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March 3, 2010 – Credit card debt free!

March 4, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated (proof  yet again of my inability to keep up writing projects), but I wanted to do a special post that means a lot to me:

I’M CREDIT CARD DEBT FREE!!!

Paid off my last credit card, Discover, 2 months ahead of schedule – yeah baby! Don’t know how I did it, as my work situation has changed due to the economy. Since last October, my work hours have been cut by 40% and so I’m operating on 60% of my usual income. It’s forced me to find other sources of income, namely selling on eBay.

I’m off Wednesdays and Fridays which I use to go through thrift shops and buy merchandise to sell. I’ve settled on mostly certain brands of clothing that sell well on eBay and generally have averaged $250-$300 net a month which does help. Last month brought in $500 net, which was wonderful but I think I’ve emptied out the local stores as my last 2 trips have not been fruitful. I guess they need time to replenish.

It’s a LOT of time and effort for not too much payoff, but I also do enjoy the time off, as well as hunting for treasures in stores. I’m pretty good about not buying stuff for myself during my trips, but I’m telling you, thrift stores nowadays are AMAZING bargains for clothes shopping! I can easily fill my wardrobe with Theory, BCBG, Ann Taylor, Club Monaco just from all thrift store shopping. I can’t imagine paying retail for these brands anymore! Sure, it’s still difficult because you only find one piece in one size, but if you’re diligent and enjoy the hunt, finding clothes that fit you is not a problem.

To get back to my remaining debt, here it is:

Student Loan $5437.93

Friend Loan $7200

Friend #2 Loan $8200

Conservative estimate of paying off is September 2011, but I will probably beat that by a few months. This has been a long and tiring journey, but I am proud of myself for getting this far.

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Woohoo! Car is paid off!

June 17, 2009

Just wanted to drop a note that I made my last car payment today of $998.31 and now my car is finally paid off~! No small thanks to my eBay efforts which have been helping my spring cleaning at the same time. It’s slowly winding down as I’m running out of sellable items.

Lately I’ve been reading blogs about people making extra money by regularly visiting garage sales and thrift stores and reselling on eBay. I’m not a good garage sale buyer (curious, but don’t really care for them) and thrift stores, well… oh let’s just say it, I don’t care too much for shopping. Still, it’s a nice accessible idea – I do have a few thrift stores in my area. I might check them out.

Debt Update

June 3, 2009

I haven’t been online much lately (horrible habit of not being able to keep up with writing projects), but I just wanted to log in my debt update as of today. Still chopping away at the debt which is good. Depending on how my eBay auctions end up, I may be able to pay my car off completely this month, but if not, I’ll definitely get it done by July. I’ll need to run the numbers again in Excel to see how the month delay will affect my other debt payoffs, namely Advanta and Discover. My 0% promotional rate with Advanta ends in October, so after the car, that’s the next thing to go before the rate adjusts. Discover is May 2010, so that is second.

JUNE 2009 DEBT UPDATE

Auto Loan $1,300

Advanta $1,969

Discover $7,210

Student Loan $5,698.60

Friend #1 Loan $8,400

Friend #2 Loan $8,200

TOTAL $32,777.60

Total paid off this year (by end of June – half year mark) = $9,926.25

Not too bad, especially since I am cash flowing the remainder of my college education, due to be done by first half of 2010. I would love to add the college fund portion to my debt snowball, but with the economy, it’s pretty important to me to finish this up, especially since fees are due to go up next year.

Nothing too exciting to report in other words; just steadily chipping away. I can’t say that I don’t at times feel impatient at the seemingly slow progress, but listening to Dave Ramsey especially on Fridays where he gets his Debt-Free calls is really a great motivator.

eBay Update

May 7, 2009

Last week, I sold two items on eBay which totaled to $132. Not bad at all. I have five more auctions running this week which will almost clear out my real estate investing program library (the reason I got into debt in the first place), so hopefully that will add a little more fuel to the fire in paying down my debt snowball. I so want to pay off my car by June, and although my current snowball has it set in July, I’m hoping that a W-4 adjustment (I had a bigger refund coming next year and I’d rather use that money now) and my eBay sales will help accelerate that.

Still looking for craft ideas but that has stalled for the moment, while I finish up my classes this semester. I’ll be so glad to get school done, so I can free up more time to find extra income.

Another Reason to Love FNBO Direct

May 7, 2009

About a month ago, I switched my emergency fund account to FNBO Direct, primarily because of its competitive rate and good user reviews overall. Today, I found another reason that has really gotten me impressed with FNBO.

FNBO sent me an email announcing their “Pay Yourself First Challenge” winners, which was the first time I had even heard of it, so I checked the website out. Here is an excerpt of what the Challenge is about:

The Challenge will follow five everyday people in their quest for savings greatness by using the Pay Yourself First method. FNBO Direct will match, dollar-for-dollar1, what each of the five finalists has saved at the end of the Challenge. The grand prize winner will also be whisked away to a luxurious spa destination to restore his or her personal balance2.

Pay Yourself First means depositing your paycheck into an FNBO Direct Online Savings Account (OSA). When bills are due you simply transfer just what you need from savings to your FNBO Direct Online BillPay account. Whatever’s left over – whether it’s $25 or $500 — stays in your OSA and earns an interest rate that is seven times higher than traditional saving accounts3.

