third toward debt, and one-third for me, probably as part of the clothing allowance.

So that's October.

Oh! And by the way, I finally found a pair of boots, so the quest is over. And they were only 40 bucks. Can't argue with that.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Call It an Update

A full update is coming soon -- probably Sunday -- but I did want to check in briefly to say ...


I'd hoped that in September things would settle down and that my debt payment and savings plans would get back on track, but those things didn't happen. Nor did my friend pay me back. (He's now saying he'll send a check next week; I'm not holding my breath.)

The biggest expense has been the visit with my mother. The spending hasn't been horrible, no, but it has put me off-budget. It'll be December before I get the debt payment plan back on schedule.

Lucky for me, I'm getting some overtime in my next check. My original plan for that extra money was to put it aside for a clothing allowance. But now? I think I'm going to pay back the two items I charged this week -- a lovely sweater and, yes, another pair of boots. And I'll have enough left over to add to the allowance envelope.

So that's my October so far. For the update, complete with the gory details (that is, the actual numbers), stay tuned.