Debt Hangover

The last couple of weeks I was so relieved to not have any debt, that I completely forgot that I was supposed to be controlling my spending.

Don’t worry. I didn’t get back into debt. I did, however, get lazy, spent too much on eating out, and didn’t save much.

I really think I should give myself a bit of a break from the PF save craze. Not stop completely, obviously- that would be going backward. However, I’ve been limiting myself to essentials since March. I have highlights grown down to my ears and ratty old clothes that need to be replaced. I also need new contact lenses, work shoes, to pay my step-dad back for my share of my mom’s birthday present, and to fix my phone screen- it has been shattered since April, and I’m starting to be able to shake shards loose. Basically, I need to shake off this hangover left from my debt and realize that IT’S OKAY TO SPEND MONEY AS LONG AS I HAVE IT. I’ll continue to make good choices, but I realized I was starting to hyperfocus on my net worth, which is never healthy.

That being said, I will still post- just not quite as often, because there’s less to say. For 2 years my life was all wrapped up into the fact that I had this consumer debt on my back. I guess I need to figure out who I am without the debt before I can move on from it!

So, I’ll post here maybe once a week, I’m still on twitter, and I’m also contributing over at Chic Darling as their book reviewer. I’m hoping to be back going strong once I’ve had a little vacation time.

Sayonara for now!

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Sacrificing Cash For Location

…by how many crack deals you’ll see.

Since I’ve moved, I’m not really as shy about sharing where I live anymore. In fact, I’m actually pretty excited to announce that I now live in Oshawa, Ontario.

Oshawa is a city of about 150 000 and is pretty much as far east in the GTA as you’re going to get, situated between my hometown of Whitby and Clarington on the other side. If anyone remembers Jann Arden’s gaff a few months ago, Oshawa is the city she called “the middle of nowhere”. The economy is mainly supported by the GM plant in the south end of town, but they keep closing auto lines and laying people off. The city has the highest teen pregnancy rate, violent crime rate, and prostitution rate in Durham Region. The poverty rate in the south end is through the roof and in the areas surrounding downtown it’s almost guaranteed that there is a drug dealer on every street. It’s also home to Durham College (my school) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in the Northern part of the city, which is a lot nicer and nicknamed “Poshawa”.

I was born in Stouffville (north of Toronto), but my parents moved to Whitby when I was 2. I spent 19 years in Whitby, if you count the year I lived in Waterloo going home every couple of weekends. Frankly, growing up in Whitby caused me to become a sheltered little brat. When I went into Oshawa, it was only to go to their mall because ours sucked. When I started driving, I’d lock my doors every time I drove through the city. So when M and I started our apartment search in May, we were skeptical of the dirty Shwa. When M got nowhere finding an apartment in my hometown and suggested we at least look east, it took a little convincing. However, now that I’ve been in Oshawa a couple of weeks, I have to admit that I love it. The cost of living is a bit cheaper, we picked a quiet area with a lot of seniors, and the rent is dirt cheap at $875 a month. The same apartment in Whitby would cost around $1200, just because of the location. As a plus, there have been no problems since I moved in (beyond coming home to see 9 cruisers, K9 and SWAT sitting outside my building, but that’s a hilarious story for another time).

Anyone from the GTA reading this is most likely laughing at me, but it’s true. I’m really proud to live here. There are some great people here, even if the city is a bit rough around the edges. Honestly, in certain lighting, I’d almost call Oshawa beautiful.

This pleasant surprise really made me think about the sacrifices people make for location. As far as Toronto is concerned, people try to stay out of Scarborough if possible while looking for a home. Depending on the area, you’re spending an extra $200 to $500 a month to live elsewhere in the city. Toronto is an extreme example as there’s been an increase in gang related violence in the past couple of months, but I’ve noticed that many people pass up housing opportunities based on an area’s reputation- even if the area really isn’t that bad. At the same time, others really don’t care where they live as long as they get the best price. I’m somewhere in the middle; I’m willing to move into a slightly less desirable area to cut my rent expense. At the same time I’m willing to spend enough money to not end up living at Jane and Finch. It’s a fine balance between being a miser and being too paranoid, and I think I mastered it the first time out on my own.

So out of curiosity, now I’m asking you: do you insist on spending more money to be in a better neighbourhood, or are you happier when your rent is as low as possible?

Back in Black, Baby!

My debts are paid, 2 months ahead of schedule, and I couldn’t be happier today. I actually sprouted some tears.

Thank you all for the support. This is such an amazing community that I’m glad to be a part of.

I’ll be back tomorrow to start blogging about how awesome being debt-free feels; I can’t even describe it right now. It’s too overwhelming.

Bigger and better things await!

