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Done Is Better Than Perfect

80dollars

In case you missed it, I have an official domain name for this site. Buh-bye, wordpress URL, and HELLO breakingthepiggybank.com! I know it doesn’t seem like much, but this is a major step forward for me. You have no idea how I agonized for the last six months about committing this website to a domain name. I was afraid to post new content because it wasn’t a “real” website (whatever that means).

I continued to justify not spending the 10 bucks to register a domain name by saying I didn’t need it because I didn’t post that often, but then not posting often because I didn’t consider the site to be more than just some random person’s blog. Whenever I was close to hitting the purchase button, I stopped myself. I patted myself on the back for not having spent those 10 bucks on a domain when I had to to get new windshield wipers and spark plugs for my car.

10 bucks. 10 bucks! It was just 10 bucks!

You know what I did spend those 10 bucks on?

  • A few Wendy’s 4 for 4 meals (granted, a great value! But that added up to be more than 10 bucks!) = 4 bucks each
  • An 80s themed cocktail event = 30 bucks
  • Adler After Dark event at the Adler Planetarium for 2 = 40 bucks total
  • Two cocktails at the Adler After Dark event = 20 bucks total
  • Ramen dinner + smoothie = 20 bucks
  • Potbelly’s = 8 bucks

Of course, there were other non-essentials that I spent my money on. These were just a few to name. With these alone, the total comes up to 122 bucks (not considering I had Wendy’s a lot). I had no problem spending 122 or more on those items, but kept making up excuses to not spend 10 bucks on a domain name for this website.

I was holding myself back when the 10 bucks was not the issue.

After discussing with my co-worker whether I should buy a domain name and get rid of ads on WordPress, she told me that I don’t practice what I preach about taking my projects seriously. She was right. In a manner of five minutes, I made a decision that I had been sitting on for the past few months.

I decided to invest in Breaking the Piggy Bank. Not only did I buy the domain name, but I also upgraded my WordPress account in order to eliminate ads and have more control of the website’s CSS. Was it more than 10 bucks? OH YEAH.

Try 96 bucks for the year. I know, I know but follow me on this one!

WordPress broke it down to 8 bucks per month. 8 bucks per month? Yeah, I can spare 8 bucks per month on a project that I believe in. Spending the 96 bucks on finally getting this website to the next level of where I want it to be is worth it.

This website is a project I want to keep spending time on, and that meant I needed to treat it as an actual investment on my end. I’ll be reflecting at the end of the year to see how this investment on my end turned out!

As my friend, Onicia Muller, reminded me recently: “Done is better than perfect.”

Is the website everything I want it to be yet? No. But had I kept waiting until it was perfect to buy a domain name, then I probably would have also treated it as something that didn’t need to be updated regularly.

Final, important thought: If you have a goal that requires money to be spent on it, don’t tell yourself that you can’t afford it. Don’t use yourself as an excuse.

Analyze your recent spending habits for the last three months. What are you using your money on? Are you like me spending it on Wendy’s and cocktails? Or are you enjoying Starbucks on the regular? Whatever your habit is, find a way to alter that habit so that you can use the money that you typically spend on that toward the goal that you want. It may not be something that you can suddenly splurge on, but at least you can start setting that money aside by not hitting up Wendy’s like me! Sometimes changing small little habits can help reach those long-term money goals.

The only person that can attain your goal is you.

Think about it, we always somehow manage to find money to spend on a concert festival. Lollapalooza anyone? Why not somehow manage to find money to spend on that goal you want.

New Year, New Money Goals *uncensored*

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This dog must be from some new money.

I hate making resolutions for the new year. Some people love them. I consider myself more so one of those people that decide if you really want to start something or change something then you should start right away rather than say in the new year. That is how I began my journey toward financial wellness. It could also be argued that it is the same way I began my financial misfortunes years before by saying, “CHARGE IT PLEASE, CHARGE ALL OF IT!”

