Diving into debt free

There’s no easy way to learn how to dive. Well, at least there wasn’t for me. There were countless belly flops and water up the nose. Over the course of the summer, and what felt  like ‘forever’ in the mind of a child, I overcame. Once I mastered the skill, I could dive, dive, and dive again. It was a dually amazing and effortless feeling to reach my goal.

Similarly, there’s no easy road to debt free. I’ve ‘belly flopped’ through high food expense weeks, hell months(!). I’ve had ‘water up my nose’ every time an unexpected emergency expense occurs. But, I’m proud to say I didn’t give up.

This Friday I’m officially diving into the Debt Free pool… Continue reading “Diving into debt free”

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 2/11/18-2/17/18

Happy Sunday! Like most evenings this month, the Olympics are on in the background. I’m in absolute awe of these games! The athletes’ dedication and talent certainly inspires me to achieve my own goals–ahem, debt free ;).

So, spending this week. As a non-rent week, it should be low . And the actual total is not too terrible, but I’m not gonna sugar coat it, there is still much to be desired! I’ll get into the numbers below, but I have to leave a disclaimer. There are a few expenses NOT shown in here, and one is for an odd reason. I bought The Simple Path to Wealth and pre-ordered Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living  on Amazon and accidentally used my partner’s CC as opposed to mine. Thus, we adjusted some of food expenses that he owed, meaning it’s higher overall, and the book expenses are not reflected. This is because weekly expenses are my expenses, not our total household. Phew, now that we got that out of the way, here is the weekly breakdown :

Continue reading “Wisedebther Weekly Spending 2/11/18-2/17/18”

Wine & Wine: Said Yes to the $90 dress !

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m gorging myself with some delicious chocolates and watching the Olympics tonight, as my partner is working. I’m not a big Valentine’s kinda gal, but I do love the sweets. So, even if he was here we would probably doing much of the same!

Today, I have a very Valentine’s Day appropriate Wine & Win! It’s all about how I got my wedding dress for $90. Yep, you read that right NINETY DOLLARS.

So you guessed it, I’m getting married ! Nope, no date set. Not a venue yet either. I won’t have a bridal party or a shower or a bachelorette too. In fact, we’ve decided to buck most traditions. The wedding itself will be limited to immediate family members + one of my fiancé’s best buds, that might as well be immediate family too. We know it will be at a local hotel, hopefully near the water, and other than that there’s quite a bit that is TBD.

Continue reading “Wine & Wine: Said Yes to the $90 dress !”

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 2.4.18-2.10.18

Sunday relaxation… the best. The weekend in my neck of the woods has been a mix of relaxing and the drudgery that can be chores. Luckily, listening to Podcasts while doing said chores saved the day and snapped me right out of my snarky attitude and back into a place of gratitude. There are many times in my life when just having a Sunday off would have been something to be grateful for! Trying not to forget that. Alas, chores are done (mostly), taxes are not (that’s OK), and I’m ready to tackle the week ahead.

In the spending department it was a relatively low week, particularly compared to week one of the month, which is universally spiked due to rent.  Here is how it went down :

Entertainment: I’ve held on to my Audible membership, albeit at a lower membership rate.. I’m a “Silver” meaning I get one credit every other month. My last choice, was very underwhelming. I’m unsure if I’m going to hold on to this much longer. Let’s see how this month’s credit goes, been thinking to try out a Brene Brown book…

Cashew the Cat: Every 2-3(ish) months Cashew the cat gets an order from Chewy.com…We LOVE chewy ! The order consists of : 1. His special medicated food for his urinary tract problem. 2. An order of Litter  + 3. A “treat”, usually a toy. <–This last part of course is not a “necessity”, but it allows us to get free shipping + helps me keep my sanity. This cat, to put it nicely, is a bit high maintenance. His hunting toys tend to get damaged pretty quickly…he takes playing VERY seriously. Toys that he likes/simulate the “real world” = less damage to my furniture = happiness for all. Spoiled is a word he knows very well.

