Saturday, December 5, 2009

November Redux!

I didn't forget this time, it's just been a spend-o-riffic/travel-packed/crazy couple weekends. You'll get an idea below. My savings chart changed around all over the place and it took awhile to figure out... but the good news is, things are still moving in the right direction!

No-Spend Days: 15
No Eating Out Days: 21
Extra Income: $59.32 ($45.10 from surveys, $14.22 interest)
Progress Toward Savings Goal: 82.34% (It looks like this didn’t go up very much, but I decided to take the amounts Airbear had given me toward the wedding fund OUT of my calculations… so the fact that it still went up at all is pretty frickin’ awesome!)
Retirement Savings: $190.20
“Healthy” Days (eating well or working out): 4 (haha, oops)
Books Finished: 5
Times Flossed: 3 (I think there might have been more? lol)
Letters/Cards/Contacts: 4
Progress on 2009 Goals:
  • have kept my card paid off each month – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my credit union savings/checking account balances above $750 in each account to take advantage of the special rate – monthly goal MET!
  • met all of the monthly requirements for my Checking ++ account – monthly goal MET!
  • continued contributing to my SIMPLE IRA (w/matching) – monthly goal MET!
  • transferred my SIMPLE IRA from an overpriced broker to Vanguard where I will get to pick the funds it goes into AND pay a lot less in fees, too! Also filled out the paperwork to roll over what I have at the broker to the Vanguard account. Some paperwork, some phone calls, but I’m really proud of myself for being proactive and taking care of it. Bonus goal MET!
  • have continued to contribute little amounts to my vacations/gifts funds, and have not spent money on those two things without saving it first – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my “Little EF” above $1,000
  • continued contributing to my “Big EF” – although I then wiped it out, along with a big payment from Airbear, to prepay a bunch of wedding expenses. D’oh! It’s a little freaky not having “very much” in savings right now, but then I’m also realizing that the “not very much” amount is still more than I started the year with. Amazing what you get used to!
  • Speaking of, I did get my “Special Occasion Fund” (as it was originally called, lol) up past its goal amount for the year. As I didn’t expect to get engaged when I started the year, it was a pretty small goal, all things considered, so I’ll have to keep working on that one next year. But we’ve paid several big expenses already. It’s kind of hard to estimate, though. Like – what’s the average price of a dinner reception in Brazil? Anybody know? (Anyway, original goal MET!)
  • I had put off the laptop/car replacement/house funds for the moment, because I wanted to focus on the more immediate ones (and when I excitedly discovered the wedding fund was going to have to actually get funded, ha ha), so most of them are going to have to get carried over to next year, along with that laser eye fund. BUT now I’m not going to need the laptop fund after all, because I got a SWEET, SWEET deal on Cyber Monday this year – a better laptop than I had been wanting to buy for – get this – HALF of what I was preparing to spend! Of course I was not planning on buying it now, BUT I did pay cash and I am proud of that. I am also super excited to get a working laptop, partially because there are now 43 vertical lines on my current monitor (*sobs*), and partially because of the job-related update you’ll see below. (Keep reading, it’s a good one!)
  • continued to post on the No-/Controlled-Spend thread
  • am currently only about $1500 from an overall positive net work – even WITH the school loans! Omg! Sooooooooo cloooooooose!
  • continued dancing, although our current waltzing class finished up before Thanksgiving and we’re going to take a break until after the holidays. I’m really going to have to start Wii Fit-ing again now!
  • I got a PROMOTION! Part of the time I’ll be doing what I currently do (which is good, as I really enjoy that), and part of the time I’ll be taking on higher responsibilities. I get a shiny new title and – joy of joys – more pay! Do you hear the heavenly choir singing?! Because I do!
  • did a TON of surveys this month. Really want to do a bunch more now, to get that EF filled back up!
  • did pretty well being patient, even though it has been a pretty hectic month!
  • did well keeping in touch this month – want to make a point of trying to talk to grandma a few extra times in December, although she’s one busy lady so that may be tough!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What two (years) can do