However, when it came down to it I decided to take control of my financial misadventures by changing my own spending and money thinking habits. Sure, it took Capital One suing me to finally wake me the fuck up, but it was the middle of the year and rather than say, “NEXT YEAR THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT!” while blindly doing the same shit I was doing, I said “OK. LET’S DO SOMETHING NOW!”

Since then, I have been constantly wondering how else to challenge myself in meeting certain financial goals. Each month while deciding how to best balance my “wealth management” (a term I use to think of money in a positive manner rather than saying BUDGET, which has negative connotations to me) I try and determine what other goals I can be working on.

These aren’t new year’s resolutions because the other aspect of new year’s resolutions, which I hate is the idea that they are not malleable. Once you create them, people seem to be predestined to fail them if they don’t meet them fully. Goals on the other hand can be changed according to different circumstances.

With that here are a few of my money goals for the coming months:

  1. I received my first credit card since the whole bankruptcy ordeal. My goal is to use it each month to work on my credit utilization ratio and pay it off each due date. This will help me build my credit score back up.
  2. I will open an actual savings account separate from my current bank account. This will help me resist the urge to “borrow” from money I have set aside. I have no problem setting money aside, but then end up telling myself that I can always “borrow” from this money if I replenish it the following month. (We’ve established already that I get paid monthly.)
  3. I will actually use my gym membership so that the 10 bucks a month isn’t just going to waste. I’m holding myself accountable by signing up for running events, which means I have to hit the gym to train.

Of course, I can always modify these goals and expand on them as I see fit. I like goals that I can alter because no one likes to feel like they failed at something. When we change goals, though, we get to still be in control.

What are your current money goals?

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Other Money Musings To Read This Week:

CHECK OUT Onicia Muller’s post on “How to Afford Hired Help When You’re a Struggling Artist?”  My girl breaks it down on how to be able to hire out on certain things, even if you’re working for ice cream money.

Will Travel For Work

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Back in the spring, I received the opportunity to attend a national learning conference in Tucson, Arizona for work. The conference was scheduled for October. I thought, hey this sounds like a great opportunity for me professionally and also OH HEY I GET WARM WEATHER IN OCTOBER, YES WHERE DO I SIGN UP? The best part? This trip would be covered by my job.

My flight and hotel room had been booked, and any meal expenses would be reimbursed after the trip. But let’s talk about those meal expenses.

Given that I would be at a conference for all of the days during my stay in Tucson, the only budgeting I had done came down to those meal expenses. Typically my monthly wealth management (what I refer to my budget) plan takes into account all my bills and extra expenses. The general categories that I break it down into are:

Mortgage
Student Loans
Car Insurance
Phone/Internet
Car Payment
Repayment Loan Plan
Netflix
Spotify
Therapy
Gas (typically runs less than $140 a month)
Groceries (typically accurate estimate of what I buy from Aldi a month)
Leisure (a set limit on how much I am allowing myself to spend on fun things that month)
Safety funds (a general amount I give myself as back up for the month)

Any money that doesn’t get added into those categories is left in my general balance or added into special categories for that month. For example, if I know I have to pay my dentist deductible that month, then I add that as another category. For October, I had added a category for “Arizona meals”. For this, I had set aside $140.

My time in Arizona was scheduled from Sunday through Wednesday with some meals provided by the conference. Per my employer, any meal that is not provided by the conference is theoretically covered, but we will get to that in a minute or two.

I felt confident with my $140 because I also had that extra amount in my account for my general balance. Silly me, I totally forgot that life will continually throw some financial curveballs my way!

In this case, my dog injured himself. Those vet expenses add up, ya’ll. On top of that, I had some medical deductibles to cover and also had to pay some other things at home. That extra money in my account? Gone after these unexpected expenses.

