My Noble Steed

bicycle

 

I’d like to report that at 24 days in, Low Spend August has been a success thus far! I had alloted myself $100/week for ALL expenses (besides rent) – gas, water, electricity, groceries, household goods, and entertainment (ha!) – and so far, my highest weekly spend has been $76.00, and the lowest has been $34.00. I’ve even managed to buy a baby shower gift, bake a cake for a party I was invited to, and buy and send a couple of congratulations cards for friends who have recently become new parents (all of my friends are having babies these days. It’s like baby season around here) and stay well within my budget, with room to spare.

So how did I manage to achieve this when I’ve been Captain Spendypants for most of my adult life? Although I’ve been working random side gigs for years – promotions (I’ve been a Bud Girl, snack pack hander-outer, one of the people who rides around in the Starbucks van and blitzkriegs summer events with trays of little mochaccinos, etc) random day worker shifts at city festivals, and focus group attendee for ages, but none of those completely random gigs has made me frugal. Until now. Enter: FD, the Bike Messenger.

I came across an ad on a telephone pole (the source for all life-changing careers, of course) for a bike messenger while I was – wait for it – out on my bike. I love cycling almost more than anything else in the world (next to traveling, and cheese – not exactly in that order). I decided to call in, and was told after 15 rides I would make a 100 dollar bonus. Well, if something was going to entice me to sign up, this was it. Fast forward 3 weeks to the day, and I have made 44 deliveries thus far, and I can’t wait for more.

So besides making more coin on the side, why has this caused me to have the most frugal month I’ve ever had so far? A small factor is that there simply isn’t enough time. I hop on my bike almost every day after work and log in a 4 hour shift each Saturday and 5 hour shift each Sunday. On weekdays I start at about 6pm when I get home, and roll in around 9:30pm when I remember I have a home and chores and partner I should likely attend to. This didn’t stop me from shopping in the past; online shopping has far-reaching tentacles that grasp even the busiest of us. So what’s changed? The fact of the matter is, I have to work like a dog to get money with this gig. For less than minimum wage, I take heavy parcels from one end of the city to the other. Sometimes it’s a set of tools, other times it’s a food order including 4 hot bowls of Vietnamese pho I have to balance in my backpack as I peddle uphill for a measly $7.00. It’s hard work, and God help me if I’m going to spend the money I literally had to sweat for (and sometimes cry for – stuffing a messenger bag with two cans of paint going uphill during a downpour and having your bike chain fall will make the toughest of us frustrated-cry even a little!) I am now pinching those hard-earned pennies so tightly my figurative knuckles are turning blue.

My SO has asked why I don’t just find another part-time gig where I get paid a little better and it doesn’t require so much physical work. Call me a masochist, but I like that this gig can be hard. Besides being able to schedule in shifts whenever I want and go on the clock whenever I want, I enjoy pushing myself to new physical limits each day. I’ve become very sedentary in my soul-sucking 9-5 job and I absolutely despise the gym (which I can’t go to anyways because no way I’m paying for a gym membership) so I feel amazing now that I’m getting daily exercise. I feel satisfied when I accept one more call after I thought I reached my limit, and it turns out it was the best ride of the night. I like that I now look at that $2 coffee and think, no way, that’s one third of that last ride I did that required me to go uphill for 10 minutes with 20 pounds worth of files in my crate for only $6.00. That money stays with me. And I like that.

So that’s what’s been keeping me frugal, while also keeping me healthy, clear-minded, and challenged.

Until next time, you can find me out on my bike.

Back on the Horse

Cowboy-and-Horse

 

Before anyone starts asking if I would like some cheese with my w(h)ine, I want to chronicle some positively charged thoughts on how I plan to annihilate all this debt.

To the naked eye, I’m actually one of those high-energy people that’s always cheerful and enthusiastic. The debt struggle is something that lays beneath and only gets shared on platforms I’ve learned are the most accepting of my struggling side, my not-so-sunshine-and-rainbows side. So I’m here to pause the grey clouds for a minute and share a baby step that I’m really excited about!

It’s nothing new or earth-shattering, but I’m ready to re-start a plan. I tried my 160 Days of Nothing New when I started the blog and it didn’t pan out. I’ve obviously spiralled out of control and with it got caught in a downward spiral of emotions, but I’m ready to start a new challenge.

