Telling My Partner I Have Debt

Recently, I finally told B about my debt.  (insert cringe here at all the gasps I hear from the interwebs)

I know!  I know I should have told him sooner, but despite co-habitating I honestly didn’t feel too much pressure to tell him until we started getting serious about wedding planning and starting a life together.  In my defense, we know about each others’ salaries, various accounts, ways of spending, etc.  However, since he’s frugal beyond belief and overall fiscally responsible, I was ashamed to tell him about my debt.  A part of me thought that perhaps I could just get rid of the debt without having to tell him (not to justify, but some friends I bounced this off of thought this, as well).  However, as I became more invested in PF communities, as well as read various articles and comments about when to tell your partner about your financial situation, it started to internally bother me that I was keeping this from him.  Plus, I do generally believe that omission is still lying, so I womaned up and came clean.

This is how it went down more or less:

Me: “So, I have to tell you something…”

B (kind of concerned since I had a serious look on my face): “Okay, what?”

Me: “So I haven’t been shopping lately and staying on a strict budget because I really want to be debt free by the time we get married.”
B: “Okay… how much are we talking about?”

Me: “Well this year I started off with $12.5k, and now I’m down to $6k.”

B: “Okay, cool, you’re halfway there… are we going to the gym this morning?”

Pretty anti-climactic, but I was so relieved that I finally told him.  He did inquire what kind of debt it was, and why it’s taking me so long to get rid of it, which I answered truthfully (some of it were the destination weddings that I was in, but most of it was just plain stupidity and lack of discipline).  To be honest, I must be a masochist because I was slightly perturbed he didn’t dig deeper or shame me, but I suppose that’s the upside of dating someone so stoic – he may not get overly enthusiastic, but he also doesn’t get overly angry.  In fact, I joke at times how borderline robotic he is, gently poking at his face and commenting “How very life-like they make you guys these days!”

So with that proverbial boulder off my chest, it kind of helped me get my second wind back in my determination to get rid of this debt.  I think most PF’ers talked about financial situations right away in a relationship, but did it ever take you awhile to tell your partner something important, or am I the only bad person? 🙂

June Update – Halfway There (Who-oa, Livin’ on a Prayer)

Well folks, we’re practically halfway through the year and, as timing would have it, I’m also halfway through my debt at $6098.  For June, I managed to bring it down by $899, which I could have brought it down more but little expenses are starting to creep up with wedding stuff (which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about in a couple of weeks once plans firm up).  For now, I thought I would reflect on things I’ve learned since starting this whole process:

1) No clothes shopping is, like, the best diet ever!  Obviously, this is tongue-in-cheek, but hey, it’s kept my weight in check since there were times over the winter when my jeans were just a bit too snug for my liking (the breaking point was after getting back from lunch, and literally popping the top button for an hour.  Only happened once, but once is enough!).

2) The PF community is a lot like joining a running group (or I’m thinking any hobby/sport club).  Just like in running groups where there’s people from different ages, walks of life, and running times, there’s also a ton of diversity in the PF community.  Some are single while others have families, some are working on their debt while others are striving for financial independence, some are paycheck to paycheck while others have a huge stash in their accounts.  But, both communities serve a common goal and have a central purpose, and, moreover, both communities are so nice, helpful, and very supportive towards each other.  It’s pretty awesome.

3) It’s never too late to start, whether paying off debt or investing.  Is it helpful to start as soon as possible (or not even incur debt at all)?  Obviously, yes, but once someone is aware of a problem, the only productive thing to do is improve upon it.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or how far in debt/no savings, just like with losing weight or trying to improve upon anything in your life, you just have to start, and progress towards your goal.

