Friday, June 10, 2011


Struggling a bit and I have to hit the reset button!

All is really well. I haven't gone into any more debt, my $1,000 eFund is still in tact and I lost 17 lbs since April 1st. Not bad. However, my spending has been a bit out of control this month and my eating has been just awful this week. I have to reel myself back in before I start looking at the credit card again and hiding from the scale.

Some of the things I have found difficult are rebounding emotionally from the $1,500 in car repairs and balancing the grocery/food budget while trying to eat better, cook healthier recipes and train for the Chicago Half Marathon. I needed running hear, I registered for races, groceries are expensive, recipes are expensive to make, and quite frankly I am getting really tired of tracking every single dollar and every single WW point but I still do it religiously.

What do I want? To continue losing weight, to be emotionally okay with gradual progress with my finances and weight loss, to keep a smile on my face and to feel good more than I feel bad. That's what I want. I want to be able to have the time, money and ability to focus on what matters most to me and continue to achieve higher levels of happiness.

I still enjoy my job even though it's non legal. I really love the people that I work with and the organization so I am in no rush to leave any time soon. I have been picking up more complex assignments/files and getting opportunities to work on special projects and that will bode well with my annual review and hopefully reflect positively with next year's bonus and raise.

I am down from 180-163 lbs and I am up to running 6 miles. My goal is 140 lbs and to complete the Chicago 13 Mile Half Marathon in September. My debt has declined, my net worth continues to improve and I update my net worth iq chart and the charts in the right column every month.

So...all is well and I am sorry about the lack of posting. It just hasn't been in my heart to analyze every day and week but I am tracking everything and keeping afloat. How have you been readers?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Car and Wed Weigh In...

Today was weigh in day and I weighed in at 171 and reached my 5% goal. Yeah!

I got my car out of the shop yesterday and it is running like a gem!!! =)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Alive....

Hi Everyone!!!

Well it's quarterly reporting month at the job so I am swamped with reporting and two projects. I am trying to keep my head above water.

Exercise and Weight Loss...

I am down from 180-172 lbs...Go Chitown!!! Weight Watchers has been eye opening and I am putting the online program to very good use. As you know, I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon on September 11th this year. I am moving up to 3 miles on Saturday and I am doing better than expected. My brother-in-law is running with me and we joined a running group that runs every Saturday. It's actually been pretty fun and I am also finally putting my treadmill that I purchased in December 2007 for over $1,000 to good use. I ran on it this morning before work since it's raining today in Chicago.

So....Finances....All is good!!!

I received a Tax Return of $2,100 two weeks ago but unfortunately, I will be shelling out $1,400 today for four new tires and car repairs. First, I am so THANKFUL that I have the money to pay for the repairs. Even if I didn't have the tax return, I would have been able to pay for the repairs with my Emergency Fund and the leftover savings from my bonus in February. I was only saving or accruing in a separate ING account $20/month for auto maintenance and repair. What have I learned?!?! My car is a 2002 and in May of last year, I also shelled out $1,500 for repairs which included new brakes and getting the air conditioner fixed. I have an aging car with ~ 95k miles and no plans to replace it anytime soon. I will need to figure out a way that I can start saving $100/month for car maintenance because the last two years have shown me that there will be maintenance needed but $1,500 for repairs is better than a car note any day.

I haven't been able to stick to the $200/week challenge. For one, $200 is too much for the budget so I had to scale it back. I am going to have to continue making some adjustments to the budget and financial plan but I am happy to report that I have NOT added any new debt, my debt is going down, my eFund is still in tact with a little room to spare and I am 4 months through 2011.

Not bad!!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

March 2011 Recap

Hello All!

Below is the recap for March. I added my comments into the Chart. It was a long month to say the least. I don't have much to add by the way of excuses. I'll let the numbers speak for themselves. Have a great day!!! =)

Monday, April 04, 2011

I'm Alive...

Hi All!!! I am alive and well. I took some time to reevaluate some things and try to get my mind right. I fell off the financial wagon so to speak in March and I wasn't pleased with a lot of things including my health. So, I made a few adjustments but mostly to my mental.

March was a particularly hard month financially because I finally got through all of the birthdays and there was 35 days between pay cycles. It just got harder to budget with birthdays and large expenses to pay. I was transferring money here, there and everywhere and eventually just gave up control. I will post March's recap soon as well as my weekly results for the past couple of weeks.

I've been an athlete my entire life. I played softball since age 8 and earned a full ride scholarship to a Big Ten school. Since graduating in 2000, I joined Corporate America, got used to my sedentary and lazy lifestyle and my muscles slowly but surely got mushy. Now, if I hadn't been an athlete my entire life, I would be at least 250 lbs by now with the way that I eat.

