What's Worth > $$$ ? | Dec '13 Update

What's Worth More than Money?


There are 168 hours in a week. If you work for 50 hours, and sleep for 56, then you still have 62 hours left. Awesome! That's working 10 hour week days, and sleeping a full 8 hours each night. When you look at it that way -- which author Lauren Vanderkam's book about this inspired me to do -- you have to ask, WTF am I doing with the other 62 hours?!

So, I sought out to get to the bottom of this like any good Millennial would do, I downloaded an app. It's a bunch of mini stopwatches. Each one has a category (ie. a mini work stopwatch, a mini sleep stopwatch, a mini drinking stopwatch, yes drinking) and you start and stop them based on what you're doing. The trick is to always have at least one going. I've only done it for about 2 days, so I don't know exactly where the 62 are going yet, but the pie chart shows how I carpe diem-ed yesterday: Worked for almost 10 hours, slept only about 6, was at a concert for about 3hrs, and was in transit for almost 3 hours too, mostly because I biked to and from that concert (because now, paying back loans > buying a car)...

As I was biking to the concert there was a line of traffic that rivaled the Macy's parade, which made me feel smart for biking (biking > car again!), but then a drawbridge went up and everyone had to immediately stop. And, all of a sudden, as if I've known her forever, a women who was also biking turned to me and just blurted out nasty complaints in my direction about how awful it was that the bridge was going up, how she didn't see a boat, how this was the worst thing ever ever ever, etc. I think she thought I was going to reciprocate and help her spew nasty complaints all over the Macy's parade traffic. But I was just startled and told her that it's not a big deal, and it'd only be like 10 mins. She stopped talking and started spewing in someone else's direction. 

While waiting for the bridge I enjoyed the water and whether
(only 78 in December in Florida!) and took pictures. 
That little 30 second encounter stuck with me. If there were a mini stopwatch on the app for 'reflecting on your life' this would be on my pie chart... Maybe I'll put it under drinking next time. But I digress... There was a time when I was so stressed and felt so entitled that I would've done the same as that woman did; complain. And maybe even now, when I'm at my very very worst I can get there. And maybe she was in a rush, got some bad news, who knows. But the point is that I realize that I have grown, and learned to cherish each moment, and turned that seemingly negative situation into a time of reverie. Just as can be done with debt.

You can always make more money, but never more time. Spend it wisely. It is not important to spend it quickly, that goes for both money and time, but just that you're on the path you feel is right. Imagine, if the Earth rushed its rotation from 24 hours to 4 hours. Not only would my pie chart be crazy, but everything would be too. The Earth does not rush, you have 24 hours today, and more importantly you have this moment. What matters is that you're on the path/orbit you feel is right. 

Yesterday, I could've stayed home and made $60 in 3 hours from a side gig, or paid $50 to go to a 3 hour concert for a band I've been trying to see for almost 3 years (and still be in my budget this month). Ya, that was an easy one...

Bottom line, make a goal (and a budget), pick a path that's right for you, stick to it, don't let guilt rush you, be in the moment - even the ones that seem bad, and you'll get there...

Making the decision to go after something with all of your might (and write about it for all for all of the internet to see! eep!) is scary (even when it's not unfolding on the internet), and especially when it deals with something so personal as your own financial health. And, what I've learned is that it will be scary, at first, but it will be SO worth it, especially when you meet your goal on your own time and your own terms. Do it!

Aaaaaannndd....speaking of goals, time, and your own terms... the new year is coming up! I am pretty much the queen of new year's resolutions. Nov 2009, made a resolution to loose weight and lost 20lbs even before the clock struck midnight on Dec 31st.1998, become a vegetarian, been meat free 15 years and counting. 

This year, I'm making a financial resolution to focus on abundance more while checking off my financial to-dos before the new year. So, you'll see more posts that try to not only discuss student loan woes, but also student loans and opportunities, with topics like:

"Pay Loans and Save for Retirement? Ha! You're kidding, right?"
"Having a business is more fun than paying student loans! Do it!" 
"To buy house or not to buy house...or to pay of loans first - grrrr...that is the question(s?)"

In the mean time, If you want to start on your own student loan pay off goal, I recommend starting with this simple and unintimidating checklist:  I Want to Pay Off My Student Loans

Also, in national student loan news...

Yesterday Income-Based Repayment Info, a nonprofit. release a report 
(Student Debt & the Class of 2012stating that average student debt climbed from about $25,000 to 
$29,400 for the class of 2012. More crazy facts from the report: "We found that college graduates who 
borrowed for bachelor’s degrees granted in 2012 had an average student loan debt of $29,400. Seven in 
10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt. One-fifth of their debt was in 
private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment 
options than safer federal loans. These national figures are based on new federal data that are only 
available every four years (including 2012), and they include graduates of public, nonprofit, and 
for-profit colleges. "

No matter what your debt burden is, you still have today, spend it wisely, and everything will be just fine.


