Monday, June 25, 2012

Close Encounters of the GAIL kind

Gail, soon to be hosting "yours truly"
 Welcome back my loyal readers! This weekend I started my first shift at my new second job as a receptionist at the yoga studio. That's right, I'm finally on the payroll! Now if only I could find some time to do yoga... The best thing about having a second job is that now I have some kind of backup plan in case my job goes south. These times are certainly uncertain for so many people, so I want to make sure that I have a plan in place to keep the bills paid around here!

And speaking of bills, I managed to rack up a hefty credit card bill this month (close to $900) so that I could get out and spend during my staycation. Good thing I have another source of income to help me get this debt paid off a little quicker! Sorry, I'm kind of being a bit of a tease now! I know that most of you are tuning in to hear about my fantastic news! 

Today, I almost peed my pants with excitement! Not only did Gail tweet back to me about getting the author of the book I was reading on her radio show this week, I got an email from her office after I wrote a little email to Gail Vaz-Oxlade about my "story" and what I have been doing to get my debt paid off.  It went a little something like this (yes I did a little bit of copy/paste from my blog):

From: John
Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 11:11 PM 
Subject: John's Bio

Hello Gail!

My friend Inez sent you a tweet that I should be on your show and then you asked for me to send you my biography, so here it is!

My name is John; I'm 29 years old and I currently live in Ottawa with my partner Rob. In October, 2010 I began to tackle my debt and have been blogging about it ever since. Your book; Debt Free Forever has
been my debt repayment bible and I always sing your praises. I had tried budgeting in the past and had zero results. It got to the point that I had stopped opening my bills, especially my credit card bill. I was receiving letters from Student Loans almost every month to tell me that I missed a payment (it's only $107.99 a month)! I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. At 28 years of age, I came to the harsh realization that I was almost $40,000 in debt!

How the did I get nearly $40,000 in debt? Here’s how: In 2002, I decided to go back to school and take a course on web design. My choice to go to school came with a hefty price tag of $14,000 for a 1 year course. Out of school a year later, I worked my butt off and got my debt from school paid down from $14,000 to $8,500. I was really on track to becoming debt free. Web design didn't make me any money, so I decided to go to school without any financial assistance. Thanks to my (former) amazing credit history, I had been approved for 3 credit cards, an American Express, and Ikea Credit Card, and a MasterCard. I was always paying off my balances in full for the Amex and the MC, but I forgot about the balance on my Ikea card and got taken to collections over $300! I was so mad since I had never received a bill from Ikea. I quickly cancelled my Amex after that and stuck to one card – my MasterCard. When I first got the card, I started off with a limit of $1,500. In the end, that limit was at $15,700!! The interest rate on this card was a disgusting 19.5%! And to top it off, I fell for their stupid “balance insurance” scheme which made my balance climb higher and higher! I had that idiot insurance for years. Combine that with last minute emergency flights home and using my credit card for crap and restaurants, my current owing on my MasterCard is a disgusting $14,581.45 in credit card debt!!

As with most students, I built up more debt when I went back to school. I was living in an apartment I couldn’t afford on my own; eating at restaurants like I had been debt free forever; and flying home whenever I felt like it without any paid vacation and paid for nothing with my own money. Over my time as a student, I hit $4,991.57 (out of $5000) on my regular line of credit (10.5% interest), took out another $9,174.74 (out of $10,000) on my student line of credit (4.5% interest), and after paying down all the interest on my previous student loan it remained at $8,445.36. Add it all up and we’re talking $37,193.12 of debt!

I really didn't know what to do until I found your shows and your amazing book. I set out to pay everything off in 3 years on an income of less than $50,000 per year, and I have been doing it very successfully. As of today, I have paid a whopping $23,593.84 (or 62.4%). That's all been done in a matter of 19 months! Now I only have $14,216.67 to go!

