Getting Out of Debt – Part 3, Aug. ’16

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As the month of August wraps up and the days are finally getting a wee bit cooler I’ve been reflecting on the summer. Since beginning this “Getting Out of Debt” journey a few months ago I’ve paid off thousands in credit card debt and I feel truly, for the first time in my life, in control of my money. Let me tell you, it feels amazing!

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my debt story here and here.

As promised, this month I want to share six actions that I’ve taken to save a whole latta money this summer! These are not your typical “buy in bulk” type tricks. I find that advice doesn’t get to the root of the problem. These tips dive deeper, so grab your snorkel and goggles because here we go!

 1. Shift Your Mindset

This one will take some work. However, shifting my perspective around finances has been the most important part of this journey.

First off, I journal, a lot, in order to get clear on my financial goals. Since my financial goals extend directly from my life goals I ask myself, “What does my ideal life look like? What does my ideal life feel like?” The answer comes to me quickly. I want to be completely debt free and make more than enough money to travel the world. Specifically I want to pay off my credit cards, pay off my student loans, and develop location independent income so that I can make money as I travel. I set a time frame for each of these goals, and make a realistic plan to reach them.

Once your goals are set get excited! Like, dancing around the room excited! You are on track to living your dream life! Each time you think about buying something ask yourself, “Is this how I want to spend my money?” You are in control. For example, I almost always choose to forgo buying more clothes, no matter how great the sale is, because I’d rather use that $50 to spend a couple more days abroad!

Another big part of this mindset shift has been to accept that I have everything I need to survive, to thrive, right now. That brings me to point #2.

2. Stop Buying Stuff

When I excitedly tell my close friends how quickly I’m paying off my credit card debt they inevitably ask, “How do you do it.” My very honest answer is always, “I stopped buying stuff.” This answer is typically met with a chuckle and an eye roll. Yes, it’s stupidly simple, but that’s the beauty of it! I have just strait up stopped buying stuff. Since starting to track my finances (see point 3) I have realized that so much of my money is wasted on totally unnecessary things.

For instance, a few months ago if I walked by one of my favorite clothing stores and they were having a sale I’ll go in and buy something. Just a t-shirt, a pair of earrings, or a skirt here and there. But those little things, they add up. Quickly. Yes, I could be better dressed, but the truth was that the clothes I had were totally fine. I didn’t need new clothes, I was just seduced by the sale signs!

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements trying to convince us that what we have, what we look like, or what we do is not good enough. ALL THE TIME! Especially walking around New York City. I’ve simply stopped paying attention to these advertisements. I no longer buy magazines or watch commercials. They no longer have control over me. When I see an advertisement telling me I “must have” the latest and greatest product I think to myself, “That’s a lie,” and I walk away.

I do, of course, still buy things from time to time. Girl’s gotta eat and have her fun. But now I make informed decisions about my spending and I know exactly where my money is going. That’s where point #3 comes in.

3. Track Your Spending

Track every penny. As the saying goes, what you measure you can change. In order to save more money (or pay off debt) we have to first know exactly where our money is going. I carry around one of those little .99 cent composition notebooks in my hand bag. After every single purchase I write down the date, the amount, and the type of purchase. When I spend $1.12 on a chocolate bar from CVS I get out my pen and notebook and write down the exact amount before leaving the store. Then I review and learn from this information during my “Money Love Days!”

4. Schedule “Money Love Days”

Every two weeks (on or as close to payday as possible) I sit down with my little money tracking notebook and my online bank account summaries. I schedule these “Money Love Days” into my calendar like any other appointment. After inputting that period’s spending into a budgeting spreadsheet that I’ve created on google docs, I compare what I’ve spent to my financial goals.

Looking at my bank account used to be incredibly stressful, but now I look forward to these days! I love seeing how much money I have “left over” from each paycheck. Then, I put a pre-determined portion of my money towards savings and credit cards. Seeing that credit card balance go down every couple weeks feels so good!

5. Make it Visual

I am a very visual person, so creatively depicting my decreasing debt, and placing that visual some where prominent (on my fridge) has kept my momentum up!  I drew a fun, pretty picture with monetary milestones that I color in as I get closer and closer to paying off each portion of my debt. Just last week I paid off my second to last credit card! Coloring in the last bit of that drawing and seeing that I only have one card to go was incredibly motivating.

However, this journey is not always candy and roses. We must always remember, last but not least, point #6.