This left me with only the $140 I had set aside from my meals in Arizona + gas for my car. Even typing this out, I feel embarrassed on spelling out how little I had in my bank account. This isn’t a joke. I didn’t have a savings account hidden somewhere. I have a four month plan for getting a savings account in its feet, but at the moment there was nothing else. I should mention, I get paid on a monthly basis, on the 16th of every month. My Arizona trip was two weeks before pay day. With my $140, I still felt confident I could make ends meet. After all, once I returned to Chicago, all I had to do was not go out. Gas to get to work and back was covered.

Let’s just say meals at a resort are a lot more expensive than normal meals at home. I paid $3 for a bottle of water one morning. That was before I found a stash of free water bottles that were complimentary to hotel guests that joined the morning hikes. Yes, I got up early for those damn hikes and my complimentary bottle of water! I also made sure I went to the complimentary tequila toast every day because tequila!

In the end, I will get reimbursed part of what I spent on meals by my employer. Granted, I probably won’t see that money until 2018 (the process for reimbursements always seems to be very, very slow), and it won’t be as much as my meals actually cost.

So, am I good now? Yes. I chose to wrote this though to be completely honest. Typically when we talk about money, we don’t want to reveal to others how much we actually have. Saying I only had $140 + gas in my account opens me up to plenty of judgment. You may be thinking I’m reckless or I still don’t budget appropriately. You may be way better at budgeting than I am or have a different approach, but again, this is about chronicling the journey of financial management. For me $140 was scary, especially post-bankruptcy, however, it’s still a step forward. Why?

Four years ago, I kept going under in my bank account. I kept racking up overdraft fees. I kept not paying my bills on time.

Fast forward to the now: I pay my bills. That has perhaps been the biggest financial accomplishment for me now. I am able to pay those unexpected vet bills now. I can cover other home expenses when my mom is unable to. I can typically spend money on leisure activities, too, and I am able to save money for traveling (non-work related). Having the ability to do these things, makes me note that I have progressed and accomplished a financial stability that I never imagined I would find.

I can have $1 in my account, and I still will know that I have come further than I ever imagined. Obviously, $1 is not ideal, and it is an exaggeration on my part. However, all I’m saying is I made my peace being down to $140. It is an upgrade from having my card declined at a White Castle at 1 AM in the morning, and that is a story for another post!

P.S. I got to hang out my the lazy river in my downtime. You don’t need any extra money to ride a floatie in style.

Hey Breaking the Piggy Bank, are you still alive?

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Short answer: Yes, and I will be posting more frequently again!

Long answer: (see below)

When I first set out to begin this website, I wanted to be able to share my experiences with the mismanagement and later on management of money in an effort to create more positive dialogue around money (and for some of us, including me: our inability to get our shit together financially). I was in a good place, mentally and financially. Well, I was as in good of a place financially as one could be after having a bankruptcy on their credit history.

The trouble came around the time I wasn’t feeling so high, mentally. It’s no news to most of you, unless you’re a completely stranger from the internet who found this blog (if so, hi, hi welcome! Stick around, why don’t you?!)… I have a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Worry not, I have it under wraps most of the time. However, in the time that I did not update this website, I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game.

For me, my money troubles really began around the time my depression and anxiety began to manifest in early adulthood. This means that even after I have learned better money strategies and better mental coping strategies, whenever my depression begins to surface, I feel like I did years ago as I automatically link it to my money mismanagement.

What could have possibly triggered my most recent depression? 

Let’s talk about bankruptcy. I filed for Chapter 7 earlier this year, and I was then discharged. Up until that point I made it my job to learn everything there was about bankruptcies: the before, the during, and the aftermath. Despite grasping the long road after discharge, nothing really prepares you for the reality.

These last two months that I’ve been silent on this website, I have been wrestling with what life after my Chapter 7 bankruptcy is currently like and how it will continue to look in 1 month, 5 months, 1 year, 2 years and so on.

This is why I honestly have said before with humor: I filed for bankruptcy so you don’t have to!

