The Finish Line!

BALANCE

The moment is finally here! The last payment towards my credit card debt has been sent and the balance is right where I like it: $0.00! That’s a far cry from the original $1650.00 that I owed, let me tell you.

I don’t even know what to say. This has been a tremendous experience. I’ve learned about budgeting, focus, determination, sacrifice, and responsibility during this project. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about the things that really matter to me, and the best ways to go about decluttering little areas of my life that needed to be downsized and restructured. I also learned how to handle the frustration that comes with tackling a project such as this, when the finish line seems so far away.

I knew going into this project that it wasn’t going to be easy. I was taking on a big hurdle in a very short amount of time with no safety net to speak of.

It’s surreal… wanting something so badly, having to slowly and painfully work towards attaining it, and then crossing that finish line in one quick step. I feel so many things today–accomplished, relieved, and content. Now I can focus all of my energy on other financial goals: emergency savings, investing opportunities, owning a home, and a retirement fund further down the road. More importantly, I can finally start putting into practice what I’ve learned in the past six months. I cannot wait to start.

Incentives

In the last six months I’ve been diligent in paying off my credit card debt, as you all know, and during this time I haven’t been able to purchase anything unless I really need it. Groceries, toiletries, gas, some clothing for my new job, and food have been my main purchases during this time. I have gone to the movies a few times as well but mostly I’ve rented or watched them online in order to keep my sanity.

All this Not Spending has left me thinking about nothing else but Spending. It’s hard not to think about certain things I’ve wanted for a long time but keep having to push back. At least until I am completely debt free. This mental list has been working as an incentive for me. If you pay off all of your debt, then you can have this is my little mantra. It keeps me focused, determined, and it works as a “physical” reminder. I’ve already talked about financial freedom, sacrifice, and keeping the right attitude, but this is a little different. This is seeing my results, my efforts, become real and tangible. I think it’s just as important to reward yourself for your efforts as it is to keep focused and have a good perspective.

And I plan to reward myself pretty damn well. On the list so far:

  1. A laptop.
  2. A comforter set for my bed.
  3. TV Season DVD’s.
  4. An e-reader.
  5. Plenty of beauty products that I’ve held back on.

And the best part is that all of these items will be paid in cash. They won’t all be bought at once, of course, but that’s not the point. The point is that I no longer have this imaginary person breathing down my neck telling me I can’t afford it. I no longer have to worry about what is a Need and what is a Want. I can save for the future without looking back at the past. It’s a new kind of freedom and one I hope I have for a very long time. It’s only a matter of time.

Another Little Update

Things have been quiet around these parts but never fear: I am here to bore you with yet another update!

Current debt total: $334

In a month I will be 100% debt free.(!!!) And then I can officially stop talking about it! Sometimes I bore myself with all this debt talk but like I’ve said a thousand times before, focus is good! It’s been a long time coming, you guys. But the end is finally, truly, near.

This blog will stay up long after my big Declutter process is over, which isn’t too long away. I won’t be updating anymore after that. However, I still have a few mini-projects that I really want to get done, I just haven’t had the extra cash laying around, and I don’t want to stop officially posting until I get those done. So I’ll still be around, probably until the middle of January.

Talk to you guys then :)

Finally Getting Caught Up!

Next week, something awesome will happen.

I will get paid, and then after paying all of my bills, including paying down my debt, I will have plenty of money left over.

Now, this might not sound like much to most of you, because you’d sort of expect to have money left over after you’ve just gotten paid, but I’ve had to cut down my hours at the restaurant since I started a new job in October someplace else and I’ve been playing catch up ever since.

At one point, I had $40 to my name after I paid everything down and that was very frustrating for me, especially because I’ve always worked hard to never get to that point. But I’ve been very strict about paying down my debt, even when I’m almost broke, and I will not waver until it is 100% paid off. This past month was just another little test and I seem to have passed because I am all caught up now and feeling better than ever. Just two more months to go.

I’ve also been shopping around for used cars again. I’ve talked to a credit union and they have a deal going on right now that allows you to postpone loan payments for 90 days. This is a perfect opportunity. In 90 days I will be debt free, and I can then use some of the money that would have gone towards my old debt into this new car payment without having to move my budget around too much. Ideally I would love to just ignore the car buying situation altogether. I really enjoy driving a car that I don’t have to pay for every month. But my car is old, getting to the point where it’s beyond repair, and I’ll be sorry to replace it. It’s lasted a good 9 years without any serious mechanical problems, but I think now is the best time to buy a car and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity.

Progress + Recent Gems

I have a few more mini-projects to tackle, and I’ve mentioned how they’ve been put on hold while I gather the funds, and then it occurred to me that I could just make do with something I already have for the Landing Strip mini-project. So I should be working on that tomorrow night and hopefully be able to post a little update on that very soon. I still need to buy a few things, but it won’t be as expensive as what I originally had in mind.

