Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 1: DONE! OR: Personal Finance – The Struggle Is Real

Today I’m going to be adding a new category to the blog – about finances!

I feel that finances are something that is kind of taboo to talk about. I’m not the first one to have that idea. But anyway, one thing that I am finding — being a follower of Dave Ramsey — is that, there are not many examples of single people running the baby steps. It’s all, “we paid of $389,000 in 5 months making $150,000 combined income a year!” (exaggeration). Which is great. But it kind of makes those of sitting there on single incomes, get a bit nervous.

Today, I officially completed baby step 1. Guess how long it took? Six months. Yep. Dave Ramsey recommends that this should be done in a month. Well, when you barely have wiggle room in your money coming in versus money going out, and already work multiple jobs, you really can’t do much more. I don’t have much valuable stuff to sell at this point in my life, if any. I do sell some clothing on eBay.

But Dave – love ya – but quality of life matters to me to some degree. I’m not going to get rid of my dog or my cats. They are family members. I’m not going to never eat out and not have a social life of any kind. If I had a significant other to spend time with, perhaps making dinner and eating myself every night would be acceptable. In fact I kind of know it would. But, as my life is, there’s a quality of life issue, and people need people interaction! It’s like dieting in a way, if you never allowed yourself a cheat meal, or for me – a daily small treat — you will splurge, and perhaps give up on yourself. So, I allow myself two meals out with my girlfriends a month – moderate – $50 total for the month, and I have to budget for pet food (not crap quality cause I can’t do that morally, but not top of the line either), and I can’t put crap food into my system and feel okay about it. But, I started faithfully saving monthly (I get paid monthly).

A little background on why it took so long — Right after I hit over half my $1000  emergency fund the first time, back in Feb of this year, I got in a car accident. So if you include when I first started working on baby step 1, it was after I got my bonus check at the beginning of the year – so I started in Feb. Also in a way of getting myself in a better financial position, I had just traded my lease in for a car that I will one day own. I hit black ice (I’m in New England) and hit a guard rail in the car I had traded, and obviously had to fix it.

I’m sorry, Dave, but since i spend ~2 hours per day in my car, and I don’t have the cash to go buy a $2000 clunker, and was upside down on my old lease by about $2500, that would mean paying $4500 to buy a clunker. Still in debt. So, I traded “down” into something which a lower payment, that I plan to pay off in 3 years, and freed up about $100 per month, let along a slight insurance savings. It’s my one-sided negotiation with Dave–take his suggestions, and meet him somewhere in the middle between where I was.

I had a $1000 dollar deductible so I couldn’t even pay the deductible myself – or cost to fix, which was just about $700, so I didn’t go through insurance. My dad helped me and paid the rest over the amount I could chip in, but I was back to $0 savings. Then I had some medical issues, and here I am finally at the end of July having just built myself back up to the $1000 recommended emergency fund. It’s also the first month I didn’t tap the overdraft at my bank in order to make it to the next paycheck. I get paid monthly, and although I do budget, as Dave Ramsey it says financial decisions are about behavior — and, as I have learned, you can’t necessarily successfully change behaviors overnight. Change isn’t always easy. It’s not always a “never again” moment. Just like dieting, I slipped up here and there, had moments of zero will power where I thought “this is going to take forever anyway, who cares, I just want to (order food) (buy something cute for my condo) (insert thing i don’t need here)”.

Side-note: HALLELUJAH! 7/31/2015 Baby Step 1 Complete!!!

By the way, although Dave came out with his EveryDollar “Free” software (unless you hook it up with your bank account, kind of like Mint) — I am a faithful / borderline obsessive user of YNAB –  or, a software known as You Need A Budget. I use their phone app, and their desktop app. It requires Windows desktop currently but there is rumors and mentions of a web-based version. (Btw, that link right there – gives you a $6 discount and I get $6 if you decide to buy it, but I would recommend it even if you don’t wanna save $6 or use my referral link. It’s the only financial software I have been able to stick with!!)

YNAB is the first time I have successfully run a monthly budget. It took me a few months of not understanding (especially with paying down credit cards using YNAB -) and two “Restarts” of the budget cause I was getting things misaligned — but perseverance and I’m finally there.

If you’re not sure what the baby steps are, or who Dave Ramsey is — Google it. There are a million articles already describing it all, but baby step 1 is save $1000 in an emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is … pay off all debt except the house.