So after feeling a bit down and having zero energy to get through the day, I made a decision to join Weight Watchers, run the Chicago Half Marathon in September and continue playing coed slow pitch softball every Saturday. With running and softball, I am sure to get back in tip top shape.

I joined Weight Watchers Online last week to help me get a grasp of my eating. Jennifer Hudson was a huge inspiration. I have always been a size 12 thinking I could never be an 8 or 6. But Jennifer did it and surely I can do it too. I started at 180lbs and a size 12 and I have a goal of losing 40 lbs. (I know...that's a lot right?!?!?) Even in my most tip top shape as a collegiate athlete, I never weighed less than 160...just solid muscle but my body composition has changed over the years and I believe the goal can be accomplished. Week one is hardly over and I have already lost 6 lbs and my energy level is much higher.

The transition from need vs want and getting more bang for my points has translated a little into my finances. All week long I have been asking myself, is this a need or a want? If I don't spend money on this trip through some fast food line, then I can more bang for my buck buying workout clothes that I need. It seems to be working. We'll see.

More to come...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Sun...

My goodness!!! It is a beautiful day in Chicago!!! My BFF called me and asked me out to lunch and we walked over to Macy's. I didn't even think about ducking into any buildings or taking the underground pedway. It was just gorgeous outside and I didn't want to come back. Spring is around the corner and I couldn't be happier. =)

On the purchase list soon is a new pair of running shoes so that I can hit the outdoor trails. I have a goal of running a 5k soon and perhaps a half marathon in September but training begins next month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playing Attorney...

I got to kind of play attorney today. What do I mean by play when I AM a lawyer?!?!...Well, I got to sit in a room to negotiate a deal with my client, 4 of his attorneys, and 3 on my side. Fun! Not only was I the only female in the room, I was the only black person, the other side didn't know I am an attorney and get this...I held ALL the cards...even more FUN!!! lol

Anyway, the firm I hired on the deal is a firm I would very much like to join one day so as always, I made sure I looked professional and even got several compliments. I held all the cards and I got compliments....Fun, Fun Fun!!! =) was a good day in the office and since I have to stop by my parent's house to sign off on my taxes, my Mom is cooking me dinner. Yeah Baby!!!

((Chitown is doing the cabbage patch dance at her desk!!!))


Well I am halfway through March and my first month of knowing what my monthly income will be for 2011 and budgeting. I will say, I am almost over budget already for the month. Actually, I will be for sure today when I pay the fee for my taxes.

My observations are that I need to increase a few budget categories and cut my food & dining budget. I just have to bring my lunch 2-3 times a week. My budget just won't allow for me to eat out that much...period. I hoped that my increase would net a $300 monthly increase but it was just ~$180. With the monthly accruals I set up, I will just have to bite the bullet.

Also, I should have realized that this monthly pay period had 5 instead of 4 weeks. Since I only get paid once a month, I should have changed the weekly challenge to $160/week instead of $200/week. Last but not least, I had to max out my prescription deductible, go to the doctor and go to the dentist this month. I am still waiting to be reimbursed from the insurance company for my teeth cleaning and exam. This is precisely why I like to keep a little extra cash in my bill account.

I went to bed around 11:00 last night and woke up this morning around 5:00. Since I was up, I took the opportunity to straighten my hair which I haven't done since December. hair is long and I can tell it could use a trim which my hair dresser suggested every 8-12 weeks. I am right at ~ 10 weeks now since my last appointment. Maybe I will go the first week in April.

My Mom started talking to me last night about working out which probably means my cheeks are a little too puffy. I really need to get back to working out but I don't feel like doing anything it seems these days. I had to drag my butt off the couch this weekend just to finally fold the clean clothes I let build up in baskets from the past 2 weeks. Spring needs to come quick so I can get outside and run.

Last note...Did anyone watch the Bachelor last night? I did not follow all season but I was over visiting my parents and my Dad does watch the show. So, I got sucked into the final show and finale and felt kind of bad for Brad. You can tell he's not perfect but he looked like he loved Emily a lot so I hope they can pull together. The lesson that I got from last night and it's one we can all learn is that we cannot worry about what other people think of us. What matters is what we think of ourselves.

Have a great day!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

First off....I am sending prayers to the people in Japan!!! Please do the same.

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $176.76!!!

I didn't cook or do much of anything this week. I was in a funk and just making it day by day. I'm not sure what it was but it may have something to do with Chicago's gloomy weather. It's been rainy and dark and I cannot wait for Spring to arrive.

I also think I am just plain tired. Every weekend for the past three weeks, I had plans to celebrate birthdays -- My Dad, Nephew and Mother. I love them so much so of course I enjoyed myself but having plans every weekend when you want and need to relax is tough. I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and cleaning up my condo.

