Well, it's been a whirlwind week, as usual in my life. I really didn't even have time to write much this weekend, as lots of kid activities and family stuff going on.
So, I had really strong goals for the week, and I just did kind of ok. I certainly didn't spend like I used to, thanks to the funeral for the debit card. BUT...
On pay day, I took out $200, thinking (very unrealistically) that would last me 2 weeks.
It barely lasted 5 days. (Son needed cash for gas, and expenses for his trip - which he will pay back, but for now...)
Plus, there is no way we can get through a week without dinner out twice, and at least 2 lunches a week. That alone is at least $100. But what was nice is that I have no debit card receipts, and so I don't have to worry about what I spent on the debit card, or balancing my checkbook, because only the bills scheduled to come out of my account through bill pay are going to come out.
On the good side, I have delayed any mani/pedi's for a little while. I really need my hair colored, but I am going to wait another few weeks, until I just can't wait anymore. I STILL haven't gone to Starbucks, and when my mom and I were out together over the weekend, instead of eating out, we waited until we got home.
I'm not so organized yet, so sitting and calculating every time I save a few pennies or dollars hasn't made its way into my daily agenda, but, overall, I still feel pretty good that I have used restraint and more thought before carelessly incurring an expense. That is really what its about to me.
My other big success was that I actually heard my son express some ideas as to how he was going to save money this week, and just hearing that he is conscious of our spending, and appreciative of what it takes to make the money we do was positive to me.
He is starting his construction job Friday, and his first 2 paychecks go to me, to pay back for his outrageous cell phone bill while he was in Israel.
Lauren balanced her checkbook, and sent out $150 in payments from her own $$, which provides me with a bit of relief this month as well.
I haven't had time to write everything down, but I will this week, so I can go into next week a bit more organized, planned, and in control.
Because I'm really feeling extremely empowered this week, I want first to say thanks to everyone who is reading my posts, and supporting me in my efforts to really take control of my financial freedom. You are all the best.
And to give back - what I haven't posted much of is how I am a believer in the Law of Attraction. And because I am feeling so grateful, I want to give back by giving space to anyone who wants to play in my "creation" page...
So, I write this page with the intention of wishing great things for everyone! Please use this space to create/manifest anything you are wishing for to come your way.
Please dream big! Be creative! Take a moment to dream and forget about what is realistic or ordinary.
I declare the following intentions:
I am financially free, with a fully funded retirement fund that will provide me with security for the rest of my life.
I live in a world where race and religion no longer create boundaries. Where humanity is respected and we are each other's brothers and sisters.
Gas prices are below $1/gallon!
I am surrounded by love and compassion.
My children are safe, have a great education, are healthy, love life, and give back to the world what they receive.
My business is growing daily. Clients seek me out because I provide the best quality service they can find.
Money flows endlessly and abundantly to me!
I am my own best friend. I love life!!!!
(This is already true!)
Now - what intention will you create?
I can't believe it's been an entire work week since I started my financial lock-down!
I don't know where the week went - but I definitely do know where every dime of my money is! STILL IN MY BANK ACCOUNT!!
Yes - at the beginning of the week, I gave Trevor $25, and told him there was no more until next week (he did SO many chores in the house this week he really deserved the little bit of cash). And, he tutored a few hours, so he now has plenty of cash in his pocket, and he will only get $$ if he actually goes above and beyond normal every day chores.
Lauren brought home her first paycheck from camp. $768 for 2 weeks. Today, it gets deposited in her bank account, and tomorrow, we write out her checks together for her credit card payments. She will get $50 for herself for the weekend, and the upcoming week. I figure she'll pay about $300 to credit cards, put $200 in savings, and the rest in her checking account, so she can pull another $50 out next week.
I still haven't spent a dime. A tank of gas has lasted me through the week. I have just enough to get to work and back today, and I have very few plans for the weekend, other than a bit more organizing, and a few more no spend days. But, I will need to fill up on Sunday, and a tank of gas will have lasted me 8 days. WOW.
