Getting My Glutton On! Oh, and Giving Thanks

Hello everyone!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far – I’m for sure looking forward to Thanksgiving and the 4-day weekend ahead.  Last year, I was cooking a mini-meal for B’s family before we took off for Japan/Thailand, but this year it’s a lot more mellow with just B and I getting our glutton on with a mini-Thanksgiving spread, planning our honeymoon, and for the most part putzing around homestyle.  I think I’m pretty thankful on a consistent basis for all the good fortunes or learning lessons that have occurred in my life, but now’s a good of a time as any to reiterate my thanks:

I’m thankful for an awesome and loving family, who have supported me despite being cray-cray more often than not, and celebrating with me during good times.  I completely lucked out being born into this family, and it’s so awesome that my mother, brother, and cousins married some amazing people that have made this family circle into a gigantic “village” of awesome families.  I can’t wait to make it even bigger by adding B’s family into the mix.

I’m thankful for B for helping me push past my comfort zone, for loving me despite my dorky tendencies, and for just being there for me (even when a complete Mars vs. Venus scenario arose the other day when I vented about something, he said, “yeah, that’s lame… are we getting pizza?”, I fumed even more, and he stated, “but you told me not to fix things…” lol).

I’m thankful for a loving and supportive network of friends, whether through college, the gym, running groups, or the workplace.  All these members of my “chosen” family who I can’t imagine life without, and all of which I might not hear from for a few months or years, but pick up right where we left off like old times.

I’m thankful for the PF community, for being so incredibly knowledgeable, supportive, funny, and encouraging.  Wendy, Tonya, Mackenzie, Melanie, Michelle (times 3!), KK, Shannon, Laurie, Ross, Mrs. PoP, The 1500’s, John, Nate, Erin, Erin, Tara, E.M., Eva, Jocelyn, Lisa, The Frugal Rules Family, Cat, Femme Frugality, Mochimac, Pauline, Morgaine, Holly, Kathleen, Mr. DbF, Andrew, Steve, Harry, Roger, Tanya, Stefanie, Hayley, Erika, S – sorry I’m too lazy to link, but I feel so fortunate that we’ve crossed paths and that I’ve learned a thing (or five) from all of you!

I’m thankful for great health and employment, and pray that all of us continue to have these for many, many years ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (um, well, to those that celebrate)!

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Re-focusing and finding that line

7231_137563119102_966813_nIf there was one picture that could describe where I’m at right now, that would for sure be it.  That’s me about 95% up, dawdling in the most ungraceful way possible, as I figure out where my next step is to reach the top.  While I knew I had the security of a rope – physically in that picture and figuratively in the form of savings and having a steady job – I do find myself a little stuck on accomplishing this whole debt repayment process even though I’m so close.  Sure, I’ll reach it, but I do find myself getting a little distracted with wants, which I’ve admitted to feeding into the past couple of weeks (albeit justified in some sense, though I won’t harp on the details.  Sorry if that sounds cryptic).

So I thought perhaps a good way to motivate me to get this done with already is to state how I truly got into debt.  While I started this blog about $12k or so in the hole, that wasn’t the totality of it, unfortunately.  It isn’t very linear, since while some debts were being paid down others were incurring, but these are the primary “big hitters” of my debt over the last 15 years or so:

1) student loans

2) credit card debt (going out to party when I lived in college and LA, shopping profusely, spending recklessly)

3) traveling abroad and domestic when I didn’t have the means

4)  medical treatments (which at least saved my life despite the hefty price tag)

5) car payments (Got reamed on the total cost of it as it was my only option, though still have it actually, at 240k miles strong (knock on wood to hit 300k!)).

6) attending weddings (10 in one year, some that I was a part of, some destination), and subsequent baby showers (a couple where I was a godparent)

I do know at some point, the highest it peaked was $30k not including the car payments (since in my then-financially illiterate mind, I didn’t count it for gosh knows why).  Cumulatively, I think $50k is a reasonable estimate, not including the interest.  Thinking about the interest pretty much guts me, to think of all the wasted money due to it and my stupidity.

So now, that I’m about $4k shy to debt freedom, I feel stuck.  I do admit, the “wants” still get at me, tries to make me justify that the debt balance is so small so just go for [insert-want-of-the-moment-here], or try to make it up with another justification.  And while there were a few expenses that incurred, for the most part – I just have to swat that away and refocus.  Refocus and find that friggin line to get to the top.

