Monday, 31 December 2007

The Move - 4 Days And Counting

I’m moving on Friday the 4th of January, so this years New Years festivities will be cancelled for me this year. I had two offers, one in the Blue Mountains, which would have been lovely, but would have meant virtually a whole day away from home when I need as much time as possible to sort and de-junk this place. I've been procrastinating badly the past few days due to the heat so really need to get stuck into it or I won’t be ready in time.

The other offer was for a party in Double Bay, with great Harbour views for the fireworks, but getting there and back tonight would have been a very costly nightmare, and would have also taken hours, and I’d rather put the money towards paying the movers and cleaners.

Moving is such a costly exercise. Sure you can save costs doing a lot of it yourself, but due to my circumstances I have to pay professionals to do pretty much all of it this time around, and to be honest, at this point I really see it as something I can throw money at to make the hassle go away.

I was expecting some cash at Christmas that didn't eventuate this year, which I shouldn't have counted on but I foolishly did. So the poor card is taking a beating until payday this month (and until I get my bond back from this place), but it has to be done, as I have to be out by the 7th.

Once I’m in the new place on Friday night though, let the frugality and debt reduction recommence in earnest. First thing will be to get my $1000 emergency fund fully restocked plus 10% (a total of $1100) so any future issues can be managed with cash.

I’ll celebrate my own personal New Years on Saturday the 5th, have my first guests over at the new place.

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Friday, 28 December 2007

Taking Advantage Of 0% Interest To Get A Jump On 2008

I decided to consolidate two of my credit cards (1 and 7 on my ugly truth list) into one today to take advantage of a reduced ongoing interest rate on card 1 (down 2% to 9.95%) and 0% for 6 months (then 9.95% ongoing) for card 7 (currently 18.75%) once they’re both together.

The new balance will be just under $7500 combined and will mean I only have 5 open credit cards instead of the original 7 I started with in September.

Card 7 is currently my focus card that also receives any snowball payments, which I’ll now combine with the fixed minimum payment I've been paying on card 1 ongoing. This should help speed the repayments along when combined with the lower ongoing interest rate and the interest free period on the balance transfer, which will get paid off first.

Card 1 would have been the next card on my snowball plan anyway, so it makes sense to me to take advantage of this offer.

The other interesting thing I found out was that as long as there’s a 0% offer running on the new card and I have enough available credit on it, I can transfer future balances onto it without having to set up a new account, and start another 6 months at 0% on that new balance. Something to ponder once I've got this first lot paid off!

My stretch goal is to have the entire $7500 paid off by the end of May 2008.

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Thursday, 27 December 2007

Times They Are A Changing…As Are My Credit Card Due Dates?

I came home from my Christmas travelling to all of my monthly credit card statements, how delightful.

Three of them have changed their due dates from the 15-16th to the 14th of the month.

This is a real pain as I get paid on the 15th of the month so they will always be late and always incur a late fee. Grrr.

I actually thought I must have assumed the dates were after the 15th, but I checked last months statements and they have actually changed.

I’ll be calling them over the next day or so to see if I can get them changed back, otherwise I’ll need to make double minimum payments on all of them in January to get a month ahead to avoid the late fees ongoing (keeping one set of minimum payments aside for the February due date)

I've also noticed the interest rates slowly creeping up on them with no warning at all from the banks themselves about the changes, very sneaky.

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Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Travel Envy

This time last year I was getting on a plane to fly to Thailand for Christmas. This year I’m off down the south coast of NSW to stay with my sister and her family at their holiday place. I’m perfectly fine with that of course, but sitting here in the office hearing everyone telling each other about their trips ‘home’ makes me a touch envious about their destinations.

My boss is off home to the UK for three weeks, along with what seems like a huge number of other English folk making their annual pilgrimages around my office. I’d never really notice how few locals I actually work with these days! Then there are the New Zealanders jetting off on the weekend. There’s even one guy heading back to France, and a girl off to Mauritius.

At least the en mass return to Adelaide in South Australia eases my envy somewhat. It’s a beautiful city, but it’s a loooong drive from Sydney. My trip is only three hours initially, then on to Canberra for Christmas Eve and the big day itself, then back home on Boxing Day.

I've got no international travel planned for 2008 as it's all about debt reduction, but it's certainly something I want to do more of once I'm debt free.

