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 🙂

 

Life’s a beach- Resolutions for 2018

 

Ahh the start of a New Year. Nothing like it. I love it ! In fact, New Years is one of my favorite holidays. I know it’s a ton of hype and usually overpriced. Yet, aside from a few rare birds, the majority of NYE celebrations in my adult life have been loads of fun.

This year I went to my neighborhood wine and beer bar, which is an honest to goodness a one minute walk from my house. Relaxed, low key, and no driving required. A few glasses of white wine and a champagne toast was perfect. It’s calm nights like these where I sense I’m heading (happily) into a new phase…my 30s!

2018 on the calendar started Monday. But mentally in my own little world, 2018 began yesterday when our holiday houseguests headed home. As an introvert, lives in a 2 bedroom apartment, and also happens to works from home—when I say that I breathed a sigh of relief, that is an UNDERstatement.

Now, I’m ready to jump into the year full force ! In the past, I’ve been pretty darn unsuccessful when it comes to resolutions, but it never stops me from making ‘em. Usually they are something related with health & fitness. I think the key part of the failure is making them far too broad with no specific processes to reach that outcome. “Lose X Pounds”, “get in ‘shape’ “, you get the idea…

This year, I’m taking a new approach. My initial plan was to make a financially related goal, but so much of my current goal setting revolves around that. The BIG one being debt free by end of 2018. (which by the way, I’m far exceeding < 20 weeks to go !). This isn’t to say I won’t have more finance goals that come up throughout the year, but really no need to belabor it more. I’m already focusing a ton of energy on this area of my life.

OK, so what about health and fitness? Turns out , I already have a goal for that too! I’m running my first half marathon the last weekend of February. My first 8 mile run EVER was this afternoon–woo hoo ! So, I’m feeling decent in that department too!

What’s left for a resolution then ? Totally kidding…a TON. One big realization for me throughout 2017 was just how much my mental and physical well-being affects my financial behavior. Therefore, I wanted to make a goal that would enhance my health and thus, indirectly positively impact my finances. So… I made 2 relatively easy, attainable, and FUN resolutions.

  • 1. Make it to the Beach at least 1 X per month –This kind of resolution ain’t for everyone, but I live 30 minutes from a beautiful state park called Honeymoon Island. Living near a beach and palm trees was one of my dreams as a child, so it’s just darn sad that I haven’t been making this more of a priority in my life. I’m sorry to say that I went to the beach less than a handful of times in 2017.

What’s been holding me back? Waiting for other people to want to go with me, waiting for the “perfect weather”, and just waiting to make a whole day of it. Enough of the waiting, time for action!  This resolution isn’t just to honor my former child.  The beach gives me this feeling of clarity and calmness that’s hard to describe to any non-beach lover. Basically, it’s mental health in the form of sand and water.

This all sounds a bit spoiled and ludicrous to state this resolution as much of the country is being hit with a bomb cyclone (?), terribly cold temps, and loads of snow. But trust me, I don’t take a mild climate for granted. I set the goal of once per month to make it attainable and measurable. For example, If I just said, “go the beach more in 2018” I wouldn’t do it. The time I spend at the beach is not important–It could be an hour, half day, whole day. I can lounge, walk, run, swim, whatever I feel like in that moment. I can go by myself, with my partner, friends, or family. The point is to go in with an open mind and above all to Enjoy !!

  • Read at least 25 books: I love to read ! As I have mentioned previously, I have been reading sooo much more since graduate school ended  in 2016 and I have reignited my love of the library since moving to Tampa. So, why make this a resolution if I’m already doing it? I want a way to monitor my progress, and shift some of my attention away from screens in the evenings/weekends and on to what I enjoy (RE: Reading). Again, more enjoyment= better mental health= better financial habits. So essentially everything leads back to health & wealth ! Also, I’m sure I’ll read at least a few personal finance books, so that’s a win win for any Wisedebther ;).

