1. I. Am. Lazy. No net worth update in about a year! I sort of got away from this blog, only to re-ignite it in order to re-inspire me. I’d say it’s working. Without further a due, here’s a quick numbers-focused post on my net worth update.

    Last December my net worth was -$87,937.69 (link to post).

    Today, my net worth is $-72,479.03.

    And that math comes to, += $15,458.66 of an increase in 8 months! Slow and steady hurts as I’ve said many times on this blog, but it is worthy of a congrats to myself. It’s a big number that can feel so small against a huge debt, but it is progress!

    For a bit of inspiration, let’s look at some percentages. We’ve got an 18% decrease in my debt since my last net worth update, and a grand total of … 30% decrease since my lowest net worth (student loans and car loan, and small amount of credit card debt) at -$103,500!

    I’m 1/3 of the way there!

    … mathematically. I may be further along than that though. To up my excitement even more:

    • I am now saving/investing just under 20% of my income each month and am earning interest and dividends on those investments
    • I have less interest to pay now because I have a smaller principle (and ever-shrinking)
    • My financial habits have evolved for the better and I am able to be more consistent with my payoff
    • My income is increasing with raises as time goes on

    In other news …

    I’m writing a Kindle book! It will share my experiences and be a guide to obtaining financial freedom. Geared at other millennials (ideally younger than me as to learn early on to avoid my own mistakes), the book takes a look at how to live frugally while young, pay off debts, stick to a budget, and the psychology of how to deal with the ever-changing financial forecast.

    In essence: a book to teach “millennials” how to get and stay out of debt, build wealth, and build passive income methods with time.

    P.S. Who hates the word millennials as much as I do yet?

  2. As a web developer I follow Amber Weinberg’s blog, which is typically focused on development or the business of development. Recently, she wrote a post on mental illness and her career choice, and in it noticed similarities among other online industry workers. Don’t you just love when a post comes just at the right time in your life?

    She talks of her social anxiety, and how others have talked of depression or other forms of anxiety, and how it may have affected our career choice — and how our career choice may have created a bigger problem.

    I would definitely say I’m an introvert, and while I would say I have a form of social anxiety, it’s not crippling. I do get very anxious and overwhelmed when losing control of a situation, or having to be around to many people. Don’t even get me started on giving presentations.

    Could this behavioral pattern of shying away from interaction be keeping me back? Very possible — some of the lowest paying jobs on average are those done in solitude, while the higher up in a company you go, the more meetings and social interactions are required.

    So what’s the balance? I could take on a job that would require more ‘responsibility’ of me to present, schmooze, attend meetings, consult, and the like, or move up the ladder at my current job and do the same. The sheer thought of it brings me anxiety. I’d rather keep my current salary with less stress.

    Perhaps I could learn to be less anxious in those situations.

    While adapting and growing in social skills is a goal of anyone with social anxiety, there is also always a introverted personality and preference to have more alone time. I used to be terrified of people. Now I’m not scared per se, rather, I feel like too much is going on and I get to feeling overwhelmed around a lot of people.

    I did a few searches: “Best jobs for social anxiety,”; “Best careers for introverts” …

    The same types of things I’ve been dabbling in my whole life and always consider switching back and forth were listed. No coincidence there — I love having time to myself and could go a week with seeing nobody else, working from the comfort of my own home! (I’m not that crazy though, I would get stir crazy after much longer.)

    If anyone’s curiosity is peaked, a few that came up:

    1) Working with animals (vet, vet tech, working in an animal shelter) — this is the #1 type of place I’ve volunteered at over the years. #nocoincidence

    2) Writer — Yup. I’ve blogged for about a decade, co-authored a book, started and gave up on many more!

    3) Programmer — Been at that for about a decade too, and growing out of it.

    4) Geological / Astronomy / Research — I loved all those topics in high school and college, and always say ‘I would love to do that but …’

    In a way, while I still want to just work on improving my overwhelming feelings around others, this has given me ideas for alternate careers, projects, or side jobs in the future. It’s nice when you find another blogger out there with similar thoughts, and even an entire community.

    For now, I’ll continue to hide behind avatars and words.

