One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

Tag Archives: Credit card debt

When I was working in the corporate world, I had two very distinct selections of clothing:  “work” clothes, and “weekend” clothes.

If you opened my closet, you would have been easily able to identify which items belonged in which category.  Work clothes consisted of lots of dry-clean-only type of stuff from Gap, Banana Republic, and Nordstrom in shades of black/brown/gray/cream– things like slacks, pencil skirts, suits, button down blouses, blazers, nice dresses, nylons, and lots and lots of high heeled boots and pumps.  Weekend clothes were comfy and colorful things like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, socks, flats, and sneakers.  Having two totally different styles of clothing for the work and non-work parts of my life were part of the reason  why my closets and dressers were so jammed full of stuff–the other part being due to my unfortunate shopaholic tendencies.

I recently got an email from a clothing store advertising a sale on “weekend wear”, and it occurred to me that I no longer have a wardrobe that distinguishes between the two styles – pretty much most of my daily wardrobe is weekend wear, with a few slightly more dressed up options.  As a full time actor, there are some mornings when I have to get up, dress presentably, put on makeup, fix my hair, and either go to auditions, a recording studio, meetings, rehearsals, or other events that put me out in public.  But there are more mornings where I get up, put on workout clothes, walk Stella, eat breakfast, work out, answer email, and then start working from home on recording/auditioning/reading scripts/memorizing lines and before I know it Ron is almost due home from the office and I’ve yet to shower or officially get dressed or even stop to eat lunch.  I may talk to a lot of people via phone or email during the day, but no one actually SEES me, so I don’t spend much time worrying about what I look like or how I’m dressed, especially if I’m on a deadline.

This means that things like my slippers get a ton of wear.  I used to have (unsurprisingly) about four pairs of slippers, but in one of my early decluttering sessions after I started this blog, I got rid of all but my one favorite pair.  They aren’t particularly expensive or fancy, but I really like the style and how comfortable they are.  I’ve had them for easily 10 years, and have worn them a LOT (I am one of those people whose hands and feet are often cold – just ask Ron, who has to endure me getting into bed at night and putting my icy fingers and toes against his perpetually heat-radiating body to warm up).  Last year, while we were still in debt-pay down mode, I was sitting on the couch with my feet propped up facing Ron, and I saw him stare at the soles of my slippers and then gently say, “Uhhh…honey, I know money is tight, but I’m sure we could figure out a way to get you a new pair of slippers.”

I knew why he was saying it.  From the top, my slippers looked totally normal:

slipper top

But from the bottom, they were definitely looking a bit worse for wear:

slipper bottom

And you have to see the side view too, to really appreciate how gross loved they were:

slipper side

The thing was, I knew I could have afforded a new pair – Fred Meyer, Kmart, or even a Walgreens sell slippers very inexpensively, and often offer coupons as well.  But since my mission has been to buy fewer, better things, and because slippers are something I knew I would wear really often, I wanted them to be a high quality pair that I LOVED.

Which made the process of finding a new pair become way too important and painstaking.  It took me MONTHS.  Well, to be fair, some of those months were in the summer, when it’s way too hot for slippers, but I cannot tell you how many online and in person searches I did to find a good replacement.  I scoured countless websites, read hundreds of reviews, stalked various shoe departments, and still couldn’t find anything I felt was right – or more accurately, “perfect”.  I was even wiling to shell out a lot of money for them – I saw some really similar but ridiculously expensive ones by Ugg, for nearly $90, and was seriously considering them, until I noticed that most of the reviews said the sizing was consistently either too big or too small if you’re a half size, like me.

And then, I finally had to remind myself that no matter how much I loved my new pair, or how much money I spent on them, much like my old pair, the new pair would wear out someday, and I’d have to buy new ones.  And while I was wasting all this stupid time fretting over finding something “perfect”, I was spending every day of my present life walking around with holes in my soles.

