The Debt Epidemic

🚨Keepin it real rant ahead🚨

This is us..this is America..scary huh? What if I told you that we are all responsible for this culture of debt and living above our means and we all have to contribute to putting an end to this. It’s hurting us, our kids, our health, our planet, it’s an epidemic and I wish more people were feeling terrified about the topic. It just keeps getting worse each year, small credit card purchases, car payments, student loans, slowly adding up to over $13 trillion. 💳

Who’s ready to break the cycle?? And I don’t mean just pay off the minimums and maybe a little extra to continue to be a slave to debt for the rest of your life. I don’t mean to just do a debt consolidation or home equity loan or line of credit to pay off..because debt is still debt..whether it’s paying ten different people or paying one. And now that you’ve consolidated, guess what, you’re probably just going to add MORE debt now that you’ve freed up those credit cards. 🤷‍♀️

Your past will continue to haunt you if you aren’t ready to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that YOU created this mess, and YOU have to do the hard work to not only get out of it, but STAY out of it. You have to STOP talking about how you don’t make enough money, you’re just barely scraping by and don’t have any extra to pay, maybe once you pay off the car or once you get that tax return you will, or once you get a raise you will, you are lying to yourself. STOP playing the victim and STOP making excuses for your spending habits. You’re only hurting yourself.

Also, those student loans, yeah those suck just as bad as the credit cards, but you CHOSE to go to school and you took them out, so guess what? You owe it..so PAY that shit back already!

YOUR kids SEE you living that lifestyle, and they HEAR you fighting about money, and they FEEL your stress at the end of the month when there’s not enough paycheck to go around. They see you treating yourself “because you earned it”, and they are learning that shopping makes everything better..new stuff will take away that rough week..only it wont.

Harsh words, but let me ask again..who’s ready to break the cycle??

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Carnival Season

It’s carnival season around here..one of my favorites for watching my kids just be kids and enjoy some screen free fun time, it’s also my favorite for people watching, and don’t forget the funnel cake.😋 🎡

The one thing I don’t like is how much it all adds up in price..parking, vendors, a ride here, a ride there, games and then of course the drinks and food. 🍕🍦🍿🥤

This year..we just picked one of the three carnivals we usually go to. I also avoided the $10 parking by finding a spot on the street for free. We ate before we left the house and brought our own water.

My best move was convincing my kids the games weren’t as much fun as the rides. Since they only care about the prizes anyway, I told them we would go to Dollar Tree after, and they could pick out any item in the store. They didn’t even ask to play any games, and we even saw another kid asking his parents to play and Caleb told him that “the games were a rip off because they were just trying to take his money to get rich” 😂

We did splurge on the $20 all you can ride wristbands for each kid, and a $5 funnel cake to share, so with my Dollar Tree promise, I was all in for $47. I was proud of this, because we usually spend at least double, if not triple this during carnival season, and we end up with meltdowns about “one more game”, and end up with a bunch of crap toys or stuffed animals we don’t need also. 🧸

To be honest, the spending less part was great, but we had more fun this year with one carnival and without all the extras. Getting used to a more simple minimalist lifestyle gives us a chance to really enjoy the best things in life that have always been free..the memories. 💕

Lifestyle Choices

This is going to be one of the hardest topics yet to cover at a very high level and also my first mention of FIRE in my writings (financial independence retire early). My goal is just to inform you of two choices and get you rethinking, especially if you feel like you don’t have choices and are stuck in your current financial position. I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the topic or to get into the HOW in this post. I have just dabbled with both lifestyles mentioned and I feel like there are not enough people (especially women) who are thinking about or providing information on the topic..so looks like you are stuck with me. 😜

The above picture is the best way I could summarize the concept of lifestyle creep. For now, as mentioned, this is just to introduce you to the topic, so I have a few stats and thought provoking questions to hopefully do so.

First..the stats tell an alarming story. I recently read in this USA Today article https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/34378157 that the average household is bringing in around $75,000 annually, and of that, they are spending 90% of it, which equates to $67,500 outgoing and only around $7,500 extra annually. (which the article states a lot of this is going towards interest payments on consumer debt). This breaks down to $5,625 in expenses each month and $625 extra. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room and helps paint a picture as to why people aren’t putting anything or very little towards saving, investing, emergency funds and retirement. 😳

Essentially pointing out that people are living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I don’t know that this was a surprise to any of us, but it may be a surprise that people are making the choice everyday with their actions and spending habits to live this way. Disclaimer that there are people living in poverty, so for the sake of my post, I am referring to the middle class mentioned above.