You truly have been an inspiration for me Gail. Not only have you been helping me get my debt under control, this process is having a domino effect on my friends' lives as well. They too are inadvertently saving money because I have the power to say no to expensive nights out and am able to come up with cheap sources of entertainment with the same or higher level of enjoyment that we had before.

If there is any way that I could be on one of your shows to share my story or even if you wanted me to write a guest post on your blog, I would be beyond excited! I recently found out that you tweeted about me and I was ecstatic (it was the post with the Gail heads).

If you want to know more about me and how I got to where I am, my bio on my website is here:

And here are some posts that give you a taste of how I am getting my debt paid off:

My new Roommate, Gail:
Going Anal over my Analysis:

I hope you like it Gail! Sorry for the long email, I don't know where you find the time!


To which Gail's assistant Tracy responded today:

Hi John...I am Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Admin Assistant and we would like to book you on her radio show "News1010" to share your story.  Are you available on September 10th at 10:25pm EST for an on air interview?

Administrative & Marketing Assistant to Gail Vaz-Oxlade


And obviously I said (with a BCC to Inez):

Hi Tracy!

I would be honored to be on the show. Do you guys need me to be there in person or would I call in? I would be willing to do either. How long is the interview? 

This is such a cool opportunity, I can't wait to chat with Gail. 

Thank you


Then Tracy swiftly responded:

Hi John...the interview would be about 30 minutes with commercial breaks in between.  We would call you at a specified number (landline preferred, or cell phone if that is all you have) around 10:20pm EST so please send me your numbers.

What we would like you to do is answer the following 4 questions and send them back to me.  Gail will prep for your interview from these questions:

1.  Where you were:

2.  What you did:

3.  Where you are now:

4.  One tip you have for listeners:

Thanks and we look forward to having you on the show.


I haven't responded yet, but holy guacamole! I cannot believe that I will ACTUALLY be talking to Gail. I had my doubts in the beginning that maybe she would find my story a bit "too much of the same thing" but it turns out that I had nothing to worry about. This isn't an actually meeting with Gail, but it's pretty darn sweet at the same time.

Also, how does one get to be Gail's admin assistant?! I want that job! Maybe she needs an Ottawa admin or a fabulous gay sidekick. It seems to be standard for almost every other reality TV show that I see!  Part of me wants to ask Tracy if she's planning to take any maternity leave or something in the future...

Ok, that's enough of me being crazy and sounding like a squealy girl at a Beiber concert!

AH! So Happy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'd Love to Stay and Party, but I Gotta go to Work


Looks like the party is over and I need to snap back to reality (oops there goes gravity). Today marks the end of my week of holidays with my sister and her boyfriend and we did so many incredible things while they were in town. We spent a day at the spa, went to Montreal, went zip-lining, went to a water park, and ate some delectable dishes that were fit for a king.  I was on such a high from having them come visit; it was a sensory overload of really fun times. I took this week as an opportunity to treat myself and truly enjoy my holidays here in my home city, but at the same time, I completely neglected my budget for the week (I guess that's what my savings are for). But you know what, sometimes you just need to spoil yourself and the ones that you love with an incredible week! Thank you so much for taking the time off just to see me M&Z!

I wish I would have had this booklet. 
My sister and her boyfriend left only a few hours ago, so now I am at that place where the reality of work is sinking back in and I am reading all the mail that I have been avoiding for the past week. My income tax letter finally arrived and apparently I owe the government another $500 on top of what I already paid, so that comes as a bit of a blow since I was expecting to get back about $500 from the government. I wish they had some sort of tax program that would give me some money back for helping lower the national consumer debt with this handy blog!

Anyway, I am going to review my claim again and see if I truly did make an error because I certainly don't think that I did. Yes, everyone, you can reassess the assessment that was made by the government, and I mean c'mon, how many people do you know out there who are as obsessed with their money and debt as I am? It seems like every year they assess me and every year is the same story, I make too much, and I owe them more money! Well, add that to the list of bills I guess! Wait until I get my TSFA off the ground government! I'll show you who owes taxes!