I think a part of it is, obviously, the self-satisfaction of finally getting rid of this.  And I would be lying if, since I tend to be a people pleaser, that another motivation is because I don’t want to disappoint the readers who have graced me with their time and kind words through this process (seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart!).

But it seems like in some ways, it’ll also symbolically help me let go of some crap and some demons from the past.  All the recklessness, foolishness, feeling lost, doing dumb things over and over again.  I know I’m not that person anymore mentally/spiritually/physically/emotionally, but I also view it that once this debt is off the books, that it’ll close that chapter(s) in the financial sense.  I have a tendency to harp on the mistakes of my past, so once this debt is paid off, it is my hope that I can fully let all that past shit go.

Because what’s next is truly exciting – (hopefully) starting a family with a kickass partner (digression: who is so awesome, since I was super nervous for a presentation and knowing this, the guy shined my shoes the night before as a confidence booster for me.  That’s love, man!), being financially literate and responsible, and essentially just having some financial freedom to accomplish beyond what I thought life was going to be.  That motivation is exciting, and I just gotta keep that in mind over the next few months (months!) as I find my line to get to the top of this debt repayment mountain.

It took me quite a few years to get it – so much so that it probably wasn’t even a line for me, but I probably circled the rock a couple of times before I figured out which was was up. 😉  But at least I eventually figured it out, and the top is right there for me to accomplish.  Motivation and focus – centered.  Let’s do this.

You Know What’s Awesome…

A local radio station has a bit every week called “You know what’s awesome…”  Callers then chime in on what’s awesome, but the shtick is usually something sarcastic, like “You know what’s awesome… when you’re a third grade teacher and it’s flu season, and you’re talking to one student when another one comes up behind you, but by the time you get to them, they’ve thrown up all over the back of your pants.”  So for levity’s sake, here’s some current things I’ve encountered that have been awesome.

So you know what’s awesome….

1) When you’re walking with a colleague and you think you’re about to head separate ways so you say, “Okay, well have a good meeting!”  However, he doesn’t go the route you thought he would, so there’s this awkward silence that you try to make up with “So you have any plans for the-” before he splits off.

2) When you receive a modest raise, but you quickly realize that said raise now bumps you up to the next health care contribution tier, so the raise essentially just goes to cover it. (note: I brought it up and it all worked out, so yay.)

3) When you’re having an especially glorious morning run and as you’re nearing the end, you turn your neck to take a mental snapshot of the beautiful sunrise, and slip/land on your tuckus on a sandy and slanted part of the road.  With bikers going the opposite way as witnesses.

4) When you’re trying out a new gym equipment line and you set the weights to what you think you “normally” use for the shoulder press.  However, since it’s a different line the weight system isn’t calibrated the same (or probably labeled differently) so your arms maniacally skyrocket up since you made them too light. (note: at least this taught me to now slowly start the rep off, rather than just assume it’s the same.)

5) When you’re proofreading your sweetie’s monthly newsletters and you soon realize that this man must have a fear of commas and punctuation marks because there’s barely any in there and he has so many great thoughts but they all look like this lumped together. (note: hey love, if you read this, j/k only!)

6) When you offer the person behind you to go ahead since he only has one item, but once he pays for his stuff, he also wants a pack of cigarettes and apparently there’s only one person around to unlock the cigarette case that time of the day so you end up waiting for some time.

7) Another grocery line awesomeness – I always think I’m going to pick the shortest line, and I never do.

8) When you completely lack an internal compass, so you’ve learned over time that when you intuitively want to make a right, you instead make a left, and that’s when you get it right.

So tell me – what’s been awesome for you lately? 🙂

Giving to those in need

I decided to tap into my emergency/savings fund this weekend, and will probably redirect a percentage of future funds as well.   Though my previous uses for it was really considered a fund source for when unexpected events arise, I don’t think I’ve truly spent it on a true emergency (yet) as I did when I donated to help the recent typhoon victims.  Using the funds for tires on my car pales in comparison to the utter devastation this typhoon has left these victims.  Not having access to food, shelter, and basic necessities for days – this is an emergency.  Looters arising from feeling hungry and hopeless that turns into rage – this is an emergency.  People not knowing where their loved ones are – this is an emergency.

Thankfully, I am beyond grateful to hear that my loved ones back home are okay and haven’t been impacted.  But reading all the accounts and watching news clips have left me so mournful to those that were deeply affected.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like for my loved one to lose my grasp as the water carried them away from me, nor what it’s like now with all the debris and destruction left everywhere.  Images are being shown all over news stations that I feel are pretty graphic, and it’s heart-breaking to imagine that little ones are seeing decaying corpses out on the street in real life.