I transferred the remaining money for the week into my personal savings account. If ever the account is over $100, then I will snowball the extra on to debt. Today, it's just shy of $100 at $93.

I also think I am going to start posting some other things on the blog other than finance stuff...just day to day stuff to keep myself interested and hopefully you too. (wink) Have a great and safe weekend. =)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Birthday Survival...

The mass birthday celebrations at the beginning of the year are almost over. We celebrated my Mom's 62nd Birthday on Saturday, yesterday was my Assistant's birthday and housewarming and my Best Friend's birthday is on March 25th. Then I am DONE for a while!

I am passing up on a baby shower on March 26th and I don't want to be invited to another birthday, baby, wedding, house, whatever celebration for a while. lol My gift fund is depleted!

I am feeling a bit anxious about attacking Group D and at the same time, I am feeling uneasy about giving away any more cash. I am toying with the idea of trying to devote $25 of my $200 weekly allowance towards debt repayment. That would mean an additional $100/month towards repayment of Group D.

Friday, March 04, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $254.10!!!

I knew I was going slightly over the $200 threshold but then I needed to get a prescription filled and that took me way over the $200 mark. After this month, I should have hit the $100 prescription deductible so my prescriptions should be $10 for the rest of the year.

I use Bank of America's keep the change program with my personal checking and savings account. I started with about $100 in the savings account and it fluctuates depending on the week. The $100 somewhat acts as an overdraft. Today it's at $68. Every time I use my debit card, the amount is rounded to the nearest dollar and deposited into savings.

I got some good news at the doctor today. I don't need surgery right now or more meds!!! That made my day and I needed some good news. =)

I am going to workout tonight and that will make 3 workouts for the week. I admit that I didn't eat so great this week but hopefully next week is better. One thing is for sure, I didn't eat any worse than any other week and I added in some exercise so that is a step in the right direction.

BTW...I went to see the movie Hall Pass on Tuesday night. Hilarious!!! Have a great weekend. =)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

February 2011 Recap...

Well, I am two months into the year and I am still doing well. This was my annual bonus month so I was able to pay off a few debts and put a small amount of cash to the side. It was a good month overall.

There were 4 - $200/week challenges in the month and I blew it one month after wandering in the grocery store. Won't happen again. I also bought some much needed toiletry items and put away a little cash so that I can pay for some upcoming expenses. I have annual doctor and dentist appointments coming up which require co-pays and upfront payment. My insurance company will then reimburse me at the "reasonable rate" for services. What that means is that I don't get all of my money back. I also have to pay the fee for my taxes. That's about it for now.

It was a good month. My net worth is moving in the right direction and I expect it to move in a positive direction every month from here on out. I am also going to begin putting any excess cash from the $200/week challenge towards debt so Group D's balance should start going down.

Friday, February 25, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $176.97!!!

I put all those groceries from last week to use and didn't eat out much at all. I did need a few toiletries but that was it for the week. I just started accruing for auto maintenance so I didn't have enough in savings. Therefore, it came out of my weekly allowance. No biggie. I am glad I had the additional funds and that I was able to refocus and bounce back from last week. =)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fresh Start...

I need a fresh start. I am feeling a bit restless. I need to get some things together so I can really make some progress in all areas of my life...not just my finances.

The last two days have been tough. I haven't been feeling well so I finally made the doctor appointment that I have been putting off for a few months. Why? Well, I have a condition that will require either 6 months of medication (which happens to send me into temporary menopause) or surgery. I will find out next Friday what the doctor will suggest. Since I want to have children one day, I am leaning more towards the aggressive side. I already had the surgery once in the summer of 2005 so I am not afraid but all surgery is not only dangerous but costly. I will keep you guys posted.

I spoke briefly before about getting into shape. Well, I am going to start back on my exercise program that I did in late 2009 before I hurt my knee. It's a 90-day at home workout program that I loved called P90x from Beach Body. It was fun, I could do it at home and it worked. If I need to have surgery probably this summer, then I will want to get into the best physical condition possible.

Here's my plan:

- Drink 64oz of water daily
- Limit soda to one can a day (yesterday I had 3 -- don't judge me!!! lol)
- No dieting but eat more protein and fiber
- Complete the workout plan with a minimum of 3 workouts per week
- Eat breakfast - lately my breakfast is coca cola and a granola bar (maybe)
- Take my multivitamins with a good dose of Vitamin D

My finances are not in bad shape and they're getting better. Today is pay day so I closed the books on February. I landed in the Black again which is not surprise since it was bonus month. I messed up one week but I paid off three debts and I have a little left over which is good because I have to pay the fee to file my taxes and I have to pay upfront for my dental appointment which gets reimbursed at the approved amount.

