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April 07, 2008

Our debt diet

At the beginning of the new year, Jon and I decided that we needed to focus on the bottom line of the financial spreadsheet of our lives together. We had too much debt, plain and simple, and we felt like we needed to get things in order and be smarter with our money. We earned a decent income, and we had no problem paying our bills. Even so, a large part of our lives was being financed by creditors, and it made no sense to us to pay interest on these balances.

One issue we had was how we were going to accomplish this goal of solvency given that we have separate checking accounts and a significant income disparity. We discussed it at length and ultimately made the decision to unify for the sake of the bottom line.

We started by creating a spreadsheet of all our debt and then ranked the creditors into two categories: revolving debt and monthly bills. We then ranked the revolving debt based on the interest rates for each of the accounts. This part was quite alarming to see. Even though we had kept a close eye on our bills all along, we realized that only when that information is consolidated into one location is it possible to see the big picture. The revolving debt itself totaled in excess of $41,000. While this amount was still below one-third of our total income (which we had understood to be a good thing), it was a significant percentage of our total income. And we were paying interest on most of it!

So, we got to work.

I called the credit card companies and negotiated a lower interest rate on any of the cards carrying balances. We had nothing to lose except our income (being spent on interest). I was quite surprised at how easy it was to get these rates dropped on most of the accounts. We then separated our debt repayment into phases, determining that Phase 1 debt was the sum total of the accounts carrying higher interest rates.

The amount of debt in Phase 1 totaled $16,000. Yikes.

On one of the cards included in Phase 1, there was a balance of around $1200 that was about to have a 20.99% rate kick in (a balance transfer offer was expiring). The company would not lower it even though we told them we'd just pay it off immediately if they didn't. They didn't, so we did, using some of our savings that we had accumulated when contemplating buying a house (which we ultimately decided not to do).

Next, we prioritized the order in which the rest of the cards in Phase 1 would be paid, and each of us created a budget to determine how much we would be able to put towards debt each month above and beyond minimum payments.

It became a matter of sticking to our guns, staying focused on the goal, and paying our debt off at the rate of one card at a time.

The hardest part of this entire process was the first couple of weeks. I was in the habit of running up a credit card and paying it off every month, but I wanted to break that cycle. No more credit cards! It was a painful adjustment because I had to drastically reduce my spending and change my habits. I also realized I had been living like a spoiled child. I was not happy to be giving up certain luxuries such as eating out often or spending frivolously on things like pedicures and new Apple hardware. Over time, it got easier (and I learned that not visiting the Apple store was a simple way to avoid additional expenses).

I started bringing my lunch most every day, and Jon and I also stopped going out to eat so often. We decided to pay close attention while grocery shopping to ensure we were only buying what we needed. This became a true debt diet for us, and we were both on board. We knew that duality was important for this to work.

Both us started paying close attention to where our money was going and tried to cut back if we could. We also focused on saving a small amount each month so that we could continue working towards having at least three months of our income in savings (and ultimately work towards having six to eight months' income in the bank). A small portion of our monthly income was set aside for pocket money (for the day-to-day incidentals), a small portion was deposited into savings, and a large portion started going towards debt repayment. This seemed to work for us.

We constantly update a spreadsheet to show us our progress (and coincidentally, doing this helps us to stayed focused). Jon and I are very fortunate in that we enjoy staying home and watching television or a movie together while enjoying a nice bottle of wine or eating a home-cooked meal. It's so much cheaper than going out. However, we still treat ourselves on occasion by going out to eat or buying something new. We just keep it within our budget.

The results so far have been amazing. In three months, we have dropped our total debt from $41,000+ to just over $29,000. We are even going to take the tax rebate stimulus check that we'll receive in May and pay off debt (sorry, Mr. President, but we have lofty goals, too). We've decided that if we continue paying at the same rate that all of our debt (except for the house) and both of our cars will be paid off within the next 18 to 24 months. PAID OFF. As in, no more debt.

