My February Check-in Has Me Dancing for Joy.
YOU GAIZ. OMG WOW.
We’ve lopped $5,500 off our massive debt so far. That’s only a piddling 1.21. percent of the journey, sure, but when you consider that in the previous nine months we never managed to go lower than $1,000 in reduction — and then always popped back up — this is unprecedented.
In all my years of addressing debt (too many to count), I have never had this kind of recovery in under six months, without some outside intervention. This we did all by ourselves, by scraping, trading, hustling, and denying ourselves stuff we really didn’t need.
So. Everything else I report this month is gonna be gravy.
- Increase our saving rate to 10% by the end of the year (with a goal of 20% by the end of 2020). Still hovering around 5.25%. It’d be higher if I counted debt reduction, but I am trying to just count real savings.
- Make sure that every single debt goes down each month, if only by a dollar. Still right on target for this, though I have to comment it is causing a lot of psychic wear and tear to watch us barely make a dent, owing to the amount of interest accruing as we slo-o-o-o-wly pay what we can. I know this Sisyphean task will get easier toward the end of the year, and — in the interest of transparency — we are waiting to hear back on a HELOC, so we might be shifting some debt there to capture a lower interest rate. Stay tuned.
- Get my credit card debt usage to 50% (it was 66% on January 1). I’ve reduced usage to 59% now, giving me a good chance of meeting or exceeding this goal this year. We’ll see what adding debt for the roof and/or my son’s college will do, however.
- In hard numbers, pay down a total of $12,000 in all debt; $6,000 in consumer debt, which includes a car loan. We are already more than HALFWAY to both goals in just the first two months of the year (I’m cheating a bit by using a September baseline)— the consumer debt figure is particularly arresting: $4,607 since we started in September. These figures may start to get complicated if we take out a new loan for the roof or A’s education this year. I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
- Abolish two particularly annoying debts of $500 and $700 each. Not yet. I can’t wait for this to happen. I may accelerate this process even though both of these are interest-free. Together, they stand at just over $1,000 right now.
- Save a total of $3,000 in emergency funds this year. We’ve got $1,193 right now. We had to use some of our cushion for unexpected expenses, so we’ve already tested the theory that you must have an emergency fund. Readers, guess what? You MUST.
- Get a raise at work. Won’t be able to act on this until July. Meantime, I am doubling down on work, which is one reason I’m slowing down here on the blog after a strong start. A funny thing happened on the way to this: I began to really enjoy my job.
- Find the best possible solution to two goals that could stress us further: a roof replacement and keeping my son in college. The roof will be a one-two punch: We are applying for a HELOC to help with this, but we will also apply to the roofer’s credit company for an 18-month deferred lump sum. As for A’s education, stay tuned. The poor kid is applying for scholarships like crazy.
- Incur no more debt this summer, which is our most difficult time. We shall see. My husband took on extra work and I am working small, undistracting side gigs to hold this off, but neither of us is making our target of $500 each per month…yet. He’s closer than me on this.
- Be more analog each day, and enjoy more hands-on pursuits like reading offline, playing cards and board games, journaling, and coloring. Meh, I am flat out neglecting this goal.
- 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). I am really not being very nice to myself. Maybe prioritize this for March.
- Perfect my handwriting, using the Spencer method, essentially a form of meditation for me. See above.
- Read more women and trans writers of color, starting with Claudia Rankine’s clear-sighted, wrenching Citizen (affiliate link to IndieBound). SEE ABOVE. Damn, I am not self-caring very well.
- 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.” Once again, see…ah, never mind.
- Have a holiday fund that includes money to give to charity and to have a New Year’s Day party in 2020. Interestingly, our new credit union has a holiday fund program specifically for this purpose. I’m going to look into it.
- 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. I am still behind on this, but I did invite him to start an Acorns account to scoop random change out of his checking into savings — I’ve saved $110 in about two months this painless way (affiliate link: we’ll both earn $5 if you sign up).
- 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. A cool thing fell into my lap — and it involves a little money, too. I’ll be judging the teen entries to Bethesda magazine’s fiction contest this spring, so it is a nice way to connect with my teaching and literary life again.
- Have a garden plan and budget for spring 2020. Haven’t started.
- Initiate contributions to my company’s HSA plan by September. Holding space for this.
Say, drop me a line and tell me how your plans for the new year are going. I’d love to hear your goals. Keep going — and don’t lose your nerve!
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