Monthly Archives: January 2014

Stumbling Blocks

So payday for February has finally arrived! Yay!

We had some implosions (eating out, extra alcohol, extra grocery store trips) at the end of January that used a portion of the dogs’ vet money. I had planned to recover that with some money that had been planned to go into savings: a portion of my tax refund, an “extra” work study paycheck from fiance, and a reimbursement from the GI Bill for fiance’s school registration for the semester.

But then we found out that the disbursement my fiance got from the GI Bill was much lower this month than we had estimated. I knew it would be only a small portion of the full month payment because classes didn’t start until the 27th of January, and the payment is based on the portion of the month where classes are in session. Consequently, that meant we had to adjust our budget. Out the window went things that were adjustable: $100 for eating out this month, paying only the minimum $25 payment on a store credit card rather than the $50 planned, and using a portion of my tax return, when it arrives later in the month, to pay off my Discover card which had been intended for wedding rings and savings. I had planned to pay off the Discover card on payday, but instead I was only able to pay a portion of that today. I will receive my tax refund, registration reimbursement, and fiance will get two more work study paychecks before the end of the month, so I will still be able to pay it off this month as planned. But pulling some money out of the tax return will take away from money that was planned for wedding rings and our summer wedding “tour” of our home states. I’m hoping I can make up for that money with money my parents usually give me for my birthday in April, which I had not included in my wedding tour savings calculations because I don’t know how much it will be.

While this was disappointing, it certainly has not diminished my will to keep moving forward and making progress on getting out of debt. I felt really relieved that we had the ability to readjust and reprioritize and just make it work. We were lucky that we have a few irregular sources of extra money coming in this month that we were planning on putting in savings.

So while we stumbled, we did not fall! Yay! Of course, we still need to continue working on avoiding those implosions I mentioned…

Hump Day Wins and Fails

I only have a four day work week this week thanks to Monday being a holiday. WIN! Lol, I admit that was not a personal accomplishment.

Tonight I came home and I really, really, just wanted to go out and eat. Red Lobster is running a special for two where you each get a salad and an entree and an appetizer or dessert to share. I know RL is not the highest quality (though when I was a kid it was high class!), but thanks to the power of marketing and my own weakness, it has been in my head. Plus there’s one about a mile away. Nevermind that the $30 plus tax plus drinks the deal would cost would buy groceries for a week (we buy most if not all of our meat in bulk at the beginning of the month at Costco, so we only buy produce once or twice a week throughout the rest of the month). Nevermind that I just found out that my filling that I need to have replaced next month is going to cost twice what I had thought. Nevermind that it was not in the budget, nevermind that January was supposed to be the month of not eating out and we’ve done so good so far and only have a week and a half to go!!!

Fortunately, when I got home and asked fiance what was for dinner (which is kind of mean-spirited of me since I almost always do the meal planning and he wouldn’t have expected to have to had come up with an idea – something else for me to work on), he said he was planning to have leftovers from last night’s dinner. Which was very magnanimous of him since he already ate those leftovers for breakfast and lunch today. I did too, for that matter, but I had another option (other leftovers) which I did not choose to pursue.  So, we did not end up eating out, keeping the streak of no eating out in January! WIN!

We did have alcohol both on Friday and Monday night this past weekend. I think the holiday made me feel like I was supposed to be on stay-cation and I am not familiar with vacations that do not involve alcohol. Some may take issue with this. So that makes a total of three violations of the no alcohol January for the month. Which is a significant improvement over a “normal” month, so that is good – but we still did not achieve the goal we had set. Now, we’re not going to just say eff it, why bother trying anymore? We are going to continue our efforts because the point was to save money and be healthier, and even without being perfect we can still save money and be healthier. So WIN in some unexpected ways, but FAIL on achieving the exact goal.

Budget-wise, I’d estimate that we are about $50 over our food budget for the month at this point, and then probably about $50 spending on alcohol that was not in the budget. There was a small buffer built into our budget as well as an extra $79 in random checks I magically received this month, so it did not hurt too much. Admittedly, it would have been better to be on budget and let the buffer and the surprise checks go towards debt or savings. So while I’m not totally disappointed in us, I will rate FAIL on this because I feel like such a child when I can’t be disciplined on the budget for a month. So maybe we’ll readjust next month’s budget to try to be a bit more realistic.

