Quantcast Finally Frugal: November 2010

The bumpy road to financial independence. . . .


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Taking responsibility. . . .

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

While sitting in an airport waiting for an airplane (and making use of free wifi) I came across a website created by a young woman who owes almost $200,000 in student loan debt! Now, far be it from me to judge anyone else's debt, but I just can't wrap my brain around this one. I think all of this debt is from a bachelor's degree (nope, she's not a lawyer or doctor, as far as I can tell; apparently she wasn't a computer science graduate, since the links to other media sites on her blog don't work).

In any case, what intrigued me about her website is that she is asking for donations from people so that she can pay off her debt! And incredibly she's gotten a little over $6,000! I don't know how much of that came from family and friends, but the fact that she's 'made' over $6,000 in donations is pretty incredible. Her website is called 'TwoHUNDREDthou" and apparently she's getting all kinds of media attention.

Now, as a cautionary tale to would-be student loan takers, I like the idea of her website. If this keeps even one person from signing on the dotted line so they can attend an overpriced school or avoid working like a maniac or go on a really cool Spring Break trip every year, then the website is a success.

However, as a way to pay off debt that this woman knowingly took on, I'm sort of appalled. Or maybe a little jealous, as I work literally SEVEN days a week to right my wrongs and create a more stable financial future for myself.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Frugal cash. . . .

In September, I signed up for one of Dave Ramsey's local Financial Peace University courses. Although I feel that I've learned quite a bit on my own and through my regular blog reading, I wanted to go through FPU with a group of like-minded individuals, as a way to jumpstart my motivation to get out of debt. Although our group was small, there were a couple of people there who were just at the beginning of their journey, and a couple who were basically at the end of their journey and thinking about next steps. I fell somewhere in the middle, in that I already have "Baby Step #1" completed ($1,000 emergency fund) and I've been diligently working multiple part time jobs.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the course I had to stop attending, after I picked up an additional job; having "class" one night a week while attempting to TEACH classes for the first time was just too much for me. Although I did drop out early, I got what I wanted out of the class; a new sense of purpose, the knowledge that I am NOT in this alone, and motivation to continue on my path towards a debt-free life.

If you are struggling to correct the financial mistakes of your past and you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, I highly recommend it. One of the suggestions in the book is to use the 'cash envelope' system in which you budget for various costs (such as groceries, entertainment, gas, etc) and pay for all of those items in cold, hard cash. Since part of my course registration included my very own Dave Ramsey cash envelope system, I started using it in mid-September and I haven't looked back since!

Essentially, I pull several hundred dollars out of my checking account at the beginning of the month for groceries, entertainment, gas, and "miscellaneous" purchases. The theory is that we spend LESS money when we have to part with actual cash (rather than throwing down the debit or - horrors - credit card), and that once the money in the envelope is gone, it's GONE. No spending a little extra on this or that, because the money literally isn't there.

Although I don't follow all of the "rules" in that I often borrow money from one envelope (usually entertainment) to fund purchases in another category (usually miscellaneous, which is the bane of my existence), the system has worked well for me. Although I love the convenience of using my debit card at the grocery store, Walgreens, Target, and any of the other businesses I frequent, I never lose track of how much I've spent anymore. If I have $25 left in my entertainment envelope, then I know exactly how much I've spent that month, and what's more, I know how much I have remaining to spend. That's pretty huge for me, as pre-frugal-living I frequently lost track of both my income and my spending.

This is definitely not an 'easy' system to use or to get used to. I'm still figuring how the best plan of attack, and have had to adjust my habits to include actual change! I haven't carried nickels, dimes and quarters around in my purse in years! On the bright side, my change jar has never been more full! Although I'm using Dave Ramsey's "system", this is something you could pick up at the local Target or Office Depot store; get a little expanding file folder (I believe they come in 'check' size, which would be perfect for cash) and you're set!

Does anyone else use the cash envelope system, or anything like it? Do you have any tips to share? If so, please comment!

P.S. If I'm not mistaken, this is Finally Frugal's 300th post! I wonder how many there will be when I can finally announce that I'm debt free? (-:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The other side of the coin. . . .

I'm doing very well with my frugal budgeting; I no longer splurge on nonessential items, and I question each purchase I make. I just started using the Dave Ramsey Cash Envelope system, which I'll write about in a future post.

Anyway, once I began feeling comfortable with my level of frugality, I determined that it was time to attend to the other side of the debt repayment coin: increasing my income.

Last summer, I set a goal for myself to double my take-home income by the end of 2011. At the time, I was bringing home around $2,200 from my full time job (after sending 10% to a retirement plan). I usually bring home about $600 from my long-term part time job, which makes a total of $2,800, which doubled equals an astounding (to me) $5,600!

