As you might have noticed, it’s been awhile since I posted. I’m not proud of that but sometimes life just gets in the way.
Sometimes it’s about surviving what’s ahead and dealing with “in real life” stuff rather than my ramblings online.
I love this space and want to continue to nurture it but I also need to take care of myself. This year has brought physical health issues, mental health issues and most recently, the dissolution of my 9-year partnership.
Though it is for the best, I am completely devastated. It’s been a rough couple of weeks that have tested me in many ways. At times, I could not stand to take it “day by day” but only minute by minute. It’s been difficult to eat. To sleep. To let go of those dreams that you held so dear. The ones that will never happen the way you imagined.
I feel like I’ve lost a limb and I’m learning how to function again. I’m learning how to stand on my own two feet again without having an emotional crutch. Now that everything has cracked, I see all my faults come to light and am trying to become the best person I can be.
It’s a journey. If you want to follow along, you can keep up with my personal writing.
While my love life was imploding, I was trying to keep it together for Lola Retreat, the love + money retreat Emma and I have been planning the last 10 months.
And let me tell you. It was beyond anything I could’ve imagined. It filled me up with so much joy and hope to be around so many incredible women. We laughed. We had fun. We got deep about the issues around love + money (I may have lost it during that session), money mindset and more.
Lastly, I decided to organize the Suicide Prevention Blog Tour again this year. This is an issue near and dear to my heart and more relevant than ever. If you’re a blogger, there’s still time to contribute, so contact me!
Anyway, that’s why I’ve been radio silent here. Between the big projects and events and the overwhelming grief, I’m taking it minute by minute.
I am focusing on being resilient (oh yeah, I got my first tattoo a few months ago. Semicolons in honor of Project Semicolon).
Hey everyone! We have another dear debt letter from H, who lives in Salt Lake City and works at a nonprofit.
I’m not going to be mad at you. I’m over that phase. Because… I guess I hope this is all just part of growing up. Plus, I’ve beaten myself up over and over and over again, about you.
You stressed me out from the start. I’m from a smart and complicated blue collar family (but that’s an entirely different story) and it seemed like the fear of not having enough money just wafted around the house.
My dad lost his job in the 2008 crash, so when I graduated from high school in 2009, I didn’t even need to ask how I was going to pay for college.
A lot happened during college. I got mormon-married at barely 19 (another entirely different story), and promptly divorced.
I graduated college with a rather useless B.F.A in 2013, and since so much of my meager income was going to student loans, I got a credit card.
And, to be honest, I didn’t become a crazy spender. I don’t live a lavish life by any means, but I always want to be the one to buy my friend’s drinks, and by the end of the night, everyone else’s at the bar 🙂
I wanted to fly impromptu to visit my boyfriend while he was working in New York. And I wanted him to think I was beautiful (Which he always does anyway) so, I bought some $35 dollar facial primer from Sephora (I know, as if that shit actually works).
I don’t want to be a free-loader or seem cheap to my boyfriend, or my friends and family. So, I just sort of paid for more things than I truly could afford, and my debt crept up.
I would love to pay off my credit card debt by my 27th birthday (I’ve got about 10 months). So that I can be more responsible, and save enough money so if I ever do have a kid, I can help them get whatever useless degree they set their sights on.
Cheers, (And fingers crossed) that I can get my ass debt free by my 27th birthday.
Hey debt fighters! I’ve been working hard on the Lola Retreat, so have been MIA. In the meantime, we have another great dear debt letter from Mrs. Picky Pincher. She is the blogger at www.pickypinchers.com and writes about paying off debt while living the good life.
Ah, you and I go way back, don’t we?
I first met you when I was 9. Ahhh, young love.
I borrowed $20 from my dad so I could buy the latest Pokemon game. At first I didn’t think I could buy the game because I didn’t have the money, but my parents introduced me to you, Debt. They could loan me the $20 so I could get my game today and pay them back later.
This was a concept that totally blew my 9-year-old mind. I could get something now and worry about paying for it later? Whoaaaa. I should do this all the time.
Since I didn’t have an income, naturally I had a hard time getting rid of you, Debt. I realized it would take me three months of my allowance to get rid of you! Ouch!