Here are some resolutions that did not make the cut:

  • Learn ‘how to blog’--Let’s face it . I have NO idea what I’m doing. Nor, do I really care. I’m pretty content (at least for now) with my blog being a personal diary of sorts. It’s offering me accountability on my own terms and having a Twitter account solely dedicated to the PF world has been enlightening and inspiring.
  • Get a side-hustle— I’ve mentioned before my fails at securing some freelance income here and here. Again, for now I’ve realized I’m OK with that. I’m not saying that it won’t happen someday in the future, maybe even this year! As of now, it just hasn’t panned out. Currently, I’m enjoying learning how to live within my means based on my full-time salary and getting some R & R on the weekends. To each is their own as the saying goes…
  • Take an international trip–Oh boy, this one was hard to keep off. I’ve been itching to get out of the country for a few years now. Not taking this dream off the table, but there are other considerations…particularly our savings to take said trip. Where do I want to go ? Everywhere  ! Asia is one of my top picks because I’ve never been–Signapore, Thailand, China, the list goes on and on. Also, Europe is so so special for me <3. However, we have some work to do in getting our financial base stable before we just go ahead and take a YOLO Asia and/or Euro trip. As a result, I’m being realistic that this trip may be this year, or maybe it will be in 2019. However  it ends up… it will be WITHIN our means.

Overall, I’m pretty jazzed up about 2018. Big things are a happenin’ : Debt free, Half Marathon, Beachin’, Reading, and TURNING 30! Here’s to learning and enjoying the year’s ride. Cheers to the NEW YEAR !

2017 Debt Reflections

 

Excited to announce that I entered 2018 with approximately $8,761 of student debt to go. Debt Free Day is becoming R-E-A-L!

First, the numbers:

-Total Debt paid in 2017 : $18,706.  

-Extra Debt payments beyond monthly payments: $15,625.

-Monthly Debt payments Feb/March 2017 vs. January 2018: $228 DECREASE. $376 was required monthly payments after all loans came off of deferment between Feb. and March 2017. Now, heading into the new year monthly payments are down to $148.

-Average Debt paid per month: $1559 [for reference, that’s almost one biweekly paycheck, meaning about 50% of take home pay has gone towards Debt].

-Month with HIGHEST $$ Debt $$ paid: June $4111, followed closely by October $3941

-Weeks ‘til Debt free: Modest goal , 20 weeks. Stretch goal, 9 weeks. That large discrepancy due to unknown amount I’m getting back for taxes, plus annual review at work coming up in a few weeks. The stretch is a REAL stretch, but anything is possible!

Second, the reflection behind the numbers.

Numbers are great, but hey they don’t tell the whole story. In the last 10 months I have made some aggressive strides in improving my financial well-being. Although this was a peaks and valley kinda year (what year isn’t?!), I like to think the debt piece was a peak ;).

Blogging about debt pay off is rewarding and a great way for me to track progress, but I’m trying to catch myself from turning this into a ‘Highlight reel’. On that note, there were some “behind the scenes” expenses that deserve a shout out–

  • Moving (most costs were incurred at end of 2016, but some did linger into 2017, or at least that dent in the wallet lingered)
  • Weddings (3!) This was by FAR the biggest additional cost of the year, given that all were destinations. Looking towards 2018…only one is a definite. Love to see my friends in love, but ahh a sigh of relief :).
  • Household: Due to some unforeseen circumstances there were a few months particularly during the Fall where I shouldered additional household expenses including rent, food, and supplies (e.g. paper towels, detergents, etc).
  • Hurricane season: Irma (personal, only travel/supply costs) & Maria (family, monetary donations for recovery)

I mention these other expenses, as a way to demonstrate that it wasn’t always a smooth ride. I’m not special, I’m actually quite lucky and acknowledge the privilege I have to even attempt paying off this debt. But, I am proud of myself for not giving up. Before I committed to the debt free journey, one or 2 of these events would have completely derailed me. Now, I give myself grace as I fall down, brush myself off, and try try again ! Same approach for my spending tracking, and all other things personal finance related.

On the personal front, this was a big transition year in my career. I moved out of academia (as a former graduate student) and into the non-profit sector. Although I have been gifted LOTS more time since finishing my degree, I did not push as hard as I could have in getting a side hustle. I’ve unsuccessfully applied to freelance stuff on UpWork, but other than that did not make much of an effort. Thus, relying on my income alone to get to debt free is working just fine, but definitely makes the process a bit slower.

Finally, the Debt-free bug appears to have worn off on my fiancé ! He is documenting his spending daily (which he says works best for him). In addition, he has created spreadsheets that document projected expenditures and earnings for the upcoming year. It’s nice to feel like this is turning into more of a team effort and to have an accountability partner in the household.

2017 was my wake up call. It was the start of my debt free revolution! It was a year of creating goals, educating myself about personal finance, and dreaming about the future. There’s always more to grow in this new year, but actually visualizing the numbers and the progress I made feels pretty gratifying. However, I’m wise enough to know (see what I did there ;), that the feeling is fleeting. In 2018, I hope to better articulate how this debt free journey has helped me to live my best life going forward.