New Goal November!!!

Since last month's financial (existential) crisis, three great things have happened: 

1. I have a new, shiny, just out of the box goal!
2. My business has taken over my life.
3. I sleep better at night...even though it's for less hours - ha! 

Get your credit cards and some scissors, this is gonna be a good one. 

1. The New Goal: Avalanche vs. Snowfall

I have a new goal!! Yeah yeah! Woot woot! It's not a cop out, I swear. So for those who haven't been keeping score at home, the original plan was to pay off $42k before I turn 30 (which was in 2 years). I was driving myself a little bit crazy. Soooo, after weighing a few options using mostly this amazing tool (I heart the internet!), I realized that I would be throwing away money, time, energy and resources if I paid off my undergrad loans within that time frame. Since my interest on my undergrad loans is so low -- 1.1%, aka almost free money -- then I would actually *loose* money (aka forgo opportunity costs if you wanna be fancy) by paying it sooner. 

Okay, in plain vanilla language here were my options for my undergrad loans:
A. Pay down all of my undergrad loans super quick (18 month)  = Pay ~$6,087 over 18 months
B. Pay down all of my undergrad loans as slow as possible (6yrs) = Pay ~$6,200 over 6 yrs

Answer: B. Why? If someone was robbing you on the street and said, "You can either give me $100 right now, or give me $1 a day for the next 101 days," Which would you choose? I hope you said $1 a day, because today (on day one) you'd still have $99 to spend today, you buy your self TIME to make up the rest and replenish it over days 2 through 101, and it only costs you $1 to buy yourself time and more resources. Let this be a lesson to you in low interest!

On the other hand, if they said, "You can either give me $100 right now, or give me $2 a day for the next 100 days," then giving up the $100 now may be a better idea, since you'd loose $100 more if you went with the $2 a day for 100 days. Let this be a lesson to you in high interest -- aka my grad school loans. 

To put this in perspective, my grad school loans have an interest of 6.55%, and accrue as much interest in *one month*, as my undergrad loans will accrue over the next *six years*...yep, wtf grad school?! So, I have a huge incentive to pay them off sooner rather than later. 

Another way to think of my grad school loans is in terms of the minimum payment. If (A) I paid the minimum on my grad school loans (graph on the left), then I'd be done in 2022 and I would have paid $8,680 in interest alone. If (B) I try to pay them off by my goal date, then I would be done by 2015 and have paid $1577.75 in interest. Again, I'll go with option B!

For me, paying off my undergrad slowly and grad more quickly makes sense. I encourage you to use this awesome tool to figure out what works best for you. 

Another choice that contributed to my new goal was the avalanche versus the snowball method of debt repayment. In the avalanche method you pay off loans with the highest interest first. In the snowball method you pay off the loans with the smallest interest first. In other words, Avalanche = pay my grad school loans first (graph on left), Snowball = pay my undergrad first (graph on right). Here's what this looks like for me:

Left: Avalanche method
Right: Snowball method
As you can see, if I pay the minimum on my loans, with the Avalanche method I end up paying $6,536 in interest, and with the Snowball method I end up paying $7112; $576 more in interest. No thanks. So basically, any way you cut it, I should not pay off my undergrad loans asap. But I should pay off my grad loans asap. So, that's what I'll do -- {drum roll!!} the new goal:

For some added perspective, in January of 2013 (when I started this) I had $34,384 in grad school loans, and now I'm down to $29,316.44. 

And, one last time, let's here it for the best loan calculator on the internet! Bookmark, memorize, share, and love it! Go: http://unbury.me/

If you really want to be overwhelmed, and have become as obsessed with this stuff as I have, here are some more resources from student loan expert Heather Jarvis.

II. My business has taken over my life (aka dreams do come true!)

When I was but a naive teenager, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up; a penniless creative with frivolous pursuits and not enough to eat. But through the guidance of social norms/pressures, I didn't formally go down the artist road...and then I grew up, and I learned that all of that was a lie. A big. fat. lie. Having creative pursuits is just as challenging as any other pursuit. Where it gets complicated is not being entrepreneurial. You must be entrepreneurial. In other words, you have to be able to hustle your art. 

One of my favorite portraits I've ever taken. 
But, if you have a deep desire for something, that not even going to grad school in a field that isn't what you love in your heart of hearts (ehem, speaking to myself here), then you must do that. Your life will not let you shake it off, you'll never get over it, and it's not something you will ever grow out of. Again, those are all, say it with me now: lies, lies, lies. 

