Tag Archives: credit card

Working On Money (or A Prosperous Heart Update)

I wrote before about how the podcast I work for was going to do the 12 week journey in “The Prosperous Heart”. We just got to the end of the 12 weeks and I figured it was time to do an update.

I’ll admit that I did not follow the 12 weeks as strictly as I did with “The Artist’s Way”. The main thing I did do was the morning pages. I struggled with the morning pages when I did “The Artist’s Way” and I really didn’t enjoy them. They became something that annoyed me at the end of that journey and I really was not enjoying having my mornings start off on such a negative note. So I decided that for me, doing the morning pages wasn’t going to benefit me the way that it should so I didn’t do them.

I know that some people will argue that I didn’t really do the 12 week journey this time if I left out doing the morning pages, but that’s ok with me. I have to do what is right for me and I would rather try to do the journey the best that I can instead of not doing it at all. I did do the weekly reading and the questions at the end of the chapters, so I feel like I did a majority of the journey.

The biggest thing about this 12 week journey is to track every single penny that you spend. Since I already do that with YNAB, I figured it would be pretty easy for me to keep doing it. And fortunately it was pretty easy for me. The only annoying this was with credit card spending. I track it in YNAB and it was a bit weird to have to track it in a second location as well (for “The Prosperous Heart”, I tracked everything in a little notebook). I didn’t like having to do everything twice, but it was a minor issue.

But while I track all my credit card spending, tracking cash was a new thing for me. I was looking forward to seeing how being extra aware of my cash spending would help me out. And for the most part, I got much better about being more cautious on what I was buying. There were a few times I forgot to track my cash spending (mainly laundry money or parking meters), but I would say I tracked all but maybe 10 times I used cash. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with being close to perfect.

I think that many people in our group weren’t as into this 12 week journey as they were with the other one. Some of us felt like the book didn’t speak to us the same way. Some people felt that the chapters were repetitive and a bit disconnected. It was not easy for us to admit that we didn’t enjoy this journey as much as the other one since we all felt so great after finishing “The Artist’s Way”. But it’s important to admit to yourself when you don’t feel like you are getting what you want out of a book/class/lecture.

We tried to encourage each other to stay on top of the weekly chapters and the lessons, but this time the group online wasn’t as active and sometimes it felt like we were each on our own journeys instead of doing it as a group. It’s not bad to do it alone, but it was different. And I don’t know if I preferred the group version or being a bit more on my own. Each journey was so different because of what was in it, so it’s not easy to compare them to each other.

Now that this is done, I’m going to keep some of the lessons and challenges going but I’m not going to keep all of them. I might continue to track cash spending, but I think just having the extra awareness I have now will be helping me so much. And for credit card spending, I already track that and I have noticed that I haven’t been charging as much stuff as I did before. So it’s nice to know that I did learn something and that I’m not spending as much as I did before. I’m not saving as much as I’d like, but it’s baby steps toward that.

Overall, I’m glad that I took this journey. Even if I didn’t do everything that was supposed to be done, I feel like I have made a change and I’ve learned new things about myself. I’m hoping that I can continue to spend less and focus less on things that cost money and look for things that are free that I like to do. I know that I need to get my credit card debt paid off and I really want to get it done soon. I just need to buckle down and work harder toward that. And hopefully the lessons I learned from “The Prosperous Heart” will help me over the next weeks and months to accomplish that.

Day Job News (or Things Are Getting Better)

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my day jobs. For the most part, things are the same as always. I’m still working my box office job plus my data entry/calendar management job from home. I’m also working for my old boss time to time with in person box office work and I still babysit on occasional weekends. My hours each week range from 43 to 68 hours in a week depending on how many hours I work my occasional jobs, but even at the lowest number a week I’m finally making a more livable income.

What I’m making isn’t making it easy to pay off my credit card debt. I was recently able to pay off about 5% of what my remaining debt is, but that’s less than I was hoping. I really felt like I’d have it paid off by now, but I think it’s going to be a bit more time before it’s gone. But each of the jobs I work adds to my income and adds to what I can pay off each month so I’m grateful for each work hour I get.

