When deciding to make October a Super Frugal month, I had some stern, honest words with myself about some unsavoury and deceptive habits I had been indulging in. To recap, it’s been a costly year so far as most of my closest friends and relatives have decided to get married and/or have babies in 2016. It’s almost as if the new year hit and all of sudden my mailbox clogged up with wedding shower, engagement party, baby shower and wedding invitations, all with a few lines at the bottom stating exactly where they would like me to spend my money on their new life decision (I am inherently against registries, and on a larger level, expecting anyone to spend a cent on you just because you made a certain life choice as – that doesn’t involve them – but I’ll save my thoughts for another post).
Perhaps due to my aforementioned disdain for registries/mandatory gift-giving occasions or maybe just because it presented many spending opportunities, I found myself sneaking in little “gifts” for myself whenever I had to go to the mall or an online shopping site to buy a gift for someone else. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal and time and again it’s proven to be both a blessing and a curse. I either don’t buy the cookies or eat the entire box the second it enters the house (same goes for all carbs – I don’t discriminate against anything that once was dough). Some people are “moderators” who gradually decrease consuming the source of their addiction until they dwindle down to nothing. This simply doesn’t work for me – I either am cold turkey or full speed ahead. Couple that personality trait with the underlying resentment of being expected to buy something for a prescribed gift-giving occasion and I rolled head-first off the wagon. My wallet was already open and I was knee-deep in “treat yo’ self” mode – it was a recipe for disaster.
After making the decision to turn my back on my spendy lifestyle a year ago, I knew the first step to climbing out of my tens of thousands of dollars of debt was to be cognizant of everything I owe and to whom I owe it to. One of my very first posts on this blog was The Round Up, a summary of all my debts as of December 30th, 2015. I grabbed all my statements and faced the music; I worked it out, wrote it down, and posted it up for all the world to see.
I must admit I still feel embarrassed and extremely guilty when I see my current debt figures. Sure, some of those numbers came from paying for my education, some came from seeing the world and some came from a medical bill that occurred while I was out of country. However if I’m going to be honest with myself and everyone else, I need to admit that most of that debt comes from making bad decisions, spending without regard for my financial future and straight-up overindulgence. It’s still a punch to my now-frugal gut to look at those numbers and know I racked them up to that extreme living what my mom used to refer to as my “dolce vita.”
To keep myself motivated on my debt repayment plan I’m going to make The Round Up a series where I regularly post my progress every month. I thought a great place to begin is to state exactly where I am right now. Below are the balances on my debts, as of today:
- Visa: $2,085 (19.99%)
- Line of Credit 1: $12,000 (8.80%)
- Line of Credit 2: $13,924 (9%)
- Line of Credit 3: $10,100 (9%)
Total Commercial Debt: $38,109
- Loan from a family member: $20,000
Grand Debt Total: $58,109
With that out of the way, enough bellyaching, Frugal Desperado – time to go upwards and onwards!
Compared to my first The Round Up post, my debt is down by $5,161. I am choosing to feel good about this. I know that I could’ve/should’ve paid off more than this and I would have if I didn’t have some lapses of self-discipline and willpower. I’m going to stay upbeat and remind myself this is the first time in 10 years my debt has gone down as opposed to up from one year to another. It may only be a little win, but it’s a win, and I’m going to use it as fuel to go into turbo drive for next year – starting from today.
Today is the mid-way point of my super-frugal October, and I kicked it off by going to the bank and making a $1000 dollar payment to a line of credit. Gosh darn it, it felt great!
I had to accumulate the funds over the course of two regular paycheques (I get paid bi-weekly) and waited for some side hustle money trickle in over the month to get to my solid $1000. It felt so good looking at my bank account over this past month and seeing it grow as opposed to deplete. The old me in my pre-FD days had never left hundreds of dollars and eventually a grand just sitting in her bank account, accruing – after rent and bills and credit card minimums, it would’ve been blown on nights out, oodles of fancy restaurant food and pretty dresses until it hit a big fat ZERO, and then do it all again next pay day. I am much happier now on this side of the fence 🙂
So how was October so far? Well, I came down with a pricey bronchitis that still has not gone away. I hate whining about the cost of getting sick because I am incredibly grateful for Canada’s universal healthcare; I know it’s a blessing that seeing my doctor didn’t cost me a dime. However the roughly $60 I spent on over-the-counter and herbal meds hurt the pocket, especially when I’m trying to be super frugal this month!
I tried my best to avoid the costs I knew could rack up when dealing with a cold/flu/bronchitis from hell. When I first started to get sick I tried every natural remedy I could find in the fridge/pantry first – apple cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne pepper, turmeric, you name it! – and then finally succumbed to buying vitamin c tablets, oil of oregano and a homeopathic mix that had been recommended to me. When I got full-fledged, help-me-God level sick I was away on a week-long work conference and went through 2 entire boxes (!) of Tylenol cold and flu and several lozenge boxes in an effort to keep my symptoms suppressed during the sessions and not just be a super-distracting, loud, hacking ball of phlegm (sorry). However in good news, I rocked two exams last weekend for my work course that were pre-paid earlier in the year (my apologies for aforementioned hacking to everyone else in the exam room) so no extra money to shell out there.
How is everyone’s October coming along so far?
It’s the first weekend of October, and I’m a sucker for fresh starts. I know it’s all semantics, but I’m going to work with my extra boost of internal motivation here and make October my most frugal month yet.
As I sit here trying to flesh out how to make this my most frugal month, I’ve come face to face with some nasty habits that have cropped up this year that I’ve hid from others and to a certain extent, from myself. I’ll elaborate. I can write down “no takeout” or “zero entertainment budget” for October, but I already do that; I haven’t been out socially to a place that required purchasing food/beverages with friends since July, I bring each and every breakfast and lunch to work, and cook at home every night. So where on earth is my money going?
I love the PF blogosphere. The lifestyles documented by my frugal heroes are what have opened my eyes up to an alternate, more genuine, more free way of living. I have always been interested in personal finance (go figure, since I’ve been in debt since my first day of university!) and I’ve always known debt is bad and it must be paid ASAP, but it was the blogs themselves that pushed me forward beyond simply ‘knowing’ that debt is terrible and I must change my ways. They have inspired and shown me that life doesn’t need to be lived as a consumer, and have contributed insurmountably to my new money mindset and philosophy.
Declaration of love aside, I must admit that there is a tiny part of me that doesn’t feel connected with the PF blogosphere. I soak up all I can, and I believe in learning from those who have already been down the path I want to be on. I appreciate and admire those who have created plans and followed through on them.
However, I myself am not a successfully reformed frugalist just yet. I don’t have the utmost confidence in my frugality. I relapse. I get depressed. My lifestyle is not yet in a comfortable frugal groove where my friends and family around me acknowledge and respect my lifestyle choice, and where I have a rich treasure trove of frugal companions. I’m still the Desperado – I’ve exiled myself to the outskirts of the spendthrift consumerist lifestyle and most days I feel like I’m in the wilderness alone. I’m not yet at the lush, glorious oasis where I imagine my PF role models residing, and I’m trying to get as far removed from the consumerist core I’ve been trying to keep my back firmly turned away from. I’m still in limbo, en route a long journey in the barren badlands between consumer town and that rich oasis that’s still so far away in the distance.
I’d like to report that at 24 days in, Low Spend August has been a success thus far! I had alotted 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.
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.
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.
No no, not literally on a roller coaster (those photos they take of you right after the biggest loop are always ghastly, aren’t they?) but my financial life and progress lately. “Roller coaster” 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!
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.