I will finally be able to breathe after today. I will finally finish these quarterly reports at the office. My nephew turns two this weekend so I know I will be making my way to Toys R Us tonight or tomorrow to get the little guy something. So, that's about it for now.

How is everyone else doing? Let me know. =)

Friday, February 18, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins. Thank goodness because I blew it last week.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $467.74!!!

There isn't a lot of commentary to add other than what I learned last week.

  1. I am an emotional shopper. This isn't a big news flash but I was sick last week and I just didn't care enough when I should always care more.
  2. I didn't plan to be away from home and I was for a few days which means I didn't make or take my lunch with all of groceries that I purchased.
  3. I have to slow down and remember the framework I put in place. I have savings set aside for clothing and gifts. So, I have to remain present in the moment, transfer the funds on my phone, and pay with the right debit card.
  4. I need to only purchase what I NEED at the grocery store. I need to make a list for the week and stick to the list. I got into the store and it was the first time I was out of the house for days and I just wandered around and picked up stuff that I probably won't use for weeks to come. Since I am a single gal, I only need to buy what I need for the week and that's it. It should hardly ever amount to more than $25-$50/week and the high end only if I need toiletries.

I was reading this month's O Magazine issue and it deals with De-Cluttering your life. The particular article was called "The Buying Diet" and it mentioned the grocery store Gruen Transfer where the store creates a quasi hypnotic state and you end up buying more than you intended. Check out the article. It was good and eye opening. The Buying Diet.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crazy Weekend...

I went bananas this weekend and spent a ton of money!!! I blew the $200 challenge out of the water and not in a good way.

I spent $217 just on groceries. I looked in my fridge and I had my Brita water container, butter, cheese and 2 bottles of almost expired salad dressing. That's it. I even ran out of staples.

So, I went grocery shopping and I got some staples like frozen chicken and fish and little odds and ends to make bringing my lunch and making dinner possible and a little more appealing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $202.92!!! =)

I admit that I did not go grocery shopping at all this week. With the day ski trip last Saturday, the Superbowl in Sunday and working late nights this week, it didn't happen. On the flip side, I don't think it made a huge deal in the overall numbers for the week. Last week's food and groceries totaled $64 and the week before that it was $80.

I really came in at $175.81 for the week. The gloves that I bought to go skiing should have come out of my clothing/shopping fund but I was rushing and forgot to transfer funds on my iPhone with ING so I just used my regular debit card. I could of transferred the $28 dollars back into my account but I just bit the cost out of my weekly budget and kept it moving.

Another good week!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chitown Down...

I caught a cold. Darn!!! The sniffling, the blowing, the sneezing and the coughing...Arghh!!!! Thank goodness this work week is almost over.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Gifts and Snowball...

Just a random thought...I am looking at my budget and trying to figure out how I can put an extra $50 towards debt repayment. I already have an extra $50 snowball budgeted. The first six months out of the year are filled with birthdays and holidays. Not to mention little things that come up like showers and house warmings.

February - BFF Son, BFF, Dad, Godfather, Nephew
March - Mom, BFF, Assistant
May - Cousin, Mother's Day
June - BFF, Father's Day

After June, I think I will be able to adjust my gift budget to $50/month and put an additional $50 towards debt.

*** Side Note: I adjusted the starting balances on the graphs to the right to show my progress since I began this journey last year.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Getting Fit...

So, I am going to try to get fit and trim this year once and for all. I am going to try to be as zealous with my health as I am with my finances.

How do you guys feel if I incorporate a little of my GET FIT journey into this financial journey? I think it would be fun to see how it ties together with my expenses. =)

Who wants to join me?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Grocery Shopping...

I am going to the grocery store this evening. I spent $10 on lunch today and I keep thinking that $10-$15 in simple groceries would last me few days. So...going to Aldi this evening. =)

Ski Trip...

I had a really fun time on the ski trip to Lake Geneva on Saturday. I spent about $22 for the entire day which wasn't bad at all. We stopped at an outlet mall and I just didn't feel like shopping even though I had about $150 in savings for clothing and $60 in gift cards. I just didn't feel like spending any money. The money I spend was just for lunch and dinner. That's it.

I did have to run to Sports Authority the night before and get some hand sleeves to go under my ski gloves. I was rushing so I forgot to get on my phone and make an online transfer with ING to pay for it out of my accrual account for clothing/shopping so it came out of my $200 for the week. The sleeves were only $28 so it wasn't a budget buster but I definitely needed to keep my hands warm and dry out on the slopes.

