Well friends, I am officially poor for a little while. I'm happier than a bug in a rug about it, too. See, I've had a credit card on my shoulders for a long long (looooooooong time), and today is the day. The day I'm paying the balance off.
In all actuality, I should be bound to the MasterCard a little while longer, but yesterday as I checked in to see how much I owed, I noticed the auto pay feature had been turned off. Perhaps I had changed the settings or checked on it and accidentally didn't click the right button, who knows. But I do know every time I logged on to check my auto pay, I had to click through a very inconvenient series of screens to even find the auto pay feature. I was always leery of Bank of America for that. They have a savvy enough web design team to know ease of use.
Anyway, I would've had 2 more weeks of debt, with easy little payments, but since the feature "mysteriously" wasn't set, I noticed my payment was late. My first late payment in 3 years.

My credit is not so hot, but getting better, and this late payment will not be good. I've especially realized this since our house hunt several months ago. NOT GOOD. My interest rate was at the highest end of the spectrum (nearly 30%), causing over 10 years of battle with that little piece of plastic.

Of course, trying to buy a house will wedge your eyes open with toothpicks, making you stare unwillingly at your credit report. We had both been working on improving our credit for a long long time, so adding a $30 late fee was the tipping point. I talked to Mr. C, dissolved any spending temptation in my eyes, and scheduled a payment to pay the beast off.

I will keep it and buy gas once a month and pay it off every month. I will not use it for anything else. I will not give BoA another dollar in interest. Maybe one day I will figure out how much I've simply handed them because I was too sloppy with my money.

But I should be thankful. This is an excuse to talk about debt and talk about some of the steps I'm taking to get financially grounded. Don't worry, there won't be ongoing talk about this, but in the arts/crafts world, financial security just isn't a priority. We're used to being "starving artists", and used to that label entitling us to accrue debt until we "make it."

But just because I'm poor doesn't mean I can't tempt you with some debt-related goodies:

Obsessive Consumption--Kate Bingamen-Burt knows what debt is all about. Her fame supersedes my little ol' blog, so I'm sure you've heard of her and maybe you even have a few zines or pillows. If I weren't so poor, a framed drawing would be my treat to myself.

I'll just sneak a little door prize in here right about now: if you're visiting and working on debt, or simply frugal, share a debt-alleviating tip or a moment that made your realize you had to get out from under the man's giant credit card thumbprint. I've got 4 goodies to giveaway today, and I'm bent on doing it! Think of it as a party favor!

Things to keep me on the path
Bit by bit I've been removing my name from e-mail lists--especially from shops and blogs that tempted me into buying. Hey, it gave me 10 extra minutes a day to blog or draw or daydream on flickr!
kelly LOVES whales: Recession Chic! One year strong.
Use what you have. Make your own cleaning supplies, don't let food go bad. Less waste is not only eco-sensible, it's frugal.
Grow your food. Save your seeds for next year. Make compost, mulch with stuff that breaks down relatively quickly and use what you've got. Why buy when you can DIY??

Right now, CSAs are out of the budget. Although they're well worth it (investing in a local economy, quality food, knowing your food provider) we haven't been in a place where we could afford signing up for one. What is a health food nut to do? If you have a plant loving friend, offer to take over their yard, you garden, they get to look good, you both get food! No community garden fees. With our limited sun, we are days away from making this offer to a friendly neighbor.

Ride a bike, walk the dogs, go on walks to explore your neighborhood. You don't need a gym membership, I promise. Just incorporate exercise into living; when in the world did we stop doing that anyway?

These homes are modestly decorated (understated maybe a better word than modest) via Emma's Design Blogg. If we could ever get out of the kitchen and get some cleaning done, I bet our house would look like a first cousin to some of these.

Design Freebies

Free Printable Fun

CreditBloggers has some answers.

Parks, libraries, potlucks 'n picnics. Borrowing, bartering, sharing, combining, carpooling, and Craigslist. Freestores and clothing swaps, yard sales are cheaper than thrift stores, too. Retrain your brain and open your eyes to creative potential.