  3. Ever pull out one of those financial forecast calculators online? Apparently I’m not retiring until I’m 85. Sometimes they can definitely get me in a bad funk!

    Now this is if I put in a $60k a year salary, my current savings rate, and my debt. It also requires me to work full-time and then to quit work completely. Modest goals, requiring me to work until I’m 85. It can be a real downer that modest is so hard to come by — or is it?

    Now lets think about it realistically: unless I’m living in NYC or LA in my later years, there’s really no reason for me to need that much.

    • I probably won’t be driving as much, eating out as much, drinking as much coffee — all the bad office politics habits
    • I probably won’t need as much expensive stress binging food
    • I’ll probably be married or with a significant other who also has savings or even an income when I decide to stop working earlier
    • Hopefully, and probably with my general attitude about finances, I’ll have a paid-off house by retirement age (or sooner!), so cost of living will be house maintenance, insurance, taxes, etc. only.
    • My current salary will grow in time, and my debt will diminish, and my savings rate will grow tremendously — my current savings rate is not my permanent savings rate.
    • I will be stressed as hell if I have to work full-time until I retire, and bored as hell when I have nothing to do. A good balance would be dropping my working rate to 2/3 of the time I currently work, or half-time for many years. Working half-time while being financially successful — I’d say that’s a noble goal.
    • My medical bills may be higher, so there’s that

    So I will need less, and I project I will save at a greater percentage rate as time goes on. It’s important to reflect on this, because it’s really easy to get antsy and to feel hopelessness. (Which leads to binge eating.)

    I believe it was Mr. Money Mustache that once wrote that financial freedom does not come one day in one big glorious lump sum. Instead, it’s gradual.

    One day, I’ll have debt paid off and be able to spend more freely, and invest and save as I see fit.

    Then, eventually, I’ll be able to save enough to rid myself of other common consumer debt, like mortgages or car loans. I’m all about paying for those up front, or putting down hefty down payments on homes only to pay it off quick. I’ll be able to pay for a lot of things up front — no more fear of something happening that would require a credit card.

    Eventually, a day will come where I’ll have enough of a nest egg to get angry at work and quit on the spot — even if it means I’ll eventually have to pick a new one. I’ll be able to take my time searching for the perfect fit though, and perhaps take a bit of a break.

    A day will come where I’ll choose to do contract work or work part time, and travel the rest of the time.Financial freedom is gradual, an important note to remember to live in the here and now.

  4. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m outgrowing my current position at my job. I’ve felt overworked, and when not overworked, under motivated. I can’t seem to find balance anymore. Do I think I joined the wrong industry? No, not really, because genuinely I enjoyed it for many years. However, after only a few years out of college at my first job, I’m feeling so over it. (I was also doing this work throughout college and even dabbling in high school, so equate it to a 10 year career, at least in terms of my attention towards it.)

    I love reading stories of those who up and left their job, after realizations of ‘I deserve to be happy,’ and ‘life is short’ — yadda yadda. Financially, whether they make more, less, or just about the same, with less or more work, it’s a life changing experience to say ‘f it!’ I would love to do the same.

    That would work great if I didn’t have all this debt! No debt? Save and invest for a year, take a year off. Or, save for 15 years, retire early. Perfectly do-able as long as I’m living well below my means, while working and while not. And frankly, I do live well below my means. With my loan payments, paying extra on them, and dabbling away much of what’s left over to investing/savings, I actually live on less than 1/4 of my income. Those experts say living on 1/2 of 1/4 of your income guarantees, mathematically, financial freedom, early retirement, passive income from investments — all that jazz.

    *Sigh*

    What does it all boil down to? While early retirement or semi-retirement in my 20’s may never be an option, and having my only option be aggressive debt repayment, either way, it means quitting my job can only mean finding one in a similar field, or one that at least is different but pays equally or more (basically impossible with my degree and experience in one thing and one thing only).

    Ok, so enough with complaining? What am I going to do about it?! What can anyone in a similar position do about it?

    The plan right now: job search for a career shift — not necessarily a change; I’ve even been contemplating asking my boss to change roles from web developer to UI designer, or even a UI developer position — a position that doesn’t even exist. It’s a fairly open-to-change agency, so it wouldn’t be out of the question.

