Vanquishing My Debt

I'm 29 and trying to get a handle on my finances so that, one day, I can buy a home of my own. I've been reading personal finance blogs recently and decided to start one chronicling my own struggles and success (hopefully). I am lucky, considering the amounts of debt and tales of tragedy I've read about... but I am making some positive changes and moving in the right direction.

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do personal politics affect where you contribute and link to other blogs?

One of my favourite blogs is one that features a weekly list of household tips, tricks, recipes, etc. contributed through links by other bloggers. This compilation of links is actually something I look forward to reading each week - it entertains me and is sometimes informative or even inspiring. The blog owner is a religious conservative, but since I'm there only for this weekly feature, as opposed to their regular blog posts (which I don't even read), it doesn't matter. I've thought about contributing my own ideas, which would mean linking my blog to theirs... but I'm very sloth-like when it comes to getting things like this done, so it hasn't happened yet.

Today I'm looking over the other blog and there have been some new pics and links added to the sidebar, affirming the blogger's personal stance on religious/political issues that I am not in support of. One or two of these issues are my most passionate causes, but from the other perspective.

Now I'm rethinking contributing and putting a link on my blog to this. Is this silly? Am I overreacting and making a mountain out of a molehill? Would I be supporting this other blogger's beliefs and opinions by linking to them? I have no problem with the other blog owner's personal opinions, truly, I don't. But by contributing, am I silently endorsing these sentiments by sending the small (okay, miniscule) traffic I have her way?

How does stuff like this affect where you post and contribute? Do you think twice about sending readers to sites that advertise views you don't agree with?

Friday, November 10, 2006

So today I turn 29... now what?

I'm shocked to think that I'm only a year away from turning 30 today... where did the time go? I guess the fact that my 10-year high school reunion is this weekend should have been a glaring clue. Due to the fact that there is no work in my department right now, I've spent some time this morning trying to plan some goals to accomplish by this time next year... by the time I turn the dreaded 3-0.

1) R and I will be out of debt by this time next year, except for his student loans and possibly my car (although we're going to try as hard as possible to knock that monthly car payment out of our budget!). We are down to about $6,500 in credit card debt, which due to some unexpected expenses recently is actually higher than we started. We have a chiropractor's bill totaling about $2,200 for R's back problems at the beginning of this year, and I'll be having some dental work done next month, which may get expensive... I don't have an estimate yet.

2) I will be out of this job, and possibly, out of this entire industry (which is pretty small). I've blogged before about hating, no, intensely disliking the company where I work and the people that I work with. I am sick and tired of finding pornographic links and photos on the computers, being called "babe" by the guys in the back, and being disrespected and unappreciated by my boss (who is related to most of the guys in the back). I'm also sick of having no work to do more days than not.
My self-esteem has taken quite a hit being here... I didn't even realize how much until I went on an interview for some freelance work. The owner of that company was delighted with what she called "my skills." I had forgotten that I had any such thing. Just hearing someone call what I can do "skill" has bolstered my ego enough that I know I should leave this place and soon. I'm very lucky that R supports me wholeheartedly, even if I end up taking a drastic cut in salary.
I'm making arrangements to transfer into another industry, which I'll blog about soon. My goal is to be out of here by Memorial Day, which is the 2-year anniversary of my friend and co-worker's death. I know she would hate to see that I'm still here.

3) I will have started a Roth IRA. I've been tackling our debt lately, and before that, I wasn't financially savvy enough to know about IRAs and why I should have one. Even if I'm not able to contribute much to it in 2007, I want to have one open.

4) R and I will be getting married either late next year or fall of 2008. I want to pay for our wedding and honeymoon with cash, which shouldn't be too hard since we don't want anything large and extravagant - just a small ceremony among the redwoods with maybe 20 guests. Which brings to me to my next goal...

5) Losing weight and getting fit. I don't mention it much since this is a finance-oriented blog, but we are both overweight. R turns 35 next month and both of his parents died from heart attacks. I'm turning 29 and while I don't have a family history of heart disease, I need to lose weight for my health, for a future pregnancy, and (yes, I'm vain) for my appearance. I haven't been happy with the way I look in a long time, and I need to do something about it for once and all.

I'm a bit nervous about creating goals for myself because if I take another job, I'll probably be paid less, which affects the possibility of meeting these other goals. But I'll figure something out. I want to be in a more stable situation at this time next year, and I truly feel like it's possible. Having faith is half the battle, right?

Monday, November 06, 2006

FREE Pearl Earrings for putting a link on your blog

I found this on the Slickdeals message board. I can't vouch for the quality of these, since I just found out about the offer myself. But why not? Sounds like it's worth a try.

Intense Jewelry from

It's easy.
1. Place a link to our site ---> 2. Fill in the request form --> 3. Enjoy your Pearl Earrings
Simply link to us and we’ll send you a free pair of freshwater cultured pearl earrings! We’ll also include a silky storage pouch AND shipping is on us!

