Day Two of Resolutions

It’s Day Two of your resolution.  You still on it?  ;)

After writing yesterday’s lengthy post, I was thinking on what to write next.  Everything still pointed to talking about my resolutions and sharing with you how I’m doing it.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m saving for a house (which is not a resolution).  On Christmas Day, I sat down and mapped out my financial future…the long term, the short term and the 1.5 year plan. 

I wanted to figure out how I was going to save 10% for a down payment on a house, raise my credit score, and minimize all of my debts.  Ends up that the lenders I was speaking to kept mentioning a 3.5% down payment.  I thought…well, what about 5% and I still work to save 10%, using the other 5% for renovations on the house?  Sounds like the start of a plan. 

I picked out a nice, colorful notebook and started writing down how I could find ways to reach my goals over the next 18 months as I prepared to save $20,000.  Basically, how could I trim the pork from my budget?

I currently live by the 50-30-20 lifestyle.  All of my expenses are under the 50%, my savings are currently 20% and my do whatever I please with my money is still 30%.  It’s this 30% that I need to carve extra savings out of.

But first thing’s first.  Tackling the debts.  I currently have 2 student loans and a few credit cards.  I got the credit cards a few months ago because I wanted to up my credit score by 100 points.  At first, getting multiple cards will drop your score, but it’s temporary…like 6 months temporary if you don’t max out the cards and keep the overall revolving credit usage under 30%. 

Right now, my goal is to pay off 1 of the student loans and all of the credit cards (using them sparingly over the next year and a half).  Right now, at least 10% of my savings has been going directly towards paying down the debts.  I still have the other 10% in savings/retirement/stocks. 

I’ve had a huge windfall at the office with bonuses, not taking sick leave and monetary holiday gifts from the bosses.  All of my cards and the student loan I’m targeting will be paid off by the end of February.  I’ve been doubling my student loan payments for the last year, so it will be nice to get rid of that bill.

After February, I will only have 1 student loan remaining and no credit card debts.  That student loan is the big one…$22,000 (all that’s left from a $120,000 college education).  I have an incredible interest rate on this loan, so I’m ok with taking time to pay this down because this is in fact my oldest debt and a debt I need to still be around when I apply for a housing loan.

So after February my life turns into: MAXIMIZING SAVINGS.

What am I going to do?  Well, I need to come up with an extra $500 each month to reach my goal in 18 months.  That’s not difficult to do, but I don’t want to feel like I’m struggling to save that extra $500.  That means I have to change the way that I think and buckle down with being more frugal.

My first point on my list was to not buy any more movies on DirecTV.  It’s so hard to say no when there’s a movie you’ve been wanting to see hit the DirecTV Cinema Pay Per View.  So right as I was getting ready to say ‘no more pay per view’ I discovered VIGGLE.

Viggle is an app that allows you to collect points by checking-in to whatever TV show you’re watching.  The shows to check into are all of the bonus ones (like football games).  After 9,000 points you can redeem your points for a DirecTV movie certificate.  They have many other rewards on there too (iPod Touch, Kindle Fire HD, a Cruise, Best Buy gift cards, iTunes gift cards, etc.).  Me?  I’m just using the app for those DirecTV movie certificates.

[Lesson here…you don’t always have to sacrifice all of your bad habits, you just have to find a different way of paying for it without it costing you any money.]

Another little lesson I learned from some financial column I read before New Year’s…pick up every bit of money you find.  On Day One of this venture…I netted $5.01.  Found money (free money) went directly into my Fantasy Wardrobe jar. 

My next budget cut was to not buy any books unless they came from the library sale.  If they come from the library sale, they can only be classics or children’s books. 

Now, this budget cut also ties in with my New Year’s resolution.  I’m trying to declutter all of my non-classical literature.  I am overflowing with books right now and need to cut back.  I allow for books bought at the library sale because it supports the community and at $5 per bag, that’s a lot of books for me and the kids I help out.  By focusing on building up the classical literature, I can build up my ‘real library’ with qualitative material while getting rid of the not so qualitative material…and not adding to it with more non-qualitative books.