After a few months of hoarding change in my piggy bank, I dumped you for the first time. I was young, but dang, it felt great to be free again. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson.
I didn’t see you again, Debt, until I was 21. I graduated early from college and thought the world was mine for the taking. Little did I realize that my degree came with an $80,000 price tag. I was also needy. I needed your allure and luxury: the $450 car payment, the student loan payments, and $14,000 in credit card debt. I cloaked myself in your brilliant sheen so I could look like everyone else who had you on their arm.
I was 21 and had several thousand dollars of you in my name, Debt. I was addicted to signing on the dotted line and only now realized what that meant.
Of course, my first job paid peanuts compared to the cost of my degree. Thanks to you, Debt, I struggled to meet my rent and wondered how I could afford the week’s groceries. I knew I was the one who let you into my life and that it was my fault, but I didn’t know how to get rid of you.
It wasn’t until I let another man into my life that things changed. I married Mr. Picky Pincher in 2015 and that’s when I found a way to dump you for good, Debt. Mr. Picky Pincher knew you too, and combined we owed $225,000. Ouch.
We knew you were a problem, but it didn’t become an emergency until I realized we had no savings. We couldn’t even imagine a savings account because we were in the red every month. And forget our dream of buying a house!
I was utterly ticked off. In the summer of 2015 we made a plan to evict you from our lives. Man, it was so much work. Getting rid of you was like lugging a belligerent 300-pound couch potato out of my house.
We canceled cable, stopped eating out, stopped shopping for fun, and stopped going to the movies. Instead I learned how to cook at home (a feat for a subpar cook), rent movies from the library, pickle and can produce, cut my own hair, shop at the thrift store, and sew my own clothes.
It didn’t happen overnight, but one day we realized we had $200 extra after making these changes. It was exhilarating, but it wasn’t enough.
We moved across the city to a cruddier apartment just to get rid of you, Debt. We were able to save an additional $400 a month on our rent, although herds of ants and roaches came with the territory. We even got rid of my car and I walked to work just to get rid of you, Debt. We were finally able to save $1,000 a month, which we used to pay off our credit cards each month.
After further cutting, we eliminated $14,000 of credit card debt in 10 months. Once that debt (and its minimum payments were gone), we were ready to go for the big ones: student loans.
Debt, you might think that you had us on these student loans. I thought so for a while, too, but we did conquer these loans. My dad graciously paid for the majority of my college degree, leaving me with just $25,000 of student loans. Thanks to changing our lifestyle and eliminating other debts first, we were able to kill that $25,000 of debt in 7 months.
Oh, Debt. You were probably heartbroken once that last check went in.
But you know what? I hate you. After seeing how easy it is to bring you into my life and how hard it is to make you leave, I’m done with you. There isn’t going to be any more of this on-again off-again business. This breakup is final and lasting. I’m going to sleep well for the rest of my life knowing you’re not on my doorstep anymore. Good riddance!
Hey debt fighters! We have a different kind of letter today from new blogger The Lady in the Black. LITB, aka Erica is a 40-something single mom, freelance writer, and published author. She was inspired to start her blog based on her ongoing struggles to manage her personal finances.
I have been thinking about writing you for a while but I really wasn’t sure where to begin. All I do know is that I’ve wronged you and you deserve an apology. However, I’ll admit that the apology is not completely altruistic. Forgiveness would help me move on and my hope is that we could, one day, grow closer and have a more mutually beneficial relationship.
Truth is we have hurt each other a lot.
