May Check-In: Playing in the Deep End

Deeper and Deeper before Better and Better

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Desire’e Robertson via Pexels

After a brief, sweet taste of what it will feel like to be debt free, this month marks the beginning of the end of the beginning. Or something.

We’re $17,000 deeper in debt.

But we have a new roof.

Oh, and the new debt is interest-free until October 2020. Which is good, because this month I will apply for another $30,000 in loans to get my son through junior year….and in all likelihood I will do it again next spring.

So while I’ve been delighting in our new solvency — a little emergency money, nice clean credit cards that we pay off each month by the due date — everything else is flaming into ash.

The numbers.

Total debt: $451,200 ($2,351 less than in April).

Credit card & consumer debt, including our car loan: $6,797 (about $400 less than in April, and mostly our car loan and an interest-free credit card debt we have to pay off in 2020).

Net worth: $124,000. Well, that’s dismal, but not much below the average for someone my age. Which is also dismal.

Girding our loins, and all that.

I’ve known since we started to address our debt that this would be a long haul. You have to take encouragement where you can. I’m really excited about our new relationship to consumer credit; it feels less abusive, more useful to us. We’re able to use the cards to gain micro-discounts through reward points, and the credit is there as a cushion in case of a real emergency. Meanwhile, our emergency savings, while still meagre, are stable.

This is increasingly important this summer, as my husband’s teaching stipend stops for three months and our income is cut to a third (ouch). I’m contemplating ways I can be really, really good to myself, avoid stress, stay upbeat, especially as I go through still another loan application this month (my third in about four months).

This recent Twitter conversation started by K. Wright of Money the Wright Way reminded me that there are lots of ways to invest in oneself and take care during the long, slow slog of money recovery.

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Follow the thread; some interesting answers.

Check-In on My 19 Goals for 2019

  1. Increase our saving rate to 10% by the end of the year (with a goal of 20% by the end of 2020). I’m just going to be super honest: I have no idea. I’ve been working 70+-hour weeks at work and I’d say we are probably maintaining or slipping just a little. I’d ballpark it at 4%
  2. Make sure that every single debt goes down each month, if only by a dollar. Still happening.
  3. Get my credit card debt usage to 50% (it was 66% on January 1). I’m at 43% now because the roof loan is considered a credit card. So I am meeting but not much exceeding this target.
  4. In hard numbers, pay down a total of $12,000 in all debt; $6,000 in consumer debt, which includes a car loan. Again — overworked, so, so tired, no clue. I may also be in a bit of denial; though I feel generally good about how we handled the HELOC and the roof loan, and I feel optimistic about the school loans, that is a lot of psychic crud to take on, and maybe I just don’t want to look it square in the eye right now.
  5. Abolish two particularly annoying debts of $500 and $700 each. One is gone, and the other is at $400. Tick tock, tick tock….
  6. Save a total of $3,000 in emergency funds this year. Eh, we’re down around $800 from our high above $1,000, for a variety of reasons.
  7. Get a raise at work. Won’t happen till July, if then, but it’s looking more promising than it once did. I may be distancing my job from this blog soon because I’m only semi-anonymous. Suffice to say, if I can, I will.
  8. Find the best possible solution to two goals that could stress us further: a roof replacement and keeping my son in college. The roof is solved, for a $17,000 18-month interest-free period. Son’s college — I’m about to hold my breath and plunge in.
  9. Incur no more consumer debt this summer, which is our most difficult time. Dicey, but so far so good.
  10. Be more analog each day, and enjoy more hands-on pursuits like reading offline, playing cards and board games, journaling, and coloring. I have prioritized this more, spending more time off the phone and walking outside or lounging and reading.
  11. Get more of the 3 M’s: Music, Museums, and Movies (the one splurge we have kept is the trio of Hulu/Amazon Prime/Netflix; we’ll see if all three survive our budget hacking; for now, I plan to maximize our vice). We just devoured Good Omens. If you have not, you must.
  12. Perfect my handwriting, using the Spencer method, essentially a form of meditation for me. Gotta get back to this. I am gardening, which while very different, is similarly reconnecting my brain, body, and hands.
  13. Read more women and trans writers of color. I’m still reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, but I’m behind because of work, gotta get back to it.
  14. Memorize two poems I have loved for years, which is way harder than you’d think. They are Jane Kenyon’s “Happiness” and Jane Hirshfield’s “Rebus.” I’m still way behind on this.
  15. Have a holiday fund that includes money to give to charity and to have a New Year’s Day party in 2020. Haven’t yet started this.
  16. Prepare a financial advice document for my son that is relevant to his needs and puts him on a smart path to not fuck up like his mama did. Still behind on this. Definitely a summer project.
  17. Articulate and keep alive the ideas of one day dedicating time to teaching ESL, teaching in prisons, teaching to people who are caregivers, teaching to people without homes, studying herbal medicine, practicing mindfulness, and perhaps learning Reiki at last. What can I say? I still have it in mind.
  18. Have a garden plan and budget for spring 2020. I’ve planted clover and buckwheat to condition the soil, got some bricks on Freecycle to make a walkway, and have generally enjoyed these small hacks.
  19. Initiate contributions to my company’s HSA plan by September. Holding space for this.

Need to start a budget? Check out these different approaches.

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I’m a 50-something bohemian with a mountain of debt and regrets. Can I dig out before it’s all over? I brake for poets.

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