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?