Looking Back on 2013

It’s always interesting to look back over a period of time to see where you are compared to where you thought you would be or even where you would like to be.

Right now, I am sitting in a Starbucks in San Diego surrounded by others with computers, sipping an Earl Grey latte and blogging. In my dreams, it would be a normal occurrence and not just a stop on my way to the airport to go back to Chicago!

But I don’t mean this quite so literally. Last year I commented on the new start that the New Year brings and how it prompts us to turn over a new leaf and make new goals. It was interesting to read through last year’s post since I haven’t stuck with any of goals I had for myself last year.

However, they did remain themes in my life for 2013.

Faith: time with God wasn’t as regular as I would have liked, but it was a huge improvement from 2012. Reading Jesus Calling nearly every day helped me to start my days off right. And although I am still not in a regular habit of spending one on one time with God, he has taught me so much this year. So although it didn’t look quite as I expected this year, I am happy with the progress I made.

Fitness: well, I started off well with eating right but that didn’t last either. But again, improvements have been made from where I was. And 2014 will be a second chance: starting on Wednesday, my roommate and I are going to strive for a Real Food diet in January. Of course, Bar Method didn’t figure into my plans at all since I started that in May. This has continued to be an important part of my life, sometimes more frequently than others. I did have the pleasure and privilege of taking a class at Bar Method Point Loma while in San Diego on vacation. What fun! So again, this didn’t look quite like what I expected but improvement was made over 2012.

Blogging: hahaha! Well, I did set myself a lofty goal. Not sure I’m going to even try for this year! Completing NaBloPoMo was a satisfying blogging achievement, one I hadn’t planned. I’m not going to set any kind of goal for myself here for 2014, but I would like to keep updating periodically. We’ll see how this goes!

There were other achievements in 2013 that weren’t planned for as well, such as paying off debt, getting a second (and third!) job, and, the largest and most satisfying, earning my PHR-CA! None of these made my published list for 2013 and were still important this year.

If I’ve learned anything from 2013, it’s that personal progress is more important than perfection. This is important, for me, as a perfectionist, to realize. While my achievements didn’t look the way I wanted them to for 2013, I am making strides toward the end I wanted. And I can be satisfied with that, without cutting myself down for not reaching the extremes I pictured in my head.

It’s nearly time for me to head to the airport. It’s been a great trip with many lessons and I’m sad to leave. But I’m looking forward to the rest of my week off of work and the opportunity to get 2014 off to a good start. Hopefully this flight will give me a chance to sit down and make some rough goals for 2014.

How do you feel about your year in review?

When Other People Affect My Budget!

Even our friends can learn something from our living on a budget! It’s very difficult to be the person living on a budget who has to say no to something fun and our friends can learn to be sympathetic and understanding. Yes, I know – you’re laughing at me. They could; whether they choose to is up to them.

One of the things I find most difficult about living on a budget and working to pay off my debt is other people. That’s right: other people. Sure, I struggle with myself when I’m hungry and tired and want to stop and grab some fast food on my way home, even though it’s a poor use of my money. And there have been many tears shed because I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for a car repair, but what I find even harder is feeling like I have to justify my inability to spend money on entertainment.

Everyone’s financial situation is different. We don’t all graduate from college with the same debt to income ratio. And even if we did, the choices we all make after that would put us in different situations anyway. Very few people I know (and even those I don’t know!) have the same debt load that I do, so they find it hard to understand why my budget doesn’t include a lot of money for going out. When that happens, not only am I fighting myself – of course I want to go out and spend time with my friends and have a nice meal – but I am fighting their pressure . Without revealing details of my financial situation when, frankly, it’s not any of their business, it’s hard to get them to realize that I’m not trying to avoid them. And not to feel guilty when they do.

LearnVest has several useful articles with tips on managing some of these situations. Those friends who never seem to consider your financial situation? There’s one for that.

