Thursday, May 3, 2012

In Debt and Riches

I've only been in Seattle three weeks--can you believe that?

Gabe and I have been working with a single income for the past few weeks utilizing a budgeting website called Mint. The result?

In April we were over-budget in pretty much every single category. Whoops.Big whoops.

The question now becomes why.

One of the best features of Mint is the ability to track every single purchase you make with your card(s), which are then categorized into your separate budgets (e.g. Shopping, Groceries, Mortgage, etc.). For me, with my cash base, it doesn't quite work, but for Gabe who is entirely a card user, Mint provides a cohesive, accountable picture of our finances.

A glance at our finances show a few different trends and unfortunate occurrences. In the past two months we've had a few high-cost highlights:
1) We've spent hundreds (read: over a thousand) on our dogs due to vet bills.
2) I moved to the States.
3) Our grocery bills were high (this is an area of immediate improvement).
4) We went to San Francisco.

In my super-strict budgeting world there is *no* excuse for *ever* going over budget, especially not in more than one spending category.

In our new budgeting world, where budgeting is an act of collaboration, this is a learning curve. We've discussed our desires and expectations, had a look at the data, and here is where we stand collaboratively at the beginning of May 2012:

National Student Loan: $24,175.22
BC Student Loan: $5975.36
Credit Line: $4206

Canada debt total is now $34,356.58.

Last month the total was $34,769.41, which today seems like I barely made a dent in the Beast. Now, however, that is only half the story. Here what life looks like on this side of the border:

AMEX: $7000
Mohela Student Loan: $2778.39
401K Loan: $1050

US debt total is now $10,828.39

Our new debt total is $45,597.80.

By the beginning of June those numbers will have decreased. I feel like I should focus on that point, but it's hard. I feel like debt never stops suffocating me and stopping me from pursuing my (admittedly lofty and occasionally insane) goals.

Dog Pile
I have a strong emotional (read: negative) reaction to debt. I'm probably deathly allergic to it, or at least my good cheer can be, and at times I struggle to see the sun from beneath all these clouds (and a quarter of the time I think there is no sun).

In the face of such a feeling of defeat, how do you improve your outlook?

1) Focus on what was accomplished and what your current situation is. This month we paid $412.83 down on Canada debt, maintained our charitable donations, and I'm unemployed at the moment.

2) If worried about accomplishing goals, try to focus on the smaller ones that don't require funds. This month I will learn how to whistle using two-fingers.

3) Understand the loftier goals will be accomplished in a reasonable timeline. We have made a choice to pay off debt before pursuing our larger dreams of travel.

4) Know this is a choice. Live consciously and be aware of your control in these situations. You are not helpless, have not been coerced -- these actions are made by choice.

5) Learn patience. You can't have everything you want today. You've picked your priorities, and if they're not right for you, you can change them. Debt will go, but it will take time and that's okay.

I'm quite lucky to have Gabe as my partner in this. We're like Black Widow and Hawkeye, fighting evil one coordinated blast at a time, and he keeps me sane. With a patience that far outstrips mine and a balanced, non-emotional approach to debt (maybe those qualities will rub off on me!), he's a perfect companion to my crazed need to vanquish the Beast.

With that in mind, I'm off to see the midnight showing of The Avengers!

Nerdy? You bet!
Wish me luck for my second interview tomorrow!!

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