My Stupidest Financial Decision

Now that I’m almost done with my debt, I’m feeling pretty smart as far as finances go. I’ve got a plan and I protect my own interests now. Clearly, I wasn’t always like that. There are many tales that would illustrate just how dumb I used to be, but this one is the worst.

See, before I dated Jay, I was with this other dude on and off for about two years. Let’s just call him Douchebag. Douchebag was always borrowing money off me, asking me to buy him stuff, insisting that I give him rides, etc. My close friends kept telling me that he was just using me and that I needed to stop seeing him completely, but I didn’t listen. He became abusive, physically and emotionally, and somehow I still never clued in that this wasn’t normal.

I guess hindsight is 20/20, but I don’t know how I never saw that he just liked my money- if I wasn’t paying or driving him somewhere, he ignored me completely, even forcibly kicked me out. When I’d get upset and say it was done, he’d call me and say sweetly that he was sorry and he would never do it again; my heart would melt, I’d go over there, and the whole cycle would resume a couple of days later. Douchebag just kept me dangling until I  had something he wanted or a lot of cash, and then he’d bully me or coerce me into “lending” him money for drugs or alcohol. All of my friends from that group were from families with low socioeconomic status, and none of them had jobs- so when I got credit card #1 in September of 2010, he suddenly came down with a fresh interest in me.

This next part is painful to talk about, because I was SERIOUSLY stupid. Please keep in mind that this is 19-year-old Meghan we’re talking about, not 21-year-old Meghan. I’ll just cut down to the basics.

  • Douchebag had an Xbox.
  • Douchebag had no points on his Xbox account.
  • Douchebag asked if I could set up my credit card on his Xbox so we could rent and watch a movie.
  • I wasn’t sure, and said no at first.
  • Douchebag promised to only use it when I said it was okay.
  • I relented, because I loved him and he loved me so nothing bad could happen, right?

Without two weeks, my card was maxed out. I had had a balance of $700, and he spent $250. In two weeks. On video games.

At first I thought it was a mistake. There were so many charges, but they were all so close together that they hadn’t posted yet. It was only reflected in my available balance. I called the credit card company, and they told me they had at least 12 charges coming in from Microsoft. I asked if they could block incoming charges, they said no; all they could do would be to cancel that card. They said that unless I charged him with fraud, they couldn’t do much because I had allowed him to make one authorized charge while I was there. I yelled at him, but all he did was tell me I was stupid for trusting him and that it was a lesson learned, because he wasn’t paying it back. Then, he slammed the door on my face.

And guess what? I never charged Douchebag. I never sued him. In fact, I stayed with him, spending at least another $2000 on him, being abused continually, for another 6 months. I didn’t break that bad habit until Jay came along in April of 2011. For those who remember Jay, although he didn’t have money either, he at least didn’t see me as a walking ATM.

The funny thing is that I still talk to Douchebag now and then, even hang out from time to time (NEVER alone though, with mutual guy friends), and he’s doing better for himself. He moved, he’s working, and I actually got a full-fledged apology from him for everything he put me through, openly admitting to completely regretting treating me so terribly for so long. I’ll never see the money he owes me, and I’m resigned to that. For someone who will be working at minimum wage for the rest of his life, that’s a lot of cash. I’d rather keep my sanity and live my life as well as I can, instead of dwelling on the past.

Most people who know this story don’t understand why I forgave him and am still on good terms with him, but it’s actually quite simple. I’m a believer in fate. Everything happens for a reason, whether we realize it or not. Having to deal with that has made me the person I am today, and has created someone who is resilient, accomplished, and selfish for the right reasons. Frankly, I know this guy is going to have a miserable life just by looking at him. Anything I could do won’t change that. So I go on with my own life, and continue to beat my own expectations over and over again.

What did I learn from this? Never let ANYONE touch my credit cards, stand up for my rights, and don’t expect someone else to save me from myself- no one cares about me more than me.

What has been your worst mistake financially?

New Debt-Free Savings Plan

Next weekend, I will officially be out of debt.

After I get extremely drunk off of (free) wine and most likely start crying of joy, I have the rest of my life ahead of me. I’m sure the debt hangover will last a couple of weeks, so I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to split my money for the next couple of years. The numbers above were without interest, but I figured it wouldn’t matter since interest rates are abysmal, and it’s only for the first 3 years anyway.

Of course there will be times where I won’t be able to save this much, and it’s also possible that I’d get a raise within the next 3 years, in which case I’ll add the extra into my savings. It’s very likely that the numbers won’t  match these on August 1st, 2015. But, my rock bottom goal that there’s no way I won’t hit is a net worth of at least $15000 by 24. If I can do that, awesome. If I can do better, fantastic.

What do you guys think?

