Tag Archives: broke

Handling Instructions

2 Mar

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As I sit in my apartment on the eve of yet another out-of-state trip, doing what seems like endless loads of laundry but is really only three, I find myself contemplating a world where people come with the same sort of handling instructions as clothes.

Think about it. How much easier would social relationships be if you could just flip over someone’s tag and see how best to keep them from unraveling? A peek at the back of their shirt, and you’d know if this person is your new BFF or your mortal enemy.

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See “machine wash cold” on a tag, and you know that you have a sturdy person. They’re made from a durable fabric in a bold color and can handle life’s spins and bounces with ease.

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The ones who require warmer waters are those whose colors may run easily or who absorb stains a bit deeper. They need a bit more attention to come out clean, but they’re often the ones that we hold the closest to ourselves.

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You see “dry clean only,” and you know you’re dealing with high quality and probably high maintenance. But you also know that if properly cared for, the fabulousness will last forever.

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If you’re anything like me, the hand wash only crowd makes you nervous. These are the most fragile of the bunch- the most prone to falling apart, and the ones we want to protect the most. We wear them like the others, but then we fret over their storage. We spray them with Febreze to avoid having to decide how to wash them, for fear of doing the wrong thing and ruining them.

But these aren’t just soft- they’re the gentlest among us. The handmade-with-love ones, the treasured ones, the ones that are worth the effort it takes to care for, and the ones that can shine the brightest.

Just like with any good wardrobe, I have a mix of all these people in my life. But as I thought about what their tags would say, I started wondering what my own would read. Could I handle a tumble dryer, or would I need to be hung up? Would I need to be separated, or could I hold onto my colors in any temperature water? I’m not fancy enough to be dry clean only, but I’m not a lost sock either.

Ultimately, I think I’m a machine wash warm & tumble dry. I’m pretty secure in who I am, and I can handle the spins of life (vertigo pun intended), but sometimes I need a little extra care. And if today’s laundry adventure was any indication, there should probably be a notation to check my pockets for forgotten items, too.

While I go Google how to remove melted chapstick from jeans, I leave you with this: what would your tag read? How are you best handled by other people?

No One Tell The Student Loan Company

1 Feb

I logged into to my student loan account page this morning, prepared to do battle. I had my paychecks from January, my carefully planned out February budget, and I was ready to present my meager $200 offering to the interest gods.

Then I noticed something strange. My loan balance wasn’t what I expected it to be. On January 6th, it had been $73,333.05. I had paid $200, which I expected to just about cover the monthly interest.

Today, my balance is $69,140.73. I have no idea where the extra $4k credit came from, but for the love of interest forgiveness, no one tell the student loan company about this.

In other financial news, I’m almost done paying off a credit card bill. I’ve been working on this balance for about a year now, ever since the Great Tax Miscalculation of 2013 (still bitter about this one.) I expect to pay the last bit off next month. It’ll never have a $0 balance, as I use the card for business travel as well as personal use, but at least it won’t be my own spending driving up the balance.

After that’s done, I get to move on to paying off a medical bill. This one stemmed from my vertigo testing in the second half of 2013, and it has been a pain in the you-know-where to deal with. My insurance company and the billing department can’t agree on who owes what, and I’ve had very tense calls with both. If they can’t sort themselves out by March (& find the $167 in payments they lost track of), they’re going to hate me even more than they do now, because I’ll have that much more time to sit on the phone with them, reading them back the terms of their contracts.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer, it’s always read the entire contract. You never know when you’ll need to close a loophole into a noose to get someone to honor the terms.

Once these two bills are gone, I’ll be back on track with paying off my student loans. However, if this $4k mystery credit stands, I’ll only be $1100 off my goal for all of 2014.

Seriously, no one tell the student loan company.

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7 Books Til Christmas

12 Dec

Ah, Christmas time. The month of the year when it is not only acceptable but encouraged to eat as much delicious junk food as possible. This tradition used to bring me a lot of joy. Now, as a gluten-free person, it brings me a lot of terror. Homemade Christmas cookies are a minefield of potential allergens, while the non-gluten-free assure me that, “it’s ok to cheat a little. It’s the Holidays, after all.”

My only salvation is the advent calendar, especially the cheap ones they sell at department stores for a few bucks. Made with some obscure chocolate brand from a land where they’ve never heard of wheat, barley, or rye, these slim cardboard boxes come embossed with my favorite design in the world- a gold circle with the letters GF inside. Certified Gluten-Free. It takes a lot of self-control to limit myself to a socially acceptable number of calendars for one person (it’s still 5, right?) when the fear of reaction has been removed.

This year, I have no advent calendar of chocolate. Instead, my advent calendar is decidedly less edible (at least in a conventional sense). This year, my advent calendar is made of books.

As most of you may know, I have a very bad habit of buying more books than I can read, leaving me with an ever-growing To Be Read pile. As some of you may know, this has expanded from a pile to an entire bookcase. The population usually hovers around 36, with new books being added as soon as one or two disappear. Right now, it is at a record low of 25 books. With the coming of Christmas, the shelf is only guaranteed to grow more.