But while I’m not making as much money as I would love to make, I’ve gotten some pretty awesome news with all of my jobs in the past few weeks. It started with my occasional box office job. I’m going to have the opportunity to have more shifts in a month now. There needs to be some coverage for the box office at other shows than the ones I typically work, so I’ll get a couple of extra shifts. Each of the extra shifts will only be 2 hours, but I might be able to get 3 of those in a month. 6 extra hours isn’t a lot, but that money will pay off one or two utilities bills at a time so it adds up!

I also got some good news about my work from home box office job. A few weeks ago I got an email from the owner of the company asking me to call him. My first thought was that I was fired (even though there was no reason I should be fired) so I called him back immediately. The stuff he needed to talk to me about was only about how our pay system works (he needed some information from me that he didn’t have) so I didn’t have to worry about anything. And during that call, he asked me if I was having any issues with the job that he should know about.

I told him that while I love working this job, it’s not giving me all the flexibility I was expecting when I took the job. Since I don’t get scheduled for full shifts each day, I have the potential to work an extra 2 hours each weekday if I had to make up hours. I’ve made up hours in the past when I go out-of-town or have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day. It’s never been too big of a deal, but I’ve always had to go through both my boss and manager.

Fortunately, the owner agreed with me that flexibility should be fine since I do have those hours each week that I usually don’t work that can be used as make-up hours. I just have to go through my manager (which is easier since we are both on chat together every work day) and I can make up the hours based on when we feel it would be best. Now I have the flexibility for auditions that I’ve been needing and hopefully as I get more auditions this arrangement will continue to work for us all.

The last day job I got great news about was my data entry/calendar management one. When I was hired, it was just under a 2 year contract. The end of that contract is coming up at the end of this month and I’ve been stressing a bit about if that contract wasn’t going to be extended. That job is over half of my income each month, so I need that money. I just got the email this week that my contract is going to be extended for at least another year! The budget is still being worked out so the number of hours each week may change (I don’t know if that would go up or down), but as long as I’m still working that job at least I know I’ll have some more regular income coming in.

But since I was so worried about that job not getting an extension on the contract, I’ve been spending time over the past month looking for another job that I could do. I focused mainly on jobs that I could do along with the jobs I already have, but I was also open to finding a full-time job that had the flexibility I need. There really aren’t a ton of full-time jobs with flexibility (more people who have those either start as part-time or start with no flexibility), but then I was listening to a podcast that had an interview with a woman who owns a virtual assistant company.

In the past, I’ve tried to get jobs as a virtual assistant. But so many of those companies require you to use a PC and I have a Mac. I didn’t want to have to buy a different computer just to work a job with, so I never applied to them. But when I found out that the company that was interviewed loves people who have Macs, I applied immediately! Because of my schedule and when they could do Skype interviews it took a bit of time before I could interview for the company, but I finally had my interview this week and it went really well! The next step is to wait to see if they have a client that needs a virtual assistant that matches my skill set. And things tend to start at 5 hours a week, which I feel pretty confident that I could do.

Eventually, the virtual assistant job can be more hours (and you can take on more than one client), so over time it may become one of my main day jobs. I’m not thinking that far in advance right now, but it doesn’t hurt to have some potential plans in mind when I’m looking at new day jobs. Of course, I hope that sooner rather than later a day job won’t be necessary as I will hopefully make all my income with acting. But I also have to be realistic.

Considering that not long ago I was completely out of work and feeling hopeless with my day job situation, I’m pretty happy with how things are going right now. They can always be better, but I think the path I’m on is one of the better ones that I’ve had lately. I’m finally feeling some stability, I can make some plans for purchases I’d like to make, and I’m making steps on my debt reduction. I can’t ask for that much more than that.

A Fresh Budget (or Starting Over With YNAB)

I’ve been budgeting with YNAB for almost a year now. I’ve been pretty good about entering every expense and paycheck into the system (I’ve even had some fun laughs with friends when we are out to dinner and we both pull up our apps to enter our expense when we pay the bill). It’s been good for me to be accountable with every dollar that I spend and to have a more realistic view on how much money I’m making.

