Saturday, March 24, 2012

the big February bill arrived

I just looked at my credit card statement for February, aka The Month I Relapsed, and it was not pretty.  Granted it contained a few very big expenses that were unavoidable but those expenses were sandwiched in between a lot of really stupid little purchases.  I'm tempted to print out this statement and hang it on my fridge to remind me daily of how all of those little unnecessary items will always come back to haunt me but I would be mortified if anyone else saw it.  The only silver lining is that I have been diligent about planning for all my upcoming expenses and it looks like I can pay the balance in full by shuffling and/or reducing some other payments.  At least I won't be accumulating more debt interest...

It's looking like my end of the quarter report is going to be pretty sad in comparison to last quarter.  Trying to take this as a valuable lesson but right now I'm still so mad at myself!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spending Trigger 2: Food Cravings

Yes, it’s ridiculous but if I’m spending the time targeting the things that frequently trigger my bad spending habits and trying to come up with solutions to avoid or prepare for the trigger then I have to take a look at my food cravings.  I am a junk food junkie.  I love anything with salt, cheese, or a high fat content (yes, I’m talking to you Taco Bell).  I also love soda.  I know it’s a gross habit and I know it’s bad for my health (as I wrote about yesterday).  And I know it’s bad for my wallet.

I don’t buy any junk food at the grocery store, actually I don’t buy a lot of processed food at the grocery… my basket is usually filled with fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grains, fish, and low fat dairy… if you were to look at my grocery list you would not know that I have a junk food problem.  Not buying junk food at the grocery is good in theory after all I aim to have a healthy diet that is not financially wasteful.  The problem is that I give into my cravings all too often and because I don’t have junk on hand it sends me running into convenient stores to buy way overpriced single serving chips and sodas. 

I vow to change this behavior and here’s how I’m going to do it:

1.       Keep a stock of healthier alternatives on hand at home and at work, i.e. bulk pretzels from the grocery instead of a single serve bag of Doritos.  This will allow me to “give in” to my snacking habit without the guilt.
2.       Same goes for the soda, I need to just accept that I like sweet drinks and get some healthier options on hand.  Juices, sugar free drink mix, and even diet soda are better than the Mountain Dew I crave.
3.       Avoid the hunger pain indulgence… all bets are off when I’m starving so I need to be better prepared with full meals and snacks in between.
4.       And lastly I need a good dose of self-discipline.  I hate to say “no” to anyone including myself but it’s time to quit justifying and rationalizing my behavior and learn to “just say no” to junk food!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wake up call

The majority of this whole pay off the debt/ turn my life around effort I have been working on for the last 5 and a half months falls into the “bad habits that need changing” category.  Probably the biggest bad habit that needs changing is my diet which not only affects my financial health but also my physical health.  The steady stream of soda, chips, Dunkin breakfasts, Taco Bell stops, going out to eat, and whatever else I am craving at the moment has always been a huge money sink.  I know it’s bad for me and I’ve tried to cut out the junk in the past but it always sneaks back into my diet one bag of chips at a time. 

Since October I’ve been working at changing these habits for the monetary reason.  Well, a visit to the doctor for my annual check-up has yielded another major reason these changes must happen.  I’ve been feeling pretty down and generally just tired all the time but have been thinking it was due to adjusting to the new job, the huge move we made in September, finally taking an honest look at my finances, and the winter time blues.  Turns out it’s probably mostly due to my poor diet. 

I’d say that so far I’ve cut out at least half of the eating out, junk food, and soda from my finances (and diet).  This is still a long way from where I ultimately need to be but I know making major habit changes doesn’t happen overnight so I need to be patient with myself.  At least now I have another BIG motivator to make real changes to the way I live.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spending trigger #1: Major unavoidable expenses

There will inevitably be times that major expenses come up like the 2 new tires I suddenly needed last month or a trip to the vet for all the pets for vaccines (three dogs and two cats!) coming up in June.  Currently I have no way to pay for these things without relying on the card and these expenses always seem to pop up out of nowhere.  Unfortunately part of my problem is that once I start relying on the card for the unavoidable stuff it kind of loosens up my swiping arm and I end up whipping it out for all sorts of stuff (like my junk food addiction).