Food & Drink: A vast improvement from the week prior, and just in that sweet spot before it gets too high for comfort. Ideally, I’d like to see this expense in the lower 70 range, but I’ll take it. My partner has been working nearly every day, so considering I’ve been doing the list and shopping solo, I’m impressed! Food as I’ve discussed in my Debt Free Diet Part I and II has been my Achille’s heel in the journey to debt free. The fact that I’m at a point that I can manage this (almost) independently is a big giant step in the right direction–moving beyond those baby steps now !

“Funtivity”: Not much to report here, a “tip” for Super Bowl Sunday wings + an iced coffee at my local coffee shop right  before I dived into a few hours of “catch-up” weekend work.

Self-Maintenance: I ordered a pair of wedding shoes from DSW. They are white and pretty simple, just like my dress…which was only $90 !!!! Hopefully they fit, if not… back to the warehouse they go.

Miscellaneous: I think this is my third(?) week in a row with a misc. expense, meaning the category that is causing it (GIFTS!) should probably be given a line of its own. This time it was 4 greeting cards– three birthdays, and one Valentine.

Off to catch up on my fav Personal finance blogs, watch some Olympics, and sip a glass of wine. Sending good vibes for the week ahead !

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 1/28/18-2/3/18

January was gone in a flash ! Lucky for me this weekend was an EXTRA long one. My mom visited from Mass. and although she left this morning, I have the rest of the day off to play catch up, both with cleaning and my finances.

Compared to last week, this one was a heavy hitter in terms of spending. The beginning of the month signals rent due, plus with visitors I always tend to spend a little more on groceries to make sure we are stocked with both essentials + “fun” foods/drinks. The detailed numbers are below:

Continue reading “Wisedebther Weekly Spending 1/28/18-2/3/18”

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 1/21/18-1/29/18

Well well well.. back to Monday. I spent a good deal of the weekend playing catch up with some work-related stuff. Although it wasn’t the most recreational weekend in the books, I sure did save a lot of $$ as a result. I also have my mom in town for a long weekend, meaning I’ll have plenty of leisure time ahead. My weekly spending is below:

In terms of categories, my highest expense was household, which consisted of a Target run to pick up some cleaning/house supplies. In my debt pay off, I’ve learned to avoid stores like Target, Walmart, etc, because they are spending ‘sieves’ . Money flows out of my wallet a little too quickly in those parts….EVEN when I make a list. I find its easy to rationalize “I need X, Y, Z”, particularly when it relates to household stuff. Now, I realize this is personal and perhaps the same way other people may feel in a clothing store, but for me its one of my weakness areas. $61 seems like a good chunk of change (and it is !), but back in my debt ignorance phase, I would easily slide into the $100 range. Small, little baby steps…

Food expenses were low because I had done my shopping on Saturday of the previous week. And “Funtivities” consisted of 2 coffee dates–both work related. One was for a meeting and the other was a Saturday pick me up before diving back into report writing. Finally, Misc. was office supplies + postage fees.

An easy and simple week. Aside from tallying up my numbers I find there are other benefits to keeping track of spending on a weekly basis. Whenever I add up my numbers, I take a “deep dive” into my bank account statements. It serves as a reality check and keeps me honest. It also keeps me motivated to know where I will be in terms of cash flow once I’m debt free.

This leads quite seamlessly into my exciting decision. By March 1, 2018, I will be officially debt-free! Based on my calculated earnings, upcoming tax-return ( I still don’t know exact amount getting back), emotional comfort with where my emergency fund stands, I am ready to say ADIOS to my debt!

Thus, this next month I’ll be aiming to maintain/lower my expenses wherever possible. I envision using weekly spending for the next few months, particularly as I want to ensure I don’t have any unplanned spending spikes as I adjust to my debt free lifestyle. However, I’ll be frank, I don’t think daily/weekly calculations will continue to benefit me in the long-term. I want to find greater automation in my tracking. I’m not exactly sure what this will look like, maybe Personal Capital or something else. The jury is out on that one.

