Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jackie - Digging Out of a Hole

I have debt.

I hate admitting that. It's like admitting that I'm not intelligent enough to keep track of my money or savvy enough to know how to make good financial choices. It's embarrassing. But here's the reality: school is expensive, I work for a non-profit [read: I don't make a lot of money], I have far too many things on my mind and yes, I have made some bad choices.

I've been trying to pay down my debt for a couple years now, but the amount I owe isn't decreasing nearly as fast as I'd like it to. I know the principles behind making the good decisions, but I haven't ever had a good way to keep track of everything. I tried Quicken, a cash budget, I've put myself on a super strict budget, I've tried winging it, I've, I've, I've ... I've gotten tired of trying to figure this out on my own.

I stuffed down a little pride and asked my best friend for help. She's a financial guru and all-around amazing person, so I asked if she'd be help me set up a good budget and figure out how to pay off my debt this year. She was delighted to help me and invited me over for dinner [see previous statement about being an all-around amazing person].

I took my laptop to her house but made her promise not to judge me when she saw all my debt. Which of course, she didn't [again, see previous statement about being amazing]. She crunched numbers, cutting here, merging there, being realistic here ... and I went home with a budget and a list of tasks to do to help me get on the right direction. My budget is pretty scaled down, but reasonable. And she's so amazing she even budgeted money aside so I will be able to take the trips that are a part of my goals.

The other main part of paying down my debt has been acquiring a second job. My company offered to let me work up to 10 extra hours as a fill-in for someone who left recently. It's a good way to make extra cash and they've been super flexible with my full schedule, allowing me to coming in on Saturdays and working evenings. It started out great, but as the weeks have dragged on, I'm growing tired of working away my evenings and Saturdays. But, I'm trying to persevere.

Here are other ways I've scaled back.
  • Parking for free off-campus. This means parking a good 1/2 mile from campus and walking. Things are working out well, it's a nice walk ... except when I'm running late.
  • I don't waste food. Like most people, I have quite a bit of food in my pantry and freezer that needed to be eaten. I'm whittling away at that food and buying groceries as sparingly as possible. 
  • I used almost my entire student loan check to pay off debt now instead of slowly using it throughout the semester for living expenses like I usually do.
  • I don't eat out alone. I save that treat for when I'm with friends.
  • I don't get to upgrade my laptop ... I'm going to nurse the one I bought back in 2005 until it absolutely poops out on me.
Those are the basics for now, maybe I'll share in more detail sometime.

Here's the vulnerable part. I'm just gonna put it all out there... so far this year I've paid off $1,900 and have $3,300 to go. [Not including the $1,100 worth of medical bills that just came in the mail... ugh.] There it is. All my financial mistakes, out in the open.

I don't want debt tying me down any longer. I want to go on more trips, treat people to dinner, take my car in for maintenance, build up some savings, support causes I believe in and start a career as a musician without the burden of money owed to credit card companies.

Here's to paying it off in 2010!

PS ... If anyone else is in similar shoes, I'd love to know I'm not the only one out there!


  1. hey!
    3,300 is really not too much debt, i fully believe that with your goals you can get out of it easily.

    i was in about 5,300 worth of debt about four years ago.
    i'm still slowly paying off the personal favors that i required from people, but all my bank-debt is gone for good. (never again will i own a credit card!)

    i will say that if all of these things fall by the wayside the one thing that got me through my paybacks is the not wasting food. it is insane how much food goes uneaten so that we can buy more. i made a deal with myself that i wouldn't shop until i ate everything i owned, and it really, really worked (and made me appreciate going out!)
    i think your goals are going to be very effective. i just hope that when you get some free time from all that working you'll be awake enough to hang out!

  2. Jackie! That's awesome! You can totally do it!

  3. I could help with some of your car maintanance to help save you some cash. I love working on cars and could do most of your auto work for just the price of parts if that would help. Chris W

  4. Jackie-I'm totally in the same boat if that makes you feel better! We should eat our random food in our houses together! :)

  5. hey friends,
    thanks so much for all the support. it means a lot. this has to be one of the most frustrating and annoying goals for me to tackle and it's nice to know others of you have been there.

    chris -- thanks so much for your offer! i will definitely be taking you up on it. i don't have anything super urgent, but i'll be in touch.

    shelby -- yes! let's eat random food. give me another month and i'll actually be eating dinner at a normal time [instead of 9 or 10 when i get out of school] and we'll make it happen. right now i have quite a lot of beans and rice, so we should come up with some concoctions around that...

  6. That is awesome with the way your paying down debt! Great job, motivation, and perseverance. I wish I only had that amount of debt. I only owe about $400,000!


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