AHEM. I have almost $100K in debt that is not including my condo.

  • $68,900 of that is student loans. YEP!
    • $24,700 from my first undergrad and a little post-bac pre-med, and
    • $54,200 from doing a post-bac pre-med.
  • $15,600 on a car loan
  • $16,500 on credit cards
    • $7500 of which was a breast augmentation surgery
    • $8950 of that was old debt (about $5000 of which I have no clue at this point what it was about) (the other $4500 was multiple store cards – bestbuy, carecredit, tjmaxx, paypal, amazon, and a chase card i used to buy flights to see an ex I broke up with years ago).

So.. I have a long, long road to go before this is all paid off. So, I’m breaking Baby Step 2 into some sub-steps for myself.

Baby Step 2 – List all debts, lowest to highest, and pay them off one by one, throwing as much money as possible at the first one in the list, then snowball that payment into debt 2 ad infinitum. 

  • Baby Step 2-1: Pay off credit cards. Using undebt.it — slated freedom date is December 2016. 17 months!
  • Baby Step 2-2: Pay off car loan. Slated freedom date: August 2017. 24 months!
  • Baby Step 2-3: Pay off student loans. Didn’t include in undebt.it, since one of my student loans will go up in 2017, and income changes etc. Starting to get far out there!

Here’s the other thing. Dave says, don’t save (even for retirement) until you graduate from Baby Step 2. That was freaking scary to give up “free money” and compounding interest and all that stuff. But, cashflow is cashflow, and I couldn’t contribute that much anyway, plus my work vests the match over 6 years (and honestly – how many of us stay at one company for 6 years) — so I stopped contributing.

I will, however, re-join (whatever company I’m working for) once I finish Baby Step 2-1. Dave estimates most people should be out of baby step 2 in 18-24 months. Well, not even close if we include student loans – it’s about 8 years estimated if nothing at all changed from today — haha hopefully I beat the 8 year mark 😐

Anywho, so yeah my situation is a little eye-brow raising. But I want to put it out there on Internet World so that, if someone close to my situation or worse (or better but feeling worse) can see that you are not alone. We can do this!

I just got paid on my bonus for the first half of this year, and I should be able to knock out three smaller credit cards with that, as well as pay this year’s timeshare fee.

Yep, in the middle of all this, I got a timeshare with my mom. She paid the “down payment” and we are splitting payments. I was depressed… lol. Hey, it is what it is.

Special thanks to Dave Ramsey — I listen to his radio show pretty often (on iTunes, not live) for all the free advice, and the makers of YNAB. Together, those two things are changing my financial life. Rather, the change comes from me, but they’re like my right- and left-hand in this!

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DTR = Defining The Relationship

There comes a time in every “new” couple’s relationship where one person wants to know what things are. Where is it headed??? Is it a thing? Are we on the same page?

But, as all females know, bringing this up too soon can be the kiss of death in a relationship. Here are the only two guidelines you need. Ask yourself WHY you want to know. Then examine the meaning behind those answers. If fear, or insecurity, is behind any of it — well —

Don’t bring it up out of fear. Don’t bring it up out of insecurity. If those two reasons are driving your need to know, then don’t ask.

The time you should bring it up, is when you think you already know the answer, and its an answer you like.

In my case with Sky, I have been wondering, but given the distance it’s a bit funky. A lot has happened since we last saw each other, and both times we have seen each other since this whole thing started, Sky has found reason to freak out (although silly reasons in my opinion). Yet, we say our I love yous, and our I miss yous, and have cute pet names, and talk daily, and basically act like gf/bf.

Today, it came up in conversation. Text conversation, and normally I refuse to talk about anything serious over text since inflection is lost and things can be taken the wrong way. But I didn’t want to wait and bring it up on the phone, so I just went there. Basically, he read something I wrote backwards (to read, I said something like my boyfriend’s friend, when I really wrote my friend’s boyfriend) and he pointed that out – so I responded with something cute and coy and kind of indirect, but direct enough, that said if anyone were to have that spot it would be someone who –and I proceeded to describe him and our relationship.