It’s August 1st today and a civic holiday here in Ontario, which I think is a great time to stop and reflect about how I am going to embark on a Low Spend August! As I mentioned, nothing earth-shattering about this plan, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been confident enough in my self-control that I can embark on a goal and not fail epically in the first few days, and I’m very excited to get started.

So here are the rules. I have alloted $100/week to use, period.  So over a month, I have $400 for my phone bill, my portion of the water and electricity bills, groceries, and any “living” expenses that might come out of that, including entertainment (rent is excluded from this total). After my portion of the bills and groceries, this leaves me with roughly $20 a week to my name. Needless to say, this means I’ve completely eliminated any room for shopping (which was the plan!) as that $20/week will likely go to bus fare to see mama bear on the weekends and any food/dessert I may contribute to family dinner, for any needed living expenses like toiletries, and if there’s any left over, to see friends for tea or coffee. No clothes, no shoes, no dinners out, and no cocktails. Just the necessities.

The big win here is that my SO has decided to do the $100 challenge with me (albeit begrudgingly). SO is the type that strongly believes in the “I work hard so I should be free to spend my money to enjoy myself” type, and he’s also of the camp that thinks frugality is deprivation. It’s definitely been an uphill battle to conquer my own spending demons whilst living with someone that doesn’t believe in frugality, or even budgeting, for that matter! However I’ve been pushing how frugality is the exact opposite of deprivation as it opens so many more doors to freedom, and whether he has taken that to heart or in hopes of making me stop waxing poetic on how we should together eschew consumer culture, has decided to start the challenge with me. I’m hoping that with the two of us on this together, we’ll be successful and we’ll see we can still live rich, rewarding lives without excess spending.

I’m planning to keep myself busy with studying for my work course, planning and cooking meals, exercising at the gym in my apartment building (I’m not a fan of exercising, but it’s another focal point for improvement for me), cycling around the city, and exploring what free events are going on in dowtown Toronto. I’m actually really excited to explore free ways of enjoying August, and expanding my horizons to think of what would give me satisfaction and enjoyment that doesn’t involve buying anything. It takes more work to discover those moments than it does to just meet friends at a bar or to relieve boredom at the mall, and I’m truly looking forward to the challenge.

Sojourn Back to the Drawing Board

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I’ve relapsed.

I’ve fell of the wagon.

I’m floundering in a really dark hole of shame, guilt, and debt.

I maintain that the claims of psychologists that shopping addiction (oniomania) is a real behavioural condition/addiction, and the highs and lows cycle of staying “sober” and then any following relapses cause very real emotional anguish. It is a bona fide addiction, through and through.

I know that shopping addiction comes down to deeper unresolved issues we have inside ourselves. However those take time to work through, and while we go through the healing process it takes a huge amount of good old-fashioned self-discipline to say no to spending money. I will not resolve the deeper issues by tomorrow, but until then I need to wake up every day and tell myself my wallet is closed.

My desire for new things – clothes, shoes, jewellery, cosmetics – overtook my desire to be a self-disciplined individual who was above the claws of consumer culture. Mentally I knew that being debt-free and having money to build my future and help my family would give me the lasting satisfaction that new shoes never will, yet still I failed and overindulged in all these items. Tangible things that add but the most fleeting streak of short-sighted joy but rob me of genuine happiness.

So how did I get back into this mess? The same way I always do. By being short-sighted and lacking will. I started to loosen up my resolve to look at tempting website. Oh, I’ll just do a quick browse to see what’s new for the summer, I would say. $350 worth of clothes in the shopping cart later and I’m purposely drowning out my internal voice screaming “NO!!” as I push all the right buttons on the paypal site. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I’m not going to make a bold statement about how today is a new day and I’m a new person and I’ve stopped. I’ve done that before, and it didn’t work. No more bold statements. Just hard work.

Here is what I have to conquer:

  • $11,000 in visa debt, at 22%
  • $14,000 in line of credit debt, at 6%
  • $12,000 in line of credit (#2) debt, at 8.25%
  • $25,000 loan from family member

Grand total: $62,000.

$62,000 of debt by age 30 with not an asset to show for it. It’s enough to make one sick.