A day after I had this thought, I happened to be walking past J. Crew, and they were in the midst a huge sale.  In multiple baskets on the display tables were pretty pastel piles of cozy slippers.  Next to the baskets were signs that said, “Additional 40% off.”  And in the lavender color that I liked the most, they had exactly one pair left in my size.  So I bought them – for a very reasonable $27.

I LOVE my new slippers.  They are cozy, pretty, and sooooo comfortable:

new slipper top

And even better, they have non-slip rubber soles, with no holes in them:

new slipper side

And even better than THAT, I have them right NOW, and I am wearing them every day.  (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did throw the old ones away).

In the end, of course, we’re just talking about a silly pair of slippers.  But the experience was a good reminder for me that if seeking perfection becomes your entire focus, you’re a) probably never going to achieve it, and b) you will spend way too much time during that process living with circumstances or things you really need to release.

What about you?  Is there an area in your life where you are seeking the perfect something, to the point where you’re living without something you could really use right now?  Share in the comments if you feel so inclined!


Happy 2015 everyone!!!!

I realize I have been absent for a looooong time.  I have good excuses though – I was in a play, then went to France for a couple weeks, came home to a ton of work due in a very tight timeline, and then the holidays hit and well, that pretty much brings us up to date.  I’m hoping to blog at least once a week if possible this year, but I know I’ve said that before and then…you know…life.

Another reason for the inactivity is precisely that – inactivity.  For the past few months I haven’t really done much cleaning, decluttering, or reevaluating.  It’s been all I could do to just be where I needed to be and make deadlines on time.  And while my house, purse, and car have been a MESS all fall and winter, I’m also happy to report I did very little purchasing either, so it was sort of a zero sum game on the whole lagom seeking mission.

I am proud to say that we did not go into credit card debt for our vacation, and while I did buy a few things in Europe, I didn’t go nuts either.  I bought a few, carefully curated, carefully planned items that I had done a lot of research on before our trip, and all in all, I spent VERY little time shopping – which was weird and great all at the same time.  Instead, we explored beautiful places, ate amazing food and drank tons of wine:

But for the most part, over the past few months when this blog has been silent, I’ve just been sitting with my stuff as it is, not really thinking about it one way or the other, and therefore have made no real changes.  With the launch of a fresh new year though, I have begun to feel a renewed sense of wanting to lighten my life.

For Christmas, Ron gave me a copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and reading it has newly inspired me to think about what I truly need, use, and love, and what stuff I’ve just grown accustomed to seeing in my space.  Ms. Kondo is a bit more of an extreme minimalist than I aspire to be, and I’m not 100% sure I subscribe to everything she suggests, but I still really enjoyed her book.  It’s made me start looking around with a keen eye again, and let me tell you, when that happens…nothing in my path is safe.

Even though Ron did not read the book and I haven’t really talked to him about it,  he seems to be on the same wavelength as well.  Yesterday morning, as we were putting away all the Christmas decorations, we were moving the armoire that holds our tv, stereo, dvd player, cable box, phone, etc. back into place, and he asked me how I would feel about getting rid of the stereo, since we never really use it.  We own a couple high quality smartphone speaker docks, and we just tend to plug our phones into one of those and listen to our music that way – I can’t really remember the last time I got out a CD and used the stereo.  So I agreed, and from there we also decided to get rid of the dvd player we have upstairs (it’s fairly old and had not been working properly, and we still have another one that does work in another part of the house, and I can’t say I’ve been missing the broken one since we usually watch movies on cable anyway).

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Then we went through the rest of the armoire, clearing our dvd collection of any movies we no longer cared about, our cd collection of music we no longer listened to, and I tossed about 60 (seriously) empty cd jewel cases I had been saving for oh, NO APPARENT REASON.  I even found a small stack of old VHS tapes that somehow survived the last purge, despite the fact it’s been about three years since we’ve owned a TV with a VHS player on which to use them:

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I particularly love the two that are titled “Laura – Misc. Tape”, with no further indication of anything else that is on them.  Especially since I don’t own anything to play them on in order to find out.  Genius decision making right there, folks.