This seems like the appropriate time to announce some changes and exciting things that have been happening in my life. First of all, I am officially leaving the job that is driving me to the brink of a mental breakdown and into something different. I haven't really figured out what that something different will be yet, but I know that it will be a change. I love change. Those of you who are just joining my blog now might be wondering how I can be so confident that I will get to do something different so easily. I have been acting in a position for the past year, and that year is officially coming to a close which means that I can go back to my old job and continuing to strive in something that I am good at. Between you and I though, I am really desperately seeking to do something where I use my brain a little more and let my creativity run wild! In my current job, I do a lot of administrative work, and while I am good at it, I am not passionate about it. I hear a lot of ramblings and ranting that in this economy, I should just be grateful for the job that I have. But I already know that. The struggle that I face every day (which I am sure most of you can relate to) is that I want to be getting paid to do something that I love. My current job is not something that I love.

My hope is that by going back to where I was, I could have more chances to really shine and prove that I am capable of doing something so much bigger that what I am doing right now. I really don't feel as though I am living up to my potential. This blog is a great outlet for me to scratch my creative bone but I can't help but imagine me doing something much more fabulous with my life.

Which brings me to my other new job! In July, I am starting to work part-time at the yoga studio that I volunteer at in exchange for free yoga and another salary. This money is going all go right into my savings account to prepare me for a great big celebration when all of this debt repayment is finished or maybe just to get my debt paid down even sooner. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter everyday and I know that I will have that financial freedom sooner than I can say "Gail Vaz-Oxlade".

And speaking of my idol, financial guru: Gail Vaz-Oxlade, look who sent a tweet about me on her Twitter page WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back in September:

Best Tweet of my Life!

I only noticed this recently when I saw a spike in readership due to hits from Twitter! Needless to say, I have now officially joined the Twitterverse and following Gail!  She and I have been nonchalantly tagging each other in our tweets. My lovely friend Inez has sent Gail a tweet to tell her about my progress and now Gail is saying that I should send her my story so I could be appearing as a guest on her show! I don't quite know what show exactly (I assume it's her radio show) since she has a bazillion of them! Where does this lovely lady find the time to do so many things? Girlfriend takes moonlighting to a whole new level!

I don't think you need to read my blog to tell that I am incredibly excited at the possibility of interacting with Gail in real life! Her book and shows have really turned my life around and I cannot wait to have the opportunity to finally say thank you! So right now, I need to write to Gail and tell her about me so she can judge whether or not I should be a guest on her show. Check back in soon and I will gush all the juicy details! I'm so freaking excited! Wish me luck!!!



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Finally, Another Post

Lucky for you, it's a rainy day!
While I may not be writing on here as often as I had initially set out to do, I am still able to report a level of progress in my debt repayment. When the seasons take a change for the better, it gets difficult for me to sit down in front of a computer and write something meaningful for my readers when I could be sitting outside in the sun and enjoying the weather. Fortunately for you guys, it's a rainy day so I am much more inclined to write something today!

There is a lot that has been going on in the past few months that I feel like I should be sharing with everyone so I hope you have a bit of time to read another long blog entry. The last time I wrote on here, I had just finished paying of my 2nd source of debt - my line of credit. I'm really starting to notice how good it feels to only have two debtors left to pay. Imagine if all of a sudden you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, that's what it has been like for me! My debts are going to disappear rapidly since I am no longer spreading all of my payments across 4 different debts. The best part is, I have tackled my highest interest (or most expensive) debt first which is really freeing up more money for me to put toward the principal of my other debts.

