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.

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 12.11.17-12.17.17

Wisedebther Weekly Spending is back!! I falsely reported
earlier this week that my last weekly spending report was around Thanksgiving… it was in fact the first week of November. Funny how the mind plays tricks on ya.

Anyway, I’m a bit distracted over here because I just put a bid on eBay for a wedding dress that costs, wait for it… $86!!!!!! I can’t even believe it myself. It’s long, lace on top, but not too fancy either (I’m planning to elope). If all pans out AND the dress fits, I’ll be sure to report more!

Sooo spending this week. I’ll just cut right to the chase. Here it is:

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Wine & Win: Holiday giving

Happy Winesday !! Wine & Win is where I discuss my money ‘wins’. The magnitude of the win itself is insignficant. Rather, it allows me the space to start fostering positive money moments (e.g. something learned, accomplished), as I jet set towards Debt-free day! Today’s Wine & Win is about HOLIDAY GIVING! But first, grab your glass of wine (or beer, or drink, or mocktail), play some holiday music in the background (if that’s your thing), and whip up some holiday cheer (required)…

Holiday giving is a timely topic seeing that Christmas is a mere 12 days away!!!  My initial giving strategy for this year had me  focusing on my Salvation army Christmas Angel ONLY and foregoing all presents for family and my fiancé. Simple, right?!  Here’s what actually went down…

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Half Marathon Prep Part II

Long time, no blog—like REALLY long time! Work deadlines, family visits, a quick trip to Orlando for FUN, and more Holiday cheer ‘round the corner got me feeling like it’s time to get back on track.

Speaking of, my weekly spending reports went right out the window around Thanksgiving(ish) week. But, I am so so so happy to report that despite this lapse, ALL my spending has been withdrawn from ONLY my checking account, Small $ WIN! I do attribute this to the mindset that the previous weeks tracking my spending has put me into—Spend only what is available (i.e. no Savings account dipping!), Save as much as possible, Extra $$ goes to loans. Needless to say, I am going to get back on the spending tracking wagon for the following week!

Meanwhile, in my personal life I’m training for a half-marathon! And so far, mostly so good. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I continue to recognize the parallels between my health habits (both physical, mental) AND my financial habits. Here are some highlights and lowlights of my training so far based on the goals I initially set out in this post:

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Wisedebther Weekly Spending 11/5/17-11/11/17

It seems I have developed the nasty habit of moving this weekly spending to Monday instead of Sunday as originally intended! In my defense, I ended up working most of Saturday, which meant Sunday was my day for errands, cleaning, and of course chilling. Below is my spending for last week. Don’t mind my horrid handwriting. Normally I would input a neat and orderly table, but I just thought the way the colors lined up was cool—like a rainbow! Maybe that rainbow extends to a debt free land?!

 

I’m proud of last week’s spending—ESPECIALLY where it comes to food. I kept it under $100!!! Little bitty baby steps ! I’ve got a new system down that I’m excited to share in another post entirely.

I did however make 2 money mistakes. The first being that I neglected to follow-up with my 6-month bootcamp class membership. I assumed when the 6 months I was up, Poof! there goes my membership. I was wrong. I was slightly dismayed to see a charge for $144.95 on my credit card. Apparently, if you don’t cancel they start charging you month to month until you give 30 days notice of cancellation—tsk, tsk. I really like the classes though and they are only 2 miles from my house, so hey I gotta make the most of it. I wouldn’t consider the situation ideal by any means, but I’ve been so on top of my spending that I was able to address the issue right away. So, money win? Money lose? Probably something in the middle…

Audible membership ($14.95) was money mistake #2. I put it on “pause” a few months prior as my obsession with podcasts, grew, and GRew, and GREW! However, I forgot about said “pause” and the membership resumed on Saturday…womp womp. I was initially bummed, but seeing that I’m on the waiting list for several podcasts/books at the library, I’m going to take it as another money mishap gone Right!

With the holidays around the corner, I expect it may be difficult to find low spending weeks like these in the near future. This isn’t because I plan to go on a wild holiday spending spree, but I won’t skimp on holiday dinners, nor donations. Also, I still have about $2-3K I hope to pay off by years end. We are hosting both Thanksgiving (my brother + our friend) and Christmas (fiance’s mom and aunt) this year, so boat loads of fun (and $$ stories) to come.

‘Til nex time… Wisedebther to live better xo

Total Money Makeover?

