Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Failure is not Fatal

I've started spending challenges before. Quite a few of them, in fact. Some have been more successful than others but none of them have been completed for one reason or another.
I've had excuse after excuse for why I haven't been more proactive about my debt. Sure, I've had intentions, obviously it's all I write about, but my words have always spoken louder.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Brick walls (excuses) I've used to stay in debt:
  • I need all of the things from Target. I couldn't possibly give up Target!
  • I wouldn't have a social life and I would miss out on everything
  • My friends would think I am lame and stop inviting me to things
  • I would be so bored and lonely
  • If I gave up unnecessary spending, it still wouldn't make much difference in my debt to be worth it
  • Chipotle is way too good 
  • I don't want to be too consumed with all the sacrifice and put too much pressure on myself
  • My schedule is too busy to give up convenience and make all my meals
  • There's no way I would skip buying presents for birthdays or Christmas or donating to charities
  • I have to travel to visit my friends and family or take advantage of cool opportunities!
  • "I could really go for a drink, or pizza, or pad Thai right now," which always turns into ordering more. 
Lately I've been hearing a lot about how failure isn't the worst thing to happen. And I wonder about what the world would be like if the greats allowed failure to stop them. We would have no Disney movies or light bulbs. Hell, slavery could still be a thing (though I like to think it would have ended eventually!)

Lincoln was a champion and he never gave up. Here is a sketch of Lincoln's road to the White House:
  • 1816: His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
  • 1818: His mother died.
  • 1831: Failed in business.
  • 1832: Ran for state legislature - lost.
  • 1832: Also lost his job - wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
  • 1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
  • 1834: Ran for state legislature again - won.
  • 1835: Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
  • 1836: Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
  • 1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature - defeated.
  • 1840: Sought to become elector - defeated.
  • 1843: Ran for Congress - lost.
  • 1846: Ran for Congress again - this time he won - went to Washington and did a good job.
  • 1848: Ran for re-election to Congress - lost.
  • 1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state - rejected.
  • 1854: Ran for Senate of the United States - lost.
  • 1856: Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention - got less than 100 votes.
  • 1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again - again he lost.
  • 1860: Elected president of the United States.

Getting out of debt is a big task, sure. But it's certainly not Earth shattering and it won't be the singular action that changes the world. I'm not the first to get out of debt and I won't be the last. So there really should be no reason to say "I can't." I have no good reason not to get myself into a better financial situation.

Well, Winston, I'm ready to try again with more confidence than ever. My current challenge isn't technically over yet.  I haven't set foot in a Target and I've avoided buying clothes and eating out 95% of the time. However, I've spent a little bit decent amount with my sister in town. Although it hasn't been perfect, it's been my best shot yet. I want to keep that momentum going and see what I'm really capable of.

Stay tuned for the official plan tomorrow! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Foreign Concept

Tomorrow is payday. Typically this means I can finally stop scrapping by and buy more things. Or in last paycheck's case, it means I am impatiently waiting for funds to hit my account so I can get out of a negative balance (yes, that really happened. I'm definitely still clueless).

This time it's different. This morning, as I reviewed my budget, a funny thing happened. I have money left over in most categories! And not just a few cents here and there. Money worth transferring to a pesky credit card balance!

Granted, with my sister being here, I've used my credit card a little bit too. And there were a few one-time scenarios where I spent more than I normally would in a given week (the State Fair, Fantasy Football Draft, etc.)

But seeing money left over at the end of a pay period is just the incentive I need to keep going with this challenge. In fact, starting September 6th I'm upping the ante with a more difficult challenge. More on that coming soon!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Going Strong!

Has it really only been 2 weeks since I started this challenge? I feel like I haven't been to Target in ages! The idea of swinging through a drive-through is becoming foreign to me. Are there moments of weakness where I really, really, don't want to prepare my lunches or cook dinner? Occasionally. Did I almost buy the latest IWYP shirt from Whitney?
Yup. The invoice was even sent to my inbox before I cancelled it. That was the closest I got to buying clothes because these shirts can only be ordered in a 1-month window and then they're gone. But when I thought of buying the shirt and then owing Olivia $50, the tank-top suddenly wasn't worth $75. Funny how that works.