I left the house around 7:30 am Saturday morning and I arrived home around 1:00 am Sunday morning so I was super tired to say the least but I had a great time. I didn't grocery shop or anything this weekend so I am winging it. I have $70 remaining to last me though Thursday and it shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, February 04, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is Friday and a new $200/week challenge begins.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $201.95!!! =)

I use an iPhone app called iReconcile to track my expenses and I love it!!! I figured out how to snap this photo of the report it gives me each week. =)

I went over just slightly. I had a couple of bucks in my wallet and I gave them to two homeless people this week. It's hard to see people standing out on the street in this crazy freezing Chicago weather. That just tipped me over the threshold but overall it didn't break the budget.

For personal care, I got my first pedicure since November and my feet said THANK YOU!

For entertainment, I purchased Groupons for paint ball to be used at a later date. My brother in law got two as well so we are going to get a group of 4 together for 3 hours of unlimited play. Different, Cheap and Fun!!!

Not bad for a week of spending. =)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Credit Scores & Snowball...

If you look to the right, you will notice that I changed the order of my debt repayment. Going back to Dave Ramsey's book, he said you can change the order if there is a difference in the interest rate but a small difference in the amount owed. I have three Private student loans all within a $1,000 of my Federal student loan. So, I moved those before my federal loan. The Federal loan has a fixed interest rate and it is very important to me that I tackle as much Private variable loan debt before interest rates trend back up.

While I am on this debt repayment journey, my credit scores are a good indication of how I am performing. One of these days, my score will be virtually zero because I will be debt free and I won't have a need for debt.

My scores are awesome!!!

798 - Grade C - TransUnion
810 - Grade B - Equifax
920 - Grade A - Experian

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Snow Day...

I am snowed in today so I get to work from home. Yeah Chitown!

I've never seen so much snow in my life. They let us go a little early yesterday and by the time I got home at 6pm, I almost got stuck in my driveway trying to pull into the garage. I knew the Weather Folks got it right this time.

There was an SUV stuck in the snow on the street outside my bedroom window last night for over 2 hours. I don't own a shovel since I live in a condo and we have snow removal service so I was useless to him. All I kept hearing is him going back and forth with spinning wheels. I did call the non emergency number to try to get him some help but I am sure they were busy with a lot of calls last night. The blizzard dropped over 18 inches of snow overnight.

Finally, I woke up to more noise outside my window and there was the same SUV and a construction truck, not a snowplow, moving the snow on the street. All I could think was WOW!!! If an SUV can get stuck, my car doesn't stand a chance. I emailed my Boss this morning to tell him I would be working from home and he replied back "Smart Move, I am leaning towards the same thing!"

So, here I am at home. I am thankful that I have a home, heat, job, money in the bank to pay my bills and food in my fridge. I am thankful that I am safe.

Mixed Chicks Hair Products...

In May of last year I stopped going to get my hair done on a regular basis. Prior to May, I was down to every other week or $100/month. The previous year, I was going every week for $200/month. The heat was starting to damage my hair and my stylist had to chop it to my shoulders. It's probably halfway down my back when I wear it straight now.

I went natural in May and I have been able to save a lot of money. Part of the decision to go natural was that I FINALLY found a product that I could use on my hair that worked. What do I mean by work? Well, I have very curly hair and I would have to use a shampoo, conditioner, curly product, gel and maybe a hairspray to keep my hair from frizzing. Then came my Sister's suggestion that I try Mixed Chicks and well, it changed my life. I finally have that wash and go hair and I don't have to spend all day in the mirror styling and I don't have to buy a million products to keep my hair from frizzing. Just a shampoo, deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner does the trick. I go to my stylist about every 8-12 weeks to get my ends trimmed and the last time I went she was very pleased with the condition of my hair.

Thing is...the products are fairly expensive and you can only really get them online unless you can search and find a salon that carries it. The best thing about the company is that they offer free shipping on orders over $100 and they are super quick with getting the product from California to Chicago. With standard shipping, I can get my product in a week. I love that!

$50 - Leave-In Conditioner (1L)
$45 - Deep Conditioner (1L)
$40 - Shampoo (1L)

So, I ran out of product and finally made a purchase. The total cost was $165.50. I used some of the leftover money from my Bonus. I purchased two bottles of the leave-in conditioner and one large bottle each of the shampoo and deep conditioner.

After trying a sample first, I purchased the Liter of the shampoo and deep conditioner in June of last year so it lasted me 7-8 months. I purchased two Liters of the leave-in-conditioner which I use daily in August so those lasted roughly 5-6 months. So while the products are a bit expensive they last a long time. I was able to get the free shipping and I found a coupon code online for 10% off. By going natural with my hair, I have been able to save over $2,000 per year. Well worth it!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

January 2011 Recap...

