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Everyone needs a cozy blanket for rainy days…

I had some extra money (lets say $1,000.00) a few months ago- from a bonus and moving a 401K around- and instead of putting it to savings, I used it to pay off some cc debt. Now, this SEEMS like a wonderful plan demonstrating my extreme financial fortitude, however, it has royally ****** me.

And the reason is really simple. I put  that money to my credit card and neglected to create a security blanket for myself.  Unfortunately, the time came when I had some unexpected expenses and  I didn’t have the cash to protect myself. So I had to use my credit card. AGAIN.

What were my options?

Option A: Lets say I had put $1,000 dollars into my savings account and paid normally for my cc. And let’s say that I needed to use that $1,000.00. Ok. $1,000.00 came in, $1,000.00 went out. Although its hard, its ok.

Option B (what I actually did): I paid $1,000.00 dollars on my credit card and now (a month later) I need to spend $1,000.00 on it again because a few unavoidable things came up.  The psychological ramifications of this are intense. I feel like I’m BACK PEDALING, I feel like all the progress that I made was for nothing. I feel like a failure and how I feel about my financial situation is ultra important.

So this month, I’m getting money (taxes) and instead of paying off my cc with it, I’m putting it in savings. That way if and when something comes up, I have a lovely little blanket to protect me and don’t have to TOUCH my credit card again.

And this month, I am stashing my credit card in a bowl of water in my freezer:)

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Crazy naked people saving me 155$ a month

I had an  altercation at my 20$ a month gym the other day that put a few things into perspective for me. I was going into the sauna room to relax because I had just run a half marathon (!!!) and my muscles were in need of some serious chilling (or shall we say, heating:).  As I walked into the sauna I heard someone from around the corner yelling something but since I didn’t see any reason why this would be directed at me,  I ignored it. The screeching continued and suddenly a completely naked, soaking wet elderly woman came barreling around the corner squawking at me to take off my clothes and “wash myself”.

“Excuse me?”

“Take off your clothes and wash yourself before you get into that sauna room-you are going to get your toxins EVERYWHERE!!”

Now, since I didn’t know what a disaster these freely flowing toxins were going to cause, under normal-nicely-requested-circumstances,  I would have been happy to shower first to make her feel more comfortable. But since I was shocked and she was rude, I simply asked her to please stop yelling at me. She continued berating me for my lack of sauna etiquette anyways, lumbering back and forth from the steam room to the sauna to the shower and back again. Her final doozy:  “Not everyone needs to sweat in the sauna, this is NOT a weight loss club- I know that’s what you’re using it for. ”

Excuse me?

<Expletives followed, we can skip those>.

<Very. Deep. Breath.> At this point I  understood that this woman had gotten under my skin (in spite of myself) and got into the shower to take a moment to remind myself that a crazy naked woman yelling at me in the shower room is really not the worst thing that can happen to me when- lo and behold- she comes out the steam room STILL yelling: “This club, there’s always something with this club, no towels, no soap, etc. etc” and  RIPS open my SHOWER CURTAIN to ask if there was soap in my soap dispenser.

I know. Your mouth is WIDE open at this point. MINE too.

By this time though- I had reached a place of peace after cursing out a completely naked stranger and come on- she could be OUT OF HER MIND- so I again asked her to leave me alone. Finally, realizing the error of her ways,  she walked away- still screaming about the  club’s lack of amenities and my, MY, obvious mental deficiencies.

Fast forward to this morning with my guest pass to 175$ a month gym. There was *ivy* lining the stairs on the way down to the main fitness area, there were WARM towels waiting for me at every turn, there was shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, hair dryers, razors, amazing classes and equipment- it was  LOVELY; they had EVERYTHING.  And the people were a little more contained and polite there so I don’t think naked women would yell at me.  If it was even remotely possible for my to afford to belong there, I would. In a HEARTBEAT. But I can’t.

However when I look at this another way, there are crazy people at 175$ too. They just come in a different form- some are utter perfectionists who move my stuff when I’m there- if its in “their way” ( in front of their “portion” of the mirror) and there is an element of elitism that bothers me.

