Financial Fitness: A Glance Back and a Look Forward
I have never been very good with numbers. I’m not good with numbers when it comes to my blood sugar levels, counting carbohydrates or calculating insulin (thank God for the Bolus Wizard Calculator!), and I am definitely not any better when it comes to my financial life. I don’t know when exactly it started, but towards the end of my college career, I started to rack up quite a bit of debt. At first it was just a thousand dollars. Then it was a couple thousand. And then it was more. And more. I don’t know how I left it get so out of control, but the next thing I knew, I had almost $7500 on my credit card. Now, thankfully, it’s my only credit card and I also don’t have any student debt, so I have never had to juggle multiple minimum payments or high interest rates.
When I had a charge that was reimbursable, either through my company or some other source, I would put it on my credit card so as to not drain my debit account. I also put a lot of miles on my credit card through purchasing items for my apartment, both in my initial move to New Jersey and when I moved to Hoboken in 2008. I also put my Apple computer on my credit card when my last company took away the corporate laptop I was using as my sole computer. That was a hefty $2,000 addition and I’ve been paying for it – literally – ever since.
I’m certainly not proud of the debt I’ve accumulated and honestly looking back at my statements I wonder why I even though to charge some of these items, but in reality I know that it was probably at a time of the month where I was running low on normal funds because I didn’t have a budget. For many of the months, the amount I paid off and the amount I added to the credit card, which means the debt never really went anywhere, and I still suffered a finance charge. Last fall, I became obsessed with budgeting. I downloaded a bunch of budgeting Excel spreadsheets, but like logging my blood sugars, that quickly turned out to be a fool’s dream. Instead, I’m trying to think big picture. I did manage to capture a couple months of expenses and I learn quite thoroughly that I spend way too much money on eating out. It’s disgusting. This is why Erik and I committed ourselves to cooking at home more often, breaking out the cookbook and purchasing items such as a waffle maker and a Crockpot to make some of the items we’d traditionally want to go out and eat (brunch is and always will be my favorite meal of the day).
I’ve also learned a few tricks to keep myself from eating out during the workday. I have all the items I need for breakfast, lunch and snacks in my desk or in the freezer at work. I don’t have to even get up to get something to eat, and surprisingly, I am not grazing or eating more than I would otherwise.
But I have been working on it, slowly. When I sold my car last summer, I stomped my debt down by $3,300, but sadly I haven’t made too much progress since then. The debt, through a series of poor choices and an expensive Christmas, has stayed relatively the same. This week, I deposited a check for $475 from freelance money I make, from the focus group I was in and to pay off the tickets to see the ballet that Erik and I are going to for Valentine’s Day (yes, you read that right: we are going to the ballet for Valentine’s Day. Why yes, I do have the greatest boyfriend ever.). This brings my debt down to a new total of just over $3600, the lowest that it’s ever been in almost 2 years.
One of the reasons I had such a hard time this past year was I was still using my credit card. A large portion (nearly all, actually) of one paycheck goes to rent, leaving me four weeks to subsist on just one. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time living off essentially one paycheck a month. Plus, some additional savings and payments were coming from that first paycheck. For awhile, I was using my credit card at the beginning of the month, and then using my second paycheck to pay off the credit card and then used debit the second half of the month. But that left me with very little money to actually pay down my debt. Now, I have taken some of my automatic deductions and moved them to the other paycheck to help even things out, and hopefully I won’t have to rely on credit to get me by. So far it seems to be working, though I suppose only time will tell.
Money has always been a tricky beast for me to deal with. I don’t deal well with denial or sacrifice, which is probably why I’m an overweight diabetic with an A1C of 8% (for my new 20sb friends, I should be at 6.5% or lower). I do have some savings – not a ton, but some – and I’m working on building that so I can afford to take those vacations I keep talking about (hello Italy!), afford a house someday and, you know, a few other important life changing things that will cost money. It’s frustrating, because I always feel like I give and give and then I get burned out and want a piece of cake. I almost feel like I have to reward myself for my sacrifices. “Oh, my blood sugar is good so let me go have a cookie,” is a common thought of mine. Or “Oh I saved $20 on that dress, I think I’ll go buy some socks too.”
It’s really willy-nilly what goes on in my head.
Goal for 2010: No more willy-nilly!