I can't begin to tell you how good this feels. Before we started on our debt diet, neither of us had problems managing our finances or paying our bills, but we knew we didn't want to keep heading in the same direction and giving our hard-earned money to credit card companies (and perhaps digging a bigger hole for ourselves). We made a conscious choice to change - a change that has and will continue to benefit us. My credit score has increased by more than 20 points since we started this plan. What a great reward!

After the debt is eliminated, we plan to build our savings at a faster pace and put more money into our retirement plans. We may work on paying off our inexpensive townhome ($100k left on the mortgage) so that we are in better shape to buy a house that fits us better (amazingly, our small home feels perfect now as we work towards clearing debt). We also have contemplated where we would like to travel and how awesome it will feel to be debt-free.

The possibilities are endless! This feels like true freedom. Heading towards solvency has been an awesome experience for us financially and, interestingly enough, emotionally. It also has made us feel safer in the changing (and downsloping) economic climate in our country.

My only reason for sharing this information is that it may help someone else recesssion-proof their finances, too. So, if you happen to be reading this and have some thoughts, feel free to share them.

February 15, 2006

Romance, Geek Style

We stayed in last night. I picked up some sushi, and we prepared to watch the last few episodes of season two of Voyager (I'm being indoctrinated with all the Star Trek series, slowly). We drank some wine and even enjoyed some baklava for dessert. It was awesome.

Nothing says romance like Star Trek and raw fish.

December 08, 2005

Money doesn't grow on trees but chocolate does!

I have indulged myself yet again! I have become a slave to Oprah in recent years, and have watched her Favorite Things show where she touts goodies from all over and gives them to her audience members. This year, she featured Brownies from Moveable Feast Geneva. I heard the words "bittersweet chocolate" and I just had to have some. I ended up putting them on my list, and Jon ordered them for me. It was $25 for two pounds of brownies... TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS! I haven't yet tried them, but I hope they are as good as Oprah made them out to be or I may have to stop DVRing her show. At any rate, kudos to my husband for actually indulging me.

March 15, 2005

JDI - March

I love my husband!

March 14, 2005

Why I Love Him

Because he bought the Die Hard movie set last week and spent time with me over the weekend watching all three movies to help me get caught up (no, I never saw these movies before). When I met Jon I was so behind on seeing movies that he came up with the reasoning of, "It's understandable . . . you were too busy birthing babies and didn't have time to have a life outside of that." That's probably true. Now I've seriously caught up on my movie watching (and most importantly my science fiction series watching) and feel like I can relate to other geeks better when they reference movies or quotes or whatever from popular films. I've got a terrific baseline geek thing going, thanks to Jon. How could I not love him for that?

February 17, 2005

Settling Down

Nothing is more palpable to me than the downshift of a relationship from the "new" status to one where you've settled in and things have become routine. Lately, I've been feeling that downshift quite a bit as my marriage with Jon has settled into a routine that feels more like a rut to me than anything else. I know it's not the end of the world, that these things happen, but it's hard not to see and feel and react to those subtle changes that start taking place once you've moved in together and gotten used to living with each other.

It's downright depressing, if you ask me. I'm still adapting and working hard not to let this consume my every thought.

I probably live in a fantasy world for the most part about how things should be and how we should interact. I call it a fantasy world because I know that I probably hold a different view than most do about these things. To me, it's not unreasonable to work hard at a relationship so that things don't get boring so quickly. You've got to shake it up and figure out ways to let the other person know that they are special. It's always the little things that seem to change.

For example, Jon and I used to shower together nearly everyday. Now we don't, mostly because we repaired the shower stall in our master bathroom and it's nearly impossible to shower together in there if we are to use our own bathroom for showering. So that change occurred because we made a small home repair and suddenly it is more convenient to shower in our own bathroom versus using the one out in the hall. Okay, I get that - it's not a big deal, but it is a noticeable difference in our routine. I miss showering with him!

