Recent Posts

Credit Scores Aren’t Financial Report Cards

Credit Scores Aren’t Financial Report Cards

Have you ever received one of these letters from a bank? “Congratulations on being a responsible credit user! We’d like to offer you an increase on your credit limit. We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy this extra purchasing power!” Now, to me that […]

Debt Payoff Report – February 2018

Debt Payoff Report – February 2018

Is it awful that one of the best things about February was buying a replacement can opener? I will easily drop money on luxuries yet agonize over mundane household necessities. Not needing assistance opening canned goods was absolutely worth it and I should have done […]

Things I Missed When I Quit Shopping

Things I Missed When I Quit Shopping

The novelty of trends and designs

The time between unwrapping a perfect object and its first sign of wear, entropy in action

The marking of occasions and milestones

The feel of soft fabrics running through my fingers

The thrill of completing a task that only a list maker could truly appreciate

The expression of personality

The lights and sounds and subtle scents of new beginnings

The distraction from difficult moments

The not-so-casual conversation with strangers paid to make me feel good about myself

The sense of control in a life that felt out of it

Shopping isn’t just a stereotypically frivolous activity that we shame women for enjoying. It’s a complex web of sensations and neurotransmitters. How we feel can be as important as what we buy. When we try to overcome an unhealthy relationship with spending simply by stopping, we remove a source of fulfillment and a coping mechanism from our lives.

Unsustainable at best, destructive at worst.

You deserve to feel all of those things – pleasure, joy, accomplishment, celebration, originality, excitement, distraction, confidence, novelty, control.

Find them wherever you can, in ways that aren’t accompanied by the guilt and anxiety that overspending can be.

Visit a museum or art gallery and lose yourself in the expression

Create something with your hands

Take a walk outside and touch the space around you

Clean and care for the things you already own

Learn a skill that ignites you and puts you off balance

Volunteer and be a force for change

Strengthen relationships with people who lift you up

Speak to a therapist about your closely-held insecurities

Do something you’ve been afraid to

Carve out time and space for yourself, violently if necessary

If you just like to shop  – embrace that too.

In a world that questions our every step, walking confidently in your own direction is its own act of self-love.

When Did Living Alone Become The Minimum?

When Did Living Alone Become The Minimum?

One of the opinion pieces that fascinates me every year is the minimum amount it costs millennials to live in my city – Vancouver, Canada. Here’s the breakdown: Housing: $1,929.67 Phone and Internet: $105 Transportation: $133 Groceries: $211.97 Entertainment: $321 Fitness: $75 Insurance: $20 Total: $2,795.64/month, or $33,547.68 annually For most of these […]

You Can Do Anything For 30 Minutes

You Can Do Anything For 30 Minutes

On Monday last week I decided that I would be going to the gym at 6AM. It wasn’t something I’d extensively planned. It wasn’t a ‘new year, new me’ move. It wasn’t even a habit I intended on creating. I just wanted to go to […]

Debt Payoff Report – January 2018

Debt Payoff Report – January 2018

It’s time to say goodbye to the first month of 2018. I can’t say I’m sad to see it go – January tends to be a tough one. We indulge in December and then struggle to dial it back to our usual routine for the first few weeks.

My minimum payments are around $1,300, so although this month was my lowest month since 2016 I’ve still made more progress than I would have in my previous mindset. I usually pick it up in February and March so I’m not too worried.

Including interest, I’ve paid $1,712.88 to my debt this month!

January Milestones

I’m under $30,000 on my student loan!

No other milestones, but I did take my first vacation in almost three years which was one of the reasons for my lower repayment this month! Spoiler: it was so worth it!

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What’s up in February?

February should be business as usual as far as debt repayment goes. It’s a short month so hopefully that will mean lower spending, right? I’m already looking forward to tax refund season in March! I know some are against the ‘interest free loan to the government’ but near the beginning of my journey having a large lump sum was better for me than smaller amounts throughout the year that could be easily spent. This is my last year with a significant refund because I’ll be using up my remaining tuition tax credits, so I need to make the most of it!