I admit, I have a hard time with contributing.  I tend to be cynical and mistrusting when donating to organizations (though I do realize there’s some legit ones out there), and I’m not too fond of the corrupt stuff that happens in the PI.  But if even a portion of the contribution goes towards feeding a couple of kids or giving medicine to the sick or elderly or helps rebuild people’s lives, then it’s money well spent.

There’s at times all these thoughts that arise about how I frivolously spend, and how shameful that is since it could have been redirected to giving more – it’s happened during previous natural disasters, from Katrina to the tsunami in Japan to the earthquake in Haiti.  But that’s not productive, and as soon as it appears it’s time to refocus.  Because at the end of the day, I do realize I have an abundance of good fortune when relating it on a macroscopic/global level.  Despite this debt hanging over me and all these budget preparations for getting a “forever” house or raising kids, I’m still in a good and fortunate position to give what I can, whenever I can.  And beyond the monetary help, I just want to help those that might feel helpless, even if it’s just a minor token of support or prayer.  People who are used to tithing make this seem so natural, but for me it (admittedly) takes some work.  It’s a work in progress, but one that I personally feel it’s important to work on.

And as with anything, these are just my own thoughts and viewpoints.  I felt inclined to put that disclaimer on since this seems kind of preachy, but I don’t intend it to be so.  

Confessing My Wedding Costs

I’ve wanted to confess this for some time, as it’s proven difficult in the PF-world where I feel I would have to justify/explain.  But I felt I needed to be honest and come clean, and now’s a good a time as any.  Because as of yesterday’s booking/payment for my hair stylist, I’ve spent the same amount thus far for my wedding as the remaining balance of my debt.  What does this mean?  It means that combining my portion, B’s portion (we’re splitting “our” contributions evenly), and my parents’ generous contributions (for which I’m eternally grateful for), our wedding is very much hitting the national average of how much wedding costs, roughly $25k, and actually over as this still doesn’t include bridal party gifts and our wedding rings.  If we include the rehearsal dinner, which is B’s family’s contribution, it’s well over.

At first, I was pretty embarrassed about this total.  Not knowing what I know now, I couldn’t fathom how people could spend that amount on one day.  However, after going through this process over the last few months… well hot damn, things add up!  And with a quickness!

Could we have cut corners?  I think the biggest way we could have cut costs is to limit the guest list – “my side” of family, friends, and parents’ friends make up 2/3 of the list, and though we projected 150, it might go over that (invited approximately 215 w/o kids, and we’re thinking a 25% attrition rate).  However, I can honestly say that when I look at my list, there isn’t one person on there that is being invited because we “have” to, but because we genuinely want to, and couldn’t imagine not inviting them.  Family’s a no brainer – I’m blessed to be incredibly close to my family, my sister-in-law’s family, and my (step)dad’s family.  With my friends, which take up a significant bulk, I am not afraid to say that I am pretty proud of the time I take in terms of cultivating and nurturing my friendships.  I’ve known them for at least 1o years, with the majority half my life or over, and as much as I’d like to think I’ve been a good friend, all of them have been there for me during some extremely dark and painful moments of my life (so much so that it brings me to tears to write that).  Some friends (who are no longer in my life) did me dirty or were just in certain periods of my life, but this bunch – they’ve genuinely been there for me regardless of my flaws, and I can’t imagine them not being there when something so good is happening in my life.

Add this same sentiment to my parents’ friends, who are not only amazing friends to them but took the time to write notes to me to say how happy they are for us, then there was no way to cut that corner.  Besides, I actually like each and all of them, and no words can express how happy I am in looking forward to seeing all of them in one place.

B’s side is a bit more intimate, but I’m amazed at how I also genuinely enjoy his friends.  Surprisingly, B’s family and family’s friends is a lot bigger than I expected, as well, and you know what?  I am stoked.  I feel it’s my chance to finally meet them as I only know his nuclear family, since they’re sprawled all over the country so who knows when this opportunity would arise again.  It was also amazing to know that B’s family shares the same outlook on inviting long-time friends of theirs, as they’ve also known them for decades.