Part of my goal for this year is to create a small savings account to cover big expenses which I was planning on doing after I had paid off some of my smaller, more urgent debt.  On paper that approach was going to work, unfortunately my piece of paper didn’t identify ANY big expenses coming up or allot any cushion for emergency situations!  I was shoveling every single penny that came in towards debts, taking my account to near zero between paychecks… and now I’m paying for it because I had to reach for the card several times last month (some for unavoidable things but also for all sorts of really unnecessary crap). 

Pretty much every debt pay-off plan I’ve read says to create the cushion savings account before tackling the debt.  I guess I’ve always been the type of person who stubbornly refuses tried and true methods in order to “blaze my own trail” and because of that mentality I’ve gotten to learn from my own mistakes more times than I’d like to admit.  So I’ll be reworking my budget this coming week and creating a new plan that involves saving before debt pay off!  I’ll also be changing my direct deposit at work to automatically put whatever number I come up with in my budget overhaul directly into my savings account.

I also need to start identifying what major expenses will be coming up so I can be ready for them and better guard against the free-for-all spending mentality that hits me after making big purchases.  This part of the plan is actually more important to me than the savings account because it is critical to my making real lifestyle changes.  So next week, along with my budget overhaul, I’ll also be writing out a list of all the major expenses that will, or are very likely to, pop up in 2012.

Here’s to recognizing what weakens my resolve and making a plan to overcome it! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Relapse triggers

The last post I wrote was about how bad I was feeling after a month of spending.  It seems that loosening up the pocket book for big expenses always seems to inevitably lead me to a period of relaxed spending that I end up kicking myself for later.  And February really turned into one of those periods. 

First, S and I had already planned on going to Pennsylvania for 4 days to have a ski vacation with my family.  I had budgeted for our share of the expenses and thankfully my parents had given the lodging and lift tickets to us (and my sisters) for Christmas.  I felt pretty comfortable that spending the money on this vacation wouldn’t set back my plans of paying off my credit cards by the end of the year. 

But then I noticed the front tire of my car was bulging out and would need to be replaced before we could drive anywhere… I have no savings account to fall back on and of course new tires were not in the budget so out comes the card to save the day.  And because I had already broken the seal on the card for the big vacation and new tires, I started putting some small things on the card here and there. The mentality was something along the lines of I’ve already racked up a huge bill this month what’s an extra $30.

Also, in the past three weeks S got an interview, a second interview, and finally a job offer for a majorly awesome job.  Each of these events has had me whipping out the card for celebratory dinners, drinks, and also a few presents to give his wardrobe a boost.

And inevitably with all this spending comes the feelings of guilt which you think would stop me from more spending but seems to have the opposite effect.  For some reason the worse I feel about aspects of my life the more likely I am to try to spend my way into feeling better which is where I was during my last post… down in the dumps and unmotivated to get back in gear.

I realize that going on vacations, celebrating major life events, and giving presents to loved ones are not bad ways to spend ones money, it’s just that I don’t have any money, I have debt.  I want to be able to feel happy and stress free when spending money on these types of things instead of the overwhelming guilt and despair that comes after periods like this.  The only way I can get to that point is by recognizing the triggers that loosen up my wallet and working hard at resisting them.

During the next week or so I’m going to focus on what my triggers are and figure out some ways I can avoid disaster… I don’t want to have another “February”!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The past month has really put me in a funk.  A series of big dollar expenses have taken their toll on my motivation to stay the course to a debt free life.  Some of the expenses were unavoidable like the new tires and taking on a bigger portion of the month's bills while S transitions into a new job.  But some of the expenses were self inflicted... for instance going out to celebrate S's new job (which we did after each of the two interviews and upon news that he was offered the job and upon his decision to accept the job).  We also drove down to meet my family for a ski weekend, which was pretty inexpensive as far as vacations go because my parents picked up a lot of the cost but still hit the credit card pretty hard.

It's not that I think traveling to see family or going on vacation or celebrating big life events are bad things... I think those things are absolutely necessary but I just wish I was in a place in my life that I could do those things without feeling so bad about the cost.  I just feel bad about the situation I've created for myself right now and that feeling is counterproductive... the worse I feel, the more ignore my finances and the more I sink back into old spending habits.

I knew starting this process would be painful at times and I knew there would be "relapses".  I know I've got to keep my eye on the end goal and start moving forward again...