Thursday, June 28, 2007

MOTIVATION ... for black people

Warning: no relevant financial content...

I just posted a blog about 'Maxed out' and how that DVD will motivate me to overcome some of the struggle financially but, I forgot all about the fact that there is the racial bias as well. It took looking at an old blogger's blog to motivation for that...

ahh to be loved is divine. to be hated simply for the color of your skin...priceless :)

T-minus 5 days, no I-phone for me

Now, I am waiting patiently for the arrival of 'Maxed-out', the documentary about America's debt problem.

From all of the clips... appears I must own this movie, not so much because it will teach me something I already know 'credit cards are BAAAAAD!!'

But more or less to remind me never, ever to use them again if I have a moment of weakness and believe that 'oh, it's only $60 bucks' I can immediately pop the movie into the DVD player and convince myself otherwise. I think it would be good to show it to my girlfriend who doesn't know that much about the dangers or credit as she has lived a sheltered life thus far.

I ordered the movie through my local Barnes & Noble store - I love that store! only downfall is that I'll be paying $27 for it - $30 when the tax is added and If I weren't so paranoid about buying things over the Internet I'd save $10 by buying it on

In other news, I immediately lost my desire to purchase a new I-Phone when I learned the purchase price is $500. Reggie, will definitely not be standing in line to buy one anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Paid the bills for June

I just finished paying my last bills for the month of June. The most important of those would be the $600 or so I paid to my last remaining credit card. Once the credit card company receives it, sometime next week - my total debt will be $2190.

I considered paying a little more than that but, given the fact that once the check is deposited I will have only about $110 to last me till next Thursday, I figured I would hold back a little bit. Within the next 8-9 days, as I wait again to get paid from my day job and the night and weekend job I will be doing a number of things:

  1. Driving about 2 hours or so on Friday night (after the 2nd job) to see my girlfriend
  2. Driving another 2 hours or so early Saturday morning to go to arguably the best amusement park in the world (assuming you hate Giant Rodents as I do)
  3. While at said amusement park; fighting the urge to pay for any additional 'amusements' such as water and food and instead pack lunch and water - the admission was already pre-paid at a $25% discount (thank you very much)
  4. driving back 2 hours and possibly working the 2nd job again on Sunday
  5. Having a going-away party/lunch for a really good friend at my day job who just put in her 2-week notice at my day job so she can become a stay at home Mom (and to avoid the overwhelming stress)

The last point brings to mind a conversation I had with my friend the soon-to-be stay at home mom, let's call her 'Judith'. 'Judith' myself and another friend 'Julie' were discussing finances. Me and Julie in particular were mentioning how & why we eat a packed lunch (myself a very non-extravagant packed lunch) everyday. We were trying to explain to Judith that the horrid lunchtime cuisine is simply an ends to a means in order to obtain our financial goals.

Judith then squarely explained to us that financial goals - 'Saving' in particular - is a pointless pursuit because there will always be something that 'comes up'. I won't go into her whole argument but she ended her argument by stating half-jokingly, half-seriously that her Plan B (or possibly Plan A) for retirement is to have her few-month old son become a professional basketball player, like 'King James' OR become a professional football player like the 'Fridge' - she would then live happily ever after once her son achieves greatness around 18 or 20...much to my horror, as once again this is a really good friend of mine and that happens to be, in my opinion, at best one of the riskiest retirement plans I've ever heard of. Have I mentioned I don't like risk ?!

She challenged me how much saving a paltry amount over a long-term would do - I (mistakenly) guesstimated that saving $100 a week or $400 a month at a rate of 5% interest would make someone pushing 30 like myself a millionaire by 65. I was off by about three percentage points - per this calculator click here

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How I'm getting out of debt, future bills

I believe at the very worst point for me financially my net worth was approximately, -$18,000.00 or possibly less.

Currently, My net worth is hovering around +$4,000 to +$5,000 when you take into account my depreciating car, my 401K and my money market/savings accounts. (wow - that almost looks 'good' for a moment considering the $23,000 difference from where I was and where I am)

The only thing bringing me down is the $2790 (soon to be $2190 if I can help it) in debt that remains on my "0%" interest, temporary rate card which remains 0% until November 2007.
Barring any major life changes in the near future, it will be paid off well before that.

I currently rent my home but, it is on the cheap. But, I figure when you account for PMI, Insurance and other wonderful charges I'm sure to get simply for having a 'darker hue' and not the full 20% down-payment that one should have when buying a house I figure I'm most likely saving money now whereas others may be losing their shirts with ARM' s and God-forbid Balloon Payment mortgages

Besides that, I would actually like to buy a duplex in about 1-2 years and live on one side, rent out the other.

I have given up quite a few things in the last few years as I have dug myself oh so gradually out of debt:

-Definitely don't go out as much (liquor seems to empty the contents of a wallet quicker than anything + I'm getting 'too old' for the club)
-I try and keep my weekly grocery bill at or under $20
-I cancelled the cable TV about a year and half ago - I only miss comedy central occasionally
-I've now realized (in my opinion) it's much better to fill up your gas tank than to pay $5-$10 at a time
-I borrow movies from the library if at all possible instead of 'renting' them
-I always pack my lunch unless it's pay day or a special occasion
-I own my car and if I can help it I'll pay cash in full for my next one
-I keep my credit cards in a safe place: my freezer - cut into tiny bits & pieces
-I have not bought new shoes or clothes really in over a year (yeah , I'm really ready to go on that first shopping spree once the debt is paid - how good it will feel to pay $500-1,000 for clothes and use cash ...I can barely wait)
...I'm sure there are more things but, that's a pretty good list.

