Sunday, September 23, 2007

Budget Overrun!

Yikes! I kind of forgot that someone special had a big birthday this weekend! After the gift, the card, the tissue paper, the cake and the dinner out, I spent $70!

That put me about $40 over for the week. But I only started with $70, so I only ran $10 over budget (for this week). I started with $70 because, as I mentioned, I bought a new $30 cell phone.

So the question is:

Do I hold myself to my budget and only give myself $60 for next week? Do I decide that my budget of $100 was too modest and raise it to $150?

No and no. I'm just going to start over tomorrow and give myself the $100, and hopefully I won't have another unexpected money situation next week. I think it would be demoralizing to start the week behind, again, and too hasty to just raise my budget since I've only be trying it for two weeks.

I made an extra $145 this weekend ($90 from second job, $55 from babysitting), and my bills are paid. The debt is going down, so I'm going to try to not be hard on myself and also try harder to stick to the budget!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Well, I didn't spend any money Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday! Today I spent $1.75 on some produce from the farmer's market, and tonight I'm going out with some friends. I have a good excuse to stop at one drink, though, since I'm working tomorrow morning at Job #2.

I got a call from one of the local charities, and they'll be picking up any clothing I don't want next Thursday. I totally have too many clothes, so this weekend my little apartment will be filled with three mountains of fabric: Keep it, Sell it, or Give it Away.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Budgeting going well!

I've only spent $56.35 so far this week, and that includes a $17 grocery bill and a $30 phone. I haven't spent a dime in the last two days! I'll get paid for 11 hours at the second job tomorrow, and I'll be working 12 hours at the second job this week. Plus, I'm babysitting Saturday night, which usually gets me $60-$80. All together, that's an extra $300! Yea!

I tried to forecast my spending through April, to see if opening up a Roth IRA is a good idea. If I keep working at the second job, it might be do-able, but tight, and I'll have to keep Christmas spending to a minimum, which is tough because I come from a big family that tends to go overboard on gifts. I really want to be rid of the Credit Card debt by July 2008, and kill the student loan debt by October 2009. I'd really like to contribute to the Roth, though, especially since I plan on going back to school full time in 2010, and I know it will be nearly impossible to max it out while I'm a student.

I don't need rock bottom to bounce.

I was reading the most recent Women in Red article over at, and Dunleavy mentioned people "hitting the wall". She says that often times people need to hit rock bottom to bounce back. I'm sure that's how it starts for a lot of people, but that's not how it was for me.

My debt accrued in college. Lots of it is student loan debt, which I'm ok with. But alot of it is credit card debt. I worked at least 10 hours a week while I was in school, and up to 40 at some points. I worked full time whenever possible during the summer. I commuted to school, and paid for my own books, transportation, and supplies. Although I lived at home, I usually bought my own food. I love to travel, so a chunk of my debt is from that, and I purchased a laptop. Everything else seemed important at the time- clothes, food, ect. As my years at college progressed, I kept charging when I needed to, and worked enough to pay the minimums. My cards were never in collections, but occasionally I would be unorganized and not pay my bills on time. I've only been over 30 days late once on one card. Still, you only need to be one day late on one card to see your interest rates go through the roof. One day, during the summer before my last year of school, I got an offer for a high-limit credit card with a 0% balance transfer offer. Great, I thought, I'll have more money to pay this off, since I'm working all summer, and I'll save on interest! But that didn't happen. The balances continued to rise, and I continued to just make minimums. When I graduated, I owed more than 75% of the credit available on all four of my cards.

I got out of school, got a job, and settled into a new apartment. I knew I needed to tackle the credit card debt. It had been bugging me for over a year when I made the balance transfer. Now I had a comfortable salary. Once I was settled into the new job and the new place, I started making a budget and seeing how much I'd be able to pay off each month towards the balance. The more I think about it, the more determined I am to get rid of debt. It will never be easier than now. I don't have kids. I don't have a mortgage. I don't mind living like a college student.

I could have just continued to pay minimums. I could have bought a new car, or all new clothes. I haven't hit bottom yet, and I never want to. But I'd like to think I'm just as serious as anyone who has hit bottom. I eat ramen, I don't shop, and I'm going to be debt free.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I hate interest.