I’ve listed them in order of what to conquer first. I need to pay off the 6% LOC faster than the 8.25% one because that’s in my mother’s name and I want to clear that first.

I’m in the process of taping notes with “$62,000” printed on it on my credit and debit card so I can see that terrifying number whenever I feel like purchasing something to make me feel “better.” I don’t believe in fear tactics, but it seems like logic and emotional appeals haven’t worked thus far.

I’m going to learn to say no. I’m going to learn to look away. I’m going to learn what it takes to pay of $62,000 debt and be in control of myself once again. I’m going to learn what it’s like to wake up in the morning and feel ok.

 

Me, on a Rollercoaster

rollercoaster

No no, not literally on a rollercoaster (those photos they take of you right after the biggest loop are always ghastly, aren’t they?) but my financial life and progress lately. “Rollercoaster” is actually good, very good – I’ve been in a slump of stagnant valleys this past year so having some intermittent peaks lately means things have been looking up!

I was tempted to start a post yesterday called something along the lines of “recovery stage” or “I’m officially on my way” or something else entirely optimistic. I had worked a few side gigs the past few weekends for cash, sold some clothing and books and resisted spending temptation better than I ever have before. I was able to get at least $500 bucks in cash from my hustling into the bank and have it stay there. I was elated. I was over the moon. I said no to invitations to spendy social events and deleted sale notification emails with finesse. I really thought to myself, hot damn, I’m killing it! I am spendaholic no longer!

To show you how tenuous my position is, I woke up today feeling icky (strep throat) and all I wanted to do is sit in my pyjamas and browse online shops. I got an email with the heading that my favourite natural beauty line has new products at my favourite shop just down the street and I want to skip over there to check it out, I thought about how I really  could use new sandals for my upcoming family vacation and I could really go for a green smoothie with ginger and lemon from the juice bar up the street because I’m sick, after all. These aren’t just whimsy, fleeting thoughts. They are strong, powerful urges that make me want to cave in and scream out “I want this, I need this, I deserve this, this will make me happy!!” Only the want statement would be correct, though. The rest is complete malarky. I don’t need any of my cravings, what I deserve is financial stabiity and it sure as heck won’t make me genuinely happy.

So that’s where I’m at. I’ve had some really good days lately. I’m really proud of myself for holding on to my money and spending very little as of late, while also making some side cash that  I’ve held onto. The issue is that it doesn’t take long for a new urge to hit, and when it does, it still hits hard. I’m really doing my best to think of the beautiful brick home I’d like to live in one day, being able to purchase my very first car which will help me further my career (something small, simple and definetly used), and re-sensitizing myself to what “treats” really are. That coffee once a week with a friend or relative will be so much more special than the daily java fix I get from Starbucks. I want to be enamoured by what really matters, unclouded by what to buy next, detached from material goods. I want to love the little things again.

What does everyone else do/think of/visualize when the urge to spend comes on strong?

 

Roots

Roots

 

In my quest to shake off my addiction to spending money, I’ve been doing my best to analyze my triggers and patterns that result in spending. There’s definitely a correlation between not being as organized as I’d like to be and how much money I spend. No, it’s not the sole reason or even the lion’s share, but I can confidently say money gets frittered due to my struggles with being organized with my time and my space.

For example:

  • I haven’t banked enough time on the weekends to cook food in large batches; I might have to resort to buying a lunch out whilst at work. A money-spending situation that could have been avoided
  • I didn’t wake up early enough so I didn’t have time to make coffee at home (we only have an espresso machine, so no timer) so I grab one on my way to the subway. Money that could have stayed in my pocket
  • Didn’t check out any cool free events in the city when planning a night out with old friends and resulted in a last minute going to the bar where I contributed to the apps and snacks ordered. I could have avoided that if we went to a free performance I checked out earlier
  • New clothes. This has always been my weakness, but if I had an efficiently organized closet where I can see all my things and gain the most use out of them, it’d be even more obvious to me that purchasing more is simply not necessary and that I have more than enough to suit my needs

Besides the ones listed above, there have been so many situations where I could have avoided spending money if I was more organized.

