Wait, it’s 2019 already? Ah, shiiit. Where did all my money go?

When we last saw our hero, she was carefully organizing her plan towards a financial comeback after having filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early 2017. What has she been up to since then?

Struggling. 

All right, let’s address the elephant in the room first. I clearly have not updated this website since June 2018 where I addressed how depression was just one of many contributing causes toward my financial turmoil that led to my bankruptcy. Let’s just say that things got hella wild after that post, and my life took many twists and turns that left me unable/unmotivated/uninterested to keep pursuing certain avenues in my life, such as this blog.

The motivation that I initially began with to turn my financial life around disappeared à la Thano’s snapping his fingers (sorry, not sorry, this shouldn’t be a spoiler anymore). This isn’t to say that my finances are in utter collapse. I’ve been able to stay on top of things for the most part, but there is still a lot for me to learn.

So, once again, dear reader, let’s continue to learn from each other and tackle our finances. Be a hot mess, but don’t be a financial hot mess! New tagline, who this?!

The first step toward bettering your money habits is to acknowledge where your money has gone.

Here’s a quick breakdown of where the hell my money disappeared to in 2018 according to my bank’s filtering system:

 


Using the filters to analyzed my 2018 spending habits isn’t without its drawbacks. There are a few expenses that my bank sometimes categorized into different categories. Expenses sometimes were sorted into different categories during different months. Example: A Visa credit card payment in one month was categorized under Financial, but during a different month wound up as Uncategorized or Personal.

I am also intrigued as to how it only came up with $239.97 as Travel when I took a trip to Peru in 2018, which was WAY more than $239.97. Small details in how the filtering system works, this overall snapshot still helps get a sense of where my money has been.

Having access to this quick breakdown will definitely factor into how I decide to handle my money this year. But let’s also be real, I’m going to make mistakes (YOU are going to make mistakes), but that is COMPLETELY OK. Don’t hold yourself to perfect standards AND MOST IMPORTANTLY don’t hold yourself in comparison to someone else and how they’re handling their money.

Look I acknowledge I have work to do. You should acknowledge you do, too.

However, I am also acknowledging the progress I have made. It doesn’t matter if other people think that my progress has been small. It’s my progress, and I am happy to see it have occurred.

My progress in 2018:

I am able to pay my monthly bills, and have money to use on “Food & Drink”. 

So, consider the areas you have to work on, but also take note of whatever small or big progress you have personally made in your finances, too!

 

 

 

Depression Made Me Buy It: How To Hold Yourself Financially Accountable Even During Emotionally Trying Times

Today I want to talk about depression and how it can affect your finances. For those new to Breaking the Piggy Bank, let me quickly catch you up. I began this website after having hit several financial mishaps that eventually led to me making the decision to file for bankruptcy. The goal is to make money issues less taboo, and to provide a platform for those of us learning to stand on our own financial ground.

What contributed heavily to my financial misadventures? Lack of self-control, a desire for instant gratification, poor money management skills, terrible priorities, an inability to say no to choices that would strain me financially, and (drumroll) my depression. Whether you have clinical depression or not, we all struggle with times when spending money makes you feel better. However, that sort of thinking is not conducive to long-term money goals.

It is one thing to buy yourself a greasy meal as comfort or the videogame that you think is going to help you feel better versus drowning your depression in $100 worth of shots… and boy have I been there! If you have found yourself in a similar situation before, then you should know that there are things you can do to control your depression from taking a toll on your financial goals.

Depression is a lifelong struggle. While it is not constant, there are times in life when it will creep back in and put a hold on a lot of your life including your finances. You may begin to question why working toward that long-term financial goal is worth it. During these times it may be best to remember how you first felt when you began to work on the money goal. Did you feel relief, a sense of accomplishment or pride? Those feelings were genuine and are only gone temporarily. Of course, the length of time that “temporarily” is can vary, but regardless if you persevere even during the bouts of depression or sad moments in life, you’ll come out far better financially.

So, what are specific actions we can take to protect our finances when depression creeps in again or when life is too tough and spending money seems like the easiest thing to do?