Looking far back into my childhood, I can see you and I got off to an extremely rocky start. You presented yourself to me first as shiny silver dollars. You were cherished little glittery gifts that I stashed safely away in my little miniature mailbox coin bank. I was infatuated with you. Not because of what you could get me but because you were beautiful and you were mine. That is, until the day you ran away with my sister to the video arcade. You traded yourself into dirty little quarters which granted my little sister hours of Asteroids and Ms. PacMan! How could you!?!? I was so hurt. I felt betrayed by you and my sister. Now, in hindsight, my sister was just a little girl who wanted to play and took something that wasn’t hers. That’s what little sisters do. And you? Well, I suppose you weren’t responsible. You didn’t abandon me. The child in me only remembers the loss. The child in me didn’t appreciate my parents attempt to give me an allowance in such a special way to teach me of your value. I FORGIVE YOU, MY SISTER. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
As I grew, I felt ashamed how you seemed to avoid me and my family. You really weren’t making yourself available to us. It was embarrassing to have to shop at the bargain stores when my girlfriends all gossiped about their weekends at the cool CrossGates mall. They sported their Jordache jeans and Sony Walkmans while I hiked up my no-name leg warmers and feathered my hair with the generic comb, tucked safely in the back pocket of my jeans from Caldor. Our family was “middle class” with a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and 3 kids (staggered 4 years apart.) Where were you? The child in me remembers the government chunks of Velveeta cheese and special reduced-priced lunch tickets. I remember wearing “high-water” jeans and scruffy sneakers. The child in me remembers feeling like “having money” wasn’t something attainable for us. The child in me didn’t appreciate how hard it must have been to budget a single-income and feed a family of 5, especially during dad’s 18-month long union strike. I truly wonder how they did it. We were well-fed, well-mannered, well-educated children living the American dream. I FORGIVE YOU, MY PARENTS. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
When I was in college, reveling in the new-found independence of my first apartment and my first true love, you bailed on me with him-that-shall-be-not-named, when he dumped me and took off for Florida. I had nothing! You both broke my fucking heart and I was literally starving. I’d scrounge up $10 and buy a pizza from down the street. That pizza was my breakfast, lunch and dinner until it ran out. I had no phone (the old kind), no friends, tons of difficult schoolwork, and a broken heart. I binged watched China Beach on TBS and cried my eyes out for months. The victim in me put everyone to blame, especially you, Money. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I was successfully scraping my way through college. I was tough and building up my resiliency. Most importantly, I didn’t acknowledge it was temporary. I FORGIVE YOU, MY FIRST LOVE. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
And while I could continue on, elaborate the times in my marriage when you were such a hot topic, I really want to focus on what I feel like was the most profound disappointment you ever gave me. You know what a trial my divorce and custody battle was. You saw me fight with every fiber of my being to build a new life for me and my child. You saw me move 3,000 miles away to reclaim the person I believed I was but never felt comfortable being. You watched as I started a new job and suffered one of the greatest tragedies of my life. I’ll admit you did support me a bit when I had to tuck my tail between my legs, admit defeat, and once again uproot my life for the benefit of my child. You knew it nearly broke me. And yet, when I was in exile in a desert land, miserable, lonely and afraid, you left. I got fired because I was miserable. I got dumped by the love of my life because I was miserable. And you were no where to be found. The victim in me felt punished for trying to be independent and doing the right thing. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I put myself in that absurdly vulnerable position with no safety net or plan B. The amazing truth is that you did come back for me. You returned when I was at rock bottom. First, you were gifts from the man who loved me but couldn’t “save” me. Then, you were a comfortable and loving place to stay while I got on my feet again. You were the great-paying freelance contract I landed straight out of the gate. You have spent the last year surrounding me, comforting me, rebuilding my life and my dreams. You’ve given me the strength to live life on my terms. I FORGIVE MYSELF. I FORGIVE MYSELF. AND I THANK YOU, MY MONEY.
Since I’m now quite literally in tears, I suppose I’ll just sum it up by saying that it was me that chose to remember you in a negative light. It was me who cast you as the evil villain and myself as the damsel in distress. You are just you, Money. I see that now. And now that I’ve pulled up my big girl panties and committed to truly taking care of myself in every possible way, I hope that you and I will have a very positive future together.
And even if you try to take off one day, I won’t let you. You aren’t everything to me, Money, but you are important and I plan on keeping you around.
Your Repentant Friend,
The Lady in the Black
We first met when I was in undergrad. Tuition at a private prestigious university for 4 years was well over $100,000! Then one day as I was strolling through campus, I came across a booth of kids who were smiling, handing out free gifts, drinks, and…gasp…credit cards.
You mean I could apply for a credit card, get instantly approved, and get a free Nerf ball all in the same? Sign me up!
I remember my friends and I having a ball for the next few weeks as we racked up thousands in credit card debt over beer, pizza, electronics…you name it. Hell, it was free money in our eyes!