I wanted to delve deeper. I know I need to be more organized, but it’s not a matter of not knowing how to go about it, it’s about how I haven’t been putting in the work required to do it. After long days of the office we all are prone to fatigue, so re-organizing my closet doesn’t sound as good as laying on the couch with a book, and batch cooking for the rest of the week when there’s enough food in the fridge to fulfill my immediate needs isn’t as pressing as studying for my course.

So why am I so fatigued, to the point I’m finding it hard to stay organized and always plan ahead? Could it be that this is a vicious cycle – I’m too tired to organize my stuff because my energy is always too sapped from owning too much stuff? Let’s go even further – am I not sleeping well at night worrying about all the debt I’ve accumulated by buying too much … stuff?

I think the root issues to why I’ve felt powerless to stopping the spending cycle are becoming more clear. I’ve written about how my weakness for clothes and beauty supplies comes from not feeling good enough as I am, so to cut that issue off at the root I need to work on my confidence. I’m learning that my sapped energy is related to being disorganized which comes from owning too many things; so besides not buying any stuff, it’s imperative I need to dump a lot of my things and work on organizing my space. I’ve already cut off contact with the spendthrift friends that like to blow all their money on food and drink, so I don’t have the peer pressure to waste my money on food and booze anymore. What’s left is me and the decisions I make from this point forward. It’s time to take care of my roots.

Heartbreaks and Promises

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Hello world,

I’ve been an epic failure this month. Just epic. To the point of breaking my own heart over how I’ve completely undone my debt advances and plunging myself into further worry and panic. I am $2,282.53 poorer than my last debt update, bringing my grand debt total back up to $63,006.53. At my initial post right around New Year this year I was at $63,270.00. So in 3 months, I’ve only managed to reduce my debt by about a measly $200. This was after about 7 paychecks and a year-end bonus in 2016 so far, which I managed to completely blow besides $200. I come to confess with a lump in my throat and tears down my cheeks.

So where did it all go? None of this is a surprise, I know exactly where it all went. I fell off the wagon and went back to seeking material goods to make me feel better about myself, to help me boost my sense of self-worth and self-esteem. I’ve had the same weaknesses/demons since I was young: new outfits to make me feel prettier, new makeup and hair products to make myself into something more “presentable,” and money spent online or at the mall in an almost euphoric or adrenaline-fueled haze that made me feel the highest of highs as I was swiping my credit card but has cast me back into this horrific low as soon as the high wore off. I’ve always turned to spending to make me feel better when I was feeling sad, low or empty, just like an alcoholic would turn to drink or an addict back to drugs. It’s a loss of control and an almost blind flailing to something tried, tested and true to make you instantly feel good – that ubiquitous band-aid that never mends the wound beneath.

I know it sounds almost silly but I feel like I’ve experienced this horrific thing – I feel a deep, gnawing sadness, I feel disappointed, I feel sick to my stomach, I feel disgusted with myself, I have waves of almost frenzied inspiration to make things right followed by a crushing wave of hopelessness and despair. I’m sorry this isn’t a happy, role model-type blog about someone who has it all right and can give you a nice, uplifting article with ten steps about how she saves money on XYZ and how you can do it too. I’m not there yet and I’m not that person yet and I don’t have it figured out and I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to make it better. I’m just a real person who is flawed and who is struggling with a very real addiction, who gets on the horse but then falls off the horse and sometimes needs to tend to her wounds before finding a way to clamber back on. I’m down in the dirt and I’m bleeding and it hurts more to know I fell off because of my own foolishness. Or weakness. Or both.

As I write this I remember a part of April Lane Benson’s book “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why we Overshop and How to Stop” where one of her patients described how she felt that she would be better off telling people she’s an alcoholic as they would likely understand more and judge her less. That’s always resonated with me, and I went to my bookshelf tonight to find the quote. I didn’t get to finding it as browsing through the book was just what I  needed – April asking what it is we really shop for – is it love, acceptance, self-realization? Is it self-care and connections with others we are really looking when we spend money on material things? I’ve decided I’m going to go through the book from start to finish and commit to doing all the journal entries and reflection exercises. I may decide to post them here, as I’m sure there are others out there that are feeling exactly how I am right now and are struggling with either shopping addiction or an addiction of another kind and I know that could make one feel so distraught and hopeless, and I don’t think any of us should feel alone. I know downers don’t get a lot of readers and everyone flocks to a happy how-to in a blog. But I know someone out there will connect and maybe feel some hope that they’re not alone, not a complete mess-up, and not too far gone. And hopefully I’ll get to a point where I’ll know I’m not too far gone too.