From the day I started, and it's been 9 days now, I haven't been to Starbucks, so I took $10 and put it in an envelope. I really wanted to make this my $20 challenge, so I went around the house pulling all the change out of my little hiding places, and came up with $68. I turned it in for cash last night, and now I have $78 in my envelope. This will be my $20 challenge $$, but I want to make it real dollars. So, each time I save I will try to turn that into real money by putting some in the envelope.
It will be a very quiet weekend, but a quiet, no panic, no fear life is exactly what I am looking for right now.
I know exactly where my money is - and where I am!
Ruben came over to the house Monday evening. It was a great meeting, and we are all on a plan.
It took me till now to just get a minute to get back on the computer, because I had plenty of homework after he left.
First - he gave me a great spreadsheet that helped me calculate which debt to pay first, how much, etc. And, as soon as one card is paid off, that exact payment gets applied to the next, and so on, and so forth. (www.themoneytrainer.com)I'm only posting the website because he and Jodi have been so helpful to so many women I know, and they are sincere, amazing people.
Next, he sat down with Lauren & I, and told her that she and I had to change our financial ways, and that she was going to be an equal partner in getting our family financially healthy. He stressed that this was not a punishment, but would set her on a path to financial freedom, which she will be able to see the results of her efforts very soon.
I had already put myself on lockdown on Thursday of last week, after checking account doomsday. Ruben said it was probably the hardest thing I had to do in a while, to go out to the mailbox and sort through more bounced check notices, but it actually wasn't so bad, there were only 4.
He looked at my last 3 months of bank statements and we had a funeral for the credit cards and the debit card. buh-bye!
We calculated there is $5290 in fixed payments/bills that are all automatically set up to be paid in my checking account. We changed a few of the dates to occur within 48 hours of my paycheck direct deposit, so there is only activity on this account twice a month, within a 72 hour period. (direct deposit, and then bill payment)
I had a separate account sitting dormant, so I added another direct deposit account of $250/month. (See $500 misc in budget)
That is my spending $$. I can either take a cash withdrawal on that account, use a debit card, or whatever, but I must keep a register for the bank activity on that (much fewer entries on this account, easier to work on ) and a memo pad for cash expenditures.
I am also opening in ING savings account, as many of you have recommended, a week from today when I am paid again.
I also asked my boss (Ruben's recommendation) to change the paycheck each month in which I receive overrides. I have a takehome salary of $1500/check. But I get overrides on my team production monthly, and right now I get that payment around the 16th of the month. That makes me upside down, because over $3800 of that $5290 comes out between the 1st and the 8th. That check averages about $3600, so I wouldn't be scrambling in the beginning of the month, and "rich" at the end. I hope he agrees.
I also needed to find a money buddy. Someone I could have instant access to, whenever I was considering spending more than $50 on something other than grocieries, auto, you know - the real needs. Like, a dress, a piece of jewelry, something for the kids, etc. I have to call them, and justify why I need it, before I spend it. Great idea, my best friend Mindy is going to LOVE telling me to put my money AWAY!
Lauren has her own budget, and will be making payments back to her credit cards during the summer. She gets $40 per week to have for herself, and the rest goes in her bank for her savings, and she has a payoff plan for her cards as well. She has $2k to pay off, and her dad and I will pay the other $2k, school expenses we committed to paying for originally.
He and I still need to work on her expenses for next school year, but that is for the next meeting with Ruben.
Trevor - He was told "get a job, or lose the car"...He's been out every day filling out applications. By the time he got home from Israel, and had a few days to recover, most summer jobs for kids here in town were filled. He really wants to work, but is having a hard time finding something. BUT - several kids are taking the SAT's, and Trevor got a 1500, so many families have hired him at $25/hour to tutor their kids. I'm satisfied for now. We are going on a few college tours this month and next, and he has tons of scholarship essays to write, so that will have to be his job for a while.
That's about it...I haven't spent a dime on anything other than 1 trip to the grocery store, and a tank of gas. I was trying to push off the dry cleaner until Friday, but I have a big meeting this morning at 10:30, and I really must have one of my suits. I will have to bite the bullet, and pay $53 to pick up my dry cleaning. I also have a business dinner tonight, which will be about $30, but I've already made dinner for the kids, and so that will come out of the already allocated $30 for wings we usually do on Wednesday.