But even though I was doing all the work, there was a serious disconnect with me happening in my budgeting. I have no clue why I was so disconnected, but something wasn’t right and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I had been trying to figure out what was wrong, but I just kept feeling like something was wrong and I couldn’t fix it.

I started to download a bunch of other budgeting apps. There are dozens of free budgeting apps and some of them seemed ok, but none of them were fitting what I needed (the biggest issue was finding one that didn’t expect the income to be a steady amount). YNAB has actually changed a bit since I got it and the new version is more of an online system (instead of it connecting via Dropbox) and you pay a monthly or annual fee instead of paying for a 1 time purchase. I don’t want to get the new version yet because I want to feel comfortable with the version I have and I really don’t want to have another expense added to my life right now.

So after a few weeks of feeling lost and frustrated, I finally decided to get rid of my current budget in YNAB, delete everything, and start completely over. When I started over I also re-watched all of the videos online about setting things up and how to use them efficiently. I learned things that I missed the first time and I was setting up my budgeting categories into things that make sense to me.

YNAB Categories

I kept the debt, monthly bills, and everyday expense categories because those are pretty basic and they haven’t changed. I still have monthly bills, everyday expenses, and my debt to pay off. But the rest of my categories have gotten more specific. I’m breaking down my expenses by different aspects of my life and the priorities I have with them. Some of my acting expenses can be sacrificed for my day job expenses (classes aren’t as important as paying my estimated taxes). Splitting the expenses in the categories does help me see where I need to save and spend versus where I want to save and spend.

I know that some people have very limited categories in their budget, but I think for me the specifics are really going to help me. Sometimes, I forget about the annual expenses that I have that add up all the time. I only pay dues for WIF and one of the casting submissions sites once a year, and I don’t want that amount to shock me anymore. This way, I can save a little bit each month for those annual expenses and I will see exactly what I’m saving it for (compared to before where I listed it as annual acting expenses).

So far, this new budget is working out well for me. I’m feeling more connected to my money and I’m more aware of what’s happening. I’m trying to set up my monthly savings for my annual things, but I’m still working on how I want them to be organized. In the past, I probably would have just given up with things got hard for me to figure out. But now I really do want to make this work. I know that budgeting has helped so much this past year and that it can be doing so much more for me. And once I get that figured out, hopefully I can start paying down more debt and start saving so I can take another amazing vacation sometime soon.

Working On Money Priorities (or What’s Worth The Splurge)

I’ve really been working lately on spending less. I know it’s important for me to do this because I need to use that extra money toward my credit card debt (and not creating more debt). And obviously, there are some costs that I can’t avoid (bills and stuff), but I’ve gotten more serious at taking a look at my fun expenses.

I’m sure it sounds like I spend a ton because I go to Disneyland pretty often and now I have a pass to Universal Studios as well. This Disneyland pass was pretty much half paid for by recycling ink. That option won’t work for me in the future (the loophole that let me do that was fixed), but pretty much what I paid out of pocket was the same as 2 days at Disneyland. And my pass has the parking so I’m not paying $18 each time to park. I know I’ll go more than 2 times in a year so it’s easily worth it. And my Universal Studios pass was something I got at Costco for almost the same price as a 1 day ticket. The issue with my pass is that you can’t use it on weekends at all, but since I will probably only go on Mondays that isn’t an issue for me as well.

I am still spending money on other fun things, but I’m really trying to limit them to fun experiences like my season tickets to the Pantages or other shows (I just got tickets to see “The Little Mermaid” live at the Hollywood Bowl soon!). And when I do tickets like those, I’m working hard at finding good deals or making sure what I’m paying is a good value (like the season tickets being about $300 for all 7 shows). Part of why I love going to so many shows is it keeps me busy. And when I’m busy I’m not focusing on food.

