Monday, April 22, 2013

about finances

You may have noticed that I stopped doing monthly financial retrospectives a while ago.

There's a reason for that.

The main reason is that I've had a funny feeling for the past year or so that something big is about to change, and that I should be ready.  A major career shift, a move cross-country, a dramatic life change of some sort.  I don't really know what form it will take just yet, but it's there.

As such, it seemed prudent to re-evaluate priorities a bit.

I'm still paying down debt, but not quite as aggressively.  Debt freedom is still a beautiful goal, and totally something I want to achieve, but having a chunk of actual cash around can be invaluable in times of transition.  Thus I've been working to make that happen, too.  So my debt snowball has been cut approximately in half, with the rest channeling into a savings account.  This slows progress on the whole debt freedom thing, so a retrospective would be less exciting.

As part of this relaxation of the debt payoff mission, last November I stopped tracking my spending.  I still go over my bank statements quite carefully, but I'm no longer writing down every single penny that leaves my hands.  This changed because of the general de-prioritizing of debt issues and because after a good year of tracking and documenting and looking at trend charts I feel that I have a pretty decent handle on my spending.  It was an extremely illuminating process, and it may be a habit that I pick up again in the future, but for right now I think I'm fine without it.

I also started using my paid-off credit card again.  I know, I know, this is antithetical to the rules as I initially laid them down.  But I realized several things.
  1. This credit card provides decent reward points that I use to pay down its own balance, resulting effectively in free money.
  2. I really am doing okay finacially, and am able to pay off the balance in full every month, thus eliminating interest charges.
  3. The experience of depriving myself of credit entirely was a really good exercise, and it got me to pay much closer attention to my spending, but it need not continue forever.
  4. Making online purchases wiht a debit card can be less than advisable.  Credit cards have better consumer protection and fewer identity-theft issues.  Not to mention that if it's compromised, nobody gets to drain your checking account.
The combination of these factors means that it's actually kind of a good idea to use credit cards a lot of the time if and only if you can do so responsibly (without paying interest).  Because I'm at that point, I could only benefit from the switch.

So several things have shifted around for me.  However, we're still on track, though the plan will be delayed a bit.  Hopefully this whole life-changing thing will happen soonish, and then I can settle into a new normal.

But until then, I'm going to be focusing on getting ready for the change.

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