Saturday, June 28, 2008

Completely unfrugal

Is unfrugal a word?  Non-frugal?

Anyway, I picked a stupidly expensive habit.  I've decided to take up horseback riding.  Preferably, eventually, competitive horseback riding.  It's hard to imagine a more expensive sport.  Financially, I can afford to do this, although it's going to mean sacrifices in other areas.  But after taking two lessons today, I think it's worth it.

One, and maybe most importantly, it makes me happy.  I love being on a horse.  I love animals, and horses give pretty powerful feedback about the bond you establish with them.  I love training animals, working with them, learning how to better communicate with them.  Owning a dog isn't feasible at the moment, but horseback riding gives me that pleasure without the ownership requirements.

Two, it gets me out of the house.  I'm somewhat naturally awkward in social settings that are unfamiliar, so I don't tend to make friends easily.  Outside of work, I don't do much, and this is a good way to prompt me to get out and be around people.  That's important for my mental status, so I don't feel isolated and sink into a cycle of depression.  It's sometimes hard to get the willpower going to actually make the effort to get up and out, but once I do, I usually feel a lot better.

Three, and maybe this is the most important one, it's good exercise for me.  I have a serious problem with exercise - it hurts and I can pretty seriously injure myself with a single wrong step.  Many typical exercises I can't do, and even walking is seriously problematic due to my joints.  With riding, I have basically the same injury risks as anyone else - stepped on, kicked, or bitten by the horse, thrown or falling off the horse - but it's a form of exercise that I can do without feeling like I'm killing myself.  I don't feel like I medically have a need to lose weight, no doctor has ever mentioned it to me, and I don't have any weight related issues.  However, I do have excess pounds on me, both from the pregnancy and from taking medications that caused me to gain weight.  So I'm about 30 lbs heavier than I was in high school, and I want that off.  I've been tracking what I eat, and staying right around 1,200 calories, so food isn't the problem (although I've probably destroyed my metabolism from the days that I don't eat due to pain.)  Any exercise that will help me both burn calories and get into better shape will make me feel better about myself and maybe even help my other medical issues. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Eliminating debts, slowly but surely

I'm down to just under $11,000 in consumer debt now. This debt free thing may come sooner than I expect!

One thing I'm very, very determined to stick with is that I will not incur any new unsecured debt. If I end up getting credit cards at some point in the future, I will pay off the bill every month, without fail.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My spending spree, and why

I've been on the move pretty much constantly for the past 3 years. I've had to deal with leaving my apartment, being in and out of the hospital, then temporary living arrangements for a while. Additionally, I haven't bought new clothes in about 7 years, resulting in 99% of my wardrobe being too small, too large, or worn out. This doesn't come close to conveying the impression I would like to and need to convey at work.

So I made up my mind that my new place represents a fresh start and I'm going to make the most of it. I'm going to stop living out of boxes and actually unpack and organize my stuff. I don't really have a ton of things I need to get rid of, since the majority of my "stuff" disappeared when I went into the hospital (I mean that literally, I have no idea what happened to it,) but I am looking to actively make a home for myself. I'm also replacing my wardrobe a few pieces at a time. I did some research into what is actually needed for a nice, professional wardrobe, and I'm concentrating on buying pieces that fit well, are high quality, and provide me with several different outfits. This is going to be a slow, expensive process, since I have to replace an entire wardrobe, but I think it will make quite a bit of difference in how I'm perceived professionally and personally. Ultimately, I think it's an investment for my future.

In both of these tasks, I'm spending money that isn't exactly necessary, but I think it's valuable. I'm following my basic principles about spending, I'm not buying impulsively, I'm doing my research, and I'm buying quality items at a good value and intending to get several years worth of use from my purchases.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Settling in to the new place

I finally finished moving in this weekend. I'm not yet sleeping very well, due to the new noises in the place, but it's the first time in years I've been sleeping on a real bed, so that's nice. My spending will definitely be drastically up this month, I'll probably have spent between $1200-$1500 to get all the household things I need. But for that, I've gotten a mattress, sheets, comforter, pillows, a desk, monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, chair, a dock for my laptop, and several shelving items. Given that I work from home quite often, having a workstation set up was necessary, and it's a little hard to get by without bedding. I feel pretty good about the way things are coming together.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An icon falls

I was shocked to hear of Tim Russert's death today. He's been a fixture of Sunday mornings for nearly my entire life. It was heartbreaking to watch the MSNBC news anchors unable to get through their comments without visibly breaking down, some in tears.