Where I am beginning to struggle however, is that I am more inclined to spend money on myself to go out, eat dinners, have drinks, do trips, etc. and I feel that I am becoming less focussed on what it is that I set out to achieve which was to not have to worry about money and whether or not I was paying all my bills on time. Lately, I am making my budget so tight that I don't have a lot of flexibility if something comes up that I need at the last minute, such as contact lens solution, massage therapy, a birthday present, and so on, so now I get down to $8 left in my chequing account and I end up taking money out of my savings to pay for drinks at the bar or something that I used to easily be able to say no to. Now it's fair to say that none of those things I mentioned really are 'needs' because I could simply wear my glasses and lower my spending when it comes to gifts and save the money, but because I have progressed so quickly with my debt repayment, I have found that I am telling myself the story that it's ok to spoil myself with lavish trips to Montreal, or expensive meals out, $80 at the bar, and so on.  Yes, I deserve a break; yes, I am doing incredibly well with my payments; but yet I still feel stuck because of my debt. There is nothing I want more than to be able to say that I am debt free, so I guess that's where I need to check in and remind myself that this is something important for me to do.

Can you picture me and Gail hanging out at the office?
Speaking of overspending, I had an amazing time in Montreal with my boyfriend, but we definitely spent way too much money for only one weekend! I finally got all the bills in for the car rental, hotel, and all that other stuff and the numbers are nuts! I'm sure that we spent well over $1,000 on 2 days of celebrating. It was worth every penny, but now I have less than $100 in my savings account! I completely understand why Gail talks about the importance of a savings account and I am happy that I didn't have to use credit to pay for everything, but it is certainly disappointing when I look at my horrendous balance in savings.

Even with dismal savings, I will continue to try to put enough away to get my savings back up for a trip to Saskatoon to see my family sometime this year, but it could be a challenge since my sister and her boyfriend are coming for a visit in less than 2 weeks and I will be on another spending binge. This is the problem I have; when something fun is coming up, I really neglect savings in favour of having fun. So we'll see how I fare when they're in town. If I can stay focussed and try to make sure we eat the majority of our meals  here at home, I think we'll be just fine. I'm just really excited to see her again and finally get a chance to show her around town.

Now I have some more news that may affect my savings and debt repayment! My employment status is changing. I am currently acting in a job where I get paid a little more than I used to, but now that is changing in July when the person I am replacing comes back. This means that I am going to go back to my old job (most likely).  It's kind of a good thing in the sense that I will get to go back and work with the people that I enjoy working with, but I will lose some pay and may end up bored out of my mind. But what is more exciting is that I found a second job working at the yoga studio that I volunteer at! I will be a front desk person a couple times a month and I will still get all the free yoga I want while getting put on the payroll! I am super pumped that I will now have another source of money and I will be able to put all that into my savings account. I can now save for vacations and other fun things that I really want to do!

Lots of hearts for Kelly Clarkson! ♥♥
Ok, I just listened to a little Kelly Clarkson to spark a bit of "I'm down on myself but shouldn't be because I am doing pretty darn awesome", so with all that being said, I am still doing incredibly well with my debt repayment. I'm over 60% paid off now and if I can somehow manage to pay $1,500 every month from this point forward, I will be debt free in about 9 months!! Can you believe this? If any of you have been doing the math along the way with my progression, that means that I will have paid almost $40,000 worth of debt off (on my own) in 2 years and 3 months! I cannot believe that I have been able to progress this quickly through this process.

I really want to reemphasise to all my readers that debt keeps you limited. When you can't get out of it, you can get really stressed and frustrated which can leave you feeling helpless. By taking control of your situation, everything from your health to your relationships can be improve by removing the pressure that debt adds. Financial planning can set you up for a life of freedom to do all the things that you want to do in the most optimal way. If you have a good plan, then you don't have to stress about what you are going to do in the future. The whole point of this blog is to tell you about how I am freeing myself from the burden of debt. In the future I may want to move to another apartment or even another city, I might want to buy a home or a car (I'm still trying to figure out the "what next") but as long as I have debt, it makes it difficult to imagine what the next chapter will be.

At this point, I am proud of my accomplishments but I still am dying to meet Gail Vaz-Oxlade and I'm not talking about shaking her hand at a book signing, I'm talking about actually sitting down and having coffee to really and truly thank her for helping me get my life back. One day I hope that I can be that inspiration for someone else in this kind of situation.