Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spare Change

School started up this month.  Which means I get my homeroom teacher bonus back.  (YaY)  It also means that I started tutoring again :)  And I got a promotion (double, triple yay)  so I decided to post my budget because I haven't thought about it in a while... (This is all in NTD, for USD /33 approx.  For CAD /30)

Salary -        72,500
Promotion -   2,000
Tutoring -    10,500  (approx.  this depends on the month)

Total Income: ~ 85,000

Taxes -               3,000
Rent -                 6,000
Other -               2,000         (deductions for lunch, electricity, health care, etc.)

Cell Phone -         250
Chinese Class - 3,000

$$ Home -       45,000
Spending -      15,000

Total Expenses: ~75,000

The spare change at the end of the month stays in my Taiwanese bank account.  I currently have about 35,000 save up ($1000).  This flex money allows me to be a bit freer with my spending and not worry so much when I want to have some fun.  It is also the beginning of my travel fund for my six-week adventure next summer :D

Because I make more than I could ever spend if I tried, micro-budgeting isn't really a huge part of my financial life.   I have the macro stuff worked out and as long as I send home at least 30,000 every month then its clear sailing.  It has been at least six months since I had to drop down to 30,000 home... my average is closer to 50,000!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

So I called my bank

And found out my minimum payment for my student loans had automatically increased from 1% each month to 1.5%

I was shocked.  Though, "theoretically" I knew it was supposed to happen.  I didn't realize it actually had.  It was a luck of the debt gods or money gods.  Or maybe just good timing that I called the bank the same month the increase happened.  I was about to lower my payments to that account this month too, in hopes to pay off my credit card faster.

Well, double whamming, I found out I had to put 5$ more on my loan this month than normal AND I made the payment twice.  Thankfully, I've been stocking money recently for an upcoming adventure, so I had the flex but it was definitely an unwanted mistake.

Oh the life of a money-managing adult.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why I'm happy to be single and traveling the world...

I know exactly when it happened.  It was 2009 and I was sitting on a curb outside my hostel in Seville, Spain.  I had called my ex-boyfriend back home in Canada.  Hoping to maintain the relationship so we could pick up again when I got home two months later.  Tears filled my eyes as he politely asked me to not call again.  The international long distance fees were too expensive.  I knew it was combination of the truth and a tactic to get me to leave him alone.

I don't think he was over me, but he definitely wasn't interested in making any kind of international commitment.   Crying on that curb I made the decision, once and for all, that after 5 years of back-to-back relationships non-stop, it was finally time to really truly take some time for myself.

I spent another 2 months discovering myself in Europe.  Slightly heartbroken but confident that single life was the right choice for me in that time.

Once home, it took another year of pining after that ex while remaining single, for me to finally realize the benefits single life had brought me.  Six more months later, I finally embarked on a 2 month relationship that got way too serious, way too fast... I freaked out and ran... I don't even usually remember this stint but it taught me a very important lesson: I need space in a relationship but am not always strong enough to take it myself.  I think this is why I tend to be attracted to guys who demand space.

A few months after that, I met a boy that sparked my interest.  But we were going in different directions.  For the next 2 years, through five countries (between the two of us), we dated on and off (mostly off).  Writing letters, Facebook messages and Skype.  While we were in the same country we took (and missed) busses, drove a lot and made it work the best we could.  But we weren't meant to be. Our lives were constantly spiralling in completely opposite directions.  It was sad and relieving when we both finally realized and admitted it.  Even though, strong emotions were involved and it was over a long time, I've never really considered this to be a real break to my single phase.

That brings me six months into my journey in Taiwan.  I spent the next year single again.  I went on exactly two dates with a guy I met at HIS OWN goodbye party.  He left the country 6 days after I met him.   Then last November, I met "This Guy"  who I've talked about a bit before.  He made me realize that I'm finally ready to be in a relationship again.

Since my split with This Guy, we've stayed friends.  Hanging out every weekend and other times during the week.   But I've become responsible for my own social life again.  In the month since the break, I've stayed in a few Friday and Saturday nights (which I LOVE doing).  I've had dinner with acquaintances and hung out in my apartment with friends.  I've even left the bar early to go to bed.  I've gone for runs and long walks.  I've gone on adventures with new people.  I have saved money. I've made choices for myself.

I have made choices for myself.  That was worth repeating.    I think I thought that once in a relationship I needed to follow the guy's lead and forget my own needs.   Being single again has allowed me to realize AGAIN how strong I am.  How I can make choices for myself.  How relationships don't fall apart when you do what is best for yourself instead of follow the crowd.  Five years of being single, I had forgotten these benefits.   But I had also forgotten that I don't lose them when coupled up.

As ready for a relationship as I feel like I am, being single and traveling has always been the best way for me to learn about myself.  To grow and develop as a person, a soul, a spirit.  And following the relationship with This Guy, I feel the need to spend a few month as a single traveller, sucking in what I've newly learned.

One day, I'll meet my match.  The man who will push me to grow and develop with him by my side.  The man who will hold me when I'm weak and remind me of the strength within me without leaving me on my own.  The man who I'll be able to leave at the bar when I'm tired,  knowing he'll come home to me later without worry.  The man that will make me laugh and cry and yell and smile and every other emotion.

But I cannot wait.  The world will not wait for me to meet him.  I want every moment of my life to be a happy one.  Single.  Coupled.  Home. Abroad.  These are all just factors to work with... The only constant is ME.  I am single.  I am travelling.  I am happy.  So that's that!  Life choice made.  I will be happy!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back Handed Insults

I went out with a friend for dinner tonight.