There have definitely been a few of these texts, too.

And while it hasn't been a breeze, it hasn't been that hard. I make an effort to have food options available, I've explored new outfits from my own closet and there's been absolutely nothing I need from Target.

Whenever I get the idea that Chipotle sounds good or I could kill a half hour at Target, my brain automatically thinks "I can't" and I find an alternative and move on. It actually feels kind of incredible to feel this habit change. I'm starting to think I could go more than a month without these things.

Now, it takes 66 days to form a habit and I'm only on day 14 so there's still a ways to go. I can already tell there will be bigger challenges where I'll want to spend. However, I'm learning that this habit is the first step in successful money management. It's not about side jobs and trying to make more money, yet. It's about learning to control the money I do have. I could make all the money in the world but if I don't change these spending habits, that money will still be gone in a heartbeat.

Today is exception day: The Minnesota State Fair. The fair of all fairs. The biggest in the nation. When the challenge was made, I said my sister being in town and the State Fair were the two exceptions. I have not abused my sister being here, I have only paid for 2 meals out. And I won't abuse the State Fair exception either. I will have $50 cash and when it's gone, it's gone. Fortunately, having 5 people in our group means I'll be able to try a little bit of everything without breaking the bank. Check out the list of new foods available at our fair this year!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find an outfit with an elastic waistband so I can eat cheese curds, a bacon wrapped turkey leg, mini donuts and anything else my $50 will buy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My weekend on a spending challenge

The first weekend of my no-spending challenge (no Target, no going out to eat, no buying clothes) was successful! And it wasn't as difficult as I expected!

Plans to go out dancing were replaced with yoga pants when my friend wasn't up for it. This worked out well because I undoubtedly would have spent unnecessary money on drinks and drunk food. Instead, kicked off the weekend by going to the bank and the grocery store. I got a Jack's frozen pizza and a cheap bottle of wine, which combined definitely cost less than ordering a pizza like I normally would have.

I spent a quiet night balancing my budget with Friday's paycheck and making a payment of $431 towards my credit card. That felt pretty good!

I enjoyed the gorgeous summer night by sitting in our screened-in porch, drinking wine and reading for Monday's book club. I wrapped up the night by renting a cheap movie off Amazon Instant Movie. Simple and affordable!

Waking up without an alarm was fantastic on Saturday, especially since I didn't sleep the day away. I made scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, coffee, and finished my book on the screened-in porch. It was such a nice way to start the day!

Do you know what else is free? Cleaning! My room needed some serious cleaning since I have a bad habit of doing laundry but not putting anything away. I cleaned corners of my room that have been cluttered since I moved in. I swept, which is especially important when living with 2 shedding labs. I even managed to sweep the screened-in porch. You're welcome for not posting pictures of the disgusting amount of dirt and hair I collected!

With all of that clean, I made lunch of leftover breaded chicken and mac & cheese. It felt great to make an effort to eat food I already have on hand!

I did some resume work and reading and boom! It was time to go pick up my sister from the airport! After not seeing her for 1.5 years, it felt SO great to run and hug her, just like a scene in a movie. Our family got drinks and appetizers before calling it a night.

Sunday we had a family reunion at my parent's house with plenty of food and laughs. I stole some food to take home for dinner and I ended the weekend preparing meals for the week, watching some TV, and talking Fantasy Football with my roommate.

It's not always easy to find alternatives to spending money but if you make an effort, it really doesn't have to be that difficult!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spending Fast: Day 5

It's been a full work week since I gave up Target, going out to eat, and buying clothes. And honestly? It's been ok. It might have helped that I've had work events nearly every night this week, providing free food and drinks. It might have helped that my Team Leader showed her appreciation for a particularly big project by buying our team Starbucks and lunch yesterday. But I haven't caved.