At any rate, I’m ready to get to watching some “Bachelor” drama. Wishing all a fruitful financial week ahead!

Debt-Free Diet Part II

Food, glorious food ! If you are just tuning in, Part 1 of my Debt Free Diet can be found here. That’s where I explain my horrendous and expensive journey to getting real with my food costs. Luckily, I saw the light and have vastly changed my expensive grocery shopping ways.

Cashew the cat enjoys the Debt free diet too!

Alright y’all, let me be honest though. The truth of the matter is, I’m a newbie in the life of a frugal food consumer, circa November 2017ish or so. And listen, I use the term frugal super lightly. Let’s just say, it’s frugal my way. The things that work for me, I’m definitely NOT preaching for others to follow. Nor, am I suggesting this is the cheapest or ‘best’ route. What I would “preach”, is that if you are in debt or otherwise hoping to reach other financial goals…food expenses are worth looking into! So, without further ado, these are the strategies our 2 person + Cashew the Cat household have used to considerably reduce our food costs:

Continue reading “Debt-Free Diet Part II”

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 1.14.18- 1.21.18

Another week has come and gone ! Inching towards the end of January means that new year, fresh feeling is starting to wear off. The realization that no long weekends or extended breaks are to come for some time has also led to the “Sunday Scaries”. At any rate, I’m currently warding off by eating some Mango Gelato, decluttering/cleaning[have barely scratched the surface], and recommitting to resuming my weekly expenses. I do say this somewhat lightly, as I feel blessed to be in a position where I actually enjoy my job.

BIG big week in spending, but in a good ‘kinda way. The number was huge due to paying off another LOAN, leaving me approximately $3700 from Debt FREE!!!

Continue reading “Wisedebther Weekly Spending 1.14.18- 1.21.18”

Debt Free Diet Part I

 

Food has been my Achille’s heel on my debt-free journey. Certain things have been easy for me to sacrifice, mainly clothes shopping + “going out” to restaurants /bars. But, ‘food shopping’…man that was the bill that was getting me good, until now that is ! What changed? Basically, it was a lot of trial and error.

Per usual, I’d like to back pedal to HOW I got here. It’s more about the journey than the end point, right? In fact, I realized in writing about this, I have a lot to say about food. Hence, I decided to break this post into two. One with my food buying history and Part II with my  current food budgeting solution.

And now, for a trip down memory lane…

Back when I was single, circa 2011-2013, I was able to keep my food bills SO low, like $30-60(?) per week low, with the occasional spike or dip. One big meal, like a stew or chili, could feed me for days. I brought cheap, bag lunches to work such as PB & J with a fruit, or yogurt , nuts, & crackers. Looking back towards those days, it was not the most fulfilling part of my life, neither professional nor personal. Yet, damn I could learn a thing or 2 from my former self !

The inception of grad. school in 2013 coincided with the beginning of my courtship. Some may say this was perfect timing, or others absolutely horrible timing. Whatever it was, it happened! And like that, my food bills slowly crept up. Honestly, it probably wasn’t even that slow. I was mainly consumed with the following and not necessarily in this order: 1. not failing out of school, 2. adjusting to my new city, Miami, and 3. being in a new relationship <3.

Thus, my spending, particularly as it relates to food was not a priority. Not only did my weekly food shopping expenses go up, but so did my outside of the house food expenses. I was buying more food to feed a man + making more meals per week to feed said man. During our first few years of  dating, he always paid for our meals/drinks/treats outside of the house (90%) and I picked up more of the grocery costs (70%). By the way, these percentages are total educated guesses ! I was also going to Starbucks on the reg and buying salad lunches as “needed” ($5-8). I did occasionally bring my lunc (it came and went in spurts), but if I haven’t been clear enough already, food budget was NOT my priority !

To add some more fuel to the spending fire, my weekly shopping trips were haphazard. Nothing for dinner? No problem ! I would stop by one of my neighborhood’s 2 pricey grocery stores and drop anywhere from $20-30 on a ‘few’ items. Sure, I would make lists every week, but they were so disorganized and not always well thought out. Meanwhile, my partner was eating out for lunch EVERY day…yup every day. He doesn’t do this anymore, by the way.