The interest on my accounts posted yesterday, and as much as I feared it, I decided to see how much I was giving away to the credit card companies. It's at least $247 a month. Ouch.

I can't wait until interest is working for me and not the other way around.

Monday, September 17, 2007

About Retirement

I started my current job back in December, and I hadn't figured out how to log into my retirement information until today! I had to get through 3 different sets of log-ins! And call a customer care line for help! And reset passwords that I don't remember setting the first time! My Goodness! I can't complain though, because I have great benefits and my employer automatically starts a 401(k) and funds it 5% without any contributions from me.

So I finally logged in and changed my fund to a 2050 target retirement, transferring a lovely $1275.15 of free money into some aggressive territory.

I also signed a new cellphone contract. I'm on the cheapest plan now, which really isn't cheap at all, but I'll be saving about $15/month. I did get a shiny new phone. Not a iPhone, but it did set me back $30. Now my weekly budget is down to $70! I think I'll be ok, because I'm going to some Grad School Fairs this week, and they tend to have tons of free food.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm becoming a little obsessed with signing on to my credit card's website just to see the $0.00. So wonderful!

My weekly spending amount seems to be a good guess so far. I have $1.83 left and one day to go. Sunday isn't really an expensive day for me, and I bought some groceries yesterday, so I should be just fine. I might buy myself some chocolate with the nickles of dimes I have left.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Wall Street Journal has a super cute article on kids collecting art:

Small Collectors

I have to admit that a significant chunk of my credit card debt came from buying art, and while I shouldn't have bought something I couldn't afford, I still love the art. Which is actually kind of bad, because the work is now worth more than what I paid plus the horrid cc interest, but I can't bear to sell it.

Anyways, I'm glad these kids have the parents with money who encourage them to buy unique items that (hopefully) appreciate in value and not just more crap.


It's pay day and I just paid off a credit card in full! One down, four (bigger ones) to go!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The New Budgeting System

As I mentioned, I'll be picking up at least 8 hours at the second job every week for the next couple of months, and I'd really like to use that money and Only that money for all my variable expenses. It should work out to around $100 a week, which I think might be a little high for the usuals. However, I want this money to also be used for some of the bigger expenses I have such as day trips, haircuts and clothing purchases.

I took out $100 from the checking account on Monday to see how it would work out. This week has been easy so far, since the kitchen is still stocked from last week, but I do have a lunch meeting tomorrow, plans for drinks tomorrow night, and dinner with co-workers Friday night. I hope I can stick with my budget and cut down on this expensive eating out!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One of the non-profits I volunteer for took this poor girl out to lunch today! And it was a huge plate of food so it will feed me for dinner too. Yum. And just at the right time, because I had to pay a $500 student loan bill. Ouch.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I was itching to do some shopping today, so I went on a Staples catalog binge for my office. Is that cheating? :)

Every Penny Counts!

My Credit Card balance is under $12K! I know it's a little early in the month and I shouldn't talk until the interest is posted, but I think it's great! I'm going to pay 1K of principle every month if it kills me. I need this cc debt gone in a year! I picked up eight hours every Saturday in September and October at the second job, and I'm going to try to live off that for all my expenses that don't come in the mail! I also going to try to pick up more hours and put the extra right to the debt. Woohoo!

Also, I was thinking about my $700 in unusual expenses, and realized that if I can have $700 in unusual expenses, maybe I shouldn't have such a small emergency fund. A big chunk of this ($400) is for a class I want to take for career development. In my opinion, it's a must, and the regular cost is $4000, but my work is paying 90%. It's a great deal, but $400 is alot of money for me right now. The other half is the balance on some furniture that I purchased shortly after moving into my apartment. It's less than $300, but I figure the class will have some extra expenses for course packets and such. But anyway, back the topic of emergency funds. I think maybe I should try paying a little over a thousand toward credit cards (1K plus the accumulated interest) each month. Then I'll see how much is left over to put towards the EF, and maybe make a new goal of $1-1.5K.

I was really hoping I could put some money towards a Roth IRA this year, but now I'm not sure that it will happen. I think the credit cards are more important. I am contributing 5% of pre-tax income to a 401(k), so at least I'm doing something.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tracy over at My Money Story has a great question: How do you say no when your friends invite you out for money-draining activites like going out for dinner?

