Saturday, May 10, 2008

Economic Stimulus Here I Come

I received $600 from the IRS this week, and I plan to spend every penny of it.
For nearly a year, I have scrimped and saved to meet my financial goals. 

Yes, I do budget a bit of fun into my life each month. I also allow an occasional purchase. (I have made two since January - a shirt from a thrift store that cost less than $20 and a chair from a used furniture store that cost less than $100.)

Nevertheless, I have dutifully delayed gratification on numerous fronts. No more, at least with this stack of cash. So here is how I plan to spend my stimulus money at locally-owned businesses:
  1. Buy a compost bin - I want to turn the mound of leaves and my vegetable scraps into fertile soil. I could probably save money by building one, but I rent my house and want the bin to be mobile when I move.
  2. Buy a new battery for my laptop - My current one has been kaput for months. (I will place an order with the independently owned Mac shop, not the one at the Mall.)
  3. Repair my broken TV - I dropped it off at a shop a few weeks ago. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.
  4. Have fun with my friends next weekend when we get together in Baltimore. (The airplane ticket has already been purchased.)
These are the rewards I am giving myself for diligently sticking to my budget and meeting my debt/savings goals so far. 

They may cost more than $600. We'll see. If anything, the battery purchase can be delayed.

But I feel the need to grab the carrot and take a bite at least once in a while. Is that really so bad?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Up go the savings

May is going to be a glorious month. 

Today, I can happily report that my emergency fund has reached $4,000. By the time the month ends, I will reach the magic mark of $5,000 - the halfway point to my goal. Woo hoo!

The frugal me is developing biceps of steel. 

Oh how my life has changed in a year.

While I had stopped using my credit card last January, I continued to shop regularly for $100 pair of shoes. I was no longer adding to my credit card debt, but I wasn't really paying it off either.

Today, I can say that I have purchased only clothing item this year -- a $16 shirt from a second-hand store. My credit card debt is gone. And my savings are sky rocketing.

Today, I feel unstoppable!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Double Payment Whammy

I am still in my 30s, so why I do I keep forgetting that I already made my monthly student loan payment? This has happened twice this year!
The first error occurred in January. I scheduled my payment online about a week before it was due. I checked back a few days later and saw no payment pending, so I reentered the automatic withdrawal request thinking I had made a mistake earlier. Yeah, I was wrong. 

The second one happened this week. Same situation.  Its as if my financial responsibility is on overdrive, or perhaps battling a case of dementia.

Why is this even a problem if I am working to be debt free? I have set strict monthly savings goals to make sure I meet the big target of $10,000 in my emergency fund by Oct. 1. The $200 over payment could make me miss it.

I think it is time to find something new to sell on Craig's List.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My 401(k) fees doubled - have yours?

It may seem like a small amount to charge -- $2 a month to "manage" my retirement account. 
It is nearly double, though, what I paid at the beginning of the year. My company quietly raised the fees about a month ago, or rather, allowed the financial services company that oversees our 401(k) program to boost them. 

The only reason I noticed is because I painstakingly enter each investment transaction in my Quicken program.

The costs add up over time, especially if you consider the eight percent annual rate of return I could have earned had I been allowed to keep that extra dollar a month. 

At a minimum, the added fees likely mean I will have almost $1,000 less when I retire. The loss could be much greater over time, though, since the standard fees being assessed as fractions of shares I hold, not dollar amounts. As the market recovers, the cash value of these deductions will increase. Many financial companies also increase the share charge as the balance of your account grows.

I have asked for detailed cost information from the firm that manages my company's program. I'll let you know when I hear back from them.

If you need a reason to be concerned, or at least well informed about what is being deducted from 401(k) account, read this Los Angeles Times series published in 2006. 

Some charges are not being disclosed at all.

The paper noted that people like John Fuchs, an IT manager, are paying about $500 a year in hidden management fees. For him, the charges mean more than $300,000 in lost savings by the time he retires. 

A bill is pending in Congress to require 401(k) participants at least be told what they are being docked, but according to a Times editorial today, "The measure has drawn still opposition from securities firms, which have complained that employers and workers would be confused and even deterred by a detailed disclosure of the various categories of fees."

The editorial also goes on to argue, "Arrangements between employers and retirement plan providers that hide fees from those who pay them prevent market forces from holding down those charges."

