Day 18: Broken Bonds

Main Point: It’s okay to embrace your wealth.

Today’s assignment: Stop worrying about not having enough money, because God has so richly blessed me.

What bonds have kept you from accepting God’s abundance in your life? Make a list any financial bonds you can identify. Why do you think you have a problem with overspending? What might be missing in your life that you try to make it up with shopping?

After you’ve made your list, identify just one financial bond you will commit to addressing.

My bonds:
– overspending (basically living paycheck to paycheck)

I think shopping was a way of passing the time because I don’t have a romantic partner to occupy that time. I’m restless in that aspect of my life. I like my job, friends, community service projects and I like my fitness routine. I guess I was buying things to make me more attractive.

I also have a problem overspending because that’s what my mother modeled growing up. I never heard about budgets or even knew about saving until I was well into college and later. This fast is helping me break this cycle.

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

There was nothing I really wanted besides my floss. I felt that it was a necessity and was on sale.

What was easy about today?

Again, it was easy to not eat out. My company had a chili cook-off, so my co-workers basically fed me. After tasting 13 chilis, I was full.

What was hard about today?

It was hard to type all of my expenses in my Google budget spreadsheet. I did well during the fast. After looking at my expenses before Jan. 14, I realize that I wouldn’t have been going down a bad path.

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

I learned that having more than enough money could be just as troubling to some people as having too little. It’s as if they feel the rug will be pulled from beneath them.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

I’m feeling good. I look forward to paying my bills for the first half of the month. I hope I have a little bit to celebrate my birthday next weekend.

While watching The Bethenny Show, I saw that she was going to have Lynette Khalfani-Cox a.k.a. The Money Coach on her show. I love her! She talked about Cracking the Code: How to Get the Perfect Credit Score. Her segment was fun because the audience guessed what moves would be bad or good for credit. I loved her visualization with the items in the three different vases to illustrate your debt-to-credit ratio. I tweeted her after the show aired and she tweeted me back, saying thanks for watching her. I’m so glad she’s helping people with their personal finances. She speaks from experience.

Day 17: Perpetual Peace

Main Point: Trust that God will bring financial peace into your life.

Today’s assignment: Identify at least one aspect of your finances and decide today to stop stressing about it.

My financial worries:
– Not having enough money to pay off my federal student loans (coming up with the money payment)
– Not being able to help a relative or close friend in need
– Not having enough money to get car repairs
– Not having a large enough savings fund

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

Nothing really. When I asked for gum again at work, one co-worker joked “When are you going to buy my own gum?”

I reminded her that I was still on the fast and her face dropped. It. Racks me up that she feels guilty for asking me to lunch or telling me to buy stuff. Buying is such an easy remedy for everyone it seems, but I know better now.

What was easy about today?

N/A

What was hard about today?

N/A

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

I learned that stressing and micromanaging everything is not healthy. I can only work one day at a time, one month at a time, and see progress slowly. I can find peace even in this struggle.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

I felt OK. I still need to figure out how totaled advantage of my online savings account with an interest of .075. It’s much better than my brick and mortar bank and my credit union. I’ll try to put a small amount away each much to watch the interest grow.

Day 16: The Caregiver Cliff

Main Point: Millions of U.S. households contain someone caring for an older relative or friend.

Today’s assignment: Take the time to learn about long-term care insurance and being planning for any caregiving responsibilities that may fall to me.

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

I wanted to buy cookie dough and Jello pudding. It was on that 2 for $4 sale again. But I left Harris Teeter with my half gallon of milk and 12-packet box of instant grits.

What was easy about today?

Again, eating home-cooked meals and the Jimmy John’s lunch at work makes it easy not to dine out. I don’t understand why I was so lazy to cook and plan before. It’s one of the easiest ways to cook back.

What was hard about today?

Paying off my mattress debt was a bit difficult. The payment was nearly $140 more than the minimum amount due. I’m trusting myself to continue to buy essentials so I’m not wasting money, and still have enough left over to pay bills. It’s super exciting to write PAID IN FULL next to that debt though. Now, I can add $50 (from two minimum payments) to the next card payment on my Debt Dash Plan. The next debt will be paid off in six months using this method alone. It could be sooner if I put my freelance money to it.