4) Stay motivated.  In running, a cool trick I learned is that for each mile, dedicate it to a loved one, so that when you’re running that mile, you’re motivated to give it as much as you can because you love that person so much.  With paying down this debt, what’s kept me motivated is that I tell myself that just like most things in life, this is transient, and though it’s like this now, it won’t always be like this.  I also remind myself that sure, I’m probably paying a 70-80%/20-30% ratio in debt to savings/investing (excluding mortgage in debt), but how exciting will it be when the ratio is reversed and increased to be exclusively savings/investing.  Giving myself pep talks tends to help, and apparently, I’m a big believer and fan of myself. j/k

5) It’s all a work in progress.  After eliminating this debt repayment, I have more financial goals that I’d like to accomplish, from diving into investing since I’m currently just in the wading area, maintaining what I’ve learned during my debt repayment as to not fall back to my old ways (since from my experience, maintenance has been at times more difficult than actual loss), and learning to juggle long-term goals like how to save for family needs, house and what to do with our current place, college educations for hopefully future kids, etc.  Thankfully, there’s a plethora of PF blogs where I’m learning the different methods, so I can cultivate them into processes that work for me.

There’s been a lot of teachable moments from this process, and I’m sure I’ll learn more in the next half of this process (and beyond).  Have there been any teachable moments for you?

My Journaling/Tracking Habits

Weird fun fact about me: I’ve kept a running and health journal for the past decade.  Though most of it are the old yearly journal and pen method, recently I’ve converted to using Google Drive, and in any given day I can tell you how many miles I ran, if I did a weights workout, if I hiked that day and what peak, if I had a doctor appointment, if I took Advil/Tums/meds that day, etc.  If I did a race, I rate at how well I did and why, and if I have an injury, I rate the pain.  Moreover, the times I’ve found myself wanting to get my weight in check, I’ve also kept a food journal, which kept track of not only food/calories, but how I felt if I “slipped.”  I suppose I’m OCD in nature, but once I started tracking, I couldn’t stop – it’s become habitual, and pretty darn handy for whenever I have an ailment or injury.  Once I have something like that occur, I go back to the time frame I remember experiencing it before, and read what I did in order to fix it.  It’s become even handier now more than ever, since I’ve noticed my ‘brain fart’ rates have increased in my 30’s (note to self: apologize to the mother for always clowning her about being forgetful back in the day… I totally get it now!).

In light of this, I thought since starting this debt payoff project, I would keep track of my money allocations/expenses.  Why I didn’t do this sooner, I have no idea… actually, that’s a lie.  I didn’t because I didn’t think debt was that big of a deal before.  But now I’ve become more financially conscious, especially with B in my life, and thought tracking my finances would make me self-aware in why I spend, how much I save/spend, and what my overall money habits are.

For the most part, any expenses beyond the “fixed” are separated into the wants and needs category.  Though I write 1-2 words on what the expenses are, for the wants I also write down why and/or what emotion I was feeling that day.  For the most part, a lot of my wants are going out with friends or buying stuff for potlucks.  Those are pretty self-explanatory, since I value my friendships and do my best to continually cultivate those ties.  However, there’s also wants in the form of treats or splurges, and almost always those purchases are made due to stress, lack of time, feeling down, etc.  They don’t make up too much of my overall budget thankfully, but being able to see them at month’s end, it’s still a bit more than what I would like for myself so it helps make me more self-aware of what I need to do in order to prevent them.  It primarily tends to be lack of time, which, if I’m being honest with myself, has more to do with my lack of planning.  So, I’m starting to plan better, especially with my work time snacks, so that I’m scheduling time to buy healthier and cheaper options rather than the “this will do in a pinch” choice from vending machines or the nearby coffee cart (which I almost always regret) as I’m going from meeting to meeting.

It’s helped so far in my little habits, but since I plan on continuing this, it will be interesting to see how I’ll do and what I’ll learn in the long term.  I suppose it’s like my own self-concocted case study, and I know I’ve benefited from my running/food journals, so I’m curious to see where this will go over time.  Plus, it’s kind of nice to see the finance metrics on the month to month basis, so I’m sure it will be tons more interesting to see year to year improvements (at least I plan to improve every year!).

I don’t think tracking is for everyone since it can get tedious, but for me it’s what works, especially during the times when I’m seeking improvements.  I actually only spend 5-10 minutes on it (5 for populating, 10 if I’m fixing formulas), which I think is a small time-price to pay.  And the biggest take away is that in terms of food and spending – stuff adds up quickly!