And when I went to get a couple bags to hold the stuff we were getting rid of, I found myself plowing through a bunch of those well intentioned reusable shopping bags that multiply like rabbits in the closet because I always think I’ll use them, and then, of course, don’t.  Ron and I picked through them and each chose a couple to keep that we liked best, and the rest we got rid of.  In the process, I also I found not one, but TWO lost scarves I’d been searching madly for over the past couple weeks tangled up in the mess.

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As anyone who has been reading the blog for a while knows, I have been at this process since January of 2013, and with each area of my home I’ve decluttered, I’ve always gotten to the point where I’ve thought “That’s it – I can’t pare it down any less.  Everything that’s left is something I need, use, and love.”  Fascinating how time can change that perspective, isn’t it?  I think I maybe needed the past few months to just sit quietly with some of my decisions, before I could revisit them with a clear head.  If the first day of 2015 is any indication, I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m excited to discover what’s important to me in the new year.


I’ve been asked a lot lately how it feels to finally be out of debt.  And my first response is always the truth – that it feels amazing, great, a total relief!

But what I usually say next, because it is also the truth, is that life doesn’t feel that much different yet.  In fact, we’re guessing it will be a few months before we really start to feel like we can relax financially.  To get out of debt, we put every spare cent we had towards our credit cards, which means we were frequently down to our last couple dollars at the end of the month.  As a result, there is no extra “fun” money cushion available to us at the moment, and we actually had some significant expenses this month that were planned and expected, but need to be paid all the same.  For instance, we had to do some repairs to the duct work in our house after we discovered one had come loose and we were paying to heat the crawl space instead of the house, which cost about $500.  We put off Stella’s annual shots and vet exam for a couple months due to our finances, which we felt really anxious and guilty about, so we said we’d make it happen this month no matter what and we did –  to the tune of about $250 bucks.  So we may not have to come up with our usual credit card payment anymore, but we still do have to come up with close to $1,000 this month.  I’m just grateful we don’t have to come up with the credit card payment ON TOP of that.

So yeah…life is not all that different for the most part.

But there is one effect of being debt-free that HAS surprised me – knowing we will soon have some discretionary income again has made me want to get rid of more stuff!  I had felt pretty plateaued out on the whole purging process, and felt like maybe I had finally reached my lagom in certain categories.  But right after we got out of debt, I suddenly felt this surge of of wanting to get rid of things, especially where my clothing was concerned.  Weird, right?

Well, maybe not.  Because when I think about it, much of the reason I was holding on to some items was because I wasn’t sure how long it would be until we were out of debt and I was no longer on such a strict shopping lockdown.  I was hesitant to throw out too many of my clothing options when I knew I couldn’t buy something new if I got bored.  And that fear made me clingy.

But knowing that it’s now an option (within reason) to replace something that is worn out, or to add a new item to my closet that I really love and think I will use, made me start to reevaluate things I’ve hung onto that I don’t love as much.  Also, the weather in Portland has been absolutely glorious, so a couple weeks ago I took my spring/summer stuff out of storage and retired my heavier winter clothes.  As I was about to hang each stored piece back into the closet, I really took a minute to decide if I still loved each garment, and in several cases the answer was either “no” or “eh…I dunno.”

This time, instead of doing what I’ve always done – which is to just shove everything back in the closet anyway – I decided if the item wasn’t a definite “I love it” piece, I would test drive it. I would wear the item as soon as possible, and if it was uncomfortable, or didn’t really suit my lifestyle anymore, or made me feel frumpy, or dove me crazy in any way, it had to go.