As you may or may not remember, I started my Debt Destruction Resolution (TM!) in November 2007. As I've just hit the two-year anniversary of that decision this week, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where two years has brought me. No, scratch that. That is way too passive of a sentence. Rather I'm going to reflect on what I HAVE DONE in two years!
  • paid off my car
  • paid off all my credit cards
  • become completely consumer debt free
  • started multiple savings accounts
  • created multiple (albeit small) income streams
  • taken advantage of special rate offers from multiple banks to maximize return
  • started a Roth IRA
  • worked up to the point where I am able to fully fund a Roth within one calendar year
  • contributed enough to my regular retirement to get the full company match
  • established annual savings goals and am on my way to reaching them
  • started planning ahead so my expenses are easy to cover without using credit
  • have reduced my monthly expenses by more than half
  • have saved over four months' worth of expenses in an Emergency Fund
  • have kept more than $2,000 of "short term emergency" money in the bank for over a year
  • have paid off a combined total of $29,638.63 worth of debt (including the car, cards, loan, and payments toward the school loan)
  • put 63% of my income for year one toward getting debt free
  • have so far this year saved over 50% of my income (yes, really!)
And here's a real big kicker:

I am only $1,581.07 away from having a positive net worth - INCLUDING the student loan.

I think that's pretty amazing. That means I have increased my overall net worth by $46,667.22 in the last two years. Not bad on a $36k/yr salary, I think. :)

This calls for a HAPPY DANCE!

Okay, peeps, show me your happy dance ;)

Seriously, this is just embarrassing

October Redux:
No-Spend Days: 24
No Eating Out Days: 29 (!)
Extra Income: $ ($18.40 from surveys & $11.68 interest)
Progress Toward Savings Goal: 81.01%
Retirement Savings: $193.80
“Healthy” Days (eating well or working out): 5
Books Finished: 3
Times Flossed:
Progress on 2009 Goals:
  • have kept my card paid off each month – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my credit union savings/checking account balances above $750 in each account to take advantage of the special rate – monthly goal MET!
  • met all of the monthly requirements for my Checking ++ account – monthly goal MET!
  • continued contributing to my SIMPLE IRA (w/matching) – monthly goal MET!
  • took the tuition money I had saved and deposited it in my nephews’/niece’s tuition accounts – goal MET!
  • have continued to contribute little amounts to my vacations/gifts funds, and have not spent money on those two things without saving it first – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my “Little EF” above $1,000
  • continued contributing to my “Big EF
  • continued to post on the No-/Controlled-Spend thread
  • continued dancing, although dance classes are down to once a week because of a late schedule at work. The projector is fixed now, though, so hopefully I can get myself motivated to start Wii Fit-ing again!
  • am doing very well with surveys – got some more recommendations from a No-spend friend and have been really trying to get them done before they expire (which is pretty quickly). The fun side of this is that now I am more frequently getting little prize checks in the mail - $3 here, $6.10 there, but a lot more fun to get little checks in the mail than it used to be to get BILLS in the mail!
  • did pretty well being patient, even though I am feeling pretty impatient with work being so slow!
  • did well keeping in touch this month – many birthdays and events in October!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Airbear Dinner Night, #2

When I got home late last Wednesday, Airbear jumped up from the couch and yelled, "My hoooooonnnnnneeeeyyyyy!" and threw his arms wide open for a big hug. (Believe it or not, this was not just because he wanted dinner and I was finally he home, he does this every day.)

But then he said, "I've been slaving all afternoon to make your Wednesday Night Dinner. It's in the oven right now. DO YOU WANT TO SEE IT?!?!"

Yes, he sometimes talks in capitals.

Of course I was starving at this point, so we ran into the kitchen and he threw open the oven door and held out his hands proudly. "Ta Da!!!!!!":

Ha ha ha ha. Oh, Airbear.

Yes, that is a delivery pizza. And it was amazing.

Oops, I did it again..

I just got that song stuck in your head, didn't I? ;)

But anyway, that wasn't what I meant (although it is funny), I meant taking forever to get something done, namely my.........September Redux!

