Justin here. I’m off today. I’ve got a whole weekend, at last! All two days of it! This week wasn’t quite as bad as last – only a day and a half of total life spent slaving at a mind-numbing, depressing facility, rather than the two full days of life spent last week. I have peers who work probably 70 hours or more a week, and I don’t know how they do it. I’m not meant for that.
Still, the extra overtime last month did have some benefits. With our recent awakening to living a more sensible, purposeful life, we had some extra money, and we were able to pay off one of our dumb consumer debts from this past year. One line of credit down, five more to go. We also have another showing of our condo today, and I am still loving the leftovers from Lace’s soon-to-be-famous turkey a week later. Turkey pretty much every night this week, and I’m still not sick of it. I liked the shepherd’s pie last night the best!
We had some other events this week: one potentially very exciting but not a sure thing yet. I was also granted a day off from work in the middle of the week by having something kick out in front of me on the highway, popping one of my tires on the way to work. So maybe that’s partially why this week didn’t feel nearly as long as last week. I could’ve looked at it as $120 for a new tire and paid time off spent on it, but I choose to look at it in better positive terms. I wasn’t hurt, and I spent the day with my family with weather warm enough to go to the playground! Beats a day at work any and every time.
I’m looking forward to getting these other debts paid off as quickly as possible. Unless something is truly dire, taking on any kind of debt is pretty stupid. If you have to finance something, you probably shouldn’t. Taking on even the smallest monthly payment may not seem like a big deal, but it adds up and is all going on the risky assumption that your income is going to remain stable enough over that time to pay off the debt. I’ve lost jobs without warning, even in my current career. My hours have the potential to decrease, and if that happens it feels like I’m being financially choked because we have stretched our monthly budget way too thin. We currently have $1,200 a month in monthly payments that have to be made on things we didn’t truly need. If we don’t bring in enough extra income to pay those payments on top of our regular monthly expenses (which are also extremely high here), we take on the risk of being hit with astronomical interest charges. As it stands, two of those debts are car loans that are taking on interest no matter what.
If you don’t have debt and you have something you want to buy, look at what a monthly payment would cost to finance that purchase. Put that amount of money aside each month until you have enough to buy it without financing. I understand this takes great patience in a world where we’ve come to expect instant gratification, but if you have a bad month where you couldn’t save that money towards your purchase it won’t quite feel like the end of the world is upon you. It may feel annoying that your anticipated purchase is delayed some, but at least you still feel like your head is above water.
I know this seems like dingus advice, but I haven’t followed it and I know most of our society doesn’t follow it either. Credit card companies and stores are all too thrilled that our total consumer debt continues to rise every year, no matter what the state of the economy may be. I understand wanting that new phone or even “needing” a new car or appliance. “Swipe the card and I can have it today! If this card is maxed out, I’ll open up another one. I’ll figure out how to pay for it later. I’m sure I’ll make enough. I just need to work a few more dozen hours.” But my advice is to think before you buy and truly assess if what you think you need is actually a need. Is it so dire that you couldn’t possibly live some prolonged period of time without it? Could you adapt to life without it for a while? If you do need it, is there a cheaper version available of that product that would be capable of doing the job for you just as well as the version you are considering purchasing? In some cases, we have purchased the more expensive item because the store wouldn’t offer “special financing” on the cheaper option. That low monthly payment in an interest-free promotional period may seem very manageable, but it still means in the long run that you paid more of your hard earned money than you perhaps needed to.
I’ve just recently opened up an online investment banking account, and I plan to start putting money in when these other stupid debts are paid off. I plan to pretty much make it like paying off a debt to myself, where I will make regular monthly payments, and at least one of those accounts will be designated for saving towards large purchases. Shit happens in life, and so I want shit happens safety net money so that I can replace an appliance or a tire without wracking my brain on how I’m going to make enough money to make up for that to month’s unexpected expenses. With this approach, if I can only save $10 into one of those accounts one month because our income was lower than expected, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world, as we would still be able to live without the anxiety of needing to pay things off on time or else drown in debt. We will instead “pay ourselves,” and in doing that we won’t have to worry nearly as much about the what-ifs associated with our income that can plague on our peace of mind.