Goodbye Debt #2!

Started my morning as I have been since I started this blog about a month ago: by checking on our bank accounts and credit card balances. Color me surprised when I saw a particular payment went through:



I am blown away by this. This is debt number 2 that we have paid off- our first being a store credit card. I did decide to use that $200 in wedding gifts to pay off this card a bit faster than I would have without the incentive. Frankly, I just wanted to go ahead and use some of my personal credit to pay this off. 

I know that many out there understand what it feels like to pay off a debt completely. Seeing that zero balance is an awesome, nerdy high that will hopefully help me ride through the next credit cards (our two big dogs with over $3k in debt on each).

However, more than the freedom of not having the load of debt on my back, this card is a symbol of a time in my life that I would rather not have to carry around in my wallet.


I got this card as a sophomore in college on a complete whim. There was some giveaway prize that if you signed up for a credit card, you’d get a free Subway or something. Seriously, I was that stupid. I’m sure that the application lady was basically salivating while I filled out the application.

When I told my mom that I had gotten a new credit card, she casually began mentioning money problems she was having. Being the sucker I am (Seriously. Subway.), I fell for it. I started letting her use it for gas for the car, for lunch at work, for trips to the grocery store… etc. It became less my card and more hers, and I was too stupid to keep track of it. Instead, I let her give me payments of $40 each month to “cover” her bills all the while she was spending more than $100 a month on it.

About a year later, my mom came clean that she had made the first steps to declare bankruptcy. I went straight to my dorm, logged on to my account, and checked the balance for the first time. In under 12 months, she had maxed out my credit card. The $40 payments only covered the minimum payment + $2 (no interest for the first year).

Taking away the “emergency” card from my mom was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It’s worth about 10 blog posts for the future. What was equally hard was getting serious about paying it back. At one point, I paid off about $500 with tax return money and was content with leaving it at that. Like most, I thought that I would eventually come back and pay off the rest. I never did.

Instead, I lost the card. Seriously, I lost it. It wasn’t stolen. It just got jammed under my car seat for a couple years. Yes, you read that right. A couple of years. I kept making the tiny monthly payments until I realized it was missing. The day after the replacement card came in, I went to the ER with a bad case of bronchitis. What did I use to pay my copay? Yep. That new credit card burning through my wallet. I was back at maxed out.

I wised up eventually and decided that I would pay double the minimum + interest on my monthly payments. For this card, it was about $100 each month. I paid it faithfully with the thought that it would eventually get paid off. It really doesn’t work that way, does it? I stopped paying attention to the interest. I started charging more. I forgot about what it was like to have a small balance. I failed at my plan.

So, here I am today. To let go of this debt, it was less about strategy and more about making the conscious effort to just let it go. Debt is often more than just the money we owe or fail to pay back. Debt can be a symbol of what we are too afraid to look back on. For me- it’s a eulogy for my young adult years, my inability to protect myself, and my failure to face reality. It’s time to move on. It’s time to say goodbye to this debt. And it’s time to kick another debt’s ass! On to credit card #3!

I want to hear from you: What was the stupidest “giveaway” you’ve fallen for? Or, are you more of a strategy or instant-fix person when it comes to debt? 


A Gift Card Holiday

I am a gift giver. I make notes of what people tell me that they want throughout the year. I start budgeting with google spreadsheets in July. I create shopping lists in September. I get pumped when holiday ads come out early. I research items relentlessly until Black Friday. And when the time comes to give gifts, I ride that high up until my niece’s birthday in January.

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My usual budget for the holidays for 13 people and some small gifts for friends and coworkers: $2,000. And how did I pay for it? CREDIT CARDS.

Obviously, that isn’t happening this year. I am on a mission to remove all credit card debt from our lives. (And we’re on track!) But with my husband’s unemployment, we are limited in what we have to work with.

Our new budget this year? $300.

How are we reducing our budget by 85%? Easy. We aren’t paying for the majority of the gifts. Husband and I are blessed to have been graciously showered by our friends and family during our engagement. And like most engaged couples, we were occasionally showered with the same gift several times (try 5 times for one lucky french press coffee maker). We returned over $500 of repeated, broken, or no longer needed items from our registries. Now we have a ton of store credit to spend.*

To top it off, we also have gift cards. We are not big shoppers, so when we occasionally got a gift card as a gift, prize, or reward, we stashed them. To diversify our gift card holdings, Husband and I also participate in online surveys where we earn points for rewards. Our favorite is YouGov. Through this process, we have been able to get countless of gift cards for restaurants, movie tickets, and shopping. And we cant forget about our credit card points. For my US Bank card that’s just about paid off, I was able to change my points in to cash to pay for a gift a gift card couldn’t get (ironically, it was for a different gift card!).