I am glad I never transferred my retirement savings from other employers into the program where I currently work. I instead chose to move it into a rollover IRA at a brokerage company. It is at least required by law to tell me what is being taken from my account.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I am a featured link on the Carnival of Debt Reduction, the 136th edition. No Debt Plan is the host, and I would like to thank Kevin for including me this week.
If you have a moment, check out the selections. They can be quite inspiring.

Update: The Carnival of Personal Finance linked to my Sharper Image? post below. Thank you, Frank at The Happy Rock!

Check out his other picks, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Give me a distraction

I reduced my debt by one percent this week. Oh how that increment pains me.

As much joy as I take in seeing my emergency fund build, it is still difficult for me to delay making the huge payments needed to quickly kill the rest of my debt.

Dwelling on this, though, accomplishes nothing. Since I will probably feel it acutely again next month -- when I make the minimum payment on my student loan -- I think I have found a way to distract myself from the frustration.

Besides the twin pillars of saving and eliminating debt, there are a host of other things I could be doing to secure my financial stability and peace.  They are the kind of tasks that are important but are about as enjoyable as cleaning out a rank refrigerator.

So perhaps of the double whammy of a burgeoning cash nest egg AND a dwindling list of castor-oil shoulds will do the trick.

Here are the items I would like to see accomplished over the next five months while I await reaching my $10,000 emergency fund goal:
  • Create a will 
  • Create a living will
  • Create a power of attorney
  • Review employer-paid life insurance and boost coverage if necessary
  • Review employer-paid disability insurance and boost if necessary
  • Do household inventory for my renter's insurance policy, the one I will need in case of fire or theft and have never, ever done
  • Organize personal financial records 
Just seeing the condensed list on my blog is cringe inducing. Still, I think it is worth a try. This goal things seems to be working for me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Beauty

Thursday has become one of my favorite days of the month, when my salary is deposited into my checking account. 
In the old days (less than a year ago), I used to begin thinking about what I "needed" to buy over the next two weeks, until my next pay day arrived. 

Now, the first thing I do is transfer a huge chunk to savings. Today that amount equals $1,000. My glee overfloweth.

The transformation from spender to saver did not occur immediately. I felt deprived, but focused, during the first seven months I made sacrifices to quickly eliminate my credit card debt. 

Like all creatures of habit, though, I have adjusted. Living way below my means is no longer quite the arduous task it once was. 

At the same time, the benefits are growing sweeter. I can now survive almost three months of unemployment. This is no idle accomplishment, given the uncertainty at my company.

The change is beautiful, at least to me. I have my first taste of financial peace, and I love it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A wonderful thing about sharing your financial struggles with others is when they join you on the trek to improvement.

For a time, a group of female friends at work would gather once a week to discuss our money goals. My father likened it to a financial version of Weight Watchers.

As we each achieved our immediate goals, though, the meetings fell to the wayside.

So I feel fortunate that one friend in particular has stuck with the journey. We both have paid off our credit cards, but we still owe much on student loans and desperately need more savings. 

On Saturday, we took a three mile walk together around a lake and discussed the financial road ahead of us. It was so invigorating. 

Sometimes it is the little things in life that sustain us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sharper Image?

Understanding the perils of debt is akin to seeing a dinosaur in a Magic Eye stereogram.
Remember those once-popular, colorful prints with hidden 3D images that could only be seen with steady, unfocused gazing?  

Thanks to a whack to my vision, I finally saw the monster lurking in my finances. 

So when I read this story from the New York Times on the increase of retail business bankruptcies, I saw my old foibles on display.

Many retailers have relied on borrowed money to finance merchandise purchases and meet payroll, according to reporter Michael Barbaro. When sales are strong, the debts are repaid. 

Enter a market downturn and perhaps recession, plus a growing mortgage credit crisis that has made lenders unwilling to extend new loans.

The equivalent in my life would be a cut in pay or a layoff, which is never quite off the table at my company, while my credit card was maxed out.

I was surprised to see Levitz, Bombay and Sharper Image among those that filed for bankruptcy. Linens N' Things is weighing the move as well. Apparently their executives are no brighter than I was.

A retail consultant said the consumer spending slowdown was merely wiping out the "bottom tier" of companies.