So, instead of focusing so much on my debt burden over the past month, I've focused more on my abundance potential, and boy oh boy, it sure does feel like having a giant ice cream sundae fed to you by a harem of men in a private cabana in Tahiti as you get a full body massage. Actually, no, it's better. 

In the past month, I've gotten three gigs grossing ~$1700 and netting ~$700 after taxes; a 40% mark up. WIN! That's more than I've ever made in any other month for the past three years of having my photography and film production business. And, a big part of that is having landed a commercial, which I'm just reeling about (pun intended - tee hee). 

That's right, I'm banking, and loving it. Take that childhood/social doubt! #likeaboss...of myself!

Even if you don't have a side hustle, there are many ways to make extra cash. After all, that's what I'm doing with my business at this point since it's not that lucrative (yet - tee hee). Here's a list of side hustles that I compiled from my own research and from a woman who paid $90k in debt in 3 years:

  • Babysitting You can use SitterCity to find jobs. You “work” for two hours, and then the kids go to bed, so you have downtime, and they pay well. I actually have a friend who babysat about 30 hours a week during our last year of undergrad, and was able to save up to have a two-year round the world adventure thereafter. And, as you may have guessed, she didn't have student debt. 
  • Focus Groups These sessions, where you talk about consumer products, pay anywhere from $100 to $250 for a couple hours. You can research groups that pay on Findfocusgroups.com.
  • Odd Jobs Check the temporary gigs section of Craigslist for everything from back-end data entry to serving drinks at a party. O-Desk is also a great source of legit, online, and varied jobs. I often outsource some of my own work for my business there. 
  • Mock Jury Jobs You pretend to be a juror so lawyers can practice trial strategies. They can pay $200 for a day of work. Check Craigslist or google “mock jury” in your area.
  • Mystery Shopping You pretend to be a customer at a hotel, restaurant or entertainment venue, and then report back to the company on your experience. (To try it for yourself, check out the Mystery Shopper Providers Association.) You don’t earn money—the company pays for the meal or hotel stay—but this enabled me to still have nights out with friends and or a loved one.
  • Apps:  Of course there are Apps for finding quick, easy jobs: Field AgentGigwalkiPoll.
  • Rent your stuff: Rent stuff from a hammer to a boat, anything you're not using here: LoanablesSnapGood, and Zilock, just to name a few.  

  • III. Sleeeeep....mmmmmm...delicious

    After reading a few little gems (links below) and getting a morale boost from my business, I stopped fretting so much about my debt, and realized that just having financial goals, and working towards them put me on the right track. It's like being fat. When you're fat, you want to be skinny today! But as long as you have a weight loss goal, and are doing all of the sensible things you can be doing to get there (running, eating well, and not starving yourself, etc.), then you will get there. The same goes for getting rid of debt (aka financial fat). Just know you're paying it down sensibly (hence the new goal!) and have your financial goals aligned, then have faith that you will get there, and sleep. Don't forget to sleep. 

    Here are some of the little gems that put me at ease over the past month...in order of luster: 

    1- 40 Financial Things You Should Know by 40: I'm already doing like a third of them. WOOOO! See where you stack up. AND, if you only read one of these gems, let it be this one! You can even PDF the article and save it. Consider this your personal finance check list!

    2 - 5 Financial Rules to Live By: This one's the video below by Learnvest's founder. I LOVE Learnvest and literally read their daily update every day. 

    3 - Other people's budgets: What can I say, I'm a financial voyeur I suppose, and enjoy seeing how other people spend their money. 

    4 - A Couple Built a $500 Glass House: This one is also a video. There are so many ways we can take full advantage of the big beautiful world we live in and the precious lifetime we have to relish it. This project was not only beautiful, but takes you by the brain and shakes out all the pesky conventional paradigms about what a home should be or look like, and breaks down the essence of a home, and the love it can be meant to hold, down to it's most fundamental parts.

    Love your life, be proud of it, and do something as splendid as you are with it...and watch this video:

    5 -   From Zero to a Billionaire: An info graphic on the paths of self-made billionaires. The source of this is also cool. You can move their heads around compare them along gender, citizenship, industry, etc. 

    6 - A Man Who Lives Without Money: This guy went a year without any income, nor expenses. Although I love this idea, I have some critiques about it, he got a free caravan to live out of, for one, and then he rigged it to the the electric grid which is public infrastructure that's maintained and paid for by the taxes he wasn't paying. And, of course, now he wrote a book that he's probably profiting off of. Nonetheless, it's an interesting little experiment. 