And speaking of food, one of the biggest savings I’ve had lately is food related. I set the monthly challenge not to order any delivery food in March, and I’ve been able to keep that up so far this month too! I’m not doing as great about cooking from scratch, but even getting microwave food from the grocery store is cheaper than delivery food. When I’m not cooking, I’m going out to eat and that tends to be with friends so it makes it more of an outing than just eating. My grocery bills have gone up a bit since I’m eating at home more, but the amount they have gone up is significantly less than what I was spending on delivery food so that is a win for me.

But I think the biggest savings for me as been shopping. Mainly buying books, but I’m trying to be better about shopping in general. I used to buy a lot more stuff. Now, if I’m buying things online it tends to be household stuff I need or workout clothes. I’m not buying as much “normal” clothes because honestly I’m not in “normal” clothes that often. And even on non-workout days I usually wear my workout pants because they are more comfortable to work in.

But my book spending was pretty bad in the past. I used to be a huge library person, then there was an ordeal with my library card not working (I don’t know what happened and neither do they). Instead of doing the easy thing and just registering for a new card, I took advantage of how easy it is to get books on my Kindle. My old e-reader was much more difficult to get books on so just being able to press a button and order a book was so fun! But the spending was adding up. And while most of the books I buy I love and read over and over again, there were some that I got because they were on sale for $0.99 that I’ve read once and that’s it.

So recently I finally got a new library card and I’ve been taking advantage of it so much!

Library Card

It is so easy to get books on my Kindle from the library. Yes, I have to use my computer to get them. But then they are sent wirelessly to my Kindle and are on the device for 21 days. So most of the time I can read them more than once if I want to. I actually went a little overboard with putting Kindle books on hold from the library and had to delay a couple of holds (I had gotten 8 library books available at once). But I’m starting to find my groove with the library again and I feel like an idiot that I waited so long and spent so much money. I can’t go back and change it, but I’m glad I’ve changed now.

I know that there are still a few more places I can save money in my monthly spending. I want to get my grocery bills down a bit more as well as my household stuff (cleaning supplies, paper goods, and those things). I’m going to do some price checking between stores near me and Amazon and hopefully I can figure out the best options for me to maximize my money.

I’ve got a lot of fun things coming up this summer and a lot of them will involve money. But hopefully with the cutting back that I’ve been able to do I will not put myself into more debt just to do them.

Starting The Year With A Lot Of Transformation (or Who Will I Be By Next Year?)

I’ve been doing a lot of transformational work in the beginning of this year. I wasn’t expecting this all to happen at the beginning of the year (that’s a little cliché for me), but the timing of it all just happened to all be in January.

The first transformational thing I have been working on is increasing my workout days. This was something that was planned in my goals for 2015. Now I’m just making sure that I’m doing what I set out to do. I’m tracking all my workouts in a simple calendar checklist app, and I’m on pace to meet my monthly goal right now (it’s way too easy to think that I’m on pace to meet my yearly goal).

The only minor setback I’ve encountered is that there are so many people who want to go to Orangetheory now that if I don’t set up my classes over a week in advance, I run the risk of being put on the waitlist! That happened to me for this Saturday. I wanted to add the noon workout to my schedule and asked if I could get in that class when I was working out on Monday. The class was booked and there was only 1 spot left on the waitlist! I’m still on the waitlist now and hopefully I can get into the class. If not, I’ll have to add another workout to next week.

I’m also starting another Orangetheory Weight Loss Challenge this week. It starts on Friday and this time, it’s a national weight loss challenge so there will be people from all the Orangetheorys around the country participating. There is a lot of money for the winners, but I’m just going into it thinking of it as a personal challenge. I looked at how much weight some of the past winners have lost and for me to equal that I would have to lose weight at a very unhealthy rate for me. Some of the winners had lost over 25% of their starting weight! That’s just not realistic for me.

Then, continuing on my cooking trend, I’ve got my 4 week cleanse coming up. I just got the materials for it and while most of it seems very simple for me to do (lots of fruits and veggies), part of the cleanse is to spend the 4 weeks cutting out  dairy, meat, and processed food like bread. I can probably cut dairy without missing it at all. But I’ve gotten very used to having peanut butter on toast for breakfasts and having chicken or pork with my dinner. Fortunately, the cleanse comes with a bunch of recipe ideas so I will be taking advantage of those (and posting my favorites on here!).