Also, my gym is never crowded. It’s around the corner from my work so that I can go during lunch, run a few miles, take a shower and still be gone for only about an hour. And the staff is lovely- the staff at 175$ gym can be kinda uppity.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I got something positive out of this naked-lady-in-the-shower-fiasco:  Instead of focusing on all that I don’t have and can’t afford and the crazy situations that result, I focus on the idea of one day working (as a fitness instructor) at the 175$ a month gym- so that I dont have to pay as much to belong- and maybe even holding the stock one day- if it goes public:) I think about using the spa there and showering leisurely and happily while listening to great music.  As I do this- I’m intending and creating happiness and wealth for myself. My 20$ gym could easily- and I mean EASILY frustrate me and make me angry- “I can’t even afford a good gym”- but I refuse to feel that way about it. It’s 20$ a month and although crazy naked women scream at me and the machines are broken half of the time and a homeless woman occasionally washes her clothes there (not proven but I have my suspicions), people still smile at me when I walk in the door, I get a good workout, and I’m saving myself 155$  a month. And as we all know- soon i’m going to be so rich that 175$  a month will seem like chump change.

Keeping the eye on the prize:)

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Challenge Results!

I must say… I wasn’t a complete success. I had scheduled a doc appointment that I needed to go to for Wednesday afternoon- and with my doctor’s co-pay I was going to fail my own challenge. Effing A. But I decided that I would still count the day even if (technically) I had to spend money on something that was completely unavoidable (it was, I promise).

The most important thing that happened during these two days  was that I was able to stop the cycle of mindless spending. I’m a firm believer that life is all one big fat habit and the habits you create daily end up composing your life. Stemming from even the week before when I didn’t spend any money, I was able to create a new habit of not spending. I was able to reroute my brain from reckless abandon to disicpline. I went into the drug store yesterday and wanted five thousand different things off the shelf, but didn’t have that deep desire/need to buy them all. I had created a habit of patience and discpline. And it felt goooooood.

I want this challenge to be a part of my life on a weekly basis. When I lived outside of NYC,  I can guarantee you that there were at least 3 days a week where I didn’t spend any money and I want this to happen again; I want the 2 days of no spending to be a weekly discipline.

Also, I still have things that I feel like aren’t/weren’t working financially for me but the second I committed to this challenge/mindset, I felt more calm. More in control, more focused… just better.

Up next: Baby Steps Challenge…:)

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Are you up for a little… challenge?

So I recently added a new challenge to my life. My wonderful man and I decided that one of the ways we could save money would be to institute a 1 day spending freeze.  Think about it- not spending one dollar  in NYC for one day- the sentence even sounds bizarre! When was the last day that you didn’t spend even a DOLLAR on something- like coffee with the Truck Dudes, or just a random pack of gum?

I did this challenge on Tuesday last week and it was really interesting.  By 12 pm I had already mentally bought and sold a new apartment and 3 different skirts. From the truck dudes to just random books- god I have a book problem- I thought about spending money about 10 times before I even got to work. But something else really cool happened. I was able to reinforce the idea that often what I want  is usually just a temporary place holder to fill my space/time that if I let pass- will go away quietly. And it plants the small seed of not always giving in to myself for what I want. Not in the “I’m-depriving myself ” sense, but in the “I-am-a-self-disciplined-ninja-who-recognizes-that-that-thing-I-want-is-useless-and-a-waste-of-money” sense which is…. wow, way better.

So I’m going to ramp it up this week and create a lil’ challenge. I’m not going to spend any money tomorrow- OR Wednesday. I’m going to be a self disciplined money master who has her eyes on the financially-secure, out-of-debt, and rocking-my-life prize. Wanna join? Even if you just pick ONE day sometime this week… can you do it for just 24 hours and not spend money? Just try it… it creates a sense of peace,  control and self discipline in a place that often feels wackadoo (the NYC). Do it with me!

See you on the flip side with the results…..

