21 July 2008

The Travel Fund, step 3, item 12, numeral IIV, continuation of part 6B...

aka. The Debt Paydown

As of today I have officially paid off one of the major debts that's been hounding me for over two years. When I called today to verify I was at a zero balance the customer service rep actually said "Congratulations."

I have to say I'm getting addicted to this feeling: every time I've successfully zeroed out a debt in the last six mouths (three and counting!) it's like having a rock removed from the invisible backpack between my shoulder blades. I have to stop myself from literally doing a freedom dance around the office. There is something so liberating about realizing I owe one less company any bit of my hard earned money.

Better yet, each payoff has had this snowball "prosperity effect" on the rest of my perceptions of my financial life. As my bottom line improves I find myself feeling less behind, less embroiled in struggle to stay afloat. Rather, my savings has increased, and I no longer feel so paycheck bound. Plus, having a savings goal, its much easier to look at something in the store and fight that initial "I want it" reaction. I can look at a pair of shoes and see two full days of travel expenses and the decision is made for me. I just feel better about my money. Even with the gas prices going up and the economy in the shitthole, I've managed to keep my expenses growth to a minimum and stay entirely on target financially. I'm not counting pennies so much anymore, but I have a way more cogent picture of where my money is going and an easier time keeping it headed the right directions.

Having a budget, goals and sticking to them has had the exact opposite affect of what I feared for so long. Instead of making me feel hemmed in and like I was punishing myself, I actually feel more liberated: Less like I've got rules to follow and more like I'm on track. I actually feel really independent and much more confident about my ability to take care of myself. Even with all these "rules" I still have way more freedom than I ever had when I was making it up as I went along and dreaming about "someday."

Ferking Suze Orman was right.

The nitty gritty: I'm 3/4 of the way to having met my "Uh-oh Fund" goals (I had to dip into it for a minor "uh-oh" last month, but I just took a breath, withdrew the money and reminded myself that's what it's there for). I'm also about a 1/5th into the Travel Fund, which is about where I expected at this point. It seems a bit low, but that's not counting interest. Additionally, the next six months are going to be bigger because having less debt to pay off means having more income to tuck away into savings with every check.

Ever have those moments where you feel like a grownup, and suddenly that's not such an awful thing?

When? What brought it on? How did it make you feel?

(And does anyone know where I can get one of those clever little bar graph/pie charts widgets so I can track all this progress on my sidebar?)


Strange Bird said...

Congratulations! I don't know where others have been getting their bar charts, but you can copy/paste mine if you want (they're just tables; I fill in the percentages).

Wanderlusting said...

I totally agree. Once I get a job, I've calculated how much I can save for my own travel fund per month. Its a lot and its doable and I still have money left over for clothes.

But the thing is, because I know travel is what makes me truly happy, I'm having an easier time translating clothing funds to travel funds. Time will tell, but I think I'm on the right track.

Rosie said...

Bird - Thanks! I will take you up on that. I have to say, seeing how well (and transparently) you track your finances has definitely encouraged me to keep a more detailed accounting of my own financial plans. Thanks for paving the road :-)

Wanderlust - I know what you mean about travel making you truly happy. I always knew that I wanted to travel "someday" but it took going to India last year for my job to inspire me to get off my but and start making plans for NOW. Plus, having bloggers like you around to inspire with travel tales makes it easier to see myself there! So thanks!

Strange Bird said...

I just realized it's hard to paste from the blogger source code :). It's <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpading=0><tr><td width=[enter percentage]% bgcolor=[enter color hex code]>[enter percentage]%</td><td width=[enter percentage remaining]% bgcolor=[enter color hex code]$gt;&nbsp;$lt;/td></tr></table>

Strange Bird said...

Sorry, those last two $lt; and $gt; should be < and > :)

You can get hex codes by googling them and picking the six-digit code that matches the color you want.