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Drive By Presents

I was out at dinner with The Car Guy on the other night and we’d agreed no Christmas presents and that we’d pay for each others dinner instead.

It was a lovely night; he’s got lots of things on the boil in his life at the moment so it was great to hear all about them, and it was a warm night so we could sit outside at the restaurant, looking out over the harbour. I told him about all the steps I’m taking to get out from under my debt and he was suitably impressed.

He thinks I should try and buy a place after I’m debt free rather than save a full emergency fund first, so we’ll see how I’m feeling about the whole thing at that point. It’s nice to have people in my non-blog world to be able to open up with about where things are with me financially and feel safe to do so without any judgment.

He offered me a lift home (yay, no cab fare!) and when we got to the car he gave me a present! He claims it’s a flat-warming present for my new place, but it was wrapped in Christmas paper. He’s so naughty, I felt so guilty for not getting him anything.

Has this happened to you this festive season? The present when you’d already agreed no presents?

I've decided not to open it until Christmas day so I’ll have something to open on the day itself.

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Thursday, 20 December 2007

I See Your Wii And Raise You Sea Monkeys!

So you thought the Wii was the ‘must have’ gift this festive season? We you should have seen the number of tech savvy marketing folk gathered around my colleagues desk this afternoon when she arrived back from the mall with Sea Monkeys for her niece.

Everyone had a story about their own childhood experiences with them, it was hilarious!

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

I received an email from my Sister last night.

"It's not like you weren't already the favourite. We went to the city yesterday to do a couple of things and your nephew said "we can't go home yet, we haven't bought anything for Aunty DebtDieter!".

I asked what he thought you might like; "hmmmm jewellery". So I took him to Diva (lots of fun plastic & costume stuff)... "not this jewellery. I think she would like diamonds".

We went home...without buying you a present!

I've got him well trained don't I? *lol*

He's such a cool little guy, I've got him a new CD player and a the Spice Girls Greatest Hits CD to go with it for Christmas. He calls them the 'Spicy Girls'.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

A Festive Frugal Moment

I've done most of my Christmas shopping now, which is a relief. The best part is I've been able to use my Coles Myer vouchers for almost all of it, so I’m not out of pocket at all so far. Yay!

I was in Target last night and felt the familiar pang of wanting to buy a new book. I managed to resist, after spending a good half an hour in the book section reading that backs of many options.

I was getting my shopping out of the car when I got home and noticed a bag under my passenger side seat which wasn't part of my shopping, and when I pulled it out, lo and behold it was a book I’d bought months ago & had forgotten to take out of the car (pre debt diet naturally).

I was quite spun out actually. In case you’re wondering, it was Chart Throb by Ben Elton.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I Found A New Home

funny pictures
picture courtesy

The real estate that I paid the deposit to on Saturday, called me this morning and the place is mine!

They've offered me a 13 month lease starting from the 28 December, which is just fantastic. The extra month is so it doesn't come up for renewal during the Christmas break, when all real estate agents shut up shop for 10 days here.

Knowing exactly what my rental expense will be for the rest of the year will really help with planning and budgeting, as it’s my largest expense after my combined debt payments. Not to mention it’s a load off my mind knowing I've got somewhere for all of 2008 sorted.

I’m really please that the owner was willing to start from the 28th, as it means I’m only paying double rent for one week, not two.

Let the decluttering and packing begin in earnest.

(In addition every single place I applied for over the weekend called me saying I was successful, 4 for 4 strike rate in this market is pretty impressive - go me!)

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Monday, 10 December 2007

Financial Goals For 2008

I’d set some goals to achieve by September 2008 (the anniversary of my starting my debt diet):

  • 4 of my 7 Credit Card balances paid off in full
  • Personal Loan under $20,000
  • Emergency Fund funded to $1,000
  • Retirement Savings at 3% personal contributions
  • Total outstanding debt under $35,000

I've realised now that these are pretty ambitious targets for September 2008, what with moving expenses etc, but a girl has to have a goal, and if I can nail all of these by December 2008, I’ll be thrilled.

I’m also looking at that retirement savings line. I already contribute 1%, but that extra 2 % may actually go into a managed fund instead of Super, or into a First Home Saver Account if the government kicks the scheme off this year instead.

From January 2008, I’m also going to start tracking and reporting (in my Ugly Truth posts) the amount of debt interest I’m paying out. I've avoided seeing the real cost of my financial choices to date, and it’s time I face up to the impact.

