Week Two

Second week news.  First and foremost, I had my review and thankfully got the raise I was hoping for.  Secondly, I got encouragement from my general manager to try for a position inside the company that would be what she feels is a good fit for me and better pay.   Of course, money isn’t everything but it does help.   If she’s confident I can do it.  I’m going to try for it!   Which now means I’m spending most of my weekend plugging away at brushing up on my excel skills and hoping I can convince the hiring committee I’m worth a shot.

Thirdly, to the point of paying off debt.  Debt rose a little this past few weeks.  A little from transfer fees on combining my balances but also because I’m going on a family vacation in a few weeks and while my parents are paying for my niece’s clothes, I’m the one buying her clothes and making sure her suitcase is packed.  So the increase doesn’t have me worried because I know I’ll get paid back for what I spent.  And before anyone asks, yes it was necessary for me to buy my niece’s clothes.  If you saw the outfits from my childhood and what my mother picks out for her even today you would completely agree.  A smaller portion came from a doctor’s appointment earlier this week and medications.  That’s the downside to trying to budget and keep your debt from getting bigger, things always seem to come up just when you’re determined to fix it.

So, as I sit here drinking coffee and listening to the glorious thunderstorm outside, it’s time to tackle how to cut back my spending in the food category.  How does cutting back on food help?  I spend far too much on food for one person.  Part of the money I spend on food could be used to pay for other things, such as an extra credit card payment.  This is where I’ve determined I’m going to have to change my thought process towards food, grocery shopping, and the 5-minute drive to McDonald’s on my lunch break.

The biggest challenge in the way I think about groceries is making a plan and sticking to it.  Many times, I have told myself I’m going to take my lunch to work.  Well, I do take my lunch to work but then I get ready for lunch and I decide, I’d really like a burger, or suddenly meatloaf (my favorite meal) is unappealing, so I go out for lunch instead.  It’s a temptation that I just struggle with constantly.  To help myself with this, a few weeks ago I started compiling a list of everything in my pantry.  And I mean everything.  Right down to how many eggs are in the fridge and how many servings of jelly are left in the jar.  My challenge to myself for the next three weeks: I’m going to only eat from what is in my pantry, no more trips to McDonald’s, or take-out orders.  The only trips I’ll make to the store are for items like milk, bread, eggs, and fruit; staples that you can’t really stock up on.  I’ve already got plenty of protein in the freezer.

With my list of what I already have I’m going to menu plan around it.  I already have plenty of cookbooks to help me and many of them have simple dishes that I should have all the ingredients needed.  So, there it is.  Short and sweet.  My challenge.

Are you sitting down…

When I worked in credit cards I always asked customers, jokingly of course, when they asked for their balance, “Are you sitting down?”  They always laughed and joked but now I’m in that position.  I’m having to actually sit down and deal with my debt.

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Budgeting is important. Knowing what you spend in a month before you start budgeting is even more important.  If you use cash, obviously, this is going to require more time and attention than if you only use cards and go back to your accounts and see what you purchase and when.  I use a mixture of both.  I try to use cash when I can and only use my debit card for my bills but there are many times when I don’t manage to meet that expectation.  Last month I spend roughly $1900.  Most of it on bills and much of it on things that were not necessary.  During a 3 pay period month (wonderful March) you feel like you’re on top of the world, you have extra cash to buy stuff.  Then the bottom drops out of the boat literally and instead of having money to fall back on you’re still living paycheck to paycheck.  So, in my budgeting I am going to start with the most important part, income.

Knowing what your income is on average is necessary.  I know exactly what my income is because my bi-weekly pay is always the same.  For some people, and believe me I have been there, each week is different.  You may work on commission, overtime, less hours than last week or more hours, the possibilities on what can affect your paycheck are endless.  Not to mention the taxes that come out, insurance if your company provides it and other factors.  My paycheck is going to start having Aflac payments come out of them.  So far up til now it’s just been taxes and medical but now, I must deal with the Aflac ducky.  Also, I’m expecting a 90 day review the first week of May and that is going to change my pay as there is supposed to be a pay increase, Lord willing.  For the moment, I’m going to stick with my income as being $1835 a month.

