Catching Up (READ: I’m Alive!!)

I’m so sorry it has been so long between posts.  I have started a few posts over the past few weeks but didn’t get around to finishing them.  Why, you ask?

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Well, I think I mentioned this before.  I am doing some transcription work in my own time, and I’m loving it.  I was able to transcribe 3 1/2 days of a trial, and now am transcribing what can be called pre-trial interviews.  I tend to equate them in my mind with what I used to do as a lawyer – depositions! But it’s not lawyers asking the questions, but investigators.  We had investigators with my law firm too, way back in the days.  It’s interesting to me because I also get to learn about different areas of the law that I might not have known before, or on which I had the barest smidgen of knowledge.

NEWS FLASH!!!!  All of this extra work allowed me to make a payment of $1200 to my credit card debt!! Yes!!! A ZERO balance with Capital One WILL be mine by April if not sooner.  I have three paychecks coming in March, and one will be automatically put toward my debt.  That should pay off the balance or pretty damn close to it. And i have been working on my taxes.  Looks like I’m getting a refund this year, woohoo!!!!  And YES, it will go toward my debt!! I’m beginning to think I might even be able to pay off my two credit cards this year!

My friend, Elaine, said I should treat myself to something with my AZ refund.  If I do use it for anything other than debt, it will be for some dog obedience classes for Morgan.  I’d like to get her to be more socialized around other dogs.  Right now, when she sees another one, she freaks out and goes berserk.  Not with Baby O, though.  With her, she is very gentle. I’ve also seen her try to groom HoneyBun a few times, and the Bunster puts up with it (mostly), so it warms my heart to see it.

I did break down and buy an actual chair for my apartment.  I had been using a loveseat folding kind of chair and finally it just got to me how unstable it was.  So I went and looked at several thrift stores before finally realizing that they have a Habitat for Humanity Restore near me, and that’s when I picked up this baby for $33!  Each animal has taken a turn on it (some more than once), so as you can see it’s a big hit.  I I also needed to feel a bit of permanence in my home life, but I wanted something that could be easily moved, come April. And it fits in my car and has wheels!  And fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Morgan can fit on my lap on it, so now she has this crazy idea that she is a lap dog! (Sigh.)

the new chair as occupied by Morgan!

the new chair as occupied by Morgan!

I started RUNNING again last week!  I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and took Morgan with me, and she did really well.  Yep, she’s my new running partner.  I love her to death, and we both love running in the Bosque (that’s woods for everyone else not in New Mexico.)  She always seems calmer among the trees,  and I know that area has the same effect on me.  So I try to get us over there as often as I can.

I’m going to be volunteering with RoadRunner Food Bank this Wednesday in their warehouse.  I’ve volunteered at a food bank back in the Boston area and really liked the time and work I did while there.  Definitely felt like I was being productive.  And here in Albuquerque, there is a large homeless population, and I’m sure, many who are struggling to get by.  So I’ll see how it goes when I am there, and if I like it, I’ll plan on going back!

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I sent in an application to volunteer with the city animal shelter but their training sessions are all while I am at work.  (My “weekend” consists of Wednesday and Thursday.)  So I need to reach out to the coordinator and explain my schedule and see if I can maybe meet with her at a different time.  Or find a different shelter with which to work.

I don’t want to get too political here on this blog, but I know that a lot of people have been upset with the several executive orders that have been signed recently.  I’m scared of what is happening in this country and while I wasn’t alive back then, I have read a lot about the Holocaust.  I’m definitely a liberal, so the idea of discriminating against someone just because of their religion or the way their name sounds, just makes me sick.   So I did apply to be a volunteer at the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum.  They even have a library! So I need to follow up on that application and see how I can be of use.  I don’t have a lot of money to donate but what I do have is my time, and skills, so that’s what I will give.

the chair, obviously a big hit, but it's getting kind of crowded!!

the chair, obviously a big hit, but it’s getting kind of crowded!!

The news has gotten so depressing to me lately, that, honestly, I hardly turn on my TV anymore.   Instead, I’m loving so many of the SNL skits I see on YouTube, and have been listening to a fair number of financial podcasts such as those that are linked on the right side of my blog.  I know I can’t make change on a large scale but I can look out for myself and try to help others in small ways.  That’s my way of resisting!! And I want to use my writing skills and/or research to help others.

Oh, and one more thing!! The book I worked on for so long with my author has been published!!!!! It is called Presidents’ Secrets:  The  Use and Abuse of Hidden Power, by Mary Graham.  I’m so proud of the work I did on this, and for having been able to work with such a wonderful woman for so many years.  She was incredibly gracious to me in her acknowledgements.  It is such a gratifying feeling to see something that you worked so hard on, come to fruition.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on.  What have you been up to lately?  Please drop me a line and let me know! And as always, thanks for reading!

 

Living on a Shoestring (Read: My Budget), But (Mostly) Feeling Abundant

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Taken at Kit Carson Park in Albuquerque.  I loved the way the stormy sky combined with the leave-less cottonwood trees to create an otherworldly feeling.