[Editor's Note... this was originally posted in a huge fit of anger.  I have gone back and deleted some parts that express the anger in an overly disrespectful way.]

My friend has never had a credit card.  Then last week, his mom got him an extension of hers.

I told him to be careful with his new credit card.

Many of us know that debt can creep up without any realization until it slaps you in the face.   I figured a simple "Be Careful" was a polite gesture....

Instead he came back with "Which one of us has never had any debt? (obvious answer = him)"  and in a snotty voice "How long have you been in debt? (my answer = 8 years)"  and last [my personal favourite] "So who is better able to handle their finances? (his answer = him.... my answer = me)

I've paid off 10k in debt this year.  I have never once missed a loan/credit card payment, so I have a great credit history.  I have over $5,000 in retirement savings and almost $2,000 in an emergency fund, plus about $1,000 in my regular savings account.   I was solely financially responsible for my university degrees (both of them) and basically all other financial responsibilities for myself since I was 16.  I also partially helped support my younger siblings financially while still in high school and paying rent to my mother...

I am really proud of myself financially. I have made mistakes..  I have grown and learned a lot.  So, his questions hurt.  Just because I have debt does not mean I'm not financially responsible.   In fact, if you look at the whole picture of my finances, my hope is the opposite would be plainly evident.

He did say something that made me feel a bit better...

"If I do get into any kind of sticky mess, it is my mom's account so she'll bail me out and keep my credit score good."

To which I simply (though sarcastically) replied, "That shows financial maturity"

I was trying to offer some genuine wisdom from personal experience.  Clearly he wanted none of it.  I wish him the best.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

If not now, then when?

I love traveling.  It has opened my eyes and world to so many things.  It has also made me realize SO many things that I have no idea whether or not I ever would have figured out had I stayed in my comfort zone.

Almost every day, I ask myself the title question.  If not now, then when?

Seriously.  If I not going to do XYZ then when will I?!  I have started saying YES so much more frequently in the last few months.

So yesterday I faced a financial pickle.  I spend $1,375 on plane ticket last month.  I put it on a credit card that didn't have a balance before.  So of course, I had the 30 days grace.  Or maybe it was only 22 days.  I don't know....

I knew that in August I was getting $2,600 back in taxes back. So I didn't mind buying that ticket.  But when I got the tax refund, I didn't want to pay off the full balance.  I tried bargaining with myself to only pay off $1,000.  In the end... If not now, then when? won the question.  If I'm not going to pay it off now, when will I?

A good friend of mine has, very very very vocally, always been against traveling on credit.  And PERFECTLY timed, was a message from him, asking me how I am.  Between his message and stumbling on that question, I did the right thing and paid off the whole balance of that plane ticket.  It hurt a little bit.  But I know, I'll regret this choice less than had I let the balance sit on my card.

So now, I ask you... If not now, then when????  Socially, emotionally, physically, financially, scholastically, etc.  If not now, then when????  GET ON IT!

Love, Jenny~Z

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to snowball my debt...

Hmm... In the last 6 months I've effectively eradicated two different credit cards.


Since paying them off, one of my banks sent a letter informing me that my account was no longer active and would had been closed on my behalf.  That made a little mad because I didn't get a warning.  However, after thinking about it, I really don't need (or want) the card, so all is well.

I'm now left with three debtors
     1. Bank LOC - $17, 000 @ 4%
     2. Government Loan - $11,300 @ 5%
     3. Bank Visa - $14,000 @ 11.99%

I cannot decide which to pay off first...

Mathematically Beneficial Option: To save as much on interest as possible, I should pay off the debt with the greatest interest.

Psychologically Beneficial Option: To keep my motivation high and my likelihood of becoming debt-free more likely, I should pay off my lowest balance first.

From what I can tell, the research shows that you're more likely to succeed at paying off debt if you pay off the debts in order of amount NOT interest rate.  This is because it is more psychologically rewarding to finish paying of a debt than to save money in the long run.  People are more motivated by frequent small and observable wins (eliminating individual debts) than they are by long term seemingly invisible wins (saving interest long term).

My brain is mathematically driven, so I keep flipping between options.  For now, I've decided that I'm going to stick with paying them in order of interest rate.  At least until the minimum payment for my Visa is under $250/month.  Then I plan on revisiting my plan and seeing how it is working.

I am also tracking my balance closely because once it is down it $12,000 I will be eligible to lower my credit limit to $15,000.  Then once my balance is down to $10,000 I will be able to lower my limit to $12,500.  I am looking forward to lowering my limit as my balance decreases until my limit is $5,000.

My hope is that having mini-goals for minimum payments and lowering my credit limit will create those frequent, small and observable wins that help me stay focused and motivated.

What would you do?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Financial Update

In the last year many amazing things have happened...

  • My total debt is less than $45,000 (from 56K a year ago)
  • I paid off two credit cards and closed one of them
  • I doubled my monthly saving
  • I paid cash and bought a flight home (just for a week, issue from previous post is still unresolved)
  • I saved $1000 in Taiwan (in addition to my Canadian savings.)
  • I started planning and saving for a long adventure (going to backpack my way around Asia before coming home next fall.  To do the trip and pay my bills I think I'll need about 10K saved, so we'll see what happens).
  • I stopped ignoring my visa.  I switched the two reoccuring bills from that account to an account that I can pay off every month. I am putting more than double my required payments towards this debt.  I'm looking at lowering my limit every 2-4 months to encourage my progress as I keep at it.  I'm not ignoring this card any more :)

Yay for making a ton  of progress :D