2014 – A New Year with an Old Goal

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It is hard to believe that it is already 2014.

I started this blog a little over 1 year ago to chronicle my climb out of debt. My goal for 2013 started off nobly enough.  I was fed up with debt. I was going to pay off $30,000 of credit card debt as Phase 1 of a larger debt reduction plan.  Did I accomplish this goal? No. Not even close.

Total paid down:  $7,000+.  That’s it??!!

I still have $22,599.00 of credit card debt remaining. How is this possible?  

2013 Recap:

I set up a budget, sold a bunch of stuff,  moved to lower my rent from $1265 to $425, and got a second job. Moving and giving up my stuff and my privacy, was a bittersweet experience, but I was ready to start eliminating some major debt. Life, however, had a curveball for me.  Things had been going downhill at work at that time and after a particularly stressful rough patch I lost my full-time job immediately upon preparing to start this journey. (To be honest, I’m still a little bitter about how it all went down, but I’m trying to move on.)  I collected unemployment for three months until I found a new job that required a move to a new state. This process, including the expense of moving and having to quickly find a new place to live, put me further behind in my debt repayment goals.

I’ve been thinking about the silver lining of my debt cloud. I was lucky to land a job that paid more than my old job, but I now live in a much higher cost of living area.  I set up a new budget, but sticking to it has been a challenge, as it was likely too tight.

Last week I quit my second job.  I deliberated about it for quite a while, but the number of hours that were expected of us for the same pay, made the effort not worth it.

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The second employer advertised that employees would only have to work 8-10 per week, but after starting, they made more and more requirements that we had to meet in order to “meet expectations” for continued employment. It was more like 15-20 hours/week worth of work that they wanted for the same flat payment.  I was already putting in 50-55 hours per week at my full-time job. Working 65+ hours per week started to wear me down. I’ve started developing a few chronic health issues. I’ve also been sick multiple times and stress has been a part of it.  I had to let the second job go.  It was not worth losing my health over.  I will still seek additional income, but only after a break.

What will I do in 2014?

I will focus on lowering my living expenses. When my lease is up will move to save as much on rent as I can without sacrificing safety. I will start a few months early so I don’t have to overpay on rent out of desperation like I did when I moved here not long ago. Not sure if I should throw everything at the credit card debt or start a 401k. I’m leaning toward the latter. I’m almost 40 and have NO retirement savings of any kind, which scares me. That is part of what burns me up about debt. Now I understand the meaning of opportunity cost. I think about all the money that I am going to spend paying off debt. If I put that same money into different investment vehicles, I could retire early and have a MUCH better life right now.

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But I can’t dwell on that.  You live and you learn. I’m going to have a different standard of living than I envisioned for myself, probably for the rest of my life. Extreme frugality is not for everyone, but it is for me. It is my only hope. I have to take my own advice and start paring down even more.

I want to pay off the credit card this year. Next year I focus on maxing out retirement funding and pouring everything else into my six figure student loan debt.

Here is to an electric 2014!

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

2013: Out with the Old and in with the New

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This will indeed be a new year. This will be the first year of my financial future. After my rude awakening with respect to my finances and debt, I FINALLY started to make some real changes in my life.

I moved to this West Coast city two years ago to start a new job. Instead of continuing to live like a grad student, I inflated my lifestyle. Life mistake #412. I moved into a posh apartment building in the heart of downtown. I couldn’t afford furniture or a car or travel or nice clothing, but I didn’t care. I loved my posh digs. It took me two years of living paycheck to paycheck to buy furniture for a studio apartment. And the kicker, I’ve had my student loans in forbearance this entire time. Yes, I put my massive student loans in forbearance, accumulating interest continuously, so that I could buy nice furniture for an overpriced shoebox apartment. The stupidity!

Today I marvel at how much my thinking has changed and evolved. This has undoubtedly come from reading many personal finance blogs and listening to the gurus. I had the head knowledge of what I should be doing with my money, but I wasn’t uncomfortable enough to change.  I wasn’t fully realizing what I was giving up to live like that (opportunity cost). All I could afford to do was work and come home to my posh apartment. Occasionally, I’ll have a rough day at work – taking crap from clients, my manager, etc., and I’ll fantasize about leaving and finding another job, but I quickly realize that I can’t take the risk of leaving. I  am wholly dependent on my employer for my livelihood. So I keep my mouth shut and my head down in those situations at work. I hate it.

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I have been reading blogs such as Man vs. Debt. Bloggers like these have been able to travel extensively (my passion) and lead a lower stress life thanks to lack of debt and financial freedom. I realized that I would never be able to live that type of lifestyle while shackled to this mountain of debt. That made me sad. What made me angry was the realization of how much interest I’ve paid to make others wealthy and not myself.

I finally got uncomfortable. I got angry. I’m still angry. I’m done being a tool. I’m done being a profit center for corporate fat cats. I’m done funding everyone else’s retirement but my own.

When I am out of debt I vow to never pay another red cent in interest for ANYTHING.

I do not own a car, but in the future when I am able to afford one, it will be used, very small, economical, and paid for in full, in cash.  I don’t know if I’ll ever own a home or if I’ll ever want to, but if I do I will pay for that with cash, as it too would be very small, simple and functional.

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I’m done with consumerism and materialism. I’ve come to embrace simplicity, minimalism and frugality. While I still like nice things, my definition of nice has changed from what it once was.

I now realize that no fancy apartment or electronics or furnishings are worth what I’m losing. What am I losing? I’m not funding my retirement. I’m 37. I have no emergency saving, so I have no peace of mind. I can’t travel. I have old clothes that are so out of fashion that people stare at me sometimes. The list goes on. And #1, I don’t have control over my own life. It’s too risky to try for a new job in a new city or a different country. And when you can’t stand up for yourself or push-back in the workplace because you are entirely dependent on that job, a bit of your self-esteem crumbles away, little by little. To the financial powers that be. You can have your treadmill back. I’m done with all of it.

So, out with the old and in with the new!

It’s time to get on track and trying my best to catch up with my finances.  In my next post I’ll give a rundown of my current state and my goals for the new year.

What are you glad to leave behind in 2012? What are you ready to gain in 2013?

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)