Bare with me guys and gals. This is my first attempt at zero budgeting and I am sure I got a lot of it wrong. This is also my first time using this budget worksheet that I found online. I tweaked it a bit and it's kind of cool. If you see italics, these are the categories I have deemed "ACCRUAL" meaning that I save the money in separate ING Accounts whether I spend the money this month or not. This was suggested by Dave Ramsey for expenses that are irregular in nature but can blow your budget wide open.

A lot of money flowed through my accounts this month. I added a comment column to the right to add some additional explanation. Please let me know if you have trouble viewing the image of the spreadsheet. It's rather large and I may need to figure out another way. I am open to suggestions so just inbox me or comment. Thanks a lot.

I guess the important things to note is that I stayed within budget for the month and I paid off my Capital One Personal Credit Card. When you only get paid once a month, it is hard to budget variable expenses throughout the month so I came up with a $200/week challenge. I ration to myself every Friday, $200 to budget through the weekend and the following week. The challenge gives me something to look forward to because I really get excited when Friday comes around again. The challenge also gives me something to focus on to see if I am making any measurable progress towards spending within my means. I did pretty good with the challenge in January.

* I added in my Capital One Business Card to my credit card balance.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Long-Term Plan...

Realistically, it is going to take me about 10 years to repay my student loan debt with all things remaining the same. Meaning, I am single and I remain in the Banking field.

I listen to the Dave Ramsey podcasts and hardly any of the callers have as much unsecured debt as I do and they tend to be married couples with dual income. I have a quarter of a million dollars in student loan and credit card debt and I am currently single so I can tell you that I don't plan to wait 10 years before I start on any of the other Baby Steps. I don't think it's a wise move on my part. So, I am open to suggestions but this is what I am thinking.

Beginning next year:
  • Apply all bonuses to debt repayment.
  • Increase my 401k contributions 1% each year so that by the time I repay the loans, I am also already contributing 10% to my 401k.
  • Begin saving $200/month so that I can contribute towards my 6 month eFund.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Suzy Orman...

I have been working at home and watching episodes of Suzy Orman today and Suzy had a guest on who refinanced her home to pay off unsecured debt. Suzy just had to come back and say this is BAD and DON'T DO IT!!!

Some of you know that I did exactly the same thing in 2008 and it was the WRONG move. If you are thinking about doing this...think again!!! It's not the best or right move. I wish I would have seen this episode 3 years ago before I refinanced my home.

Lesson: Do not turn unsecured debt into secured debt.

Friday, January 28, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is a new Friday and $200 was deposited into my Checking Account to begin the new $200/week challenge.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $175.68!!! =)

$59.89 – Personal Care
$42.78 – Food & Dining
$37.01 – Grocery & Household
$21.00 – Transportation
$15.00 – Entertainment

I saw that I had a little extra in the account for the week so I hedged the timing on my proactiv. I signed up again for the club membership online and it is actually cheaper even with shipping than buying it at a kiosk. I just have to make sure I order it in time to allow for standard shipping.

I got a massage using a Groupon on Sunday so I did have to tip the therapist. The place has a massage membership where $59/month entitles you to a one hour massage and an unlimited amount of additional one hour massages during the month for $39. I have a weakness for massages and well, I refused the 12 month contract but I agreed to a six month contract. The sales girl was good. I knew when I was doing it that it was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! I had just worked on my vision board where one of my goals for 2011 was to embrace the word NO!!!

So, I was driving to the grocery store thinking...CHITOWN WHAT DID YOU JUST DO SIGNING THAT CONTRACT!!! It went against everything that I am trying to do and I should have said NO but I didn't....I totally didn't. I wanted a massage, more massages...heck I don't know what that woman did to my neck but it didn't even feel like mine by the time she was finished. It felt like someone gave me a new one...without all the knots!!! I wanted more relaxation, more treats, I wanted, wanted wanted.

I pulled into the grocery store lot, pulled out the contract and prayed I would find a cancellation provision even though the woman said it was a six month term. Sure enough, at the very bottom, it said I had 3 business days to cancel in writing. Do you know I still grappled with this decision for about 24 hours when I finally typed out the notice of cancellation, signed it and drove my UNHAPPY BROKE butt to the massage clinic the next day and did what?!?!?.......CANCEL!!!!

Yes, I did. No more adding to the monthly bills. If I want a massage then I have to save and pay for it. If I had saved the $360 for the 6 month contract and could purchase it in full then that is one thing but to create a monthly bill because I didn't have it all saved, that just felt like more debt since I would have been contractually obligated for the six months or $360.

That aside, everything else was pretty good. My Mom primarily fed me this week so the grocery bill was literally mostly paper towels and Advil sinus meds from the pharmacy. That stuff can be expensive.