So there I go! I can see how NOT spending money becomes a game, and actually can be a fun challenge to see how far you can go with it. I haven't had a panic attack all week, and though I've been a little down in the dumps (fighting hard with the ex suddenly) I'm going to be just fine.
Thanks everyone for keeping tabs on me.
I decided today's entries needed to be focused on the positive things I've done, because I seem to be cranky and overly sensitive the last few days, and I need to "appreciate" my way up the sliding scale of emotional happiness.
In 5 days -
I have not gone to Starbucks once.
Other than $62 in groceries, and a tank of gas ($47) I haven't spent any money at all.
I have brought my lunch to work the last 4 work days. I didn't go out at all over the weekend. I made my kids drive an extra 10 minutes out of their way to fill their car up on their FATHER'S credit card, instead of mine.
I took the $2/day ($10) I would have spent on Starbucks and put it in an envelope for a rainy day fund.
It's all a good start.
I'm really trying to learn about this $20 challenge...Thanks to all who have replied to me so far...
Question - where do you actually keep this $$?
Do you keep separate actual bank accounts? Or do you have different envelopes/jars/piggy banks in your house?
Oh, this little bugger has been my greatest downfall, I am sure. But, with all of the great advice, and VERY wise, frugal people here, I am curious to hear your take on debit cards.
Long before my life got so hectic, I used to just go to the ATM, and take out how ever much cash I needed at one time, and try to make it last.
Then, Microsoft money came out, and I decided that in order to better "track" where I was spending, and on what, that I should use my debit card for everything, and never carry cash.
Well, I end up using my debit card for anywhere from 2-10 transactions per day. AND I have most of my bills set up on automatic payment from Wachovia, so there is a constant stream of $$ going out of my account, and no way to stay on top of it, without logging on every day, and well, I definitely don't have time to do that every day (and my subconscious stops me when I do)
So - what is the best way to handle the little expenses? Cash? And what do you use your debit card for? And how frequently do you use it? And how do you keep track of everything coming in and going out?
Tomorrow I'm meeting with Ruben. I've told the majority of my family...Mom, Dad, Sisters, even the ex, that I'm meeting with a financial planner tomorrow, and it will be my first day on financial lock-down.
I'm actually looking forward to it. Not being limited by what I can do, because in general, I don't do much - but...by knowing that my expenses and spending are under control. That I don't have to fear the mailbox, or logging on to my accounts.
One thing that I actually have never learned is saving over time, and the process of delayed gratification. I'm looking forward to that, and the one thing I see here on this site is that everyone is very good at planning, and saving. I love seeing someone put $10 in their "laptop" jar, because I know by reading these posts that people actually get to go out and buy that item knowing the money was allocated just for that.
Instead, I wait until there's a whole bunch of money in my account (a bonus, or just a surplus) and I go spend the lump sum, and forget that next month I have a shortfall, and BOOM - there goes the checking account again. I HATE THAT. I am committed to never having that happen again.
Now that we have that clear -
I am amazed at how many people actually care that I'm writing this blog, and have written me with advice and support. THANK YOU.
But, I don't see many people here from South Florida, so I think it's important that I clarify again a little about who I am, and what my goals are.
South Florida is a very high cost of living, and I live in one of the most costly areas in South Florida. Our average FPL bill is several hundred dollars. The kids here wear designer clothes, drive designer cars (yes, at 16), have everything handed to them, and women spend ENDLESS $$$ on LOOKING GOOD.
That's NOT me, nor is it my family.
But - let's set the expectation. I'm never going to have a $40 electric bill. I won't have a $10 cable bill, and I most likely will continue to spend money on manicures and pedicures, nice hair cuts, technology, etc. because I do make enough money to do that AND save at the same time.
The objective is to get it all under control. There are SO many areas that I can cut back on, and will never feel the pinch. There are ways that I can save that I won't feel limited, and will feel rewarded and balanced for having done it the right way.
I can teach my kids that you can make money and have nice things, and save and plan for rainy days and retirement, but it takes control and discipline. It's more the way I spend it, than how much that needs revising. I just want to be realistic, and still get the support and comraderie that I have already felt here on this site.