Most of the books I’m reading this year are the books that need to be decluttered and on its way out of my house (to the office communal library).  That’s the main reason why I only list that my resolution be 10 classics and not 26.  42 non-classics decluttered from my home?  That would be a heaven sent!

If I want to buy a non-classic book, it has to be on the Nook.  If I buy a Nook book, I also have rules on that for my resolution…but if I didn’t pay for it and used Viggle rewards for a Barnes & Noble gift card…then I’m still staying within the confines of not spending money on books.  [Thank God for this app.]

Now, I shop for clothes and couture items 4 times a year…during the end of season Net-a-Porter and The Outnet sales.  I tend to jump on a couture bandwagon and have a hard time getting off of it…so I hit up Housing Works and Bonanza for more couture vintage items at next to nothing prices. 

I don’t necessarily want to cut that out, because a girl needs to go on a shopping spree every now and again.  The key here was budgeting for it.  I decided on a $2k budget for these sprees for the year.  That’s actually on the low side, because I can easily spend up to $5k on each of these sprees.  $2k is the budget and I have to work within those budgets.  That’s $166/month.  In 4 months, that’s $664 to work with every season, rolling over whatever is not used for later months (especially those end of the year bargains).

This is a special budget that does not coincide with my Fantasy Wardrobe jar.  It’s basically…THE CLOTHING BUDGET.

On New Year’s Day, I started decluttering my purse wardrobe because it filled up rather quickly thanks to Christmas.  I added 10 new bags to it. Ok, I lied.  I still have a Fendi and Gucci bag being delivered this week.  But you get my point…I was running out of room.  So I decluttered the bags, threw them in trash bags and…I haven’t decided whether I’m going to sell them or just donate them.  At this point, donating them is more realistic because I’m at the “I can’t be bothered with trying to sell all of these handbags.” 

The key here is that most financial advisers would say to sell those bags to make a profit.  Me?  I’m ok with not netting a profit off of things I don’t want anymore and donating it all to charity.  I’d rather have the good karma flowing financially (thus the reason why I’d donate it).

The point of all this is…you need to cut yourself a break sometimes with budgeting and becoming more frugal.  Yes, I like to collect vintage designer bags.  Yes, I like to splurge a little by stocking up during major sales.  By creating boundaries and limits I allow myself that same joy without going overboard. 

Something I noticed about myself this past year…I can’t just go into a store and buy ONE thing.  I stockpile like it’s the end of the world or something (oh wait, it was…).  I’m trying to teach myself how to live in moderation and simplicity.

eatingwellFor instance, last night I decided to buy the ingredients to a recipe for curried chicken and mango salad that I saw the Today Show had pinned on Pinterest.  It was a recipe from Eating Well.  At a little under 250 calories per serving…this was my kind of meal.  It also stays within my New Year’s resolution to try new healthy foods all year long.

When I went into the grocery store, I calculated in my mind that this meal should cost me around $20-$25.  It serves 4 people, so that’s close to $5 per dish. 

As I went through the aisles to pick up the 4 ingredients I needed, I had to resist picking up items that were not in the recipe.  Pineapple for $7.99…kiwi fruit…tomatoes…salsa…olives…

I had to remind myself that I had budgeted myself at $20 and I had to stick to it. 

After she rang me up, she said $20.17.  I had gone over my budget by 17 cents.  I almost freaked out.  Then I thought…no, it’s only 17 cents.  It could be worse and she could have said $60 or $100…like what usually happens when I go in to the grocery store to buy for one recipe and walk out with food for the next 2 weeks.

To me, this is making strides in forcing myself to stay within the confines of a budget.  It teaches me to not only stop splurging all of the time but to live in moderation.  Buy what you need, not what you want.  Live more simplistically…because I know that if I had bought up a week’s worth of groceries, 1/2 of it would be in the trash come next weekend.

This is a big lesson for me to learn.  I always feel bad when I’m in Target buying groceries and my cart is overflowing and I see someone with 3 kids walk by with hardly anything in their cart but the necessities and I hear the little boy ask if they can get a candy bar and dad says no because they can’t afford it.  They only have $8 to spend in the store (as compared to my cart filled with $600+ worth of stuff). 

