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Confessions Time: Hiding in Shame


I disappeared on you. And I won’t beat around the bush (I mean, the post title has “confessions” in it). It’s mostly because I got very spendy.

Three Paycheck Month

January has been one of those coveted three-paycheck-months for me. January’s rent was paid out of my December 20th check. I got paid on January 3rd, and that went to debt, savings, and monthly bills other than rent. And then I got paid on the 17th and blew more than half of it on unneeded items. Why? Probably because I’m riding high on a feeling of success right now. There was the news of my promotion, my extra-large bonus, and I’ve lost a little weight from maintaining regular exercise. I started running and lifting weights to keep the great sleep record I had in Nova Scotia going, and I’m feeling great all around. I know I owe this confessions post to you….here goes! But first, a photo of my frozen eyelashes. I have been running in some crazy weather, and I love it!

So Why the Shame?

The reception to my last post about spending a couple thousand dollars to go to Europe to see my family SHOCKED me. You guys, a year ago I was in financial shambles. I was still borrowing money from my little sister in university to cover bills! I had no idea how to get past the paycheck to paycheck cycle. For anyone interested, by the way, I have been keeping a calendar almost identical to this one for about eight months, and I credit this method entirely with my newfound ability to never go into debt on a paycheck any longer. I spent over a decade of my life adding to debt each month and stopped immediately last year. Since then, I’ve been actively knocking down debt and haven’t added a single dollar of debt.

When I started blogging here, I didn’t have a penny of savings (outside of the bare minimum for work retirement plan matching). This lady tried to save money her whole life and couldn’t manage it. And now I save by habit every single month, in many areas – investments, my savings account, and my retirement!

My Plan Is Not Your Plan

Let me repeat this again: I am not here to be aggressive about paying down debt. This isn’t going to be some magical transformation in which I am debt-free in five months, even though I could be. There is more than one way to skin a cat and the only one who has to be at peace with my choices is me. Some of my dearest family members are in their 80s and I haven’t seen them since 2017. I know what feels right in my heart. That said, I am taking into consideration the advice some commenters mentioned, saving for the trip and using my entire bonus for debt. I’ve got to crunch some numbers and see what I can do.

I’m proud of my radical transformation! I was a financial DISASTER last year. So, I decided to not go crazy but to get a few things done with the magic extra paycheck money that I had wanted to for a long time.

Confessions of a Spendy Blogger!

Where did the money go? Here are some highlights (or lowlights, as many commenters will likely feel):

  • $225 on a barely used $700 espresso machine with a lifetime warranty. I called the company and had the warranty issued to me with no problem
  • $210.50 for four tickets to the Toronto Blue Jays Home Opener. I haven’t missed a Home Opener since I was 15 years old. I’m a rabid fan and my mum, sister, and nephew are flying out to join me! They are paying for their airline tickets, so I got the Jays tickets. I took the lower seats out of my cart and swapped in nosebleed seats to save some cash.
  • $130 on Chinese New Year dinner at a beautiful seafood restaurant with nine of my friends. I took care of my Chinese friend’s dinner. She was devastated to not be able to travel home to see her family due to coronavirus. She’s also fresh out of school with little money and it felt like a nice thing to do. SIDE NOTE: This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life, and the only time I went out at night since January 4th.
  • $92 on Noom. I mentioned I tried this back in September and I loved it! But at $59/month, I wasn’t going to sign up. They sent me an email offering me a full year for $92 and I signed up right away. I’m on week four now and I am forming habits I never thought I could. I’ve only lost a few pounds but I’ve shed a decent amount of inches and did I mention I AM SLEEPING LIKE A BABY? Life-changing.
  • $60 for brisket to make traditional corned beef for a dinner party on Friday. That’s sitting in my fridge for ten days and then will be delicious
  • $50 for a memory foam dog bed
  • $70 for a nice blazer and $18 for alterations.
  • $220 to my for-fun investment account, which is currently giving me 12% returns
  • $60 for two lunches out with colleagues (around $30 each)

Ending on a High Note

After my usual groceries and living expenses, I still have about $800 of that paycheck left.

For the first time EVER, I managed to track every single transaction in a month! I am using the One-Twenty-Five budget I mentioned in a previous post and it is working for me. Like, seriously working for me! Trying to automate all my transactions with Mint.com or YNAB just never worked, and I distinctly disliked trying to figure out what wasn’t being captured. With this new budget, I just log in to Google Sheets on a coffee break at work every other day and tally up my transactions from my various online accounts. I almost never use cash, so this is working very well! I’m so happy to see the numbers, but also pretty horrified. It had to be the most hedonistic month that I finally figured out how to track my spending.

Adapting the Baby Steps


There’s been a lot of talk on the blog lately about emergency funds and baby steps. So since we’re on that topic, I have a question: do most of you believe there are exceptions to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps?

Listening to his show, I feel like he’d say never. But I agree with commenters here that say people like me with huge, long-term debt should be adapting the Baby Steps, especially when it comes to emergency funds and retirement savings.

In case you’re not a Ramsey follower, he teaches people to follow seven Baby Steps:
1. Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.
2. Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.
3. Save 3-6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
4. Invest 15% of your household income in retirement.
5. Save for your children’s college fund.
6. Pay off your home early.
7. Build wealth and give

So here are the two adaptations I think apply:

1. Keep More Than $1,000 in Our “Starter” Emergency Fund

Currently we’re in Baby Step 2 paying off $291,000 of student loans. We have $8,000 in our emergency fund that we don’t touch. Dave would tell us to put $7,000 to our debt, and keep only $1,000 in our starter emergency fund until all our debt is gone.

But our debt is so large we’ll be dealing with it for years and years. It scares me to only have $1,000 cash available to us for that long! Paying off $7,000 of our debt would be good, but I don’t feel it’d be best. I’d rather have extra cash available to us in savings. $8,000 is not a full Step 3 that would cover 3-6 months of expenses, but it’d cover us for a month or two if something came up.

2. Invest Even While in Baby Step 2

We don’t want to put off investing for retirement for too long. We’re in our late 30s, after all. But how long is too long? Fortunately we started contributing to our retirement seven years ago, and we only stopped last summer when we got more aggressive with our debt. That means we have $100,000 in an IRA that’s slowly growing even while we take a break.

However, my husband is itching to contribute to our retirement again. I vote we make a good dent in our loans first—maybe for six to twelve more months—and then contribute 10% of our income instead of 15% so we can still work on the loans. I just feel like we can’t wait to save for retirement until our massive debt is paid off, but I still want to make those stupid loans disappear.

Would you justify adapting the Baby Steps in our situation? How would you tweak them?