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?

 

Advertisements

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.

Cutting ’em Up!

0630142103a

On 6-30-14, after talking with my therapist, I cut them up. All three of them.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was hard, but I did have 10 seconds where I looked at my highest balance card and felt a sense of fear. Fear about not having a “back-up” plan; not having something to pull out in an emergency. But, then I remembered it was maxed out and I couldn’t use it in an emergency anyway. For the past however long, I had been carrying around 3 cards that I a) can’t use and b) are a symbol or talisman of what is holding me back. I reminded myself of my value, “Do things out of love, not fear.” and reaffirmed that I love myself enough to get me out of debt.

It feels good, folks. Try it sometime.

 

 

Rookie Mistake #1: FORGOTTEN DEBT

A bit into my private life: I do have a boyfriend. When I moved into my current place, I had mix of odd furniture that didn’t include a bed or mattress! I also had only $2000 from my tax return and income to pay first month’s rent and deposit ($795 + $795 = $1590). This left me with $410 to rent a uhaul, go to Ikea, and buy a bed and mattress at the very minimum (although, I did have an air mattress I could have used while saving up).

My boyfriend stepped in and demanded I be able to get myself enough furniture to make myself a nice home that I feel comfortable in. I ended up with a new loveseat, end table, coffee table, living room lamp, storage/book shelf, dresser, bed frame, mattress, two rugs, and another side-table lamp with a couple kitchen mats for the floor. My boyfriend lent just over $1800 to make sure I was comfortable. A coworker-turned-friend gave me her old La-Z-boy recliner for free and another coworker-turned-friend supplied me with a patio set for free as well!

However, as one of my values is making mistakes and one of the blog ground rules is being honest… I have to tell you all that I forgot to include this debt in my initial totals of consumer debt. To date, this debt has been paid down to now owing $524. This bumps my current consumer debt to roughly $9,630 total.

I suppose it’s good I rounded up to paying off $10,000 worth of debt.

LESSONS LEARNED
Estimate high when it comes to debt, estimate low when it comes to income.

Don’t be ashamed or become frustrated when you find debt you forgot about. Roll with it, baby. Part of this journey is to become adaptable. Forgive yourself and take action to adjust.

A Rough Sketch

So, I had a few ideas on how to accumulate $10,000 in a year to pay off my consumer debt. 4 to be exact, but they need some fleshing out. Some REAL (or real enough numbers) tagged to them. So, I developed a rough sketch as follows. It didn’t need to be perfect down to the decimal, but it needed to be something to give me an idea

WORK
I have a merit raise, based on performance review, and a possible title promotion (read: more hourly income) to take effect by September. While this may only bump me from $17.20/hour to somewhere closer to $19.00/hour (I’m personally hoping for $20.00), every extra bit helps. I have also been approved to work a full 40 hours/week, instead of the allotted 37.5 hours/week associated with my job description. This is an extra 2.5 hours of time and a half (currently $25.80).

Roughly considering taxes (estimated math, not exact), this gets me an extra $150-$180 per month or $1800-$2160 per year.

SELL
I have two pieces of jewelry to sell: an old engagement ring (estimating value at $450 without appraisal) and an old promise ring (estimating value at $100 without appraisal). Other odds and ends (books, DVDs, electronics, clothes) should total to another $150-$200.

This gives me a rough extra $700-$750 (which would pay off a single credit card)!

SIDE JOB
I have editing/writing/proof reading/design skills that I can market for extra, supplemental income from home. More on this later in this post.

TRANSPORTATION/CAR
1.3 miles from my front door is a FREE shuttle that travels to and from work, dropping me off right infront of my building. There is no excuse to not take it. My city also has a very workable public transit system. There is no excuse to not take it.

The entire idea (and a scary one at that) is to eliminate the need of a car for 2 reasons.

1. Save Financially (duh):
Right now, I spend anywhere from $50-$100 per month in gas and $70-$80 per month on insurance. My city sticker to park on the street costs $100 per year and renewing your license plate stickers costs $101 per year. Oil changes range from $40-$50 every 3 months. I do not have a car payment as the car was a gift at graduation.

At best, I spend $2,000 per year on my car. That isn’t including any repairs, maintenance, tires, or extra road trips, parking, or the inevitable city-living parking tickets (“Wait, does that sign mean 12 noon or 12 midnight?”).

2. Be mindful of your carbon footprint and seek intentional, alternative transportation:
I can take the bus/train/carpool/or ask to borrow someone’s car.

The next natural question that popped into my head was:

What does successful independence from a personal car look like? What would I have to do to prove I could be independent of a vehicle in my current situation.

I decided to define it as:

  • Travel to/from work for free 90% of the time.
    There are roughly 250 working days per year, with consideration of holidays. 90% of that is 225 days of free commuting with 25 days of admitting the use of a personal car (weather, emergencies, etc…).
  • Trips to see my family or personal travel do not need to include using a personal vehicle. I can train home, or I can rent for personal travel.

But then I came to an impasse. What about emergencies? What if there was a family emergency I needed to go home for and I couldn’t rely on Amtrak or I didn’t have the funds to rent a car? This lead me to ask myself, “Do I keep a car for emergencies only?” I allowed myself to sideline this question for now and focus on immediate action: taking free and public transit. I also researched and KBB quoted my car at $7,200 selling independently.

XXXX

OK! That is a lot of numbers and planning! Including the option to sell my car, I’m resting at a nice $11,700 potential. That’s $1,700 over my goal! WHOA!

But… We’re not done yet. What if I don’t sell my car? Or, what if I keep it for emergencies only? At best, then, I’d be saving $600 per year on gas and that brings my total potential down to $3,100 and that simply isn’t good enough.

How much could I potentially earn with a supplemental income? I’m still missing $6,900 towards my goal. I would need to make an extra $575 per month to make up that difference. This is a red flag, but not necessarily impossible with proper planning and implementation.

Giving myself permission to consider selling my car IF I prove to myself, based on the above measurable goals, that I can be successfully independent of a car? A scary, but firm, “Yes!”

Giving myself permission to seek ways to make an extra $575 per month? An even scarier and quieter, “Yes.”

The first “YES”

We left off with me asking if I can come up with $10,000 within a year to pay off my consumer debt. Without thinking, I responded to myself with “YES!” and with an enthusiasm I forgot I had. Along with my personal growth journey (more on that to come later), I have learned to give myself permission to do things. On June 25th, 2014, I gave myself permission to get out of debt.

Ack! But HOW!? We already know I only have $200 extra per month without factoring in unexpected expenses. This $200 is all that I have for savings, fun, and to pay off my debt. I’m going to have to get creative:

  1. WORK
    I have a merit raise, based on performance review, and a possible title promotion (read: more hourly income) to take effect by September.
  2. SELL
    I have a bit I could immediately sell: an old engagement ring, an old promise ring, and other odds and ends (books, DVDs, electronics, clothes).
  3. SIDE JOB
    I have editing/writing/proof reading/design skills that I can market for extra, supplemental income from home.
  4. TRANSPORTATION/CAR
    1.3 miles from my front door is a FREE shuttle that travels to and from work, dropping me off right infront of my building. There is no excuse to not take it. My city also has a very workable public transit system. There is no excuse to not take it.

As I start to flesh out the details (and I will, I promise!), it is scary. Very real and very sincere lifestyle changes are going to be made, particularly around number 4 and if having a car even makes sense for me right now.