These past three months have been challenging, but rewarding. I have two months left to make credit card payments and I will officially be debt free… until I buy a car, that is. I really wish I didn’t have to get a car, because I would love to not have to pay money every month for five years, but unfortunately I need a car to get around and the one I’m driving is on its last legs. And I really want to invest in a car that will last me a good 7-10 years, so I have to stick to newer cars. That will be my only debt, however, until I decide to buy a home. Both are big purchases that require a lot of thinking.

I’ve been meaning to update with a Recent Gems post and just haven’t gotten around to it. Here are some articles that interested me these past couple of weeks:

Retiring Wealthy On An Average Salary: The Story Of The Sensible Social Worker

Jane M Buri, a school social worker, spent nearly four decades fighting to keep kids in class. She tracked students to their homes, found them shoes, meals, jackets, and returned the truants to their teachers. She never married, never had children, never missed a day of work. All the while, she was quietly building a small fortune. Buri died at 84 with $1.4m to her name.

6 Shopping Tips Without Coupons

The Cabin – Sweeden

A gorgeous cabin in the middle of the woods.


Deal or No Deal? Comparing Dollar Stores to Walmart & Others

…[L]ast week I decided to spend a few hours and do a little comparison shopping in order to try and find out some of the best bargains dollar stores have to offer – and perhaps sniff out a few items that you might be better off getting somewhere else.

Thoughts on: Cheap Things You Never Use Are No Bargain

This post really got me thinking earlier this week. In his blog post Cheap Things You Never Use Are No Bargain, J.D. Roth talks about how he’s paid a lot of money trying to lose weight:

As you know, I’ve struggled with both diet and exercise for decades. I’ve had success now and then, but mostly I’ve failed. And I’ve spent a lot of money to fail. I’ve purchased weights and DVDs and exercise balls and gym memberships and fitness machines and fancy shoes and, well, a lot of Stuff. Most of this has been a waste of money. Why? Because I never use it.

Eventually he figured out that buying all these things weren’t helping him lose weight at all. So he tried something else:

… [I]nstead of buying new Stuff, I started finding exercise equipment for free (or cheap). For example, when my neighbors decided to simply give away their exercise bike, I took it. And when they gave away their other exercise equipment, I took that too. But you know what? I saved money, sure, but I was just as fat and sedentary as I always was — and now I had a lot more exercise equipment taking up space around the house. Free Stuff is still Stuff.

He ended up finding a gym that helped him lose weight and keep it off. The catch? This gym is $200 a month. Some might say that this is a ridiculous amount, but it works for J.D. and he’s lost 35 pounds because of it. He says it makes the $200 worth it. And since he can afford it, and is actually getting results by making this investment, he sees it as frugal.

I agree with him and his final decision. It’s quite common to opt for cheaper alternatives and a lot of the times these cheaper alternatives end up costing more in the end. To me it all boils down to mindful spending. I think it all ties together.

A simple example: I decide I need an eyeliner. I purchase a very cheap eyeliner for $2 that does not last so I keep reapplying it and going through it quickly. So I go back and purchase another eyeliner, this one a little more expensive at $5. It lasts two hours more than the last one, but is not as long-lasting as I hoped so I keep reapplying that one as well. So I go back and purchase one for $10 that lasts all day and doesn’t need to be reapplied. In the end I spent $17 when I could have just spent $10. I lost money, time, and I created more clutter storing all these items that I never used or didn’t work.

I’ve applied the above example to other things I’ve ended up losing money on: candles that don’t smell, shoes that don’t last, pens that give out after three uses, fake jewelry that goes bad after a couple of uses, and many many many more. At the time I’m saving money by going for the cheapest option, but in the long run that money goes to waste. Instead of making small investments I wasn’t mindful with my spending.

I think this is a tough lesson to learn. I compare it to breaking a bad habit. I’m the type of person constantly on the lookout for sales, saving an extra dollar, and trying to make the right choice when I shop, but I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes I have to get past that initial hesitation and consider making an investment that won’t end up costing me money or time in the long run. And that’s an investment worth making every time.

Mini-Projects Update

Slowly but surely I have been working on my new desk area. I’ve been taking my time with it because most of my budget is going towards paying down my debt so my purchases have been few and far between. Because of this all of my mini-projects have taken a backseat for now.

The desk has been purchased and built, and now all I have left to do is purchase one more item. As soon as I do that I’ll be hanging up some frames and organizing a few accessories and the desk will be finished. I’ll post a photo of the finished result as soon as that’s all done, and that will be my next Mini-Projects post.

I’ve wanted to update the blog with this bit of information because I’ve felt a little frustrated these past couple of weeks since I’ve been working with a tighter budget and sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to finish the mini-projects I’ve set for myself. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the years that I’ve been blogging it’s that writing keeps me focused.

It’s been almost three months since I started Life, Decluttered, and it has helped me immensely as I work steadily towards my financial goals. I’m very proud of what I’ve done here so far.

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