Exercise: FAIL. Just fail. I have done a couple of sessions, but really not even close to the 15 minutes a day I had set as my goal. Which is not even a lot! I could revisit this goal to see if it’s realistic, but I feel like I’m just lazy and I need to make myself do it, one way or another. Tomorrow’s another day!

A big WIN for me was that I finally talked to my mom about what fiance and I truly want for our wedding ceremony. When we first got engaged she made me promise we wouldn’t elope, and I agreed without really thinking about it because I wanted to please her. But after months of thinking about it, we realized that eloping was exactly what we wanted to do. We don’t want to go deeper into debt for a party, but we don’t want to wait to get married until all of our debt is paid off because that’s two years away. Also, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s expectations (for example, my sister was telling me I had to plan days’ worth of activities since I was having a “destination wedding” which we’re not, we live here, but neither of our families do). Most importantly we want the day we make this commitment to be about us, and the seriousness of it, and the joy of it – not babysitting or impressing other people. I guess I really don’t want to be the center of attention either. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t think I can entertain people for four hours with just my wit and beauty. I totally respect anyone who wants the big wedding and reception, but it just isn’t right for me and my fiance. So I explained all these things to my mom and she took it really well. She insists on paying for a dress for me, which I have accepted. Also, she wants to pay for our airfare to my hometown in the weeks after the ceremony when we’ll have a party there so the locals (friends and family) can come celebrate with us. At first I tried to refuse but she argued, and it was true, that she and her husband are comfortable financially and would like to do these things for us. So I said ok. I feel good about it, and I’m totally ready to get married now. Well, we have to save for a wedding rings but I’m hopeful that my tax refund will take care of that. (They will be modest in fitting with our financial goals.)

In summation, some wins, some fails, and tomorrow’s another day! I’m not giving up anytime soon.

Goals Part III – Get It (Awesomeness in Life), Girl

Please allow me to preface these goals with gratitude for all of the gifts in my life.  I have an amazing, loving fiance, wonderful friends, and a great family.  I have two awesome dogs that bring so much joy. I live in a comfortable home, have a good job, and life is generally stable and very, very good.  However – I don’t believe you can be complacent and be a good person. I think you always have to try, and you always have to be learning and growing. I have plenty of things to work on within myself to be a better person, and there are also plenty of things in my life that I would like to improve.  That said, on to the goals!

  1. Start a blog (done!)
  2. Learn blog stuff – (in progress)
  3. Join Treehouse and start learning some new marketable skills (February)
  4. Stick to chore schedule (ugh)
  5. Brush dog 1 more regularly to help with #4 (he’s basically 80% fur, 20% dog)

Goal 1 – I started! I’ve been writing posts! Yay!

Goal 2 – I am totally newb. All I’ve figured out so far is how to write and publish posts, add pictures, and change some colors. I’m going to seek out some tutorials and try to up my knowledge to achieve the functionality I’d like and maybe eventually gain some skills that are useful to others.

Goal 3 – I think it would be useful to learn some internet-based skills in our increasingly internet-based economy. More about this below.

Goal 4 – I hate when my house is dirty and cluttered. I am not a neat freak, but I like things picked up, a clear landscape is soothing for my mind. Plus, our home is only a two bedroom condo, so this goal is just to help me feel more relaxed while I’m home. I’m working on some strategies to make this easy and as green as possible. We make our own laundry detergent and surface cleaner currently, so that’s a start.

Goal 5 – Dog 1 is a pekingese, they have these double coats where the undercoat is really soft and the outer coat is course and has the color typical of the breed. He sheds like it is his JOB. I feel like my house is covered in his fur, and it’s gross and a never ending battle. I love him so much though that I deal with it. Regular brushing is supposed to help keep the shedding down, and that would make Goal 4 easier to keep up with. I think I need a different kind of brush, I have a Furminator but he really hates it – I think it pulls too much.

All of these goals are parts of achieving a mental/life freedom of sorts. My job is a good job, and I like the area I work in (regulatory side of human medical research). But sometimes I feel trapped. I’m not really satisfied with the way my office is run – it’s inefficient, it is structured and also somewhat cultured so as to increase, rather than to minimize, antagonism between our staff and the people we work with. This is unavoidable to some extent because we are the rule-enforcers, but there are lots of ways to make things easier for people to follow the rules. The reason for this problems is really that management is fragmented, the director is a softy who doesn’t like to upset people in or out of the office (and he’s also a short-timer, due to retire in under six months). This is also a lower-level position than my last one, but I took it because the pay was similar and I was moving cross-country and needed to take a job. I was lucky that this one was open right when I needed it. I have been promoted in the two years I’ve been here with a decent raise, but I’m still not at the responsibility level I was prior to coming here. My director says he wants to promote me to associate director before he leaves, so I’m hopeful, but I’m not taking that as a promise or guarantee.