    Phew! Thanks for making it to the end of this epic post!! For being nice enough to read all this, here's a sweet little video of what loan repayment feels like, and why its so worth it:

    Enter your email below for a free PDF of the complete one-page checklist
    designed to help you start controlling your money (so it stops controlling you),
    and getting on a path to money peace-of-mind.

    Here's a preview:


    1,000 yr life

    "People go through life as if they will live 1,000 years," he said after having returned from pitching his tiny start-up to a huge mulit-national corporation over seas. "They plan as if they're going to live forever. What does it matter if I die at 40 or 60? I just want to dive in and make it worth it. At least I went all in." He's been living on couches or renting month-to-month for the last 3 years while starting up his business. He lives, completely and fully, for his endeavor. His life is entirely propelled forward by his internal vision and his sheer will to realize it.

    I remember that feeling. I remember having dreams so big that they were real even before they came true. So certain that all of my faith, confidence, and life moved in the direction of my dreams. The feeling of believing in something so fully and fearlessly that you don't even need courage because in your heart of hearts you've already reached the mountain top.

    How epic and wonderful it was to listen to him talk about his dreams coming true. To witness the fire in the eyes of an entrepreneur is like seeing someone's heart unfold right before you and totally consume you with awe and wonder, like a white lotus flower emerging from a muddy pond.

    But when I left his place, I was both filled with joy from the experience, but also self doubt. Doubt for my own dreams, and worse, for the lack of them. For being so strict with my personal finances, so fearful of not reaching my goals, that I have put more energy into my finances than my heart, hopes, or dreams.

    "If you vaporized off of the earth right now, this is what you would leave behind. Are you okay with that?" he said after I showed him this blog. If there's a button to push, that's the one. No. I wouldn't be okay with that. "And your art?" he said, knowing good and well that that question would sink heavy into my soul.

    "After I pay them off at 30, then I'll save up to buy a house at 31, then I'll pay off my house quickly at 41, then I'll buy a 2nd property at 41 and get rental income from the first, and then pay off the 2nd at 46, and then I'll retire at 46 while having income from the first...or buy a third..." as I watched myself unravel my life in scribbles on a napkin, I felt disoriented at myself. His face tilted in confusion, "So you'll always be in debt? You're trying to get out of debt now so that you'll always be in debt?"

    Why am I doing this? It feels like I'm frantically trying to catch up to a life I'll never have. Have a paid off house, and then what? I felt the 18 year old me tug at my heart strings and weep, asking if this was all I'd built up to. Asking if all of the adventures I'd had since then, all of the ideas and experiences I'd treasured and fought to have, were all culminating into a chicken-or-the-egg game of life controlling finances or finances controlling life. Asking whether the life I lived in Hawai'i -- that year I decided to go for it -- making $12k that year, or the life I live now, making more than I've ever made, makes me happier.

    I wouldn't trade my adventures for life itself. They are life itself. That unpaid internship with my favorite documentary film company, that time I moved across the country to go to a dream college that cost more than my family's house and I'm almost done paying for ($6k left to pay off undergrad), that well paid summer fellowship after grad school that taught me more about my field (education) than anything has yet. None of these adventures were decided by money. Not a one. My heart was full and ready for them. But I was also financially ready. I'd saved up for a year to take that unpaid internship from part-time to full-time. I'd gotten enough grants and scholarships to make sure that my $160k undergraduate education resulted in only 15% ($25k) of that in loans, of which $10k were paid per my time spent in public service -- bringing my out of pocket cost of undergrad from $160k to $15k, and are now paid down to $6k with an interest rate of 1.1% (aka nothing).

    It was only until I made a half-hearted decision, that was also half-mindful financially that the train fell off the tracks. Grad School. Dun dun dun. I picked a school that I wasn't whole heartedly into. External reasons compelled me -- it was half the time of all the alternatives, and they paid half the tuition. But my heart wasn't really in it. I wanted to go to the school that was slightly more expensive, and took twice as long to complete.

    Although I did learn a ton where I went, I am far more poised in my field, and ultimately I would go to grad school all over again, I would have made the decision I didn't make the first time around. I would've gone to the school I really wanted to go to, which was a bit more expensive per it being in New York City. But instead, am now psychologically and financially, paying back for a decision I knew I made for the wrong reason.

    On the other hand, I might have these same reflections even if I'd picked that school. Even if I'd gone with my heart, I may still be griping about paying back (more) loans to the entire internet. That said, I can't live in the past. The past is past, the future is unknown and what I have is now. Life is lived in each moment.