Humor aside, please use me as your guinea pig to either learn from my past financial mistakes and from the strategies that I have developed in gaining a better financial grounding. Does this mean I expect you all to be on the cusp of a bankruptcy? No! Some of you have a better handle on your finances than I ever could have had, and some of you I know are just in a lot of credit card debt. Does being in debt mean you have to file for bankruptcy like I did? Of course, not! My decision to file for bankruptcy was based on a lot of personal factors and took an incredible amount of time for me to fully research and decide that it was best for me.

It was my decision, and like most decisions we make in our lives, it is one that I have to learn from and foresee how to manage in the long term.

Point being: I’m back. I’m not going anywhere this time.

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I will be updating a lot more. My goal is to have a new post once a week, and I already got my topics sorted out until December! I will also be trying to make more resources/freebies available to help you on your financial quest!

Let’s end this on a positive note: I became 63 cents richer this week when I found some leftover change at the airport that a TSA agent said I could keep!

Up next (as in next week): Traveling for Work Comes with Some Unexpected Expenses

 

 

I got gas in the tank. I got money in the bank.

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I just returned from a road trip last night that I had taken to Nebraska and Texas. I planned out the trip in July, taking into account how much money I needed to save up for gas and other things one needs during a road trip. Before leaving in August, I kept blasting The Killers’ song, The Man, because that’s how I felt.

I kept singing, “I got gas in the tank. I got money in the bank. I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man”. I felt like a million bucks, and also frugal because I thought I had a handle on things! I had planned the amount of money that would be needed for gas, gave myself a spending limit for activities, and hit up some friends to couch surf my way through this trip.

Since this blog is about money, here are some lessons I learned about myself because this financial well being thing is clearly still a journey:

  • Despite pre-gaming, “Drunk Angelica” will still spontaneously buy a round of shots for her friends.
    • How to fix for future trips: Add a few (and the word “few” is putting it very lightly…) extra bucks to my travel estimates for “spontaneous drunk shots” because they will happen.
  • Despite meticulously having planned for possible expenses, I did not plan for roadside issues. What did the road whirl at my car? A loud rock! WHACK.  I almost kicked myself for not having anticipated a rock cracking my windshield. Thanks, semi-trailer in the lane next to me for helping me learn to plan better! Now I’m out a few extra bucks than having had anticipated.
    • How to fix for future trips: Don’t drive by semi-trailers.

 

Just kidding, the real fix would be to plan for the unexpected when it comes to driving 17 hours in one day. Shout out to the semi-trailer that taught me this financial lesson! Now, if anyone can recommend any Chicago or suburban places that can fix my windshield, let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Yourself!

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… but plan for it ahead of time.

Look, I’m not a financial adviser. I haven’t written books of money from the perspective of a millionaire that pulled herself from her bootstraps. I haven’t helped thousands get their financial shit together through sold out speaking engagements, and I most certainly have not been booked by daytime TV in any capacity. I’m only talking from experience, and as with even expert opinions, you should take what I say with a grain of salt and decide for yourself what is best for you.

I get it. I want that. I want it now. I got to have it. Impulsive purchases give us a high of sorts. For me, it happened to be a coping mechanism to deal with my depression where buying more clothes felt like a good idea at the time, even though my closet was already overflowing with clothes I never even wore! Seriously, my mom and friends are notorious for telling me I always wear the same three items of clothing despite everything I have. Kind of like Charlie Brown, though nobody ever berates him about it. 

So, is treating yourself bad? No, but learning how much to treat yourself can be challenging.

Let’s go back in time. I grew up low income. My mother was a single parent working minimum paying jobs while trying to raise my sister and I. Going to the store was more about window shopping than actually buying things. Oh, you want McDonald’s? Sorry, no money for that. It was all about the essentials, and while my mom was certainly thrifty and resourceful, guess what happened when I started working while in college?

I went in the opposite direction of being thrifty and started buying anything I wanted (while still paying my half of the rent). I had absolutely no filter because as naive as it sounds, eighteen year old Angelica thought she was suddenly rich on her own minimum wage!