No-Spend Days: 19
No Eating Out Days: 23
Extra Income: $85.89 ($13 from surveys, $25 from rx transfer, $10 from bank offer & $37.89 interest)
Progress Toward Savings Goal: 74.59%
Retirement Savings: $195.60
“Healthy” Days (eating well or working out): 11 (!)
Books Finished: 2
Times Flossed: 6
Letters/Cards/Contacts: 6
Progress on 2009 Goals:
  • have kept my card paid off each month – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my credit union savings/checking account balances above $750 in each account to take advantage of the special rate – monthly goal MET!
  • met all of the monthly requirements for my Checking ++ account – monthly goal MET!
  • I got the $10 from one of my “bonus banks” for making 3 debit card transactions. $10 free, yay!
  • continued contributing to my SIMPLE IRA (w/matching) – monthly goal MET!
  • have continued to contribute little amounts to my vacations/gifts funds, and have not spent money on those two things without saving it first – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my “Little EF” above $1,000
  • continued contributing to my “Big EF
  • continued to post on the No-/Controlled-Spend thread
  • realized I really am going to have to start on that laptop fund soon.. now the battery’s fried, and the screen keeps getting more vertical lines from where it’s dying (I’m up to 26 vertical lines at last count), but I can put up with both for awhile longer. It’s almost always plugged in anyway. Maybe Santa *cough*Airbear*cough* will help me in the laptop parts department this year. It just seems silly to buy a new laptop when this one is still really good, but laptops are getting so cheap now that they’re less expensive than replacing the parts!
  • more dancing! I did only end up dancing two nights a week, because a lot of work commitments and other things kept popping up on Thursday nights, but still up from previous months! And Airbear seems to have really enjoyed the waltzing lessons so we’ll be signing up for Waltz 2 :)
  • things were quiet at work but managed to stay positive and work on a lot of side projects
  • screwed up on the exam for adding a middle school math endorsement to my teaching certificate – was supposed to take the test, but in the middle of helping Levi move out of her slug-infested (I am not making that up) slum apartment I totally forgot about the test on the day I was supposed to go take it. What an idiot! That was a boneheaded move. But I have re-registered – unfortunately the next test I can take isn’t until January. Gah! Won’t be able to finish that goal this year. Darn it!
  • did better with surveys this month, and even got to refer some people! Yay!
  • did pretty well being patient this month ;)
  • did better with staying connected, too – sent a card to grandma for no reason, as well as some well wishes for friends going through difficulties. (And I’m off to a great start with this one for October, too!)
And just think, now you only have to wait a couple weeks for the next redux! Ha ha!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thanks for last night, hot stuff!

Not THAT. Maybe even better than that, actually. Look what I came home to:


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August Redux

So I'm teaching this Personal Finance class (I know, right? Isn't my life the best?) and one of the little sidebar suggestions to the student today was to tell others about your plan so they can ask about it and help keep you accountable, or to post it somewhere you can see it. I told the kid, "...or you can post it on a blog or something and do both." "Smart!" he says. Of course I am, kid, of course I am ;)

Anyway, here goes:

No-Spend Days: 19
No Eating Out Days: 22
Extra Income: $ 195.73 ($45 from surveys, $50 from amazon card, $40 for rx transfer, $50 from being right, & $10.73 interest)
Progress Toward Savings Goal: 64.24%
Retirement Savings: $1196.20
“Healthy” Days (eating well or working out): 6.5
Books Finished: 2 (including that long boring one, finally!)
Times Flossed: 7
Letters/Cards/Contacts: 2
Progress on 2009 Goals:
  • have kept my card paid off each month – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my credit union savings/checking account balances above $750 in each account to take advantage of the special rate – monthly goal MET!
  • met all of the monthly requirements for my Checking ++ account – monthly goal MET!
  • I got an offer in the mail from one of my “bonus banks” that if I made 3 debit card transactions they’d give me another $10 bonus. I did the transactions this month and should get the bonus mid-September. Sweet!
  • I put my first $1000 toward my 2009 Roth contributions!
  • continued contributing to my SIMPLE IRA (w/matching) – monthly goal MET!
  • have continued to contribute little amounts to my vacations/gifts funds, and have not spent money on those two things without saving it first – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my “Little EF” above $1,000
  • continued contributing to my “Big EF
  • have put a few extra dollars into my “Laser Eye Surgery Fund”… it’s not much, but at least it’s started!
  • continued to post on the No-/Controlled-Spend thread – did much, much better than July. I can safely say I’m back on the wagon!
  • more dancing! Plus I worked out a fall schedule that will include dancing three (!) times a week!
  • did better staying positive at work – ended up being a busy month for enrollments and had a good time “racing” with those. Am hoping to keep it up in September!
  • registered for the exam (WEST-E, now, no longer Praxis, although that hardly matters) that I need to pass for adding a middle school math endorsement to my teaching certificate – taking the test mid-September.
  • did better with surveys this month, and got a nice handful of rewards from several of the companies. That’s some nice motivation!
  • did pretty well being patient this month!
  • not as good on the “staying connected” goal this month – will get better throughout the fall as there are lots of cards to send, and when I’m sending birthday cards to others I can remind myself to reach out to my little grandma, too :)
  • Bonus goal – I even identified some 2010 financial goals already! Go me!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