 

Bi-Weekly Spending Report (Feb 15 – Feb 29)

canadian-money

 

I decided to name it my bi-weekly report this post seeing that seems to be my frequency in posting these! I’m debating moving to a monthly budget for March – I’ll see as I go. It’s all about what I feel keeps me the most motivated.

So I’m happy that I managed three non-spend days each week, however those didn’t help me gain any traction as so much as they somewhat lightened the burden of an expensive dentist appointment (my insurance only covers 60% so the remainder is all out of pocket) and purchasing a wedding gift, along with a bus pass for March – considering the snow storms we’ve been slammed with, I’m glad to have invested in the purchase!

Week One:

Monday NO SPEND DAY!
Tuesday $2.00 Groceries
$135.00 Monthly bus pass
Wednesday NO SPEND DAY!
Thursday $212.00 Dentist Appointment
Friday $24.00 Prescription
Saturday NO SPEND DAY!
Sunday NO SPEND DAY!

Week Two:

Monday $22.00 Toiletries
  $63.00 Groceries
Tuesday NO SPEND DAY!
Wednesday NO SPEND DAY!
Thursday NO SPEND DAY!
Friday $42.00 Clothing
  $11.00 Team Lunch
  $141.00 Wedding Present
Saturday $6.21 Groceries
Sunday $22.11 Drinks Out

 

I’ve said goodbye to expensive February (“Frugal February” would have sounded so much better for so many reasons!) and am looking forward to a clean slate. Let’s try to make March a frugal one!

Debt Payment Progress Update

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I wanted to post an update on my debt situation since starting this blog and putting in an active effort to change my spendy lifestyle. One of my first posts, written on December 30, 2015 included my original debt tally and I’m here to post the progress made since the beginning of the year.

Right now I’m focusing on my highest interest debt and working my way down. Once I’m done paying off my highest debt, I will apply those payments to the debt with the next highest interest rate. I am most definitely making the minimum payments on everything else! My payments for the lines of credit are set up as interest payments only, that way I can dedicate all my debt-payment money to my high interest visa card first.

-Visa: $15,530.50 (19.99%)  – $2469.50 down from beginning of the year!

-Line of Credit 1: $12,000 (8.8%) – no change

-Line of Credit 2: $13,253.71 (7%) – $16.29 difference from the beginning of the year

-Personal Loan: $20,000 (2% – family loan) – no change

I have mixed emotions about the tally; I’m happy I was able to get almost $2500 towards my debts in a month and twenty days (as opposed to my prior life, where I likely would have added that amount or more to my debt!) but I’m also quite melancholy looking over the expense reports of the past two weeks, seeing all that potential debt-paying money go towards expenses and course fees. This is the emotional fork in the road where I need to focus on the good and feel positive about my achievement so I can keep that good energy flowing about my money situation. I truly believe the pre-Frugal Desperado me would have squandered that money and added even more debt to my name if I didn’t make these changes and embark on a new lifestyle, and I need to feel proud of that instead of feeling sad I couldn’t make a bigger dent in the debt. I’m making a conscious choice to feel great about this!

So what’s next? Although the last two weeks had it’s expenses, today is a new day and a new week is around the corner. My course fees are all paid for so I don’t see anything big creeping up. I want to institute a “Mega Frugal March” for myself where I really tighten the buckles on my frugal efforts. I’d like to see another chunk of debt paid down next month, so here goes! Now that my books are here and the weather is getting lousier, I have every motivation to stay home and study, avoiding all spendy situations. Winter hibernation for the win!

Two Week Spending Report (Feb 1st to Feb 14th)

Salt flat

 

I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I’m in pain. Emotional and financial pain (yes, that exists). These past two weeks have been EXPENSIVE. That may perhaps be why it took me two weeks to put up my spending reports – it literally hurt to draft up the reports and have to look at my bleeding wallet.

