I’m Back!

Not that anyone actually noticed I was gone, lol. I have a few favorite blogs, like Fabulous Financials and BankerGirl that have provided me with a little entertainment as well as good personal finance info. When they don’t post (Where ARE you BankerGirl???), I am actually disappointed! Luckily I don’t have very many any readers yet.

Update: I actually have a little money in my emergency fund! Yaay! I am halfway there. I have also paid off more than $2,200 in debt. It has been SO hard not to use my credit cards. I actually cut up two of them and I will apparently need to cut up two more. I plan to keep the Capital One because it has the highest limit and I earn cash back.

I have started tracking my expenses several times and I would do fine for a while, then get lazy. I almost lasted the full month of January. I still don’t have budgeting down and I admittedly haven’t attempted to perfect my budget for a while. I am getting my personal finance energy back, so I will start working on it again.

One thing I have noticed since really focusing on my finances is that it irritates me to see people talk about not having money and having so many bills while wasting lots of money and taking no steps to change their habits and get out of their situations. My new Personal Growth challenge is going to be keeping my mouth shut and ending THAT conversation as soon as possible.

That’s all for now! Back to reading Frugal Dad. More great information!

I Want This So Bad!

tv

I know it is not good to lust after things, but I have been lusting after this 50″ TV!

“My name is Ms. Ona Mission and I am a sinner.”

I have spent the last 30 minutes or so comparing prices on big screen TVs while I watch Criminal Minds on DVD on my 27″. The funny thing is, I don’t have cable and I about 35% want it, 65% don’t. I want it for the movies I can watch on various channels and for the ability to record them on the DVR. I LOVE movies and thankfully I discovered the ability to borrow them from the library. I get movies, educational DVDs, and full seasons of TV shows that I like - such as Criminal Minds! Can you tell I love this show? But I digress. . .

With work, college classes, socializing, errands, and just life in general, I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV anymore. I love to kick back some weekends and watch movies and I like them on a BIG SCREEN. As good as I am at putting a spin on things to justify what I want, even I can’t justify purchasing a big screen TV at this time while I still have so much debt. BUT, I spend too much time working to deprive myself of something that I enjoy so much. Why shouldn’t I have what I want? Everybody has their thing that they must have, right? For many women, it is shopping. I’m not a big shopper all the time; I have short spurts. I can go for many months without purchasing a single piece of clothing, jewelry, etc. But I do have my things.

Sooo, here’s my plan: I will designate my ing savings account as my Big Screen TV account. I will continue paying down my debt and (get started on) living by my budget, while sending deposits of any “extra” money (outside of my emergency fund) to my ing account. I am making a promise to myself that I will only pay full cash for a Big Screen TV. I will NOT use credit and I will only use the cash that accrues in the savings account I have designated for my Big Screen TV. (Don’t ask me why I keep capitalizing like it’s a proper noun, lol.)

Debt Payoff Update

I have been wasting money lately and I haven’t been keeping track of my spending at all. Right now I’m feeling a little disappointed in myself because of my spending and eating out. Tonight I updated my Debt Payoff spreadsheet and my spirits are definitely lifted. As of today, I have paid off $1032.43 since 10/22/08. This motivates me! I am surprised that I have paid that much. I won’t dwell on the fact that I could have paid more if I hadn’t been spending frivolously. I’ll just move forward and do better. New debt payoff total (excluding mortgage): $58,920.48.

Budget Troubles

I have always thought of budgeting as something that is very easy to do. So easy in fact that I could just do it in my head; no need to write it down, right? Wrong! So once I finally admitted that I need to write down a budget, I started Quicken, Microsoft Money, used several downloads and calculators, even a Microsoft Works spreadsheet. I honestly haven’t made much of an effort to keep any of them updated. Sigh. . .

It seems like I get started, then get overwhelmed with what category to put everything in, how to include semi-annual expenses, variable expenses, etc. so I just quit. Not good. What I HAVE been doing is updating my debt payoff balances on an Excel spreadsheet I created. Since I have been successful with this, I will work on creating my own Budget spreadsheet in Excel.

Lack of self-discipline is a major problem for me. My goal this week is to work on time management and actually start scheduling in time to work on my finances. I need to get used to doing things a little at a time instead of just quitting if I can’t get it ALL done in one sitting. This attitude carries over into more areas of my life than I care to admit. My goal is still to have a budget completed by the end of the year.

Counting Blessings

When I think of my financial goals and where I want to be vs. where I am right now, it is easy to get discouraged. So whenever I start feeling like I have set out to climb Mt. Everest with no food, equipment, oxygen, first aid kit, etc., I marinate for a while on what is GOOD with my finances. Here goes:

  • No 30-day lates in more than 3 years. You just have to know my financial history to understand what a big deal this is.
  • I am a homeowner (okay, a homebuyer). I did A LOT of research before buying AND I was blessed to find a good, honest mortgage broker. My interest rate is fair, payments are more than affordable, and I have not been touched by the current crisis.
  • I have a stable job and my income will double within the next month – allowing me to pay down my debt much quicker than I thought was possible.
  • I am resourceful. I have a couple of little (legal) side hustles that bring in supplemental income. I plan for this to increase as I become more organized and focused.

Thank God for the power of positive thinking! I have just never been one to focus on the negative for long. It is too draining. Give me an evening to sulk, then I’m up the next morning with a PLAN!

Saving for Retirement vs. Paying Off Debt

This has been an ongoing personal dilemma for me: contribute to my 401K or focus on paying off my debt. In previous years, my employer matched up to 6 percent of my contributions, so I contributed that much for the free money match. My current employer does not contribute at all. At one point, I actually stopped all 401K contributions with the intention of putting all the “extra money” toward paying off my debt. My thinking was that what I was earning on my retirement account was less than the interest I was paying on my credit card debt, so it made more sense to knock out the debt first.

Fast forward to today when I have paid off and run up the same debt a couple of times over, I now believe that I need to contribute something to my retirement account regardless. The contributions are also pre-tax, so not contributing was not leaving me with as much “extra money” as it would seem. So I now contribute 5% to my 401K. As I pay down my debt and establish a decent emergency savings, I plan to gradually increase my contributions to 10%.

My employer also offers a Roth 401K. Although I’ve read up on it a little, I still can’t quote the difference between a Roth IRA that I might open at my bank or somewhere and the Roth 401K. I used a calculator online and, based on my age (35) and a few other variables, it was determined that the 401K would be slightly more beneficial to me – meaning at retirement age, I would have more money in my 401K account than in my Roth 401K account – and even with being taxed (in the lower tax bracket), I would have more 401K funds.

I plan to start a Roth IRA in January 2009. When shopping insurance quotes recently, I met a State Farm agent I liked and, although I decided against State Farm for my home & auto insurance, I am considering them for my Life and a Roth IRA. Between now and then, I will continue to research. I have SO much to learn!

A Lesson Learned

I’m still not totally back on the wagon yet, but today I’m not feeling so bad about it. In hindsight, I believe my initial plan was too strict. To go from spending money whenever I wanted on whatever I wanted to spending NO money at all – except for absolute necessities was . . . I suppose like a crash diet. So I’m living and learning. I need to gradually transition to a healthy financial lifestyle that will last – instead of trying to go cold turkey, then crashing. January 1, 2009 is the new deadline to have my plan tweaked and new, reasonable goals set.

I read several personal finance blogs, but have yet to find one where the blogger started in a situation as bad as mine. If anyone is aware of one, please send me a link. I need the motivation!

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