What about you? How do you communicate your limits to your friends?

more little things

I’m feeling very blessed today.
At work, I decided that I would go out for lunch because I felt like a cheeseburger and it was in my budget.  And, hey, if you keep putting off a craving eventually you’ll cave and spend more than you should. Or eat more that you should…I think this is probably a diet philosophy, but oh well.  I applied it here.  On my way, I asked a coworker if I could pick anything up for them.  They said no, but they had a gift card to the restaurant that they would never use, so did I want it?  I was able to go to lunch and satisfy my cheeseburger craving without spending any of my budgeted restaurant money.  It’s a little thing, but it felt like confirmation that I was doing the right thing.
Then, to top it off, my mom did something really sweet.  She had just finished reading The Accidental Billionaires and was going to drop it off for me.  When I picked it up, I found a large bottle of my Burberry perfume on top of the book with a post-it note saying “here’s a little treat for you.”  (the post-it was even from the Oceanaire Restaurant in San Diego.)  My amazing mother had bought me a bottle of perfume based on our conversation about what I wanted for my birthday, because she knew I was being responsible by not spending my money on replacing my perfume.
These are such little things, but they do make me feel like God is looking out for me.  I didn’t ask for either of these, and I would have been fine without them, yet He chose to provide these little confirmations.

sobering reality

There is nothing like a negative net worth to shatter any sense of self-worth.

Tonight, at FPU, we all turned in slips with the amount of our total debt.  The idea was to determine how much debt we had as a small group, so we can work on paying it down.  I assume that we would do the same at the end of the 13-week class to see how much progress we’ve made.

I just happened to sit next to the kid with the calculator.  I KNOW my number was the highest.  Unfortunately for me, the people in my group didn’t have to count their mortgages.  That would have made things a little more even.  They didn’t have to include their mortgages and I did have to include my student loans. Brutal.  Just brutal.

So, like the masochist I am, I had to come home and really figure out my net worth.  It was homework for next week too, but I had to do it right away.  Ugh.  I’m worth more dead than alive.  Too bad life insurance policies don’t pay out if you off yourself!

Getting even more yucky…but I have a whole list of goals to achieve to keep me going.  These are the things I want to accomplish once I’m out of debt, or at least well on my way.

Here is my public service announcement: avoid student loans at all costs.  Take a gap year and work your butt off, get a job while you’re in school and work full time in the summers.  Start applying for scholarships your freshman year of high school.  Go to a community college for two years.  Go to school in-state!  Just don’t graduate with a mortgage worth of loans!  You don’t have a house to show for it, just a very, very expensive piece of paper.

baby steps

Baby steps are part of the Financial Peace University (FPU) program.  Dave breaks everything down in small steps, and puts them in a specific order to help you stay on the path to financial freedom.  The first step is a $1,000 emergency fund, so that an emergency doesn’t send you running right back into debt.

$1,000 seems like a lot from where I’m standing.

I sat down today to look at the hard numbers for the first time this year.  It was discouraging.  My friends, it’s getting yucky!  But it’s a good thing.  I have some things I can sell.  Not a lot, because I did a lot of cleaning out when I moved, but a few things.  Most of what I have are books, which, unfortunately, don’t have a great resale value.  They won’t help much on the path to an emergency fund, but maybe they’ll help a little bit.

Even though it feels yucky, I feel good about this.  I like knowing exactly what I’m doing.  I’m weird and anal retentive, but I honestly enjoy sitting down and working on this stuff.  My google calendar now has a standing Thursday night budget meeting scheduled.  Looking around in my class, I feel fortunate that I’m doing this while I’m young and single.  While having two incomes would be really useful, I have the ability to make unilateral, split-second decisions that married couples don’t.  Sure, I need an accountability partner (got one.  He’s very good at his job.) to run large purchases by, but mostly it’s up to me.  It’s nice, and it’s scary.

We’re moving forward.

do it!

It’s official: I’ve decided to get my money under control.  I’m doing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at a local church.  This time, I think I’ll have the support of people who actually want to do it!  I think that will make a big difference.

I’m excited to make these changes, yet afraid I won’t be able to stick with it.  I know it’s going to get hard, or as a confidant tells me: yucky.  But it’s never going to get better until I take steps to make it better.  So here it is: my first step.