Does anyone else do something similar (I’m thinking some do at least in the form of budgets)?

Becoming a Curmudgeon

As much as B is a kid at heart, there are also times when he can embody the spirit of a 90-year old curmudgeon.  This is most often observed while watching the news, since B always has a comment at whatever is being presented.  Before I would get upset because I wouldn’t be able to hear the rest of the story as he goes on his cantankerous tirade, but I’ve come to accept that this is the way he is, and I just try to follow up with the written version of the piece afterward.  What I didn’t think would occur, though, is that at times I’ve become a curmudgeon.

1) Youth – before, when I would see teenagers or people in their early 20’s, I would observe their dress, mannerisms, or hear snippets of their conversations, and think to myself, “Look at all this youthful energy!  Full of creative imagination and optimism!”  Now, it seems my blue-haired spirit self looks at them and thinks, “Ugh, look at them, full of hopes and dreams… they’ll learn…” as I grumble on by with my rain cloud in tow.  In my defense, this is usually when they’re in a line across of 5 and don’t bother to move aside which forces me to eek past them, or when they’re disrespecting their parents.

2) The cost of things – I suppose this is pretty typical and reminiscent of elders saying, “Back in my day, I remember this was a nickel!”  But seriously, things have gone up, and I find myself always saying, “Back in college, this $3 boba drink used to cost $1.50!”

3) Community pool – when I was living by my lonesome, I lived beside a pool and in a young neighborhood, so screams or laughter coming from the area until 11 p.m. was always prevalent, which I managed to tune out.  Now, even though we’re nowhere near the pool, it’s enclosed within the condo property so it echoes, and I’ve more often than not caught myself thinking, “Geeeeeez, so loud, too loud!”  At 6 p.m.

4) Lyrics – back when I was a wee little lass, I remember my mom wouldn’t let me get the latest Janet Jackson album because it had the song “Nasty Boys” on it, and nasty was a bad word in her eyes.  I didn’t understand it then, and I was fairly unfazed with lyrics as I grew up.  Now, however, when I find myself nodding to a song, I also catch myself listening to the lyrics and being critical of them.  Listening to “I crashed my car into a bridge, I don’t care!” and me thinking “Well, that’s just really irresponsible, Missy!” is a recent example (but for real, though, it is).

5) Driving – before, I was always on the fast lane, trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast as I can.  Now that bunch of whippersnappers are on the road (seriously, why don’t they use the blinkers?!), I often find myself on the second or last right lane.  I’m going normal speed, but if I find them tailgating, I often think to myself “Go around, go around…”

6) This isn’t really a curmudgeon habit, but I often call B “Spoiler Alert Smith” (last name changed) since, if he’s seen a movie before that I’m watching the first time, he’ll tell me what happens before it happens.  If he hasn’t seen the movie, he has a habit of trying to figure out what’s going to happen and he constantly has the urge to tell me, “They’ll be saved because of this character!”  Before I used to huffily say, “It’s okay to just watch, you know!”, but now I caught myself over the weekend telling him, “He’s the Rain Maker, babe, I just know it!”  (and um, not to brag, but it totally was)

I feel like I’m Benjamin Button, yo!  But in reverse (err, normal process of aging) and in over drive, so I suppose it’s nothing at all like Benjamin Button… do you find yourself developing more of our partner’s less than desirable habits?

Link Love, Ladies’ Night Edition

Happy Thursday, everyone!  So apparently, I had a break-dancing dream the other night because I woke up in a really contorted position and, worse, my whole back and neck ached.  My range of motion is better today, but man, if ever I needed proof that I’m no longer a spring chicken, that was it.  Anyway, back when I was a spring chicken, I always looked forward to Thursdays because that was usually Ladies’ Nights for some of the beach bars in my area, where my close girlfriends and I would take advantage of the discounted drinks and chicken wings (is that cannibalism if I just called myself a spring chicken? *shrug*).  So, I thought I’d do a throwback with a link love honoring some great ladies in the interwebs… not sure if this is PC anymore, so I’m sure there will be a gentleman’s edition in the near future.