Erin Lang Norris said...

Great post, Renee.

So my tip to keep the debt away isn't all THAT great, but it does help for sure. Here it is...

I was noticing that my husband always bought something to drink or a candy bar or whatever any time he went in to pay for gas. So I made a rule that we had to pay at the pump (with a debit card, not a credit card unless we had to). So all was well but then I noticed that he was coming home from work with a bottle of pop or tea every day. To me this is a waste of money. I did the calculations and realized that if we made tea at home (much better for you, anyway!) and bottled it ourselves, he would save about $375 a year. If you add candy or chips, it's almost $600. Not a HUGE savings, but that's an entire car payment AND 2-3 tanks of gas, or even 2 car payments for without the chips or candy. So now we don't buy any sort of drink from the gas station, ever. (okay, HE does sometimes but that's because he's not a penny pincher like me. he doesn't have much of a reason to be since he has a great job).

My other tip is this- when my husband told me how much he was spending on lunch every day at work, I nearly passed out. It's easy to SAY that you'll start bringing a bagged lunch, but he never would make it in the morning. So what I started doing was this- we always have leftovers from dinner, so I started putting any extras into a container as soon as I was finished cooking it, before the food was even on the table. Let's face it, if you wait until after dinner you get lazy about it and don't feel like doing it. But if you put some potatoes, chicken and broccoli in a small container before you even eat, it's all ready to go! Saves lots of money and we always eat all of our left overs that way. We usually did before as well, but this just makes it easier since the leftovers are only enough for one person most of the time. This will probably save about $600-$700 in a year.

Okay so those are my tips! I know they aren't great but they sure do help.

Shari said...

Ugh, debt. There are a few strategies that are making me a bit more frugal and proud of it. I stopped buying waterbottles and instead got fresh filters for the fridge and a Klean Kanteen Stainless waterbottle. No more waste.

My friends and I carpool to the stores and pick up stuff for each other when we are out doing errands, less gas used.

Also, I moved a large portion of money to a 0 interest card. It's only zero interest for a year, but I make substantial payments monthly and I'm just seeing it whittle down.

Aesthetic Outburst... said...

We use our debit card for everything and I keep track of all of our charges in my check book. When I write it down I round every purchase up by 2 dollars plus the change (so if I purchase something for 1.50 I write down 4 dollars). We've tricked ourselved into saving a lot of money. :)

Anonymous said...

This isn't a tip so much, but an essay I wrote about a year ago.


Thanks so much for the inspiring words Renee (and for linking to my green cleaning supplies blog entry!)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that our blog helps in your quest for financial help! Feel free to email our money experts questions anytime :)

Amy Urquhart said...

God, this is a timely post for us right now. This year has been the most financially challenging of our marriage so far. I'll be paying for my trip to SF for awhile, but other than that we're not buying anything we don't have to. We reduced our cable service to basic. We're going vegetarian. Carpooling. Collecting rainwater. Lots of stuff. It must feel good to be paying that sucker off!

modish said...

I'm just catching up on my blog reader and wanted to say yay! Good for you!

I'm lucky that the mister has no debt to speak of...I, on the other hand, am still way into the hole. But, this last month I was able to pay off one of my credit cards that I had to use to pay my taxes last year (one that I previously had paid off for so long it made me weep, literally, to put money back on it...damn self-employment) and that felt great. Only 2, er 3? more cards to go... :( oh, and that yummy car loan... anyway, I feel ya sista and I'm proud of you! You can be a role model for us all as you're learning to save! Cut that sucka up!

Jamie Sue said...

What a timely post!!

I've been thinking that the first of September (August is too full of birthdays and I don't want to set myself up for failure) I'm going on a one month purchasing fast. No new purchased except food (real food, not junk.) At the end of the month what ever is left in my bank account will become an extra payment on the credit card bill.