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, December 28, 2006

Another generation of minimum payment makers?

I was sent a link to this list of "50 Things We Know Now (That We Didn't Know This Time Last Year)," which is a brief summary of dozens of news stories from 2006. This is an interesting list, especially if you have some time on your hands.

Check out the financially-related #27:

27. Of the 10 percent of U.S. teens who uses credit cards, 15.7 percent are making the minimum payment each month.

So does this mean that the other almost 85% pays in full every month? That's wonderful if it's true.

Or does it mean that the other 85% are paying less than the minimum payment or skipping payments altogether? This is ghastly if it's true.

I hate incomplete summaries.

Bring on 2007... I think

As great as this holiday season was, I'm relieved that it's over and it's time to move on. I can stop thinking about gifts and holiday plans for one thing, lol. I also seem to have had one minor illness after another over the past month or so (first a cold/flu thing, then food poisoning, then a throat infection, and now a desperate toothache when my dentist is on vacation), so I'm looking forward to a year that will bring more wisdom, more joy, and more health.

I've been reading a lot of other blogs discussing their financial goals for 2007. They're inspiring and chock full of great ideas, but I'm still up in the air about mine. Last month I wrote about some of my goals before I turn 30, which will happen next November... so there will be some overlap.

I think that part of my reluctance to set goals is that I seem to be moving backward right now financially. I had some large necessary expenses last month, which added about $1,100 to my debt. Plus I'm planning on jumping careers next year, so I just enrolled in an online training program which added about $1,600 to my credit card balance. So my head is spinning and I feel like my thought-out plan has suddenly become null and void. Plus my fiance R and I have talked about joining our finances next year to make our debt pay-off easier and faster, so there are some kinks to work out on that front, too. I feel like I'm back at square one.

But on the bright side, I have done some things right that will be a help in the new year:
1) I've set our grocery budget at $40 a week for 2 adults... this amount includes breakfast, lunches and dinner for both of us, as well as household staples like bathroom tissue and cleanser. It might be adjusted in the new year due to our goals to get healthier and fitter, but I'm confident that I have our food bills under control.
2) I've started making arrangements to get us cheaper cable TV and internet connection. This will save us bigtime next year - somewhere between $400-600 annually.
3) We have an emergency fund of $1,000... thanks to better than expected sales at a consumer convention that R and I took his home-based business to in November. The terrible thing is I'm afraid to dip into that emergency money now that we have it.
4) I changed car insurance companies and raised my deductible. This move will save me over $500 annually from what I was paying before.

I need to spend a chunk of time in front of my computer at home, going through my paperwork and talking to R about our plans. I'm very frustrated right now, which is why I haven't been posting hardly at all lately. The alarming thing is that in moods like this, all I want to do is eat crappy food and go shopping, lol... neither one will help me get back on track.

So bear with me, fellow financial geeks, I am a constant work in progress. But who isn't, right?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Give the gift of financial freedom - Dave Ramsey products $10 each plus shipping

Just saw these deals posted over at Slickdeals - they'd be great for those people on your Christmas list that either need some help when it comes to their finances or people that want some help.

Get any of Dave Ramsey's books, cds or dvds for only $10 plus shipping until December 18th.

If you go to, you can save $10 off your purchase of $30 or more by using Google Checkout - one poster at Slickdeals got 3 Dave Ramsey books for a total of $20.92 plus free shipping.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Can't see the forest for the trees sometimes

I was reading an article yesterday that talked about how to negotiate lower rates for cable television and how to get cheaper cell phones. Right off the bat, I read this statement:

"And according to the Yankee Group, the average household enjoying home-phone, cellphone, cable and Internet service paid more than $2,400 last year, up from $2,070 in 2001. "

So I'm sitting there thinking, "What idiot spends $2,400 a year on that stuff? That's insane! I only pay...." and I start to do the math, feeling very superior and very budget-conscious.

$96 a month to Time Warner for cable TV and high speed internet access = about $1,200 a year. Holy crap, that's halfway there!

About $95 a month to Verizon for our cell phone service = almost $1,200 a year! Jeez, I am the idiot! I am paying $2,400 a year for this junk!

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it occured to me that I hadn't yet added in our landline telephone. $25 a month to AT&T adds $300 a year to my total... which is now $2,700 a year!

I'm spending $2,700 a year... and mocking people who spend $2,400 a year! Oh, sweet humility.

Rule #1 of budgeting is usually to look at the big picture. Add up all those small expenses and suddenly, they're not so darn small anymore. How'd I miss this one? I've been so focused on cutting our grocery budget, yadda yadda yadda, that I didn't even think that much about expenses like these.

So yesterday I looked into some other options for our services. I'm dumping Time Warner as our cable and internet provider, which we were talking about doing anyways. I found out that AT&T offers a high speed internet service for $15 a month in our area. We're also switching to the Dish Network for our basic cable - even though we'll have to pay for the dish/antennae, it's still cheaper in the long run. By making these changes, we should be saving about $40 a month on cable and internet - which adds up to $480 a year.

Next I have to figure out our cell phone issue, which I dread doing... the plans are confusing and the customer service reps certainly don't try to help you sort it out. But it's next on my list.

$2,700 a year - whew! Ridiculous.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Just received my cheap eyeglasses

The other day I received the cheap eyeglasses I ordered. I love them! They are purple (more maroon, really) plastic frames, and are very similar to my existing pair in size and shape.

Total for the glasses was $9.99 with $4.85 for shipping. They shipped in a free hard case, which really protected them in the mail. I placed the order on November 22, they shipped on November 24, and I received them a week later on November 29.

You can't beat $15 for a pair of prescription glasses these days. Granted they're certainly not designer frames, but they're fun and flattering. I am very happy with my purchase, and am already thinking of ordering another pair after the holidays... the red ones or maybe even a retro pair, if I'm brave enough to pull that off.

Definitely check out if you're thinking of getting another pair. I'm really happy with my purchase.