With that explanation behind us, my skills are in a niche area in academic research. Lower and mid-level administration in academia doesn’t pay a ton, so unless I continue to move up, my earning potential is stagnant, and then there still remains the personnel issues with those running things that frustrate my ability to do a great job, are just frustrating themselves, and show not much likelihood of changing. So these goals are about building out something for myself, some skills with earning potential that don’t rely on my job. This would give me some mental freedom – I can go somewhere, do something else – I’m not just stuck doing this with no other options or way out. That’s also where the goal of achieving FI comes into play, but that’s longer term, and this is more something to manage my emotions and mental needs in the near term.

You might ask why I don’t go back to school and get an advanced degree or a degree in something else marketable. If I was (1) debt free and could (2) go to school for free, this might be an option. I have a household to support so I would need to work at least part time while doing this and minimizing bills would make that easier. But I really don’t want to go back to school and struggle to make ends meet while doing so. It’s not a necessity. I definitely do not want to incur any debt to go to school and get a degree when I already have a bachelor’s, I have a good job, and there’s plenty of things I can do with the degree I have and learning some new skills.

So, for now at least, I’m going to make the best of where I’m at and do some things in my own time to give me more of a sense of that freedom that I’m looking for.

Goals Part II – Get In Shape, Girl

Throughout my whole childhood, and into adulthood, I never worried about being overweight. I was super active growing up – I studied classical ballet very seriously, which, for those not in the know, is extremely demanding physically. I did it seven days a week so I never needed to worry about things like calorie counting. Motivation to exercise (meaning, take ballet class) every night came easily because I loved it, it was my passion. Even when I stopped studying seriously and went off to college, I reaped the benefits of those prior years of work for quite a while. Now that I’ve hit 30, my body is getting all crotchety and I can’t eat whatever I want anymore. I’m technically overweight. Luckily for me, I’m 5’10” so it had more area to distribute itself over. On a recent trip to visit my dad back east, some pictures of me were taken…not good. Top that with realizing my own mortality as my body starts protesting things that it never so much as sneezed at before, and I’m feeling like I’ve got to start making an actual effort to take care of this apparatus called “my body” in which my mind resides.

I’ve kind of avoided really spelling this goal out into discrete components until now. I had made a vague New Year’s resolution to do 15 minutes of exercise a day at 5:30 in the morning (hah!) and work my way up to longer, more intense work outs. I want to have a rockin’ bod again. But I have not been doing so great with this one so far, so maybe the accountability of writing this blog will help on this goal too. I feel really motivated on the debt front, but feel like I’m still waiting for something to click and kick me in the ass on the caring for my body front.

So here goes, and we’ll start tomorrow morning:

  • Mondays – workout video, at least 15 minutes
  • Tuesdays – run/walk (until I can run) dog 2 who needs extra exercise around our condo complex
  • Wednesdays – workout video, at least 15 minutes
  • Thursdays – run/walk dog 2
  • Fridays – workout video, at least 15 minutes
  • Saturday – off
  • Sunday – ballet barre (start in February)

For the month of January, fiance and I are not eating out at all (this is to meet both financial and health goals) or drinking alcohol. We had one Friday night where we fell off the wagon on the alcohol. I feel asleep after three beers, so it really wasn’t as fun as I expected, quite a let down. So I think I can make it through the rest of the month without it.

For February I’m going to do no dairy, and eat out no more than twice the whole month. I’d like to keep alcohol intake low as well, but I’m not sure how I want to structure this yet so I’ll update as it’s upon me.

For March I’d like to follow the Paleo diet strictly. It will be hard, but I’m certain it will be good for me mentally and physically.