I wonder. It seems this approach to business and personal finance is way too common. Unfortunately.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

To reflect

It has been nine months since I began the onslaught to right my profligate ways.
While I am still a little more than a year away from achieving the most important goal -- being debt free -- I take comfort in noting how profoundly my financial behavior has changed.

Here is a list of three new, and essential, nerdy habits I have acquired so far:

1. I diligently track my spending, with the help of a trusty software program. This has allowed me to continuously find new expenses to pare. It also has made me acutely aware of how each dollar used for a purchase is one less that can go into in my emergency fund (my primary goal at the moment given persistent layoff buzz). My monthly expenses have dropped to about half my take home pay now. Talk about living below one's means.

2. I review my budget at the beginning of each month and reevaluate my spending. I also run reports to see how well I hit the mark the previous month. I keenly know my weak spots now. The biggest one is not taking the time on Sunday to make my lunches for the week. Every time I tell myself that I'll fix something on the fly, it never happens. So note to self -- suck it up and cook EVERY Sunday, not just most of them.

3. As soon as my salary hits my checking account, I throw the money I budgeted for savings into the emergency fund. Next, I pay any bills due in the coming two weeks. As a result, little confusion -- or delusion -- exists over how much money I really have until my next paycheck arrives.

4. When I can, I listen to the online stream of Dave Ramsey's show on Fridays. He devotes this day to listeners who call and scream -- "We're debt free!" They also share how they reached the milestone. I am a total sap about this. I find it completely motivating to hear how long people worked to rid themselves of debt and the exultation in their voices at having achieved it. For me, it will be about a two-year process in all. You can count on a huge shout from these lungs when it is all done.

There are other habits I could note, but these are the big ones. 

I'm starting to feel a bit like an athlete, preparing for the big game of wealth building once I remove the $14K weights I currently have around my ankles.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Here's a bit of good news.
I checked my IRA and 401k accounts today, something I have avoided doing much because the balances seemed to drop each time I looked.

My investments were up $1,900. Woo hoo! I still haven't made up all my losses since October, and I realize my holdings could slide again tomorrow. Nevertheless, it is nice to see my net worth climb again.

It has been a little disheartening to work so hard to pay off my debt and build up my cash savings only to see my retirement accounts decline in value. It seemed at times as if I was jogging at a stand still, waiting for the crosswalk sign to change, instead of improving my overall financial position.

The Dave Ramsey debt reduction plan I started nearly a year ago calls for no contributions to retirement until the debt is gone and the emergency fund is complete. It has been a scary feeling not to give to my 401K, but it keeps me motivated to fix my mess quickly. 

The Ramsey way has one downside, at least lately -- it makes market drops all the more glaring, because I have no new contributions to mask them. Hence the hamster-on-a-spinning-wheel feeling I have.

I eagerly await the magic month --  June 2009, when my debt is gone and emergency fund is complete. My retirement contributions will return in full force, with an additional 5 percent on top of what I had been making.

My new short-term goals will then be home ownership and boosting my net worth to $100K. Hopefully, this can be accomplished in another 2-3 years. 

A girl can dream, and strive, can't she?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Relief, or something like it

It appears I have survived another round of layoffs. 
No one has been fired in two weeks, so I am assuming the bloodbath is over. Unlike last year, no official announcements were made. We do not even know how many people were let go. It really is appalling. 

I often find myself counting the days until my immediate financial goals are met, a favorite distracting reverie. If only I could fast forward my life until next
June -- no debt, $10K cash in the bank. Oh the Freedom. The savings will continue after I reach the mark, of course. But there is something magic about obtaining that first big, round number. 

I do have other things to consider, though.

While I love what I do, I have begun to entertain other career options. There is only so much I am willing to sacrifice to stay in this industry. The worthy employers are becoming fewer in number.

I'm giving myself until next summer to find a job doing the same kind of work, but at a different company. 

If that fails, I will be taking the plunge into a new career. I don't know what that is yet. There is much thinking to do. Switching as I near 40 is not going to be easy, especially since I want to do something that satisfies my mind and heart.

Life is too brief to want to speed through any of it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Knock, knock

Three weeks after paying off my credit card, the offers for new ones seem to be increasing.
The most amusing letter to date is from American Express. It arrived today, greeting me with the following:

The road to financial success has many milestones marking how far you've come. You've just reached one such milestone. You've been Selected for the American Express Preferred Rewards Green Card.