July Redux

No-Spend Days: 10
No Eating Out Days: 15
Extra Income: $18.21 ($7.81 interest, $10.40 check from surveys)
Progress Toward Savings Goal: 55.20%
Retirement Savings: $193.80
Workout Days: 6
Books Finished: 1 (but also some more of the boring book and a *bit* of Portuguese)
Times Flossed: 2 (ha ha, oops!)
Letters/Cards/Contacts: 8
Progress on 2009 Goals:
  • Completely PAID OFF the Bank of Mom loan and became consumer debt free!!!!! (Sorry for the excessive use of exclamation points, but this was a HUGE accomplishment for me and it is hard to contain my excitement! (!!!) Ha ha ha.) MAJOR DEBT GOAL MET!
  • have kept my card paid off each month – monthly goal MET!
  • kept my credit union savings/checking account balances above $750 in each account to take advantage of the special rate – monthly goal MET!
  • met all of the monthly requirements for my Checking ++ account – monthly goal MET! (The rate is down to 4.02%, though, boo!)
  • I received my $100 bonus from US Bank! Goal MET! (And then they sent me another offer in the mail to get $150 for starting an account. Jerks!)
  • continued contributing to my SIMPLE IRA (w/matching). I have contributed over $1400 this year, well past my initial estimated goal of $1000. Goal MET!
  • have continued to contribute little amounts to my vacations/gifts funds, and have not spent money on those two things without saving it first – monthly goal MET!
  • put away $100 for my nephews’/niece’s tuition accounts (which I will be able to actually fund once the enrollment period is open in September). Goal MET!
  • kept my “Little EF” above $1,000
  • continued contributing to my “Big EF
  • continued to post on the No-/Controlled-Spend thread. I knew July would be hard, with a slew of birthdays, a wedding, a couple trips back home, and some gifts, but then we also had a spectacular heat wave that made cooking at home unbearable! I feel like I spent more this month than I have since the beginning of my debt destruction race. Part of it was also just enjoying a bit of coasting now that the debt was finally paid off. Don’t get me wrong, I am DEFINITELY not going to make this a habit (I want to meet those savings goals!), but after a year and a half of pinching every penny until it cried, I took a well-deserved (I think) break. I didn’t have to break into savings or anything drastic like that but I certainly won’t be contributing much. So I’m actually looking forward to getting back on the wagon in August. It’s funny, but these things do become habits over time!
  • I worked out 6 times … but all 6 were dancing, so I’m going to try to continue that, since it’s a work out regimen I might actually stick with! (Plus I got the girls to go salsa dancing for my birthday, and several said they wanted to go again.. bonus!)
  • staying positive at work was hard. I want some more excitement around there, the quiet is driving me crazy! Will keep trying to plug along. I should be having my performance evaluation next month, so I am trying to make myself be proactive and energetic so that I can have a million awesome things to say about myself (instead of just the 999,999 I already have, lol)
  • I got information about the math assessment I will need to take as part of the requirements for adding a middle school math endorsement to my teaching certificate (although I can't take it until September, boo!)
  • slacked off a bit in the survey department this month, too – between melting in the heat and being busy, I just didn’t get around to many surveys. But I did get another reward check in the mail and now that it seems to be cooling off my brain might function a little better and enable me to do things that involve reading. Ha ha.
  • did pretty well being patient this month!
  • much better on the “staying connected” goal this month – did a lot of this!
Has anyone noticed their summer turning into a "spendapalooza," or is it just me?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Is that 29? I'm too hot to process Roman Numerals.

Well, folks, it's my last day before turning the big 3-0. I think I am supposed to be feeling all freaked out about that, but honestly I love birthdays. I feel like it's a special license to boss everyone around (and we all know how much I love doing that), and since it's a milestone birthday, I seem to have decided that said license got bigger, shinier, and more powerful.

Resistence is futile!

So I'm going to go get a delicious burrito for lunch, with refried (I can't believe blogger spell check can't spell "refried") beans AND chips (because everything is calorie-free on your birthday), drink three thousand Pepsi Ones, leave work early, and then make a bunch of my female friends go salsa dancing. It will be fabulous, and *I* will be fabulous, and even if I fuck up teh dancings fourteen million times it won't matter. Because I will be awesome and fiery and sexy (in my own head) and brilliant. I will also be getting drunk, but that part happens after the dancing, so that I don't fall on my rear and flash my lady-bits all over the place. After all, did I tell you, I will be wearing A DRESS. Yes, Mom, a real one. That actually makes three times this year already, and it's not even August yet! I'm poised to set a record.

