actually, i’m pretty sure it is your fault.

28 10 2010

so i’ve been hearing these commercials on my morning radio show where some dude starts yelling off a list of horrible financial woes:

debt collectors knocking down your door?
up to your eyeballs in credit card debt?
thinking that bankruptcy is your only option?

but then he brings it down just a notch to let you know:

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

sure, people hit hard times. medical bills, lost jobs, some other things that i can’t think of right now… but the majority of people that i know who are financial wrecks (myself absolutely included) are that way because they made poor choices. it fills me with rage to hear the debt consolidation/credit counseling agencies preying on people’s need to be in denial about the reality of their financial situations. nobody wants to take responsibility for fucking up, but if you ask anyone in a 12 step program, admitting that you’re a fucking mess is the only way to make it better. so fuck you debt consolidation agency. IT IS MY FAULT- and here’s why:

1. i don’t pay attention to what i spend. i put my credit cards in the freezer over a year ago, which is a distinct improvement, but my debit card is with me all the time. i go out to eat constantly, buy crap on a whim (can you say series of 4 horse paintings?), overspend at the grocery store (i was in the whole foods for 5 minutes yesterday and still managed to spend $14). even thought i’m not creating any new debt, i’m not giving the money that i have the reverence it deserves- i just keep unceremoniously shoving it out the door.

2. which brings us to admission #2-  i don’t save enough. probably because i’m spending all my fucking money on nothing. for the most part, the really bad debt disasters happen when people are spending up to the hilt of their income and don’t have a cushion saved up for emergencies. then, the first time that shit goes really wrong, they bust out the credit cards. like i did. repeatedly. from the ages of 18-30.

3. even though my 2 cards are in deep freeze at the moment, they got in there in the first place because spent the first 10 years of my adult life spending beyond my means. i wanted to have grown up clothes, i wanted to buy people decent xmas presents for a change, i wanted to find out what it felt like for money to be no object. except that it is an object, a very big object with an 19% APR. too bad i don’t pay more than the minimum on my cards every month. it’s good that i’m not racking up new debt, but if i can’t control my cash flow enough to afford to make bigger payments on my credit card, then i’m never going to get out from under it.

maybe it’s because i just watched confessions of a shopaholic AND maid to order back to back, but i’m sudden feeling possessed to try to make some greater changes in my life. i’ve made progress from where i was, but i’m stalled out. i still have $13,000 worth of credit card debt, and i’d really like it to be gone by the time i’m 35 (that’s T-minus 2 years and counting). maybe i hate dave ramsey because i know that he’s right about making severe lifestyle cuts in order to cut my debt… actually, it’s probably the religious thing, but i am definitely in denial about the fact that real debt reduction does require some sacrifice. now, i’m not going to go all crazy and start making drastic lifestyle changes (eat out less? stop shopping? start buying produce at walmart?) or anything… but i am going to admit that what i’m doing now is definitely not working.

step one down… 11 more to go.

what is the one habit/addiction that you SHOULD cut out of your life for financial reasons, but just can’t seem to let go?





snowed in.

21 01 2010

as evidenced by the 2 feet of snow currently carpeting the streets of portland, january is usually a pretty tough month here in maine. january is also traditionally a tough month for me. stupid clean slate/new year expectations!! it’s so easy for me to make that list, to fantasize out loud about how at this time next year i’m going to be somebody way better than i am right now…  but it’s so hard to get it started. and if by the end of january i haven’t quite gotten things moving, i have a hard time not giving up completely and writing my goals off for yet another year… no wonder i’ve had $16,000 worth of unchanging revolving debt for the last 5 years.

the punch line here is that my credit score is in the high 700s. i pay my bills! on time! i have a decent job, and had i been more disciplined, my debt probably could have been long gone right now.  but the high hopes and the bad habits are always at battle, and right now, the bad habits are winning.

why such a bummer today? well, yesterday i decided to take a look at my debt tickers and make sure they were all sufficiently updated. here is what i learned:

in the 3 months since i tallied and posted my total debt, i have only paid off $1,395.57.

actually, one of my two credit cards went up in balance by $190.

oh, and despite throwing over $1000 at my other (highest balance & highest interest rate) credit card, my total went down by a mere $369.87.

depressing. depressing. depressing. what went wrong?

1. well, thanks in good part to xmas and the burlesque, i spent more money than i had. i was stressed out and wasn’t careful about my spending. i ate out instead of cooking, and bought stuff to masque my stress.

2. research shows that people who write down their food intake lose more weight. it stands to reason that i gained more debt when i stopped balancing my checkbook.

3. i’ve only been paying the minimums on my credit cards, and according to my favorite financial calculator at free-financial-advice.net, at the rate i’m going, it will take over 4 years for me to pay off my high-interest (20%) card (you know, the one with the $10,000 balance). i could SHAVE OFF A WHOLE YEAR OF PAYMENTS if i gave them $100 more per month.

but anyway,  as much as i’m good at ruminating about what’s wrong, i’m less good at formulating plans of action, and even less good at implementing them. regardless,  i think that the goal is still to never stop trying. so here’s my plan:

1. call up credit card companies and beg them to lower my interest rates. i haven’t asked in a while, this could be my year!

2. make an effort to pay at least $50 more per month on my higher interest card. $100 would be better.

3. balance that checkbook!

i’m sure there are many more things that i could do (any brilliant suggestions out there?), but a small start could be just do-able enough to keep me motivated until the snow melts.