Travelling While Indebted

Travelling While Indebted

Some recommend avoiding all luxuries while paying off non-mortgage debt – no travel, no meals out, no purchases other than necessities. I’m not one of those people. A few of my friends and family members have passed away at young ages, and I know that […]

That Decade I Earned $0

That Decade I Earned $0

Being transparent with your finances online is interesting. I know it helps to see real numbers which is why I share everything, but there are obvious downsides. Like, all of the times people tell me that they wish they had my income. I can’t help […]

Treat Yo Self

Treat Yo Self

I’ve tried many different spending challenges over the years – not buying clothing for a year, setting up a budget for specific categories, not eating out for 100 days, aiming for a certain number of $0 spend days every month. I can’t argue with the results – last year I reduced my spending by $7,000 and paid off $30,000 of my student loan debt. This year I’m trying something new.

I’m giving myself permission to buy whatever I want.

Yes, I’m surrendering to the treat yo self mentality. I am acknowledging that I am a human and that my wants are valid. I’m setting myself free to buy anything that will add value to my life – as long as I make the actual purchases later.

I created a list called Things I Want To Buy – In 2020. At that point, if all goes well, I’ll be debt free. After I increase my emergency fund and ramp up my retirement contributions, I’ll be free to spend the surplus. Note that I said surplus, meaning that I can spend whatever I want after my savings goals are met and without borrowing money to do so.

I don’t know what I’ll want to buy at that point, but I’m off to a great start. My list contains everything from the banal to the luxurious, from a can opener and a sheet set to a $250 pair of boots and several international trips. I’ve got a section for physical items, and a separate section for travel & other experiences.

As time goes on and my desires change I fully expect to add and remove things. I might even save various versions as miniature time capsules of the items and experiences that occupied my thoughts.

For list lovers, this exercise has an obvious draw. By recording all of the ideas floating around in your mind, you’ve allowed your brain to remove them from the forefront of your consciousness. Often I’ve felt overwhelmed by multiple tasks and then relieved when they seemed to shrink in number just by being captured visually.

For completionists, there’s the comfort in finishing something – ideally the list of potential purchases will replace the urge to buy an item in order to get it off of your mind.

For impulse purchasers, the act of recording and then waiting should allow the rush of novelty to pass. You’ll be able to remove the item from your list later, without it ever manifesting physically in your life. No buyer’s remorse, environmental impact, or feeling like you should keep things you no longer want simply because they cost money.

For rebels, saying “yes, but later” to your wants feels so much more gratifying than saying “no.” Often when we deprive ourselves we simply move the pendulum too far and then let it loose to swing wildly in the opposite direction. When we say “yes, but later,” we allow ourselves to find balance more easily.

I can identify with each of these personas, which is why shopping mindfully has always been a challenge for me and why I hope this new exercise will help me make even better choices in the future.

Will I still make purchases over the next two years? Of course. If something I use often breaks or wears out and can’t be repaired, I’ll replace it. If an item stays at the top of the list for months and I decide I don’t want to wait anymore, I’ll probably buy it. There might even be a few impulse purchases in there, if I’m being completely honest, and that’s okay too.

The point of this exercise is not deprivation. It’s realizing that while some things are worthwhile to purchase now, others can wait.

 


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My Heisenberg Moment

My Heisenberg Moment

Facing a desperate situation – a six figure student loan debt with no six figure income – I did what many graduates do at first.. I ignored it. I decreased my spending enough to make slightly more than the minimum payments. In some months I relied on the credit card float and then paid it off in others with tax returns or bonuses. I never felt like I had enough money to get through the month. I tried to budget and almost always failed to stay on track. I felt like I was waiting for this ten year sentence to end so that I could finally just start from zero again.

I want my life back. Please tell me … how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?

I spent the first year of my debt repayment journey tracking my spending and pretending to budget. I made $15,000 in payments to my debt that year, and at the time I felt proud of that accomplishment. I’d paid about $800 more than the minimum payments, which seemed like great progress.

At the end of the year, I had to calculate the interest I’d paid on my student loans for a deduction on my tax return. Out of $15,000 in payments, the interest totaled almost $5,000. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Just in interest. To this day, I have a vivid mental image of throwing stacks of bills on the ground and setting them on fire.

It all hit me then, harder than ever before – I was staring down another ten years of payments, and another $20,000 in interest. I was making an average salary for my city, but I was struggling somehow.

At the beginning of my second year of payments, I knew I had to make some major changes. I was ready, but I wasn’t prepared.