Anyway, 29 was a really great year. I have a kickass job (forget about the last post for a moment; when you get down to it, I do love what I do), my employees think I'm an awesome boss, I got a fiancee (surprise!), my BFF Levi finally moved here after 12 years of my harassing her to do so, and I paid off all my consumer debt. Not bad at all!

So far I haven't had a problem getting older, because each year (heck, each day, most of the time) has just kept getting better. And how could ya feel bad about that?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just a bit of a break from the norm...

...of all that hard-core dance that has gotten to be a little bit out of control, it's cool to dance, but what about a groove that--

Oh, oops, sorry. This post isn't about the Fresh Prince (although wouldn't that be awesome), it's about one of your favorite words and mine, Reflection (TM). Not one of your favorite words, you say? That's incredible! You must be one of those poor, unfortunate soooooouls who never had the pleasure of going to Teacher School, then, because boy oh boy do we love to reflect. We love to do it, we love to talk about it, and we really love writing two-page papers about it. [1]

Anyway, I actually found myself going through the reflective process earlier this afternoon (read: thinking to myself) about my job as a principal [2] and my upcoming professional evaluation. My thoughts about this exciting event are many-fold (manifold, ha ha), but I'm not sure that any of them are actually constructive thoughts. To whit:

1. The last time we did evaluations of our staff, I printed up a little form that I would put on the inside of each of their admin folders which I would use to track in-house trainings they attended, as well as any on-their-own-time professional development they were doing: if they were taking classes, going to seminars, even just reading books to try and improve their skills. I told my supervisor I was doing this (because I'm supposed to keep him In The Loop), and he thought it was such a brilliant idea (it is) that he made a fancier version of the form, with our letterhead on it, and sent it around to all the other managers telling them to do what I was doing.[3] So we as managers also have one of these forms in our own folders, and I've been writing down all the trainings I attended, all the books (yes, plural) I've been reading, and when I go take the exam to get a math endorsement added onto my certificate, that will go on the list. Normally there would also be credit classes I've been taking on that list, because I really do work my butt off to always be learning and getting better at helping Teh Kidz. But this particular chart only goes back over the last six months and I've been paying off debt and it's too expensive to take classes at the same time so it's actually a pretty light P.D. half-year for me, compared to most of my half-years. Even so, it will be cool to have a written record of the hours I spend improving my work performance, because we have never had that before as an organization.

2. I am 100% convinced that no single other manager will have anything written on that sheet.

3. I am equally convinced that there will be no repercussions for this.

That sounds pessimistic, but consider this: we have bi-monthly Friday meetings that are "mandatory." However, one manager has missed at least half of them. Sure, she will always have called and given a reason, and usually good ones - out of town, sick, iced in during a rough winter week, etc. - but you know what? We know the meeting schedule a year in advance, and if I can schedule my out-of-town trips for non-meeting weeks, then so should she. I've also come when I'm feeling under the weather, and I've gotten a ride in if my car was having issues. At any given Friday meeting, at least 2 (of five!) managers will be absent. I have missed one Friday meeting in four years of working there, and that was because they moved the meeting from a scheduled Friday (a year in advance, remember) to a Friday we were supposed to have free, at the last minute. Because I am a responsible employee, I had scheduled my going-out-of-town for the non-meeting weekend, and they moved the meeting into it, a week before. Even so that was one Friday meeting out of 116 Friday meetings. These other people have all been managers less time than I have and have missed way more meetings. That's dumb. If the meetings are supposed to be mandatory, they should have consequences for missing them. If they're not really mandatory, please let me know so I can start sleeping the hell in on Fridays. Jerks. Anyway you can tell I have recently been feeling frustrated that I take this job seriously and work hard at it and other people don't, and yet there are no consequences for them. (I should also mention there are no perks for me: my salary is a bit higher than theirs, but only because I've been doing it for more years and so have been around for a few more annual salary adjustments.)