I have been meaning to blog for the last few days; I’ve been feeling inspired to write.  But I’ve also been extremely motivated to work on a side project, doing legal transcription.  There is a time deadline to it, and it’s something that I find quite interesting, so most of my free time has gone to that in the last week and a half.  Listening to lawyers talk, well, it reminds me why I walked away from that career field, and I’m SO GLAD I did, even though it was a choice that has stuck around with me for my financial life ever since.  I used to beat myself up over that and the financial choices I made, but now I just try to move forward.

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Little Baby O, or Osito as I call her.  She melts my heart with her sweet disposition every day, and just look at that cute little face! 🙂 

I promised you a post on my budget, and I think I’ve got my new payroll stuff calculated pretty well. I’ve received a few paychecks and have determined that I am losing about 18% of my pay to taxes.  (Pisses me off that I make so little and pay such a percentage while people like Trump make billions and then pay nothing, but that’s a topic I won’t go further on in this post because I’ll just end up jumping up and down on my soapbox.)

I have figured out what my fixed expenses are every month, so I’ll write those down first.  Some things, like my renter’s and car insurance, I pay on a semi-annual and annual basis, so the amounts you see below are what I need to save every month (and have taken out of my paycheck via direct deposit) to have that payment ready.

  • Auto loan: $141.42 (let’s call it $142)
  • Rent (includes utilities): $525
  • Tower Garden (only until April 2017, unless paid off earlier): $81.54 (or $82)
  • Cell phone (unlimited data): $95.45 (or $96)
  • Car Insurance: $58.33 (let’s call it $60)
  • Amazon Prime: $8.25
  • Renter’s Insurance: $17.33 (let’s call it $18)
  • Citibank Credit Card: $58 (minimum payment)
  • CapitalOne Credit Card: $59 (minimum payment)
  • Private LAL loan: $167.11 (let’s talk about that a little more below)

The total of all of these comes out to, with some of the figures rounded as noted above: $1215.36.

Some of these amounts might seem scarily high for someone in my income bracket, but here are a few details.  The LAL loan has been paid way in advance, and I’m talking years ahead of schedule from when I was making a lot more $ in Boston and paid off several thousand of it before I decided I was going to make a crazy life change and move to the southwest.  So there is flexibility with that loan.  I could literally call up every month for the next four to five years and tell them to not make the automatic withdrawal payment, and I would not be in default.  However, interest would accrue and accrue and accrue, so I am not doing that.  I am, however, not paying the full $167.11.  Instead, every two weeks, when I get paid, I pay $20 on the loan.  It’s enough to cover the interest and make a small payment of about $15 in principal every month.  The total amount on that loan is still over $10K so it’s further down my debt snowball than the credit cards.

When I take out the $167.11 number and add in $40, that makes my fixed expenses a little less scary.  The number is $1088.25.  Now I can eat, and so can my pets! (Of course, if you have read my blog for a while, you already know I will go hungry first before they will.) 

You might also think my cell phone bill is high.  It is, but I have unlimited data through T-mobile and the way I access the internet at home is by using my phone as a mobile hot spot.  I don’t have a wifi provider, router, etc.

So what’s my income?  Well, I usually get about 37-38 hours per week, so I will budget myself based on what I would make per paycheck if I only worked 37 hours.  I will have $45.01 taken out, pre-tax , of every paycheck for my health, dental, and vision insurance through work.  Yes, I realize that seems incredibly low for all of them, but it’s a high deductible plan.  The deductible is $4500.  The choices at work were not great – even the lowest deductible plan of $1850 was going to cost me $152 per paycheck, and I definitely couldn’t afford that.  I usually only go to the doctor anyway for preventive care and for routine things like eye exams, dental cleanings, and to get my prescriptions rewritten.

Oh yeah, my income.  If I average myself out to 37 hours per week, I have a salary of $23,088 before taxes. We get paid every two weeks, so I budget based on two paychecks per month.  (Yes, there are two months of each year where I then get an extra paycheck.  It will go straight to debt and/or savings when I get to that point.)  I have decided to put 3% of each paycheck into the 401(k) they have at work which is through Prudential.  That comes out to about $53.20/month going into the 401(k).  After subtracting my before-tax benefits, I am at about $1632.70.  Then I pay taxes of 18% or  $293.87.  Also, I am paying $2.80 per each paycheck for long term disability.  I have calculated my take home pay to be roughly  $1,338.87. 

I elected to not get coverage for short term disability because it was going to cost me at least $15/paycheck. I definitely had to make some tough choices when it came time to enroll in benefits, which I am happy to say I am now ELIGIBLE for!

I plan on continuing to work out, and will be starting to run again.  I’ve been getting the bug to do so, outside.  Morgan and I walk on what they call the Bosque Trail and yesterday I saw lots of runners out there, and I really wanted to join them.  So, I’m going to.  Why just wish or dream when you can DO? [update since I started writing this post, I did it yesterday!! It felt freaking awesome even though I’m slow as molasses fighting gravity to go uphill.]