    Taking on less money? For me right now, out of the question. I could afford food and an apartment on a smaller salary, but for me my biggest life goal right now is my debt, and my financial freedom. So, I’m not going to take a step back. Of course, that answer would be different if I was significantly miserable, but as of right now, I’m just discontent.

    A career shift? A change? A lifestyle change? Either of them could soon be in the future. Feeling antsy yourself? Here are a few things I’ve tried to do to ease my discontentment:

    1) Find/stick to a hobby outside of work to keep engaged for part of my day.

    2) Got my portfolio and resume updated, and am casually searching.

    3) Keeping my CC balance low, my spending low, and building up a cash buffer.

    4) Near future: Save up for a new computer and any software I would need for a new journey. (We have company-owned computers, and my personal computer is years and years old.)

    5) Dabbling in hobbies/career options. Perhaps something I will newly discover will tackle my interests and get my going full speed ahead.

  5. At the end of July I made a huge-ish final payment to my next smallest student loan, getting rid of it completely. It was AWESOME. At the same time, I knew I was letting my checking account cut closer to $0 than it had in a long time, really since starting this aggressive debt payoff journey at all. I budgeted it out though, and thought, ‘No problem, I can swing this, I just have to spend far less than I have been the last few months.’

    It worked on paper, not so much in practice.

    Did I not give myself enough slack? Probably. Yet, I’ve worked with the budget I made for myself this month before, and succeeded, plenty of times. After I saw those couple ‘Overdraft Protection Notice’ emails, my heart sank.

    What was I spending all the money on? Restaurants. Expensive groceries. Entertainment. My ‘cutting back’ wasn’t cutting out very much at all. It was really just a lot of me saying I was going to this month, and not doing anything.

    Lessons Learned

    So, I feel horrible that money is being wasted on bank fees right now, and I need to wait till my next paycheck to sort this all out. If I’m going to find any good in this month’s situation though, it will be this: the feeling again of stress from when I was truly living paycheck-to-paycheck, every month, has put me back into extreme saving mode. Hopefully this sticks around for awhile too.

    So what’s my plan of action?

    1. Pay off my CC with my next paycheck by paying the minimum due on my car payment, which is only a quarter of what it used to be because I’ve been paying ahead for so long.
    2. A freelance check is due sometime this month — and hopefully it’s not late — which will go into my checking account and sit there as a cash buffer, as well as punishment by not going towards a nice extra payment on a loan.
    3. Be extremely frugal this month to avoid any more debt.
    4. Spend less than I saved up for my vacation in a few weeks. I have $1000 saved up, which I’m not touching to resolve this situation quite yet. We’ll see how much I truly have left over and put that back into a cash buffer. The flight, car, and stay is already paid for, so I think I’ll have plenty. The cash is a buffer in itself.
    5. Next month with my first paycheck, I’ll pay myself back into my emergency fund the $200 or so I borrowed these last couple weeks, then make a double car payment and resume project attack debt!
  6. Long time no post! I’ve been working away and just recently paid off my next smallest student loan! My minimum is now $100 less than before, and that much more excess in my budget to reallocate to the next! I feel as though I’m finally in a good position to start really going after my highest-interest loan with the highest principal. I’ve been delaying in fear of my minimum payments getting to high, but now I think I’ll be able to manage after the third increase on the graduate plan — an exciting time indeed — the time where I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

    Wouldn’t it be great if someone else was helping me raise the money too though? Like, as in crowdfunding?

    There are a few other crowdfunding sites out there that allow you to do this, but they all seem to be a ‘popularity contest’, as this website I just discovered points out. Those with the biggest social networks, families, and not-so-financially-unfortunate friends get the most money. Other than that, there’s not a lot of traction in student debt crowdfunding.

    A newer site, StudentLoanDiary.org, has caught my attention though. They see the problem and want to attack it in a far more communal approach. No embarrassing begging or need for wealthy friends or family? That’s my style. The site is a student debt crowdfunding site with a first-come first serve mindset.

    What I also like about them, they keep it simple: you only need to donate a dollar and nothing more. They appreciate a dollar and a social media share more than anything — their larger goal is to raise awareness about the rising student debt problem in the United States.

