Sunday, July 20, 2014

Emerging back into the light

I'm starting to re-emerge into life again, now that I've got some discretionary income. I've started to attend some events that cost money. I'm not paying huge amounts, but I've bought some tickets to some local concerts ($20 total for 2 tickets to outdoor music events), went to see another performer play a couple of times at a local club, and today I went to see a simulcast of one of the last Monty Python performances.

Small things, yet, but after 4 years of avoiding most entertainment and recreational activities that cost money or required tickets, I've experienced more entertainment in the last month than I have in a long while.

It feels good to get out and be around people again, even though I am an introvert and a homebody by nature. There's a line between being a homebody and hermit and I have flirted dangerously in hermit territory for too much of the last 4 years.

I still have some short term financial goals I want to meet, like building up an emergency fund and starting to save for a car. But I think I am also going to dedicate some money in the budget for entertainment, especially now, while it's summer and the weather is decent.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Debt free -- finally

Today, I sent off my last payment on the last debt I owe. I feel like shouting! Actually, I feel like going out and spending money.

That scares me.

The truth is, I will need to spend some money soon. I need some new work clothes. My vehicle needs some stuff too, like new tires, shocks and a windshield (the current one has had a nasty crack for more than 9 years). But I am thinking within the next year or so I will trade up to a new used car, and putting much money into my truck isn't going to add much, if any, value to the 19-year-old vehicle.

Then there is a list of stuff I want. Small stuff. Big stuff. Expensive stuff. Cheap stuff. Some may nearly be necessities, like new eyeglasses. Some are nothing but luxuries, like a new iPod and digital camera.

I've spent 4 years and 1 month so focused on putting every dollar I could find into paying off debt. It's become a habit. Now I need to learn some new skills and build some new habits, like learning to prioritize purchases to get the things I need and enjoy life a little while also saving money for emergencies and a replacement vehicle. I'm thinking a may even want to buy a house. Some day. Maybe.

I had stopped putting money into retirement for a while, but I have that set to restart. That may not directly fit Dave Ramsey's prescribed baby steps, since my emergency fund is not yet funded, but retirement feels a lot closer today than it did 4 years ago.

Debt freedom feels great, but it hasn't really sunk in yet. I have not yet had an opportunity to see money going to the savings account instead of out as a payment to one (or more) credit card accounts.

I wasn't sure I was ever going to get here, even as I saw the debt shrinking more and more, month by month and year by year.

I did it and I am proud of that. You can do it too.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Long lost Valentines

This may be the most unoriginal phrase ever typed: Valentine's Day sucks when you are single.

I blame Valentine's Day, and all the hype about perfect gifts and romance for getting me thinking about past relationships. Even the Google doodle is tormenting us single folk.

Tonight I found myself thinking about old girlfriends, lost opportunities, past mistakes.

One woman in particular has been on my mind lately. While I have spend much of my dating life (when not single) in monogamous relationship -- at least the were monogamous as far as I knew -- there was one woman in my life who I think of as a lover, not a girlfriend. Perhaps that is because she was actually involved with someone else when we had our adventures. I never let myself think that a relationship was possible, even when she got to the point where she made it clear that is what she wanted with me.

So, I never intentionally put my heart into the relationship, but that is not to say I was not emotionally invested. The woman -- let's call her her Tracy -- and I shared an emotional intimacy I had never shared with a woman up to that point. We could talk about most anything. We shared fears and fantasies. We talked. Really talked.

Maybe that was because the relationship started as an online relationship. We talked on chat and on the phone long before we ever met. And for some reason, I find it much easier to confess my secrets at the keyboard rather than face-to-face.

One day, a few months ago, I got an email from Tracy out of the blue in honor of milestone. While we both moved on, long ago, it was great to hear from her. It seemed like old times. She asked a few questions in her message, and I wrote back. But there was no reply.

Blackness. A flash of bright light. Then blackness again. Only the lingering afterimage of the light remained, before fading away.

Things would not of worked with Tracy for many reasons, not least of which was that I was not ready. But I miss the friend. I miss the friendship. I miss the adventure and the daring taboo nature of it all.

I've been playing life safe for a while. Not sure I would recommend it. A crisis of confidence, perhaps. In love. In work. In play.

Valentine's Day is not for the timid of heart.

Yes, I miss Tracy. But perhaps as much as anything, I miss the me I was willing to be back then.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Then there was one

There's only one debt left to pay. I sent a payment today to pay off another credit card.

It feels like this has been a long time coming. I am impatient to be done with all of this. Before the end of summer, I should be completely debt free, barring unforeseen financial circumstances.

There was a time in this process where any unforeseen expenses were a cause of great anxiety. Now, it is mostly just a cause of irritation, because it's just some money that can't go toward eliminating the debt.

I really wanted to have everything paid off in less than 4 years from the time I became committed to getting out of debt. That, really, that's just an arbitrary number. Perhaps there is some benefit to having this process take four-plus years. I have learned patience and persistence and learned to trust the plan and the process.

It works to live on less money than I make. If I can do that now, when I am still working to get out of debt, I think I have better odds I can be successful doing the same thing when I don't have credit card debt hanging over me.

All it will take now is about 4 more payments. Four more BIG payments. Then I'm done with it. Out from under it. And I can turn attention to other things. Then, and only then, can I start setting some new priorities. Then I can start making new plans.

That's the part I look forward to the most. It feels like life has been on hold, in far too many ways for far too long.

Vacations. Clothes. Toys. Car. Retirement. Maybe a house, someday.

I've learned how to get out of debt. Now, the next task will be learning how to save money and learning how to make smart choices on how to spend money again. I've spent the last four years paying off past bad decisions, large and small.

One more piece of penitence to perform, in four installments, then I shall be debt free.

The End Debt Daily