So, I'm going to take the most important piece of advice from everyone, and write down my goals. I must create realistic, achievable goals, but ones that will make a difference in my life. I need to see even in a week or two that I'm making progress, because even though I realize the value of delayed gratification - I'm an instant gratification kind of girl. (haven't you figured that out yet?)
So, here's the fun part - How it comes in, and where it goes...
Monthly net Income:
Job salary (50k annually) $3,000
Commission (not consistent) 1,000
Child Support 1,000
Side business 500
Phone (land line) 70
Cell (all 3 of us) 260
FPL (electric) 300
Student loan 340
Credit Cards 390
Gym membership 90
Covering Lauren's expenses 1,100
Gas (3 of us) 500
Ok, no wonder I have nothing left, and have gone through 30k in savings in 3 years.
Lauren's full tuition, etc. aren't even in here - there are sorority dues, school expenses, etc. that she is going to have to help pay for next year.
She is working full time this summer and paying down her credit cards and paying me back for some things she owes. (So, I'm not totally an enabler here..)
But, no doubt, I provide her with way too much, and she and her brother are going to have to come up with some assistance. Once I do that, I should be able to pay down some of the debt, and increase the savings.
Let's be honest -
I haven't fully recovered from this debacle with my checking account, because I still haven't logged on to see just exactly how much damage I have done.
Nor have I gotten the mail for 3 days.
I'm trying to be understanding, but firm, with myself, and this morning is the first moment I've had to myself, so I'm giving myself the morning to get clear, make my commitments, set my goals, and get everything ready for Ruben for Monday night.
But - by the end of the day, I will rectify the remainder of this damage. No matter how little I have left of my paycheck, or how unstable things are at this point, I know that tomorrow will be better because I will be on a better track, with clear goals and real boundaries, and a support system to help me stay on track.
I have a really clear picture, though of what my income is, and my expenses are. I need to see my balances, so, I'm going to start by putting this all out here, for me and everyone else to see.
Cash - Probably about $1,000 (will know better when I log on later)
Car #1 - 2003 Volvo S60 - $15,000
Car #2 - 2002 Nissan Altima - $11,000
Car #3 - 2003 Saturn Ion - $ 8,000
CAP Account $ 1,000
Total Assets: $36,000
Capital One $ 3,000
First National 800
Citifinancial (rooms to go) 200
Tires Plus 450
School Loan 36,000
BOA Volvo loan 15,000
Total debt: $ 57,950
Yeah, so I see that student loan is killing me. But the trouble is, there's not a lot of room in my $$ in/$$ out budget to get much paid down - until I get Lauren to pay much of her own expenses.
$$ in/out to follow...
One of those wonderful people I asked for help from was my friend Jodi. She is a beautiful person inside and out, and she heard my pain. Her husband is a financial planner, and she sent him over to meet me at 7am the next morning.
Just talking to Ruben about what I do and how I got here was amazing. He reminded me that my dilemma is not uncommon, and that I'm really in much better shape than many.
I have relatively little debt. I make over 100k a year, but only owe about 6k on credit cards. I have only my one car loan, but a pretty sizeable student loan from when I went back to school.
I've bought my children 2 cars, and I pay for all their gas and insurance, and expenses. I live in a very nice house ( I rent) in a nice neighborhood so my children can go to the best schools in the area, I have paid for my daughter's first year in college on my own, and just helped my son's dream come true, by sending him to Israel for 8 weeks to complete his junior semester at AMHSI. (For this he got over 7k in scholarships, but I paid 1k and his spending $$)
I don't have a lot of nice clothes, I don't shop indiscriminately, I just love to give and do for my kids. They know I love them, so it's time to stop the need to show them by spending $$ on them. It's time to still teach them that we show ourselves love by being good to ourselves, and making good choices.
I am committed to making good choices. That is exactly where I stop - and where I start.
I would do anything for my children. I chose to leave my marriage, and I'm sure that even though I openly discuss how and why I chose to leave, I still have a lot of guilt about breaking up their family. I have a lot of guilt about my ex, and the fact that he really loved his family, and he's lonely and misses us, even today.
I'm probably driven to give by this guilt, and it's a powerful drive inside that makes us go beyond reason, enabling me to justify the spending, because it feels good, and regardless of the balance in my bank account - aren't I entitled to feel good?