Moderation…simplicity for 2013.

That is how I’m approaching this year in order to reach all of my goals.  It’s all about learning how to live in moderation and simplicity.  To create boundaries, but still giving yourself some room to wiggle around in, instead of thinking…I can do whatever I want.

There’s also one last topic I want to discuss that a co-worker and I were discussing yesterday about my plan to run. 

I created a system for myself that would allow me to NOT GIVE UP. 

Over the last few months I’ve been in chronic pain.  My heels were hurting so bad that my left leg was starting to feel the pain stretch all the way up my leg.  My knee was giving me major issues, too.  I have what is called plantar’s faciitis…which is simply what happens when your ankle does not align with your leg correctly.  This was brought on by wearing ballet flats all of the time and banging so hard on the pavement while speed walking through Manhattan. 

I’ve been wearing corrective supports for the last month from a company called OrthaHeel.  I felt instant relief from the pain every time I stood up or walked.  I was hurting so much that the second I stood up, I would feel this wave of pain shooting throughout my entire body.  The pain all stemmed from my heel.  It was horrible!

Keeping this injury in mind and my desire to run, I started to research what would be the best shoes to wear.  I came across the Nike LunarGlide +4.  This shoe is designed for people like me who overpronate which causes their ankles to not align with the leg correctly when they walk/run.  The supports in this shoe actually keep the ankle aligned with the leg.  It’s perfect for people that are overweight.

I bought two pairs of shoes, because I read somewhere that you should have two pairs of running shoes. 

Next, I researched sports bras.  All of the ones I’ve bought recently did nothing for me.  It was like I was running around without a bra on.  I needed something that would contain my double divas, so I found Enell sports bras…one of the most highly recommended (NO BOUNCE) bras around.

The Nike LunarGlide and the Enell sports bras are not cheap at all.  The reason why I paid a little more for the right equipment was because a) I don’t want to be injured while running, and b) I didn’t want to be mortified while I was running.

I paid a little more for the right equipment so that I couldn’t find an excuse to get out of doing what I set out to do.  I left little room for error.  Basically, I got rid of any excuse I could possibly have to NOT RUN.

Sometimes doing a little research can go a long way.  By looking at the LunarGlide shoe and comparing it to my last pair of Nike running shoes, I could see how I was injured and always in pain when I wore tennis shoes.  It’s amazing how far Nike has come to correct issues that crop up for people who suffer from plantar’s faciitis.  The shoe is just amazing and ranks very highly amongst runners, especially those who are overweight and need the extra support and the corrective support for the ankle.

When you set out to change your life, make sure that all failed attempts in the past are addressed.  What stopped you from doing X?  How can you change that?

Leave yourself little room to make excuses…even if you have to spend a little more just to correct the errors from the past.

The reason why I went this route (spending a little more on equipment) was because I wanted to feel comfortable and safe running without feeling like I was being ridiculed.  I don’t like running on treadmills at the gym with men nearby because some asshole always stops to say something.  This time, I found a secret spot to run where no one will see me until I’m ready for them to see me.  I narrowed down a time to run…when no one was out and about except for the street sweepers. 

I developed a plan where emotionally I didn’t feel threatened or like crap because someone was making fun of me.  I needed to go into this knowing what has happened in the past and how I planned on correcting those issues…even if it meant that I had to hide while exercising just so I would feel comfortable.

Sometimes making resolutions takes years to perfect, especially if you’re not modifying how to make your resolution work.  Sometimes there are factors that slip in that make you give up on your goal.  Modify the goal to help you reach it.  Tackle the issues as they come up.  Create a plan to achieve your goals. 

These are just some of the things I’m doing to reach my goals this year.  Oh, and FYI, Day Two of all of my New Year’s resolutions?  Going pretty well so far.  Try that recipe for the curried chicken and mango salad.  It was really good.  The cat ate way more of it than I did…but that’s what usually happens when I start dieting. She eats what I don’t eat…and what I want to eat, she eats that too. ;)

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