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I fell off the wagon

The credit card wagon that is. I have used my credit card (palm to forehead). Even AFTER writing I cut up my credit card on Monday and requiring myself to be ridiculously accountable to everyone EVER, I still used my credit card.

Why?

Well first of all, the credit card gods wanted a good giggle and two days AFTER I cut up my old card, a new one came in the mail because the  old one had expired. And instead of cutting that one up too, I put it in my wallet “just in case”. I had obviously forgotten that there is no “just in case”.

And then came El Christmas. I knew this was going to happen, I tried to protect myself against it and I still wasn’t successful at not spending a ton of money on Christmas presents. I ended up spending about 250$ for El Christmas and another 250$ somewhere else since November 3rd and here I am, up 500$ in cc debt.

How could this happen to me? I am disheveled, distraught, overwhelmed and utterly panicked. What am I going to do?! I am going to die destitute, no money, no car, no house….

Just kidding. I don’t feel that way. Ok, maybe I felt like an utter failure for about two minutes and then I reverted back to smart JillyP and realized a few things:

#1. I am responsible for these problems, I made the choice to buy those things and it is my fault.

#2. It’s not my fault in the traditional sense. Yes, I made these choices and they have hurt me financially but will I feel guilty about them? No. Will I tear my hair out and cry and whine and complain annoyingly? No.  Will I take responsibility for my actions, make a change and move on? Absolutely.

#3. I will examine WHY I spent money that I shouldn’t have, learn from that and move on with a better more effective action plan for financial success.

Why did I use my credit card? 2 main reasons:

1. I was NOT honest with myself. I was trying to be disciplined concerning habits/patterns/ways of life that I do not, I repeat, do not want to be disciplined about. My favorite things in life are going out to dinner with my friends and reading. That being said I was trying spend 150$ on groceries a month and 50$ on books a month. Yeah, that math does NOT add up. First thing I did  was to ramp both of those amounts up and immediate peace followed.

#2. I wasn’t honest about how much I could put to paying off my credit card each month and how much I could put to savings. Heres the thing. Financial advisors from all different points of view will tell you the same thing: that you need to pay down your credit card first before you contribute anything to your savings. I have tried over the past 6 months to follow this advice. Diligently putting 500$ a month to my credit card and 0$ to my savings. This has gotten me absolutely nowhere. First of all, watching my credit card balance s  l   o  w  l  y  drop is not HALF as nice as watching my savings account balance increase by 100$ extra every month. And believe me, I know all of the math behind paying off the debt first before putting 100$ into savings but it doesn’t FEEL good to put 500$ to my credit card and 0$ into my savings account. I feel no sense of forward movement, no sense of progress, I am discouraged and all I ever look at is my credit card account BARELY lowering and my savings account doing NOTHING. There needs to be a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT in a POSTIVE way.  Otherwise I wont do it. And  if and when I “need” to use my credit card, I can go to my savings account instead since there is a stash of cash there; there is no longer any excuse for using the credit card.

So my question to you is this: where are you lying to yourself about what you spend your money on? I realized that I was really afraid to admit how much money I spend on food/books a month. I felt like it would bring my “play money” down even more than it already is… but you know what? After I admitted how much I want to spend on groceries every month, I felt relief. I knew what I wanted, I had things mapped out and I had a plan of attack that was actually going to work. What things do you really love buying/can’t live without and what things do you barely buy? Where can you be more honest?

Also, where can you start paying off debt and saving money in a way that feels good but is also in line with your financial goals? If paying off 1000$ a month in credit card debt makes you feel REALLY good, go for it. If paying off only 250$ a month in credit card debt makes you feel good while you put 100$ to your savings, do that. It is a good rule of thumb that you want to try to contribute at least a 100$ over your minimum payment due for your credit card so that you know you’re hitting the principal amount, but if that plus saving a little each month is what makes you feel good and is sustainable, do it.

Ok. I’m back on the wagon. You?

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Just a teeny, weeny, eeny, meeny, little bitty Christmas Rant.