Now on to the questions. Feel free to answer in comments if you want to share, or just answer to yourself or as an internal conversation or with your significant other. Keep it real because denial is a great way to protect yourself from the truth right now, but long term in fact it just ends up hurting you more.

1) Are you living paycheck to paycheck like the scenario mentioned above?

2) Have you noticed that no matter what you do, you just can’t get ahead?

3) Do you receive regular raises or have you changed jobs to make additional money over the course of your career, yet you aren’t seeing a difference in your monthly budget after expenses because they always seem to match what’s coming in?

4) Do you ever pay attention to how much you spend on conveniences like pre-made food, someone to mow your lawn, someone to clean that big house, someone to wash that new car, someone to groom your dog, someone to do your hair/nails/makeup, etc because you are too busy working to do these things?

5) Have you ever wondered why things are like this for you and probably a lot of people you know, yet it’s still a taboo topic to discuss money, so everyone just keeps working harder and staying in the vicious cycle mentioned above?

6) What will happen if you change nothing and keep following this path?

Please reference the above picture as you are going through these questions to see if lifestyle creep has found a way to creep into your life. Remember..be honest.

Next, know that there is another option. As mentioned above, lifestyle creep is a choice and I’ve said this so many times on purpose. So many think they have no choice unless they make more money and this is far from the truth.

Lifestyle creep is a path that many in our society have walked and not challenged until recent years. Here are some questions to ask yourself and see if you’re one of those ready to challenge the traditional path and choose a different way.

1) What upsets you the most about always being broke and living paycheck to paycheck?

2) How has constantly feeling stressed from working so much and not having any money to show for it affected you?

3) What are your values and what are you spending your money on? Do they line up?

4) What are your passions and what do you dream about doing?

5) What could change if you have an open mind and put in the work, I mean really put in the work, to change your current financial path and mindset? Think of one quick and easy way you can change today.

6) What will happen if you start to live a lifestyle designed by you instead of others?

As mentioned, a lot of people have started looking at the above stats and questions, and are starting to make the decision to customize their lifestyle based on their own unique values, not what society tells them to value. Spoiler alert..it’s not through making more money as mentioned above..it has never been about that. It’s about a lifestyle of being content with only those things that bring you value. Luckily, it usually don’t cost anything at all, just the basics needed like food, shelter, experiences and none of the extra crap. 😊

Don’t get this lifestyle design twisted with a life of going without, because it’s actually the opposite of that. You have room for so much more when you let go of stupid shit.

Well..shocker..I have lots more to say but I’ve said enough for one day. What are your thoughts or questions on the two different paths mentioned above?

Garage Sale Season

With end of summer upon us, I start thinking about all of the garages full of stuff that is no longer used, too small or has been upgraded. I have memories of being a kid and getting up early every weekend to go to garage sales. (bribed with donuts and the hopes of a new toy of course) 🍩 🧸

Nobody asked me about my opinion on garage sales, but I’ve decided to tell you anyway. I can say that I had one several years back and made around $800 when I was on maternity leave. I also did one for a work fundraiser and made around $500 for our Big Brothers Big Sisters bowling team. For mine, I sold a bunch of maternity stuff and baby stuff we weren’t using and all of Kylie’s clothes we had saved from NB-4T, after picking out the gender neutral stuff for Caleb of course. 😉

Looking back..I definitely think people with babies up to 4 years have the best luck. Also, people in a high traffic area or neighborhood having a lot of sales the same day can also be successful. But I also think we can avoid the need for a garage sale by sticking to the bare minimums and borrowing stuff that we will only need for a short period of time. Babies seem to be a reason to buy everything, and baby registry’s make it easy to add a bazillion things you will likely be too exhausted to figure out how to use once parenting shows you it’s true colors. Then it will end up in your pile for the sale, likely priced at half what it costs, just to have someone ask you if you’d take five dollars for it. (I know because I’m a garage sale hardcore negotiator) 😂

If your sale includes clothes, shoes, and household items, and you still have a closet full after outing for the sale, then it might be time to just stop and reflect on your stuff strategy. Not only did that clutter used to be money, but that money used to be your time.

