Putting my little nose to the ground and taking advantage of a little bit of windfall cash that has been coming my way, I almost forgot to notice that I’d gotten rid of my credit card debt! WHOO HOO! Not particularly a little victory, but still an aggravating one. This is the third time I’ve paid the card off after it crept up to ~$5,000.
I did it by making any available payment I could whenever I got the money. I’d put a reasonable amount aside for the budget, for whatever had to be taken care of unexpectedly that week, and then I crammed the rest into a credit card payment. One month I made three payments. Finally, it’s done.
What’s more problematic is why this keeps happening over and over again. There is a small amount of frivolity on those cards, but much of it seems to be life happening with no back up plan. When I divorced, for example, all the utilities were in his name. Putting utilities in my name cost me several hundreds of dollars in deposit money. Some companies let me make payments through my regular bill. Others demanded money upfront. So, out came the card. The importance of a) knowing what your budget really is and b) having an emergency fund has never been more apparent.
I used to have one of those, too. It got depleted in the divorce and refinance of the house. But thank goodness I had it! So, I’m slowly putting it back together. Because my work is contract, and I usually have no money coming in during the summer, I have to first put back my three months of living expenses before I can even think about a six month emergency fund. It’s not easy to make nine months of income stretch to twelve, much less put cash back for emergencies. I guess another way of looking at this is to say I really need a nine month emergency fund — three to live on during known unemployment periods and six in case I have more extended unemployment. For me, that comes to about $23,000. Yeesh. After taxes and my small retirement and insurances are taken out, we’re living on $25,000 a year. So putting back damn near all of your take home pay is not going to happen all at once.
I take advantage of “found money” and now I’m putting all of that away instead of throwing it into credit card debt. After I refinanced my home, I saved about $65 on the mortgage payment each month. I promptly wrapped that into the credit card payment. Now that the credit card payment is gone, I have $200 freed up to put towards putting my summer money and emergency fund back in place. That by itself won’t do it, of course. You can’t even save up enough to live on in the summer in time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing. $200 saved is $200 available when your car breaks down.
And that, to me, is a little victory that eventually might add up to a life that thrives, not just survives. I could become obsessed with having a mortgage and paying it down, but in the meantime, while I’m trying to regain my balance (and believe me there are TONS of things still unbalanced), I’ll celebrate the little victory of having a mortgage payment that’s cheaper than most folks’ rents around here. And while I’m aggravated that this is yet the THIRD time I’ve paid off my credit card, I’ll not waste energy mourning over what I might have done instead with that debt repayment money (a beach with drinks and tiny umbrellas comes to mind). I’ll take the little victory that it’s *done* and that my budget has been enriched by the correction of my mistakes.
So maybe I’ll have to take whatever summer work I can find for the next few years in order to put money back and pay off my divorce debt (sitting at no interest, so I got a good deal there) without having to take out a HELOC on my home. Giving up the time now is worth not incurring yet another debt later. It’s a small victory — especially if I can manage to actually pay bills with new summer sources of funding and not have to dip into saved summer money that can then go on to build a bit more of a cushion for me.
I also used some of the found money to get a good deal on a smallish deep freezer just delivered today (free delivery on appliances, whoo!). It’s an expenditure, but it’s a small victory as I can now put back more than what my meager fridge freezer space will hold. This is especially helpful as I just laid waste to the local Shop ‘n’ Slave during their two day sale-fest. The pantry is coming right along! Hopefully by summer, I’ll be doing well enough to tremendously reduce my food bill. That will be a nice little victory in itself.
The sprouts on my windowsill are a little victory. I usually cannot grow anything green, but the combination of a sunny ledge, some Dixie cups full of dirt and reusing clear plastic food containers as tiny greenhouses seems to have produced some greenery. They cheer me, if nothing else, and some days that victory is big enough.