It proved to be a great exercise.  Some items I only wore half a day before I couldn’t stand it anymore and changed into something else.  Some things didn’t even make it past getting dressed in the morning and checking my reflection before they landed in the giveaway pile.  In truth, I was probably being super duper extra critical of everything, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in my case.  As someone who has been prone to emotional and impulse buying, it’s good for me to practice being really, REALLY critical of purchases, whether that’s before I buy them (preferably), or admitting that they were mistakes after the fact and letting that acknowledgement make me more cautious moving forward.  I found myself learning a TON about what I really love and want, and what I need to carefully consider and avoid the next time I’m about to buy.

For instance, I’ve been a such a sucker for a sale in the past, that I’ve been known to buy things that aren’t my actual size, thinking I may take them to a tailor, or that the fit isn’t as bad as I think it is.  The items I test drove reminded me that I will pretty much NEVER take something to the tailor (because I’m lazy), and the fit is absolutely as bad as I think it is.  As a result I barely wear the item.  Like this very cute blouse from Anthropolgie:

blouse

It was on sale, and I loved it.  But it was one size above my usual size.  I bought it anyway, and then every time I wore it, I spent a lot of time checking to make sure the neckline was still in place (it often wasn’t).  It looked great if I stood perfectly still, but as soon as I did something crazy, like, you know, move around, I was showing the world my cute blouse AND my cute bra.  Classy.

Also, both these skirts have been hanging in my closet for years:

skirs

I don’t wear them that often.  Why?  Because despite the way I WISH my body was shaped, my actual shape does not look good in a skirt that’s cut like this.  Again, if I stand perfectly still, it looks great.  As soon as I start walking though, skirts like this start inching up around my hips and I spend all day tugging them back down.  They’re meant to hit just above the knee, but frequently on me, they scrunch up to miniskirt length.  I did make it through a whole day in the brown skirt, but it made me miserable and when I got home, I immediately took it off and threw it in the giveaway pile.

This shirt is a perfect example of how shopaholic crazed I can get sometimes:

pink top

I saw it online, and it was on sale.  I dawdled about buying it for a couple days, but then decided I was going to get it, because it was the style I was looking for, I loved the color, and it was on sale.  But when I went back to the website to purchase it, they no longer had it in my size.  Suddenly I went from wanting the shirt in a nonchalant way, to an obsessive, white hot panic to track down another one just like it at any cost.  I trolled the web for a couple days and found another one for double the price of the one that had been on sale, and was just about to buy it, when I happened to check back with the initial website, and they suddenly had it available in my size again.  I triumphantly bought it, and was so excited to get it…until it arrived.  It was much cuter online than in person – in person it was much boxier, and the neckline was a lot lower than I’d realized.  Much like the blouse mentioned above, every time I wore it I found myself checking to see if my bra was showing.  I kept it for longer than I should have, trying to convince myself I liked it, because when I thought about the fervor with which I’d pursued it, I felt stupid.  But that’s the trouble with keeping things that make you feel that way – every time you look in your closet, they mock you and remind you of your mistake.  I decided it was better to admit my error and get rid of it, rather than have to look at it every day and feel guilty.

In the end, the size of the pile I amassed really surprised me:

pile

But I didn’t feel hesitant about getting rid of any of it.  I took it to resale and walked out with $84, which I’ve used to replace some of my worn out basic summer staples like shorts and t-shirts.  Everything I bought I found on incredible sales ($8.99 for some summer t-shirts at J. Crew, are you kidding me???), and I love the colors I chose, the quality of the items, and how they fit.

I have less stuff in my closet now than I’ve ever had, and while there still may be a few “on the fence” items lurking in there, I am pretty thrilled with everything I’ve kept, and still feel like I have a lot of stuff – maybe even too much.  It may not be be lagom yet, but it sure has been a pleasure to get dressed in the morning.


As of today, May 16th, 2014, Ron and I are officially out of credit card debt.

Let me just say that again….

WE ARE OUT OF CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!!!!!!