I finally read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and my oh my was it inspiring! Love him or hate him, I have to say I was impressed by Dave Ramsey’s Baby steps and the amazing success stories featured in the book. When I realized that I in fact already had enough for Baby Step #1 $1,000 emergency fund + Baby Step #2 Pay off all debt using snowball approach (except house), I was almost ready to make a huge leap and just get it over with. But, I hesitated. Ultimately, here’s what stopped me from going all in and pursuing my own Total Money Makeover:

Very little buffer room : I do think I have “gazelle-like intensity” as Ramsey describes it in pursuing destination debt free. However, if I get to 0 balance today, I’ll be left with a little less than $5 K in my emergency savings. That’s doable, but it makes me antsy and nervous. Again, this is all relative and for others I understand if I sound foolish. Rather, I feel more comfortable chipping a way at it bit by bit every month or so. In fact, I should be achieving or even exceeding the goal I made in the Summer to pay off $7-8K by year’s end. I’m even proud to be at the point that I will far exceed my goal of end of 2018. I’d say by the time I get my tax return, I’ll be done for good!

Finally, once I get to Debt Free Day I want to celebrate! With Champagne and strawberries and friends and I definitely don’t want to be thinking about what little I have left in my bank account…

Experiences > Debt/Money: 2017 has been a year of experiences by far! More about my summer adventures here . I’ll be rounding out the year with a trip to Orlando for a friend’s bday celebration at Epcot + a work party at Universal. Theme parks are always a grand time, but they pack a punch to the wallet. Since I don’t go very often and have the luxury of driving as opposed to flying, I can make it well worth the admission fee. Paying off all my debt now, could mean sacrificing some of these experiences. Now, I don’t mean to sound like an entitled snowflake, but I do think as a young professional sans kids I have the personal choice to relegate some of my money towards fun experiences (AKA “Funtivities” as we call them in my house).

Partner’s job: Currently, my fiancé works at a commission based job. Although this stuff tends to balance out in the end, it makes most sense for me to keep my emergency savings a bit more padded should a “rainy day” occur.

Fear of the unknown: This one is the hardest to admit. Clearly, I’m just not ready to take the dive. What will I do with my money once this is done? How will I invest my money? What the hell is a Roth IRA? This and many questions like this tumble through my little head.

Paying off debt has become rhythmic. It’s easy. It doesn’t require much thinking, honestly and truly. I’ve scrimped and sacrificed (again a very relative experience!), but I still feel SO SO behind in my money knowledge. I’ll always remember this quote from Breaking Bad in which Gus is speaking to Walt, “You are a wealthy man now, one must learn to be rich, to be poor, anyone can manage”. Now, I should have prefaced this by saying the context of this does not apply for me. I’m not a meth drug dealer, nor would I consider myself “wealthy” or “poor”. But, it struck a nerve. We are always comfortable with what we know. And to scrape by becomes natural and normal. Debt becomes the norm.

Now, I’m not silly enough to stay in debt just because I’m accustomed to it. That would be the antipathy of everything I’m currently striving for. But, I am a bit relieved that I have a little time on my side. Time to learn to budget my spending better-a HUGE work in progress, especially when it comes to food! Time to research the best options for retirement. Time to dream a bit on how I will achieve my goals AFTER debt.

The funny part is that I thought this blog would be a time bound project—documenting my journey from in debt to debt free. However, since so much of my financial development was stunted by my imaginary shackles of debt, this journey, I am now convinced will extend far past my date of debt free.

I may lack the guts to get my “Total Money Makeover” the Dave Ramsey way. I will get there though and it will be on my terms. I can’t wait to look that girl in the mirror!

Wisedebther Weekly Spending 10/29/17 – 11/4/17

Better late than never ! I returned from Chicago Saturday evening after a work trip and always find I’m playing a bit of catch up after travelling. I find work travel to be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Returning home on the night of “Fall back” created the perfect scenario for sleeping and still having the most of Sunday available. I made it to tallying up my expenses yesterday, but not writing this post. Here was my weekly spending:

No major surprises here, but my goodness quite pricey. The beginning of the month signals RENT!!, by far my biggest current expense. My food expenses, while much cheaper than previous weeks were still a bit steep—but for real good news coming for the next week! I swear this isn’t a girl who cried wolf situation. The travel expenses should ultimately be reimbursed, but I’m trying to treat it as ‘true’ spending and then I’ll just add the reimbursement to my monthly income. In the past, these travel weeks are where I would go off track BIG time. This trip I really gave it my best effort to track where/when/what I spent/bought. Part of the issue is when I travel I often use cash, which is contrary to my “normal” at-home life. In most cases, I had a receipt; however, where I did not have one I was pretty well able to approximate the spending. I’d say I’m off by a few dollars at MOST, which is pretty impressive for me!