    So, here’s my 2 cents (financial blog pun intended), a genuine blog post share for a great cause in addition to the dollar I already donated. Visit StudentLoanDiary.org and donate a dollar yourself — you can either get on the list to receive student debt donations, or just donate to a good cause. For someone drowning in debt for an education, what’s a dollar to you?

  7. Often times I think about where my money would go if I didn’t have debt repayments. What would I do today if my primary goal didn’t have to be paying off my loans (or conversely, what will I immediately begin doing once out of debt)? A few thoughts have been circling my lately — the eventual cost of a house, wedding, dream vacations, and other investments or purchases that I know I will eventually be in my future, even though it is 100% indeterminate at this point of when I will even need to begin to think of these things. I think many of us, including myself, are guilty of something — even those of us who consider ourselves financially literate. I think it may be a problem with the way society actually views saving behavior. A few examples include:

    • Waiting till a car starts to get old (or wait till to point where it is already needing a lot of repairs) before starting to save for a new one.
    • Waiting till we’ve met our significant other, our certain of it, and gotten engaged before ever even thinking about saving for a wedding/reception/honeymoon.
    • Waiting till a vacation is decided on and planned to begin coming up with ways to fund it.
    • Waiting until actively making the decision to purchase a home, and a timeframe to save up for a 20% downpayment.

    I started thinking of these things, and these are generally best-case scenarios. This is what financially well-rounded people do. They save up for downpayments or save up in full ahead of time. They make a goal for a purchase and save for it, then buy it after their savings goal is met. However, I think it could be even easier. A few assumptions:

    • I know I’m going to need a new car someday, even though I plan on driving this one to the ground and even though this one will probably last me another 10 years.
    • I’m more than likely going to get married someday, and at an average of $20k wedding/reception/honeymoon costs in my area, that’s a huge hunk of doe to save up for in and average of one year’s timespan.
    • It’s not like I’m never going to travel again.
    • I’m more than likely going to purchase a home in my lifetime, and it is a goal of mine.

    So what on Earth is stopping me from saving up for these things years in advance? Of course all of you know — for me it’s my debt. Let’s view this question more generically though — what on Earth is stopping anyone from saving up for these things years in advance, instead of shorter term plans?

    I’ll drive my car for 10 more years, probably

    But I’ll need a new one, certainly. Here’s how it would go for a typical money-savvy person: the car is getting old, and may need to replace it in 1-2 years: start saving for a new one. Possibly use savings as a downpayment and get something nicer, or pay for the entire thing in cash. For that savings timeframe, a huge chunk of the budget is the ‘new car savings.’ Or, I could budget $100 per month for 10 years. $12,000 saved up right there. Fast forward: my cars getting old, in later years of my car’s life, maybe I’ll bump up that contribution, and have more than $12,000 saved. The point is — with the tiniest amount of effort and hardly any scrimping and saving, I have a huge chunk of change for a new car, basically saved on autopilot.

    Am I a crazy lady for already funding my future wedding?

    Most people will get married. If it’s something you want to do with your life when you’ve found the right person, don’t wait for the question to be popped. Just save up for the life event you’re very likely going to have — even if you’re single now. Never get married by chance, or have a significantly smaller cost than you had originally anticipated? Whatever, now you have more savings to re-allocate to and emergency fund, or future replacement car! It’s not obsessive or crazy, it’s spanning savings over several years instead of just one or two — which may lead to the event of your dreams, and at least far more peace of mind during the planning process.

    I decided already to go to Vegas this year — instantly I had $400 to start from

    I have a mini travel fund that I’ll put some cash into every now and then from random freelance work. Sometimes I have more, but I’ll go on a weekend trip or something. It’s so nice to be able to plan something for yourself, and not worry about where the cash is coming from. Where it does come from is from times when I have extra cash on me. When the larger trip to Vegas came up, I can now save up less bit by bit to achieve my goal because I already have a starting point. When I’m out of debt, I’m sure I’ll contribute to this regularly as part of my budget!