(Gee, it feels good to type that sentence!)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recall that it was May of 2013 when we took my dad’s advice about a process for paying down our debt and finally got really serious about digging ourselves out of the financial hole.  A year later, we’ve accomplished it.  I know I probably sound all braggy, but trust me, it was a long, crappy, depressing year filled with a lot of work, cost cutting, saying no to things, and very little fun.  So I’m gonna brag a little, because I feel like we’ve earned it.  I couldn’t be prouder of us.

A year ago this time, between my personal credit card, Ron’s credit card, and a joint household credit card, we were $26,000 in debt.  It took me a long time to be able to admit our debt number to people, because I was ashamed of it.  I knew we’d racked up that debt with some legitimate costs, but most of it was the result of a lot of careless spending, on stuff we didn’t need or love.  Whether our number was more or less than anyone else’s is irrelevant – what matters is that we don’t have the income to support carrying that kind of debt, so for us, it was a really bad idea.  Not to mention, the interest those cards were accruing was DISGUSTING.  In order to pay it off in a year, we have been trying to come up with roughly $1,300 just in credit card payments every month, which let me tell you, was no easy feat with my variable actor income, and all our other bills.

But it’s over now – we have paid off every single penny, and it feels amazing.  A week ago, when I asked Ron what he thought it would feel like to finally have it all behind us, he said, “I imagine it being like when the main character in a fairy tale is finally freed from the spell of an evil witch or wizard or something.  That’s what this past year has felt like – like we’ve been under some kind of bad curse that couldn’t be broken.”  That’s actually a pretty accurate description.  Now we just feel…FREE.

I’ll write a post sometime soon with more specifics about our pay down process for anyone who is interested, but today, we are just going to celebrate. Ron took the day off work, and I don’t have a ton I have to do so we can spend some relaxed time together.   We have a fancy bottle of champagne we’ve been saving for a special occasion, and I can’t think of a better time to drink it.  While we still haven’t bolstered our account up enough to go out to dinner to celebrate, we’ll make a nice dinner at home, and the character I play on Grimm is in tonight’s episode (season finale!), so we’ll probably stay home and watch that.  And we won’t have to feel guilty about any of it, because we aren’t charging anything to make it happen, and it’s totally within our means.

Best.  Day.  Ever.

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I cannot tell you how excited I am to share this story from my friend Danielle Fournier.  I got a message from Danielle one day after she read one of my posts, sharing some details of her own story and I begged her to write a guest post for me.  I’ll go ahead and let you discover it for yourself, but I have to say, I am so inspired and humbled by Danielle’s journey and her honesty about the details of how she got herself into debt and then found her way out of it.  All I can say to Danielle is, “Bravo!”, and to my readers, “Enjoy!”:

Confessions Of A Former Shopaholic

I was once a shopaholic.

When I turned 18, I received a $3,000 credit card from my bank. I hit the ground running and didn’t look back.

My first purchase was indicative of a pattern that would lead to near financial ruin fifteen years later. At the time, I lived just up the hill from Frederick & Nelson’s in Seattle. I used  my shiny new credit card to purchase the most useful of items- a full length silver fox fur coat. I celebrated that purchase with perfume from another department, then dinner, then a trip to the cd store. All of it was bought with money I didn’t have.

Credit was cheap in the 90’s. My minimum payments, which was all I ever made, were $35-$75 a month. Easily affordable for a young woman with a roommate, a decent income and no responsibilities or financial planning aspirations.

My credit was so good, I bought a house at 25. By the time I was 30, I had 12 credit cards totaling nearly $80,000 in available credit, two cars on payment, a mortgage and second mortgage. I was a model of credit worthiness, all payments made on time, month after month. My house was lovely, the rooms filled with designer sheets, seasonal decor, and collectibles. I had three sets of dishes, including  a service of fine china, and closets full of fashionable clothes, most with the tags still intact. Life was good.