Beyond the guest list, I can confidently say I did my due diligence in finding reasonably priced vendors.  Yes, we’re going for a more traditional wedding model with all the “typical” line items that go into weddings.  But I know deep down I did my best to research, explore our friendships/networks for vendors, asked my friends for ideas/tips, and haggled and negotiated away.  I know that with a little digging, we managed to cut the costs of some vendors in half, and that though we splurged in some areas, we’re still cheaping out on some items that aren’t super important to us.  Most importantly, I know that despite the hefty price tag, that B and I both agree to this, and have the consensus agreement of both our families.

And honestly – that’s what helps me be okay with this, and leaves me unashamed and unapologetic about it.  We could speculate on the missed opportunity costs of what this could have bought instead, but having all these amazing people in one area is honestly the most meaningful purpose for us on what we could spend that money on.  Because as much as this wedding is a sacred ceremony between B and I, it’s also a convergence of all our respective “villages” into one big reunion, and I am incredibly excited to not only see everyone again, but have all these amazing people who have impacted our lives meet each other.  I plan on thanking my lucky stars every minute of it.

The Best Shark Tank Deal Ever

One of my favorite reality shows is Shark Tank – if you’ve been living under a rock, it’s essentially entrepreneurs who have a business venture that is in need of financial support and appear in front of a panel of “sharks,” millionaires and billionaires, who either invest in their product or tear it down.  The entrepreneurs that appear often have clever or innovative ideas, plus the viewer gets an inside look on how their business ventures become funded.  The “sharks” often ask difficult and fast paced questions about the entrepreneurs’ business model, patents, marketing, financial history and profitability rates.  If the business shows or has shown promise, the sharks make an offer, sometimes with two sharks competing with one another, and other times with negotiations between the shark and entrepreneur.  Find out more about my favorite deal, The Tree T-Pee, on Economag.

Half-Marathon and November/2014 Goals

Happy Friday, everyone!  So you know how I was mulling over signing up for the half-marathon?  You know, the mulling over that was like a hot minute ago… but anyway, I signed up!  I made little deals with myself and completed them in a shorter amount of time than I thought, so I pushed the confirm button.  The deals were to lose 2 pounds (this was probably from less eating when I had bronchitis, but I’m counting it anyway), to run three miles (did 4), and to sell stuff to recoup the cost (which I did rather quickly, though sadly as I loved the Sky dress I sold (but, I knew I wouldn’t get anymore use out of it)).  I started these on Monday, by the way, and didn’t do it in a span of two days.

So I’m running a half with Tonya (and Michelle and Kathleen, while Mrs. PoP just so happens to run a full, as well!)!!  So if you feel a surge of endorphins that day, it’s probably due to all the running events going on everywhere!

Oh yeah, but I didn’t follow the Cash Rebel’s School of Economics lesson of signing up for the full versus the half.  A full would have been a better bargain in terms of cost-per-mile since it was only $10 more overall, but I know myself well enough that I’m nowhere near ready for a full, both in terms of planning since wedding stuff will come to a head, and physically.

Here’s my training plan so far, since I want to get enough miles in but also still focus on Jamie Eason’s weight training plan (that’s a great workout plan, by the way – learned some new things!).  I made it flexible enough that I can either combine two workouts into one or probably skip my Sunday workout, though the latter tends to dorkily be B and mine’s “day date time”:

SC_training

Thank you everyone for convincing me the race fee is, indeed more of a health/wellness expense versus entertainment/fun (which is where I’ve always considered it).  That’s a great change in perspective since I do agree it’s not as frivolous as I perceived it to be, but rather an investment in my health.

As for as other November goals, it’s mostly to get rid of cc debt through Michelle’s challenge, and to focus on my 2014 finances per Shannon’s great post on Fall goals.  I’m still old school and use spreadsheets over Mint (love that new spreadsheet smell! ;)), and have fresh 2014 monthly’s/overall to populate.  A big goal is ‘saving’ 40-45% of my total income next year (safe goal of 30-35%).  When I say ‘saving’ I mean putting it towards retirement, investments, and actual savings, but that’s quite a jump from what I’m currently averaging (slightly less than 25%).  I do think it’s possible since debt repayments/wedding stuff will be squashed during the first few months of 2014, but I’d still like to cut costs since I’d like to go with a higher rate.  We do plan on combining our finances (but still keeping a portion for personal accounts), as well, so that’s another layer of figuring out my our finance strategies/goals for next year.  While we’re both eager about starting a family, we’re pretty terrified of the costs, so we just want to line our ducks in a row as much as possible.  I’ll report about it more when plans firm up!

Anyone else have November or 2014 goals that I can copy be inspired from? 🙂