The majority of my checks working at some mall teen store went directly back into that store because of the enticing employee discount. I kept upgrading my computers and phones, as if I actually had the means for it. At this time, I still paid everything on time and had great credit until a few years later when treating myself finally caught up to me.

I hit the kind of wall that you hit when you’ve had one too many drinks.

After hitting this metaphorical wall, I then went into the other direction with the mentality of: I HAVE TO BUCKLE DOWN. Can’t spend money on that, or that or this, no more spending money.

Yet, that also was not the best solution for me. Having the mentality of “can’t spend money on that” just made me feel more guilty and horrible about myself and what direction I was headed toward. What was a girl to do?

PRIORITIZE.

It’s been a year since I have been practicing a solid budget, and I still get to treat myself. The difference? I have an annual budget on Excel (we’ll discuss this in more detail in later posts) where I am able to view at a glance each month, determine necessary expenses (bills, groceries, utilities) and then figure out how much money is left over that I can spend on other things I want. This way I can treat myself to coloring my hair or going to a concert or taking a trip.

I’ve even set dates that I know for certain that I want to treat myself on, and actually save money ahead of time for that Treat Yourself Day that I picked. If you know that next month you want to go out on the town, then save for that night this month! Obviously, this should be different from a normal savings routine. It’s better to be proactive than borrow money from your actual savings account for a Treat Yourself Day.

It’s OK to treat yourself, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Why is it that money has a tendency to make us feel guilty? Guilt doesn’t make for the best relationship, and something I learned from reading plenty of self help books this past year is that in general we have to learn to have a much more positive relationship with money.

So, treat yourself responsibly. Plan ahead or prioritize current expenses in order to feel less guilty about it, and also to maintain control over how, when and with what you treat yourself.

 

 

Do you remember your first piggy bank?

Mine was Mexican. He was born and raised in Mexico before deciding that he would have a better future by pursuing the American Dream. He was large, bright red, and had flowers tattooed all over his ceramic body. Unfortunately, things did not end well for him.

After following me, the little pigtail-ed girl that fed him every now and then to the U.S., he met a rather abrupt end.

The weapon: a hammer. The motive: I wanted money right then and there.

Do you remember the first time you broke a piggy bank?

You can’t un-break a piggy bank. You can certainly try to glue it back together or wrap it up in band-aids. The action, though remains in the past. The action cannot be taken back.

Sure, modern piggy banks come with little round, plastic covers on their bellies so you can get slide your money out without resorting to murder. These aren’t real piggy banks. These fake pigs are the equivalent of a checking account: a tool where you can keep spending your money right as you deposit it.

Do you remember when you first paid the bare minimum amount on your credit card? Or when you missed a payment? Or when you didn’t finish paying off your balance before the zero percent interest period expired? Or when you transferred a balance to another card? Or when you avoided answering your phone? Or when you began hording a massive GLAD bag of unopened bills deep inside your tiny closet?

I broke all those figurative piggy banks. The problem was that because they weren’t real piggy banks, they never made any noise. I never had to immediately clean up the pieces. I silently continued to keep making more bad decisions.

The weapon: impulsiveness. The motive: I wanted money right then and there.

WAIT UP ANGELICA, what the HEY is this blog about?

Spoiler alert: I filed for bankruptcy SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

I’ve learned a lot from my horrible financial decisions. In the year in took me to come up with the money to retain my bankruptcy lawyer, I also learned how to develop a healthy relationship with money and have been able to maintain a decent budget. There’s still more I am learning, but I want to be able to share what I’ve learned and also continue on this financial wellness journey with you.

In short: Whatever your financial situation right now (and maybe you never even went close to bankruptcy) there’s a lot of us in the same boat, trying to take our piggy banks back to safety.

Let’s stop simply bitching about money and start being proactive. Let’s also stop treating money like it’s this big and scary monster, and learn how to think of it as a positive thing.

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Let’s stop feeling like we can’t talk about money.