However, it wasn’t really. I lived on credit. I had gas cards, department store cards, regular Visas and Mastercards, plus an American Express. Debit cards weren’t in high use yet, but I had an active check book and ATM card. I spent money as fast as I could make it. I never, ever had more than $40 on me, because I was breaking $100s the minute I got them. But hey, the money kept coming in every month, so who cared?

Two events happened a year apart that would bring me to my financial knees and change my life forever.

On May 27, 2007, my younger brother was involved in a diving accident that would devastate our family in ways both financial and emotional. Spinal cord injuries require vast amounts of care involving medications, caregivers, and surgeries. My parents saw their retirements wiped away in a matter of months caring for their son when the insurance wouldn’t cover expenses.

I found myself leaving a three generation family business to go into sales in my brother’s business while we figured out what his prognosis was. Three months turned into six, then a year. I spent six days a week traveling. My bills started falling behind.

I sold my car. I used the money for something other than my bills. I stopped buying a new wardrobe every season. I kept working, but the bills kept stacking up in my new position with lower pay. As a family, we all pitched in and just made it work that first year. We all lived in a haze of sadness over the injury, but remained hopeful for both physical and financial recovery.

I received a phone call from my father in October of 2008. I had turned over my finances to him during the past year when I was working out of town. The truth is, I knew I was in trouble and I couldn’t face the facts, so I just let him handle it. I completely stuck my head in the sand.

I knew what was coming. I had to sell my house.

I cried and cried and cried. I had turned a humble chalet with yellow Formica and glued down carpeting on five acres into a charming abode with high ceilings and custom wood floors. I was so proud I had done this in my twenties. I had all these things that signaled me as a success. And now I was going to part with each and every one of them.

I felt like a horrible failure. But it was the beginning of the happiest time of my life.

My beautiful little house sold in less than three weeks. I had no time to sort or even clean. Box after box went into the moving van. I had rented a tiny apartment next to my parents in Seattle that had room for a bed, a love seat, a desk and a bookcase. The kitchen was three burners, a small sink and a mini fridge. Everything else went into three 10×20 storage units.

Since the house had doubled in value, I paid all my debts off. I then closed each card, dying as I cut each one to bits over a trash can. They weren’t any good anyway. I had stopped paying them three months before when I could no longer afford the payments. My cheap and easy credit had ballooned to a whopping $7,000 a month, the mortgage being the smallest of the bills. I decided wrecking my credit was favorable over not paying off the cards. With my income cut in half, my only choice was to sell everything I owned to pay the debts.

There was one beautiful, beautiful blessing in my house sale. I got to see Paris.

With all my debts paid, I had some left over. I was heartbroken over the past two years and I decided I would let my money serve me for once. I was going to make a dream come true. Stuff, no matter how fine or beautiful, has never filled me up. It has never loved me, never held me or wiped a tear, or left me in wonder after a conversation.

Thanks to a travel agent with a a huge heart and lots of experience, I was able to travel for nine weeks on a budget I had previously reserved for a weeklong soiree at a hotel. Armed with three sets of clothes and a pencil, I roved over 16 countries by myself. I came home a changed person.

It turns out, the worst thing that ever happened to me was really the best thing to ever happen. Strangely enough, letting go gave me so much more than I ever dreamed of. I only pay cash now for anything, preferably with real paper money. Now, when I want to buy a pair of shoes, I do so without remorse or guilt. But I have a rule, for each one that comes in, one item must leave my closet. I have learned to create and respect boundaries with my stuff, which has poured over into all areas of my life.

Cutting the ties with things has opened me up to experience. My identity no longer revolves around labels, and I have found peace in simplicity. From the joy of making my own dinners to being able to afford four weeks of travel a year on a very average income (because I no longer shop frivolously), I live a life no longer tied to my financial security dictating every move I make.

And that is the greatest luxury.