I’m a relatively privileged person – I’m white, educated, and I was always encouraged to be productive. When it came to money, I started out well behind the curve. Money was never something positive during my childhood – it was something you needed, something you fought about, and something that you earned somehow but that disappeared somehow. Our house was always ringing with the noise of money fights – I’d lock myself in my room with headphones in for hours to find some quiet. My parents always made sure we had enough, and I’m grateful for the way they provided for me and pushed me to succeed. I was just missing the money framework that seemed to come so naturally to others.

I knew generally that frugality was beneficial, that you should live within your means, that you shouldn’t take on debt, that you should save for retirement. I knew the theory, but I didn’t have the practical skills. I didn’t know how to budget properly, or what you should do if your numbers weren’t working out. I didn’t know how much more prepared food cost, or how to cook inexpensive meals at home. I saw how others were spending their money, and I emulated it. I thought I just needed a higher income.

The moral of the story is: I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again.

There was one thing I did know – my plan wasn’t working. I needed to find other plans. When I searched for resources, there was one name I kept running into over and over: Dave Ramsey. At first I was skeptical, particularly about taking advice from a person who was so opposed to some of my major values, but I decided to be an adult and listen to the plan – even if I didn’t fully agree with the personality behind it. I started listening to his podcast on my commute, and I listened for the full three hours every single day. I haven’t missed one episode in an entire year.

Every month another lightbulb went on as I listened to all of the debt free screams and the millionaire calls. I started doing the math on how much my debt was costing me every month. I compared prices on groceries. I used habit trackers to mark days where I spent $0. I did challenges and experiments. I went 100 days without any meals out. I stopped buying clothing for a year.

Every month I felt a little more confident. I went from making $40 in extra payments every month to $280, to $700, and now to $1,200+. This wasn’t a switch I turned on that suddenly gave me the skills and habits I needed. This was a constant daily struggle to overcome more than a decade of ignorance.

Dave Ramsey gets a lot of love, and a lot of hate. I’ll just say this – if you’re privileged or lucky or educated enough not to need his help or understand why others do.. just be grateful for that and shut the fuck up, okay?

It is not easy to budget and follow through on that budget if you’ve never been shown how to do it correctly.

It is not easy to meal plan and buy groceries with a list if you’ve never been shown how to do it correctly.

It is not easy to defer your desires and save for things instead of paying with credit if you’ve never been shown how to do it correctly.

For some reason we treat managing money like an innate human ability and if someone isn’t successful at it right away it must be because they’re lacking in intelligence or willpower or strength of character. We should be treating managing money as a necessary skill that some of us were just fortunate to have mastered early on.

If someone’s trying to learn how to swim, you don’t just show them a chart and tell them how obviously easy it is. You wade in. You instruct them to float. You teach them how to tread water. You demonstrate different techniques. You get in the water with them and show them how to splash around for fun. If they’re drowning, you don’t shout physics equations or insults or misplaced words of encouragement from the deep end like a total sociopath. You jump in the water and help them, or you stand quietly to the side while the lifeguard helps them.

You clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot, and you think that of me? No! I am the one who knocks!

Coming up on two years of this journey, I’m not the same person I was before. I’m not at the mercy of a bank. I don’t nervously log in to my accounts after avoiding them for weeks. I’m not afraid to check the mail. I don’t panic at the thought of an emergency. I’m the one who knocks now. I say when I’ll be paying this debt off. I say how much I’ll be earning. I say how much I’ll be paying in interest.

I didn’t start with this confidence – it grew as I learned how to manage money, month by month. I’ve cut my spending by thousands of dollars per year. I’ve received raises and bonuses, and directed most of that to my debt too. I started a side hustle to shorten my timeline even more. Instead of $15,000 in payments, I’ve doubled that to more than $30,0000 this year.

I plan to pay off my debt in 2019 instead of 2026. That’s more than SIX YEARS of my life that I’ll get back because I started to pay off this debt faster. If you saw my spending from last year to this year, you would swear they belonged to two entirely different people.

The best part? It wasn’t a sacrifice.

I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really — I was alive.

It’s amazing how much we can adapt. When I started to make changes, the first few days and weeks were tough. I wanted to quit. I relapsed occasionally. I made mistakes. I overspent. I caved. I stumbled.

It was all worth it.

The truth is that I feel happier and more content now than I ever have in my life.

Now say my name.