Fast forward 4 years and I was debt free. See, I got a pretty good job coming out of college working for Fannie Mae (this was before the financial crisis). I also was fortunate enough to get grants and help from my parents to pay for undergrad. My debt, including the credit cards, was gone.
Now I bounced around from job to job for awhile, and became disillusioned with my work so of course I went back to school to get my MBA. I was fortunate enough to get accepted to a great school, and figured that the $110,000 price tag was worth it because I would make so much more money upon graduation.
Yeah, didn’t happen. I graduated and actually ended up making LESS than what I made prior to grad school. My old friend had returned with a vengeance!
But, I must say, I greatly expanded my network, and more importantly, I started my own business. The fundamentals I learned in business school gave me the courage to start my own personal finance website Sobredinero.com, and I now am well on my way to paying down my student loans.
To be fair, it will still be a long journey, but I suspect that you won’t be around much longer because I have increased discipline and knowledge through my blogging about saving, credit, debt, investing etc…
I am no longer afraid of you for I have learned the difference between good vs bad debt. I am not afraid of you anymore Sallie Mae, Navient…whatever you’re calling yourself these days. Bring it on!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the CO-OP THINK conference in New York City. The conference was all about credit unions and this year’s theme was “digital transformation.”
In many of the sessions, we talked about digital disruption and what companies need to do to stay relevant.
Time and time again we heard about how companies like Uber and AirBnB are taking over and disrupting industries. In fact, one staggering statistic from one of the sessions noted that many of the business models in place today will not be around in five years — or will be something else completely.
Talk about disruption.
The same thing is happening in financial services. Why? Because the old model no longer works. Millennials have an inherent distrust for traditional financial services, especially in a post-Great Recession world.
We want convenience, accessibility, and transparency. Luckily, there are several financial technology companies out there that are bridging the gap and turning financial services on its head.
Here are 5 FinTech apps disrupting financial services right now. (Please note, this post contains affiliate links but all of my opinions are my own.)
Have you ever struggled with budgeting or tracking your money? Tiller budget spreadsheets might be the answer for you. Named 2017 Best Budgeting Service by FinTech Breakthrough, the service easily syncs your bank transactions into a Google Sheet (where my spreadsheet nerds at?) You can use one of their templates or create your own. The cool part is you also get daily emails about your transactions as well as your balances, so you can easily stay on top of your money.
The cost is $5 per month — or one latte per month. There’s no risk though as you can try it free for 30 days. Interested? Sign up here.
You’re in need of a new car and you want to know your financing options. The last thing you want to do is walk into a bank or a dealership, running around town trying to find the best rate.
What if you could know your financing options before ever setting foot into a dealership? Using AutoGravity, you can. AutoGravity was one of the Best of Show winners at Finovate Fall 16 and helps consumers get transparent information about their financing options.
Do you want the convenience and security of a credit card — but want to stay out of debt? Debitize can help. Debitize deducts the amount of your credit card purchases from your checking account each day and pays the credit card bill at the end of the month. Essentially, you can still use your credit card but have it act like a debit card by deducting purchases from your account. The best part? It’s absolutely free.
There is almost nothing I hate more in life than paying unnecessary fees. Just, why?! That’s why I’m flummoxed why some people pay banking fees. Again, why?
If you want to avoid banking fees, I’d say look for a credit union or an online bank. One of the best online banks making a splash is Chime. There are no monthly fees or minimums, no overdraft fees and more. I also really dig their Automatic Savings program, too. They round up each purchase you make with your Chime card and put it in your savings account. Bonus: You get a 10 percent weekly bonus on the roundups. Using Chime, you can also get daily balance updates so you know where you’re at with your money.
If you sign-up before June 30, you’ll get a $5 deposit upon opening an account.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of your financial accounts and trying to keep track of it all? Using Empower, a new money management app, you can keep tabs on your spending, categorize your expenses, set savings and spending targets, and transfer your money.
The beauty of Empower is it’s all on mobile, making managing your money a breeze. Currently, it’s only available for iOS users but they’re working on an Android app too. Also, it’s free!
As a personal finance writer, I have to say I’m excited to see this shift in financial services. There are more apps and services that cater to consumers’ needs and offer convenient and accessible products.