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D.E. Fournier’s stories explore the places where the mundane and the mystical coincide in everyday life. A third generation newspaper publisher, ink is in her blood. She studied Ethnic Studies at Oregon State, before earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. She lives in Seattle. Read her travel blog at http://farandawaytravelblog.blogspot.com/

 

 


For the first time in…well, EVER, we have our taxes done this year before April.  There was a definitely method to our madness– because we are still making significantly large payments to our credit card debt, we decided we would need to plan ahead and figure out a way to save if we owned any money.  We did end up owing some, but not as much (thank God) as we thought we might – in fact, our accountant’s fee was more than what we owed the government, so we are grateful and will be able to pay it in full by the due date.

I asked our accountant how many years of back tax paperwork we truly needed to save – and she said five years was probably enough, but if we wanted to play it safe, seven was the official number.  Because nothing freaks me out more than the thought of having to reconstruct a financial year from memory, I decided to go with saving seven years, but was still able to purge about three years worth of excess paperwork, which felt great.  I set aside an afternoon, plugged in the shredder, and took savage delight in watching all those old bills and receipts get chewed to bits.

But as I was feeding the papers into the machine, the balance on a couple of our old credit card statements caught my eye, and I stopped to read them more carefully.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  Well, when you are a shopaholic, so is an old credit card statement.  It was like stepping back into a Mall of Shame.

For example, look at the average amount of money I spent just in the month of June several years ago:

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Granted this was a couple months before we got married, and it’s  true that expenses can be high during that time – I know a couple things on this statement were wedding related.  But let’s face it, there is a lot of Nordstrom-ing going on this month.  What I also know was that during this month I had left my full time corporate job to take a part time writing job, at a 40% pay cut with no benefits.  There is NO WAY I could afford this level of buying.  And yet…there it is, in black and white, all the places I bought stuff that I probably didn’t need and definitely couldn’t afford.

I flipped forward to the month of our wedding, to see if our spending slowed down any, now that we’d had time to adjust to my new reduced income, but the bill from our joint credit card reflects no such change:

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Again, some more wedding charges, but did we need to go out to eat that much?  And how about throwing away $39 on a late fee (which happened ALL THE TIME during those years).    It should also be noted that we had just received a crapload of presents and new stuff for our wedding, and spent a bunch of money on souvenirs from our honeymoon in Mexico, so WE DIDN’T NEED ANYTHING.  It’s…sad, really.

I decided to look at a statement from close to a year later, to see if I’d finally pulled it together:

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There may be less line items on this one, but holy crap, look at the amounts spent at each place.  $541 in just one trip to Anthropologie?  Don’t forget I’d already been there twice already that month, dropping $226 the first time, and $58 the second time.  And $478 on boots at Bella Moda?  Another $200 on shoes at Johnny Sole?  And clearly my dedication to keeping Nordstrom in business hasn’t waned this month – four visits to the tune of about $240.  Yes, I did make a $400 payment, but I spent more than that in just ONE visit to Anthropologie – there was no way I was getting ahead of my debt.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, and ever wondered if I was being dramatic about my shopping habit, I hope this clears things up.  I have a real problem when it comes to shopping.  I almost typed “had”, but I’m not so cocky as to think I’m over it yet – one of the only things that has kept me in check this past year was the cold grip of fear that closed around my heart whenever I thought about our debt to income ratio. I haven’t shopped because I felt like I absolutely couldn’t do it and still cover our basic bills.   But as our debt is dwindling down, I find myself wondering what will happen after it’s gone, and I have disposable income again- will I go back to my old ways and rack the debt back up?  I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson and I wouldn’t – that from now on I will be responsible and level-headed when it comes to shopping and debt.  But the truth is, I really don’t know.  I guess only time will tell.