4. It feels like now that I have written proof of my hard work, excellent reviews from everybody (students, employees, parents, and every single person in the administration), I should be able to go in for a confident re-examination of my salary. Not only do managers at our competitor school start at twenty thousand dollars more per year (how I wish I could say I was guessing at that, or making it up), but I demonstrably work harder than any other manager in our organization. I also have more experience (at our school OR overall), more certification (not required to work in our public school but it makes our school look good that I have it), better teacher retention (and better teacher involvement in school-wide projects, as well as better teacher attendance at "mandatory" trainings), better parent reviews, and better graduation rates. I also am so full of good ideas that the supervisor takes everything I do and starts making it policy, and when he suggests things to do (like ways to drum up business), he discovers that I have already thought of them and been doing them for months. For instance, I had instituted a system for follow-ups with exited students before he called a meeting to "try and brainstorm" ways to do this, and I had been doing it for two years. This is why I had better re-enroll percentages than any other manager, but nobody had bothered to ask why (if they noticed). He even has me train new managers how to do this job. "Send them to the expert!" he laughingly says. Everybody at admin says things like that.

Now I know by this point the egotism is getting vomit-inducing, but I beg you to bear with me. I am not normally an over-confident person, by any means. I own not one but two T-shirts making fun of my own shyness, I will readily admit that I have the world's shittiest memory, I can't learn languages for crap, I suck at every conceivable sport [4], and I use parentheses to an absolutely ludicrous extent. I don't think I am the best boss ever - in fact I have had no training in it at all and am just floundering my way through, trying to get lucky - but I do try, and I get as much feedback from my teachers as possible in order to try to Be a Better Boss. I don't think my ideas are the best ever - that's why I share them with other people, to improve them. I honestly do not send them to my supervisor so that he can tell everybody else to be more like me. I am really not that stuck-up. Really!

But I do work my BUTT off for this job. I read four different books (three of which were useless) about defiant teenagers, because they baffle me and I really do want to learn WTF I am supposed to do with them. I am trying to find some books about educational leadership that are not just filled with BS (although I have failed utterly on this so far). I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours going through the Professional Certification process in order to renew my teaching certificate, something that would automatically net me more money in other schools, and I didn't even have to do it, either. I've taken classes on all of the major learning disorders we run into at my school, so that I can know better how to develop appropriate programs, how to reach the kids, and how to talk to their parents (and their psychs), not to mention making our school look good when people talk to me and assume that everyone in the organization is as educated and stays up on the current research about all this. I work a lot of hours at the school, but even when I'm not at the school I spend a lot of time trying to be better at what I will do when I am back at the school :P Not because I think it will advance my career or increase my salary (ha ha ha ha) but because I am fanatically devoted to what I do. I know I am fantastic at it, and I work hard, on a consistent basis, to be even better.

BUT (there's always a but, isn't there), The Economy Is Bad. Enrollments have been down at the school for about a year and a half now, and our revenues aren't what they were. They'll eventually go back up, but it's been rough. I've been working hard to keep expenses down and enrollments up (my enrolled hours were over FIVE TIMES that of any other manager last month), but overall the company is struggling.

Not a good time to ask for a raise. Sigh.

5. In real evaluations, you should identify things that you have improved during this period, and also come up with some things you want to work on for later. This is real, honest reflection. What would I truly like to be better at? Well, I'd like to be better at dealing with crazy parents--how to soothe them, and where to draw the line. I wish I had a mentor manager who had been doing this longer than me who I could talk to and learn from her experiences. I used to have one (which is why I wrote "her") but she quit. And now I'm the most experienced manager in the organization. With only four years under my belt. And yes, that is even more than my supervisor. And no, I don't want him to be my mentor manager because a) while I do like him, he's a bit of a pompous, out-of-touch-with-real-people windbag and b) I actually have more experience, in my absurdly limited tenure, than he does. That is just stupid. [5] So if I were to tell him that is my goal, he would wax pedantic about listening and validating feelings and other meaningless drivel. Not only would that not be practically useful, it would make me want to bop him on the head with an inflatable baseball bat even more than I already do, and trust me, that is a lot. I could say I want to get better at marketing, and getting people into the school, because I want more people in the school, but honestly I do NOT want to get better at that. I want to have a marketing director who does that so that I can do my actual job, overseeing student programs and managing the campus. I hate marketing and sales :P I am having a hard time identifying things I could tell him I want to try and improve because honestly as far as he's concerned he needs to recognize first the things that I am fan-fricking-tastic at, and because he'd think that means I am not awesome if I am admitting imperfections. Plus he'd think that means he's supposed to teach me whatever it is I said I wanted to work on. Oh, buddy, let's not go there.