Last week was the straw that broke the camel's back. Nothing any more unusual than the past, but a few weeks go by that I don't pay attention to my balance, but I'm sure there's at least several hundred dollars in my account.
Till last Wednesday. 14 notices come in one day in the mail, telling me my account was now overdrawn by over $1000. 2 days left till pay day, and my check is going in via direct deposit, and I probably won't have more than $1500 left to pay over 3k worth of bills. I come home stressed out from the day, and the stress of the mail is more than I can handle. One minute I'm happy and laughing with the kids, the next I'm crying hysterically, with nobody to turn to or ask for help.
Asking for help - that's something I've never done. Important to know - I would heal the world before I healed myself. I would give to anyone who needed me, and I probably give too much. When the week gets too crazy, stressfull, etc. - I block out where I am financially, because it's too difficult to carry on my shoulders. And because I'm alone - nobody has to know.
But, this week is different. I finally feel the nudge by whatever any of us call our source - God. I am suddenly filled with the need to tell as many people as I can what I do, and ask for help from anyone who can give it. Because I'm all I have. I don't want to work till the day I die, and I have the tools to be successful.
So - where do I start? And how do I stop?
So, As I said - there are a whole lot of stories about how I got here. But they don't matter, cuz they're just stories. The fact of the matter is, I'm a complete dichotomy.
I'm the person friends and family look to for guidance, advice, leadership, stability, and more. On the outside, I'm completely competent, and most of my friends would give me their worldly possessions to care for, thinking I would of course do all the right things.
For the most part, I've done a lot of right things. But, I've done quite a few wrongs, that I keep hidden in a closet. I probably have quite a bit of shame about them, so the only way to exorcise these demons is to put them out there, make sense of them, make good choices and move on.
I don't know where this comes from, but I have always lived in financial denial. In college, I went away with a checking account, and wrote checks regardless of how much $$ was in them. When I couldn't keep up with the bounced check charges in one account, I went to another bank, opened a new account, and repeated the pattern, until no bank would have me.
When I married my ex, I was responsible for the $$. Even before the wedding, his parents gave us $2500 towards our expenses, and somehow it got spent before I ever used a dime of it on the wedding. I couldn't account for where any of it went, and spent years lying about what I did with it. I couldn't admit - I just spent it, and didn't have a clue on what or where.
Through the years, we went through so many highs and lows. In 1991, the worst year of our lives, I actually had to go to HRS and stand in line for food stamps. I was raised with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I was in line for food stamps. It was the most demeaning experience of my life. But even then, when we had an extra dollar, we spent it. If I had $5, I spent $7. If I had $1000, I spent $1200, if I had 30k, I spent 40. And so on..
Living on a budget didn't happen until there was no money left to spend. And getting close to that point of having no money left, brought me to the memory of the food stamp line, and so the way to avoid that feeling was to avoid logging on to my bank account, and getting my balance. If I continued to spend, I wouldn't be reminded that I was close to no money. And then the mail would come, with lots of little notices from the bank, saying I had gone way too far.
Each time, over the years, I pledge to change. But, the next day, there I am, taking the kids out to dinner, even after spending $100 on groceries for the week. Going for a mani/pedi, even when I have no idea if I have a dime in my bank account. This certainly isn't normal - or is it?
Here I am, 45 years old. Divorced 5 years ago from a really great man who just wasn't supposed to be my husband, and raising 2 amazing teenagers at 19 and 17.
I make a great living, or at least many would agree. I didn't always, but I went back to school with 2 babies, got 2 degrees and a world of education, and finally made something of the brains I had been given, but never really used.
I have great parents, who gave me everything I needed - when they could - except an education about how to handle money.
I could write for hours about how my life with both my parents and my ex helped to create an amazingly intelligent woman who can't keep hold of a dime, but the least I can do right now is be completely accountable, and look forward - not back.
So, here I am. A pretty good job that provides for me (but I don't love it). A side business I love, but am trying to get up and running, a child in her 2nd year of college, and a gifted one about to choose an Ivy League school that I can't even think of paying for, a checking account overdrawn by $1,000, and about to begin a relationship with a financial planner who I am committed to having help me on a new path to financial righteousness.
Here is my story...