    The worst thing I can do now is be chained to decisions (read: debt) from the past, and let it stop me from living now. What I am now isn't all I will become. I can define my future now. Define it through the dreams and hopes I know I still hold in my heart, and not through decisions past. If I keep spending more time on my past debt than on my current dreams, then I'm going to go crazy. So, rather than write here weekly, I will only update once a month; the first Thursday of the month (and maybe some bonus ones if/when the spirit moves me).

    Don't worry, I'm still striving to pay off my loans asap (UPDATE: I paid them before 30!), and am not going to make any haphazard financial purchases. But maybe 30 isn't asap. Maybe I should be saving more, and pay them off at 30-and-a-half say. Or better yet, invest in my photography business and be saving more.

    My first order of business will be to get a bike. I'm itching to ride again and need my own form of reliable transit. Once I get the $200 from a side gig I'm finishing up next month, then I'll put it into getting a bike that'll last me years, rather than a popsicle stick Craig's List bike -- of which I've bought about four in the past four years. It's time. Secondly, and most importantly, I'm going to start investing money into my art and business. I'm going to print and frame some of my work, and try to get it shown (and sold). I have a book full of projects I want to work on and I need to start or my soul will starve. And finally, I'll be paying to meet with a financial adviser to iron out the wrinkles in my long-term plans -- get a house now or later, save up how much for retirement, how can I get a high-yield savings account, should I be saving in a CD or a put more towards my 401k, etc. (There actually may be one at work that I won't have to pay. But I have to research that.) That's it, a bike, artwork, and sound financial advice. That's not wildly financially irresponsible, right? It's not like I'm buying the jellyfish (just yet).

    Last week, a friend of mine moved into a ~300 sq ft studio. When I visited, she had that same fire and glimmer in her eyes as my entrepreneurial friend. "This will be my workspace. Here my work will bloom. I'm giving myself a year," she said with joy and determination. She's had three art shows in the past week. I couldn't help but admire and envy her.

    I will not live a thousand years. Nor is there any guarantee that I'll even get to 60, or past any given day for that matter. But, I know that I don't want to live the next 19 months putting more energy into suffocatingly paying off debt, than into the fiscally reasonable pursuit of my dreams. I'll still forgo a car for a bike, go to the open mic without the cover charge instead of the one with a cover charge, and order the least expensive (and healthiest) item on the menu...but dang, I need to be happy.

    Here's to working hard, dreaming big, and dancing often. Cheers, and I'll see you (virtually through blog posts!).

    Enter your email below for a free PDF of the complete one-page checklist
    designed to help you start controlling your money (so it stops controlling you),
    and getting on a path to money peace-of-mind.

    Here's a preview:


    Oct 2013 Update

    Some people live life as if they're going to live 1,000 years. But if you vaporized right now? What would you be leaving behind? What will you have lived for?

    The great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking -- one of the greatest minds of our time -- was asked, "What advice do you give your children?" He said:
    1. Look up at the stars just as much as the ground beneath your feet.
    2. Cherish your work, because work gives life meaning and purpose.
    3. Don't take love for granted, it is rare.

    Translated into debt zapping lingo this reads: Don't let debt keep you from living the life you want. Turn it into the life you want -- turn problems into opportunities. For example, rather than sulk about not being a full-time artist, I'm getting side gigs that are revving me up to get there:

    1. post-production support on a film = $120
    2. I've been spending more time on my marketing for my photography and revamped my website last week. A local artist was so impressed that I'm designing his site for him = $300
    3. I went to two (free) spoke word/open mic nights this week = priceless
    4. I'm working on getting some of my work printed to show at galleries = epic = dream come true
    5. I'm enjoying writing about this.

    And, best of all, in 18 months, not only will I have more connections, more gigs, more clients, more art, and build more confidence in my work along the way, but I'll also be totally debt free. Voila! Life I want to live is happening, and nothing's gonna hold me down -- not $42k, not $42M. #itshappening

    What are you leaving behind? What's motivating you to g.o.o.d.?


    Alright, alright...I know, I know...enough with the existential stuff already... let's get down to business. One of my favorite things recently has been LearnVest.com. Here's a must watch video I love from its Founder:

    50/30/20 babe, get it! I'm more like 40/50/10 = 40 for living, 50 for financial priority (which I'm sure you can guess what that is - ha!), and 10 for savings. Use LearnVest people! And they have a fab checklist on how to create a debt payoff plan here.

    Always remember, no one cares more about your financial health than you. 


    Yours truly at an open mic this week along with the poem I wrote and recited that day. Notice the wrapped knee -- yep, I'm still at it. I have 4 more weeks of physical therapy and then I should be all better!

    The soft sweet synergy of energy
    The action and reaction that is possibility.
    The tide of time as it flows through the river of emotion.
    This is possibility.