Then yesterday, I saw a bunch of my friends posting on various social media sites about the Money Love Challenge. I checked it out and within minutes of reading what it is all about, I signed up. It’s a free 21 day challenge (it started yesterday so it’s not too late to sign up) to help get in control of your financial situation.

This is something that I totally need in my life. Every year I say that I’m going to get rid of more and more of my credit card debt. While I’ve brought it down, it’s not nearly as low as I’d like it to be already. And I want to see how much I can bring it down in 2015. Hopefully by doing this challenge, I will be inspired to find ways to accomplish that goal.

This is a lot of change at one time, but all of these things pretty much came organically to me and I chose to do them. I’m excited to see what the next few weeks and months bring to me!

Bicycle Financial (or Using Online Tools To Help Get Me Back On Track)

FTC Disclosure: I was given a free trial of this product in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are mine and were not influenced by the free trial.

I was recently given the opportunity to check out Bicycle Financial, which is an online financial planning tool. Bicycle Financial knew that I’ve been working on paying down my credit card debt and they wanted to show me some ways that their service could help me out.

When you are going through the set-up on Bicycle, there are several different plans that you can use. They are designed to be for different stages of life (student, new baby, planning on kids going to college, saving for retirement). The plan that was suggested to me was the Single Life plan, which is designed to help build the foundation of financial independence.

The set up was super easy and user-friendly. You just type in your income, any debt you might have and what type it is, and some financial goals you have.

My main financial goals are to pay off my debt and to start a savings account (technically I have a savings account, it just doesn’t have any money in it yet). Bicycle sets up a plan and says how much you should put toward each goal each month. And these amounts are customizable. For example, the credit card debt goal was listed as something I should put $10/week toward. However, the minimum payment on my card is higher than that. So I was able to change it to the minimum payment.

The only problem I saw with Bicycle is that it is designed for someone with relatively stable income. My income varies so much from week to week so I found myself changing my income on the site every week. And since it is based on an annual income, I had to take what I made that week and multiply it by 52 to get an idea of what my yearly income would be if every week was like the previous one. But if I had used this when I was in telesales, even though my income changed each week due to commissions, I still had a decent idea of what it would average out to. So I could have made up an annual income that seemed reasonable.

Besides this little set back, I did really enjoy Bicycle. Other online financial planning tools are more like online calculators for what you need to do. On Bicycle, there was also advice and tips on different topics that I found super useful. I also like that this one didn’t connect to my bank accounts. There are other online financial sites that link and connect to your bank accounts so they can report how much money you have in there. Those always seemed to make me nervous and even though I know that there are lots of safeguards in place, I always was scared that someone could access my bank account and take what little money I had in there.

I highly encourage all of you to check out Bicycle. You can find them on  Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Youtube. You can even enter a contest. It is usually $15/month to use the service, but I noticed that right now online they are offering $10/month to new customers. I’m still going to take advantage of my set up on there. While it’s not easy for me to plan based on having such sporadic income, I do love the advice that’s on there and I find it very empowering that there are solutions and plans for me to be debt free one day!

 

Making Ends Meet (or Needing a Side Job to My Side Job)

Most of the money I make at my day job are commissions. This was great when it was the high season and I was making in a day what it would take a week at my old day job to make. But now it’s the low season and I’m making much much less.

If I wasn’t worried about paying off credit card debt, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I would have saved up the “extra” money that I earned over the summer to cover me for the lean times now.

But I put all money above and beyond my living expenses to my credit card (I’m pretty sure you’ll all agree that that is the smart way to do it). So I’m back to trying to make my budget as tight as I can. This month, I’m only going to be able to pay a little bit over the minimum on my credit card. It’s still going to make a dent in my debt, but I wish I could make a bigger dent.

This day job will most likely be ending in January (although that is up in the air too). I’m not going to look for another full-time day job for a few reasons. I like this job and plan on returning next season in May. Also, I’ve found it so tough to find a day job that works with my acting. I’ll go back to my old day job of substitute teaching, but because I work for a small district, I know it won’t pay for all my bills.

