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.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

It’s that time of the year again, folks! My vehicle plates expire this month, so it’s time to pay the whopping $101 to the state of Illinois to renew them! And you know what? That’s OK because I’ve been preparing for this expense since December!

Today’s post is going to tackle those annual expenses that we have each year, but somehow they still take us by surprise. You know which ones I’m talking about…

These are the bills that we only have maybe once a year, but every year they are around the same time, and somehow every year you might get that dreaded feeling, that “oh shit, I forgot about that bill” feeling, that “ugh, why” feeling, that “oops, over drafted cause I forgot that was set for an automatic payment” feeling.

I used to get caught off guard with these annual expenses. Then I realized that it didn’t make sense that I kept acting surprised with these types of bills because they happened every single year. Yet, in a way, it kind of did make sense. It’s easier to remember the bills you may on a monthly basis compared to the bills you only see once a year.

As the title suggest: out of sight, out of mind.

I thought to myself: How can I prepare myself for these “unexpected” bills, which are very much expected.

A huge part of my growth in the aftermath of my mishandling of money is in learning how to be financially proactive rather than reactive. As I discussed in last week’s post, I am barely learning how to proactively save money. I don’t have an adequate savings amount where if shit hits the fan, I can have a safe little bubble for a while. However, I’ve learned to be proactive in small ways.

When it comes to tackling these annual bills, the key is to actually think about them. I’m not saying constantly think about them each and every week, but what can help is making time to sit down during the year and making a list of what annual bills are due in which month. It honestly will only take less than 20 minutes to just make a list of them!

What do you do with that list once you make it? Put it somewhere you will look at it.

OR HEY WITH ALL OF OUR FANCY SMARTPHONE TECHNOLOGY, input it into your calendar and set a reminder for the month before it is due. This can eliminate the whole SURPRISE factor that really shouldn’t be a surprise.

But hey Angelica, I have my annual gym membership fee set for an automatic payment so I don’t actually have to think about it. It’s covered!

Gotcha. You’re right. The bill will be paid, but will you be prepared for that week or month if you didn’t remember your available balance might be lower than expected?

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can also plan to set aside money ahead of time for said annual bill, so that it isn’t a one time financial hit. Thereby, you might be under lesser money constraints when that bill goes through.

For instance, my plate renewal is $101 and is due every March. If I didn’t want to take the hit of $101 in my paycheck for March, I can decide to set aside an amount each month toward that $101. So, if my plate renewal is every year, then I can set aside $8.42 a month to have that cost covered come March.

$8.42? That’s less than I pay for Netflix a month! So, in short, it’s doable.

So, inquiring minds want to know… what are your annual bills that you have on your plate? How are you preparing for them?

I have plate renewal and gym membership fee in March.

Then I have a busy annual bill month in June with:

  • Annual vet visit
  • City sticker renewal
  • Pet tags renewal
  • Costco membership renewal

This is what it taking into account these annual expenses for June look like on my end:

Screenshot (6)_LI

Again, spreadsheets are my go to tool. Find what works best for you to be proactive. 


Come back next week for the ASK THE PIG feature where I’ll answer the questions you’ve submitted. There’s still time to anonymously ASK THE PIG a question you have! Click the link and hit submit!