  1. Plan ahead: Set up a separate account, whether checking or savings, that you will not have regular access to spend money from. It doesn’t have to have a huge sum of money in it, but ideally during every paycheck or every other paycheck, you want to send some money that way. If you are working toward a specific long-term financial goal, then have this account be where you are setting that money aside. For example, if you like to go camping during the summer and want to have money set aside for that, send it to an external account rather than keeping it in your main account. Not having that money as easily accessible can help make sure that even during a depressive episode, money toward that goal is not affected. I like to use online banks because it makes transferring money back into my main account a hassle to do, even if it is just waiting around a few extra days. That extra step and delayed instant gratification goes a long way when you feel depressed. In my case, I usually end up thinking, “Why bother it won’t make me feel good right now.” My main bank account is with Simple, and my external account is with American Express (yes, they have savings accounts options and have no physical bank branch… so I can’t take money out as easily.)
  2. Allow yourself to spend some money: I’ve allowed myself to spend money on Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream when I feel like hiding from society. Find something small that you’re all right with spending money as a small pick-me-up. Try to avoid large purchases by writing out on paper why you think you want to make that large purchase. This extra step can help clarify in your brain why it seems necessary in the moment. Return to this thought the next day to see if you still feel the same way. Impulse purchases seem like a good idea in the moment when you first think about them, and depression can certainly make them seem alluring. Adding an extra step and returning to it, can help you stray away from money decisions you will later regret.
  3. Evaluate, Reflect & Re-plan: If you end up sabotaging your finances momentarily, it’s OK. Everything we do serves as a moment to review, reflect and then learn from. In doing so, you will be able to figure out a plan for a future instance where you may lean toward not caring about your money goals. Take me for example, I had to take a hard look at the mistakes I made in my past, many of these during years when my depression had taken a hold of my finances. The outcome has only been positive.
  4. Take a break from the finances: Look, it’s no surprise that focusing too much on your finances when you aren’t in the right mind and space for it can result in feelings of despair and/or anxiety. It can make everything that much more overwhelming. It’s OK to take a break from crunching numbers and figuring out how to pay for long-term goals. Sometimes, you will need that space. For instance, I recently became a little too obsessed over how to pay for braces while also going through a rough mental patch. The result? I became more overwhelmed than needed and felt like just giving up on all of my financial goals (not just saving for the braces). I felt a lot better once I took a break from my spreadsheet to focus on other things that would help me mentally. Do the same when you need to. Just be sure to not ignore it completely. Make time to go back to your spreadsheet/notebook/bank app when you are in a calm state.

These are just a few things that might help you avoid falling into the trap that I often slid right into. This trap is known as the “my depression made me buy it”. As always, stay strong. You are in charge of your behavior that leads to your financial wellbeing, and I believe in all of you.

What are some of your strategies for taking care of your finances even when things in life get emotionally rough? Comment below or shoot the Pig an anonymous message with your thoughts.

Parents Getting in Your Financial Business? – Ask The Pig #3

ask the pig

IT’S LIKE AN ADVICE COLUMN,

but not as judgmental or retrograded! Got a question about money? I’ll try to answer it to the best of my ability because we are all on this financial journey together!

SO, GATHER AROUND BECAUSE THE PIG IS IN!

This month’s Ask the Pig focuses on how our financial outlook can be formed by our parents.

Our reader asks:

My mom (and family) is always ragging on for being cheap because I haven’t been on an expensive vacation in 3 years and I don’t buy nice things. She says things like “I’m tired of you talking about being poor. I want to call you one day and hear you’ve bought a Samsung phone for $700 or some new GAP jeans.” The reality is I’m traumatized from my parents’ bankruptcy and I’ve been focused on building a general and baby savings. How can I tell people to keep their noses out of my finances? Or is it better to just take the insults and keep going?

Dear Reader,

Isn’t it great being an adult and dealing with your adult parents? I feel like this issue is not much different from the usual parental snooping into their adult children’s business in the form of: I’d like to hear you have a girlfriend/boyfriend or I’d like to hear that you’re considering kids or I’d like to hear that you are getting a different job. Parents, I tell you! They mean well, but can be aggravating when all we want is for them to not tell us the same thing over and over.

In terms of the financial issue, I can understand how witnessing your parents’ bankruptcy impacted your own financial outlook. Bankruptcy is not an easy process to go through, and the aftermath can be emotionally and financially taxing. I would know. I’m currently about to celebrate my first year post-bankruptcy! One year later, I can tell you that there have been challenges that I am still running into, which I would not want anyone else to take on. Because of the aftermath of a bankruptcy, I think having a handle on your finances is important.