So, let’s do the math.  $1,338.87 minus $1,088.25 leaves me with $250.62 to feed myself, my pets, and put gas in my car.   Luckily, gas here is cheap, and there is a lot to do for free. It’s part of why I moved to a city again, to take advantage of what it has to offer.  Also, I tend to eat pretty cheaply and hardly ever eat out.  And my pets, I know where to get the best deals for their food and litter, toys, etc.   I’ve been budgeting about $55 per month for gas, and so far I’m doing it.

Those of you who know about Dave Ramsey know that he preaches that we shouldn’t save for retirement until we are out of Baby Step 2 (paying off debt.) Well, here’s the thing.  I’m 44.  I can’t wait until I get it all paid off.  I need to be saving NOW.   If there is one thing I know, it’s that when you save for retirement, having more time can make a huge difference. I hear the stories about how little many people have saved by my age, and I’m glad to say I’m ahead of the game at least in that respect.   But I can’t just forget about it, and rely only what I saved when I had a higher income.  I don’t have kids, so there is no one to look to, to take care of me when I get older.  I need to worry about me.

Looking at these numbers, one might feel a bit constrained, and you might wonder just how I can feel abundant in the face of it.   The way I’m feeling abundant about things is by reminding myself that I am following my heart and refusing to live by what others think I should do.  One of my current coworkers thinks I’m insane to have left a good paying job at Harvard, and a small bit of me occasionally agrees with her.

But, then I think of how I’ve grown over these past 17 months or so.  I’ve faced my fears in a way that a lot of people wouldn’t.  I drove cross country all by myself with just my car, and my pets.  I found an RV for us to live in and a place to put it.  When that town didn’t work out, I found another place for us and was able to sell the RV for almost the same amount as my loan on it.  When I knew that Lake Powell wasn’t for me, long term, I moved myself to Albuquerque, and then faced the scariest thing I’ve ever done. (Well, besides leaving my marriage.)  I moved without already having a certain job waiting in the wings.  Those of you who know my fear (actually, more like a phobia) of being homeless,  know how much anxiety and stress that caused me.  A LOT.

I’ve realized what are the actual necessities that I have in my life and for the most part, what are wants.  I need a car to get me back and forth to work.  I need a roof over my head and that of my animals.  Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than being able to provide that for them.  Seeing all of them dozing, knowing even in their subconscious, that they are safe and warm, is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  Yes, the place where we are now is temporary, but I’m working on figuring out what neighborhood(s) would be better suited for us and in which my budget will work.  (And I think I might have found one!)  And having the transcription work, even if this is the one and only time I get it, will allow me to chunk away at those credit cards.  I need to take everything from that project and put it on the credit cards because eventually my federal loans will have to be repaid again (I’m on deferment because of my in-school status.)

I just finished reading a book titled Money, a Memoir, by Liz Perle.  In it, she talks about the emotions that women attach to money, how what we’ve seen as money habits of our parents as children affects us in how we deal with money in our own lives, how women can fight an inner battle between wanting to be independent and wanting to be taken care of, at the same time.  It made me think of the time when I was married.  My ex-husband made good money and my salary (looking back) was actually pretty decent.  I was able to save 14% of my salary into a 403(b) at one point. Life was definitely more comfortable, financially speaking, but I didn’t feel like I was truly alive. Today, I do.  It’s not always comfortable, and not always a happy feeling, but I feel like I am being more true to myself, and that is something that money can’t buy.

And with that, I’ll end this post which I’ve wanted to publish for several days now!  How do you feel about your budget?  Do you feel like you’re living a life of scarcity, or a life of abundance, or do you feel like you are somewhere in between? 

Thank you, as always, for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinching Pennies Until They Scream, or at Least “Squeak”

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Many of  you know that I left behind a very good paying job in the Boston area when I moved to the southwest to chase my simple dreams. I had a pension into which my employer put 10% of my income, in addition to my 403(b), and my rent was definitely lower than it could have been for the area I was in, and the building. (Some people might think $1100/month for a studio is a lot, but then again, they didn’t see my studio or have the awesome guys living and working in the building who took care of everything, or the reservoir out back.)

Some days, I look back and think “what was I thinking?” when it comes to how I spent my money. What seemed so important  at the time, whatever it was I thought I needed (I now know it was, I wanted) – I can’t even remember what most of it was. I made more than three times what I make now. Ok, wait a minute. I need to retype that to really let it sink in. I made more than three times what I make now.

So, how am I surviving?! Well, I am really paying attention to where my money goes, and where it doesn’t. I’m not doing the envelope system as Dave Ramsey advocates, because, to be honest, I don’t feel comfortable carrying a lot of cash on me in a city that definitely has its crime problems, even in the good areas. I do, however, have a very small pink notebook that I carry in my purse. On two of its pages, I have written down what my budget is for each category, and then I subtract from it when I have spent money in a particular category. This is the first month I have been doing it this way, so we shall see if what I have predicted or budgeted for each category is actually realistic or not.