In the effort to pay down our debt in as short of a time as possible, we have had to make some lifestyle changes to the way we spend our money.  Along with being on a grocery budget and obvious restrictions around things such as shopping, we’ve cut spending on things like going out to dinner, going to the movies, throwing parties at our house (unless it’s a potluck sort of situation where everyone is bringing something), manicure/pedicures, regular hair salon visits, buying fancy/expensive food items, buying takeaway coffee, buying anything decorative for the house, doing any kind of non-urgent repair work on the house or yard, limited spending on gifts for each other, using up everything we currently have before buying more and not taking vacations.  When I reread this list, I have to admit, all the things we cut truly fall under the category of “luxuries.”  Nowhere on our list are things like “heat for the house” or “food.”  So yes, we are blessed.

And for the most part, I’m not feeling a ton of yearning around most of those cuts.  Yes, it’s nice to be able to buy a coffee whenever I feel like it, but it doesn’t ruin my day to not be able to do that.  I was talking to my friend Rose a few weeks ago about our budget restrictions and she wryly commented, “Yeah, you and your first world problems.  It’s not like you couldn’t afford groceries or had to go out and get a new job during any of this – it just means you can’t always do the stuff you WANT to do.”  She’s totally right.  I may not be able to afford luxuries, but I still get to do my erratically-paying dream career and I’m not homeless or food insecure as a result.  It’s good to be reminded of that.

The one area though, where I do feel the sting of our cutbacks is travel.  God, I love to travel.  I didn’t travel much growing up – we drove from Oregon to Washington every summer to visit relatives, but we didn’t take “We’re going to Disneyland!” style vacations – my family couldn’t afford it.  My mom stayed home to raise kids, and we survived financially on my dad’s income.  I know we weren’t rich, but I never felt poor or deprived.  Because we had never taken vacations as a family, I never really had anything to miss.  Summers meant sleeping in, swimming, picnics in the park, popsicles, riding bikes and watching soap operas.  All are very happy memories for me.

But as a young adult, I started to travel, both in the U. S. and overseas, as a touring actor.  On my first overseas trip I was completely terrified, but once I got the hang of it, I got a serious case of wanderlust that has never been cured.  If I had to choose between living in a gorgeous mansion but never being able to leave town, or to live in small apartment and take several trips a year, I would choose the apartment without a blink.  I love exploring new cities and countries and seeing what life is like for the people who live there.  Travel gave me a totally different perspective on the world and myself, and is a huge contributing factor to who I am today.

As I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t take an annual vacation this year, because we couldn’t justify spending the money when we were trying so hard to get out of debt.  The loss of that trip has not gone unnoticed.  Ron and I spend a lot of time talking about where we would go if we could, and where we will go as soon as we are able to afford it.  The top two contenders at this point are Easter Island in South America, or Santorini in Greece.  Easter Island is a bucket list item for both of us – to see those moai in person has to be nothing short of mind blowing.  And Santorini, with it’s gorgeous views, food, weather and charm, looks equally sensational.  We were discussing the pros and cons of each place, dreaming together, as we often do these days, since we can’t take any action for a while, and part of me started to feel a little depressed as we talked.  Even though we’ve made really incredible progress on our debt, we still have a ways to go, and this last dragging part of it feels oddly longer and heavier than when we owed almost eight times as much – probably because after almost a solid year of scrimping and saying no to things, we’re just sick of it. Instead of feeling hopeful, I felt bitter, like the whole thing is a pipe dream because we will NEVER see the end of this debt, so what was the point in even dreaming about going somewhere?  So I irritably shut the whole thought of a vacation out of my mind.

The next day however, I opened the mailbox, and was greeted by the sight of this catalogue:

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Once again, well played, Universe.  Of all the places in the world the catalogue could have been themed around, it was Satnorini?  It seemed oddly coincidental.  I even wondered if it was a sign of some kind – like that’s the place we should indeed go.  Whether it’s a sign or not, I’m choosing to take it as one, to remind me that even when life feels like a grind, it’s important to keep hoping and dreaming.



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