    The transient placidity of possibility and courage that is captured in all of singularity.
    Singularity -
    A point so dense and complex that all 500 billion known galaxies, all of the stars in our universe, and all of us here were compressed in a space so infinitely small that not even light could escape.
    You, me, all of our thoughts, all of our love, every wish upon a star, every drop of glacier dew, every idea and thoughts of human experience was smaller than a seed.
    That was possibility.

    Before time, before space, before light...we were singularity.
    But the raw emotion and epic sensation that is pure energy could not be contained or restrained in such an infinitely small space.
    Every potential for fear, hope, love, lust, wonder, every mountain top, cloud, horizon, kiss, lips, art, guitar strings, and drum beats exploded in a slow motion serge that ripples still today.
    We are an ever expanding cluster of possibility.

    The stars and space continue to spill gracefully into a black velvet ballet of luscious – and endless – proximity.
    And everything you’ve ever know and loved, bobs to and fro on a blue little marble bubble through the dance of cosmic possibility.

    Whether we achieve world peace tomorrow, or create our atomic demise – the world will still turn. The sun will still rise. The cosmos do not care.
    Our lives barely an anomaly of chance – the improbable result of a series of perfect mistakes.   
    Born from the breath of our universe – still exhaling from our moment of singularity.   

    Who Needs a (Tree) House?!

    After some existential self pity over the woes of renting, running some numbers on how much house I can afford, and checking out the market via zillow.com to find out that there are only two lackluster homes I can afford in my target neighborhood right now, I've decided not to buy a house yet. But not just because all of this first-time homebuyer calculus says I'm not financially ready, but truly because my heart (that's the hippie part of me talking) says I'm not ready. I'm not ready to psychologically scrounge even more of my income into the thought of more debt. 

    Let me put it another way, buying a home would mean that I'd go from signing a promissory note for my student loans at age 18, to potentially making my last payment on a house at age 44 at the youngest (assuming a 15 year mortgage). That's 26 years of my life in debt. Ewwwwwww. No thanks America!

    The psychological thought of always owing money makes my mind a bit squeamish. It really doesn't have to be this way. Some little primal instinct in the back of my mind just keeps nagging me with a sense of unease. A sense that life can be structured in a different way, where you truly can live within your means, and the bare necessities are enough to pursue happiness (peace and love <<< there's that hippie again).

    And yes, I recognize that there is such a thing as good debt, and I'm grateful I was able to go to school on it, but just the thought of living a huge portion of my life on a debt treadmill is just mentally taxing to me. Let's not forget the *personal* part of personal finance. 

    Bottom line: I want to step off of the debt burden treadmill; I want to have a little window, even if only one month, where I don't owe anything to anyone -- a bank, a credit card company, my mom, nor my self even (per retirement savings). Mmmm, financial freedom. Yummy yummy. Can't wait!

    And besides, paying off my students loans is sort of fun. Writing about the challenge of doing so is fun, and thinking about possibility is fun. (That's the hippie turning problems into opportunities. How cute.)

    Also, who needs a house when you can live in a TREE house!? 

    credit: miamiwiki.org
    Yep, the hippie won! The revolution will be televised, but I won't see it cause this thing probably doesn't get cable. 

    When my lease is up in about 7 months, I'm probably going to go live on this urban farm just a few miles north of where I live currently. I've truly always wanted to live on a farm. It's one acre, the owner is super rad, lives on the property, and had a tie-died shirt with a peace sign on it (really - I didn't make that up) when I met him a few weeks ago. He's had the place for decades and is pretty much my idol. The man basically owns a forest. I'm jealous. 

    There are several folks living there, they have volleyball on Sunday nights, potluck Thursdays, and a vegan pop-up restaurant once a month (so I'll probably be leaving my 15+ years of vegetarianism for veganism. I became a vegetarian at 13. Who does that?! This place is totally a great fit for me!). Oh ya, and I'll save loads on rent because volunteering on the farm (which I want to do anyway) subsidizes your rent. Cha ching! Hippie genius!

    Pix from my visit:

    My soon to be neighbor :)

    Rumor has it the emu isn't the friendliest. I'mma nick name him Godzilla.
    Note: Godzilla was not eating the pig, but I think it wanted to. And then turn to me. Eep!
    A mama turkey and her baby turkeys...who will roam freely on Thanksgiving! Love it :)

    I'm not entirely sure if I'll live in the tree house (or if it's even a residence), but there are other properties there too. We'll see. Stay tuned!


    And for those who aren't down with the farm life, here are some first-time homebuyer resources, which I'm still keeping up on...you know, so I can start my own farm and all. Tee hee.

    Mortgage 101

    Cheers to YOU!

