I was having a tough time, emotionally, with my debt load yesterday. I was at a coffee shop I’m not the biggest fan of (I had a coupon for a dollar coffee to try their new blend) and I needed a space to study for a work course free from the distractions of home and my adorable little puppy (insert shameless brag here) so there I was. However studying was a struggle; I had a shopping relapse earlier in the day and the guilt was setting in.
I knew I shouldn’t have walked in to my favourite resale/thrift store when I saw the 50% off sign. I should’ve kept going. I walked in and I did the whole mind-blank thing; no logic or reasoning could push through as I bee-lined with my items to the cash register. A never worn before Columbia fleece jacket for $15. A J.Crew dress with its $200 price tag on it for $20. Old me would’ve been on Cloud 9 at those “deals,” but nearly $60k in debt me should’ve stayed the $%#$# away.
Now that I’ve decided 2017 will be my most frugal year ever, I’ve been working on finding lots of free things to do to fill my days (boredom is a huge spending trigger, after all). Earlier this week I went to go see a free showing of the 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes, followed by a Q&A with the producers. I’m not just happy I saw this film because it was a free way to spend an evening; I’m thrilled I saw it because it shook me to the core.
Have you ever looked at an item you wanted to buy in a shop, under bright store lights and posed tantalizingly on it’s display, and think, where did this object come from? I know it may say made in China, or India, or Italy, etc, but do you know exactly where? Have you thought about the person who held that item in their hands as they made it, or assembled it, or packaged it up, so it can eventually land in your hands? Speaking of packaging, where did that wrapping come from? Who are the people that helped produce that wrapping, then ship it out to wherever your new item was, wherever it was at that stage? Who put it all together? Hey, how did item arrive to my country, my city, my local mall? Did it come on a ship? Then trucks? Oh wow, how much fuel did that all take?! How journey did this shiny new object take to get here?
I originally was going to name this post “you should go love yourself” but stopped short because a) as a millennial, I don’t want to be automatically pegged as a “Belieber” *shudders*and b) I’m going to discuss some stuff that might come across as a little “woo-woo” (that I’ll make a solid effort in proving it’s markedly un-woo and rooted in human psychology) and don’t want to harm my case any further.
Once upon a time, before I was in a relationship (and before my debt made me into a bad girlfriend), I was recommended a book called “Why Men Love B!tches” (I realize my editing is a pathetically thin veil to hide the cuss) by Sherry Argov. I can almost see you rolling your eyes at the title, and I really wish this book was named differently so it can get some more cred for some of its strong points, but bare with me.
This book was recommended to me by a former female powerhouse boss who said it’s a great place to learn sales negotiation. As the author explains, she uses the term “b!tch” as a tongue-in-cheek way to imply a person who is incredibly grounded in themselves and in their self-respect, puts their well-being as their top priority and always acts in a manner of confidence, poise, and a healthy high self-regard. My old manager claimed it was a great way to learn that how to confidently put your offer on the table, and be willing to walk away when the terms weren’t going to be good for you. No doormats here.
I’ve been having a hard time fleshing out a good time to post my round-ups. Should it be monthly? Or whenever I make some big strides? Should I do bi-weekly, so report how much money I put on my debt with each paycheque? I’ve put my foot down now and said monthly; if it’s not consistent and I only report on the wins, that’s a biased report on what I’m actually doing with my money. Bi-weekly may just be too cumbersome. So I’ve decided I’m going to do monthly, on the last weekend of every month. I will be doing February’s catch-up post below.
Before I get into the numbers, I want to note that I put some solid money down on my debt. I feel great about it, but it comes with the big asterisk that this was due to my 2016 sales bonus having come in. Back before I started this blog, I would eagerly seek out other PF blogs that had a debt count-down chart, and every so often, many of these scenarios would have a massive decrease in a short period of time that helped gain momentum. I’ve seen things like my piece of art I made suddenly got sold, or I sold my house, or I moved in with my parents and didn’t need to pay rent anymore. And I’d think great, so now I completely can’t relate as I can barely even draw stick figures, I have no house to sell and I pay my own way and will continue to do so. How will I ever get this awesome windfall to help lower my interst payments and help get some momentum going? It was straight up discouraging. So I’d like to note that although I’ve worked my buns off for my sales bonus, it does act like a “windfall” when it comes to my debt pay-off, and I acknowledge that. I am solemnly aware that the real work still lies ahead – the working with my regular salary to make wise choices and little sacrifices daily that will slowly but surely eat away at my debt.