When I first made this goal for myself, the pessimist in me immediately started thinking: "there is NO way you can do that. Impossible!" In spite of this annoying little voice, I decided to stick with the objective of doubling my take-home pay; after all, why not aim high, right? Since making the goal, I've picked up two additional jobs; although I've not worked long enough at one of them to really have an idea of how much I could make on a monthly basis, I recently created an 'ideal' budget which shows what I could potentially make each month with all of my jobs combined (assuming that part-time job number two works out the way I want it to). Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

Note that even with Part-Time Job #2 at its maximum, I'm a little short of doubling my take-home pay. But, the good news is that with this budget, I can throw an additional $2,400 at my second mortgage, while continuing to pay $600 toward my student loan each month (which takes care of all the interest and a bit of principle). So for now, I'm happy with this. After all, I did give myself until the end of 2011 to make this happen, and part-time jobs don't just grow on trees; the ones I have took persistence, additional education, and luck to find. I'm still looking, but for now am content with what I've managed to do.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My 'Next Big Thing'. . . . .

So here it is, the Big Plan that is helping me keep my sanity as I continue to work a mind-blowing 65+ hours a week between my four jobs. Well, first here's a hint:

Have you guessed? Not yet? Well, how about this:

Okay, that one was a little silly. So how about THIS:

Yes, you've guessed it! Paris! 'Uh, but what about Paris', you ask? 'You live in the Pacific Northwest, and Paris, France is roughly 6,000 miles away. Also, have you forgotten that you owe $90,000 to the U.S. government and to CitiMortgage?'

Yes, I do know all of that. But I need some kind of incentive to work like a maniac for the next year or two, and what better reward than Paris to keep a girl's eye on the prize?

Several months ago, my best girlfriend, whom I've known since I was six years old, called to see if I wanted to celebrate her birthday with her in Paris. In Spring 2011. I knew that my financial goals wouldn't be met by then (not to mention I had no idea where I would be working and in what capacity) so I told her that Spring 2012 might be a possibility, given that I wanted to have money in savings for the trip (no credit! I've traveled before, and even studied abroad years ago, and came home with nasty credit card bills).

Then, not weeks later a coworker mentioned that she wanted to spend next summer in Paris with a friend. Which started me thinking: Why should I limit myself? Why shouldn't I start living my dreams, once I've gotten rid of the heavy weight of $90,000 in student loan and second mortgage debt? Yes, I'll go to Paris for ten days in Spring 2012 to celebrate my friend's birthday. But what if I started thinking about how I could relocate to Paris, a city I love? I studied abroad in France many years ago, still speak 'un peu' (a little) French, and in reading back over my old travel and study abroad journals, I actually wrote about how much I loved the city and wished I could study there (this was never feasible, unfortunately, given my lack of funding and the requirements of my program).

Perhaps this is just a pipe dream, something that will help me justify the sacrifices I'm making now. Maybe it's a very extreme reaction to the sometimes plodding, nose-to-the grindstone life I'll be living until my debt is repaid. And I know there are people out there thinking that I've lost my everlasting mind. Then again, I've always been a 'planner', I've always looked to the future and matched my actions to my objectives, and this new goal just might be the thing that helps me keep my momentum on this last, long leg of the journey towards frugality, financial independence, and debt-free living.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day. . . .

Sending out a big thank you to all of our servicemen and women who have fought so valiantly, whether in our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or in any of the previous wars in which our country has been involved. Much as I hate war and love peace, I recognize the sacrifices that soldiers and their families have made in the name of freedom.

I'm also posting (hopefully) a 'seize the day' graphic that I came across recently, and which makes me stop and think every time I see it. Notice that nowhere does it say that happiness lies in the amount of money or 'stuff' in our lives. . . . Enjoy!

Have a lovely day, all, and stay tuned for a post about my Next Big Thing (for after I've conquered my debt, that is!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New developments. . .

Wondering where Finally Frugal has been lo these many months? Well, I've just snagged my third part time job (making four jobs total: one full time, three part time). So as you can imagine, I'm just a little busy these days. The month of October was really tricky and I wasn't sure I was going to survive it, to be honest.

In an effort to pay off my second mortgage (which will help me to build some equity rather than remaining "underwater" in terms of what I owe versus how much my house is now worth), I've added a part time teaching gig (at a local college) as well as a part time online teaching gig in addition to my online research position. The full time job remains the same, in spite of my graduation with a second master's in June. I'll probably stay there until I've met my next financial goal, and then after that, who knows?

My very, very, VERY optimistic plan is to have the second mortgage (all $30,000 of it) paid off in a little more than one year. As I say, that's incredibly optimistic - I'm not making THAT much at my three jobs. But I want to aim high, rather than succumbing to the idea that I can't do it. It's tough having all these jobs, but also challenging (in a good way), and hey, I can do anything for a year, right?

I'm also chipping away at the student loans ($60,000) although a recent death in the family that resulted in an inheritance (not to me, however) may result in a bit of that debt going away a little quicker than I anticipated. Maybe I WON'T be paying that off until I'm 90!!

Later this week, I'll post a little secret plan that I've been fantasizing about. I've not shared it with any of my friends and family, but what better place to let the cat out of the bag (and maybe get some objective feedback. . . .) than my trusty blog?

I can't promise daily posts (did I ever post on a daily basis?) but if my plans come to fruition, I'd like to renew my relationship with the Finally Frugal blog - it (and my faithful readers) helped keep my sanity while I made the transition from a credit-card carrying shopaholic to a frugal gal who actually THINKS before making purchases (and in cash, these days!)

More to come!

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