    Hey you! Ya, you. Who else would I be talking to?

    Thank you.

    Thanks to all 400+ of you...

    ...in 25 countries around the world...

    ...and 224 cities in the U.S. ...

    ...who average 100 page views per day.

    Thank you for reading, for zapping away at your own debt, and for keeping me honest.

    Cheers to you!

    Sept 2013 Update

    Woot woot! Slowly but surely I'm getting there! I didn't make as large of a payment this month as I would've liked because of the medical emergency from the last post. But thankfully, I started physical therapy this week and it's going really well.

    One wrench in this month's goal is travel. I'm traveling for about 2 weeks this month, and have a budget of $190 during that time. Wish me luck! Here goes!

    Medical Emergency

    I busted up both of my knees and have to got to physical therapy for 6 weeks. Uggh. And not only that, but it's cost me $300 (with insurance!) so far to get some routine visits and tests. By the way, $300 is almost the gym membership that I forewent on the logic that running is free...and for the same running that busted up my knees. #irony 

    $300 :( And I haven't even started physical therapy yet  X____X

    The knee replacement I'm trying to avoid. aka It could be worse.
    This, my friends, is why we need to have an emergency fund rather than just paying everything we can towards our loans, and then some. I must -- wait, let me capitalize that -- I MUST have an emergency fund. I've paid the $300 on my credit card (who's balance was previously zero), and will pay the balance off with my next paycheck. But what if it would've been $3,000 instead of $300? Then what (the f*@!%) would I do? I'm really not trying to live off of credit card debt to fund my student debt. That would, of course, make absolutely no sense. 

    So here's the new debt zapping strategy -- Instead of putting as much of my income as possible -- almost 50% right now -- towards my loans, I'm going to:

    1. Divert my income towards my savings until I have three months worth of savings, which is about $4,000 and will take me just over 2 months to squirrel away.
    2. Only pay the minimum amount towards my loans in the mean time.
    3. Cash out on the savings once I'm $4,000 away from annihilating my loans. Bam! 

    This way I'll have an emergency savings fund, which (of course) I'll hopefully never have to use, and most importantly, will give me a bit more peace of mind. Having only $200 -- and living pay-check-to-paycheck -- is like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling, blindfolded, and over a pit of venomous snakes. No...actually...it's probably worse than that. It's like busting up your knees and having to pay $300 from your credit card to not even have them fixed yet. Ugggh!

    Another plug here though should go to insurance. If you don't have insurance (medical or dental) I highly recommend paying for it. Because without insurance you've pretty much jumped into the pit of snakes at that point. Not having insurance would be WAAAAYYYY worse than this. It would've cost me well into the thousands without insurance. And if you think you can't afford it, ehh, wrong! While I was living in Hawai'i as a freelance/part-time photographer I made about $12,000 that year and paid for my own insurance. It cost me about $600 to be insured that year. Those $600 would've fully covered any emergency; volcano lava accident, surfing mishap, and even a venomous snake pit. But most importantly, it gave me the peace of mind that not only would I be taken care of if I had an accident, but that I wouldn't go bankrupt if I did. If you don't have insurance, next time, instead of going to facebook, do this: go to google and type "individual medical insurance plans" -- and start reading my friend. You know it'll make you feel better to just know you have it. Do it! 

    Okay, I'm done with the insurance PSA. Back to debt zapping! {{insert laser zapping noises}}

    I have to give credit to the always fabulous tips from NoMoreHarvardDebt for the saving strategy idea. Here's Joe M's tutorial on this strategy -- watch it!

    Also, here's a sweet little slideshow/article from LearnVest.com on saving:
    You’ll Never Believe How Much I Saved ... and How

    Bike = $200. Transportation = Priceless.

    Before I get into our bike theme for the day, here's a great resource you should check out: http://www.learnvest.com/category/life-and-money/

    It's a personal finance site with tons of tips and articles. They also have a daily digest email that I've signed up for and online courses. I'll share anything that strikes me. More on that front to come...

    Back to the topic/crisis at hand...I need a bike.

    The city I live in (Miami, FL) has almost no reliable public transit right now, and having a car is really the way to go. I've gotten by with sharing cars with my mom and sister since I started this debt killing journey because I don't have to commute for work. But having some form of transit to call my own would really be great right now.

    So, I'm about to make a hefty purchase on a bike. Although I'm saving thousands on forfeiting a car purchase, I'm still going to drop a few hundred on a bike. And any purchases I make during my little debt annihilation is going to be dang well worth it! It's going to be something that lasts me a LONG time and worth the investment -- as all purchases should be it'd argue. 