I’m sorry to do this, but it has been nagging at me for a month; I MUST have a tiny rant about Christmas. My parents are going to cry, half of you are going to hate me, but I have to do it.

Christmas Day circa 1997: Christmas was always fun as a kid. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters though, so it wasn’t ever this mad dash at 4 am with 3 other under 10’s to demolish the presents in under 5 minutes, eat all of the peanut butter santas and loll around in an orgasmic chocolate/presents haze for the rest of the day. Christmas was great, but that’s about it.  I loved my stocking presents, sitting around under the tree (I remember the christmas tree falling on me one year) but besides that it wasn’t a huge event in my life. Christmas wasn’t my favorite holiday (Halloween, definitely Halloween) but I liked it and enjoyed it.

Christmas Day circa now: I hate it. It has turned into such a stressful event for me that I am already scheduling what island I am going to go to for 2011 and I will leave on December 23.

Ok, ok, I’ll soften the rant a bit. I’ll start with what I love about Christmas first, so that you don’t think I’m completely bereft of a soul. I love spending time with the fam;  since I’m an only child seeing my cousins is great because they’re the closest things I have to brothers and sisters. I love relaxing at my mom’s house; I’m an excercise fanatic and always have sore muscles and since I dont really like to use my tub in NYC that much, it means that when I get home I get to soak my muscles in the tub, drink some tea with mom and have engaging conversations. I love to see my grandparents- all four of them are still kicking ass and taking names and they crack me up and inspire me immensely. I love the food- there are always sweet potatos, turkey, amazing apple pie, you name it we got it. In short- I LOVE to spend time with my family, they crack me up, inspire me and make me feel grounded and loved.

Now to the good stuff. The nitty gritty.

I HATE buying presents.  I feel like it is the most senseless ritual in the entire world and quite frankly is in DIRECT opposition to everything that I (and you) am trying to accomplish financially. Let me break down for you the sequence of events that inevitably occurs.

1. You scour the aisles for wrapping paper, which ends up costing you 5.99$ a ROLL at CVS (if your neighborhood dollar store has sold out- which of course they HAVE because who would prefer 5.99 wrapping paper over 1$ wrapping paper? Not this chick). (Sidenote: the dollar store is also out of tape. A disgruntled employee working on Xmas eve tells you this with  palpable enthusiasm- she enjoys making you miserable- and she points at the double sided tape as an alternative, the only tape they have left. So you buy it. You wrap all your presents in it. To be continued…)

2. You search for the first practical yet scintillating  goodie that you hope the recipient will both cherish AND use every single day.

3. You begin the anxious hunt for the next 24  gifts that you need to buy for the 24  people in your life who’ve made the “gift cut”.  You furiously check things off your list (if not once, then twice) and go home to wrap these useful yet fascinating (I mean honestly, when have those two words ever described the same thing?) tokens of your love in your 5.99 wrapping paper.

4. You collapse in exhaustion.

(Christmas Day)

5. You nervously hand the recipient their present (whose wrapping paper has been partially destroyed when you stacked the presents on top of each other and ended up having to rip them apart because of the double sided tape…)

5. You watch the recipient riiiiiiippppp whats left of the the preciously procured paper apart and litter it about the inevitably TINY living room that all 24 people are sharing to wrap presents in.

6.. You watch their face fall. They either A) Already have the present or B) Think its a piece of shi* and wonder why you would ever think they would like it.

7. You disappointedly stuff the decimated 5.99-a-roll-wrapping paper into a plastic bag (the CVS bag, the bag that the wrapping paper you bought came in) and take it out to the garbage, slipping and falling on the ice in the driveway landing on your buttocks (forrest gump anyone?).

7.  You stare up at the sky. You wonder what it all means.

I just dont get it. Why are we dedicated to this ritual and this way of life that virtually requires us to consume things? And please don’t get me wrong, I’m really not trying to preach or criticize anyones habits or preferences but this ritual just doesn’t work for me and I feel like there’s no way out. If I don’t buy people presents, I look like a bad person. If I do, I feel bad.