6. All of this means, though, that I am not being very good at reflection. Because in reflection, you're supposed to take all the problems that you are assume are other people's problems, and discover that they're actually your problems and you can fix them. But my supervisor really IS a tool :P And I really AM awesome at my job. Is there ever a point where you are allowed to say, I am currently pretty proud of my performance, actually, and I think I'm doing a great job? Yes, of course there is more I can learn (for instance I still have not found a helpful book on how to deal with oppositional-defiant teenagers, and they still completely flummox me), but that for right now, just for this one little moment, can I feel like I am "exceeds expectations" and not "needs improvement"? We all, always, need some kind of improvement, right, but can I just this once have my frickin' gold star?

And maybe another twenty thousand dollars? :P

[1] Any of you veteran teachers out there - did they make you go on and on about reflection when you went to Teacher School? Or is this a new breed of bullcrap, and they had different bullcrap in your programs?
[2] or as close as we have to a principal in our AlternaEd situation, anyway
[3] This happens all the time. Seriously. It kind of gives me a complex, like the other managers are going to hate me for being "that sister" who your parents are always telling you to live up to. I just want to do my job and be great at it. But I sometimes think supervisor puts me in an odd position. Anyway.
[4] except for, it turns out, kickball played with a tennis racked, but who could have conceived of that!?
[5] He does have more experience going to meetings, knowing everyone in the world, and schmoozing people, which is why he is the head and I am not, and trust me, that is exactly how it should be - I wouldn't want that job in a million years - but he is not that helpful to me as a supervisor.

Monday, July 13, 2009


This was a big weekend for me.

I drove home for the bachelorette party of my BFF's little sister, Bug [1]. Now that's weird enough in and of itself, because Bug is like 12 years old. Okay, not really, but at 22 she's a lot younger than me & Levi (BFF) and most of the ladieeez who were at the party. But I'll get into all that in a minute. Suffice it to say, it was weird, because I remember her bugging the crap out of us when we were trying to have sleepovers and here people are buying her lingerie. I mean, what the hell.

Anyway, so I'm driving along, thinking (it's a long drive) about how I'm going to be sort of a older, older sister at this shindig so that I'm prepared when a bunch of brain-bustingly aggravating 21-year-olds show up in prom dresses [2] and start making turkey noises at each other [3]. So I was thinking about how I'm going to be turning 30, and how satisfied I am with my life--great job, awesome fiancee, hysterical friends, hidden talents, a house full of books, and a drastically improving personal financial picture (no matter what the rest of the economy has to say about it). I mean after all, we're halfway through the year and I've achieved half of my savings goals (pretty good, considering it's the first time I've ever even had any savings goals), I'm solidifying my job skills and resume (just in case), I'm plumping up my Emergency Fund, I'm saving ahead of time and paying cash for things, and I'm feeling in a much, much more secure & powerful position than I've ever been in my life. And that's due to my own hard work and saving, not due to having a rich boyfriend or winning the lottery or getting some kind of bull$hit bailout.

But there was still one thing holding me back. And I decided I wanted to get rid of it.

I paid off my final consumer debt, to the Bank of Mom.

I handed her a big fat check when I got home on Friday afternoon. It was strange - when I paid off my last credit card bill, I did a lot more jumping around and freaking out, but then there was also a whole "eff you, Evil Credit Card Company!!!" element to it. It wasn't as painful paying my Mom each month - I mean, honestly, her minimum payments were quite reasonable, and who can beat those interest rates, right? ;)

But even though it came in a prettier package, debt is still debt, and that last little bit was still a remnant of my past less-than-wise decisions (personal AND financial) and now I can say I have conquered those mistakes. And now I am free.

When I first started this race, I was spending nearly all of every one of my paychecks. Big payments went to seven different credit cards, a school loan, and a car payment. Even though I didn't have a latte habit, or splurge on clothes, or buy expensive purses, I never could get my debt to go down. Sure, I played the 0% balance transfer game for awhile and kept it from going up, even on a lower-than-public-school private teacher's salary, but it didn't go down either. The total I had accumulated from one huge error in personal judgment[4], one year of full-time grad school and night classes with no time to work a paying job, six months of unemployment without access to Unemployment $$ (including two moves and a totaled car) and another three months of joblessness with unemployment checks (but with stupidly trying to "keep up with" some new friends who were significantly less jobless than I): all of it sat around, and sat around, and sat around. Under control, it seemed to me, because my credit scores were great, my balances were much lower than my limits, my rates were surprisingly awesome, and I could handle any "emergency" or actual emergency that popped up.

Until I added up my net worth one day [5].

It was -$55,343.29.