I’ve also utilized a few apps and websites to help me whittle down even pennies. Some of you may have heard of some of these, but if not, you should definitely check them out! By the way, some of the links I have mentioned below are referral links – please note, I am not getting paid by any of these companies to discuss them or include their links. I’m just simply telling you my opinion of them, and I will be adding referral links to my page from time to time as I find what I consider good ways to or make a few extra pennies.

Ebates – I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, but it’s worth mentioning again.  You can either use the app on your phone, or add it as an extension to your browser (I use chrome) and if you are shopping for things online, and go through ebates first, you get cash back. The percentage of cash back differs from store to store, and you get paid quarterly as long as your cash back balance is at least $5.01. Payment is made either by paper check or paypal if  you have an account. It’s like finding extra money somewhere on the ground or in a coat pocket you had forgotten about. It’s your money you are spending – why not try to get some of it back if you can? And yes, this is my referral link.

Ibotta – this is a FREE app that allows you to search for items that have rebates on them at a large variety of stores! Places like Walgreens, Walmart, Sprouts, Smith’s grocery store, you name it. You “unlock” a rebate and then take a picture of the UPC code, as well as your receipt. You can get $10 just by signing up, and then when you hit $20, you can withdraw your cash, either via paypal or to redeem gift cards for places such as Amazon. It’s not that much work, and honestly, you’re already spending the money, so why not snap a few pictures and get yourself some money back in the process? Please check out my referral link and use referral code: ergflfx !  You will get $10 just for signing up, and I will get $5!

Receipt Hog – this is another FREE app that has you take pictures of your receipts that are no more than two weeks old.  You accumulate points based on the amount of the receipt and if you keep meeting targets (such as uploading receipts every week, no matter how small the dollar amount), you get more “pulls” on their “slot machine.” Pulls on the slot machine can get you actual $ or as has been the case for me, more coins. Once you reach a certain amount of coins, I believe it’s 1,000, you can redeem for gift cards for places like Amazon. For me, I buy some of my pet’s food or other things on Amazon, so it’s like getting a discount coupon down the line to save me money. Available for Androids and iPhones!

Grocery store apps for digital coupons and fuel rewards. There is a grocery store in ABQ called Smith’s, which is what I consider something close to Safeway, like we had in Page.  In addition to viewing their weekly ad, so I can see what’s on sale, I can also download coupons to have sent to my rewards card, so not actual physical cutting of coupons, yay!  Then, if you use your rewards card at the fuel pump, you save $.03 for every gallon, just in every day use. But once you have earned 100 points with your reward card, you save $.10 per gallon of gas! However, one way to quickly rack up points without spending $100 is to fill out the survey that is mentioned on your grocery store receipt. That gets you 50 points, and you can do it once a week. So, you could spend $50 on groceries, and then fill out the survey and get 100 points in one week, thus saving yourself $.10 per gallon.  I have a smaller car than most (a Mazda2) but think about the savings, added up over time, if you were to have a big SUV or truck!

Answering surveys online and on my phone. For Androids, there is an app called Surveys on the Go. It is also available via iTunes. The surveys only pay about $.50 or $1 each, but they also only take about 1-2 minutes, if that. I’m up to $4.75, and once I get to $10, I can withdraw my cash. Every little bit will then go to my credit card balance. We all pull out our phones to kill time, sometimes, such as at the grocery store. I figure, why not earn money at the same time? I also do surveys through SurveySavvy (which also pays you monthly to install their software on your devices such as tablets or phones so that they can observe your online behavior for market research.) I’ve downloaded it onto my phone, and after a few initial snafus (it seemed to be slowing down my phone, but a phone update seemed to cure that problem), it seems to not have any effect on the speed of my phone.  There is also another website called Opinion Square, which rewards you in points for completing surveys, which can then be redeemed for gift cards, for again, places like Amazon!  SurveySavvy has been having some problems lately with their site, so for the current time, I’m actually liking Opinion Square better. If you want to join it, drop me a line or comment below and I can email you from Opinion Square so we both benefit!

I’ve signed up to be a mystery shopper via the Secret Shopper app. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but will let you know what I think of it. It will allow me to get out into the world and earn a small bit of cash at the same time. I know someone whose husband did it a lot at one point back in the northeast, and they could at least enjoy a family night out to dinner that cost them very little if nothing.