Have you tried any of these apps? If not, which ones are you excited to try? Any other favorite apps you want to share?
Hello debt fighters! I’m super pumped to announce I’ll be joining my girl Kara Perez from Bravely Go this Friday for a webinar on how to pay off student loans.
It’s going to be awesome! We both have some stories to share as well as some actionable advice.
Hope you can make it! It’s this Friday, May 5th at 11:30am PT. If you can’t make it, register and you’ll get the replay.
This blog post is part of the Pay Down My Debt (PDMD) blog tour, sponsored by US Equity Advantage. PDMD is a solution that accelerates debt payoff and helps consumers monitor their credit and make smarter purchasing decisions. If you’re looking to pay off debt, find out how they can help. This post contains affiliate links.
In theory, paying off debt should be simple right? Cut expenses, increase earnings and put more toward debt. Though these concepts are relatively simple, putting them into play is much more difficult.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Paying off debt is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Why? Because the process is so emotional.
You have to give up certain beliefs that may have gotten you into debt — or kept you there. You have to change your lifestyle and go against the status quo. It can be a very isolating experience.
Because of that, it’s very easy to let your debt fall to the wayside and get back into old beliefs and bad habits.
Everyone’s in debt.
You only live once!
I can pay off debt later!
What really worked for me was not going through the process alone. If you want to pay off debt, it’s crucial to have accountability systems in place.
When I published my first post on January 3, 2013 I felt alone, scared and overwhelmed. I had tried to pay off debt on my own while barely getting by.
I didn’t know what would happen when I published that first post, but I can confidently say it changed my whole life. Through my blog I created a community of other debt fighters who were going through the same things I was.
I had people I didn’t know cheering me on — rooting for me. They wanted me to succeed. Having that positive external reinforcement really made the difference.
Every month, I published my debt updates and I felt accountable to all my readers. I didn’t want to fail. In many ways, it was what kept me going.
If you don’t want to start a blog, find a friend who is also paying off debt. Set weekly meetings where you talk about your progress and setbacks.
One of the best things I did to pay off my debt was make multiple payments toward debt each month. This helped me lower my interest and put more toward debt.
I’m not going to lie — sometimes I made excuses. It’s very easy to lie to yourself when paying off debt. Being consistent is a skill you have to master, but our will and temptation can get in the way of our best intentions.
If you want to stay accountable and make multiple payments toward debt, consider using a service like Pay Down My Debt.
Pay Down My Debt helps users automate their debt by making automatic payments that are deducted from your account biweekly or bimonthly.
According to their website, “Our system makes the equivalent of an extra monthly payment on each loan every year. This also reduces your balance faster, again with less interest going forward. It’s a win-win!”
While the service isn’t free, it is only $9.99 per month for managing up to three loans. But you don’t just get the benefit of accountability and biweekly payments, you also get access to your credit score and credit monitoring. They’ll also send you reminders and payment alerts.
For the price of two lattes you are essentially paying for the accountability to propel your debt forward. No excuses.
Sure you can do this stuff for free, but sometimes you need a little extra help. You can work out on your own, but sometimes you need a trainer to kick you into shape.
Sometimes, putting a little money upfront can go a long way and help you battle your own doubts and demons. Like I said, there were some months I made excuses and only paid once a month. If I had a foolproof, automatic way to make biweekly payments without thinking about it, I could have gotten out of debt earlier.
In order to pay off debt, you need to change your financial habits. To do that, you need to actually track where things are going.
I created a daily habit of checking my bank account. I signed up for Mint and stuck with it — I enjoyed seeing their weekly spending reports and seeing my net worth (if you read my book, you know that I initially deleted my Mint account because I was seriously in denial!).
I signed up for text and email alerts from my student loan servicer. All of these things kept me accountable and got me out of denial. If you want to pay off debt successfully, it’s crucial that you get out of denial and take action.
It’s tough but putting systems into place can help!
Paying off debt is tough. Doing it alone? Even harder. Don’t leave your debt repayment up to chance and put accountability systems into place so that you can finally get out of debt.
The other day I woke up from a bad dream.
In the dream, I was in graduate school (again) pursuing a different degree — this time on a full scholarship (yay).