Through this smart saving, we are able to slash our out of pocket gift giving dramatically. And the best part is that no one is getting a gift that they didn’t want or need. My Grandma certainly isn’t getting a Nintendo game just because we had a Best Buy gift card laying around.

How to have a gift card holiday:

  1. Come to the shopping season prepared. Take notes in advance so you’re not running around looking for a perfect gift for Aunt Edith. And while you’re at it, BUDGET. Don’t walk in to stores blind. Research items and sales, and try your best to not get sucked in to Black Friday or Cyber Monday rushes when deals are often better later or earlier.
  2. Have a return at a popular store? Get store credit and save it. Keep your receipts or ask for gift cards. And ALWAYS check how long that store credit is good for.
  3. Getting gift cards bringing you down? Turn it in to a positive and save them! Most people use those gift cards for things they do not need or want. Your trash may be someone else’s treasure. Hold firm! Or, use a service to exchange the cards** for something else if no one would want a gift from Tattoos R Us.
  4. Sign up for surveys or other reward programs where you can turn 5 minutes of work in to points for gift cards. It may take awhile to earn it, but it’s worth it in the end.
  5. Don’t use credit cards to pay for your shopping card. Instead use old points to purchase gifts or gift cards while you work to pay off that debt.

*I realize that using returns on wedding gifts to buy other gifts may seem odd or totally wrong to outsiders. But let me assure you that if the gift was money, it would most likely be used on similar items. We were able to buy everything on our registry that was needed with a good portion of that return money. Thanks family and friends!

**I was not compensated for linking to this service. I have used it three times and have had good enough experiences to recommend it on its own right. There are other services out there as well that offer similar deals. 

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Accepting the Temporary

If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw that I had some good news to share as a follow up to “Scary Stuff.”

Husband just got off of the phone with unemployment. The entire call took all of five minutes. Basically, they asked him if he was given a specific reason why he was fired and if he had ever gotten any formal warnings regarding his performance. Thank goodness for bad surprises because his shock-and-awe-dismissal from his last job basically guaranteed that we WOULD GET UNEMPLOYMENT!

Not that it’s anything to brag about.

But you seriously do not know terror until you lose your main source of income two days after getting back from a lavish honeymoon and wedding.

Having the possibility that we wouldn’t receive any assistance threw us through a major loop. We are not able to budget or make the payments to our debts with certainty. We have been holding off on buying holiday gifts for our family. And my husband’s job search has been more of a desperate plea than a strategic plan of attack.

I know that we are not out of the woods. We still are waiting on some job interview follow-ups (including one which asked for a reference check yesterday), and there are a million pending applications and resumes floating out in cyber space hopefully being analyzed right now. We are obviously not giving up or hitching our bets on the long term government assistance train.

Instead, we spend today thanking the higher powers (or the great state of Illinois) that our world provides us with opportunities to live with the “temporary.”

I may not have yet mentioned it here, but I have been practicing yoga for the last 8 years, and one of the most powerful lessons I have learned (besides how inflexible my hip joints can be) is that everything is temporary. Pain, emotion, physical, and metaphysical. Everything will move on or away eventually.  Roads that we see clearly today will be clouded tomorrow, and we’ll be left to deal with the new or unknown paths.

I’m choosing to look at this state of our house as an exercise is the temporary. Instead, we will accept what life has put in front of us knowing that time will provide some form of answer. And while I do not know for sure how we will revisit this period in the future, I hope that we can eventually look back and say “We survived. We did our best. We are ok.”

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Pay, Save, or Spend?

We’ve had some scares come up this weekend. And with unemployment looking like it’s more and more of a pipe dream… I’m not going to lie and pretend that I am not scared for what is to come. Everyone said that marriage would be hard. But really, this soon? What happened to “newly wedded bliss?”

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Frankly, we’re still wading through the haze of the post-wedding blues. After 21 months of planning a totally lavish, expensive, and time consuming wedding, life hasn’t even settled down. Instead it has thrown us horrible curve balls. Despite that, we are still in the phase of “Do your remember that promiscuous bartender at the reception?” or “I will never forget our first dance…awwww.”

But I think this weekend finally snapped us out of it. We were given what will most likely be our final wedding present- a check of $200 from a relative of my Husband. My first thought was, “HELL YEAH! MONNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEYYYYYYY!!!” And then I remember that I am trying to be responsible and an adult about these things. So then I changed my tune to, “HELL YEAH! DEBT REPAYMEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNTTTTTTTTTTTT!”

And then we got that letter from the unemployment office in the mail.  

I’m back to the old conundrum. Knowing that our future has a good chance of falling apart at the seams- what do I do with this bit of extra income?