Hopefully adding exercise, generally avoiding grains (thought not religiously), and eating sensibly will help me lose weight. I’ve already about four pounds of holiday weight just from no alcohol and not eating out, so that’s awesome. I want to lose another 40 pounds by June 2014. I think I can do it, but I have to really commit to the exercise. I hate exercise for exercise’s sake, it’s so boring. I love being physical with my body in sports, dance, etc. But I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so out of shape I can’t just jump into those things without putting myself at risk of injury. It’s sad. I feel ashamed, like I’ve let somebody down, and I guess I have. My poor body.

Goals Part I – Get Out (of Debt), Girl

So I have three primary goals:

  1. get out of debt
  2. get in shape
  3. build some new marketable skills so I don’t feel trapped in my job and so I have something I can make money with if I get desperate and want to change careers.

For this post I’ll focus on my get out of debt goal, and break it down a bit. I’ll do my debt story in a future post.

My fiance and I have combined finances. I know some experts do not recommend this before marriage, but he and I both feel totally secure with it. It also improved our relationship because we don’t argue about money anymore. I’ll go into detail about how we got there and our specific arrangements/agreements in another future post.

Our debt falls into a few categories:

  • Credit cards (both of us) – ~$28,000
  • Student loan (me) ~$12,000
  • Car loans (both of us) ~$10,000
  • Bad debt in collections (him) ~ $8,200 (but we’ll probably settle the debt for a little more than half that)
  • IRS (him) $2000

So that’s a nice ugly $60,000 in debt there!

The credit cards are the ones that are really on fire because the interest rates are all over the place, but they’re all high, and even if they weren’t, I still wouldn’t want to have them. The plan is to pay credit cards off first, IRS is on a payment plan already, pay off all the debt in good standing and then settle the collections crap along the way. The past two years were spent dealing with fiance Gogig’s financial “emergencies” so we agreed the next year or two would be about taking care of stuff that is in my name since I covered the majority of both of our expenses for a while prior, and a good chunk of the credit card debt anyway is from spending on both of us, not just my stuff.

Since credit cards are the first goal, I’ll break them down:

  • Discovercard ~$1250 – pay off in February 2014.
  • Banana Republic Visa ~$5900 – pay off in May 2014.
  • CapitalOne ~$5800 – pay off in November 2014.
  • Citicard ~$10,000 – pay off in February 2015.

I have a budget spreadsheet and basically the plan is to throw all extra money at this debt until it’s paid off. Some money that doesn’t go to living expenses will be put into savings for an emergency fund and also for some planned future expenses like pet stuff, kid stuff, holiday stuff, birthdays, car registrations, etc.

I’m also expecting a small raise and bonus in June this year (2014), with the possibility of instead getting a promotion and significant raise which may speed up my timelines. So fingers crossed for that.

I tell you, I just can’t wait for February 1 to roll around – it’s pay day and it’s the day I’m going to pay off that Discovercard. I CAN’T WAIT. I hate it! I want it gone and out of my life!!

Get Started

Starting a blog was one of my New Year’s resolutions. I usually don’t make them, but I thought I’d try something new this year.

I’m Gogig (not my real name).  I’ve got some goals. Some are hard, some are more ephemeral ideals, and some are just things you can never stop working on. My goals are why I’m here. My expectation is that writing this blog will serve the following purposes for me:

  • goal tracking
  • accountability
  • skill development

I’d like to use this semi-public forum to establish and broadcast my various goals and then to be accountable for making progress toward and achieving said goals. My biggest goal is to get out of debt, so I expect that I’ll spend the majority of my writing on that topic. That’s the “GetOut” in my blog name.

I also hope to learn more about blogging and web coding stuff as I do this. I have a niche professional skill set, and on the bad days at work, I feel trapped. So blogging and learning about coding was the solution I came up with to make me feel like I have somewhere to go (or am at least working on giving myself somewhere to go) if I ever want to get out of what I’m doing now. I plan on doing some of the courses on Treehouse (another New Year’s resolution!) to start learning the coding side of things. I would love it if one day, my blog became popular and I was able to monetize it, work for myself, yadda yadda, but I have a long way to go before that’s a likely possibility. So I’ll just be here, in my little corner of the interwebs, typing away at whomever stumbles upon this. I have a bunch of other goals to improve my life and me as a person, and I’ll write some about those too. That’s the “GetIt” part of my blog name.

And the “Girl” is because I’m female, though at 30, I’m a woman. Had to stick with the g’s for the name though.

In my next post (maybe next few?), I’m going to start spelling out my goals and my plans to get there.