Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Future's So Bright

Suck it long, and suck it hard. 

I have officially hit three major milestones in my debt repayment process. The first was that I have just passed my 2 year anniversary for paying off my debt. It is really amazing to see how fast time flies by and I am really excited to have a long blog record of all my progress! The second major milestone that I have achieved is that I have officially paid off my third creditor – Student Loans. I would just like to give a big “SUCK IT HARD!” to student loans. Never in my life have I had to deal with a more inefficient system, so it feels amazing that I will no longer have to make a payment to them again!

My biggest accomplishment however, is that I have hit the $30,000 mark in only two years! Not only did I manage to hit that mark, I blew that son of a witch right out of the ball park. When I first did my projections, I should only have paid off around $22,000 of my debt at this point! Can you believe that I am now $8,000 ahead of schedule and if I can keep this momentum going, I can be debt free by April! That means that I will have officially paid off $37,810.51 in two and a half years! This is surpassing all my wildest expectations.

$30,000! Holy $hit!
Now I am on a brand new high.  I have set realistic goals for myself, and then went above and beyond what I ever imagined. On Wednesday, I made my very last payment of $2,519.10 to my Student Loan, and to top it all off, I paid off the $949 I racked up on my credit card from my shopping trip in Montreal and my trip back home to Saskatoon. Where this new person with all this money came from, I don’t know, but I do know that I have a lot to be proud of. Not only have I paid off so much debt in such a short time, I have been able to maintain a healthy savings account, take 4 trips home to Saskatoon, a trip to Las Vegas, a trip to Halifax, a weekend getaway to Montreal, I purchased a couple thousand dollars worth of clothing, bought presents, costumes, had parties, participated in book clubs, and so many other wonderful things that most people would have never thought I would be able to do while still staying on track.

I posted on Facebook how I had paid off $30,644.44 in two years and I have never seen more traffic and more “likes” about anything I have posted on my page ever! There are some people out there who don’t understand how that it is even possible that I have been this successful so far, and I am promising that from this point forward, I will try to share some practical tips each week (or more frequently) about what I do to stay on budget.

There are a few things that I should state that are fairly obvious ways to demonstrate why I have been so successful though:

  1. I have a great income for someone who just turned 30.
  2. I don’t have a car (or any of the associated expenses that come with owning one)
  3. I have a second job that also pays for my gym membership
  4. I have an amazing support network (seriously, I love my friends and family so much)
  5. My living expenses are inexpensive
  6. I gave up my consumer whore lifestyle
  7. My partner has helped me out every single step of the way

A few months ago, I wrote a blog entry where I questioned exactly what it was that I wanted to get out of this process and where should I start trying to get to financially and I was really stuck without any kind of clear indication where I will go next. Now, when I start to think about the what’s next part of my life, I keep thinking about where I can elevate my life with my partner. Getting rid of this debt means a lot more than just me getting less and less worried about the future, but it is opening my eyes to the kind of future that we could have together. I am learning so many valuable lessons and I hope to continue to share all these experiences with you so that you can find your way out of debt and move on to living a happier life without debt.

Thanks for coming back and tuning in to my blog! The journey on the path that I am on is going to be complete very soon, and I hope that you’ll continue to join me by spreading the word and converting my fellow consumer-debt carrying citizens.

Until next time. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Be Trippin'

I wrote this while I was on the plane a few weeks ago and completely forgot about it! I will be making more of an effort to write on here, especially since my readership is soaring! Anyway, enjoy! If you think of a topic that you want me to write about, leave me a comment below!

Another trip means another kick to the financial nutsack and yet, here I am going on another trip home at a random time of the year with no real reason. Well, I guess that isn’t entirely true since I was originally heading back to visit my family for a birthday celebration, but that has fallen through so now I get to go and be selfish for a change. I do look forward to meeting my new niece too! My family sure knows how to make cute babies! This will be the first time in over 10 months since I have visited my family and I am sure there are many of us who understand that when you live away from everyone, the costs can add up when you want to go back for a visit. Even if you only live a few hours away, there is so much to factor in especially the travel costs.

Arguably, the time with loved ones can’t be measured in money, but what do you do to prepare for a family visit while staying on budget? The purpose of this blog entry is to teach you some of the skills that I put into place when I am going for a visit while trying to stay on track.