It also praises my financial record and lists all the benefits I would get with their credit card, including no pre-set spending limit. Yikes!

I have nothing against the company. I just find it ironic given the sacrifices I have made to rid myself of consumer debt. After all, this is the first month in years I received a credit card statement with a zero balance and no interest charges. 

These are the milestones that matters to me.

It is hard for me to imagine any circumstances under which I would get one again given how universally accepted debit cards have become.

The only debt I would consider assuming at this point would be a home loan. I will not be ready for this, though, until I pay everything else off, save a hefty down payment and enjoy living life for a while without ANY loans.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bach me

My friend, a.k.a. Monkey, mentioned tonight how certain moments in life became sweeter after she began guarding her pennies closely.
She recently treated herself and her beaux to $80 tickets for a performance of J.S. Bach's St. Mathew Passion. The experience, she said, was more intense now that pricey excursions were rare.

It has happened to me, too. At times I feel like my puritan quest to eliminate Debt is in some sense a pursuit for simplicity -- to learn how to consume only what I truly need. It has been a hairy trek since I cling to habits, particularly the bad ones.  Yet it has also has yielded childish joy in what was once mundane.

My example, perhaps a shallow one, will appear tomorrow in the form of a fancy haircut. (I do have pangs of vanity, despite my deprivations of late.) I can't wait for the scalp massage, the free glass of wine and the hour and a half a talented stylist will devote to my beauty. 

It is my reward for slaying my MasterCard. It will also make me look a little less slovenly as I wear jeans and motorcycle boots I to my corporate job.

Granted, her fine work will have to survive another five months. But the bounce it will give promises to last for weeks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A brighter side

Being an insufferable optimist does have its benefits.

Not only does it balance my inner Eeyore, it softens the blow of disappointments.

Delaying my debt payoff so I can build my emergency fund to $10,000 is such a case. I have been a tad down at having to revise my financial goals to accommodate job uncertainty. So I started researching what I could earn once I hit my savings target. 

Thankfully, my current bank will pay 2.82% APY -- double what I now have -- once I reach the mark. This is almost as much as the rate I pay on my student loan.

So by October I will begin accruing nearly $25 a month in interest income. Not only will this be the most I have ever received on my cash savings, it will ease the pain of prolonging monthly interest payments of about $38 on my student loans.

I may be able to find better deals at other banks, but the convenience of having my checking and savings at the same institution is valuable to me. Transfers immediately appear in my checking account when emergencies arise, and refunding my savings account is just as instantaneous.

Sometimes it is important to take comfort in the little things.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pardon the interruption

I have been a wayward blogger of late. Please forgive me.

Like much of the country, I became obsessed with the presidential primary races. So when I came home from work, I hopped on the web to read the latest news and developments. This left little time for diary entries on my debt reduction plan.

But with the Democratic battle turning into a war of attrition and the Republican nomination settled, my spare time can now turn back to tracking my financial progress.

And I do have good news to share.

I paid off my credit card! Woo hoo! I have been mentally doing back flips for two weeks now, and I see no signs of this waning.

The amount of pride I feel in accomplishing this -- in seven months -- cannot be under estimated. It reflects mucho sacrifice. I have not had a hair cut in five months. My living room TV remains broken. The CD drive on my computer stands unrepaired. Many social outings have been spurned so I could babysit to earn extra cash. An untold number of beans have been eaten.

I am allowing myself at least one treat to celebrate. I will finally see my hairdresser on Thursday. I will ask her, though, to give me another cut that can endure five months until my next appointment. For I still have much to accomplish.

The week I completely paid off my credit card, the chairman of my company announced another round of layoffs. I have been spared, this time. But who nows how long the reprieve will last. My industry is convulsing, and nothing can be taken for granted.

So I have revised my goals. I originally strove to be debt free by the end of the year. This must now be put on pause while I build up my financial safety cushion. I intend to amass $10,000 in my emergency fund by Oct. 1. The amount is roughly equivalent to six months of living expenses. 

I will continue to make minimum payments on my student loan. After I accumulate the necessary savings, I will return to throwing every spare penny towards this debt. I should have both my student and family loans reduced to zero by Summer 2009.

It hurts to postpone my freedom from debt by another six months. Delayed gratification must apply to this endeavor, too?!