First is Michelle’s post on how she almost had to use her emergency fund.  I think it’s great that she was caring enough to post a note to the car’s owner, and it even had a happy ending.  Just goes to show that good karma prevails.

I loved this post by Do or Debt on how she landed her position.  I think some people (myself included) at times get intimidated by a job description that they automatically feel that they don’t qualify.  I think her experience is proof to take the chance and drop your hat in the ring, rather than missing all the opportunities you don’t take.

Holly posted the benefits of working at home, and as amused as I was about “strategery,” I got a kick out with the holes in her shirt part.  I suppose I’m a post voyeur, but I like reading about people’s/couples’ idiosyncrasies.  Plus, she’s really rocking it with freelancing!

I liked how Budget Blonde named her car in this post on how to save up for a new car.  My car is definitely in her golden years, so this post was timely.

GMD posted an interview with J (he’ll always be J), and it was great to both get to know the man who motivated GMD to start a blog, as well as kind of get a peek at their dynamics.  What a complementary and cute couple they are.

I’m always drawn to health care posts, so KK’s post on her company’s change to a high-deductible health insurance plan was interesting.  I agree with her that it completely hurts low-income earners if there was a flat deductible rate, and hope that companies can find a solution to either tier it or make it income-based.

I’m pretty sure everyone’s following NZ Muse’s around the world adventures, but I love how she’s giving the economical breakdown of her trip, as well as giving a heads up on which countries need visas, and the process on how to obtain them.  Plus, her monkey video is so awesome!

I look forward to reading Michelle’s wedding posts and tips, like this one about wedding dresses and photographers.  I had no idea that dress stores cut off tags to preserve business, so her tips were great to know.

I tend to side on Mrs. PoP regarding superstores (specifically Target), mostly for its convenience, value, and service (especially at the checkout lanes).  I have yet to walk out of there without spending $50 minimum, though I do manage to time the sales so I’m not paying full price.

Tonya posted about the benefits of meditation – frankly, I’m impressed that she has meditation down pat that she can do so at an airport!  Plus I think it’s a great way to keep centered and calm, especially when situations beyond your control arises.

Shannon wrote a well-written post on how to talk to your kids about debt.  My plan is to get rid of my debt, live below my means, and build wealth before I have kids, but in the event I ever have to do this, she explains strategies that can make a difficult conversation not so uncomfortable nor shameful, but rather productive and understandable.

And on a non-PF note, I absolutely loved these pictures where the photographer posed her daughter with heroines as opposed to Disney princesses.  I find Disney movies as entertaining as the next person, but it really does make you re-think about celebrating and paying tribute to real life accomplishments of women (it did for me, at least).  My favorite was the tribute to Amelia Earhart.

“Mary and Max”

I watched a movie over the weekend that I thought I’d share since it really evoked a lot of emotions and thoughts for me.  I love B, and though I found Iron Man 3, Star Trek, and Fast and Furious 6 entertaining (though the last extremely unbelievable* – there were some parts where I thought, “Oh, come on!” as I shot him a glaring glance.  But he was fixated on the screen with overstimulated eyes, so I just let him have his moment), his tastes are polar opposite of mine and I wanted to check more emotional and somber movies since it was June Gloom outside.

Mary and Max” is a claymation movie about an 8 year old girl named Mary from Australia who becomes pen pals with a 40-something year old man named Max in New York.  I don’t want to spoil anything (though I will talk about the characters), but the movie really spoke to me on so many levels both because it was written beautifully with great wit, and I loved the selection of Toni Collete and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the voice overs.  They are two of the most understated actors, and I wish they were featured in more films.