Overall, I did okay. I stumbled a bit in my resolve with the massages but thankfully, I was able to undo the damage. Thankfully. ;-)

Debt Paydown...

I did it!!! I paid off the following:

$800 - Capital One Business Card
$2,300 - Perkins Loan
$5,300 - Private Student Loan (T)

$8,400 - Total Payoff

After I got through paying all of my bills, I realized that I could pay off the three debts and still have $900 leftover. Now, some folks will say I am not being "gazelle" because I am not putting the $900 towards my next debt but OH WELL!!! I feel pretty gazelle by paying off all that debt!!!

Since the $900 is extra money I didn't budget for anything, I am going to sit on the $900 and continue my $200/week challenge. I will decide what I WANT to do with the $900 later. In the meantime, I have three, three, three debts paid off that will NEVER come back again!!! Thank you God!!! With the debt repayment, I still plan to snowball the extra freed up cash flow.

Thanks for all of the encouragement to keep with my plan to pay these three debts off. I started off with $257,500 in debt and since I began this journey last year, I have paid off a total of $16,550!!! I am on my way!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Payday, Bonus and HELP!!!

I feel like I am being tramatized. I received my paycheck and bonus today and I DON'T want to send it all to bills and debt!!! HELP!!!

Help me pull the trigger and schedule the payments. I have an extra $8,500 in my account to pay off my Cap One Business Card ($800), the Perkins Loan ($2,300) and my smallest private student loan ($5,300).

Please encourage me so that I know I am not making a mistake. That is a lot of money to go out the door all at once!!! Oh God....Breathe!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Home Today...

I stayed home today so I could actually get some work done. I know that sounds weird but there are less distractions at home and I really want to make better progress on my quarterly reports. The deadline is coming up...Feb. 4th.

I am going to make the $200/week challenge. I have $23 left for today and tomorrow. I ate lunch at home today and my Mom just called and invited me over for dinner later. I have leftover Chili for lunch tomorrow and if I don't eat again over my parent's house like I usually do on Thursdays (when she has my nephew), then I will make dinner which isn't a problem.

I also get paid tomorrow and it will carry my annual bonus and increase. I won't know what my actual paycheck amount will be until the end of the next month but the check tomorrow is....Love!!! I would cry tears of joy if all of my monthly paychecks netted $14K!!!

Go Chitown! =)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Credit Cards...

I cut up all but one of my credit cards on Saturday. I am trying to build up the courage to cut up the last one. =)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Massage Groupon...

I purchased a massage groupon a few months ago and I am going in today for my massage!!! Yeah Me!!! I love that this place is open on Sundays. I will finish just in time to get home and watch the Bears upset the Packers!!! =)

Friday, January 21, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is a new Friday and $200 has been deposited into my Checking Account to begin the new $200/week challenge.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $211.71!!! =)

$80.00 – Entertainment
$53.95 – Food & Dining
$41.45 – Grocery & Household
$36.31 – Transportation

Like I mentioned in my last post, my biggest expense for the week was $80 for a charity ski trip to Lake Geneva next month. I knew I could go over just slightly but I thought I made it under $200 until last night. I attended another benefit for my assistant’s sister-in-law who passed away suddenly. I thought she said the event was downtown and the ticket included light hors d'oeuvres but neither was the case. So, I ended up buying something for dinner at the benefit and drove down to work where I had to pay for parking. Luckily, I was able to drive up North after work for the benefit and find free street parking because valet would have been another $15. So, all in all it was a very good week. Since I was already under ~$85 for the month, I just pulled the extra out of my personal savings where I swept what was leftover the previous 2 weeks.

Overall, it was another great week of spending. =)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Checking In...

The week is going good. Work is busy but I am managing to remain productive. I enjoyed the long weekend for MLK Day. =)

I did some serious cleaning up this weekend. I threw out soooo much stuff in my office and it's finally clean. Yeah!!! I am in this purging mood so I am throwing away and giving away a lot of stuff. Nothing is really of value to sell so it's good to clear the clutter and bless someone with gently used items. It just makes you feel good.

I am doing well this week with the challenge. I may go over $10 but that's no biggie considering I am under $85 for the month. The biggest expense for the week has been the $80 I decided to spend for a day trip to Lake Geneva next month to ski with my sister, best friend, and brother-in-law. His fraternity puts on this trip every year with the proceeds going to benefit the charity of their choice. I went once about 3 years ago and it's a lot of fun. I already have ski gear so I don't need to purchase anything but the ticket.

Early in the morning, we board buses and head from Chicago to Lake Geneva. We stop off at Gurnee Mills (discount mall) where Great America is also located and shop for about 2 hours. Then we make our way to the slopes for a day of skiing, hot cider and fun. Yeah!!! Looking forward to it because the next day is the Super Bowl and the Chicago Bears may very well be on the field battling for the Championship!!! =)

Friday, January 14, 2011

$200/Week Challenge...