So while it’s the slow time right now at my day job, I’m looking for something to do on the side. I already babysit for a friend’s kids, but most of the time I do it for free as a favor because my friend will do my hair sometimes for free because I can’t afford to pay her. I might look into adding some more babysitting clients, but since that isn’t guaranteed income, I need to look for more.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I’ve been given a writing job on another blog (when I can tell you which one I will), but that job doesn’t pay. Maybe I could use it as a reference for a paid writing job, but to be honest, I never thought of myself as a writer. Maybe I should.

If anyone out there has ideas of what I could do as a side job, I’d really appreciate it. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know somehow it will turn out ok.

Sharing the Truth (or It’s Time To Rip Off the Band-Aid)

There are some things that I just love to share with everyone (I mean, hello, I’m writing a blog!). But there are other things that I either keep to myself or share half truths about.

I’ve found that being secretive like this is dangerous. When something isn’t out in the open, it eats you up inside.

The two main things I’ve been secretive about in the past are my issues with food and my credit card debt.

I kept my credit card debt a secret because I didn’t know anybody else with debt. Maybe student loans, but not credit cards. Nobody in my family really has credit card debt. I was taught to always pay off the full balance each month. And I did do that for a while. But then I found myself without a job. And I still had bills to pay. So they went on my credit card. And now, I have debt.

But I’m working my way towards paying it off. It’s going to take some time, but I’ll do it. And once I started telling people I had debt, I started hearing from other people that are in the same situation as me. For some reason, people don’t like to talk about it, so it feels like something to be ashamed of. But it’s not. So here I am saying that I have credit card debt, it sucks, but I’m working on paying it off.

My issues with food is something harder for me to discuss. This is something that I’ve dealt with my entire life, and I’ve only been honest with myself for the last few years. For those of you who don’t know me that well (or I just haven’t told you this yet), I have an eating disorder. I’ve probably had it most of my life, but it was only properly diagnosed when I was in college. The thing that sucks the most for me is that I don’t have anorexia or bulimia, I am a binge eater. And that seems to be the eating disorder that isn’t as studied or as common to hear about. Most people are pretty secretive about having it. So as I’ve tried to get treatment, it’s very difficult to find someone who understands my disorder and doesn’t try to treat me as a bulimic.

So revealing this to you all is a big step. And I only had the courage to do it after something that happened yesterday. I was out at happy hour at Bodega with my best friend. She and I have been friends for 20 years, so she’s more than just my best friend, she’s my family. We were deciding on what food to order for dinner when I had mentioned that I hadn’t really had too much food that day. I was saving my calories for happy hour. I wanted to prove it, so I got out my phone and showed her my food diary I keep on My Fitness Pal (which is an awesome app). We were laughing about it and she mentioned that she uses the app too. For some crazy reason, in my head I only thought that people who use the app are people struggling to lose weight. But my friend doesn’t have a weight problem. She’s super in shape and has even done a marathon before!

And then it hit me. Keeping track of your food is something that normal people do. Just like how I’m not the only one with debt, I’m not the only one who tracks my food and workout calories. Somehow, this made me feel so much better. I don’t need to be ashamed of tracking my food and trying to live a healthy lifestyle. This is what I should be sharing with everyone.

So I am.

Hello (or Tomorrow Never Comes)

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time. I wanted to wait until I had an idea of what this blog would be about, or when I had my page looking beautiful, or when I had something amazing to write, or after I had written a lot of posts offline and then was able to post them all at once…

Procrastination sucks.

So, here I am writing this post finally. I don’t know exactly what to say, but I’m saying something. I created this blog because I wanted to find a way to keep me accountable as I try to lose weight (for the millionth time) and as I try to start being more financially responsible. Turns out, being overweight and having credit card debit can be related (http://www.fivecentnickel.com/2010/11/10/debt-and-obesity-whats-the-connection/).

So here I am trying to create a healthy lifestyle and checkbook at the same time. Hope you enjoy my journey. I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but it’s going somewhere.