I will say if I’ve finally persuaded you to join my minimalist lifestyle and you are simplifying your life and need a fresh start, one big sale may be a good idea. But only if it ends there, and you don’t just go out and accumulate more stuff to replace what you sold. Also, think about the time and energy that goes into one. If setting up, pricing, getting nasty warm lemonade for the kids to sell and dealing with them badgering your customers for 5 hours on your Saturday morning with extreme temperature variations like smoldering heat or pouring rain and going back and forth with hardcore negotiators like me sounds like a good time to you..well start borrowing those tables my friends. 🤷‍♀️

If that sounds comparable to a root canal, then selling things in “lots” on Facebook Marketplace is a great alternative. Or let’s be honest, we all know that person that’s selling clothes that are so loved they should be donated. Just saying..don’t be that friend..also don’t be the friend that sells hand me downs you got from a friend. (Totally did that on accident and still getting shit for it two years later) 😂

When it comes to shopping at garage sales, this can be a double edged sword. I remember finding a rocking chair with foot rest at a garage sale for $15 that I used with both kids. I negotiated it from the $30 it was marked at and was so proud. But I’ve also lost all common sense and self control at a sale and just bought the whole damn table of baby clothes I didn’t need. So be careful when you shop..they can be sneaky and fill your trunk up before you realize you only needed a few things. 🤷‍♀️

Now you know my thoughts..what are yours and please share your garage sale fails and success stories. 😊

My Biggest Financial Mistake

We left off on my last post in 2005, driving a gas guzzling 2001 Dodge Durango while commuting an hour and gas being $4 a gallon. 😬 Go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t, because there’s lots of entertainment there that I can look back on now and say..what the?! 😂

Back to the Durango part of the story..I had just started Financial Peace University and had also just started dating my now husband in 2007. I really wanted to do the debt snowball and keep the Durango and pay it off. But I was young and stubborn..and well..still financially irresponsible and just flat out stupid. 🤷‍♀️

Sooo..long story short..in 2008 I traded that ole Durango in for a gently used 2007 Nissan Altima. I couldn’t qualify for a car loan with under a 16% interest rate on my own, so my boyfriend (now husband) co-signed. Why are y’all out here enabling my bad decisions by co-signing..can we say enablers?! While I am absolutely grateful for the help on the loans, the now wiser older version of me is like..well..that was a sign I shouldn’t be getting a loan..period!!! If I wouldn’t have had that option, then maybe I would have figured out a different solution that didn’t involve another loan and $300 car payment. 🙅‍♀️

With marriage, my husband brought a 2002 Nissan Maxima that was paid for. We ended up deciding in 2015 to trade it in for a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SUV that we “needed”. So we did make that Maxima last a minute, and we even kept the Altima after we paid it off. (and my husband is still driving it today with over 200k miles) It smells weird and has different sounds, but it runs and that’s what our requirements list looks like for a car these days. 😜

We ended up selling the Pathfinder because it had transmission issues and pissed me off at the wrong time on the wrong day. The Altima was also causing some troubles, so I decided it was no longer safe to commute in. We ended up doing some minor repairs and my little brother used the car for a year or so. Fast forward to 2017 and impulse buying my 2015 Infiniti Q50..cause I need a luxury car that my kids can spill their drinks and empty snacks all over in, and slam the doors into anything that is there when they open them. It’s also important to have premium gas for a commuter like myself. 🤦‍♀️

Happy ending though..sold the Infiniti and replaced with a paid for in cash 2013 Nissan Altima with 124k miles on it. So we now have NO car payments and two Nissan Altimas to get around in.

I think it’s time to analyze the overall effect this financial mistake of having a car payment for 18 years had on my overall financial wellness. Hopefully this will help prevent it from happening to others in the future. If you take an average of $350 a month over that 18 years, that’s $75,600.

🙄😬😭🤢😳🤬🤔🤦‍♀️

I could have easily had one or two cars last me through that timeframe for under $10,000. What would life be like had I taken that money and invested it or saved it and used it for down payments on 4-5 rental properties? I could have used the cash flow to pay for a car of my choosing. Also, did having to ensure I could cover that $350 every month make me less of a risk taker on chasing dreams and playing it safe for a steady paycheck? Deep thoughts and questions we will never know the answer to.

What I do know is that I drove myself down a road paved with bad decisions for 18 years, but better late than never to realize it’s time to take a different road. 😉

I’m curious..what is your biggest financial mistake and what did you learn from it?

My biggest financial mistake

Y’all might want to grab some popcorn. 🍿 I promise you will experience a wide range of emotions when reading this, including disappointment, anger, humiliation, sadness, confusion, and hope. At minimum, some good laughs as you get a glimpse into one of my biggest financial mistakes EVER.