Why can’t Christmas JUST be about spending time with family and friends, creating memories and drinking good wine? Why does it have to include this ferocious sprint to the mall ? I spent about 300$ this year on XMAS gifts and (that was me being cheap)- and I got about 300$ in gift cards/money. So really, we all would have been better off saving 250$ (in a money market emergency account:), setting aside 50$ each for an amazing  dinner somewhere together and calling it a night.

Why does how much I give you = how much I love you?

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In the black

So for the first time in 8 months, I’m in the black. I’m making enough money to eat and have an occasional beer and my account balance is above zero. And let me tell you… it’s a pretty sweet feeling. The anxiety about an overdraft fee or whether or not I can get just ONE Budlight is gone.

But a funny thing has happened; I’m still acting like I’m in the poor house. I walk by stores that have things that I want (lush organic facial masks, lululemon yoga pants, etc.) and I think “OOH I want that, I should buy that!” but the scars from the past 8 months are still here and I end up running away from the store as fast as humanly possible.

I had the privilege of watching Fight Club the other day for the first time. Besides the blood splatters and blown off heads (see JillyP’s boyfriend: “What? You’re afraid of a little violence?” See JillyP: “No sweetheart, I just don’t like BRAIN MATTER”) I absolutely LOVE one of the themes of the film which is ultimately: “What you own, ends up owning you”.

I’ve paid off a huge chunk of my CC debt by moving some old 401K money around (there’s still a lot of debt there though, believe me) and I have enough money to maybe even buy a hot chocolate every once in a while. Only now  the problem is, I don’t want to buy ANYTHING. I confess I am in utter fear of having what few hundred dollars extra I have this month slip into oblivion. SO, to help you and me make sure this doesn’t happen, I’m going to offer some holiday spending tips to help us ALL stay in the black:

Write down everything you buy everyday. This includes: lip gloss at Target, non-fat toffee extra hot lattes, dip and dots at the mall (my personal hometown favorite), everything.  I did this during my extreme month of poverty ( Please see Ugly Hamsters vs Peaceful Poverty for a reference) and had an accountability buddy. So anytime I WANTED to spend money on stupid things… I knew that I’d HAVE to tell someone about it and the sheer fear often kept me from making really stupid decisions. Carry a little notebook or create a list on your phone and write down everything you buy. I can almost guarantee you that your mind will be blown away at how much you spend (and this will help you spend less as a result).

Set a spending limit for each person in your life that you want to shop for and add up all of the totals so that you know exactly how much you plan on spending, in total, on each person. This way you will be  prepared and empowered and not absolutely freaking by January 1rst over how much you spent.

Use yo noggin’. Think about what you think the people in your life really NEED right now-and I’m not talking about material things I’m talking about the emotional/spiritual needs of every person in your life- did your best friend just break up with her boyfriend? ( I.e. instead of buying her expensive perfume, you could buy or MAKE a cheaper calendar dedicated to how amazing and hysterical women are) Does your dad need some encouragement about his job?  (buy him a 19$ career book, not a 45$ tie that he doesn’t even like) Or CREATE something for them… I’m currently working on a little project for all of my nearest and dearest that I don’t want to talk about yet but I think it’s an amazing present and will cost me around 10$ in total for EVERYONE.

Donate to charity in someone’s name. I’m sorry I know this sounds slightly unconventional and NOT in line with our “consumerist” way of life- but quite frankly-I sleep better at night knowing that I donated to the cancer fund in Auntie Jane’s name for Xmas as opposed to buying her a scarf that she cringed at when she opened (and now I’m sitting in bed wondering what the EFF did I buy that for, I should have gotten her the red one….)

BAKE!!! Make TOFFEE or CANDY or speciality CUPCAKES that are hand decorated and packaged for someone…. It’ll give them some deliciousness and they can enjoy it more than once and it costs you SOOO much less…

I hope these little tips help you to become more aware of what your spending and where, and how often and easy it is to let the stuff we own, own us.

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