Wednesday, May 2, 2012

332.0 - 332.999

I've been reading personal finance books off and on since starting the blog. I get through a few chapters, then put the book down for a week or so before coming back to it. I have David Bach's "Debt Free for Life" by my bed, Carl Richards' "The Behavior Gap" at my desk, and Ben Stein's "What Would Ben Stein Do?"

I haven't picked up Mr. Bach's book in weeks and I'll probably just return it to the library. Like Dave Ramsey and other financial advisors out there, Mr. Bach focuses on paying off all your debt in the fastest amount of time by sacrificing just about everything else. While this approach may work for some, it's just not for me. Full on deprivation just leads me to overdo it later. Plus, I'm not getting another job to help pay off the debt faster. Fact: I'm lazy. I did toy with the idea for a few weeks, but right now, the hubs and I have something going on just about every weekend until June. I'm hopeful I might be able to pick up a nights & weekends gig during the summer when the hubs is off and we don't have to worry about Molly Monster, but we'll see.

I'd rather work with I've got and learn subtle tips and tricks to save more, but still being able to feel like I'm enjoying life. I know, I know, you don't need money to enjoy life, but it sure does help!

Mr. Richards book is more my style. While it's primarily about investing, there are some snippets of wisdom that have stuck with me. Plus, there's pictures! (Diagrams, really.) One phrase I've been carrying around:
"'Personal finance... is more personal than financial.' It's true. Planning for your financial future is personal. It has to be. A good plan will be unique to your situation, and what is right for your situation may be a disaster for your neighbor. So ponder how the advice you encounter applies to you before you make important decisions about your money."
Last month, I embarked on trying to pay down my debt myself. As we saw at the end of the challenge, it didn't work out for me as well as I'd hoped. My overall debt total only went down a smidge and I was a bit dicouraged. And I had barely anything left over at the end of the month to put in our savings account, which frankly, was stressing me out. I decided to go back to another option I had previously shurgged off: getting a personal loan to pay off my credit cards and starting fresh. PNC offered loans with a starting rate of 8.25% if payments were deducted from my checking account. I applied... and was rejected.

Remember back when I reviewed all the componants of my credit report/score on Credit Karma? One of the biggest black marks on my record was my high debt to income ratio (43%). This was the main reason why I was rejected for the personal loan. Fresh off our anniversary conversation, the hubs told me to re-apply, but to to add him on the loan as well, thereby increasing our incomes while keeping the debts relatively the same. I did and this time we were accepted.

On Saturday, we took a trip to the bank to sign all the paperwork. Our rate ended up being 8.99% which is still half of what the lowest interest rate is on one of my credit cards. I took out a $9,000 loan for four years at $225 per month. There is no penalty for pre-payment, either, which means anytime I have some extra money, I can throw it towards the principal and pay it off faster. Plus, now I know I'll be able to contribute more to our savings account (I already increased the automatic transfer to $100 per paycheck, instead of the previous $50). All in all, this feels like a much better fit for my life than the previous attempt.

And for the credit cards? They're still tucked away. I opted not to cancel any of the cards, since another black mark on my credit report was the "length of time accounts have been opened." Instead, I'll just let them hang out for awhile. Maybe in a few months, when I feel like I have more control over my spending, I'll break them out for one necessary purchase per month, like gas or groceries. But until then, I'll recognize my weaknesses and keep temptation out of my grasp.

I already feel like a burden has been lifted. Even though I know the debt is still there, being able to see zero balances on the cards AND being able to save for any unexpected expenses, instead of having to whip out a card to pay for them, makes a world of difference. And if I ever get tempted to buy something unnecessary on credit, all I have to do is read my own blog.

Anyone else have any similar experiences lately - either with money or something else?


  1. Ahhh, are those Dewey Decimal numbers in your post title? Were you catering to your librarian sister-in-law on this one? ;-)

    Congrats on getting that loan! Hopefully you'll be able to put a dent in your debt a bit faster now and that will help you keep your motivation up. And good call on not cancelling the cards altogether. It'll help your credit score, plus once your debt is paid off you'll be able to use those cards (responsibly!) and cash in on rewards. :-)

  2. They ARE the dewey decimal numbers that correspond to the personal finance section at the library! I figured you'd get that ;-)