Last Car Payment, Who This?

Image result for celebrate gifImage result for celebrate gif

This month I finally sent the last payment on my car, and it feels so good! The prospect of not having to make a monthly car payment anymore is amazing. This is more than a mere ending to the chapter on car loans because the simple act of being done is a milestone in how far I have come in my financial journey! If you haven’t read Stop Hitting Snooze on Your Wake Up Call yet, I highly recommend you check out this previous blog post. Nearly losing my car was the kick I needed to start taking my money issues seriously, and this is why this final payment is major to me.

Hop into the time machine with me for a bit.

I bought my 2013 Jetta, new in March of 2014 from the Volkswagen dealership. Things were financially great for me during this time. My credit card debt was still manageable at the time, and I had not yet bought a house with my mom (both of which contributed toward my financial mishaps, but that is another post for another time). My credit score was high, and after having been in an accident where my previous car had been totaled, I qualified for a loan through VW Credit for the car with the down payment my insurance payout provided. I felt good because my economic standing and stability also allowed me to have some upgraded features in this new car compared to my previous totaled one. At the time, I would have never imagined I would one day be close to having this Jetta repossessed. Hindsight 2020, everything that has occurred since then has only served as lessons.

As I began to have trouble with my money management skills and debt began to stagger later on, I still always prioritized my car payment among other things. That is until things took a turn downhill, and I began to miss my car payments.

It began like most poor money management habits. For example, I would make payment a few days after the due date because I didn’t have enough money at the time of due date. Telling myself “I’ll pay it as soon as my paycheck is deposited on Friday” became a slippery slope, and I believe this type of mentality can be a slippery slope for anyone! Before I knew it, I had become very late and was flat out not paying for the car. “I’ll pay it as soon as my paycheck is deposited on Friday” became “I’ll pay it with next month’s paychecks. I’ll catch up then”.

For anyone that is good at math, let me remind you that I got the car in March 2014, but I didn’t finish paying it off until this month of May 2019. As I wrote in Stop Hitting Snooze on Your Wake Up Call I fell behind by four monthly payments. When I finally decided to take control of my actions, I asked VW Credit for help. They worked with me as much as they could, and the agreement we came to was that I would pay the current month, plus two of the missed months within a month. The remaining two missing months would then get tacked on to the end of what would have been my last payment of March 2019. I was so grateful and relieved that they had been willing to work with me, and so I had to hustle quickly.

I essentially had to pay about $1,155 in a single month. This payment was broken down into three different deadlines within the month, and the only way I was allowed to pay was through Western Union. I had to run around a lot to get these payments in on time, and fortunately around this time I had gotten a second part-time job to my full-time job. I have learned that when the fire is lit under you, then you really figure things out and go. It was stressful, but not as stressful as when I was ignoring the problem.

That’s the point I want to emphasize when it comes to this blog project. It can be stressful to gain control of your money management skills and financial situation, but it is way better than the anxiety ignoring it causes! Not knowing and not acknowledging is worse because it doesn’t make whatever financial mess you are in disappear. It only gives you less power in knowing, and then things can get more out of control, which will in return add more stress.

Making my last car payment is a milestone for me because of the highs and lows that I have been in financially. Discover what milestones you have in mind for measuring your own steps toward better money habits and skills. These can be anything from “I paid more than the minimum on my credit card this month” to “I paid all my bills on time this month” to (insert your own milestone here). You get to decide what your milestones are, and you get to celebrate when you accomplish them.

Most importantly, do not let others tell you what counts and what doesn’t count as a financial milestone AND do not measure your milestones against someone else’s. Years ago I saw someone post on Facebook that they finished paying off their car within a year, and that’s great but it wasn’t going to be my milestone. Quit playing the comparison game in finances. We all have different jobs, income, responsibilities and lifestyles. This means our financial milestones all look different, and MEAN something different to each of us.

So go ahead, celebrate you and what is important to you on this money management journey!

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!

 

 

 

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!

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