I loved this movie because right out of the gates, I could really relate to Mary.  Mary was awkward, had glasses and obvious birthmark, and had trouble making friends, all of which I also dealt with.  As a child, I was painfully shy and had trouble fitting in, that I couldn’t wait to finish school to go home and read in order to go in my own little world.  I recall my mom asking if I made friends on more than one occasion, and sensing the dismay in her voice, I thought it would make her feel better if I said, “Books are my friends!”  (It didn’t, btw.)  Anyway, some of Mary’s worries and inquiries through the letters were gut-wrenching, though just as equally adorable were her eccentric likes and intrinsic optimism.

Then enters Max, whom we learn has Asperger’s and severe anxiety.  My friend who referred me to this movie gave me a heads up that Max has Asperger’s, and knowing someone fairly close that has it, I was immediately curious by it.  I admit, some of the mannerisms and habits that Max portrayed made me laugh because they’re pretty similar to the person I know, which I thought made the character more endearing. Plus, Philip Seymour Hoffman was so incredibly on point with his delivery, that just as much he made me laugh hysterically, he made me bawl with equal caliber.

I appreciated the movie by bringing more awareness about Asperger’s, and I hope it brings attention and understanding to a population that I feel are too often misunderstood (and at times too easily dismissed).  I hope that by seeing this movie, some people might be even more curious to actually read and learn about Asperger’s a bit more, so that hopefully people become more patient or understanding.  Just as I am starting to learn that the topic of money shouldn’t be taboo, I don’t think disorders or mental health issues should be either, and I feel the more we know, the more we understand, and the more we can help.

It’s definitely not for kids despite the claymation aspect, and I don’t think this movie is for everyone nor do I think people will love it as much as I did.  But since I’ve had some crazy search engine results on some of my less than proud posts, I hope anyone that was considering watching this movie might run across this post when googling, and become curious enough to check it out.  Because I really do feel it’s worth it.

*Okay, so all of them are unbelievable, but Fast and Furious more so with some action sequences since it at least attempts to pretend it’s real life.

Wedding Dress on a Budget

So while some wedding plans are underway during the longest pre-engagement ever, at least in anna-time (PST), I started perusing wedding dresses.  I’m loving the fit and flare styles (note to self: ramp up squats workouts), but taking into account the overall wedding budget, the dress is pretty much on the bottom of the list.  I’ll probably post my list of priorities at some point, but my main reason for not wanting to spend too much on the dress is because I can’t wrap my head around spending hundreds, let alone thousands, on a dress I’ll only wear once in my life.  So, in an effort to curb this cost as much as possible, I thought of a few ways that I’m looking into before paying full price.

1) Renting a dress – a couple of my friends tried this route and apparently there’s some stores around SoCal that have great deals with rentals.  There’s some where they tailor and dry clean it for you, and it’s a fraction of the cost than outright owning a dress.  I did ask for figures, though, and it’s still a little pricey since I have a friend that rented a new dress for a thousand though the retail was double that, so I suppose fraction of the cost is relative.  Still, I’m not much for the newest trend or fashion, so if I’m able to rent a dress from a few seasons ago at a great price, then perhaps it’s still an economical way to pay for it.

2) Buying a dress on Ebay – I’m a big fan of selling stuff on Ebay, so I searched for new or pre-owned dresses and discovered there’s a lot out there for way below the retail value.  If I go this route, I’d definitely want to make sure I try a certain designer and style first so I have my sizing right, and also take into account shipping costs, sellers’ ratings, any damage to the dress, etc.  I’m not gonna lie, there’s a small part of me that thinks “bad joujou,” like what if the person I bought it from is selling it because she’s recently divorced (kind of like pre-owned engagement rings), but it’s not such an overwhelming superstition that I would kick this idea to the curb.

3) Shopping around for sales – when I mentioned renting a dress to a few friends, more often than not they would tell me that their dress was only $100-200, and to just go to sales at the popular mainstream wedding dress stores in the area.  Though I instantly feel lazy when it comes to this since the stores’ parking lots are always packed and I don’t want to deal, it’s something to at least try a couple of times to see what I find.  Besides, like most of my grocery or errand shopping, I go first thing in the morning to beat the crowd and avoid the riff-raff, so I’ll most likely do the same thing if I go this route.