Make sure you notice that little "-" sign at the beginning there. Oh, nice, Blogger will let me put the number in red. Isn't that handy!

Even looking at that number now I feel like I'm being smothered to death. I knew a large part of it was my school loans, and honestly I don't feel too bad about those. The interest rate I pay on them a) is tax-deductible and b) is lower than what I get in my bank account, so it would actually be stupid to pay them early. Plus they're for a degree that I actually use in my job and I am very proud of it. So I added a row to my spreadsheet that says "Net Worth less School Loans" and got -$24,106.23.

Still red. Still BIG and red. Still not okay.

I hadn't used the cards in a long time and I'd always paid on time and more than the minimums. I was also paying ahead on my car loan, and really I felt like I was doing pretty well, all things considered. But I was never going to get out of it at that rate. I had already started to focus and become more aggressive about paying things off when I had my Great Financial Frustration Meltdown of 2007 and made an absolute resolution to myself to get out of the mess I was in so that I would never feel powerless about money again.

I made a spreadsheet that laid out each debt and what it was at that month, down to the penny. Then each month I added a new column for the new month and I started watching the numbers go down, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me. I scrimped and saved and pinched pennies; I started cooking at home whenever possible and letting Airbear have some "buddy time" with Eagle (i.e., letting the boys go out to eat without having to go along); I struggled for frugal Christmases & birthdays - that one was really hard for me [6]; I tried to rack up "$0 days" (first on this blog, later with support on the WIR boards) by spending absolutely nothing for as many days as possible; I started direct deposit savings and built a little--but at least in existence--emergency fund; and I took every cent I could possibly make, save, or find, and I threw it ALL at the debt.

I was lucky enough to have patient & understanding people on my side - in my real life and online - who would cheer me on and look at the numbers I'd post in my update and not just see how badly I'd screwed up but how hard I was working to fix it. I am so grateful for all of that support and encouragement. It gets really hard to always be the person who doesn't want to eat out, or go to the movies, or do other expensive stuff when everyone around you is doing it. But sometimes you've got to put your financial future first, and for me, that meant nuking that debt - and fast - before I could lose motivation ;)

Twenty months later, I can say I am free... I would have thought I'd have wanted to shout from the rooftops, you know? But really I'm just sitting here on the couch with a quiet little smile, feeling safe and secure and strong. Not just because the debt's not there to burden me anymore (although that's a part of it); and not just because my paycheck is going to all go to savings and things that I want to do now (although that's there too!); but also because I can look back at this race and think to myself, look what I did. Look what I CAN do.

I saved 62% of my net income in one year, and applied it ALL to debt reduction.

I own a car outright. And it is not even a crappy car!

I don't owe anybody anything [7]. No credit card company can raise my rates, or lower my limits (well they can, but I don't care), or increase my minimum payments. They can't make a decision that would totally screw up my life. I have the absolute power to tell them to suck it if they don't do what I like. I actually have one credit card now, which I pay in full every single month, that so far has paid me $200 in cash this year to use it. Take that, Big Mr. Credit Card Company Whose Name Rhymes With (the end of) Assface.

And altogether I paid off $28,942.01. In that time, I also built an emergency fund that would cover four months of my (now reduced) expenses if I were to get laid off. And built several retirement accounts. And learned what to put in them. And saved for a lavish Las Vegas vacation. And a wedding planner in Rio. And got two different banks to pay me more than $100 each to start accounts with them. And am making consistent interest, every month. And we're talking dollars of interest here, not the 59 cents every three months I used to get from my ancient Kids' Club savings account either.

I have knowledge, I have fellow Racers, I have spreadsheets, and I have a list of financial goals longer than your forearm - and that's just for 2009. And now that I don't have that debt? You just watch what I can do now ;)

Stay tuned!

[1] This is not really that creative of a nickname, everybody called her this as a kid. Beats me!
[2] Thankfully there were only two of them. But yes, there were two of them. In prom dresses. One of whom, I am not fucking kidding you, started the "I sometimes forget to eat" monologue.
[3] Ask Gramt.
[4] Dick.
[5] After reading an article by MP Dunleavy, which wasn't really about paying off debt but which listed out your debts, your savings, your retirement, & your assets and came up with a net worth. Interesting, I thought. Until I saw the number. Then I thought a different word, which is shorter than "interesting" and starts with an "F."
[6] With the unfailing support of my family members, who were completely generous and supportive!
[7] Except the school loans. But again, whatever :P