Well, some friends are close enough to be honest with. Others get bogus excuses. Often, though, I try to compromise. I'd invite the friends over to my house for a home-cooked meal ("You have to try this great casserole I just learned to make!"), suggest a more reasonable place in the area ("You've got to try this new place we found that has Great food (and is So reasonable)!"), or tell them that you already ate and offer to meet for dessert, coffee or drinks.

I don't tell my friends how far in debt I am, or how much of it is high-interest credit cards, but I drop hints like "Can't hang out tomorrow, I'm working at the second job to pay off those student loans!". I work almost every single day, so they know that I'm concerned about money (and also think I'm a workaholic). They don't seem to mind hanging around my house or getting ice cream instead of a four-course meal. I also have pot lucks and craft nights. If my friends insist on going somewhere expensive, I'll try to get someone to split an entree and just get water to drink, or just order a side dish (easy to get away with because I'm a vegetarian).

The road out of debt is a long one, and the friends you keep through the process are the ones who appreciate your company, not the money-draining activities you can do together. Remember that after the debt is gone, you'll probably want to put all that money that was going to debt towards saving that you haven't been able to do earlier. I just remind myself that being financially stable is a life-long goal. And the good friends in life would rather see you getting to a better place financially than out playing putt-putt golf.

Off to work...

I was bored this evening and started checking out online retailers. Bad news. It turns out that Agent Provacateur is having a sale, and two of the bras that I've been lusting after were available in my size at deep discounts! Oh no. I did some nail biting, took a walk, and then call my second-job boss to see if I could work ten hours this weekend. She said yes, and I busted out the check card. I got my two bras for $87, regularly $147. The ten hours of work will more than cover the $87, and I'll be sassier than ever. But still broke.

Things that make me giggle

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I got paid from the second job today, and paid another $300 on the targeted credit card. But then I did some budgeting and realized that I have about $700 in unusual expenses coming up. Arg. I just want to get one of these cards paid off! I know the balances are coming down, but I'd really like to have a ZERO next to one of them. My per diem boss is trying to get a permanent 10-hour position approved for me, and if I get it, I'd really like to try to use that income for all my variable expenses. Not only would it be extra income, but I might try putting it into an entirely separate account so I'm not tempted to overspend.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

September Update

I was feeling a bit down on my progress, so I went back to my original debt spreadsheet and ran some numbers. I started out with $14,271 in credit card debt in June, and I am now down to (drumroll please...) $12,065.76! I paid off $2,205.76 in three months! And although I haven't paid off any of the family loan, I have been up to date on all my student loans, and I built up a $500 emergency fund.

I feel pretty great right now. I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm off to a great start.
I'm done with my crazy 80 hour workweeks, and now I just have to wait for the money to roll in. I have one week's extra pay tagged for some career development, and the rest is going to the bills. When all the money comes through, I'll finally be able to pay off one of the five credit cards Completely! One down, four to go!

Today, I went to the library to get a book on my craft projects (Quilting for Dummies) and also picked up Jean Chatzky's "Pay it Down". So far it's not too fantastic, but it does have a good section on why people over spend that I may be posting in strategic places around the house.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Well, I need to swap my cable box for the cheaper one this week. Maybe I'll do it after I post! The rates went up and I can no longer justify my bad tv habit. My cell phone plan is also up, so I get a free new phone, and the chance to pick a cheaper plan. Woohoo!

In other news, Bank of America has a new online budgeting feature that I actually like. Except, of course, that it makes me realize how much I spend on silly things.

I have ambitios debt-be-gone plans for September, including:

1. Trying the paper envelopes budgeting system.
2. Cutting back the cable!
3. Cutting back on the cell phone plan!
4. Not going into the pharmacy! I know I spend alot on lotions and potions everytime I go in, so I'm just going to stop going, and buy what I need at the grocery store or equivelent.
5. Continue cooking for myself. This has been a rollercoaster of a process, but I just finagled some extra freezer room, so I'll be Casserole Central soon!

The numbers are going down on my monthly statements, but not as fast as I'd like them to. It's time to get serious!