    I've calculated that I can drop $200 tops on a bike. So I'm going to get the best bike I can for my money. It's also going to be great to just ride around the city. I love biking and had been commuting on entirely on bikes throughout the past 2-3 years. It's awesome. 

    And thus, that brings me to the bamboo bike...

    It's about $200 and just seems cool because it's made of bamboo. I can order it online and build it myself, also cool. But nonetheless, I'm going to look into some bike collectives here that may be able to steer me (or should I say peddle me - haha!) in the right direction. 

    Enter your email below for a free PDF of the complete one-page checklist
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    To Gym or Not to Gym

    My family's signing up for a gym membership and want me to go in on it. But at $30/month that's 6 days of interest each month (at ~$5/day in interest). Bottom line, is a gym membership worth 6 days of interest?

    My answer no. In fact, a gym membership isn't worth any days of interest.

    Why? Because running around the block is FREE. Yes, you don't have to go to a gym (at you probably won't go to anyway) to stay in -- nor get into -- shape.

    Back in 2010 I lost 20 pounds without a gym membership. Thanks internet! I watched fitness videos by a personal trainer on youtube and counted calories on livestrong.com. As you can see (from the graph below) I went from 142 to 122 in about 4 months. I just ran around the block people and ate sensibly.

    You can even do the entire Insanity work out without a gym membership because there are video online for FREE. 

    Again, FREE.

    The only caveat is participating in sports and activities that require specialization or another person. For example, ballroom dancing, scuba diving, fencing, team sports, etc. Those are the only things worth paying for because you can't do them alone otherwise. 

    For me, that's martial arts. I did kickboxing and tae kwon do consistently from ages 8 to 23. And have always wanted to pick it back up again. Considering it's about $350-500 per year for a yearly membership to a good martial arts gym, then I'm going to have to add this to my list of deferred items until this post loan apocalypse is over. In the mean time, I'm lacing up those sneakers and hitting the pavement...for free.

    I Made 5 days on Amazon!

    I sold some stuff on Amazon!

    lucifer effect (book) = sold for $29

    lonley planet (book) = sold for $4

    tupac's greatest hits (CD) = sold for $7

    2 books and a CD! They came to $37, minus $9 in postage = a net of $28. At about $5 of interest per day, $28 translates to about 5 and a half days of interest...also known as 5 days of my life back! #win

    It's time people. If you have stuff you haven't used (nor read) in over a year, it's time to turn it into cash! It's super easy to sell stuff on Amazon. All you have to do is search for the item, and it will come up (Amazon has everything), click on the "Sell on Amazon" button (see fabulous illustration below) and follow the prompts. Every few days I get a day-making-email that tells me something sold. So yes, while I sleep, my junk is turning into cash. #genius

    If you're not already selling all that junk you know you aren't using, and you know exactly what pile/box/bag I'm talking about, then remember, the only one stopping you from turning that into a pile/box/bag of cash is you! What are you waiting for?!

    Aug. '13 Update: GRRRRRR!!!

                    Why does it feel like I've been paying these loans FOREEEEEEVER?! I only really started to aggressively pay them three months ago (when I got a job). So why does it feel like it's more drawn out than ever?! Answer...come on, you know why, right? Yep, you got it: Interest (aka The thing financial nightmares are made of).                    Because of my insane interest, I've paid only barely at 9% of my balance from when I started this blog. At this rate, to reach my goal, I'd have to pay over $1,900/month *plus* interest for the next 20 months. Ain't no body (aka I) got time (nor resources) for that?!
                   That's it. It's time time to buckle up and put this thing to rest. My insane rent is a big part of why this is taking so long. But until my lease ends in 9 months, it's time to make some money money money. I have a little side gig that brings in about $100 a month, and my photography business is really picking up. I'll be focusing more on the latter this fall and hope that'll really put a big dent (or giant axe blow) to these financial shackles.
                  I'm also going to look into consolidating my loans. I called my lender today for the two bigger loans (the $32k+ ones) and asked how I could get my interest rate down. They laughed in my face...just kidding. They were actually really nice and told me that using auto-pay (which I already use) is the only way to get the interest rate down. But that only shaves off a pathetic .25% and thus leaves me at a suffocating 6.44%. {groan} Soooo, consolidation it is. I'll be calling my other lender, the one with the 1.14% interest rate, next week (I'd do it tomorrow but my job is insanely busy and I'm traveling over the weekend...to the wedding in Ohio from the last post) to look into my options for consolidation. Stay tuned...and keep up the loan zapping!

    p.s. If you're not already following Joe Mihalic's budget clinic series, I suggest you watch it, memorize it, recite it to your dog, tell your mom about it, and watch it again. Here's the first episode to get you started:

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