4) Buying a dress and then selling it – if I find a dress that I truly want but it comes with a hefty price tag, maybe I’ll have a YOLO moment and buy it, but then sell it aftward.  This is probably the least viable option, though, since 1) I can’t imagine loving a dress so much where I’d spend a ton of money on it, and 2) I’ll probably have to tailor it like I do with 96.45% of my clothes, which would make it tougher to re-sell.

If you have any ideas to curb the wedding dress costs, I’d love to hear them!

Why I began running

It’s National Running Day, and instead of taking advantage of the Rock and Roll running series discounts, I figured I would talk about why I began running.  Though a part of it was purely physical – I had some weight to lose and thought I would take it up in order to get rid of the excess weight – there were a lot of mental and emotional connections to starting, and staying with it, as well.

My first year of college, my dad passed away… during spring finals week, to be exact.  Though I had some fond memories of him when I was young, throughout my teen and early adult years, it was tumultuous.  He was a “get rich quick” type, and would take on businesses.  When they didn’t pan out, he’d try again, and since some relatives in our home country had some success, he went back there to get a piece of the success.  While he was there, he also decided to take up a mistress, which became the downfall of our family unit.  He also did some pretty shitty stuff in addition, but something I’m not getting into.

He came back to the U.S. with said mistress (and what became of the mistress after his death is an amazing story on its own), right around the time I graduated high school.  Because of this, I kept him at an arm’s distance, so much so that I didn’t even know how critically ill he was until he was on his death bed.  Seeing him from healthy over New Year’s to emaciated in June was tough, and something that’s burned in my memory.  I was pretty numb at his funeral.

After his death during college, I was so busy with classes and social activities, that I didn’t really process his death.  Once I graduated, and had a more balanced schedule with free time, it all came to a head.  Maybe it was a mixture of quarter-life crisis, gaining weight, and having time to reflect, but with all this crazy energy, I went for a run.

I chose this set path that I was familiar with.  At first, I was huffing and puffing, noticing even a half-degree incline and struggling with it.  A car with d-bags honked, frightening me, and I became so frustrated that I vowed to choose another activity.  But then, I looked to my left, and noticed the ocean, the sun setting, and how beautiful it was, and decided to try one more time.

That time became multiple times.  And over time, the runs became easier, both from practicing better stride and becoming fitter.  But I also noticed some mental and emotional changes stemming from it.  At first, there was so much hurt and unresolved emotions from not talking with my dad, not having a chance to confront him or make amends before he passed away.  I recall feeling these emotions at a beginning of a run, but with the rhythmic breathing I had to do while running, it would all dissipate by the end.  I suppose it’s like active meditation, and this is when I became hooked on it.  I felt that running was a remedy for hurt or pain, despite the irony that I at times felt physical pain when I ran longer and longer distances.  The trade-off for mental balance and emotional calmness was well worth it.

And, over time, the most notable thing I noticed was the progression of the hurt and pain from his death.  I’m a creature of habit and tend to go on the same running routes (so much so that I’m pretty sure I was a hamster in a past life – I can run on the dreadmill for 10 or so miles and not get bored), and I would know the routes like the back of my hand, from every turn to every incline and practically every crack on the path.  And, as the months went on, I would notice how, hey, last month when I went around this bend, I felt a lot sadder than I am now.  I felt better and better each time, and my awareness of it was uplifting.  I would notice this upward trend every week/month and had a mental graph of it, and after awhile – I didn’t feel the hurt anymore, as my happiness was off the charts.

I guess, in some way, running helped me make peace and resolve issues in unresolvable situations.  I think about my dad now and I no longer feel bitter or sad, both because it’s been many years and due to using running therapy (and not gonna lie, traditional therapy).  I still don’t feel love or happiness, though, to be quite honest… just ambivalence.  But it’s peaceful, and it’s what works.

So when I run now, there are times when I do still tune out and just run… but often I’m hashing things out, whether about work, relationships, or whatnot.  It’s given me a lot of mental clarity and emotional balance, that the physical benefits of it is just icing on the cake.  And for that, I’m grateful I found running.