There are however expenses that tend to keep my means on the short side:
-Taking my girlfriend out: My girlfriend LOVES to go out to eat, I rarely ask her to pay for a meal out and she rarely offers - I feel bad though because as a condition of me being more 'committed-to-her' (i.e., "I want a ring") I asked that she move out of her foster parents house - I mean she is in her MID-20's! So now she lives on her own and has a fraction of the disposable income she had before - but it's good because this will teach her about the wonderful world or expenses assuming we do get hitched.

-internet & my gym membership: I keep debating in my mind if I want to cut these out temporarily but every time I get close to cutting them I realize I need the gym for mental sanity after a grueling day at my day job. I also love having the in-home internet rather than going to the library where you only have an hour to use it, you can't go to 'R-rated' sites, and on top of all that the librarians no longer police cell phone calls people take at THE LIBRARY!!! so it gets annoying when the library 'patron' next to me talks to their friend Roxie on the phone about the wonderful trip to Wal-Mart they just had while I'm trying to check my hotmail.

-summer trips - this Week me and the girlfriend will be going to a semi-nearby amusement park and Lord knows they'll be selling things such as water for the ridiculously low price of...$3-4!? OR a pretzel for only $7 - we plan to pack but sometimes amusement park food is GOOD.
We'll also be going to visit some of my girlfriend's friends in August - hopefully after the debt is paid. Her friends live on the West Coast - but my girlfriend is apparently getting a deal from a friend whose a flight attendant for about $60 a plane ticket. And the friends offered for us to stay at their place but I'm not sure how down I am staying a week with people I don't know so we might have a hotel room

-ring: after paying off my debt I will most likely start shopping for a expensive piece of jewelry for my girlfriend who keeps hinting she wants one. I've already asked her real dad -who lives overseas - for her hand, he quickly said yes that would be fine BUT, their culture still believes in a dowery/bride price - which is a whole 'nother issue...

sacrifices or how I got into debt

So since I somewhat slacked on my first month of posting I thought I'd make up for it now while I'm in the mood to post.

I've realized recently that I've sacrificed quite a bit over the past 4 years - wow it's been that long - in order to get back on track. it's been a very humbling experience to say the least.

But prior to that, when I lived in Chicago, I was sacrificing NOTHING - and since I-have-platinum-card-and-that-must-mean-I'm-special-right? - I was happy to pay the bill more than my fair share when I went out to clubs/bars with my roomies/friends . I also made sure to buy whatever clothes that I wanted, a $200+ first (and last date) stands out as well as the first purchase i made on my shiny new platinum card; a $900 sleigh bed that I bought simply to silence my roommate-at-the-time's snide comments about the cot that I was sleeping on prior to that.

When I QUIT my well-paying job in 2002 because OF COURSE I was going to get another well paying job right after the markets tanked ( I was soooo smart at 23! ) I continued to use my not-so shiny card and got another card in the process. After switching from one odd job to another I remember beginning to worry about the fact that I had to use my not-so-shiny card for groceries sometimes.

It wasn't until I moved into an apartment I could barely afford and just about all of my friends moved out of Chicago simultaneously that the rock-bottom moment hit. After paying my bills for the month I realized I only had about $10-20 left to pay for food and a few bills I knew I had to pay late. I visited Aldi's for the first time in my life (but not the last) and bought some apples, spaghetti and maybe some juice...but that was it - that was all I could afford.

I called my parents - my Dad was in his usual disappointed mood and brought up the very real possibility that if I continued in this way I might be 'homeless' at some point.

When I called my Mom, who was sick, she simply told me to "Come home..." I listened to my mother's advice...and came home along with at least $16K in debt which unfortunately, increased before decreasing. It was also unfortunate that I had to leave all of my wonderful furniture that I couldn't fit into my compact car in the storage area of my apartment along with that beautiful sleigh bed ... the sleigh bed was the hardest to let go by far.

Luckily, I'm in a much better place right now financially - with God's help and any luck It'll stay that way.

2nd job

2nd job:

So, I have been steadily trying to get out of debt while in the meantime, working a 2nd job for the past month or so. The job is in retail and at first they had me working a 'labor -intensive' type job. This was fine for a while, sans the heavy lifting, and opening boxes mindlessly but, among other things, they kept scheduling outside my requested hours.

I finally got fed up and gave them 2 weeks notice 1 week ago. My girlfriend asked why I quit - (after loudly complaining prior that the extra job would keep her from seeing me that often) _ I explained I didn't like what I was doing and it would simply take me longer to achieve my financial goals.

Then, this weekend while working the 2nd job, the Assistant Manager asked me if he could get me to stay if he switched me to a non-labor intensive position. I immediately said "YES" and 'tada' I'm rehired - retracting my 'resignation'. So now instead of lifting & opening boxes daily - I get to stand around, smile at customers and fold stuff... In my opinion that's what a part time job should be: no heavy thinking - no heavy lifting.

This will hopefully allow me to stay on track with my goal of getting out of debt now by the middle/end of August, end of July if I'm lucky - it was the end of June i.e., NOW before that and it was the middle of May prior to that. Word of advice for the fellas - having a girlfriend who likes to go out to eat often and a chivalrous (guy should always pay) upbringing do not do well for the wallet.