And then there's what we have dubbed the "towel of love," which in itself sounds downright hokey, but it is just a small something we do - hand the other person a towel as they are exiting the shower. It doesn't take a lot to do this, and whenever I'm home and Jon has finished showering, I make sure to be standing there holding his towel as he opens the shower door and is ready to dry off. It makes him feel loved, it makes me feel good - we're both winners! For awhile, he was really good at hopping out of bed in the morning as I was finishing up my shower to be waiting there with a towel for me. It is a small gesture that says "I love you" and results in a warm, fuzzy feeling. I know it is an effort for him to get out of bed to do that for me, especially when he's barely awake and it's cold, so that makes it that much more special. It isn't mandatory, mind you - I know it's impossible to do these things all the time every time - but it's really noticeable when it's day four into a work week and no hopping out bed has occurred.

Like I said - small, subtle shifts.

For some reason, I've got tons more energy to maintain a level of showing love in this marriage than I did my last. Maybe it's because Jon is a better fit for me as a partner. Maybe it's because I feel more love than I felt previously. Who knows! All I know is that it does become increasingly more difficult to extend oneself in small subtle ways when it's not reciprocated as often - that's inevitable. It's when I realize this that I feel those small pangs of "ahh, things are changing" and I know that we're settling down.

I'm not sitting around worrying about this on a daily basis, but I indeed have noticed that we're becoming more routine in our actions regarding each other and that those little things don't seem to happen as often. It's mildly upsetting to me, and I think part of me feels nervous about what other little changes are happening to us that I'm not even aware of. I don't like ruts.

All of this being said, it's important to note that Jon is still pretty terrific to me. He suggested a trip out of town this past weekend, and we went. He surprised me with flowers on Valentine's Day - totally unexpected (and therefore resulting in a big grin on my face because I'm not easy to surprise). And he does work hard to help make me happy by doing so many things for me and because of me that I can't begin to list them all here. I love him so much, and I do feel an enormous amount of love from him as well.

I recognize fully that relationships are HARD WORK. I'm constantly amazed how difficult it is to maintain even a good relationship where there is plenty of love and understanding. So I don't really want to come off like a whining bitch who is never happy. Because I am happy. I'm just noticing some changes and taking note.

Besides, this is my website and I have a right to express my innermost thoughts without fear of giving off the wrong impression. Okay, so there is a little fear, but I do feel better for having expressed myself.

Thank you, internet.

December 30, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because he didn't wake up this morning as I was holding my Sharp Zaurus to his face so I could record him snoring. Dude, I have proof now!

December 19, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because he agreed to go Christmas shopping with me and made the whole experience THAT MUCH BETTER. His energy towards the holidays this year has made this a more positive and warm environment, and I look so forward to snuggling with him on Christmas eve.

December 11, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because today on our lunch date he didn't make fun of me when I walked out of the Mexican restaurant with salsa all over the front of my shirt. Well, actually, he did. But he did it in that loving J way!

December 06, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because he made reservations for us at a local Thai/Japanese restaurant on Saturday night. We had a date!

December 03, 2004

Absolut JDI

This is what I do at work when I should be doing something else.

November 23, 2004

Team jdi

I totally rule. I reached 10K.

November 22, 2004

Di and The Bigass Bat

Sometimes when Jon and I are at work and are chatting over our encrypted talk session on his server, conversations will lend themselves to playful comments that include threats of bodily harm if the other person doesn't listen to what the first person is saying.

Just the other day, Jon made some comment about something I wouldn't do because he says I don't have it in me to follow through with my threats. Then he said, "You just can't handle the truth." I told him not to suggest I couldn't do something, because just saying that would alone prompt me to do it. Again, he said I just didn't have it in me. So I told him that I would draw him a picture of what it would be like for him when I finally purchased a bigass bat with which to beat his ass so he would know better than to say something like that to me.

Mind you, all of this was in jest. And it was Friday afternoon after a long week at work, so I opened up my drawing software and drew him a crappy set of pictures so he'd have no question what I was planning on doing to him.