Self-maintenance was also travel related: Nail appointment, new mascara, and dress socks so my feet didn’t freeze to death in Chicago. It.was.so.cold.

Finally, our “Funtivity” was going out for apps and beer on Saturday night after I returned to Tampa; honestly, it was not my best $$ decision. Sort of poor service, plus one tired couple, equates to money that could have been better spent—yet, c’est la vie.

Since the spending this week was steep (RE:Rent), I’m going to try to lay low next week, BUT it’s also the perfect weekend for me to do a bit of personal wardrobe shopping. I had originally set a limit of $1000, which I now scoff at because that is way too high. However, I know even a few hundred dollar update for the winter will do my soul some good. I have been closet purging, so I’m ready to add more, within reason of course… Ok, so $500 limit it is! Considering I don’t need much in the form of winter clothes, it is fine by me.

Sending positive vibes for the week ahead and hope you can Wisedebther to live better xo !!

 

Thoughts on tipping

 

Today as I was leaving the nail salon there was a woman in front of me. I don’t know what she got done, but her total was $55. The receptionist asked her, “Would you like to add a tip?”. She thought about it for a second, “yes”, she said. “For how much?”, the receptionist replied. And then she took a breath and thought…Long and hard. Finally, she responded, “Um, $5”. Wait, what ? $5? You really had to think that long about leaving such a small tip?

I haven’t been going to this place very long, but every time I tip just above 20%. So for a $30 Gel manicure, I’ll leave $7. Right before writing this, I had to Google “How much to tip at the nail salon?”. General consensus from the first page of Google search was anywhere from 15% for a basic manicure upwards to 25% for more complicated nail services, like gel. Note to self, increase tip by $1 next nail trip.

I’m not telling this story to pat myself on the back for leaving a hard-working, talented, yet severely underpaid individual a tip. But, I will be clear on my belief: Don’t skimp on tipping. Is it really that hard? If you can afford the manicure, cocktail, dinner, haircut [fill in the blank with your luxury of choice!], then you can afford the tip. When I was a kid, my mom taught me that 15% tip was standard and 20% was OUTstanding. Now, I think it goes without saying that 20% is the STANDARD, and anything more is outstanding. There are certain exceptions to the rule—a Starbucks run may be some loose change or a $1, take-out a few bucks, but in general the 20% rule applies.

People in the service industry work their little tails off—usually doing some sort of physical work + mental work (dealing with cray cray customers) for what ends up being a small and pitiful base salary… AKA these people live on tips. They might be scrubbing your feet, or serving you food/drinks galore. Whatever their job, they deserve to live in dignity. I think what especially bothered me in today’s nail salon situation was because it wasn’t just a high school/college kid waiting tables for some extra fun $$ (or hell, maybe they really NEED the $ too!), but these are full-blown adults who have families and children to support.

Personally, I’m chasing down the last 1/3 of my debt. I’m so close I can taste it. But, never will I ever decide to get to the finish line faster by skimping on tipping. Most of the time, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt when I see them undertipping. Maybe they don’t know the conventions? Maybe they themselves never worked in the service industry nor had loved ones who did ? Maybe they never had to worry about money? So maybe, just maybe, the woman who gave the very small tip today was one of those people…

What do you tip for services?

 

Wisdebther Weekly Spending 10/22/17-10/28/17

My third weekly spending has arrived! I’m liking the process and routine of it all. I block out some time every Sunday to review—usually with some wine! Then, I pay off my credit cards, tally my weekly expenses, add expenses to the month’s total, and reflect on where I am in terms of my debt. Each tiny little step is becoming slightly more exciting, liberating, and also a little scary. I think I’m finally getting to a place where I’m good at monitoring the cash flow and now I just need to get the budgeting piece down (ideally, before the debt is gone!!). I’ve mentioned previously that the food/drink area of my spending is where I struggle most. For next week’s report, you will hopefully see that I’m being more cognizant and learning from my mistakes. Without further ado, here is this week’s spending …

weeklyspending10.29

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