I still remember 18 year old me getting my first car back at the turn of the century. 👵 I remember it to the day..because it was on September 11, 2001. I became the proud owner of a 1997 Geo Prizm that I signed up to get a loan on, and since I couldn’t get the loan on my own, my boyfriend co-signed for me. 😳 I was a full time college student and was working part time delivering pizza and taking the max in student loans that I could. 🍕 I remember my car payment being $225 and my car insurance being just as much. So I was paying $450 just for my car and insurance. That Geo started me on the road to bad choices..so buckle up and come along for the bumpy ride. 🤣

When that boyfriend and I had a bad breakup two years later (shocker), I wanted him out of my life completely. Now that I had two years of payments, I really showed him by walking into a dealership and buying a brand new 2003 Chevy Cavalier off the showroom floor with..wait for it..ground effects. 🤦‍♀️ Everyone please take a minute and reread that and laugh WITH me. It’s best to get a visual, so imagine me delivering pizza to you. But stay with me..it gets even better. I rolled in a few thousand bucks from that Geo Prizm that I traded in because I was “upside down” on that loan. My payment was now $364 a month and I can’t remember insurance cost, because I likely blacked that out of my memory.

I somehow still had friends for the two years I drove that thing around, so thank you to those who stuck with me through the hard times. 👭 Luckily my brother was driving that thing one day and totaled it. (don’t worry..he was fine) Also lucky me that the dealership saw nothing but dollar signs on my naive ass and sold me GAP coverage, along with everything else they sold. So I was now free and clear of that additional $10,000 that I was “upside down” in with car and old boyfriend baggage. 🧳

This is the part where you started fresh..right..Mindy..right..please tell me..oh geez. One may have taken that clear break as a sign. I took it as a sign to get that SUV with the third row I always wanted..as a single full time college student..still delivering pizza and now also working another job at a video store just to get by. 🙄 The year was 2005 and that 2001 Dodge Durango cost me $293 a month, and I’m still blocking insurance costs out, but we can assume around $125. I eventually got a job that was an hour commute, and this was when gas was $4 a gallon, so I was basically working for free. But that job also introduced me to the coworker who heard my bitching about money on the daily and sponsored me starting the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace classes at her church.

What do you all think I did next? What would Dave had done? 🤔

Stay tuned for Part 2..

6 months down!!

What better day than Amazon Prime day to give an update on how my No Spend Year is going. I wouldn’t have even known about it if it weren’t for my coworkers. 🤷‍♀️ While shopping holidays like today have never really appealed to me, I will say the No Spend has been a bit of a challenge the past few weeks. 😬

Timing was just right that I had a really amazing friend gift me some clothes that I absolutely love and am so grateful for (my new fave skirt..it has pockets!). I did end up buying sunglasses a few months back because mine broke, which I considered a need for eye protection. I also bought some stuff, including a T-shirt for a fundraiser for a friend, but I don’t count that since it was for a great cause. I’ve been battling with buying a pair of sandals for work. I can technically wear flats that I have, so not sure this qualifies as a “need”. Do my feet really “need” sandals when it’s 100 degrees out, but still frigid cold in the office? Probably not. Lastly, I bought a new AppleWatch and new Nike running shoes, but these I can explain..I promise. I work for a great employer, and both were FREE as part of my employee benefits package. Yes you read that right..and yes we are hiring. 😉

Overall, I’m SO PROUD of myself for the amount of restraint and growth I have experienced this first half of the year. I would like to thank the former “consumer” in me for knowing her weaknesses, and avoiding emails by unsubscribing to everything, and staying out of any of my “trigger stores”. 😂

I would estimate that over the past 6 months, I have likely saved upwards of $2,500. This is just an estimate based on my previous patterns. My old consumer self went to Target 2-3x a month and would average around $100 per trip, along with usually having my hair colored every 10 weeks at about $85, and don’t forget buying some makeup here and there, shoes, and at least one big “seasonal” shopping trip for new clothes around $500ish total. Don’t forget the little random purchases here and there also. 🤦‍♀️

I’m really looking forward to continuing to save and invest my money for the second half of the year, which will help keep me on track. Besides the savings of time, money and not having extra clutter, I definitely have a different mindset about money. Knowing that every day I’m trading my time for money, reminds me that each purchase, no matter how small, has to be bought with hours of my life. That’s a powerful translation of currency that will always stick with me going forward. 🕰 💵