If I’m sticking to my plan, the number will go down every month as the balances go down, which will provide extra motivation.

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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Rental Applications Ahoy!

Things are progressing on the 'find a new apartment' search. I've found four nice (as in I'd be happy to live there) places this week and have submitted applications for all of them.

I just had a call from one of the agents of the places asking me to come in and pay a deposit today as they would like to pass on my application to the owner. Hurrah!

This one is the closest to work (easy walk), only 5 minutes walk from a major shopping centre with cinemas and supermarkets.

It's close (but not too close) to major arterial roads to get me where I need to go, not to mention the shopping centre is a major bus hub and there's a rail link currently underway into the area. That may be a bit of a giveaway as to its location for the Sydney readers, but what the hey.

Did I mention there's a hay-uge storage room in the back of the garage for my very own wine cellar. *lol*

It's also the cheapest rent of the four I've applied for so far, which could end up saving me a lot of money compared to the others over the next few years.

Fingers crossed.

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Thursday, 6 December 2007

Someone Is Planning a Big Christmas Party…

Now there are ways to save money at Christmas, and ways to save money at Christmas.

Stealing 16 tonnes of ham and bacon from a Sydney warehouse, leaving the message ‘Thanks, Merry Christmas’ daubed on a wall, is impressive in itself.

Combining it with the 450 kegs of beer and stout stolen from the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, just makes it appear there's a party about to happen somewhere in my book.

I have no clue as to what they intend to do with that much pork product (I've got a pretty good idea about the Guinness though) but I sincerely hope;

  1. they get caught and,
  2. it doesn't go to waste.

I also hope the poor owners of the businesses are insured, it’s hardly the spirit of Christmas to rob people of that sort of thing at this time of year, any time actually.

In my world, my family are all adults now except my nephew; so we've all agreed that no one family group should have to foot the bill or do all the work at Christmas. We’re all allocated something to bring for the 12 of us (I’m on fancy salads this year) to spread the load.

How are you planning (legally of course!) to save money on your Christmas meals?

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Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Keeping Up With My Joneses Part 2 – The Investors

The investors are both very smart with their money. He lived at home until he got married (she moved back home after they got engaged), she is still driving her first car, a 1992 Ford Laser! He swapped his beloved ute for his brothers 4WD when their baby came along.

They were one of the first people in my circle of friends to buy a house. I remember thinking when they bought it that $250,000 was an unbelievably high number, especially when I saw the house! It’s was awful, but they saw the potential and the ‘bones’ of the place.

He’s a mechanic by trade and has lots of other tradie mates, so getting their kitchen, deck, garage and bathroom sorted at cost saved them a lot of money. He did most of the renovations work himself and their place is just lovely now, and worth more than 3 times what they paid for it!

They’re also very good savers/investors. I don’t know the finer details of their investments, but I know that when he got laid off over a year ago, they have been living off their investments ever since. She’d on extended maternity leave, so there’s been no wage related income coming in for over a year and they’re doing fine. They also don’t carry any credit card debt.

They love to travel. They recently got back from an extended trip to Europe (we’re talking months not weeks) with their baby, who started walking in Italy! They rented out their house to friends while they were away to keep funds coming in.

They also have a share in a large boat that he and his partners built themselves, so they spend a lot of time out on that in warmer months. Yay for the invites to join them!

How have I incorporated their way of life into my own?

  • Appreciating my car for the reliable mode of transport that it is, and delaying upgrading any time soon.
  • Really thinking about long term investing and wanting to get into a position to do so as soon as possible.
  • Spending money on something that increases in value is OK.
  • Travel more, but never use credit to do so. (I now have a goal to go to more countries than their 18mth old has been to!)
  • Having friends who have known you forever and want only the best for you is an asset I already have in my portfolio.

This is part 2 of my series Is Keeping Up With ‘The Joneses’ A Bad Thing? In order to protect the privacy of my ‘Joneses’ I've tried to be as generic as possible about their particulars.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Ugly Truth – Day 95

The Ugly Truth

  • Personal Loan - $23123
  • Credit Card 1 - $4950
  • Credit Card2 - $7499
  • Credit Card 3 - $6398
  • Credit Card 4 - $7429 (work expenses to be reimbursed off this one this week)
  • Credit Card 5 - (paid in full)
  • Credit Card 6 - $3925
  • Credit Card 7 - $2993
  • Emergency Fund - $450
  • Savings - $0

Total = $55,867
Debt reduced from last month = $1090
Debt reduced from Sep 2007 = $905

November undid the mess of October, but finding out I have to move before the end of January 2008 meant less to snowball onto debts as I’ll need it for moving costs. I’m still in front though at the moment, which is great news.

