Back From Vacation, Unexpected Surprises, and Moving Forward!

Wow! I’m finally back from Germany and settling back in. I would go into all the lovely, wonderful details of the vacation, but that isn’t the focus of this blog. The focus of this blog is to get the Hell out of debt! However, one lovely and wonderful detail was a very unexpected surprise that relates to that goal:

For 10 years, I had a bank account opened by my grandmother that was never touched by me nor my parents. She passed away, and somehow this account was overlooked. I went with my mother to the bank to figure out her finances and suddenly the associate turned to me and started discussing my account. I found out I had just over 1,000 euro (1,300 US) just sitting there. I took it out, didn’t spend a dime of it, and when I came back I exchanged it over.

I am most happy to report that I have cleared out my debt to my boyfriend and completely paid off one credit card!

This means my rough $10,000 amount is now down to $7,400! So much happy, so much excite, and it’d be easy to celebrate and go wild! But, that brings us to the next step: the future!

I’m still considering a second, part-time job. I also now am supplementing my income with Fiverr. I have a couple large and/or reoccurring orders through this, but it’s not realistically enough to say it’s a second job. I’m waiting to hear back from the MFA program at the university I work for to begin classes this Fall and, until I do, I can’t make any movement towards a second job (schooling > job). What I can continue to do is snowball my payments on my other debts, and this is what it looks like now:

Debt Amount as of August 11, 2014 Interest Minimum Snowball Total Payment Very Next Step
Paypal – BillMeLater 959.72 19.99% 35 60 95 Under 900
American Eagle – Credit Card 1602.23 48 95 143 Under 1600
Bank of America – Credit Card 4863.52 49 192 241 Under 4850
Total Current Debt 7425.47 132 347
Total Beginning Debt 10,000
Total Current Debt 7425.47
Percentage Debt Free 25.75%

Still working on my budget, as well. It’s a little haphazard because of the trip so, I will be working on that this week and updating here. But, essentially, the lessons learned:

Surprises are nice, but they also make it easy to lose focus. Use that forward momentum to remain charged and motivated to getting out of debt. Don’t lose sight of what’s important or your priorities.

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The Strugglebus is Real, Folks. (and that’s ok!)

As much as I hate to admit it, the 17-year-old in me has adopted a new favorite hashtag: #strugglebus. I’m both incredibly disappointed in myself and kind of giddy about it. Its close cousin, #wambulance, was a long-time favorite of mine as well. So, I suppose that’s happening now!

Onto more real matters… When discussing our struggles, a very close and dear friend of mine had let me into his situation as well. He is crippled by student loan debt, works full-time as a store manager at a convenience store, and has two roommates (hopefully he’ll be moving in with only one in August – keeping my fingers crossed!). He, too, can’t seem to make any template work. We spend many hours discussing our budgets and best practices only to cave when we want greasy Chinese food or a friend has a birthday. It’s part of the struggle: breaking those habits and finding alternatives.

Recently, I brought up the idea of consolidating his loans so he only has a single payment to worry about and manage. He went to his credit union to talk to them about his options only to find out that without a very good co-signer there was no way they would help him. Much like me, he doesn’t have a co-signer which means he’s S.O.L.

Frustrating? You betchya! But, this is what folks like us face every day.

Sometimes, it really feels like we just can’t catch a god damn break. No one will take a chance on helping us because they see our past and the mistakes we’ve made. It’s often overlooked that in asking for this kind of help, we’re not looking to dig ourselves into a deeper hole. Trust me, it’s hard enough to breathe as it is this deep down! We’re asking for help because we know we’re fighting our last fight until we give up and crawl back to mommy and/or daddy with our tails between our legs.

And we refuse. So we keep fighting. When I apologized to my friend for his misfortune in debt consolidation, he just smiled and said he’d have to find another way instead of getting lost in the bottomless pit of, “Oh my god, I can’t do this.”

So, folks, the takeaway? Keep fighting the good fight. It’s better than the alternative by a long-shot. Be honest, be courageous, and know you’ll see the end. If you think you can’t do it, guess what? You already are. Still not convinced? I offer this reminder:

You’re a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be scared of?

 

A Short Reminder or Two

The last few days I’ve been in a rough spot when it’s come to letting go of ego. Sometimes, we can find the most timely reminder even on Facebook.

To that end, I also offer another like-minded reminder: success is not determined by the amount of money in your bank account, how expensive your car is, or how big your home is. It’s not the things you have that define you, it’s what you do and the experiences you collect.

Unwanted Help – Dealing with Parents

It’s confession time: I’ve lied about my situation to someone. That someone is my mom.

Making excuses or explaining why really does matter. But, a story about how to deal with unwanted help (especially from people like our parents who are so vehemently protective and loving that all they want to do is dig us out of the holes we have dug ourselves into) does matter.

In a conversation about going to graduate school (something my mother does not support), she wanted to know how much debt I had. I didn’t want to lie and tell her I had 0 debt, and I didn’t want to lie and tell her the full amount (partially because I didn’t know the full amount at the time and partially because she would have a stroke at the number). I told her I had $4,000 worth of credit card debt.

Immediately, she is demanding, not asking, that she gives me the money to pay it off. I’m kindly refusing, stating that this is my battle and it is my problem; that I love her and understand why she wants to help, but I don’t need that sort of help from her right now; that she should trust that if I need help, I would come to you. And she is getting angry, very angry, at my refusal to accept her help.

Now, how easy would it be to just say, “Ok, I’ll take the 4 grand!”? Very damn easy. Painfully easy. Too easy. It also opens the door for chastising and negativity in the future when/if I do go to graduate school: “After I dug you out of debt, you’re going to accumulate more!?” and I refuse to put both of us in a situation where she is saying that sentence to me.

A month later, she is still not dropping it. She’s is on Facebook, messaging me about interests rates and numbers and “doing the math”; about how she isn’t mad at me, but mad at the numbers. I spend an hour on Facebook messenger kindly and lovingly declining her offer for help and she will not drop it. Eventually, I had to set a boundary:

Jenn: I love you. I love that you want, so desperately and passionately to help me. It’s part of why everyone loves you, but we can not continue to have this conversation. If I need help, you are the first person I will go to, but I do not need help in this right now. If you continue to talk about it, I will have to stop talking until you talk about something else.

This was the first time I had ever set a mature boundary with either of my parents. And, I had to follow through as she did not let up. It was a small achievement and a good lesson, although heartbreaking.

LESSON LEARNED:

You’re an adult. It is completely in your right and realm to establish boundaries that are loving, honest, and that protect yourself, regardless of who that boundary is established with.

Unexpected Help – Telling Your Story

A single day after giving myself permission to go on this journey, I walked into work a new person. Sipping on coffee, I made small talk with people who have become something in between coworker and friend, and mentioned my situation:

I’m young and in debt. Almost all resources I find start with “My husband and I…” or “My wife and I…” and it is infuriating! I’m not married, I don’t have a family, and I don’t want either of those things (and I CERTAINLY don’t want them out of convenience to get out of debt/fix my situation).

Almost immediately, I received two resources from two people. It’s amazing what can happen when you open up and have honest conversation with people. Of course, resources are no good if you’re not willing to take the advice and insert it into your own, personal life and template. I’m looking forward to finding out if I can use any of the advice these resources give as I adjust and grow my relationship to “money” and “wealth” and sharing the results!

RESOURCES

  1. Patrice Washington (http://realmoneyanswers.com/).
  2. NPR program called Marketplace Money (http://www.marketplace.org/money) currently scheduled on Sundays at 1pm on WBEZ Chicago.