Di and The Bigass Bat - Before

Di and The Bigass Bat - After

Of course, we laughed about it, and I greatly amused myself with my (lack of) artistic ability used to get my message across loud and clear. And he still doesn't believe me. IMAGINE THAT.

November 11, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because when he tells me he isn't feeling well, he has that ever-so-hopeful look in his eyes that I will love on him, take care of him and nurture him back to good health. YOU BETCHA I WILL!

October 27, 2004

Why I Love Him

Because right there in the middle of the parking lot outside of the sushi restaurant where we just had eaten lunch, he gave me a long, passionate kiss and hugged me tight. He then stared at my head and asked me how many new gray hairs I have after last night's incident with my daughter.

October 18, 2004

Why I Love Him

When I'm in the bathroom doing my business and make unexpected noises, he cheers me on and tells me I'm doing a good job.

Honey, I'm Home

When Jon and I moved in together last year, I had no idea it would be one of the hardest things I had ever done. I went from my comfortable and sparsely furnished 1600 square foot house and moved into his 1300 square foot town home that doubled as a storage unit. Never in my life have I met someone with SO MUCH STUFF. I knew it wouldn't be easy to integrate my stuff with his (including my daughter), but I never anticipated the difficulty it would bring to our relationship.

First of all, I'm a pretty strong-willed person. I know how I like things, and I know how I want things. And I've always had things the way I like and want them. Problem with that now is that Jon is exactly the same way. He is stronger willed than me (hard to imagine!), and has only had to share his space with roommates or his previous wife, but never with kids. And the difference with the previous wife is that she was more compliant than I. I don't go down without a fight (let's not go there, you dirty minded people!), and so as soon as we moved in together and I started making suggestions about how we should arrange this or that, the problems began.

There are times when I am mega frustrated with the layout of his townhome in general. It's three floors of poorly planned space, and some of those spaces just aren't conducive to there being furniture in the room. What the fuck were the builders thinking, I often wonder. And given that I didn't have a lot of decent furniture anyway, I ended up selling the stuff that I did have and decided that living with Jon's furniture would be the best bet. Problem with that is that I hate his furniture as much as I hated the stuff I had, so I went from having crap to having more crap. I never had a chance at being satisfied with the furnishings! But in the spirit of wanting to make this marriage work, I bit the bullet and decided to just live with what we had until we got to a place where we could get new things.

I've noticed, however, that the house tends to give off this air of uber-bachelorness. And I haven't been quiet about this. So Jon has been working hard to help me arrange things in ways that make me happier and help me feel more like the space is also mine. Together, we've cleared out some of the clutter and rearranged furniture. There is talk of renting a storage unit so that we can move some of the boxes and currently unused belongings there. Just yesterday, we invested in a corner fish aquarium and stand that actually looks decent in our living room. We're also talking about finally going to purchase that entertainment center that I've wanted for so long. Things are coming together!

I guess the difference now, after a year of living together, is that we both seem to be on the same page. Now that my house is sold and I have a bit of extra money each month, we've been working hard to pay down our debt. We talk a lot about the things we want, and we're starting to make plans towards that end. I'm feeling more stable in the environment, even if all the clutter leaves me feeling from time to time like I'm just a visitor in someone else's house. I'm very happy at just being with him in the space we have together, because our life together feels right.

So now I know that it's not about the space as much as it is about the feeling of comfort and contentment of what is in it. As long as Jon is there, I'm going to be happy. Isn't that what the feeling of home is about anyway?

October 13, 2004

Just Because He Loves Me

rose_101304.jpg

Jon gets MAJOR BROWNIE POINTS for this. And oh how he loves those!

September 26, 2003

Call me Mrs. Sherman!

On 9.14.03, Jon and I were married in a simple ceremony in his parents' backyard in East Syracuse, NY. Here are some pictures. There will be more forthcoming, along with some video snippets. Also, there are some pics here

Life is extremely busy. I've been packing up my old house, settling into the new one and trying to write papers for my English class. I've received all As so far.

As usual, I will attempt to update more often. . . really.