I work in a sector of the financial services industry that requires licensing, as well as the pursuit of additional licensing if I want to keep moving up. I’m in a sales role where hitting my targets will influence my bonuses (and you bet this gives me the motivation to hustle hard and give it my best!) however I only get a fraction of the bonus that the sales role above me gets, ergo, I want to move up to the next role as soon as I can. I’ve only been in my position for 6 months and the expected time to put in is at least two years, the next level of courses and licensing, and a car. I’ve never owned a car and plan to wait until I’ve completed all the other requirements before I get one (I have zero interest in having – and paying – for one), so all my efforts are going to the direct next step – the self-study courses and subsequent exams it takes to get to the next level. Seeing the course takes about a year to get through, I decided that these cold, snowy months are a good time to get started. Unfortunately, those courses and registrations come with high costs, and the past two weeks have been time for me to pony up. Seeing my employer will reimburse me 50% of the costs a year from now, I’m considering them an expense as it will add to my debt burden for the next year.

Besides paying for the courses, I’ve also had some ill-timed situations cause me to spend more than I’d like; my hair brush broke, my current licensing needed to be renewed, my winter boots gave out and it was time to buy new ones (I live in Canada, winter boots are a MUST!) There was also the theatre tickets for my mom’s birthday and a dinner out each week that wouldn’t have hurt as much if I wasn’t loaded with other expenses. The silver lining part of that is that I truly, deeply enjoyed those two nights out with friends. Those dinner-out evenings are so few and far in between these days that I went home after each respective evening in deep gratitude for the people and connections I’m lucky enough to have in my life. For that, I’m truly thankful to the pursuit of frugality; when I was going out for dinner 5 or so nights a week, I didn’t savour each evening nor did I feel a deep sense of appreciation for being lucky enough to live in a situation where I have not only my basic food needs met, but the extreme luxury of being able to choose from hundreds of places where someone else can cook it for me and I can enjoy it comfortably with friends. For this, I am deeply grateful.

Without further ado, the damage:

Feb 1st to 7th:

Monday $1.75 Coconut Water
  $298.00 Course Part One
Tuesday $15.80 Dinner out
  $1.75 Coconut Water
Wednesday $26.80 Groceries
Thursday $482.83 Course Part Two
Friday $43.51 Toiletries
$89.60 Winter Boots
Saturday $25 Charity Donation
Sunday $16 Groceries

 

Feb 8th to 14th:

Monday $5.65 Forgot my lunch 🙁
  $116.39 Theatre tickets for mom
  $13.54 Hair brush
Tuesday $9.34 Bus fare
  $1.50 Coconut Water
Wednesday $22.50 Groceries
Thursday $13.38 Coworker lunch
  $335.27 Work License Renewal
Friday $60.00 Dinner with friends
$52.00 Massage Therapy
Saturday $25 Dance Class Workshop
Sunday $36 Textbook Supplement
  $14.00 Uber
  $15.00 Prescription

 

Now that my courses have been paid for and I don’t have to worry about any more fees until exam time next year, there are no reasons to be spending any money beyond necessities for the next few weeks. The silver lining to all these course fees is that I have a bona fide excuse reason to say no to social outings and other events that consume a lot of money. I can get back to seeing those glorious No Spend Days dotting my spending reports!

Weekly Spending Report (January 25th – 31st)

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Last week was a good week…. a very, very good week.

I should mention though that last week’s circumstances were manufactured and don’t reflect a typical week in the life of a Frugal Desperado. I was away for work on a conference and there were literally no spending opportunities while at the conference centre… okay, I lie. Last conference I’m pretty sure I shopped online. So I suppose I still should give myself an itty bitty back pat for this one.

 

Monday NO SPEND DAY!
Tuesday NO SPEND DAY!
Wednesday NO SPEND DAY!
Thursday NO SPEND DAY!
Friday NO SPEND DAY!
Saturday $25.15 Toiletries
Sunday NO SPEND DAY!

 

All those “No Spend Day” rows make my newly frugal heart so very happy. I should mention though, a storm is a-brewin’ in the form of course fees for the current week, so I’m basking in the glow of the above spending report as much as I can right now.

I’m also playing with the idea of doing monthly spending reports instead of weekly, but I’m leaning towards keeping them per week so I can keep myself motivated while I’m still in my infancy of frugal living. I’ll report back.