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Figuring Out What’s Important to Me

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I was raised to value shelter, food and clothing. Everything else was just candy. The problem, though, is that if you’re constantly denying yourself candy, every once in a while you find yourself going on a candy bender. Then you have to pay for that bender by being even stricter with yourself than you were before…which means that your next bender will be even bigger. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually landed me flat broke in the spare bedroom of an alcoholic roommate’s apartment. Yuck.

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have the means to work my way out. The problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I should be working toward. I could lead a super cheap life right where I was, even if I hated it there.

That’s when I realized that my priority scale wasn’t working. So I had a sit down and I thought: in my ideal world, what would my life look like? Here’s what I came up with:

  • An apartment of my own in a neighborhood I love
  • Healthy food to eat
  • Clothing that fits properly
  • Reliable entertainment
  • Not feeling guilty because I decide to go out for a slice of pizza instead of buying something frozen on the cheap and cooking it myself
  • No more debt
  • A healthy emergency fund and healthy savings account — maybe even some investments. Nothing huge but maybe an account or two with solid CD interest rates

I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress. Here’s how I did it:

I saved every penny I could. I did this by creating a budget in which I itemized every little thing I thought I would actually buy/pay on a bill and inflated its price by 10%. I added it all up. That’s how much I worked to bring in each month.

I looked at the neighborhood I loved and figured out how much it would cost to rent a small one bedroom apartment there. I listed the highest price I found in my budget as my monthly rent price even though I hadn’t moved yet.

Each time I paid a bill/bought a thing/paid rent, I’d put the difference between what I’d budgeted and what I actually paid into my savings account. Between the small monthly bill “overages” and the large rent surplus, I was able to save several hundreds of dollars a month.

After six months, I had saved up enough to cover the cost of a basic move: first month’s rent, deposits, U-Haul van, setting up utilities. I had also managed to build up a steady six month history of solid on-time bill paying, which was good for my credit history and showed I was serious about improving my financial situation to potential landlords.

I managed to find an apartment for less monthly rent than I had budgeted and still in my favorite neighborhood in town. And that’s where I live now.

One life goal accomplished! Now to work on the rest.

This is where the want vs. need is coming in handy. I’ve allowed myself to splurge a little on things that I love, like a decent cable package and some streaming media accounts. I’ve created a space in my budget for dinners out with friends.

And you know what? I’ve found that by making space for that–and doing the extra work required to earn that–I’m less tempted toward binging on things that I don’t need but that I buy because I’m so sick of being so frugal.

So really–what’s important to you?

This post was written by Jane Brown. Do you have a debt story that you would like to share? We are always looking for personal debt related stories to share with readers. Contact us if you have something that you’d like to share


Bad With Money

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This is a guest post by Purchase Baby who has recently started the Mickey Mouse Debt blog.

I’ve always been bad with money. Well, I call it binges really. At times I can be the most organised person – full of financial control. I can put my mind to things and save, save, save. And then something happens in my life and – BAM – I go back down the spiral road of debt.

Here’s my story: It started when I was a teenager. I used credit cards and loans to ‘keep up with everybody’. I come from a working class background, no airs and graces. My parents worked hard and saved hard for whatever they needed.

I landed a good job in advertising. A marvellous achievement for my age at 19 years old! Soon I got into the self-belief that I could keep up with everyone on the social scene. The trouble was, these people were middle-class and HAD money, while I didn’t! Anyhow, the credit cards balances started to pile up, and the loans. It took 10 years to get rid of the lot. If you asked me what I spent it all on, for the life of me I really don’t know!

Fast forward to 12 years ago. I bought a house with my partner. He was already £5k in debt as he wanted to help with the ‘deposit’. Within a year we (and I say we as it was my decision as well as hiss when he suggested it to me) wanted to get rid of his £5k debt, and I wanted to help him out. So we added £10k onto the mortgage (don’t ask why the extra £5k, we just did!) Within 2 years we did it again! We changed mortgage providers and added another £10k. Now, all of this time I was paying for the mortgage with the partner, as a partner when he could! Fair? Well, again I put up with it, so I’m not going to grumble – it was my fault in letting him get away with it in the first place.

The decade of 2000 was a very strange one. Everyone thought they were RICH. I had been in negative equity in the early 1990’s and so put my foot down in not putting anymore money onto the mortgage. I always believed in a mortgage should be 3 times your salary and capital/repayment. I’m glad I stuck to that guideline. However, I bought a second-hand car, and 3 years into my car loan financing debt I then took on the partner’s debt because “he couldn’t cope with it” (yes, he got himself into about £15k more debt). What a idiot I was, but hey, I could handle it because my salary was growing while his salary was, well, going nowhere. And that’s also my problem. I always look to help out others who are more in need than i am, and always put them first.

Roll on to 2008 and 3 more years until I would be debt-free. I had a serious knock-back. There was an unexpected bereavement in the family. It hit me HARD. I’m still not over it. And my relationship was beginning to show serious cracks. He couldn’t understand the pain I was going through, and the support I was giving to my family at this emotional time. And I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t “supporting” me. We slowly stated to become distant from each other. I needed things around me to feel happy. I decided to take out another loan, but this time to revamp the kitchen to cheer me up.

As a precaution, I took out credit cards (just as a back-up in case the loan didn’t get approved – which it did). it wasn’t long before I started to spend on my cards… and spend… and spend. I had to get the best of everything. I had to “keep up with everyone” and spent a fortune on business class flights to far off places like my work colleagues did. I was buying bracelets and fancy bags. I was doing things I had never done before – starting to live – starting to spend like I was middle class and not working class! It was the beginning of the recession / credit crunch, and instead of keeping my 1 loan debt in control, I added an extra loan plus credit cards! I was depressed and these “materialistic things” were making me feel happy, at least immediately. It took away the pain of feeling sad, lost, lonely and losing my family member.

Then the defaults started kicking in last July. I was not making the minimum payments on everything. I was getting phone calls from the credit card providers. I was not getting regular money from the partner (which wasn’t anything new, but now it was really affecting my cash flow). This has been going on and off until now. I decided in 2012 and I need to sort out this crap – and fast.

So, that’s my story. Here’s where I am in my life. Fortunately I do not have any children, so it makes it that little bit easier to concentrate on me, and me alone! No more bailing out other people’s debts. No more helping out people because they want something, but don’t have the means to pay for it themselves. The buck stops HERE and I’m determined to be debt-free within 2-3 years — tops.

With this in mind, I started my blog. It’s all mickey mouse money which we as consumer owe. It’s about all crap that we have accumulates. We all have to start taking control of our lives and get out of the debt cycle we’re all in. feel free to follow my journey and goal of becomming debt-free, and most importantly, having FREEDOM! I don’t want to be rich — I just be free of all of the stress and financial strain which millions of us are going through. We need a revolution, people.

Do you have a debt story that you believe others could benefit from reading? We are always interested in finding stories that touch on a variety of aspects of personal debt. Your previous writing is of little concern to us. Wehter you’re a long-time debt blogger or your story will be the first time you have written anything, we’d be interested in sharing your experience. If this sounds like something that is of interest, feel free to contact us.