Today is a new Friday and $200 has been deposited into my Personal Account to begin a new $200/week challenge.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $167.39!!! =)

$67.00 - Grocery & Household
$35.79 - Transportation
$25.65 - Food & Dining
$19.90 - Personal Care
$19.05 - Entertainment

Not bad at all for the week especially since $40 of my grocery/household expense was just my annual Sams Club renewal fee.

Bringing my lunch and cooking dinner is making a world of difference. Thankfully I was already getting tired of fast food.

Overall, it was another great week of spending. =)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Progress - Baby Step #1 Complete...

Well guys and gals, I am making progress. Yes, I am. =)

I fully funded my $1,000 eFund with ING so Baby Step #1 is COMPLETE!!!

I started on Baby Step #2 which is the debt snowball and repaid my $1,300 Capital One Personal Credit Card.

In February, the plan is to repay the following with my bonus.
  • $800 - Capital One Business Card
  • $2,300 - Federal Perkins Student Loan
  • $5,300 - Private Group T Student Loan

Monday, January 10, 2011

Expensive Weekend...

Well it was an expensive but good weekend. On Friday, I made my $200 deposit for the week and as of Monday, I have $65/$200 remaining to last me through Thursday.

The largest expenses were gas and groceries. My Sams Club membership expired so I had to renew it for $40 for the year. Although I still had a half tank of gas remaining, something told me to fill up on Friday instead of wait until my tank ran low. That way, I start off the $200 week with my fuel expense out of the way. Good thing I did, gas prices in Chicago are pretty high right now and it cost me $36 to fill up just half my tank. Wowza!!!

Friday, January 07, 2011

$200 Weekly Challenge...

Today is a new Friday and $200 has been deposited into my BofA Checking Account to begin the new $200/week challenge. I decided to continue on this plan of $200/week but I am also including my gas/fuel expense since that is a variable figure but I still budget $40/week.

Here is last week's recap....Total Spent: $177.57!!! =)

$80.02 - Transportation
$60.00 - Food & Dining
$26.55 - Grocery & Household
$11.00 - Entertainment

Not bad at all for the week. Gas/fuel expense was a bit higher than anticipated. I completely filled up my 15 gallon gas tank last Friday (New Year's Eve) and it cost a whopping $55.02. Ouch! I was thinking it would cost around $45 to fill up but it just made me tighten my belt a little more which was fine. I brought my lunch on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I made dinner on Wednesday night and ate dinner at my parent's house on Thursday night. Overall, it was a great week of spending.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

My 2010 Goal Recap…

Goals for 2010:

  • Use only cash and debit cards.
    I did well with this goal until about September of 2010 when I decided that I was going to begin using my credit card for transportation expenses. It was all downhill from there once I put the card back into my wallet. I started charging other items and because I was determined not to incur additional credit card debt, I began depleting my savings account every month to pay off the balance in full. By the end of 2010, I went from $12,000 in savings to just $2,000.

  • Live below my means and within my budget.
    I only made met this goal 2 out of 12 months in 2010. Coincidentally, those were also the months I picked up extra income from my part-time retail position.

  • No more debt and no credit card use.
    My debt in 2010 decreased from $377,310 (including my mortgage) to $369,859. Total decrease was $7,451.
    Mortgage decreased $1,381.
    Credit Card Debt decreased $4,060.
    Student Loan Debt decreased $2,010.

  • Continue networking to land law position.
    I did a lot of networking in 2010 including traveling to Milwaukee for a charity golf outing which resulted in an interview. I am on the radar at two law firms in Chicago but the real networking that I am doing now is within the Bank.

  • Work to find avenues to increase my income.
    I took on a part-time retail position from June to September.

  • Use savings and not credit for emergencies.
    I depleted my eFund for car repairs in 2010. Overall, for the first time since I can remember, my credit card debt actually decreased instead of increased for the year.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Year!!!...

Happy New Year!!!

I am back in the office after taking two weeks for vacation and enjoying every second. I didn't do much but relax and spend time with family and friends. Perfect!!!

I am feeling good about 2011. I believe it's going to be a great year for me and that you are going to see some good improvement in my financial condition. It's time to set some goals!!!

2011 Goals

  1. Use only cash and debit.
  2. Follow Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan.
  3. Create and stick to a zero based budget each month.
  4. Keep checkbook properly recorded and balanced.
  5. Read six personal finance books.
  6. Blog at least three times a week.
  7. Stay focused on what I want -- Freedom!!!

What are your goals and resolutions for 2011?