So I spent some time today reading financial articles on msn.com. This is not nearly as tedious as it probably sounds. (I particularly enjoy the "Women in Red" series, because it features actual women with financial problems, some even worse than mine, and they have forums and tracking to keep an eye on how they're doing.)
Back at the beginning of the year, I used this blog to keep track of how I was doing with eating healthily and learning to cook more. I think it was really motivating, kept me accountable, and I accomplished my goals. So for awhile I'm going to redirect the blog toward my new financial goals, and see what happens :)
Now, those "Women in Red" post their totals monthly, or something like that, including totals for credit card debt, school debt, retirement, other savings, etc. Posting the actual amounts would freak me out a little bit--not because I would see how bad it is, I know how bad it is--but because I feel like someone would be able to use that information to identity-theft me. However, I do want to take a moment to celebrate some important financial milestones I've achieved this year, so that I can feel good about myself and keep from giving up and going crazy.
Here are the highlights:
* I opened GET (college tuition) accounts for my three nephews. I haven't put a ton into them, but it feels like a very smart move. It keeps me from buying them toys (probably more expensive and totally unnecessary), it can't be screwed up by intermittent periods of financial hardship, and they will really need it when they get older. It also made me feel really rich to do it. I never thought I'd be able to do that kind of thing. Even right now I'm getting a little teary thinking about it ;)
* I started saving for retirement. I've put about $300 in a Roth IRA while waiting for the enrollment period to start for the SIMPLE IRA that my employer will match. I'm also getting the $300-something I have in the state retirement system from an old job transferred into my new account. I will pay a small amount of tax on it now (because it was a pre-tax account and Roth is after-tax), but then I won't have to take taxes out when I withdraw it (and its interest) in 35 years. And that will be a lot more money than $300 by that point ;) Long story short, I had to fill out a million tons of paperwork but I am on the road to retirement savings, finally.
* I started automatic withdrawals into a savings account. I don't miss the money as much as I thought I would, and in fact I am thinking of increasing it. I made a bet with Airbear at the beginning of the year to see if I could get it up to a certain total, and when I did, I paid off my car with it. I had to start over again, but I had paid off my car! I get a higher interest rate on the first $799 in it, so I try to keep at least $800 in it at all times. For now, when I get a chunk above $800, I take it out and apply it (all of it) to one of my credit card balances.
* I paid off my car. It's not a fancy car, but it's mine and I don't have to pay a monthly payment for it. Plus it's good on gas mileage. And owning something that physically large feels like a significant achievement.
Now of course it has not all been that rosy. I still have ... let's just say more than $10,000 on credit cards, and probably in the neighborhood of $30,000 in school loans. I no longer have car debt, so that feels great, and because I managed to luck-out in the rent department with Airbear, I don't have a mortgage. I will be paying the condo dues, though, when they start coming due in 2008.
As far as budgeting goes, I do fairly well - I don't shop, really, and am pretty good with not buying things. As I said in previous posts, my biggest cash outflows come from eating out with Airbear. That's a big current goal. I have spent $0 since Tuesday, which is great! I will have to spend a bit this weekend--I can raid bus money from the Miscellaneous Change Cup (TM), but we're going to need to restock some groceries in order to keep eating frugally at home.
So there's where I am at, and having admitted it will hopefully make me be accountable for it! While I'm not going to post my exact totals online, I am going to go through and figure out what they are and keep you updated on my progress. I'm sure you will be waiting with baited breath. Well, maybe not, but it will make me follow through with it! Hopefully ;)