6. Be Patient with Yourself

Be endlessly patient with yourself. Shit happens. Unexpected expenses will come up. You will look at your student loan (or other debt) and feel despair from time to time. There will be moments when you’ll want to throw in the towel. But, at the end of the day I know, you know, that working hard to get out of debt is worth it. Let’s get this done.

We have dreams to follow!

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And there you have it! Six of the most important actions that have helped me to pay off thousands of dollars in credit card debt this summer. I hope you find these helpful.

I’d love to hear your money saving tips in the comments below!

Love,

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Getting Out of Debt – Part 2, July ’16

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“I am totally debt free, and make more than enough money to travel the world!”

This is my money mantra.

Managing finances has never been one of my strengths, but two months ago I resolved to finally take charge of my money and get organized. You can read about the first stage in this journey here.

After that last post I entered into a financial black hole. For two weeks I worked through all of my expenses – reviewing literally every purchase I’d made in the past year and sorting them into categories to see exactly where my money was going.

It was an intense and somewhat depressing process. When the bank statement and spreadsheet induced haze cleared I looked back over all the money I had spent that year. I realized that I was spending A LOT more than I had estimated. Worse yet, I was living well above my means; spending more than I was taking in.

My financial neglect had left me with about $7,000 in credit card debt in addition to the over $43,000 I had in student loans. I felt the weight of that debt on my shoulders. It was oppressive. It is oppressive.

I’ve got to get handle on this debt. Debt and fear of money holds so many creative people back. It’s a theme I hear over and over; it’s difficult to pursue creative passions and take creative chances when we have to make that huge loan payment every month.

Well, the good news is that since starting this financial journey in June I have made huge strides! In just two months I have created a budget that prioritizes my values, worked out a plan to pay off my credit cards by the end of 2016, and paid off over $1000 of that credit card debt.

I am on my way.

Today, I paid off one of my credit cards. You guys, it feels so good! A bit of that weight has been lifted off my chest. For the first time in my life I feel truly in control of my finances, and I am excited to use my money to fund the life of my dreams! Now, when I look at my bank account it brings me joy, not a sense of dread.

In next month’s financial update I am excited to share with you a few of the tools that I’m using to track my money and create this new sense of financial freedom.

Stay tuned!

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Getting Out of Debt – Part 1, May ’16

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I am five years into my career, making a decent living, and yet I continue to live from paycheck to paycheck. I have thousands of dollars sitting on credit cards, and I have a huge ‘ol student loan (43k +) looming over my head. Like a cartoon rain cloud, it follows me wherever I go.

This debt is oppressive.

I’m tired of it. I’m ready to get out of debt!

So, I began to do some research and found a highly rated book called “Suze Orman’s Financial Guidebook: Put the 9 Steps to Work.” It’s nothing like I expected…in the best way possible.

The first couple chapters have had me contemplating my past experiences with money, and discovering ways in which those childhood memories continue to influence my spending habits.

In middle school I remember becoming acutely aware that the people around me had certain things. Certain shoes with the three stripes on the side. Certain t-shirts with “GAP” spayed across the front. Certain trapper keepers and notebooks with all the special pockets. They all had these things. I didn’t.

No one seemed to care (or at least I didn’t care) what we wore in elementary school, but after moving across town to a more affluent neighborhood what I wore was all of the sudden a HUGE deal.

At first my mom wouldn’t buy me those all important articles of clothing. They were expensive. We wore hand-me-downs.

Then one day my mom promised me we would go to the GAP outlet store a few towns over. I was pumped! Apparently I had worn her down. The night before that faithful trip I had a nightmare. In my dream we arrived, full of hope, to the outlet store. I ran in and searched for THE logo shirt. It was no where to be found. It wasn’t there. “Nooooooo!” I woke up drenched in hot sweat.

Truth be told, I don’t remember whether or not the shirt was actually there, but I did eventually get that GAP logo shirt.  However, I still hold on to that fear today. Fear that I’ll never make enough money to have the things I want, or more specifically, the things that people expect me to have. I fear that if I don’t have “all the things” I’ll somehow not measure up and people won’t like me.

I spend money on things that I don’t actually want just to keep up appearances. I often buy whatever I want whenever I want instead of living within my means. I don’t want to feel deprived like I did as a child. Yet, I live in fear that I’ll never be able to finance the life my heart desires. My finances are a wreck, but not because I don’t make enough money. I’m always so busy trying to live up to our culture’s definition of “success” that I often don’t prioritize the things that actually bring me joy. Wow. That’s a revelation.

Now it’s time to let go of those old fears. It’s time to create new truths.

To be continued…