That being said, I also do not see the harm in indulging a little here and there based on what your financial situation can afford. There’s being extremely frugal on one end of the spending spectrum, and there is also being an extreme spender and credit card charger on the other end. There is a safe place in between the two extremes to explore financially.

I know that talking to parents can always be difficult, especially when you may feel that they are insulting your values (in this case money values). However, if these comments from your mom are gnawing at you, then I recommend having a quick conversation about what you value financially with her. Depending on your relationship style with your parents, you can say: “GAP jeans are nice, but I found these other jeans much more comfortable/that I like at a better deal.” The language is still positive, and notice I’m not telling you to tell your mom, “These pants are cheaper”.

If you hold your ground, but open the conversation to why you prefer something over the extravagant items she wants you to buy, it may start to show her that you aren’t just being cheap for the sake of being cheap. Even turning the conversation around to something that you would rather have your money for, can at least demonstrate that you are not about the $700 Samsung Smartphone life.

I used to not open up to my mom about my finances, and it wasn’t until I did that I felt a lot more relief because I didn’t constantly hear about it from her. Telling her “I don’t have money for that” didn’t have the same effect as when I said, “Well, I have to pay _____, ______, and then I might have something left.” Post bankruptcy, my relationship is very different with money than my mom’s relationship with money.

However, if you are not ready to open this topic up with your parents, then I would say it is better to stay silent. At the end of the day, what is more stressful for you? Hearing these constant quips from them or opening a dialogue with them about your money values?

Yours Truly,

The Pig


Don’t forget that you can always submit to Ask the Pig! Go on, get your little internet self over there.

Brief thoughts: Does penny-pinching ever seem excessive?

Image result for scrooge mcduck penny

Brief thoughts: Does penny-pinching ever seem excessive?

I saw the following video from Buzzfeed, “Money-Saving Starbucks Hacks For The Broke Coffee Addict” via Youtube yesterday and had some thoughts I wanted to share. See video below:

While it is cool to know that downloading the Starbucks app allows me to get free refills as long as I don’t leave the building, some of these hacks seem a little tedious. I’m debating with myself if saving $36 a year by bringing in my own reusable cup is a worthy money move. It seems more cost effective to simply buy coffee at the grocery store and brew it at home or work.

Ordering a cold brewed drink with no ice but the ice on the side in order to get more for your buck seems eye roll inducing, and this is coming from a girl who always says “easy on the ice”. I don’t want to be THAT customer. If you’ve ever worked in the service or retail industry, then you know exactly who THAT customer is.

For me, Starbucks is more of a treat to indulge in. I like to drink coffee, but I either go to more affordable places to grab a quick cup of coffee on the way to work or I buy it at the grocery store and make it at work or home. Those are the coffee money hacks that I participate in.

Then again, who knows, I am most likely being hypocritical considering how I am the girl who also signs up for every single email list in order to get free birthday goodies from the likes of Baskin Robbins and Noodles & Company. If these Starbucks money hacks work for you, then by all means: carry on!

P.S. I’m all for using Groupon to find deals on things.


Stay tuned next week when I’ll reach my hand into the bag of Ask the Pig questions! Want to Ask the Pig something about money? There’s still time to submit your anonymous question!

You’re Going To Make Mistakes

dog mistake

As with anything you challenge yourself to, you’re going to make mistakes along the way. This holds true in wealth management, too. You’re going to make mistakes on your journey to financial betterment, and that’s OK.

I repeat: it’s OK.

Sometimes they won’t even be mistakes, but you might read them as mistakes. Sometimes these so called “mistakes” will really be adjustments. Whatever goal you have in your finances, things will come your way that require modification to those goals. You shouldn’t be scared about that or consider yourself short because of them. Most importantly, you shouldn’t close yourself off because of these alterations.

I have had some very obvious mistakes in my finances leading up to the good part of my financial independence and stability, but I honestly believe that those mistakes were needed for me to learn more about how money works and how I can work with the money I have. Even where I am now in my finances (a good place), I still have the occasional hiccup.

For example, this month I am one week away from payday. Time cannot move fast enough. I have been crawling toward the 16th because I had several hiccups in my wealth management.

The hiccup? Well, there were a few.