He said, valid argument. So I pressed a bit to ask if that meant I should say I have a boyfriend when it comes up, or if we were still figuring that out?? (Notice how I put in the second option, to balance out the “ask” and still have it be positive)

He responded with something good 🙂 It was what I kind of thought, that: we get it right when we see each other, but he has tossed gf in when talking about me, but we should make sure we together hold together before such things are kept solid

I was happy to hear he has used the term! I haven’t, although hoped for it, and told him I was happy to hear it and that we are on the same page as far as knowing we have to see each other again and also in what we hope it will be.

It’s funny…looking back over the past..however many months. Though we have had highs and some serious lows where we haven’t spoken at all, we keep trending up over time. I like it. 🙂

One of the takeaways: If someone isn’t speaking to you, it definitely doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of you. Sometimes, men (or women!) need time to clear their heads, space from a situation to see it and really figure out how they feel. Giving that space can be difficult as a woman (SO difficult), but if/when he returns *you know its real* if you didn’t have to chase him to get him to come back. There is no convincing in love. People should show up of their own accord, not out of obligation or guilt or manipulation. And Sky knew, both times he has gone silent for a while, that what he did/was doing was sucky. I didn’t have to yell at him when he returned. I did express that it was really hard and really sucked, but I also knew he had likely already beaten himself up about it so I didn’t need to. However, I was still honest about my experience.

I’m still alive! Getting Back On Track Here…

I hate when you watch a movie or your favorite TV show and the finale episode is on and … you have to know what happens next but then you have to wait such a long time!

Well, I basically did that here-and I apologize. To update: I’m now 31. The guy who I mentioned in the last post, we dated for 8 months and I finally broke up with him end of November 2014. He ticked a lot of the right boxes, but ultimately he was *so* mean to me when he was mad or upset or drunk that it was verbal abuse. And it didn’t get better. I tried to break it off twice before he could no longer convince me out of it. He also had road rage, and didn’t get along well with most people. I know, red flags, But he was so damn charming and cute when he wanted to be! To give you an idea of how much my wants/thoughts/desires didn’t matter, though I blocked him on most ways possible to block a person, he decided to show up at my house a few weeks ago – yep, MONTHS after I broke it off – to try to ask why we couldn’t be friends. Get a hint!

The last time (when we did break up) was also partially because someone came back into my life who had always had a special place, in a way. You know your first boyfriend/girlfriend ever, how they will always be special to you? That guy. 

That guy.. we will call him Sky. Well, Sky and I “dated” (if you can call it that) at 15. He’s a year younger, I think I was 15 because I think I was learning to drive. Anyway, we met because my family had a lake house near his friend’s lake house – so when summer was over, neither of us could drive and one day we decided we should break up because he forgot to call me when cheering practice ended because he had a school dance or was talking to some girls after soccer practice or something like that. Silly, but very serious high school reasons. 🙂

Now, over the years we stayed in touch, at times closer than others. We had a thing about who says exes can’t be best friends. There were days I called him crying over some guy and he’d be there for me until I calmed down. He got married at one point, and I didn’t know about it until the point in time he called me (which he never did) to ask my opinion on a situation — basically she was textbook crazy and he ended up getting divorced three months in. We were the type of friends who could not talk for months, years, but would always be there for each other if needed.

At times did I wonder if there was more there? Yes. He was attractive as a teen and is a very attractive grown man. He is attractive in ways that are beyond physical, those qualities you look for in people – he has a lot I like. So sometimes my thoughts would be like, go for him! But I’d be afraid of ruining the friendship and also I wasn’t sure he felt that way about me; or if my feelings were driven by feeling vulnerable and would evaporate as I got over my hurt feelings from someone else. Plus, he’d be in and out of long-term relationships.. so we were rarely, if ever, single at the same time. When we got older, I avoided drinking with him because I’d say the attraction tension was thick enough at times I was afraid I’d make a fool of myself and ruin the friendship. He invited me to fly out and go visit him over the years, but I Neither of us crossed that line. I was also stubborn in believing that no way could the guy I met at 15 be the one for me, there had to be someone I was yet to meet! Sky and I had always agreed if we didn’t find other people we’d get married, first at 25, then 27, then 30… etc.

He’d make it a point to get in touch when he would be home for a bit – Sky is in the Army – we’d grab a drink or dinner and go to a movie. We’d stay in touch on facebook chat. Etc. etc. But never that close if either one of us was dating someone.