My larger goal, though, is financial stability. Starting next year, my employer will offer severance pay equivalent to one week of pay (instead of two) for every year worked at the company. For me, that means a month's salary should I be axed. That would not sustain me and my two little dogs for very long.

I still love what I do, and I am far from ready to find another vocation. As a result, I must change my ways accordingly to reduce the risk of working in this industry. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oh To Be Average

A conversation with my roommate about recession -- whether we were in one -- prompted me to look up the definition on the Federal Reserve Bank's website. As I was searching for it, I came across this chart:

I was stunned. The chart is too old to show what news organizations have recently reported -- that we now have a NEGATIVE savings rate. 

What had turned us into a nation of spenders instead of savers?

The Federal Reserve pointed to studies that show the dip was due to wealthy families saving less of their income because their stock holdings soared in the 1990s. 

I found this to be even more distressing. So I am to assume that relatively poor folks like me typically save next to nothing? Ugh.

I can't wait to be the exception. Although I would be happy if many of my economic kindred bucked the trend with me as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Well, my debt reduction plan is having a bout of hick ups.

I took one of my dogs to the vet for annual shots. I also had to buy a year's supply of this combo flea and heart worm prevention medicine. Cost -- about $240.

Then there is the going away party I agreed to throw for a dear friend and colleague. 

To get rid of the budding flea population in my house and clean a few stains from my sofa, I rented a steam cleaner and bought the requisite supplies. Total cost -- about $40. 

Okay, these expenses can all be justified. 

I did, however, allow myself an indulgence this weekend. I broke down and replaced my living room chair. 

My dogs slowly destroyed it by doing that canine thing where they dig, then circle, before lying down. Over time, they have torn right through the upholstery. I flipped the cushion to prolong its life. After this side met the same fate, I put a used sheet over it. Then another one, to hide the deepening holes in the cushion itself.

So as I cleaned my house the weekend to prepare for the going away party, I took a hard look at my ratty heap of a chair and decided to replace it. 

I did set a limit -- $100. And I lucked out. My favorite used-furniture store had slashed its prices by half to make room for new inventory. I found a lovely white vinyl, mid-century piece that hopefully will be immune to puppy claws. 

As a result, this month my only payment to my credit card will be the $1000 I threw at it last week.

In a perfect world, I would have been able to slice another $500 chunk off the debt mound in a week. 

I shouldn't complain too much, though. Other people have true financial woes befall them -- such as a blown transmission or worse.

Here's hoping a few baby sitting gigs come my way this month, at least enough to cover the chair. 

I think it is time to put the banjo up for sale on Craig's List.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


This is the day that makes the battle to spend ever fewer pennies worth it. 

My pay check hit my account at the stroke of midnight. As soon as I woke up, I lobbed another sack of change at my credit card. It was particularly sweet today, because the sum was $1000.

If friends had told me a year ago I could pay that amount -- from one pay check -- towards my debt, I would have looked at them as if they were cross-eyed. 

It helps that I have no insurance payments for my car and motorcycle this month. Still, I haven't lived this frugal since college. I realize that my budget has room for a little more expense paring, but I feel it is an accomplishment nonetheless.

Nevertheless, the excitement is tinged with a bit of regret. While I have reduced paid nearly $10,000 towards principal and interest in 6 months, I can't help but think of my misspent years. 

I take solace in having saved at least saving some money towards retirement. I am staring down 40, though, and wish I had wised up a little sooner.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Puff puff

It is day nine for me -- quitting cigarettes, that is.

I wish I could say I did it save the $125 or so per month I was spending on them -- or annualized, about $1,500. At a pack a day, the habit was pricey. But no, I did it because my company was going to charge me an additional $100 per month, on top of my regular health insurance premiums, for being a smoker.

That was just too insane to continue -- $2,700 a year for a stinky vice? Um, no.

I have to take solace in my savings, because I am still fighting murderous impulses from the withdrawals. 

The money I did not spend on cigarette these past nine days, about $36, was enough to cover my grocery bill this week. Woo hoo! Take that, Marlboro Man.

Next, but not this month, will be my afternoon addiction of diet soda and chicken nuggets. There is only so much a girl can do at one time.