    20% home downpayment is good, but it’s not that great

    Why not start saving up for a future home now, even if you’re not immediately planning on buying one in the next few years? Why not start now, even if it could be 10+ years down the line, or not even on your radar at this point? With extra time and a more relaxed savings plan, you could possibly get up to the 20% down payment rule — or do far better and pay significantly less in interest and monthly payments when the time to buy a home does come. Either way, it’s win-win. As long as I have my debt, I’ll be making my debt repayment a top priority, and not saving for more of these things this far in advance, but it’s surely something to think about for when I am out of debt. I may be single — but I’ll start saving for a future wedding. I may have a reliable car — but I’ll start saving up for my next one asap. Stop waiting for the plans to be finalized before saving for future needs and goals!

  8. Sorry to bore everyone, but you get to read yet another post full of new 2014 goals! This time, though, they’re mine.

    2013 treated me well. According to Mint, I had a net worth increase of $11,995. Not bad, especially considering what an unorganized mess I was with finances at the year’s starting point.

    Read more
  9. I didn’t buy a single Xmas gift for anybody this year. Social taboo, or a smart financial move?

    (Ok fine, I bought some Greenies for may cat; they were on sale.)

    I’ve gotten to the point where I’m absolutely sick of commercialized Christmas (and most other holidays). Will I be getting gifts? More than likely. However, I told everyone I didn’t want anything. Did they listen? No.

    For those that I knew were going to buy me something anyway — because that’s just the way they are — I told them a few cheap things I wanted/needed, as to particularly deter them from getting me something more expensive. I asked for a coffee mug with a lid. A cheap long-sleeved shirt for my cold office.

    For years I felt pressured to buy gifts for the pure sake of society’s standards. I’ve felt for so long — I don’t really appreciate half the stuff I get, even though I pretend like I do. It’s more junk for my apartment that I may not even use, or hardly use. It’s more to clean around. It’s usually in the brands I don’t feel comfortable using for a variety of moral reasons. But I need to appreciate them because ‘it’s the thought the counts.’

    It’s a social pressure that slows my financial goals, spends money I don’t really have, makes me budget and save to buy other people more junk they don’t need and will probably not appreciate too much either. It’s not about being selfish — but really — how much does my mom need another candle or snowman figurine? How much does my dad need a new pair of pants? How much do my kid cousins need more toys that require more batteries?

    They don’t, and the holidays weren’t like this decades ago. It’s not selfish, it’s honest. I’m really quite tired of inconveniencing myself for traditions so skewed.

    For the sake of the holidays and my budget, I don’t care about breaking a social taboo — I’m not buying gifts anymore.

    Call me selfish, but I don’t consider it that. I don’t want to take but then not give. I don’t want the materialistic crap that are the vast majority of my gifts. My mom doesn’t want another candle she needs to find a place for and my dad already has too many pairs of jeans to wash and store. I’d rather call it boycotting what has become a waste of everyone’s money and time.

    Instead, I come home for Christmas. I drive hours to do so. Sometimes I bake cookies and share time. Families get together, some families celebrate in a much stronger religious sense and are together for that.

    I see so many posts about cheap holiday finds and sales, and I can’t help to think — you know how you can really save money this holiday season? Don’t give into the marketing like everyone else. Bring back the real reason for the season, whether for your family that’s religion, or just getting together and spending time.

  10. Little improvement is better than no improvement! I have my reasons though, and I’ve actually quite successfully cut back on spending in order to make up for some needed expsnes this month.

    Read more
  11. When I read Mom and Dad Money’s post on Why Net Worth is Misleading, I of course quickly applied it to my own situation. I haven’t in a while read a post that has inspired me to change my way of thinking more, and I think I’d like to add my own two cents based on my current situation.

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  12. I broke -$90k! I never thought I’d say that with such joy, but it does feel good.

    The last month has been a good one, with plenty of additional freelance income coming in, and a nice $2000 check from my mom to go towards my biggest student loan (which I will be paying her back after my debts are paid off)! Even though I went into the red August and September because of vacation, since my last update I still made an $8,399 increase in net worth! Not to toot my own horn, but impressive huh?

    Read more
  13. In the past, if I had a few extra hundred dollars in my account, especially if it was additional income than I would have otherwise had, I spent. A lot. Even to this day, if I get a nice big freelance check in, I’ll splurge on a little something — going out to a place to eat I otherwise wouldn’t waste money on, or buying a nicer version of something that I was on my to-do list to purchase.