Then, this past November I got a message, we chatted, he was coming home. He brought up seeing each other and I realized my now ex-boyfriend would never let that fly, and likely throw (yet another) fit. We were already having problems, as I mentioned, and I realized I was more upset at not being able to see Sky than pissing off my “boyfriend”.

To top that off, about a week after Sky messaged me, I had a vivid dream of my wedding reception. But it was to Sky. Not my boyfriend. A week or so later I brought it up to Sky and he told me he has had the same dream for years, after talking. And that it made sense since we always said we would. He told me he finally saw I felt the way he did when I told him I was more upset at not being able to see him than at pissing off my now-ex… and while part of him knew I’d be back eventually, another part of him never thought it would happen. He was pretty damn happy, as he told me he had been in love with me the entire time. To this day he will tell me I have always had him, though I am quick to point out he got married and was in several multi-year relationships. He says, he found ways to be happy, but it always seemed like there was something missing.

The story gets good here – and it’s not just some fairytale so while that would be wonderful it’s not entirely realistic. 🙂 It’s a good story now though..

The ex and I had planned a cruise. Before all the feelings were out, I had the wacky idea to invite Sky on the cruise with me. What better way to see if there are sparks and have a blast than on a tropical cruise with your best guy friend?! Even if you hadn’t been that close in a while…what could possibly go wrong, right? 😉

Sky was all in, and rushed getting a passport in order to make it happen. I literally thought a real-life fairy tale was happening. How sweet, right? First love, is the one all along?!

Well, haha while the first day or three of the cruise was wonderful…and umm…bedroom stuff was intense (we had never hooked up like that as kids) — he started to have some serious second thoughts when he learned who I am today. It is also a lot of alcohol, maybe being too loud, etc, and then take him being Army since 18 and he is all order and respect and social graces – well – he realized he didn’t know me as well as he thought. I think I had more realistic expectations going into it since I had only allowed myself to fully feel what I felt for him recently, whereas he had years of daydreaming or thinking about things. Bottom line: we are on a boat together, for a week, and he’s telling me he’s not sure about things, and I’m drunk, and just came off a relationship, and now my fairy tale is crashing down, and I can’t talk to my friends, and…drunken mess.

We came out of the cruise …kind of like going through a scary crash course. As the woman, I’m naturally more relationship and hope inclined. He wasn’t sure what on earth to do now since, him being stationed 1,000 miles away – well – long distance. Which he said made sense if the cruise went well, but it didn’t quite go as planned. Not bad enough to cut it off, but … not good enough to jump on in.

He was home for another week or two, and I saw him once more, it was a nice date but he wouldn’t quite kiss me goodbye – obviously mixed feelings, and that can’t be easy or fun. I was crushed.

But he kept texting me and I went down one weekend, using an early birthday gift as an excuse/reason to spend the money to see him, and we had what I thought was a great weekend 🙂

But, once again, he saw some little things he decided to be picky about and went on a rampage unsure of if I was the person he knew me as, and he basically spun out of control. It was bad. And then he disappeared on me.

Yep, he pulled the houdini. The disappearing man.

Normally I’d let it go, but with 15 years of past I decided to grab the bull by the horns and I wrote him a long message (think long text) about where the heck did this all come from, and…. he didn’t respond. Nothing. I was floored. This was NOT the guy I had loved so much over the years. Yes, we already had said I love you as best friends many times.

So I knew something was up…and not to buy his withdrawal. His actual birthday I put my pride aside and reached out to say happy birthday – he responded, but barely. And then back to nothing. This time, I let it go. no fighting.

It hurt. Like a bitch. But I knew something was going on in his head and he had to come to terms with things, and there was nothing I could do.

Beginning of March, I get a message. One of those, just testing to see if you still talk to me messages. And he has a much more rational view of things, wants to work on communication, wants to spend more time together, was all about it again. That lasted about a month – second month he got much less affectionate through talking and I was an anxious wreck. Then, what i dreaded was going to happen, happened — and he stopped talking.

I tried to talk to him once – and he ignored me. And I didn’t try again. I knew the dramatic what is going on here didn’t work, so again it hurt like a bitch and I let it go.

May was silent.