As it turns out though, there was a fluke and my scholarship didn’t go through, and somehow I had $100,000 in debt.
In my dream, I was so panicked.
“Nooo!” I thought.
“I just paid off nearly $100,000! I have to do this again?”
I felt demoralized, scared, and daunted by the task of having to go through that experience once again.
I woke up looking around, blinking twice to make sure this was my reality. Living debt-free in Los Angeles, living the life I want.
Yes, yes, it was. A wave of relief crashed over me as I tried to forget the pain of being in debt.
It’s been over a year since I paid off my student loan debt, but I was in student loan debt for my whole adult life. I am just now coming to terms with what life without debt looks like. In many ways, it’s very sweet.
I have less guilt, less anxiety, and more freedom. I have more choices or access to them at least.
But in the year or so since becoming debt-free, I haven’t completely shaken the pain of debt. I’m still worried that something will happen and I’ll be back in debt.
Having medical issues this year stirred up that worry. Taking on a project like Lola has me concerned about managing my business finances.
I realize I think about things differently because of my experience with debt. I am cautious.
It’s like I got burned and I’m a little too scared to get close to the fire again. Though I am doing everything in my power to rock the debt-free journey by saving money, investing, and paying off my credit card in full every month, I still have these lingering worries.
Ultimately, I don’t ever want to be in debt again. I don’t ever want to feel like everything I earn belongs to someone else and can be taken away from me.
After paying off close to $100,000 in student loans and interest, I know that paying off debt can be trying on your finances, your health, and your relationships.
Though I have my freedom now, I want to keep it. So I acknowledge these feelings and where they are coming from, and try not to let them rule my life.
As a blogger, I’ve always tried to be honest about the emotions related to debt. It turns out that some of those feelings don’t go away — at least not right away — even when you are debt free.
Let me guess. At the beginning of this year, you set all of these financial goals. You were going to finally pay off debt. Start investing. Get your spending under control. And now? You’ve made some progress, but you’re not where you want to be.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Making financial changes in your life is tough. That’s why having accountability and a coach to get you through can make all the difference. But what options are really out there for regular folks? Financial planners can cost a fortune. Not only that, most of them won’t look at you twice unless you have a certain amount of assets. It sucks.
The good news is there is a new financial initiative in town that can help: The Financial Gym.
The Financial Gym is a brick and mortar gym based in New York City. The gym has financial trainers to help their clients get their finances in shape. It’s a brilliant idea and so amazing. I had the pleasure of helping plan the opening and being there to witness it in all its glory.
The Financial Gym is the brainchild of my good friend Shannon McLay. If you listen to Martinis and Your Money, where I’m a regular guest, you probably know her. She is fun, passionate, hilarious and hard working. She is a mom, a good friend, and a financial services veteran working hard to turn the financial industry on its head…and actually help people.
At the Financial Gym, financial trainers work with you one-on-one to help you create a financial roadmap. Shannon always talks about how saving for retirement is like planning a roadtrip. You know you want to go from New York to California, but how will you get there? What pit stops will be along the way? Shannon and The Financial Gym team can help you get there.
Their clients have seen positive results, too. In fact, 90 percent of their clients have reached their financial goals, and their clients’ assets improved 50 percent over the course of two years. They’ve paid down a bunch of debt and boosted their credit scores. Not only that, but their relationship with money has shifted from one of stress to one of empowerment.
Though The Financial Gym is located in NYC and you can see their kick-ass space if you’re in the area, they also take clients over the phone or Skype. In other words, anyone can take advantage of their services.
Currently, as part of a March Madness promotion (so good for only a few more days!), they are offering a kickstarter package for 50 percent off the standard price. The typical price is already a steal at $250, but for the month of March, they are offering this package at $125.
I will say that if you sign-up with my link, I will get a referral bonus. But let me assure you that I would not recommend this if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing. You see, I’m a blogger and financial writer. I can give advice and suggestions, but I’m not a “professional” or an “expert”.
Shannon is a former financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and quit her job so she could work with people like you and me who don’t have a lot of assets, but who could use the help. She’s the real deal, and I’ve seen firsthand how she has impacted others.
If you’re ready for a little more accountability and assistance on your financial journey, then I recommend this as a great investment in your financial future.