Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And Then There Were 2

When I first started this debt blog, I had eight accounts spread among six financial institutions. And then I added a small local bank to the mix. As of today, I'm down to two banks.

I started consolidating a while ago, first cutting one of the two credit unions, and later cutting SunTrust when they decided to charge a monthly fee for using debit cards. (While they gave in to customer pressure shortly thereafter and changed the policy, it was too little too late for me.) I opted to close my ING account with Capital One bought them. In the end, I figured I'd keep HSBC as my "cookie jar" account for emergencies -- the account that's to remain just out of touch -- but when their website glitch the other day locked me out of my own account, resulting in my spending an hour on the phone -- most of which was spent on hold -- I reconsidered. Rather than have them reset my password, I had 'em close the account and send me my money.

As of today, I'm officially down to two banks. One is my "regular" bank. It's where my paycheck goes. It's where my main savings account is. The other is the credit union from my old hometown. I've had it since I was in college, but never really used it beyond getting my guaranteed student loan and keeping a token amount in the savings account. I have at various times forgotten that savings account even exists. That account will now serve as my cookie jar. I have set up a small but reasonable amount from each paycheck to be deposited directly in it. There is no online bank-to-bank transfer option -- an "inconvenience" that will keep me from tapping into it. But it's not so inconvenient that I can't get my butt to a local credit union service center to access the account.

I'm officially out of the big banks. Yay!

In other news, I've had to help a relative with a financial emergency. As annoyed as the situation has made me (he should be more responsible than this), I'm also grateful to be in the position to help.

Lastly, I've done a rough calculation of my tax return and it looks like I may get back more than I thought. While my refund will help fund Paris later this year, it will also help me get my savings back on track to where I want things to be.

I feel like I'm finally regaining some control following my spending spree in 2011.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

I know, I know. It's been a while. My apologies. I've been fairly busy, and to be honest, there hasn't been that much to report. But there are two noteworthy things:

First, I entered 2012 free of credit card debt. This is my second year in a row of being able to say that, and you know what? It feels as good as it did last year.

Second, I still have savings. Mind you, I don't have as much as I expected, or would like, but the simple fact that I have savings is a good thing.

2011 could be described as the year of "Woohoo! I'm debt free!" It was like a small party. When I saw something I liked, I bought it. I didn't think about it; I just got it. Sure, there were some things that were in the plan -- the mattresses, a new couch -- and some things that weren't in the plan but were needed, like when my TV died and I got a new one. And then there were the many other items that were neither planned nor, really, needed. (Though I suppose one would argue that the only things needed are food, clothing, and shelter. But you know what I mean.) There were things like the blender, some pricier-than-usual clothes, and my recently acquired 1950s-era end tables. There was more, but those are some highlights.

2012, however, will be the year I seek equilibrium. I still plan to hit Paris sometime this year, but that's the only luxury I will allow. I will be paying for that with my IRS refund. Another major purchase is a new computer. I don't consider that a luxury given that this computer is so old that I can no longer run updates on it. It's gotten exceedingly slow, the battery doesn't stay charged, and the P key works pretty much when it feels like it. My fantasy is the 15" Powerbook, but it's way too expensive. So I'll get the small one. I will get a wireless router too at some point, but that's not a priority.

So that's it in a nutshell. I'll try to be better about checking in. Happy new year!