Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a lovely New Year's Eve.  :-) The winding down of one year and the beginning of another is always an introspective time for me. I'm not really one for specific, rigid resolutions, as I don't think they often hold much past January.  I prefer to focus on general goals for myself for the future year.  This year I really just have three goals in mind.

Goal #1
Self-care:  Take care of myself.  This includes working out, making attempts to eat smarter, flossing every night, taking my vitamins, regular physicals and health maintenance efforts, and also taking care of my heart, my mind and my soul.  :-)  Yes, a part of me wants to vow to go to the gym X number of times a week, or to lose X pounds by X date, but those kind of specific goals often just make me feel like a failure.  I want to work on the whole thing, and whatever struggles that entails, whatever efforts I need to make, that's my focus.  :-)

Goal #2
Travel: I want to travel this year.  I want to go somewhere new for me, preferably outside of the country, and I want to go somewhere new for BF.  He's not done a ton of traveling, even around the continental US, and I'd love to get him to California this year.  It's a place I love to visit even if I don't think I'm built to live there.  :-)  We were considering a cruise with BF's family, but right now the odds aren't good.  It's a six day cruise, it's insanely expensive, and I'm just not sure it's the right trip for us.  Neither of us have ever been on a cruise and I'd love to go sometime, but this one may just be too long and too pricy.  I do want BF to get a passport so we're ready to go if we find something to do on our own, though.  I have one, but it has never been used, which is sad!

We still plan to do the usual trips like the Omaha visit in May for the family reunion and our Outer Banks beach trip after Labor Day, but I definitely want to focus on expanding our horizons a little bit this year.

Goal #3
Pay off Debt:  Most people don't know that I have a large amount of debt, and it's the bad kind.  I had some debt when I was married, but most of it was my ex-H's.  However, when we split I was used to living a certain way (beyond my means!) and I kept up with it on my own.  I racked up a LOT of credit card debt, and unfortunately, it has stuck around.  Up until last spring when I moved in with BF, I just didn't have a lot of leeway to make significant payments on the debt, so the balances didn't change much except for small lump payments around bonus time and tax time.  Quite honestly, until my move in with BF, I was still relying on credit cards to an unhealthy degree.  Bad, bad, bad, I know.

However, I am proud to say that since moving in March last year, I haven't charged to those credit cards at all.  The only card I have used is the American Express, and that gets paid off in full each month.  I've been able to throw an extra few hundred at my debt each month, and it's made a difference!  Beyond that, I was lucky enough to get an incredibly generous bonus from my Firm on New Year's Eve.  It was above and beyond anything I could have hoped, and even after getting gauged on taxes, I have quite a bit leftover.

As sad as it is to send so much money out to these credit cards, it is amazingly satisfying to watch my debt decrease so significantly.  I paid a couple of the cards off this month, and it was so rewarding!  I also get to decrease the remaining debt a great deal, and I spent a lot of time doing subsequent calculations.  I've determined that my debt can be totally gone in six months maximum, but most likely it will be gone in four months.  :-o :-o

I cannot begin to explain how spectacular that knowledge is.  Reducing the number of creditors has meant increasing the money I can send to the remaining ones.  This bonus has been huge for me and has allowed me to get ahead in ways I never could have otherwise.  I paid my car insurance for the next six months, I paid off all my Christmas spending on the Amex, and I've set money aside for a couple of upcoming expenses.  However, most of it is going to this debt, and that's awesome.  The idea that I could be fully debt free in 4-6 months is so exciting!

I'm hoping for a good tax refund again this year, which will also help and be used for the debt.  If it is like last year, it may actually wipe out the rest of the debt remaining at that time entirely.  However, I never assume anything with taxes, so who knows what will happen.  My calculations were based on this bonus and my current salary (not factoring in the raise I got).  I figured that was the best way to go because then anything extra would just be an added bonus if I got to pay things off sooner.  :-)

BF and I have entirely separate finances.  I have a ballpark idea of his salary and vice versa, but I don't know the specifics.  We have a joint account where we basically just transfer money to one another for various expenses, but our money is separate otherwise.  Even if we get married I intend to keep this arrangement, though I do plan to utilize the joint account a lot more at that time.  However, one thing I learned in my marriage and subsequent divorce is that it is a mistake to not be in control of your own finances.  To each their own methods, but this is mine.