Finally, add in dining out for coffee and/or dinner at Least 1 X per week. We lived in a fun city, we were young, we were tired, and the WORST — We deserved it. The excuses and the $$ were flowing…

Unfortunately, I can’t access my credit card statements from back in those days. Am I not trying hard enough? Not sure, don’t care! I know it was bad and I sure learned from it!

Now, to present-“ish” day. 2017 was my first full year in Tampa. The area I reside in currently is nothing like my former Miami neighborhood. We live much further from the majority of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops aside from those located in our little suburb. Unknowingly, we moved to the “baby raising” part of town without having any babies of our own, as of yet.  We immediately slowed down on our eating out expenses. To be candid, it was forced more than an active decision.

Food shopping expenses, however, did not slow down. For example, in Winter 2017 I enrolled in Hello Fresh for approximately 4-5 weeks. Bye, $300! Additionally, my haphazard shopping trips although decreasing in frequency, still prevailed. My partner would comment at times, “you are spending too much. Or, we don’t use all that we buy.” Mostly, I would bark back too stubborn and proud to listen.

I was still filled with excuses, and they sounded something like this: We need to eat healthy, We are ‘saving’ more than going out to eat, and the very familiar– We deserve it. Every time I left the register at the check out line, I would get a pang in my stomach. How in the world did I spend so much?

Here are some food expense numbers, directly from my Mint app:

-October 2017: $815

-November 2017: $455

-December 2017:$305

-January (up through January 18th): $236

Seriously, what the hell was October? Looking back at the receipts it was a few crazy high expensive weekly trips, with some  of those ‘rando’ trips for a few items spurted in. This was also one of our trickiest months as a household–Post Hurricane-Irma, Maria, Partner working at a commission based job). I was doing our household a HUGE disservice by not having my food budget/spending together !

Nevertheless, I had my “wake up call” in realizing that I was severely hindering my debt-pay off through spending so much on freaking Food! In the next post, I’ll outline what I *think* has been our “Magic Bullet” in reducing food expenses. Stay tuned …

 

Half Marathon Prep Part III

 

Lots of radio silence on the blog lately, but I’m back! And with Part III to my half marathon prep. You can see Part I and Part II here. To recap, my first half-marathon will be the last weekend of February. I’m no natural runner, so this has been quite the feat. What in the world does running have to do with debt/personal finance? Quite a lot, I think ! So much so, that I’ve aptly subtitled these posts “Improving Habits & Overcoming Obstacles”. The question is with just 6 weeks of training remaining how am I doing?

The short answer: pretty good !

Here’s the long winded response broken down by goals that I set out in Part I:

Saving Money on Group Fitness Classes: I’m still sticking to my bootcamp classes, which were prepaid in December, so no more costs on that ‘til I complete my 20 class package in the next 2-3 months(?). My only additional group fitness class cost came in the form of 2 Groupons for yoga to the tune of $46 and $24 = $70 total (see more below).

I’ve avoided cycle classes due to my constant cardio sessions of running and so yea, I’m feeling like “mission accomplished” in this department!

More time for yoga: I am, albeit 3 months into training, accomplishing the goal I set out for yoga 1 X per week. The only exception was the week prior to Christmas (when of course I probably needed it most!). The Groupon has helped exponentially ! I’ve only been a few times so far, but I’m loving it. I think after over 5 years without a yoga home, this may be the one 😉 Joking aside, yoga is one area of my life where I’m willing to shell out a few bucks. Not in a crazy sense though. For example, I don’t have fancy yoga clothes or accessories. But, for a good class and teacher it’s worth the benefits. I have this membership until Feb 5th and then another Groupon  at another studio to use for 2 weeks ($24). Physically, it’s helping me counter all the running. Mentally, it’s an amazing reset button. Namaste !

Habits, Habits, Habits: This was an area I initially struggled with. In retrospect, I think I made the training plan too long. But hey, c’est la vie. As a recovering Type A, I always err on the side of caution ..