  • I have not been actively keeping tabs on my spreadsheet. My typical behavior would be to check in on it once a week, but I have not been keeping up with this habit of mine.
  • I got into a minor fender bender, which resulted in an unexpected charge for a deductible and car rental fees. This particular hiccup was out of my control, but had I been keeping track of my spreadsheet better, then I would have been a bit more prepared for it.
  • I got cocky and began shifting money in my bank account from one goal to another. It started off by moving five bucks here, and then maybe 10 bucks there, and before I knew it my monthly goal amounts were all over the place. (For anyone not familiar with my bank, I use Simple which allows goal creation where you can set money aside for certain things like bills, etc. This feature typically holds me accountable for where my money is going, but this month I got a little careless with adhering to those amounts.)
  • I started using my credit card for everyday purchases, which is not what I had originally intended on. BAD HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE BAR, BAD! These little things can add up.

I wanted to share this with you to show that there is room to make mistakes on your financial journey, and that realistically you will probably make some every now and then. I do not have everything figured out because I will always have room to learn more and enhance my habits.

The part that matters in this case is what you plan on doing to fix those mistakes that you make along the way. Don’t beat yourself up over them. Create a plan to overcome them.

In my case, the mistakes are no way dire partly due to the fact that I have been building my money skills for some time now. They are mistakes that I can easily correct this coming month, and in no way do they affect my bills.

If you make some financial mistakes along the way, what can you do?

  • Review what didn’t work (the mistake) and review what did work (what were the strong aspects of your finances this week/month?)
  • Take the things that did work and keep doing them. See if you can apply any of the strong aspects to what did not work.
  • Reflect on how you got to the mistake. Is it likely to occur again?
  • Create a plan. Don’t ignore. (Do you have to shift some priorities around? Do you have to side hustle? Do you have to sit out this weekend round of drinks? Do you have to wait to buy that one thing you initially wanted? Do you have to set up notifications in your bank app to keep track of spending?)

As with anything, allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t let those mistakes overwhelm you because you are in control of your finances. Learn and remain proactive.

This has been it for your financial pep talk!

Money and Emotions: Planning for Financial Emotional Pitfalls by Onicia Muller

pexels-photo-164497

This week we have a special guest post by Onicia Muller. When I set out with Breaking the Piggy Bank, I intended it to create an open discussion about money and ourselves. Onicia’s guest post continues the discussion we began last week with my post about Financial Literacy Basics: Habits Between Pay Dates.


Money and Emotions: Planning for Financial Emotional Pitfalls

During my final year of college, I found myself paying for a 3-bedroom apartment, 2 maxed out credit cards, overdue rent and utilities. Under our parents’ advice, my two sisters and I mixed finances so we could live in a nice apartment away from city distractions that most students faced. We coexisted mostly in harmony and our apartment was cheaper than each of us renting a room in a student flat.

Unfortunately, while away for study abroad and internships, my sisters and I fell out of touch and we neglected our bills. Since I was the only one physically in the building the following year, I had to take on all the bills or face eviction and debt collectors.

The Pig’s recent post on habits in between pay dates reminded me of some habits I developed to cope during that time.

When I confessed to my mom about my financial burden, I explained that I thought I couldn’t even afford a soda. She said, “Everyone deserves candy. Breaking your budget for one candy bar is not a crime. Don’t feel guilty.”

The two habits I then developed were changing when I opened my bills and when I did grocery shopping.

See no evil … until I’m ready

Most bills aren’t surprises. Even so, companies give you a reasonable amount of time to pay them. Instead of reacting I became proactive.

New rule: DON’T check the mail between Friday and Sunday. It’s very unlikely there’s a pending payment due within three days. So, chill out, ignore the mailbox, and enjoy the weekend.

Not letting bills interrupt my weekend reduced emotional spikes and therefore impulse purchases.

When I did check my mail, I didn’t open letters until I was ready to pay them (usually Thursday morning). To calm my nerves, I wrote (and still do) “seen” and the date on the envelope. Later, I wrote the “seen” and “paid” dates near the amount. These are things that I still do.

I was now in control and strong enough to face my financial demons. Now I needed to find a healthy way to reward myself.

Rediscovering joy for shopping

When you’re poor, spending money on ‘responsible’ things isn’t fun. My triggers (opening bills, meeting a school deadline, and prematurely celebrating booking a temp gig) were mostly under control, but I needed some retail therapy.