Regardless, BF also doesn't know how much debt I have.  I figured that if we got engaged I would tell him at that time because then it would be on the verge of having an impact on him.  He knows I have debt, but would probably be shocked at the numbers, especially when we first met.  Anyway, one of the very best parts about paying off my debt is that in this scenario it will be long gone before we ever get married.  We aren't even engaged yet, ha!  My not telling him has not been with the intent of deception, but we've just maintained very separate finances for the most part, and I decided that for the time being, this was only my business. I carry a great deal of shame about the debt I accrued, and I feel like it really discredits me as a responsible adult.  I cannot wait to be able to say that yes, I made mistakes financially, but I dug myself out of my hole and here I am now.  :-)  For the record, I've never had a late payment or done debt consolidation or anything.  I paid on time every month, just not enough.

Today I checked my credit score on Credit Karma to get a frame of reference for the coming months. It gets updated every week, so I plan to check every week or two for the next couple of months to see how this debt diminishing so much affects my score.  I used to have excellent credit, but have fallen solidly into the "Fair to Good" category depending on where you're reading.  I am confident that paying off certain creditors entirely and reducing my debt to credit limit ratio significantly on others will increase my score in the coming months.  Then once all of it is paid off, I plan to re-focus on using one or two cards for monthly expenses and then paying it off in order to keep my credit score in good shape.  :-)

Clearly, this is the biggest goal for me right now.  It has been a weight on my shoulders for years, and I cannot wait to set it aside as lessons learned.  I also did more calculations and figured out that once the debt is gone, I can save a really reasonable amount in a year to put towards a down payment on a house when we move.  I love knowing that I will be able to contribute in a meaningful way when that time comes.

This post is hard for me to write out, as again, I have so much weird guilt and embarrassment about the debt I carry.  However, I'm trying to focus on the fact that I'm finally making huge strides towards dealing with it, and that victory should weigh more than the failures of the past.  Cheers to 2016 --- the year that I finally rectify the financial mistakes of my past and start moving forward like a real grown-up. Next year at this time, I fully expect to have the credit score of a financial rock star!  :-)


  1. I read this and I though "good for her"! I have also made some questionable choices in the past but I am also hoping that this time next year - I will be debt free. I think hindsight is a great hing but the first step is knowing you have to make a change and you have done that! So pleased for you!

    Happy New Year to you and yours - hope 2016 is everything you want, deserve and more! :)

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate this a lot. :) I look back at how I got myself into this situation and have tried to figure out what I have to show for it, and my only answer is...DEBT. :p But it's on the way out the door and it feels amazing to have an end in sight that isn't three years down the road or five.

      Thanks again! :)

  2. You are already well on your way to accomplishing goal #3 - congrats! I think a lot of people's problems with CC debt start as undergrad students, unfortunately when they have no idea how to really budget or how much money they will be making after graduation. I usually carry balances on a couple cards, and it is painful to use part of my tax refund towards feels like the money is just disappearing. What will really feel great, though, is if/when you and BF buy something or get a loan together, you will be contributing an awesome credit score!

    1. This is how mine initially started...those credit card offers with free stuff in the student union. Terrible! I CANNOT WAIT to see how it feels to have everything paid off after so many years of carrying this debt. :)

  3. Debt is the worst. I paid mine off a few years ago and then got in the whole again. Did exactly what I said I wouldn't. RJ does know about it...but not exactly how much. We are having that discussion this weekend. Yuck.

    1. It really is! I feel so terrible about it anytime I think about it. I've alluded to my debt to BF, but never discussed the specifics. I hope to hold off on that info until the debt is gone, LOL. Still embarrassing, but at least I will be speaking from a position of having taken care of it on my own at that point.

      Best of luck in your convo this weekend...I know it won't be easy, but I'm sure it will be a weight off your shoulders!