    However, this is when I had extra money in my account, when most of the time ‘my normal’ was to have close to none. As I’ve started building a cash buffer now though, among countless other benefits, I’ve noticed I spend less. I also spend more intelligently.

    I think the explanation is two-fold:

    1. Psychological. There’s been a lot of effort to build up my cash buffer, and to keep in there. I don’t want to waste all that effort. Also, every time I get my paycheck, freelance income, or any other unexpected cash coming in, it doesn’t seem like such a grandiose amount anymore. I’m not broke, and I know I have cash for food and bills. My head is on a bit straighter and I want to do the right thing with that extra money. I no longer see it as, ‘this may be the only extra cash I have for a while,’ and just wait for desperation-derived decisions to settle in.
    2. Logical. I don’t spend money on overdraft fees. I don’t spend money on credit card interest. If I’m hungry, I have the money for an efficient and smart grocery run that will last me several seeks — I don’t have to grab pizza because I can only spend $10, and I don’t have $50 for a lump sum of groceries. I buy quality when I need something that will last, opposed to being forced into buying the cheapest option that I’ll have to replace in a few months. In other words, it’s true what they say: It’s expensive to be poor.

    I’ve come to notice that I spend better, but also have far less stress, and better quality things. I buy more groceries instead of eating out as a quick fix to my hunger because I have no groceries. Therefore, I’m healthier and have saved money. I also get to enjoy higher quality groceries.

    I spent a bit more ($45) on a nicer pair of workout pants that I use every single day and now I know I won’t have to replace the $15 pair I always used to grab at Wal-Mart every few months because they rip. One $45 pair will likely now last me years. I also can better decipher when to go frugal and when to buy quality in order to save more in the long-run.

    I also don’t feel as much of a need to pay down my smallest loans just to keep freeing up more cash. I’m still going to pay off my car first to get that big payment off of my monthly bills, but when I pay extra towards a student loan, it goes to my largest, highest interest loan — the comfort of knowing I won’t be broke in a few years has helped me save more in the long-term as well.

    When you begin to save more, and you begin to have more cash in the bank, do you also feel as though you spend less and spend more efficiently?

  14. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I have a problem with holding onto cash. For the most part, I do the semi-responsible thing and have it go towards my loans, but I’ve known for a while via my personal finance research and journey, that I need more liquid cash on me.

    I’m used to going paycheck to paycheck, sometimes racking up my credit card from time to time on unexpected expenses — or just because I don’t budget correctly for that month, even if I am still paying extra towards my debts. I have the resources to pay off both extra on my debt and build a cash reserve, but up until now, I’ve not done that. Why? Because that’s how my parents have always done things.

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  15. Ah yes, if you’ve followed my posts in the past, you’ll know that since I got my beautiful Prius back last May, it’s gotten vandalized, hit by a hit-and-run drunk driver, had a few other minor hit and runs, and towed from my own apartment complex and then scratched.

    Why can’t I catch a break?!

    Well this time fortunately it’s not too major, and more maintenance issues than anything else. The bottom piece of my car started falling down, which fortunately was fixed for free under warranty. It sure wasn’t fun driving the last 2 miles home yesterday with it obnoxiously scraping against the concrete road though!

    So that happened yesterday, and not one, but both of my headlights went out. I figured it was a fuse since they both came out at the same time — but nope, both bulbs had burnt out. So that’s three, completely random problems with my car, all hit me on the same day. Talk about a shitty coincidence.

    So getting both bulbs replaced, the bottom piece put back up (free, thank God), and a few other maintenance things I was due for anyway, like transmission stuff-kind-of-stuff. (What the hell, I don’t know I’m a girl): $400.

    I suppose all of it is maintenance that I’m actually having to pay for, it just really sucks that it all gets thrown at me at once. I hate coincidences like this.

    Again, I don’t have enough in my e-fund/buffer in my checking, so it may be going on my credit card. Once I get this big freelance check coming in though, I’ll pay off my card.

    Hopefully, I can pick up just enough freelance work to make an additional $400 this month as to keep with my tight budget.

    *Sigh*

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