Once upon a time my debt didn’t consume me. I hung around other people in debt, and I was young and foolish enough to think I can put a stop to my spending addicition whenever I really decided to put the brakes on it. Those were happier times. Ignorance truly can be bliss.
When I finally woke up and started to realize that I was way in over my head, I became terrified at what I got myself into. My big revelation and then obsession with beating my spending addiction and getting out from the mountain of debt I’ve accumulated happened about a year into dating my boyfriend (we’ve been together 3 years). There was definitely a shift in my personality as I went from the happy-go-lucky girl that wanted to squeeze the joy and life out of each day (even if it cost me a fortune I didn’t have) to having an emotional load almost bigger than my debt itself be placed squarely on my shoulders. The emotional cost of debt is real, and it could knocks the happy right out of you.
From my revelation onwards, I know I haven’t been the same person to live with. My debt has made me depressed, worsened my insomnia, and has made me constantly stressed, fatigued, scared, and anxious. To add insult to injury, relapsing into having a bad spend day (or bad spend week….or sometimes bad spend month) just exacerbates those feelings to an extreme degree, with an added heap of guilt, regret, and shame to top it off. Overall, my debt has put me in a bad place. Living with my boyfriend means he’s the unfortunate roomate of that bad place that I seem to be permanently residing in.
I am proud to be the child of an immigrant family. My parents left their tiny Mediterranean villages and all their families back in the 70’s with the intent to gain a good life, but also to invest their livelihoods into contributing and giving back to this nation and its fabric in return. I believe that is a common wish for all those who come here seeking a new start.
I have a lot to say on this topic but I hold back; if I began the outpour, I wouldn’t even know which of all the points I should start from, and I don’t think I would ever be done. My heart is sick since the attack in Quebec City, and I feel broken that in 2017, we still haven’t realized that the differences between us are miniscule compared to the overarching unity we share by all belonging to the human race.
What I will do, seeing this blog is about my journey with money and frugality, is write this post in honour of my immigrant mother, who has been the best financial role model for frugality and conscious spending that I could have asked for (woe has befallen me for not having followed in her footsteps!)
My previous life of flagrant consumerism has always been a source of confusion and worry and likely even insult to mom, who has taught me by both example and admonition how to save and stretch a dollar. To date, she has never made more than 30,000 a year, and managed to single-handedly raise 2 kids in a paid off home that was always full of delicious food, lots of guests, and all the important creature comforts that kept us happy. I didn’t even realize we were a low-income family until I turned 18 and worked for a bank and realized how much other people make. That’s how richly we lived on so little, thanks to my mama’s money principles. To this day, she will tell you she’s always been blessed with more than enough.
I’m back, friends. After The Big Situation of 2017 (already!) I took some time off the interwebs to recalibrate. I was feeling icky about the downsizing at work, I was feeling even more icky about turning to my old demon of shopping to console myself, and it was obvious I needed a timeout to think of healthier ways to get some TLC.
After taking some time out to think about a big-picture, all-encompassing self-care plan, I can report I feel refreshed and excited to implement some healthy, frugal habits. When writing the title for this post, I was filled with gusto and thoughts such as”Rising from the Ashes!” or “Phoenix Rises!” and other ridiculous sentiments came to mind, to which I gave a nod to terrible millenial-vernacular and thought “lolz”and took myself down a few notches. It’s more like a hobble out of the ashes…covered in dust… coughing up little dustballs. A little worse for wear, but out of the rubble nonetheless.
This week was a heavy one at work. On Tuesday morning we all walked into our workplace, but over a dozen of us were gone by lunch. I was not on the chopping block, but losing so many co-workers so suddenly has really shaken us all up. There’s nothing like a job scare to really get you facing the cold hard facts about your financial stability.
It’s funny that the mood in the office has been one of doom and gloom; aren’t the rest of us supposed to be sighing a deep exhale now, knowing we’re still gainfully employed? I’ve been through restructuring before and always on the better side of it, but it never has once felt good, or even mildly relieving to still be employed. I’ve realized that no matter if you land on the better side of the coin, you will inevitably look at your departed coworkers and think, “what in the world would I do if that was me?”
I’m a bit late on the new year’s money plan posts, but I’ve been stewing on my plans for a while now (while also fighting the flu, which may jsut be the real reason for the lack of posting). There were a few different paths for me to choose from, but I think I got it down.
There are a few different ways I considered approaching a budget: zero sum, traditional budget with an amount assigned to each category, the envelope method, etc. I find value in all of these. While wanting to follow a budget, I also wanted to up the ante on my shopping ban and go forward with a Buy Nothing New Year for 2017. So in the spirit of a buy nothing new year, I’ve come up with a plan.