The drive to rid myself of debt is actually doing what no amount of health advisories could accomplish -- making me shed my poor food habits. Granted, I do eat really well for all other meals. No fast food or processed items. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all made from scratch. 
Still, I do have my predilections. 

Monday, January 7, 2008

Black beans, please

After six months on a debt-reduction diet, I have mastered the cooking of black beans. 

This week the tasty legumes will again be my primary means of nutrition for lunch, along with some decent whole wheat tortillas. I am so thankful for cumin and limes. Without them, I could not regularly eat the penny-pinching staple for five-day stretches at a time. 
The task of winnowing my expenses to ever smaller amounts has grown easier with time -- for the most part. 

I did keep three luxuries -- a cell phone plan with lots of minutes, basic cable and high-speed internet access. I felt the cell phone was somewhat justifiable, since I have no land line. My roommate splits the cost of cable and internet, so that bill is not quite so onerous.

As for my gym membership? Gone. Subscriptions to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal? History. And my hair? Cut only once since July. I turned the visit into a reward for cutting my credit card debt in half.

I also have learned to do without other amenities. The large-screen TV I inherited from a friend broke in November. A repair or replacement is waiting until the debt is gone. For now, I am watching the 12-inch set in my bedroom. My personal laptop no longer has a functioning CD/DVD player. That, too, must wait.

I did allow myself to buy new running shoes with Christmas money I received. Now that I have quit smoking, I do not want to become a gordita. Vanity still occupies at least a small place in my life.

If only I could tame the most vexing of habitual expenditures of all -- the afternoon snack. I crave a Diet Coke from the vending machine as if it were oxygen and I an emphysemic. Cost -- $1.35. Equally pernicious are the chicken nuggets from the company cafeteria.  Those set me back $2.00. At least I can limit the chicken treats to once a week. The soda is another story. I drink it daily. Perhaps I should just buy a 12-pack, store it in a desk drawer and be done with it. 

It may seem like a petty battle, but the coke habit alone costs me more than $300 a year. I think I can beat the chicken nuggets. The soda, however, looks like trench warfare.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Maiden posting

I have never cared much about money. So realizing I had become a slave to the dollar was a bit of a shock.

My awakening came in June. Ten percent of my colleagues decided to leave the company in exchange for generous severance packages. Yet another upheval in an industry experiencing perpetual tremors from tanking revenues. Many had worked there for decades, so they left with a year's worth of salary. As someone hired three years ago, I knew I would not be so lucky should a quake hit directly under my feet.

I looked over my finances with the worst case scenario in mind -- a most unpleasant task. I owed more than $26,000: to bank for credit card purchases, to the federal government for my graduate degree, and to my father who bailed me out of a dog-related financial emergency. Meanwhile, a meager $500 sat in my savings account.

If anything happened to my job, the most I would receive from my company would be six weeks of salary, assuming the same severance packages were offered. This would give me little time to find another position in my field. My immediate options would be either grabing a tin can and standing on the corner or taking whatever work was available to pay bills. My career could easily disappear as I struggled to meet my debt obligations and feed my two little dogs.

Fortunately, abject fear is an excellent motivator. So is anger. I had let myself become enslaved to lenders, and I was pissed.

Thankfully, my father recently had given me an excellent book -- Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. So I also had a plan. Now I am pursuing it with a vengance.

Since July 1, I have reduced my credit card balance to $2,800. I should have it paid off next month. Then, I will attack my student loans, which now stand at $11,600. Last will be the loan to my father. By the end of the year, I expect to be debt free. Next comes the goal of increasing my emergency fund from $1,000 to $10,000.

As I slog my way through debt reduction, I seem to have developed an obsession with money. I don't want to accumulate it so I can buy things. I actually have grown even less materialistic since I started this trek.

What I want is a decent mound of cash to ensure my freedom. I would like enough savings to say 'fuck you' -- to my company, should the need arise, or to my industry, should it continue to flail -- and not end up homeless. Then there are the dreams I still hope to pursue, such as motorcycling around the world. And also there is the fate I wish to avoid -- eating Alpo in my senior years because I managed my finances poorly.

Since endlessly talking about money can be a bore to friends, I decided to start a blog instead. Even if no one reads my postings, I think writing them will help me stay motivated and focused. It also can serve as fidget release for my new, non-smoking life, that I started on New Year's Day. Oh, how I wish cigarettes were free.