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

I hadn’t even thought about long-term insurance, but I feel good knowing that veterans and their spouses could get help. I’ll keep that in mind for my father and stepmother. Now, my mother, is a different story. I have no idea how to broach the subject of money with my mother. We don’t see eye to eye on this subject.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

Today, I’m between feeling empowered and scared. Paying off that mattress debt in full has me a little antsy, especially when I was looking at airplane tickets for my summer trip to New Orleans.

Day 15: Guard Against Greed

Main Point: Greed blocks your path to prosperity.

Today’s assignment: Take an inventory of what you own to guard against wanting more. Be on the lookout for things that pull me in the direction of greed.

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

Nothing really.

What was easy about today?

It was easy to stick to homecooked meals after, well, cooking some meals at home and packing them up. I’m glad I’ll essentially have free meals at work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s going to be a good week.

What was hard about today?

It was hard to figure out whether i wanted to pay off a debt in full before the interest kicked in. The six-month mark was coming up on this promotional deal. I kept playing with the numbers in my bank account and what I expected from the my job and freelance gigs.

I talked to the credit union representative again about consolidating debt. I’ve read that three out of four people end up paying the consolidation loan and more credit card bills because they rack up more debt again. They get a false sense of security and fall back into poor habits. I deferred the loan for now, telling the representative that I wanted to try Michelle’s Debt Dash Plan first. The smallest debt is paid now – $28.42. It’s a start.

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

I never connected greed and fraud until I read this chapter, but it makes sense. It’s unfortunate that people think they can get a huge return on a low-risk, small investment. But I thought about how that occurs in my left. I guess I just thought the debt would go away eventually without really scrimping and working hard to reduce it. I’ve learned my lesson now.

Taking stock of what we have in our closets, cabinets and drawers would really open our eyes to the excess we live in each day.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

I felt empowered today. Having the Debt Dash Plan makes me eager to pay off debts. I underestimate the power planning and organization can give you.

Day 14: Cosigning is crazy

Main Point: It is stupid to cosign.

Today’s assignment: Pledge not to cosign with anyone other than your spouse. But if you decide to cosign for someone, make sure you can afford to pay the debt in full should the person default on a loan.

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

I bought Bojangles’ today and I don’t feel guilty. After two weeks of home-cooking, I know that I don’t need to eat out. But I basically ran out of my apartment today and took refuge in a library because my heat isn’t working. I packed a sandwich and fruit to be good, but left it on the dining room table. So while I was out, I needed something to eat. So I stopped by Bojangles’ and I’m fine with that. It’s just funny how Michelle mentioned falling off the wagon by stopping by a fast food restaurant today. She’s psychic.

What was easy about today?

It was easy vowing not to cosign for anyone other than my spouse. This chapter scared me straight.

What was hard about today?

It was hard not to eat out.

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

A co-signer is actually a borrower. I had no idea that cosigning was so bad because “you are pledging to pay a debt for an asset that you have no control over. Cosigners don’t have ownership interest in the asset, but face several risks:

    • They are responsible if payments aren’t made on time are not made on time.
    • Their credit history could be damaged if late or no payments are made.
    • A creditor can pursue and file a lawsuit for late fees and attorney fees if loan goes into default.
    • A creditor may get a wage garnishment for the unpaid debt.

I also learned that people can “piggyback” off others’ credit. This occurs when someone tries to rebuild their credit by getting someone to add them on a credit card as an authorized user.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

Again, I’m feeling meh. I tried went ahead and tallied up my bills I’d have to pay off in the next two weeks. Even with my paycheck and depending on if I paid one full debt off, I’d have about $200-$400 for everything else – gas, food. My birthday falls within this period AND I’d like to get my hair done. I got it done in mid-December. Ugh. Decisions, decisions.

Day 13: The Curse of Credit

Main Point: Credit is dangerous.