Move In Update

The past few days have been very productive, but pretty crazy.

First off, I LOVE the apartment. Considering M picked it without me and Friday was the first time I’d seen it, I got pretty lucky.

There are obviously a few hiccups and drawbacks. Bell got there to install the satellite and internet as we were moving in, and told us that we couldn’t get our satellite on our side of the building- they pretty much shrugged and said “too bad”. If we hadn’t addressed this issue before we moved in, then it would’ve been an unfortunate problem that was no one’s fault. However, when we first decided to move into this building a month and a half ago, Bell swore up, down, and sideways that we could get satellite where we were located, right down to the direction of our balcony. Needless to say, we’re pretty pissed off. Our internet, however, works.

We have a bathroom door that won’t close because the latch was painted over, and M’s closet bar is bent to the point where it’s no use. It’s also seriously hot in the apartment. At first I wanted to try and suffer through July and August without having to get an air conditioner, thinking that we could use fans and keep the windows open. When I had to take two cold showers Saturday and started sweating through my clothes right after getting out, I was at the end of my rope with the heat. After a long, sleepless night I went to Future Shop and forked out $200 for an air conditioner. Because of my heart condition, being in extreme heat for too long is dangerous for my health. It’s not just me we have to worry about as well- we also have a dog who stays at home all day, and knowing how unbearable this heat has been for M and I, I can’t imagine how hot poor Rexx was the first couple of days. To save on electricity, we’ve decided to keep it on low during the day and turn it off at night. We also got an efficient model, which should help.

Speaking of electricity, when I called the power company yesterday to take responsibility for the apartment they decided they either needed a deposit of $95 which would be given back with interest at the end of 2 years of good payment habits, or a credit check which added a $20 fee to our first bill. Although the PF blogger in me was screaming “TAKE THE INTEREST, DON’T SPEND THE MONEY, MORE INQUIRIES ARE BAD”, I just had them run a credit check. I didn’t have the cash on hand to comfortably take half the deposit out of my budget (the air conditioner was bought with money given to me by my grandfather for emergencies), I knew M didn’t have it either, and frankly I didn’t feel like giving the power company a loan. I know they’re worried about me not paying, but I knew I’d pass the check and I’d rather be out an extra $10 than have to wait two years for $47.50 plus interest at a low rate. I also got an extra $165 from the Ontario government for my Trillium Benefit, and I’m not yet sure what I want to do with it. Who am I kidding, it’ll probably go down on debt. Last week I literally deposited a $5 bill found while packing, just to transfer it to my credit card. That’s how badly I want to be debt-free.

I’m also trying a new diet (doctor approved, of course) on which all I can eat are low-carb vegetables and lean meats, but I can have as much meat and leafy greens as I want. The point is to rev up the metabolism by eating a select but balanced list of foods for the first couple of weeks, before introducing other foods back into the diet slowly. In the past day, I’ve dropped two pounds (weighing in both times first thing in the morning, as weight fluctuates throughout the day). I used to eat fast food constantly, and even when I stopped spending I stress-ate a LOT. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was about 11, and the skinniest I’ve been since my freshman year of high school was 170 pounds in senior year, during an unhealthy alcohol binge where I rarely ate. It’ll be interesting to see how we handle the food budget now with just the basics. The meats will definitely be the most expensive chunk of what we spend.

Anyways, that’s my update! How was everyone else’s weekend?

My Move-in Budget

This is technically a couple weeks late, but I just hammered in the last details today. It doesn’t come into effect until tomorrow. I decided that I can get back into properly budgeting now that I’ll be getting back into a routine. For my last few paychecks, the entire amount allocated to expenses, savings and debt. I haven’t spent more than $50 on myself since the beginning on June, and it was necessary.

According to this budget, if I’m careful I’ll only be spending 53% of my income. The other 47% will be split between a little savings towards an emergency fund, and annihilating my debt.

My roommate is a superstar and got us a great rate for satellite and internet, which is being installed on Saturday morning. I’ve decided to cancel my Netflix, since we’re paying for satellite now. I was cool to go without TV, but M has a contract that we have to continue or pay a hefty termination fee- if we’re buying, we at least want something in return. To her credit, she did a LOT of shaving off of her channel list to cut down our expenses. I’ll still stream the occasional episode of Degrassi, but I won’t really need Netflix anymore, so why keep it?

As another plus, since my first 6 weeks of rent is already paid in full, I’ll have an extra $437.50 going towards my credit card debt this month. That puts me on track to be completely paid off by July 26th. If that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, I’ll definitely be debt free by August 16th, a month and a half ahead of schedule.

HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

The day my debt is paid, all you will see is a plethora of caps-lock ridden tweets on my twitter, and one youtube video posted here. That is a promise.