Impulse purchases on clothes or candy temporarily made me feel better. However, the guilt that followed was not worth it.  Instead of hitting the vending machine or ordering takeout every time I had an emotional spike, I changed how I did groceries.

I changed my shopping day from whenever to Thursday nights. We had three grocery stores within walking distance from each other, so I kind of got into meal prep and couponing. Nothing serious, I already and a thesis and bills to worry about.

As a reward for buying “real food” on discount, I felt confident adding value pack candy to my shopping list. I could now easily afford 1-2 sweet treats PER DAY without breaking the piggy bank 😉 .

Now, watch the magic.

It’s Friday (the weekend), my bills are paid, I have snacks and real food in the fridge, and I’m not being bullied by my mailbox. If I want, I could pack a lunch and chill in the city or parks and not waste money at fast food places. During the week, instead of hitting the vending machine for $1.25 Snickers because something stressed me out, I just reach into my backpack for one that cost about $0.50 because past me purchased in bulk. High five!

Wealth management skills getting better. Emotional triggers handled. Sweet Tooth secured. Feeling more positive about life.

What are your financial emotional pitfalls and what habits can you develop to avoid them?


Onicia is an entertainment blogger and humor columnist. When she’s not working on screenplays and stage scripts, she does stand-up comedy in Chicago.

Interested in writing a guest post at Breaking the Piggy Bank? I would love to have more voices and perspectives about money related items. Pitch ideas here.

Financial Literacy Basics: Habits In Between Pay Dates

Scrooge McDuck

Whether you get paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly as in my case, there are common habits that you can develop to get by while you live in that bittersweet spot found between pay dates. This particular post is not going to tackle what to do if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, as that is another post for another time. I’m talking about having your bills already taken care of, but things may seem a little tighter than usual as you wait for the next paycheck.

This is the time when targeting your usual habits becomes key. For example, I just got paid on April 16th. I already covered my bills for the month, but I don’t expect my next paycheck until May 16th. People often ask me how I manage to balance my budget (wealth management) to cover a month with a single paycheck. Oftentimes, I find it easier to make a money plan this way than when I used to get paid bi-weekly. Why? Because it forces me to understand that no additional money is coming into my bank account until thirty days later unless I find myself some side hustles.

You obviously can apply the same logic with shorter periods of time. In order to last whatever time length you have between paychecks, though, you need to take a look at your habits during that time. Habits that aren’t even initially money related can affect your money habits. What do I mean by this?

Let’s look at the following scenario that I often would get trapped in:

  • I set my alarm for 6:15 AM because that’s the time my dog wakes up to go outside. I take him outside, and while I should stay awake and get ready for work, I decide to take a nap instead. I set my alarm for 7:00 AM because I think that will be enough time to get ready for work. It is in fact plenty of time, since I only have a twenty-five minute commute and begin at 8:30 AM. However, I decide to snooze that 7:00 AM alarm. Snoozing an alarm becomes my default. Next thing I know, it’s 7:30 AM, and I still have to get ready. Guess what I wasn’t making time for: breakfast and lunch prep. Sometimes, I would run out without having eaten breakfast or gotten something decent to throw in my bag for lunch.

This resulted in making a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way to work to grab coffee and a bagel for breakfast or stopping at McDonald’s for a Sausage McMuffin. I’d justify the purchases because I needed something to eat in the morning, after all. If I grabbed something light and quick from the refrigerator as my lunch in my hurry, then I would buy snacks from the store across from my job. These things add up and stemmed from my poor habit of not waking up on time in the mornings. Other habits in your life can impact your spending habits!

Do I wake up on time every single day I work now? No, but I have improved on this habit. On most days, I am able to prepare a lunch and breakfast item to take to work with me. I buy coffee as part of my regular groceries and take it to work to make at work. This in turn means that I don’t stop at Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s as often anymore. The result? I can stretch my dollar a little bit more in between pay dates. I’m also possibly a bit healthier because of it.

What are some regular ol’ daily habits that you have that can impact your spending habits?


Don’t forget about ASK THE PIG! The Pig can’t answer your questions unless you submit them! 


Image credit: http://newsandviewsbychrisbarat.blogspot.com/2014/08/ducktales-retrospective-episode-95.html