It takes even more discipline in these difficult economic times to save. FNBO Direct recognizes the hardship that comes with increasing costs for gas, food and other basic necessities. According to a Federal Reserve study, about 43 percent of U.S. families spend more than they earn. In February 2008 alone, consumer debt continued to grow as Americans tacked on nearly $5.0 billion in net new debt (Source: Federal Reserve; revised figures as of 4/7/08). The main idea behind the Pay Yourself First Challenge is to deposit paychecks into an OSA, but the end goal is for consumers to see the value of growing their money through a disciplined approach to saving.

How awesome is that?! I really commend FNBO for taking a pro-active approach to help people save more. This would be a great program for all banks and credit unions to do and a wonderful business model to boot.

Thoughts on Debunking the “Jesus Myth”

May 3, 2009

This is a diversion from my usual blog posts, but involves something that has been on my mind lately. But first, a little background about me is in order:

I was born and raised in a Christian family. My father was a pastor of a Pentacostal church, and you can say that I came from several generations of religious believers. During my high school years, we joined a more fundamentalist conservative church of which my parents became fairly known as the “poster couple” of the church’s beliefs and remain to this day, devoted and loyal. I, on the other hand, gradually became more disenchanted with the church’s beliefs because I was unable to align my own developing life philosophy with its ideals. This eventually led to my voluntary departure of the church, my family, and everything I had believed about my Christian faith that had been a part of me for my entire life.

Before you assume that I’m one of the bitter, disillusioned folks who “lost their religion,” through intense study and contemplation, I have come to accept with peace that there is not just one way to the divine, but many, each according to his own life experiences, and the spiritual peace that I found has no specific label and needs none. I am perfectly content in the unknowing of all the answers in life because it is not important for me to know right now – because the answers are within the journey itself.

I won’t go further than this, but suffice to say, while I do not affiliate myself with a particular religion or spiritual discipline, my spirituality is a part of me. Integral to that spirituality is the willingness to keep an open mind to all possibilities, but questioning everything to determine what rings true for me.

My BF (“K”) was not raised in a religious background, and he has an understandably disdainful and distrustful view of religion, especially Christianity. This does not bother me; this is his experience. We both watched “Religulous” and “The God Who Doesn’t Exist” and just as the narrators stated, K exclaimed incredulously how intelligent people could be so stupid as to not question whether the very story of Jesus could possibly have taken place in history. How can intelligent people who would normally scoff at someone today who might claim that he could turn water into wine, walk on the water, or die for all the sins of the world, even those who hadn’t been born yet, believe without question that the very same events, on which they built their entire faith and spiritual future, occurred two thousand years ago based on a book that was written by various scholars but was undoubtedly, of course, written by the hand of God? K’s conclusion was that such people had to be just plain stupid and ignorant in their refusal to face the truth.

I had a different, and more compassionate take on it. But what bugged me about films like “Religulous” and “The God Who Doesn’t Exist” was that the approach that non-religious skeptics take in debunking religion is invariably that they attempt to prove that the founder of the religion couldn’t have existed in historical records in the first place, and therefore, the religion itself had no divine basis.

If the purpose of such documentaries was to somehow persuade or convince Christians that their religion must be false because  there was no way that Jesus could have existed two thousand years ago, then I believe they have failed miserably in their crusade. The majority of people who likely watched are those who needed no such convincing in the first place, like K.

I realized that one cannot persuade the religious faithful to abandon their faith because the basis of their faith was not that a certain man named Jesus of Nazareth once lived in Israel long ago, but that they have chosen to rest their life’s hopes, dreams and ultimate happiness within the construct of the faith they call Christianity. It’s the same with Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, etc. So no amount of evidential proof that Jesus did not exist would move the hearts of the majority of Christians. It almost doesn’t matter whether the proof is there or not. Believers are not scientists, and even scientists once upon a time, believed firmly that the sun revolved around the earth and the earth was flat. Believers have a very personal stake in their faith that has to do with where they place their happiness, and they will protect that happiness at all costs.

I understand that, and ultimately I respect their choice. To me, religion is like a box, and people are choosing what type of box in which they want to rest their hopes and happiness. One is just as good as another, as long as it meets their needs. There are some who absolutely must put a name to the divine; I don’t. I believe the divine is that which cannot be named, because it is Everything. There is nothing that it is not.

Unfortunately, there are those who use their religion as a tool to prop their self-esteem, to hide their insecurities, and therefore, use it to wield superiority over others. It is sad, very sad, that so many have died, are dying and so many more have yet to die because of this fact. But tragedy can be the impetus to progress and understanding; the most bitter fruits are the ones that teach us the most. I hope and pray that one day we will learn to understand and accept each other unconditionally with love.

Paid $400 Toward Auto Loan Today

April 30, 2009

After preparing May’s budget after I deposited my paycheck today, I’m set to pay $1217.70 towards my auto loan this month. Due to an unexpected parking ticket, I had to slightly reduce my intended amount, but hopefully will make it up with my eBay sales this month. Incidentally, how lucky am I that Auctiva decided to extend its free trial throughout May?! Very cool site, and convenient. I have about 7 saved auctions right now that are just waiting for me to take pictures of the items so I can post them.

Going back to the car, after all allocations, $400 of that $1217.70 is available from today’s paycheck, so I just went and paid that off. What can I say, I LOVE hitting that PAY button…

I’ve been checking out library books on crafts to see if I can make something to sell online as a part time gig to generate extra income. I’m not particularly crafty though (that gene went to my sister), so I didn’t see anything that really rocked my boat. I do want to make Japanese lamps (I think they’re so pretty) and think they would be popular, but I’ve never done woodworking before and I don’t have any tools. I’ll keep looking…

I still haven’t switched over to YNAB yet. I’m just so used to my Google Excel spreadsheets and really enjoy being able to fiddle with them at home and office.