Finally, I received a flyer in the mail the other day about donating plasma. As a new donor, you make $50 each time for the first 5 times you donate. After that, the amount goes down based on how much you donate (being vertically challenged, I’m at the lower end of the donation level, so I will likely only get $20.) However, I’m told the plasma center runs promotions every month. I’ve donated twice, and they say that you can donate up to 2x per week, but I will not be doing that for a few reasons. First, you can’t donate two days in a row, and well, my days off are now going to be Wednesday and Thursday. The actual act of donation takes me about 30 minutes or so – I stay hydrated the day before (and try to every day, honestly), as well as afterward. Plus, there is the admin side of things – they only open at 7 and I’m told there are people usually waiting in line already at that point. I have to be at work every day by 11, and my mornings also consist of taking care of The Herd, which includes Morgan’s “walk the crazy out of her” walks. So I will likely only be donating once a week at the most. I also am a bit  leery of giving away too much of my plasma without allowing my body time to regenerate it.  I also value my veins, a lot.  In Europe, they only allow you to donate every two weeks. Is it a bigger industry in the United States? Possibly. They pay you on a prepaid debit card, which I’ve used for both groceries now, as well as pet food. Whatever I save from spending out of my own bank account for these items, I will then put toward my credit card balance.

I’m also starting the basics of meal planning, which I will write about in a future post too. It’s what prompted me to start looking at the weekly ads for Smith’s and Sprouts.  People who have gotten out of debt swear by it, so I figure, if  I can’t beat ’em, why not join ’em?!

As you all know, a penny saved is better than none. And five dollars saved is better than none. It all adds up, in my book. It’s like that “latte factor” we all hear about so often.   You may not agree with all of these ideas, but for now, they are working for me, and as of now, anyway, the US is still a free country where people can do what they want (God help us get through the next 4 years!!)  I haven’t started looking for a second job yet because I know I will be leaving this apartment by mid to late April, and may end up moving closer to my full-time job. (I will talk about those thoughts in a future post). If I’m going to work two jobs, I want them to be conveniently located near each other so as to save on gas and time away from my furballs.

And FINALLY, a friend has asked me to help with some legal transcription – yay! She lent me her foot pedal and I’m downloading the software to get it all to work with my laptop as I write this post. I can’t wait to get started – I used to take a lot of dictation, and I’m looking forward to learning about the subject matter at hand (for confidentiality reasons, that is all I will say.)  I hope to not let her down and make some extra cash in the meantime so I can BEAT, BEAT, BEAT THE HELL out of my credit cards.

And yes, I have made headway on my debt this month – I will update you about that and my budget probably next week. I need to get a full paycheck under my belt to properly budget – for right now, I’m just estimating the amount of taxes and things that will be deducted from it. (I didn’t get paid for Thanksgiving because I didn’t work it and it fell on a Thursday, which is one of my official “weekend” days.) Starting in January, I will also be on the company’s medical insurance, so that will affect my bottom line.

So many future posts!! Thank you as always for reading, and Morgan and the rest of The Herd say they are sending “slobbers and kisses!” to all of you! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Journey Through Debt: A Shopping Ban, You Say?

What the heck is a shopping ban, you might ask? And why in the world would one ever want to do one??

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image from Pixabay.com

So I got the idea from Cait Flanders, who decided to put herself on a two-year shopping ban, after having paid off $30,000 of debt in just two years. You can listen to her talk about it on her Budgets and Cents podcast.  I’ve taken a really good, hard look at my finances, and have decided there are just some things I have to do. The operative word in that last sentence is HAVE. If I want to be serious about paying off my consumer debt, meaning my credit card debt, auto loan and then that pesky private student loan I have, I need to get SERIOUS. Every video I watch on YouTube about people getting out of debt and how they have done it – they all include the word or concept: SACRIFICE. You can’t get out of debt without changing your ways.

So,  when Cait went on a shopping ban, she did give herself a list of approved items that she could buy if she needed to during the shopping ban. So I’ve been thinking of what that list would include for me and here is what I have come up with:

  1. nutribullet/ninjabullet/magicbullet blender system (or something similar).  Right after I posted about my debt hurdle last week, mine died. I used to have a cheaper one made by Oster which only lasted a few months – the motor on it was just not very powerful. The NutriBullet is a bit more expensive (I paid about $85-90 for mine about two years ago), but it is super powerful and I do drink a lot of smoothies. It’s a good way to get a lot of veggies and fruits and protein powder in your diet if you don’t want to eat a ton of salads. And I have to admit, I like salads, but I definitely like something that is a bit heartier at times, like rice or pasta.
  2. Jacket or sweater for Morgan. Pets get cold too, and I understand sometimes it can get down into the single digits in ABQ. So if she seems like she is getting cold out on our walks, then I will get her one. For right now though, she seems just fine!
  3. Plane ticket to Florida for May 2017. It’s my brother’s wedding and I have been saving for it since I first heard about their plan. I almost have enough money saved for the ticket now but am hoping that flight prices come down. I’m going to keep looking pretty much every day. And did you know that you can use Ebates to go to sites like Orbitz or Travelocity, and then earn money back on your ticket?! (Seriously, I’m loving Ebates!)  And I may need to get a rental car unless I split one with my mom and her husband, which they have offered to do. Just depends on which airport I fly into, I think.
  4. Still mulling this one over – a dress for my brother’s wedding. I say this because as of right now, I have two dresses and I wore each one this past year for each of my nephew’s weddings. I’m sure that if I do buy something, I can get something that isn’t too expensive, and there are always second hand shops. If need be, I could get it altered. It won’t have to be anything too fancy because the wedding will be on the beach.
  5. I will occasionally let myself buy a ticket to a movie or museum type-thing. But honestly, there are a lot of free museums and places I can go to here in ABQ, and there really isn’t one movie that I am just dying to see. Not something that I would want to spend full price on. Unless the new Fast and Furious movie comes out, because well, that I would go see as a first run movie. (No judging!!)
  6. Renewing the domain name for my website when it comes up, but I don’t think that’ll happen until summer 2017.
  7. Necessities such as food for me and the furballs, toiletries, and gas for my car.

