Hitting Restart Again (and Again…and Again)

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When life gets busy, I tend to ignore some of the things I enjoy doing most.  At the beginning of the year, I set goals to help me avoid the inevitable pull of Bravo TV and a nice bottle of wine ($11.99/bottle makes it ‘nice’, right?)  These goals include the things I enjoy, that make me feel good and accomplished when I complete them, including writing blog posts, reading new books, and knitting the patchwork blanket that I started in 2013 (2012?)  The first few months of the year went well, and then…not so much.  I’d like to say that it’s because I don’t have enough time, but that’s not the case.  I have the same amount of time as everyone else, but I’m choosing to use my time in a way that isn’t necessarily in line with my personal goals.  This isn’t to say that I’m a couch potato.  I’ve achieved several of my goals in the past few years by networking, taking chances, and doing some good ol’ hard work.  That being said, when every other blog post begins with, “So I haven’t written on here in a while…,” that’s not a good sign.

Whenever I find myself getting to the point where I feel stuck, or uninspired, or lazy, I’m reminded of an individual profiled in Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  The book makes the obvious, yet often forgotten point that we all have 168 hours in a week–plenty of time to do the things we love, the things that will help us reach our goals, and the necessities of life that we don’t love so much (dirty dishes, I’m looking at you).  The profile that always sticks in my mind is that of Theresa Daytner, a successful construction company owner and mom of six who identified her priorities and used them to plan her life–time spent working/achieving goals, time with her kids, time doing the necessities, and time re-charging.  Daytner’s most profound statement?

“Everything that I do, every minute I spend is my choice. […].  If I’m not spending it wisely, I fix it […].”

I love this.  At no point does she claim that she’s got it down.  Instead, she recognizes her very human tendency to get off target, and simply re-orients herself and her time.

I bring up the concept of prioritizing and goal-setting because it reminds me of my purpose in creating this blog in the first place.  I didn’t intend for it to just be an outlet for the times when I felt like writing (although there’s nothing wrong with that…if that’s your purpose for having a blog, then by all means, get it out, girl).  I wanted to provide support, inspiration and tips for those trying to get out of debt.  I think the mission of the blog has somewhat changed, which could explain my lack of writing, so I’m going to pull together a new mission statement to get it back on track.  I’ll share the mission statement in my next post, which I’ll write this week.  I might even do it today.  Sorry, Bravo TV and wine bottle.

 

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Walden on Wheels

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I learned about this book the other day while listening to the radio.  I haven’t finished it yet, but have found it to be so relevant to my struggles with student loan debt that I wanted to help spread the word!

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Ken Ilgunas graduated from the University at Buffalo with $32,000 in student loan debt.  To get out from under that mountain, he worked a series of odd jobs in Alaska (including night cook and tour guide in a town with a population smaller than a typical college class). Determined not to go further into debt when he entered graduate school at Duke University, he secretly lived out of a van- on campus- while working on his graduate degree.

Although I haven’t finished it yet, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with debt.  Not only does Ilgunas discuss his own (albeit extreme) how-to strategy for paying off debt, I like that he went deeper.  I’m finding that he’s putting words to some of the emotions that I’ve felt about student loan debt–about how ridiculous it is that a bank would let an 18-year-old sign off on a double-digit loan, or how we all go into college believing that we’ll graduate and immediately make enough money to quickly pay off those loans.  He’s brutally honest about how paying off debt is an exercise in complete frustration at times, but a complete victory at others.  He’s also pretty funny and self-deprecating, which just makes the book fun to read.

A Little Student Loan Payoff Inspiration

I’ve been having trouble lately keeping my eye on the debt-reduction ball.  I haven’t made any huge spending mistakes, but the debt feels overwhelming sometimes.

When I start getting down about being in debt, I try to find stories from people who have conquered or are in the midst of conquering their own.  I found this one tonight, and regardless of what your financial burden is, I hope you find it as helpful as I did:

My Student Loan Story: How I Paid It Off In a Year

Tell Your Tax Return Where to Go

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It’s everybody’s favorite time of year–tax time!  Oh, how I dislike doing my taxes.  I do love the return, though.  I was thinking about my return over the weekend, and all of the things I could do with it, namely–purchasing some new clothes for work, since a lot of mine are starting to look worn.

The problem with waiting a few months to do my taxes is that it inevitably leads to ideas of grandeur about what I can do with my return. In reality, the return is much smaller than I want it to be, and it doesn’t stretch nearly as far as I’d like it to.

I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for how to handle your tax return.  These are pointers than help me spend it wisely, as opposed to blowing the whole thing and having nothing to show for it. 

#1: Don’t spend it before you get it

I almost fell into this trap.  While walking around the mall with my fiance over the weekend, I saw shoes, belts, bags, and clothes and thought, “Oh…that sure would make me look like a professional lady.  Maybe I’ll just purchase it now and deduct the amount from my return.”  Dangerous road, professional lady…dangerous road.  Instead, always, always, wait until the money is in your account.  Don’t put yourself in the hole before you even get the money.

 

#2: Make a plan

This isn’t rocket science, nor is it very time consuming.  When you don’t make a spending plan, though, you risk spending your money on things that aren’t very important, and that aren’t aligned with your financial goals.  Tell your return where to go.  Figure out what debts or needs could use it the most, and if you don’t have debts or needs, put it in savings.

If you are one of the lucky few with no debts, no needs, and a lot of savings, then enjoy making yourself look like a professional lady (or man), or do whatever you want with it.  I have a sneaking suspicion that most of you aren’t in that position though, so make that plan.

For instance, I know that as soon as my return is in hand, I need to purchase tires for my car, purchase a wedding gift for my sister, and the balance will go to my student loans.  Goodbye, new wardrobe!

 

#3: Don’t forget where it came from

This is your hard-earned money, not a nice gift that the government is sending you.  Your tax return is money that you have loaned to the government (and they don’t even pay you interest on it!)  Don’t treat the money as a gift; treat it as a paycheck, and spend and save accordingly.

 

Haven’t done your taxes yet?

If you are an individual or family with a combined 2012 income under $57,000, you may be able to file both your state and federal returns for free, using this: http://myfreetaxes.com/ (Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give tax advice, nor am I affiliated with myfreetaxes.com.  This site was recommended to me by my cousin, and I found it to be a very easy and free way to do my taxes.)

 

Living Without Money- Could You Do It?

I read an article over the weekend about a German family living (mostly) without money for the past two years: Family Lives Without Money–By Choice–and Thrives.

While the family obviously lives by extreme standards–which they are quick to point out in the interview–their overall message about overconsumption is something to think about.  I particularly liked the idea of creating a program to save good food that would otherwise be thrown out.  It reminded me of D.C. Central Kitchen, which takes food from restaurants and distributes it (5,000 meals a day) to those who need it the most.  

So what do you think…could you live without money?