Now that I know what my income is, I can finally start building a budget.  Before I started budgeting I looked at the accounts I owe money on.  Credit cards of course.  I decided that it was best to consolidate my debt on to two of my cards I don’t use and pay them down monthly.  Two monthly payments are much better than 5.  Okay 6.  It’s much easier to manage.  It also gives me a good idea how I can apply any extra money left over.

The list of items in your budget are going to have some things you can’t change the price on, such as rent.  However, there are many things on your budget you can cut out or lower and with determination start saving money.  One’s I notice in my budget are subscriptions.  Some are quite useful like Netflix ($9.99 a month) and Spotify ($9.99 a month).  I use both and I enjoy the services they provide.  Netflix keeps me from having to pay for cable and Spotify from having to buy music on iTunes.  Two that I decided to scrap completely were Audible and Bookishly.  Both wonderful but I already have too many books on my kindle (thanks to BookBub) that were free to download and many that I have hardcopy’s off that I haven’t read yet.  Let’s face it, I don’t need more books.

Also, I spend a shocking amount on food for my small person.  In one month, dining out, coffee and groceries cost me almost $360!!!!  That’s unnecessary!  Plus, half of that I know is food I’ll never actually eat.  So, guess what?  Slashed the grocery budget from to $280.  Because this is where I spend the most money apart from rent, this is where I plan on focusing most of my energy on ways I can cut down on my grocery bill.  Looking at grocery adds and shopping lists are on the agenda for decreasing the grocery budget and minimizing waste.    The Hy-Vee 10/$10 sale doesn’t seem so silly when you love Annie’s White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese which is usually $2.88 a box.  Instead of spending $2.88 here and there when I decide I want it by waiting for a sale I saved $18.80 (I tried couponing, I really do not have the patience for it so for right now, not doing it) and I’m saving myself on gas by not having to go to the store just for one item.

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The verdict?  As it stands my budget for May is $1745.  That leaves me $90 to play around with.  First stop is groceries and meal planning.  Stay tuned to see if I’m successful.

Bad Decisions

For some people budgeting and living within their means is easy.  For me…clearly that is not the case.  I’m generally a private person when it comes to finances and right now this is one of the hardest things I’ve done but it’s the only way I feel I can keep myself accountable on getting myself into financial stability.  I haven’t written anything someone other than myself will read in a very long time.  Somewhat sad considering I have an BA in Writing and Literature, but better late than never.  So…here we go and I’m very sorry if I’m rusty.  My name is Breann and I am currently $12,400 in debt.

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That’s me.  Minus the curls.  Most people like to ask, “How did you get into debt?”  The answer quite honestly is very simple.  Bad decisions.  It’s okay to admit you made bad decisions.  People do it every day.  Whether it’s opening a new credit card when you really can’t pay your rent or deciding you’re going to open that expensive plan at the gym down the street instead of paying the phone bill.  People make mistakes and it’s okay. Problem is, many people want to blame other people for their bad decisions.  This is true especially of us single people.  No one else made me open a credit card.  No one but myself made the decision to move in with my boyfriend (now ex) and get an expensive apartment and new furniture.  Oh sure I had help, but no one forced me to do it.  I just did.  I take responsibility for my financial situation.

I’ve read dozens of blogs and programs that talk about getting out of debt but none of them seem to be geared towards singles.  They appear to be geared towards families.  Nothing wrong with that it’s just very disheartening to know that most financial programs are focused on a family with two sources of income.  In my case it’s just me.  I work two jobs hoping I’ll have enough left over to put back into some form of savings.  Life is expensive.  Even more expensive for the women I know who are single parenting and trying to make ends meet.  We want security.  We want financial stability.  Without paying through the nose of course.  Ultimately I’m writing this blog for me, but I am hoping that if even one person is encouraged by watching me try to get out of debt and know they aren’t alone, I’ve already done more than I could ever hope to by just keeping my debt journey to myself.