Wednesday, February 10, 2010
This year I have decided that I will no longer be a debtor. I realized that I was living beyond my means and had a large amount of credit card debt to show for it. It was a huge shocker to me when I realized that my parents had not really taught me anything about how to save or create a budget. Don't get me wrong, my parents taught me how to make money and work hard to do it. They just never showed me how to keep it. I was determined though to change and the start of a new decade was the perfect place to do it.
On my flight back to San Francisco, I wrote some goals I wanted to accomplish for the year and read a very good book. "The Total Money Makeover" by David Ramsey has really changed the way I view how to handle my finances. I have read several books on personal finance and each book has contributed to my understanding of the subject but TTMO really brought all the concepts together in a very simple format. So when I got home (to an empty apartment...totally another story for another post), I wrote out my debts. I started with the smallest balance and worked my way to the biggest. It was an eye opening gut wrenching life pivotal moment to see all of my debts lined up and the large total underneath. I have five credit cards, two student loans, and a car loan as follows:
American Express - $1,291
Barclays iTunes Visa - $2,743
Chase Southwest Visa - $5,520
Bank of America Visa Signature - $8,019
CapitalOne No Hassle Visa - $10,697
ACS Student Loan - $11,471
Ford Motor Credit - $31,293
Great Lakes Student Loan - $35,565
This is equivalent to one year's salary for me. Yes I make $100,000 per year and I have nothing to show for it. That was the hardest part about this whole experience. I realized that I had enough debt to equal an ENTIRE YEAR of income. I didn't like that so I had to change.
I started small and gave myself some goals to accomplish for the month of February. You are probably saying well what happened to starting in January? I was going through a lot of crap personally and just couldn't do it. So February is my New Year, fiscally that is. I sat down at my desk and started a budget. I put in my rent, bills, debt payments, food, entertainment, etc. and came up with a pretty decent budget. Now mind you, I had created pseudo budgets in the past that I thought I was keeping when in reality I was just ignoring. I wrote it down and look it at almost everyday. I bought a small notebook and began tracking my spending. Every time I spend money, I write it down. I am not trying to reduce my spending...well, I am...just not at this moment. I am seeing where all my money goes during the month. At the end of the month, I am going to add up my expenditures and compare them to the budget to see where I was over and where I was under.
SO now I am at the bottom and started my climb out from underneath my debt. It will be a slow climb at first but as time goes on, I am sure I will gain speed and strength. Along the way I hope to share with readers some info and insight into how to achieve financial freedom.