No one can replace him. As we move forth in what I truly believe is the most pivotal election in decades, it will be without one of the most iconic figures. I'm saddened to know that he won't witness the outcome of an election he was so excited about.

I'm also truly hoping I won't be saying the same thing about Teddy Kennedy.

I have a lot of posts coming over the next week or so, I've simply been so unsettled with packing and getting ready to move tomorrow that other things have slid by the wayside.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A story of my parents

A post at MightyBargainHunter gave me pause. The post is a discussion of parents holding control over their minor child's finances. I haven't discussed my family history too much on this blog, simply because I've tried hard to move on from that aspect of my life. However, the post sparked some thoughts.

When I was young, I hated to spend my own money. I'd happily spend other people's money, and by and large, my parents would buy me stuff to make up for their other failings. But I can still remember the first purchase I made, a $30 Timex digital waterproof watch, when I was 11, and I agonized over the purchase for weeks. I saved all birthday and Christmas money, as well as any extra money I got from allowances, grandparents, etc. My grandparents on both sides would also regularly purchase savings bonds. All this money went into a savings account, and by the time I was ready to go off to college, it had well over $25,000 in it.

Or, it should have. There wasn't a single cent in it. My parents were never good with their finances, and they took the money without telling me. I might have been more willing to accept their need, had it not gone to finance my father's prostitution fixation.

How differently would life had turned out for me if I had a cushion for when my life turned upside down and I ended up in the hospital? If I had that money now, I could be completely debt free, with a bit to spare.

That being said, if my parents had been the type to not need to raid their child's savings, my medical crisis probably wouldn't have led to the financial crisis as well.

But maybe the most significant thing I think my parents "did" to me is maybe the least tangible. When I get into some sort of trouble, either of my own making, or something that was out of my control, I'm really bad about asking for help. I panic, and usually make decisions that end up making the problem worse. Admitting mistakes, even if they weren't my own, was always a recipe for trouble, and I never really learned how to reach out.

That's not to say that my situation isn't my responsibility, it is. I had a lot of young and stupid moments, as well as some really immature decisions. I'm working on it...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mental block

I met the major goals for this month, and really, my life has gotten back on track. I've taken control of my finances, although from now on out, my expenses will be up since I'll be responsible for rent and groceries again. I have a job, a place to live, and I'm feeling reasonably secure and independent.

Yet...I'm still struggling mentally. One of the ways I tried hard to fight sinking back into depression from the trauma I went through, the chronic pain, and the general isolation was to focus on a checklist of things that I absolutely had to fix in my life. Now that I've corrected most of the disasters, I'm feeling a little lost and unsure of where to go from here. I don't really have any more answers than I did a year ago, and I guess I was sort of hoping that I'd have some sort of revelation once I cleared the major hurdles. But I don't. Without a defined checklist, I'm floundering a bit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

May 2008 Review

My net worth as of May 31st, 2008:



Liquid assets:

Consumer Debt:
Hospital Bills:

That is a 62% increase in my net worth. My assets actually decreased a bit this month, mostly due to an increase in spending. My big discretionary expenses were a large entertainment bill and a larger transportation bill. The entertainment expense was purchasing two tickets to a baseball game, this is an event that I will attend in Sept. There's a chance that my team will make it to the playoffs this year, and I had the opportunity to get front row tickets directly next to the visitor's dugout. It's not cheap, but I'm very excited about it. I'm not sure why the transportation bill was so large. My quarterly medical retainer bill came through, as well as some repayment expenses.

I'm going to try something new and put the spreadsheet I use online for everyone to see. I use it to track and categorize my income and expenses, as well as keeping track of my net worth. Check it out here. I did earn more than I spent for the month.

Monday, June 2, 2008

May Goals review

At the end of each month, I will go through and evaluate the progress I made on the goals I post at the beginning of the month.

For May:

Increase net worth by 15%

I achieved this. I'll post the detailed breakdown further, but I've resolved all my medical debt. This caused my net worth to increase by a whopping 62.39%. I've continued to add no debt, and I'm making slow progress on my consumer debt. Things should certainly begin changing on that front over the next month or two.

Move into a new home
File complaint with landlord-tenant board

I met one of these - well, mostly. I'm still moving "stuff" to the new place, but it's mine. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm putting some money into household items (things like new pillows, for example), since I have an actual bed instead of sleeping on a couch, as I have been for...2.5 years now. I'm going to strive to actually take better care of myself and begin making an actual life for myself instead of constantly living out of boxes. I don't know why I haven't made the effort to file the complaint letter with the landlord tenant board. I'm going to absolutely force myself to do this.

Two of three, and the two major ones...not bad.