Honestly, when I look around at my place and my lifestyle, I don’t think I need much. Nor do I think I want that much either. Because, let’s be honest, needs and wants are very different, even though we can often get the two confused. I have plenty of clothes, and I wear scrubs to work, so there’s nothing to buy for there. I have lots of extra blankets and pet beds, etc. I use milk crates as my bookshelves of sorts, and milk crates also act as the base of my bed. (I have a four-inch latex mattress topper on top of them and it works just fine for me and the furballs.)  I’m also planning on selling a few things also, to free up some cash and room in my apartment.

Also, As I’m looking toward the future and when my lease is up, I’m even considering apartments that don’t have kitchens, because I’ve realized that since living here, I don’t use mine a ton (because of the insect problem I wrote about in an earlier post. It’s getting better since they’ve sprayed, but still, I’m DONE with dealing with that.) So if that happens, a fridge will be on the approved list of items, and probably a toaster oven. But if I do move to a full-fledged studio, then I won’t need those. I even watched this video on youtube about a lady who moved into a place that only had bathrooms in the hall – she seemed to make it work and also seems happy with her choice!

How long is my shopping ban going to be for? I’m not sure yet. I should probably keep it in place until at least when I move to another apartment. In fact, I think that’s what I will plan on doing. See how much I can save or pay off debt in the meantime.

Btw, an update. I have bought a magic bullet since I started writing this post. However, I bought it online through Kohls.com, which was offering an even stronger one than I had before (this is 900 watts, the last one was 600, and it kicked ass), at 30% off. I then used an online discount code for an additional 25% off, and shopped through ebates.com to get an additional 6% in cash back! If you haven’t heard of ebates, check it out, and please use my referral link! If you’re buying stuff online, you might as well get it through ebates, so you get some more money back into your pocket.

Would you ever put yourself on a shopping ban? Why or why not? 

As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

My Debt….Journey out of Hell

I know there’s a saying that says if you find yourself in hell, just keep walking, because eventually you will get yourself out of it. The other day, I did something scary, but necessary. Except for my federal loans, I added up all of my debt. (The federal loans are just too overwhelming to grasp.) And here’s what the picture looks like (avert your eyes if you don’t want to be scared, or is it scarred, for life?!)

Tower Garden: $407.70
Capital One credit card: $2,651.65
Citibank credit card: $3,929.69
Auto Loan (through a credit union): $6,005.16
AES Loan (private student loan): $10,567.09

Grand Total (again, avert your eyes if you need to): $23,561.29

My gross income is just barely above that. As Dave Ramsey would say, I don’t have a debt problem, but an income problem. So I plan on trying to find a second job if I can. Or, finding a way to make money online. Some of you have given me good ideas in the past.

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Rio Grande River, as seen from the Tingley Beach open space area

I’ve also listened a lot to a podcast called Budgets and Cents. The “Budgets” part of the podcast is Cait Flanders, and she went on a shopping ban for one year. After the first year, she decided to continue it for a second year. During that time, she only bought essentials like food.She had a pair of jeans that ripped and she eventually had to replace them. When her one hoodie just got completely gross, she got another one, but only after months of looking for the perfect hoodie. It might seem a bit extreme, but it did help her to really appreciate the stuff she did have. I know it will help me too, even as I continue to get rid of stuff I have accumulated over the past year, but realize I really don’t need. Every dollar I save by not shopping for stuff, will go to the debt.

So, I’ve decided to do something similar. I’m not going to shop for things I don’t need. Just groceries for myself and for the furry ones, pretty much. And I am going to start checking out all the free things to do in Albuquerque. There are actually quite a few free museums that I can take a look at, ranging from the atomic bomb to meteorites! After all, part of the reason I moved to a city was to take advantage of amenities a city has, that a smaller town does not. I’ve already been checking out a lot of the free open public spaces and am really enjoying checking them all out with Morgan. We both get the fresh air and exercise we need.  So, occasionally, I may pay to go into a museum or some place like the Botanical Garden that does have an entrance fee. But I will space those out accordingly. I know if I don’t treat myself occasionally, this won’t work. I just have to remember, it’s ok to treat yourself, but in moderation.