This is the longest in a while that I've gone without buying all of the above luxuries and when I look at my finances, I'm realizing that it just means I'm not digging my debt hole bigger. The money really isn't there to go towards extra debt at this point because I haven't had a new paycheck, until finally today. I'm learning that I spend out of my means all the time and it quietly pops onto my credit card.

Recognizing this behavior is obviously a good start but it feels like a setback when I expected to already have accelerated debt payments.

The bright side is that with today's paycheck and bonus, I don't have to dig myself out of a bigger hole. Extra money can go towards a debt that's not rising. I'm frustrated at how obvious and basic this is, so apparently I am still Clueless with Cash.

In bigger, better news, my sister comes to town TOMORROW!! She is in the Air Force and has been stationed in England since November 2013. She came home in March 2012 for her wedding and I finally get to see the couple for a full 2 weeks starting tomorrow. This will undoubtedly cost some money but I'm keeping it to a minimum.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Thank you for your encouragement on this big goal of being debt free! And if you were possibly spammed by my e-mail on Tuesday, I sincerely apologize! I certainly was not trying to get you to sign important documents on Google Drive! 

Back when I blogged regularly, I also read blogs ALLLL the time. To the point that if I was looking at my phone for more than a minute, the only explanation was that I was reading blogs. If I ever had a to-do list that didn't get finished, it was because I got distracted reading blogs.

And for the most part, they were all financial blogs. It was excellent motivation. Seeing people working towards the sames goals I had, learning their tips and tricks, and staying accountable to people who cared about finance even more than I did was a powerful thing. I was such a personal finance blog nerd!

When I logged back into Blogger on Sunday and looked at Pinterest to reference a few motivational quotes etc, I came across this pin:

So I clicked on it and boom! I was sucked back into the world of people writing about making positive changes to their finance. And that blog linked to another blog and all the sudden I felt happy to be back in my element. 

Having a daily read helped my mindset when it comes to paying off debt and I'm thrilled to get back into that. Mentality is the biggest part of paying off debt and it's certainly been lacking lately. 

In addition to the link above, here are some of my favorite personal finance bloggers in case you're looking for motivation too:

Sallie & Perkins (much more than personal finance here - Erin is awesome!)

I hope to have their kind of financial accomplishments one day soon! 

What are your favorite blogs?


Monday, August 11, 2014


The other day I texted a friend that I would give up Chipotle for a year a month if I could stay in bed for a day and watch HGTV. He said I was absurd.

When I mentioned this to my work wife, Olivia, we agreed that we could, and in fact should, actually give up Chipotle and fast food in general. Then it escalated to other terrible habits we've developed that leave us struggling financially.

We agreed to be an accountability partners over the next month and starting today, August 11th, we would cut out:

No going out to eat, Target, or buying clothes. And we have to go to the gym at least 3x per week.

This will last for 1 month and if either of us caves, I owe her $50 and she owes me $20 every time it happens. We picked amounts that would have a motivating impact on us. I easily justify $20 on so many things that I knew I needed to up my ante.

We have a few exceptions though. Olivia needs a new pair of work shoes. The State Fair does not count. The Minnesota State Fair is HUGE and my family is spending a day there for my sister's birthday! Speaking of, she will be coming to town from England for 2 whole weeks on Saturday!! So another exception is that I can join my family in meals out but I personally cannot grab fast food or dine out under any other occasion. 

We both have ridiculous amounts of clothes and we don't need more. There is nothing we NEED from Target and if we need household essentials, we'll go to Walmart where we're less likely to splurge on shoes, clothes, and random crap we don't need. We both have gym memberships and need to use them. So we're cracking down and getting strict.

After the 1 month is up, I honestly plan to continue this deal. It is crucial to get my spending back on track and I need to put my actions where my mouth is.

Does anyone else want to join our challenge?? Comment with your e-mail and we can hold each other accountable!