Sunday, April 3, 2011

6 Months Later...

I love Happy Socks!!

Can you believe that it has been 6 months since the start of my departure toward becoming debt-free forever? I am really amazed at how much I have learned, not only about how to spend my money wisely, but how much I have learned about myself. Okay, yes, there’s that cheesy line that we hear in just about every reality TV show, even from the stupid contestants that get kicked off in the first week: “I learned so much about myself, like how people are threatened by how beautiful I am, and how big my breast implants are…”, but I really do mean what I said, this experience has been eye-opening.

Six months ago, it was actually a challenge for me to go more than a week without spending my money on some kind of “thing” for myself that I really didn’t need. Whether it was a $15 pair of socks (that were really awesome btw) or another new shirt (because it was such a good deal and who cares if I already have 45 other ones) or even just a $6 cup of coffee (which, although delicious, has zero added nutritional benefit), I felt that I was justified in spending that money to reward myself for the hard work I had put in at my job. The reality is that the things I really need are food in my belly, a roof over my head, and friends to share my successes and struggles with.

Clean tank = happy fishy!!
Yesterday, I tackled a task that I had been putting off for far too long – cleaning out my fish tank. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I had given it a good cleaning. It didn’t smell bad or anything, but the water was getting a bit murky and I couldn’t stand to see my poor little fishys swimming around in their own toilet water. Those of you who have had fish know that sometimes things can get a little funky with fish tanks, so I took out the filter to reveal what was like the equivalent of 100 dirty fish diapers – that’s right my friends, lots of poo. With a strong stomach, I got all the $hit cleaned up, changed the water and now my fish are swimming in a clear-water paradise.

This got me thinking about how in many ways, my debt had become that filter full of $hit that I had been neglecting for far too long; it got to the point where it was unavoidable. Managing my debt became something that I felt had gotten so out of hand that I was getting to the point of no return. I would let myself believe that by once or twice a year, throwing $1,000 on my credit card was actually accomplishing something, but the reality was that nothing had been changing except how large the problem had become. If I had kept avoiding cleaning my fish tank, I could have ended up with some stinky dead fish and a pile of regret for not having done something sooner.  This is so much like my debt. If I just keep avoiding it and waiting for something to happen in my life to make it go away on its own, then I will get nowhere and feel more hopeless. The only one who can help me out of the debt-hole is me.

So it’s been six months, and I am very pleased to tell you that I am right on track to becoming debt-free within three years! The numbers don’t lie; check out the figures for yourself at the side of my blog. With a sixth of my journey to financial freedom complete, it was time for me reconnect with Gail and have a heart-to-heart. I checked back in with her to make sure that I am following my plan and to remind myself of anything I’ve forgotten along the way in my road to debt-recovery. Gail reminded me that every few months you need to check in and see if your budget is still working for you. There is no reason that you should start alienating your friends and not doing activities you love for the sake of staying on schedule, what you really need to do is change your behaviour and attitude and get there when you get there. When you’re embarking on a financial transformation, you will absolutely feel the pressure of changing your spending habits, which is why you need to review your budget to fit your life.

Don’t get frustrated and give up on yourself simply because you didn’t meet your goal in the timeline that you had set up for yourself. Annoying lines of regret have come out of the mouths of so many of my friends: “when I was 25, I was supposed to have 2 kids” or “I should have a house by now”. Gail has said it best, “you can have it all, just not all at once” which has become more and more evident has I progress in my repayments. It takes a lot of time to get to where you want to be, especially when you’re working with one income. This brings me to another fantastic quote from a former boss. She was in her 40s and had just enrolled to go back and get another university degree. Her friends and colleagues were critical and told her that she was starting too late in life and that by the time she finished she would be 50! To which she replied “who cares? I’m going to turn 50 anyway, at least this way I’ll be 50 and have another degree!” That phrase has stuck with me ever since. Not everything always happens within the timelines we set for ourselves, so why let it stress you out or bother you?

Taking Gail’s advice, I did a little reevaluation of my budget to make sure that it was still working for me. Realistically, living on $100 a week has been pretty freaking difficult sometimes; especially when I have anything to do that falls outside of my typical week (birthdays, repairs, and any other random thing that pops up). The part that I find most difficult is living on only $40 per week for groceries; so I have changed my weekly allowance to $120 per week, making my food budget $60. This has enabled me to add a bit more pizzazz to my meals. For example, now I can add some grilled vegetables to my pasta sauce, or put some sour cream on my perogies and even splurge on some beers every now and then! If I want to go to a restaurant every couple weeks, it is something that I know I can afford to do. The bonus is, since I know that I am capable of living on $40 per week for groceries so that if I ever want to increase my saving for something, I can cut back one week and be just fine!

All the pictures are happy this week!
Doing a reassessment should come every time that you have a change in your financial status as well. For example, if you get a raise, buy a car, gas or food prices increase, your kid joins a little league, and so on, then sit down and re-work it, gurl! It is important to remember that life doesn’t stay constant and neither does your budget. So, go back to your budget and reevaluate what your goals are and whether or not you are on the right path toward achieving them (don’t stress about the timeline). I cannot emphasize enough how important it is not to get stressed out by your budget. Checking in every couple months will reinforce all the great work you are doing and before you know it, another six months will come to pass and you’ll be even closer to your financial freedom!

Thanks again for following me in my financial journey. If you like what you’re reading, share this with a friend and encourage a dialogue on debt. Let’s take ourselves our of consumer debt together!


1 comment:

  1. You CAN have it all, just not all at once. Remember that, and you'll be just fine, John Fritz.

    Also remember to clean out the $hit tank every once in awhile. People and fish love clarity :P