I am going to keep my gym membership to Planet Fitness. It’s only $21/month and working out is once again, very important to me.  It all works together.  It’s helping my morale improve, and I am liking the way I look in the mirror, more.  Same thing with my running sneakers – if they wear out, I’m going to replace them. One thing I do know that it is worth spending money on is good sneakers if you want to run. Since my health insurance at my new job (once it kicks in, in January) has a high deductible, I need to focus on eating well, and staying healthy. Luckily, those are two things I already realize the importance of.

So, you will notice that up above, the debts are arranged in order from smallest to largest. I plan on paying off the tower garden first. I plan on taking a couple hundred out of savings, and then paying the rest out of my paychecks. (I’m not using it in this apartment since I heard that roaches like water, and well, it’s a hydroponic system. So I may try to sell it online.)  Then, the money I was paying to that every month (about $81) will go toward the Capital One card. I’ve found that gas here is cheaper than it was in Lake Powell (it was a tourist destination, so no surprise there), so whatever I budget for but don’t use per month, is going to go the debt payoff. I get paid $10 every month from  my credit union for having my checking account with them, having money directly deposited, and using my debit card a certain number of times. So, guess where that is going?!

I am paid way ahead (about 5 years) on that AES student loan, so I plan on making smaller than the full payments every month of $167.  It accrues about $27 in interest every month, so I plan on paying more than $27, but also paying it every two weeks, when I get paid. You see, student loans are different than other types of loans. The interest accrues daily. So while it may not seem like a lot, every little bit can help. It’s kind of like paying off your mortgage twice a month instead of just once a month. It shortens the loan time.  (I just paid $20 on it this morning.) The money that I am not paying toward the AES loan will go toward the Capital One card. That should help  a lot since the Capital One card has a higher interest rate.

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one of the few moments in which I could get Morgan to sit still on  our walk at Tingley Beach

The Citibank card is currently on a 0% interest rate, and I need to check to see when it ends. It was 21 months when I signed up, so I think I have another year or so. If that time comes up, and it’s not paid off (the likely scenario), then I will transfer it to another credit card which is giving 0% interest for a certain number of months. Then I will snowball what I had been paying on the Capital One card into the minimum payment on the Citibank card, and then on to the car, and then on to the AES loan at the end. The car loan has a low interest rate so a lot of my $142 monthly payment goes to paying off principal.

So yes, this is the snowball method. It’s different from picking the debt with the highest interest rate, but it does provide you with more “wins” and let’s face it, handling money is an emotional thing. If it wasn’t, we would all be millionaires, right?!

I’ve updated my direct deposit with my work – luckily, they allow you to put your paycheck into 5 different accounts! So from every paycheck, I will be saving for the annual or semi-annual bills that come up, like renter’s insurance, car insurance, etc. That way, when the bill comes due, the money is there. And I am also continuing to save to go to my brother’s wedding in Florida in May.

I watched this video earlier today via the His and Her Money youtube channel, and I was definitely inspired. This girl started out making $15K per year and she owed $25K on her student loans. She paid it off in about 3.5 years. I don’t know that she had some of the expenses I have, but if she can do  it, then I have no excuse to not even try on my end.

I will talk about the budget I have planned in a later post because this one has already gotten way too long!  But I wanted to get this post out there so that the few of you who read this blog regularly can be my accountability partners. I need people to know what is going on. (And thanks to those of you who do read it regularly, even though my posts have been somewhat sporadic lately.)

Finally, I will leave you with a picture of Baby O doing what she does best: sleeping. 🙂 Well, she snuggles pretty well too. LOL (She and Max are both snuggling up to me as I type away. There could be worse things in life than having two animals trying to love you at the same time.)

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my adorable baby girl, Baby O

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below. 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Thoughts, Thankfulness, and Totally Awesome Links

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View from the AirBNB my family rented last week in Flagstaff, AZ. I was only there for a few hours but it was SOOO relaxing to look at this beautiful view.

Today, I’m thankful for being in the new apartment. It is much less furnished than the other place, so it feels more minimalist and it’s more relaxing for me to be in. It may sound weird to say this, but I think even The Herd is much happier here. Callie has been out and about more often, and HoneyBun has been quietly finding her “spot” to relax and sleep in. (As I write this, she is laying down with her head on my leg. It’s a very AWWW moment.)  Max, of course, thinks he rules the roost, and Osito just loves to sleep and cuddle, as usual. And I’m feeling more inspired overall. To write, to think about my next moves, what I should do with my life. I have a better view of Lone Rock (the image you see in my blog header), so I’ve been spending some good time on my patio, reading and looking out at it.

I’m also thankful for the Passion Planner that my friend Claudia sent me. I haven’t used a planner in a while and I think this will be helpful to me in reminding me to do a little something every day to get me closer to fulfilling my dreams. Or, rather, to figuring out what those dreams are.  It’s a different kind of planner and at the end of every month, it has a lot of self reflection kind of questions. Even though I just got it, I went through the questions at the end of August, and it helped me to think about a lot of different things, like what I was most grateful for this past month, what major lessons I’ve learned, etc. You can also download extra pages and insert them into the planner, like this finance insert.  I can’t wait to start using all of these, but especially the finance pages.