Do I put it towards our credit card repayment plan knowing that we may be dipping in to that emergency savings ASAP. Or, do I just put it in the savings account and be cautiously proactive? Third option- since giving Christmas gifts must be done with my family, should I use it to buy gifts?   

Part of me wants to continue on our debt pay-off track. We’re doing so well for total newbies with zero background on debt. I’ve been diligently reading blogs and following along with inspirational people on twitter. I feel like I am truly setting myself up for success and delaying our repayments is just going to hurt us in the long run.

On the other hand, I’m a total wimp when it comes to making these decisions and I often get caught up in how it’s “ok right now” without really thinking about how it’s not ok right now. We are paying over $400 towards our credit cards each month and even more on our student loans. We were essentially paying 20% of our hard earned money on paying minimum balances on cards and loans! NOT COOL!!

Now that you’ve heard me rant and go back and forth on my options, I want to know your opinion. What should I do with my extra $200? Repay some debt, fluff the emergency savings, or spend towards Christmas?

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Upgrading WordPress

Just a quick Sunday blog while I’ve got a moment. My yoga mat, a good book (“Discovery of Heaven”), a bowl of popcorn, and Amazing Race is waiting for me to put some thoughts down and get back to the real world.

Anyways, I’m thinking about upgrading my site to a .com site. At $18 a year, that isn’t much of an investment and would allow me to build a better community. Mainly, I’m annoyed with the limited commenting service that doesn’t really identify my readers or allow them to share their blogs. Oh! And the inability to change color schemes- as someone who is very color and design sensitive, having the freedom to change fonts and colors is HUGE.

My  worries are that I am not sure if I actually have the content for this blog. I have already shifted my focus from weight loss and healthy living to more about financials and our struggles with unemploymentAll I do know is that I have used this blog for about two weeks and have produced content that I am proud of. It’s been personal and real, and I hope that any reader out there (no matter what the number) appreciates honesty and openness.

I have several blog posts scheduled that should reveal a bit more about me and my state of mind, back story, and hopes for the future with my new family. I hope to share all of that with you- the good and the bad. And I hope you can share yours with me whether it be here, on twitter (@fitisthenewpoor), or on your own blogs.

So, anyone out there have an opinion about when is the best time to make the investment in a blog? Would love to hear everyone’s opinions on timing, value and return!

The Scary Stuff

After a night of post-Halloween parties and a day spent in bed watching West Wing on Netflix, I got up from my stupor to read the stack of mail that’s been sitting on our dining room table for the last couple of days. In between the mountains of credit card applications, Christmas catalogs, and restaurant fliers were two letters for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

I was hopeful that this was finally the letter that told us how much we would get for unemployment. We’ve been low-ball estimating the number for the last couple of weeks. Whatever the money was, we guessed that it would pay our rent and car payments until we could find that open window. It would hold us over for a little while. It would make things ok.

We were wrong.

The letter wasn’t a note about how much he would be getting. No, it was a letter asking for a follow up interview regarding the rules of unemployment. Apparently, there is a good chance that my husband actually doesn’t qualify for his benefits.

Cue freak out.

My husband was fired two days after returning from our pre-approved honeymoon. While he struggled at his job (which he had for about six months), he was never given any written warnings or was told that his job was in jeopardy. So, all in all, his firing was a complete surprise to everyone. His colleagues all seemed shocked.  And, of course, they gave him zero time to collect or document anything that may have been said or sent (email or phone call) regarding his employment there.

I’ve been searching the web for any info on eligibility interviews but I have come up with pretty much nothing definitive. The consensus is that being “discharged” or “fired” from a job will automatically raise red flags. Got it. But there is zilch about what the interview is actually about or if it is a sign that the employer has or will fight the unemployment claim. Knowing this job, they will.

All I can do is just sit back and wait for Tuesday when he is supposed to call. Or hope one of the last couple of jobs he interviewed for will pay off in the long run. Either way, all I know is that the holidays are coming. Our bills are getting closer. And we’re already living on the edge. We cant wait much longer for a decision either way.

Friday Blog Round Up

This week has been absolutely inspirational. I have been able to reanalyze our debt in whole new ways, make a plan for the future, and even pay a bit of it off. Oh! And I saved a crap ton of money by switching (back, sorta) to Geico! Combine those accomplishments with having my first Halloween with actual trick or treaters– and I’d say this week goes in the win category!

Part of my motivation and successes come from getting inspired from the stories of others. With that being said, here are my 4 favorite blog posts for the week:

Now, I’m off to a long night of several post-Halloween parties. Husband and I are going as generic Little Mermaid characters. He’s going as Ariel. I’m going as Eric. Yes, we are generic Little Mermaid characters in drag. This is only because I couldn’t fit in the small girl’s costume we found at Salvation Army yesterday. But, it did keep our costume costs down to $14 for two! Ha!