:-)

August 21, 2003

jdi!

we're getting married!

september 14, 2003 at 2 p.m. in east syracuse, new york.

i'm very excited. :)

June 04, 2003

Return of the jdi

things are looking up!

jon and i are back in relationship again, taking it slowly and one step at a time. he's agreed to a monogamous relationship with me, and i've agreed to be patient and work on things with him. i'm guardedly optimistic, but i must say it feels good to be back with him in some real sense of togetherness. jdi! :-)

also, i just found out this morning that tori amos will be coming to raleigh in august, so i quickly sent an email to mikewhy at the dent and let him know that while the show wasn't listed yet on ticketmaster's website that it was on the venue's site. so he posted it and gave me credit for letting him know. cool! tickets go on sale saturday, so i'm quite sure i'll be sitting at a computer going nuts around 10 a.m. jon even said he'd go to the concert with me (a first for him), so it's a double bonus for diane! woohoo!

let's hear it for humpday!

April 08, 2003

Changing Stages

i'm working past denial into anger now, and i find that i have random moments of being really pissed off that my romantic relationship with jon has ended. PISSED! it doesn't seem fair that two people who love each other can't make it work. i guess the differences are too great.

i still love him, but there has been so much pain in recent days and weeks that it's hard to feel anything other than heartache. he's withdrawn from me romantically. we spend very little quality time together. again, all expected, but still vastly different from what things were like just a few short weeks ago.

this is the first time i've ever been alone. this is my chance at building a life for myself without a man there as a crutch. i am surviving. i can admit that it doesn't feel very good a lot of the time and it's not easy.

but i'm ok.

March 18, 2003

180

and here we are, nearly two months later.. and everything has changed. the wedding is off. the relationship has changed, and life as i know it is much different. i even bought a volkswagen passat yesterday. it rules!

i'm sad, though. very sad. jon has been a big part of my life for nearly five years now, and i'm not quite sure yet what i'm doing and what i'm going to do without him in my life like he has been.

suggestions? mail me. i need friends.

January 22, 2003

Wedding Dates

we've finally set a wedding date... well, two dates actually... he wants to get married in New York, I want to get married in North Carolina.. so we're having two ceremonies. Our official date of marriage will be September 14, 2003. The second ceremony will be October 11.

This should prove to be interesting. :)

September 04, 2002

Yes, I Will!

on saturday night, jon asked me to marry him. i accepted.

wanna see the ring?

:-)

July 12, 2001

Miscommunication

my cold seems to be waning, which is great. so i'm feeling a little better and have my head all into this software today. i found a set of headphones, and i'm about to run to the car to grab a number of tori cds so i can work like i'm used to working.

tonight after work it's off to mom's house to help her get word installed so she can edit the policy documents i created for her a few weeks ago. i'll be glad when my responsibility for that project is taken care of and i'm no longer needed. i feel like i'm spread a bit thin at the moment anyway... what with all my new responsibilities at work and home. it's hard sometimes wanting to help others and not finding any time or inclination to do so.

i felt a little lonely this morning, even though i woke up next to jon. i guess my morning has to start a bit earlier than his, so essentially when i'm ready to leave, he's just getting up. the lazy days of unemployment are gone... so i need to stop being sad that there's a lack of quality time at every juncture. this is real life. even so, i had about ten minutes to spare before i had to leave... and i mentioned to him that i was going to lay down and just enjoy the time with him. he wandered into his computer room... and i guess that sort of upset me... so i gathered my bags and told him goodbye. when i arrived at work, he had left me a message and wanted to know why i was unhappy. i told him i needed affection, but was otherwise ok and not to worry. we discussed the miscommunication of this morning.. turns out he was just going to start a cd burning of last night's mpeg conversions.. and then was going to come back and snuggle with me for a few minutes. but i never gave him the chance as i promptly left.

sometimes it doesn't pay to keep the fragile ego protected behind the walls i build.

now i miss him and look forward to more time with him. but tonight it probably won't happen.. and i'm still not sure on plans for tomorrow. we'll see.

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