Friday, June 07, 2013
happy debt-free day to me!
Well, sort of.
Happy unsecured-consumer-debt free day, I suppose. I paid off my last credit card for reals, and now have a $0 total net credit card balance at this very moment, for the first time in, um, nine years or so (this still leaves the car and student loan --- hence the caveats).
When I started this debt freedom gig, I honestly didn't know how well I'd do. It's a beautiful concept (don't be beholden to creditors! stop paying interest! have less stress!), but, well, it's a long-distance marathon kind of goal, and I'm somewhat impatient. I have expected myself to wuss out and stop making progress at some point.
And I fulfilled my expectations. After paying off my first (and nastiest interest rate bearing) card and making serious progress on the second, I slackened the discipline. I stopped tracking spending. I went back to using the paid-off card, though I mostly paid it off every pay period (any carryover balance that I couldn't pay off did cause more stress than I like to admit, but I tried not to think about it). I stopped posting my monthly financial retrospectives (apparently my last one was in June... eep! That's a year of silence. Oops). My budget went blank from November through April. Oh sure, I had my excuses for dropping the ball, but they were just that. Excuses.
That was after achieving freedom from only one of my four debts!
Husband and I both realized that we had no idea where my money was going. Are we spending too much on groceries, pet food, or travel? There were some special occasions in there; what did we spend on that? I used to have a spare $1,000 every month with which to smack the hell outta my debts, after expenses. Then by April, I had absolutely no idea what was happening to that money.
Back in the saddle! I made myself another trusty pocketmod (I love pocketmod. Have I mentioned that I love pocketmod?), and started tracking spending again. I updated my budget spreadsheet, added some categories to get higher resolution (such as general groceries being separate from groceries with which to cook meals for our weekly gaming group) so that we'll be able to have an even better sense of where dollars are flowing. I color-coded it and made it pretty (hey, why not? Motivation, right?).
Y'all, I'm back. Simply setting up the framework again was plenty of nudging to really get back into my thrifty moneytracking ways. I obsessively record every expenditure, no matter how small. I check my balances at least every couple of days to make sure I didn't miss anything. I update the budget religiously, and even taught myself some new Excel foo to make it a smarter and more awesome tool. I have a written plan for exactly how to portion out my next several paychecks. I'm actually finding myself swinging toward minor frugality obsession; anxiously anticipating the opportunity to pay down more debts and beef up my savings, thinking of clever ways to avoid spending unnecessary money, being way more difficult for my coworkers to manipulate into going out to lunch. In other words, I'm totally geeking out here.
But I was talking about patience! And my lack thereof. Right. Even after sorting myself out a bit again, I still had an annoying little balance on my secondary credit card, but something kept coming up that prevented me from finally killing it. Incidental expenses, trips out of town, that sort of thing. So I set up some automatic account transfers to knock it down a bit every month (way more than the minimum payment, of course). It was such a small balance that it wouldn't accrue particularly noticeable interest, and it would pay itself off in a few months anyway.
But it bugged me.
It sat there, taunting me. I'm only $500! I'm soooooo close to being paid off but you can't celebrate yet! I'm going to hang around for five more months just to tease you and keep you from your goal. Now I'm $450! Isn't it infuriating how slowly I'm disappearing? Mwahahahaha...
That balance was kind of a jerk, apparently.
So today, when my paycheck showed up in my account, I smacked that bugger into nothingness. All else be damned; I'll distribute my subsequent paychecks in a more sensible manner. But that cocky damn balance had to go. It's maybe a small stride for debt freedom in the grand scheme of things, but it's done wonders for my morale. The stress of that balance Just. Sitting. There. I'm done with that, and ready to be more effective.
So that means that I officially-no-really have no credit card balances at all as of today, and while I'll keep using the one that gives me nifty cash-back perks for my standard expenses (hey, free money is good), it will bloody well be paid off every month. And I'm developing plans of attack for my other financial goals.