Today’s assignment: 

Think about your credit card purchases, eve if you pay off the bill every month. Would you make these same purchases if you were limited cash> Of the objectives of this fast to break the hold credit has on you. One this day of the fast, write down in your journal the answers to these five questions:

1. How has MasterCard (or Visa) become my master?

Visa has become my master my giving me false sense of security. Sometimes I thought, “I can go ahead of get this item. I have the Visa in my wallet, although I have no money in checking or savings account.” Plus, I’m bound to Visa until I pay off the balance and high interest I’ve accrued. I look forward to the day when I won’t be indebted to Visa.

2. How would buy the things I need, or want, if I couldn’t use credit?

Without using credit, I’d force myself to scrimp and save for items I needed and wanted. I’d pay cash. It’s so rewarding to pay cash.

3. How has credit card debt impacted my marriage or other relationships?

Credit card debt has impacted my family relationships most. I haven’t told anyone how bad the situation is. I haven’t expressed my feeling of disgust to my mom for enabling me. Credit card debt is keeping me from having a deep relationship with a man, I believe, because I’d be too ashamed to divulge this information.

4. How much more would I have in savings if I didn’t have to make credit card payments every month?

I spend about $250 each month to credit card companies. That’s 10 percent of my take-home pay. That’s 10 percent that I could be saving or tithing or what have you. In a year, I could save $3,000 if I could just save the money I give to creditors. That’s a damn shame.

5. How have I felt since I’ve had to stop using credit for the fast?

I feel proud for freezing the cards, but I’m afraid of a large purchase suddenly coming up. I feel as if I would have no other recourse but to use the credit card because I have no savings.

Pull out your credit card statements from the last three months (leading up to the fast). Write down the total you spent for each month. Without looking at the itemized list of your purchases, try to remember what you bought. Why do this? Evidence shows that consumers often can’t recall recent purchases bought on credit. If you can’t recall what you purchased, isn’t it likely you didn’t need the items or services?

I think I paid for gas for the car, a Christmas gift and the gas bill.  I also bought two pair of pants and a top from New York & Co. because of the Black Friday deal. Everything was marked down 50 percent AND the store offered free shipping. I thought it was a great deal at the time. I still enjoy the pants and use them often. The shirt wasn’t flattering, so I returned it.

Here’s what I really used credit cards for from October to December 2013:

  • NY & Co clothes
  • Old Navy clothes
  • groceries
  • FedEx printouts
  • gas
  • sports bras
  • gas bill
  • $600 car repair

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

Nothing really.

What was easy about today?

It was easy to not think about my money when I was with friends. I kept myself occupied at exercise class, a dinner party and a birthday party.

What was hard about today?

It was hard to actually figure out my Debt Dash Plan and get all of the numbers right.

What did I learned from today’s chapter?

I learned that it’s better to wait for certain things instead of pulling out the credit card. Many of us, myself included, have a problem with instant gratification. Credit cards give that to us, but at a high cost.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

Today was a weird day. I didn’t get any mojo going as far as wanted to work on my finances today. I think I needed a break.

Day 12: No Debt is Good

Main Point: Debt is dangerous.

Today’s assignment: Complete a debt reduction worksheet. Make a commitment today to list every creditor, bank, relative or friend you owe money to. The information on this list should be transferred to your Debt Dash Plan. Total the debt. This is an important exercise so that you can see just how much debt you’ve accumulated.

Take some time to reflect on your use of debt. In your journal, answer the following questions:

1. Has being in debt led you to some things you know are wrong? If so, list them.

  • Not paying bills on time
  • Going ahead and splurging on items because I thought an extra $50 in debt wouldn’t matter with my already high debt total

2. How has debt affected your life overall? For example, have you had to delay buying a home because you have massive credit card debt? Are you stressed when the mail arrives or the phone rings because of the creditor call.

I’m stressed when I can’t do simple things like cover a bill that’s higher than I expected or give to loved ones in need. I don’t want to be the one in need all the time. I want to able to bless others.

3. Is your debt burden weighing down your spirit? If so, how do you imagine life would be different if you were debt free?