June.. he makes a comeback again. I get his first message and decide to wait it out a bit. Besides, he ignored me for a month no reason for me to trip over myself to respond to a text. Then, I get a facebook message. and when I arrived at work, I saw I had another message on another forum – from the day before – (hehe, he still doesn’t know I didn’t see that message) — so of course I responded. This time the comeback is even stronger than before, and the week we started talking again he had somehow found out my address and sent flowers to my home, with a message personal and sweet… During the March/April “togetherness” I had decided I would let him say I love you again first, but he didn’t. But when i got the flowers and saw the note my heart just burst open, because to me – that was the guy who had made me think twice about why we were “just” friends all those years. He had once, as friends, surprised me with flowers when some guy broke my heart. Just to make me smile and show he cared. 24 multi-colored roses.  This time, the arrangement was classier and different, some roses but also hydrangeas and I think some daisies, with a nice vase – more grown up. I called him right away, and told him I loved him – he said it right back and told me he was trying to “suck less”.

Each time he has chosen to come back and pursue this relationship as much as one can from 1,000 miles away with a demanding job, things have gotten better and better. Each time it feels more and more “real” to me. We are hitting a stride.

He dipped again a bit, but this time at the advice of a friend, I put more effort in to encourage him, being affectionate and flirty and not letting myself be hurt that he wasn’t returning my text-kisses. But then we turned a corner, and we are back.

… and we are still in progress. He brought up coming home again, and is trying to work it out. I haven’t seen him since end of January, and we’ve had stretches here and there of not talking. But when we are on, we talk via some chatting method almost all day long. And now, we also talk on the phone maybe a few times a week. Sometimes one or both of us is too tired and we sleep.

I honestly don’t know what will happen between us. I’m really looking forward to seeing him again and I think it will really help us figure out if this is the right relationship for us and if we should keep investing as much time as we have – and more. Because, if I’m really going to do long-distance, then I want to see someone more than every 6+ months, haha.

We do talk about the future, and we dream together about “someday” – but we have yet to build a roadmap or solid plan of when someone (most likely me) moves.

Okay, switching gears. This is a dating blog. I want to express what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown – I can’t tell you this is “the solution” or the golden bullet to finding a good relationship, but I think everyone can benefit from some nuggets I’ve picked up along the way:

  • If it’s not right… it’s not right. No amount of questioning, or stressing, will make it right, so your best bet is to do everything in your power to teach yourself how to let it go and be happy with your life in that moment.
  • Make sure you have other things going on that make you happy besides your relationship. Those things will be your floaties that keep you afloat if things should turn for the worse.
  • Meditation, and self-help/growth, can make all the difference in the world.
  • Work on whatever it is you believe. I believe in God. I try every day to work on my faith and trust that if things are meant to work out they will.
  • Be brave. Be confident. If you are afraid to talk to the person you’re dating about what they want, then there’s an issue. It’s not easy. But you need to be solid in the knowledge that you deserve to have what you want, and the relationship you want. And if this person you like/love so much is not the person, there will be/IS someone else for you.
  • But don’t push. And don’t rush. Most of all, don’t bring things up out of insecurity or fear.
  • Yes, actions do matter more than words. But men/guys can be just as afraid of doing the wrong thing as we are. Sky didn’t ever bring it up because he didn’t want to risk the friendship. And he’s a cautious person emotionally – especially given what he’s been through. So words matter too.
  • The people who write blogs promoting programs and e-books and sell dating programs costing hundreds of dollars and have hard and fast this-and-that rules…are mostly trying to sell something. There is no hard and fast rules to dating, relating, romance, and – different things work for different people.
  • The best thing you can possibly do if you are struggling in the romantic area of your life is work on yourself. What do you wish would change? How can you change yourself to effect that change? Then work on it.
  • Realize that your happiness does not lie in anyone else’s hands but your own. Romance, having a special someone is great. But it’s not a sure thing — ever. Even marriages end. If it doesn’t end, someone will die first. You’ve got to make *yourself* happy first.
  • Listen to your heart. Sometimes, you feel / know what’s best and right for you. Given Sky’s weeks of silence, some of my friends thought I was batshit crazy to even give him the time of day. But I knew him from before.. I know that’s not really who he is… and I knew my heart still wanted him. So I was tough on him on return, I didn’t let him walk on me per say, but I also did what would make me happy — not what my friends said.
  • On that note, no matter what you decide there is always risk when it comes to love. 😉