At the beginning of December, I had only made 17 out of my 24 scheduled runs –WOMP WOMP . Letter Grade : C-

Now, at mid-January I can say I have made 15 out of my 18 scheduled runs –WOO HOO! Again, I got off the wagon during pre-Christmas week. Letter Grade: B. By the way, pretty sure I can bring that Grade up to an “A” before the actual half-marathon 😉 . But hey, who’s counting?

The other aspect of my running I should be completely candid about is altering some of my short runs to be  shorter mileage –e.g. 6 miles to 4 miles, or 5 miles to 3 miles. I’d say that pretty consistently my “work week” runs are either 3 or 4 miles, with the occasional 2 or 5 miles. What I HAVE been consistent with is keeping a longggg run for Saturday. This week’s run will be my first 10 ! Getting to the double digits baby !

Other than running, I started back to consistent, 1- 2 X day per week strength training (i.e. Back to the Bootcamp that FORCES me !) the week after New Years. I can say last week was my only “perfect” week when it comes to the recommended mixture of running, strength, and yoga. I’m aiming for more “perfect” weeks, but as long as I have some combo of running + yoga/strength I won’t be stressing.

In terms of impact to financial habits, I think my biggest takeaway would be that a LONG run just takes a lot of damn time, especially if being a slow , small, turtle runner as I am. This means I have less shopping urges/energy, because I’m usually pretty zapped after running. As an example, I have not gone clothes shopping since the New Year, with the small exception of a $13 sweater pre-cold front in early January. I am also not someone who LOVES to shop or ‘prizes’ clothing, so it hasn’t been too hard to refuse. Therefore, my biggest expense aside from rent/loans, has just been food/drinks. I’d call that a win !

Initially, I set the bar REAL high. I thought I might change some other habits too, like say meal prepping, journaling, meditating. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For now, I’m happy to be exercising consistently + saving money. I also have some fun New Year’s resolutions, but no other changed habits so to speak.

Overcoming obstacles. Yup, yup, yup ! That’s what my half-marathon training is all about. The last mile of my weekly long run is without fail , a JOY ! Now, this isn’t saying I enJOY every step ;), but the end is like “Yea girl, you got this”. And, “not only do you got THIS, but whatever it is fill in the _______, you got it”. This includes of course the D word , D-E-B-T!

In the beginning of my training, anything more than a 5 mile run felt daunting. In fact, my first 6 mile run I even had to stop for a walk break.  Hmm… reminds me of how last year my remaining debt, $22K(ish) as of Feb 2017 felt daunting. In fact, in May 2017, I almost wanted to give up trying due to tons of work /personal travel that got me off track. Let the metaphor continue….Last week I ran 9 easy miles. Last month I paid off another loan in full, leaving me approx. $8K from Debt free. EVERYTHING is relative. This in health , personal finance, relationships, you name it !

In my last half-marathon prep update, I had the awesome and somewhat WILD idea of paying off all my student loan debt by the weekend of the half-marathon. I’m still unsure of that. I can do it, but it might give me a little anxiety to see my emergency fund dip that low. I think what I’m waiting on is to know what my tax refund will be. IF it will keep my emergency fund around(ish) the $15 K range give or take $1K or so, I think I’ll jump the gun. Otherwise, I’m fine to drag it into March / April.

I’ll be honest, there would be a pride point of February–$22 K paid off in 12 months. (Disclaimer: by the way, I’m fairly confident in that number say 95%, but I could be off by a grand or so. Will obviously double check before my World announcement ;0). But, if it’s not  in February, it will be 13 months in March , or 14 months in April. No matter the month number, the outcome is the same ! Same goes, for my half-marathon time ;).

Well, there goes my updates from training so far. My last installment will cover the final weeks of trainings, any unexpected expenses ( there were a few small ones), and any other gems of wisdom learned. This is after all a journey about becoming Wise from debt..

‘Til next time, Wisedebther to live better…or ahem, run better 🙂