Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fives Have It

Several years ago, a coworker/friend who sat beside me got excited when someone who owed him for lunch got a $5 bill. "This'll go in the money drawer!" he exclaimed. "What are you talking about?" I asked. And then he explained: Every year he picks a denomination to save and every time he gets that bill, it goes in the drawer. Some years it was all ones. Sometimes fives. But whatever he chose, he stuck with it and put it away, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I didn't think much about it then, mostly because I needed pretty much every bill I could get my hands on. I had hefty credit card balances and had just bought a new car.

But I never forgot that. And then, when a guy I had kind of started seeing mentioned doing something similar, I decided that maybe I'd give it a shot too.

So late last year I made a box just for this purpose. I designed it with just a slit at the tip to prevent my getting in and out of it easily. And I covered it in pretty wrapping paper -- like a gift. And then came decision time: To save ones or fives? The fives won.

I've done well. Mostly. Around August I started dipping into it, thanks to a pair of tweezers. Five bucks here, five bucks there. Finally, at the end of August, after I finished grabbing $15 for dinner with friends, I told myself, "That's it. No more dipping." And I promised that for the rest of the year, no matter what, I would save every $5 I got.

Since then, the Universe has been having fun with me. I go cash a check for $17 bucks and the bank teller gives me three fives. I get $20 out of the ATM for lunch and what do I get in change after buying said lunch? Two fives. And today, after getting $20 from the ATM to get a card, the clerk gave me three fives. I expected to get one $5 bill, but three?! And I peeked -- the clerk legitimately did not have any 10s in the register. Nope, whatever force is out there has called my bluff and is bound and determined to have me honor my promise.

But it's paid off. At last count, I now have $405, including the three fives from today.

I told a good friend about it a couple of months ago and he decided to try it too, but with $1 bills. Three days ago, he counted: He has 100 bucks.

What I'm getting to is this: Turning it into a game makes it fun. And in the end, no matter how much you end up with, you win. My plan was to stop at the end of the year, but now I'm thinking of waiting until spring, maybe using it for a weekend shopping trip. Any bets on how much I'll have by then?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 2010 Progress Report

I seem to have picked up one or two new followers. Hello! And thanks for following my humble blog.

On to the progress report: All is well, I'm happy to say. I had allowed a small balance to carry over to December -- just to have a little activity on the card -- but I paid that off today.

2011 will be the first year in 20 years (or more) that I've started the year off without credit card debt. Allow me to reflect on that for a moment.

* * * * *

OK, I'm back. Anyway, I've been able to maintain debt freedom for four months. I have, unfortunately, been spending quite a bit, and that needs to stop come January. For one thing, I had several physical therapy appointments to help me recover from a neck injury. And in addition to a few purchases -- including my dream Christmas tree -- I'm about to shop for a holiday party I'm hosting later this month. It will be the first party I've thrown on my own, and I want things to be as close to perfect as I can make them. I've got a lot of stuff to get from the grocery store. And I'm serving glogg, so I've got some booze to buy. Thankfully I have only one "real" gift to get my mom, and a small item for my dad (he received his Christmas present back in July). Still, it will be a tight December. Ho, ho, ho.

But in that "tightness" I'm maintaining my savings. In fact, I recently upped my 401(k) contribution at the recommendation of my financial planner. I'm maintaining my monthly deposit to my savings, and in fact will be increasing that as well, at least temporarily. So things are going well.

I also completed another freelance job this week and will be submitting that invoice once I know for sure they're not sending me anything else this year. That's a nice way to end the year.

Have I mentioned lately how grateful I am? 'Cause I am. So very.