I switch to monthly pay from December 1, so this will be a true test of my budgeting powers, especially with double rent to be paid for at least some time when I find a new place.

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Monday, 3 December 2007

December Challenges

Well here I am at month 4 of my debt diet. It’s also Christmas, New Years and I have to find a new apartment and move in before the end of January!

Nothing like a bit of pressure on the finances to make you realise how much better off you’d be without the weight of over $55,000 in consumer debt eh?

Not putting too much extra pressure on myself this month, but I still want to move forward if only 1 step; so here are my simple goals for December:

  • Cash only for Christmas gifts
  • Cash only for Birthday presents/cards (I have a stack of December birthdays to contend with every year)
  • Snowball something this month (if not the full ball, as many flakes as possible!)
  • Live to new budget for the full first monthly pay cycle (this one actually takes me through to 15 January 2008)
  • Use my starter emergency funds towards moving costs, use card only as a last resort. (I'm being realistic here, if it's using it for this or not getting moved, I'm using it)
  • Consolidate all my superannuation into my current account now I've located it all

Ugly Truth for November to come…

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Free Ikea! – Well For Me Anyway

Had a great score at work this morning.

The group that sits next to mine had a delivery of about 40 of these Benjamin stools from Ikea. Turns out they thought the PR company they use had hired them for a recent event, but in fact they’d bought them, then sent them to the office after the event.

So they decided to offer them to anyone who wanted to take them. I’d actually been eyeing these off in the catalogue for ages but had never got around to buying them, They would make great casual side tables, plus extra seating for visitors if you’re having a party or BBQ.

So I snaffled 4 of them. Then, one of the girls in my team who took 2 for herself decided she didn't want them after all, so I now have 6, in exactly the colour I would have bought anyway, and saved myself $174!


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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Be Smart This Christmas And "Yule'' Have Reason To Celebrate

Sorry, couldn't resist! It’s officially the festive season for me as I've received the annual ‘keep yourself nice and don’t grope people at work functions' email from the HR department. It was sent to the whole company by the way, not just me!

I use it as my e-Christmas card to all my ex-company colleagues who are now working elsewhere. Saves money on cards and postage!

My tips for spending less at Christmas:

  • Unless you’re a card person and have been doing them for years and love them, I'd skip the whole process. I read and hear so many people feeling guilty about not getting their cards out.
  • Do you need to buy presents for that many people? Cull your list of non-essential gifts. Do you really have to get something for your dry cleaner and dentist?
  • Buy one decent present instead of lots of gifts for people that you do want to buy for. Even go so far as to ask them what they might like if it’s appropriate.
  • Alternatively, can you give the gift of your time and/or expertise?

I've really culled my Christmas spending over the last few years. My sister and I pushed for the extended family to adopt the ‘Secret Santa’ concept for the adults a couple of years ago and it’s working well. Before that, as the only single I was buying twice as many presents as everyone else!

Now my nephew pulls the names out of a hat in November each year and my sister emails everyone (or calls Nan/Great Aunt) with their person. There’s a $50 limit, so everyone gets something nice, but it’s no strain to anyone (I've put it out on the family grapevine that I’d love a SodaStream).

My nephew, being the only kid in the family at the moment (before he came along the youngest person at the ‘kids table’ was 26!) is excluded from this of course, so everyone buys for him. My sister has got him into the family tradition of the ‘Christmas list’, and he's still young enough to think 'How did we know?' when he gets something from the list that wasn't from his Mum or Dad.

Apparently he’s been cutting out pictures from catalogues for a while now, and if he sees something he particularly likes he’s turned to my sister and said “we’ll have to tell Aunty Debtdieter about this one”. I know I shouldn't laugh, but I think it’s hilarious.

My sister and I used to joke that when he was a baby we should take a photo of him every year on my knee holding one of my credit cards instead of one with Santa.

That doesn't seem quite so amusing these days…

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