Yes, we really are giving away free pearl earrings in exchange for a link to our site. There is no catch. One link to us - absolutely free pair of earring off to you - we pay for everything.
The rules are as follow:
1. Only one offer is available per web site, URL link, physical address and household. Offer void where prohibited and subject to final approval by Pearls Only Outlet.
2. Offer valid only in the US and US territories. If you live outside of the US - find a friend in the US - maybe they forward the package to you.
3. Approved registrations will receive one pair of white 6mm freshwater pearls earrings with sterling silver posts and backings. Also included will be a free fabric storage pouch.
4. After 30 days of continuous link we will ship your earrings to you via the US Postal Service, please allow 10 -14 business days for delivery. Pearls Only Outlet will not be held responsible for lost or misdirected packages. Any interruption within this 30 day period will void this offer. Offer begins September 15, 2006 and is available for a limited time.
5. The information gathered from this offering will be kept private and confidential. We will not sell, lease,spam your or do anything otherwise mischievous with this information.
6. Links must appear as per specification above. Links using a nofollow tags, scripted links or other search engine hostile links will be disqualified from this offer.
7. Your link to us must be accessible to anyone and everyone. Private blogs and blogs by invitation only do not qualify.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eating Out is Cheaper than Cooking at Home?

I just read this article on MSN, titled "Is eating out cheaper than cooking?", which proposes that after buying ingredients and soending time to prepare a meal for your family, it is easier and more cost effective to go out. Is this possible?

I think it is possible if you're not a careful shopper. If you get off work at 5 and immediately stop at the grocery store to pick something up because there's nothing thawed or planned at home, yeah, okay, I can see how this adds up. Especially if you're not budget consciously choosing cheaper items. But still, this is just baffling to me.

Usually when I cook, a dinner for both of us costs about $5, including salad or veggies, meat or main entree and some kind of side dish. But this is because I buy things on sale and stock up, so I've accumulated a freezer full of 97 cents/lb chicken breast and $1 boxes of pasta. I buy veggies according to what's on sale and in season, and I have ingredients to make numerous side dishes like flavored rice, couscous or potatoes.

But when we go out (a hard habit to break, I have to admit), we usually end up spending between $15 and $25 for a meal for two. It's starting to get hard to stomach spending $25 plus tip at the Olive Garden when I know I can make fettucine alfredo and breadsticks at home for a few dollars. I think the only meal we eat out that rivals our cooking costs is the $5 large pizza from Little Caesar's.

This article also quotes people that have factored in the cost of the time they would have spent cooking the meal (something that I don't do) which also makes the cost of going out to eat much sweeter.

Is it different for a large family? Do you factor in the "cost" of your cooking time when calculating your meal costs? What do you guys think of this article?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Egads, I spent $1100 on Monday!

There's nothing like large unexpected expenses to send someone trying to become debt-free into a headspin, is there? I was very much about to be checked into a mental ward at the time, but am feeling much better and more positive about it now.

The first large expense started on Saturday. My car (the very same car I'm thrilled that I'm finally not "upside-down" on) had an episode where the brakes basically stopped working reliably. Not only did the brake pedal suddenly start sinking all the way down to the floor, but the car was incredibly slow to stop... to the point where I'm shocked that I didn't hit someone. By the time I got home, which fortunately was only 10 minutes away, the car had taken to shuddering and jerking to a complete stop when I stood on the brake pedal. I picked up R and we drove to Firestone, the closest auto repair place near us... a total of about 6 blocks away.

The verdict - I was told that I needed new brake pads, shoes, rotors and calipers. And a few other small tweaks to the brake system.

The price - $756. And that's after I saved 10% because I opened a Firestone credit account.

The second large expense could have been avoided if I was a more responsible tenant... which I am, except for one small meowing thing. I've mentioned it on this blog before, but when R moved in with me, he brought his old wretched cat. The worst thing about this rotten creature is that I have a lease stating that there are no pets allowed. But given that my apartment is very cheap (cheap to the point where we won't be moving out unless we buy a home... or if the landlord finds out that we have a cat) and the landlord lives off-site, I figured I'd take the risk of smuggling in a cat. I have been lived there almost 7 years and have been an exemplary tenant in all other respects, and if the landlord did find out about the cat, we'd be told to either get rid of it or move out. Since it is an old cat and getting sicklier as it goes, we would choose to put the animal to sleep, which is inevitable soon anyways.

So you can understand why I'm loathe to call the landlord for repairs and maintenance. We've had to call once since R moved in, when the kitchen sink was completely blocked. We tried to repair it ourselves, and then when that failed, we had to call the landlord and get the cat out of the house for the day. I played hooky from work and took the cat to my mom's house, where it proceeded to freak out and almost have a seizure in its panic. The sink was repaired and I brought the cat back home. And hoped not to have another repair until after its demise... she is deathly afraid of her cardboard carrier and new places. We are afraid that she will literally have a heart attack or a debilitating seizure if we try moving her out of her home again.

Monday morning R got out of the shower and turned the faucets off. Funny thing, the cold water kept pouring out. We checked the things that we could, but quickly determined that we didn't want to mess with this one. Since I was housebound anyways due to my car being in the shop, we decided to try to call a plumber that day instead of the landlord. Now I know why homeowners are so reluctant to call specialists.

The verdict - worn away doodads on both faucets that needed to be replaced, plus 2 hours of labor. I also found out that the water pressure at our building is higher than it should be, which contributes to small leaks being sprung as well as pipes and fittings being worn down.

The price - about $350 due to my own lease-breaking and deceit. But as hard as it was to spend it, it was a heck of a lot cheaper than if I had moved into a more expensive apartment with R and the cat.

The payoff - the cat is still alive and undetected in our apartment... for now. Knock on wood.