This debt burden is definitely weighing on my spirit. I keep juggling between what I can ay and note pay on a regular basis. My paycheck is already spent before the direct deposit is made. I’d be able to give more and save more if I weren’t debt free. The debt is holding me back from other things, some of which I think is subconscious. If a wonderful man came into my life right now, I’d be embarrassed by my debt and I probably wouldn’t be able to hang out or contribute much to our dates. I’m broke… in more than one aspect of life.

What I wanted to buy today, but didn’t:

I wanted a sugary snack. I wanted cookies.

What was easy about today?

N/A

What was hard about today?

Spending money on even laundry and groceries. I spent about $20, and it hurt. It wasn’t budgeted. Ha. The irony.

What did I learn from today’s chapter?

This chapter reminded me of two money moments in my life:

One story is about going to the Bank of America location in Kinston. I had to be 18 because it was right before I was going off to college.

My mom and I opened a checking account for me and two lines of credit. That was 9 years ago. I don’t have nearly as much in my bank account as I’d like to. It gets depleted every 1st and 15th of the month. Also, I maxed out the smaller $500 card, paid it off, then maxed it out again. My mom took the larger credit card with the balance of $1900. I got very little explanation about interest rates, the importance of paying off the monthly balance each month. None of that.

My mom maxed out that larger card and, of course, didn’t tell me about any the purchases. So now she sends me the monthly minimum payment. It would take 10 years to pay it off if we only paid the minimum.

Also, while in college when I “needed” some clothes, I told my mom about the credit card offer at Old Navy and she encouraged me to do it to get the deal – probably because she didn’t have any cash to send me either. So then she realized it was a Visa card, so I could use it anywhere although ON was blazoned on the front of the card. So when she needed a large sum of money one time, she called me on campus and instructed me on how to go the bank to get a cash advance of $400, I think. Of course, cash advances come with a hefty interest rate. But I didn’t know that. She didn’t explain it to me, and we never made a plan to pay it back in a timely manner.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I’m 26, gainfully employed and only responsible for taking care of myself.

I couldn’t even give my baby brother $30 when he texted me, which he never does. Him reaching out had to be because of an emergency. He needed that money to pay Mom for rent. I think I had a little bit more than $130 or maybe $87 left in the bank at the time. I called my Mom and asked if she really needed the money or if she could wait to get the money from my brother.

I didn’t want to tell him or her that I didn’t have the money. Giving away $30 would have broken the bank.

The ‘big sister’ and the ‘goody two shoes daughter’, who had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and a well-paying job that paid more than what he and mom made combined couldn’t even afford to give away $30.

Pathetic. I was either always spending money on bills, buying crap that I didn’t need or overextending myself by paying for events or items for my new apartment. (I hadn’t even accounted for all of the bills that would come with getting a new apartment.)

Nothing was every budgeted.

Last month, I paid my ridiculously high gas bill (which may have been caused by my faulty furnace that’s getting replaced) with that ON bill. Of course, I intended to make up for it before the next billing cycle. Then I realized that I wouldn’t have enough cash to pay for other bills. It’s like a sad never ending cycle.

I paid off the minimum balance just to use the card again and increase it again.

I’m disgusted by myself and also by my mother. I didn’t live with my father, so my mom was my money role model.

Parents, I implore you to please talk about money with your kids AND actually show them how to be good stewards. The showing is most important. I wish my mother would have been honest about her money situation and stopped catering to my siblings and me at every chance. When she told me that she wasn’t going to buy a prom dress my senior year, I remember thinking it sucked a bit, but I understood. I wore the dress I rocked during the Kinston Junior Miss pageant the previous year, and I survived.

She could have told me “No” and herself “No” so many times. Why didn’t she?

Now, I have to tell myself to “No” in order to climb out of this debt pit.

I hate feeling like this. Just hate it. I need to buckle down and get this under control now. I sincerely want to get this monkey off my back and pass on good money sense to my future children.

God, grant me the strength and resolve to kick bad money habits.

What I was feeling today about my finances?

I’m feeling meh. I’m excited about paying off two small debts, but I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.