In keeping with my financial goals, I’m always looking for ways to save money. I read through the book, Frugality for Depressives, and it had lots of suggestions that anyone can use.  Among them was the website, 365 Days of Slow Cooking, and it even has a vegan page! I can’t wait to try some of them out – the awesome thing is that it usually includes a lot of ingredients I already have at home.  Another good one was Gift Card Granny, which compares prices on gift cards that can be bought via a few different websites.  Right now, I’m living in a small town, but I can definitely see myself making use of it in the future for items I do use and things that I normally buy, like gas, and groceries, etc. Some discounts are better than others, of course, but any little bit I can save will be good. It’s the small things that add up over time.  I’ve been constantly reminding myself of this at work and  when I get paid this week, I’m going to make a transfer into my savings account of $2.35 for each day I didn’t buy crap at the campground store where I work. I think it’s really going to add up over the next few months. I have an idea of what to do with the money I save up, but I’m going to leave that for another post. 🙂

Anyway, I hope that all of you are having a great Tuesday – with my work schedule, Tuesday equals Sunday, so I plan on making a productive day of it. I have animals to snuggle (they are all on the bed with me as I write this, which I absolutely love!) and animals to walk at the Page Animal Adoption Agency and Page  City Shelter. (By the way, if you shop on Amazon, please consider using their Amazon Smile link and doing your shopping, as a portion of the proceeds will go to them!  It will cost you absolutely nothing.

By the way, I am taking part in a fundraiser called Strut Your Mutt in a few weeks, at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Any funds raised by our team members will go to help the shelter with its medical bills. The shelter doesn’t get any funds from the city, and there is only one paid staff member who even comes in on her days off to take care of the animals. If you would like to support me in this endeavor, please visit my fundraising page. I will be taking little Osito with me but we will be doing more of a “carry” than a walk, since she has slowed down somewhat these days and sprained her shoulder a few months ago.  But I promise you, she will look as adorable as ever, and I will probably put her in a dress. 🙂 Laugh if you want, but you can’t look at her and not smile when she’s wearing a dress. LOL

I hope that some of these links are helpful to some of you. I’d love to hear about any websites you have found to be helpful with saving money, or following your dreams.

As always, thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Thoughts, Thankfulness, and Totally Awesome Links

This photo was taken while on the Panoramic Cruise around Lake Powell yesterday. Enjoy!

This photo was taken while on the Panoramic Cruise around Lake Powell yesterday. Enjoy!

Why Tuesdays?  Well, I know on Monday we all have to get back to work. By Tuesday, we’ve caught up and if we work in an office, we might have some time to take a few moments and check out blogs or whatever else we like to surf on the net. So, I hope that this post will be a good distraction for you and if you’re reading it in the morning, help you get your day started on a good note. And I promise to keep them short!

They will include some new links of possible interest to  you, thoughts about things for which I am thankful (it used to be its own series on this blog, so this is my way of bringing those back to life), and possibly different perspectives to help you get through the day. Hope you like this new series!

By the way, if you need some cuteness overload, check out my new blog page: The Herd. Yep, there you will find pics of my awesome furballs.

  1. If you’re sitting at your desk, and not  loving your job, think of it this way – you are earning a paycheck, and outside of work, you can work on changing our work situation. Spend some time updating the resume, or take time to research into other options, even if it’s only on your lunch break. If you feel stuck, take at least one small step today to make yourself unstuck. It’s empowering. Trust me. For me, I’m grateful to at least have money coming into my life that allows me to put a roof over my head and that of my pets. I just need to stay disciplined, and it can help me to save money for my new future that I’m envisioning right now.
  2. I’m very thankful that my family (my older brother and his family) have been able to travel to the southwest for a week. They are spending a few days in Lake Powell, and then heading to Flagstaff on  Tuesday. I’ll be hanging out with them for the day!  It has been over a year since I saw them.
  3. As I’ve been trying to gain control of my financial life, I’ve started seeking out others who write about this field and came across some awesome podcasts: Budgets and Cents, and Martinis and Your Money.  Both make me feel like I’m listening to a conversation between friends, and I’ve definitely been binge listening! The latter had an amazing episode called Frugality for Depressives. Having struggled with depression, it really hit home and the lady she interviewed had some really insightful comments.
  4. Sometimes you need a little inspiration or to see beautiful things to help you get through your day – I hope you enjoy these two photography blogs that I’ve just added to my links (can’t believe I didn’t do it before): Adventures of Dorrie Ann and Joyfully Green.
  5. Like I said above, check out the newest page on this blog, The Herd!!

As I said, I want to keep these posts brief, so I hope you will all have a good Tuesday!  If you have anything you are thankful for in your life right now, please feel free to drop a line below and let me know what it is! And if there are some good links you want to share with others, please do that too!

As always, thanks for reading!