We all know that when we are on vacation, we need to do things that we don’t do in our everyday life to really make it feel like a vacation. I’m talking about going out to restaurants more often, maybe seeing a show or two, and with my family, we do a lot of socializing, which usually involves a couple bottles of booze. All of this is important for me in order to really disconnect from the busy life that I have back home, but it can still be done sensibly.

My first point should be fairly obvious: make a budget for while you’re on vacation. In a normal week, I can get by on $140, and since I am going to another Canadian city (that isn’t in the North - have you seen their prices on groceries?!) I should be able to stay thrifty.  At the same time, as I mentioned, this isn’t going to be a typical week, so it’s important that I plan well in advance to have a bigger budget in order to have some fun!

Your travel budget should be made at least 3-6 months in advance so that you can start squirreling away some money to spend on the flight, food, and fun. I realize that making a budget isn’t always simple to do when you’re on vacation, but a good strategy that I find works for me is to simply set a money limit. I like to give myself $500 for a week of vacation time. That will get me a few delicious meals, maybe a few cases of beer, and maybe even a couple shows here and there. There’s no shame being cheap on vacation, especially when you write a preachy financial blog about how thrifty you are, all over the Internet.

Once you know how much money you plan to spend, incorporate savings into your budget for the vacation and get crack-a-lackin’! If your trip is going to cost you $1,000, that’s only $250 per month over 4 months that you need to save. I did this by working some overtime at my one job, and getting a second job. This may be overkill for most of us, so maybe you can look for more ways to cut corners in your current budget. The main idea is that you should never have to go into debt to travel.

When you reach your destination, stick to your guns! Leave the credit card in the hotel safe, or wherever you’re staying. If you have a limit of only $100 per day, then make sure that’s all you bring with you! The best part about only carrying your cash budget for the travel day with you is that you cannot overspend. You also don’t have to worry about replacing your cards if you get pickpocked! This is a foolproof trick that I use in my daily life. Let me give you an example of what happens when I don’t do this.

On Saturday, I went to Montreal, and if you read this blog, you know that city is my financial nemesis. My credit card came along for the ride while I was out suit shopping for my friends Isha and Sam’s wedding. I’m the MC so I have to look seksi, but I don’t have to worry about upstaging them because they are one of the most ridiculously beautiful couples I know. Now, while was in Montreal, as per usual, I went overboard. If would have planned properly and only brought the cash I intended to spend, I wouldn’t have reached into my wallet and grabbed my enemy – my MasterCard. In the end, my intention to spend $200 on a suit, turned into a $560 shopping spree. Yes, I got myself the suit, but I also got 2 sweaters, a dress shirt, a t-shirt, and 3 pairs of pants…  and 5 pairs of socks. You see? If I didn’t have that stupid card with me, I would have had to stay on budget because the access to the credit has really become my problem. 

If you’re staying with friends or family, you have a real advantage to save a lot of money, but make sure that you repay the favour! Opt for a dinner at home where you cook it, grab a bottle of wine instead of going out to a pub. Isn’t the point of staying with friends and family to spend time with them? Why not teach some of the financial lessons that you learned by directly applying them while staying with them? Go do a shared grocery run and plan a meal together, rent a movie, play a board game, go for a walk, check out what kinds of free events are taking place while you’re in town. Be creative and have some affordable fun.  And remember, just because you are a guest in someone’s home doesn’t mean that you are entitled to eat whatever you want or use up all their expensive shampoos.

Now, I know that I have friends out there who are going to argue with me that the experiences are worth the debt, but I have to rebut with the question: How can you relax when you know that you are just piling on more stress with debt? Isn’t a vacation supposed to be about escaping? Doesn’t piling on more debt to travel seem like you’re simply reinforcing the locks in a debt prison? I have friends who have really done the travel thing the right way. They got to a point in their lives where they were saving for a down payment on a home, and came to the quick realization that they would be much happier with a trip around the world for a year and used those savings to get away. I would have gone with them if I had some kind of grip on my debt. Their trip was a real wake-up call for me when they left. I was the same age (ok maybe a couple years older) as them, but I had no savings to even be spoken of (which is arguably the same situation I am in right now). It really ignited the fire under my a$$ to get my debt together.