So, I’ve decided enough is enough. The Tsundoku (a wonderful word meaning the act of buying a book and leaving it unread) bookcase must be vanquished, or at least partially vanquished. There are nine cubbies on the shelf. 5 of them currently hold books. My goal is to get it down to 3 cubbies by Christmas, for a total of 18 books or less left on the shelf. This means reading 7 books in 13 days.

Side note- this is a decidedly more fun goal than paying off student loans. Why didn’t I buy 60,000 books instead of going to grad school? I’d very happily spend ten years paying off that debt.

The list of books to be read by Christmas is below. You can also follow my progress on GoodReads, which is a great site for readers if you’re not familiar with it. My username is Kaedance. Look for the “Advent Calendar” shelf. Then feel free to look at the “to-read” shelf and laugh at my inability to stop buying books.

To Be Read By Christmas:

Alice In The Country Of Hearts, Volume 1 by QuinRose & Soumei Hoshino
The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Vacations From Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski
Pet Robots by Scott Christian Sava, Diego Jourdan, and Villagran Studios
Peter & Max by Bill Willingham
Megatokyo Volume 1 by Fred Gallagher & Rodney Caston
Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Three of these are novels, three are graphic novels, and one is a collection of short stories. All of them have been on my shelf for more than 6 months, and some of them have been there for over 18 months. Hopefully, they’ll all soon be promoted to one of the “read” bookcases.

With that, I’m off to read. I mean, I’m off to work. And then read. No reading books at work. I’ve never tested it, but I feel it’s probably discouraged in favor of reading spreadsheets and reports.

Gotta make money so I can buy more books.

Starting Over

4 Dec

Well, it finally happened.  They found me.

The graduate student loan company.

My Income-Based Repayment plan for my Master’s degree came due in November.  This meant I had to drag out my 2012 tax information and reapply. (Boy are there some bad memories associated with that pile of paperwork. The HR company that handles my paychecks made a clerical error that led to a $4,000 tax bill.  I’m still not over this.  I actually Googled how much a kidney sells for these days.)

The good news is that I made more in 2012 than I did in 2011.  The bad news is that the loan company took that as a sign that I could start sending them money. $158 each month, to be exact.

So, after a year off of student loan payments, I’m back on the treadmill of never-ending interest.  My current loan balance is $73,296.75.  My initial loan amount was for $60,000.  We’re not here to get into the bad financial decisions that led to that initial amount, but yeah.  2009 wasn’t my best financial year.

Fun fact- students pursuing a degree in a medical field are allowed to borrow over the legal student loan limit.  Funner fact- students can override the legal student loan limit with one click on an online survey. One click. By a 22 year old kid. Suddenly the student loan crisis makes a lot more sense, huh?

Anyway, my goal is to pay off these loans by the end of 2020. (My current balance is 6 times higher than my undergrad balance, therefore I get 6 extra years.) There’s also a failsafe built into this plan- since my loans were issued after 2007, any remaining balance can be forgiven after 120 consecutive minimum payments. If I don’t make it by 2020, at least I know the loans will be gone by 2024.

Rather than go all out like I did in 2011, I’ve decided to set yearly goals. After all, this repayment is going to be a marathon, not a 12-month sprint. So, for my goal for 2014 will be to get the balance under $68,000.  For those that hate math, that means a monthly payment of $458 per month, for a total of $5,493.87 to be paid by the end of 2014.

You guys ready to dive back into the agnst-inducing world of student loan monthly payments?  The posts will be just as weird as 2011, and on a more regular schedule than 2012.  Beyond that, I make no promises.

Gen Y Is Unhappy Because We Can’t Get Off The Fence

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I read an article the other day called “Why Gen Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.” Since then, I’ve seen quite a few reaction articles. The gist of the argument seems to be that previous generations think that Gen Yers have falsely inflated self-esteem and can’t cope with the reality of having a job that isn’t 100% fulfilling all of the time, while Gen Yers claim that previous generations have created an economy so fouled up that there’s no hope of finding any job, let alone a fulfilling one.

The way I see it, both sides are lined up along a white picket fence, arguing over whose fault it is that the grass is brown. And I can’t help but think that all that this arguing is doing is spreading more weed killer. Maybe it’s time we stopped caring who the blame falls on and started learning how to care for the grass under our own feet.

I am a member of Gen Y. I was born in 1986. I went through school participating in programs like Student of the Week, character education, D.A.R.E, self-affirmations, etc. I learned that I was special, that I had a value, and that I deserved to have a life that met my expectations. And you know what? So did every other member of Gen Y.

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Not that that was a bad thing. Our parents wanted us to know that we deserved a life as good as or better than theirs. After all, isn’t that the wish of every parent? And isn’t that how Gen Y members are raising their own kids?

The point where this grand scheme of promoting a better life full of opportunity fell apart was when the world changed in a way that no one was expecting.  Parents raise their kids based on what they know. Our parents knew that we were living in a time of economic growth and financial stability, so they raised us to succeed in such a world.

When that world fell apart, the paradigms for success did too.  Going to a good school no longer counted for as much.  Businesses circled the wagons, leaving the newly-graduated Gen Y out in the cold with only our ambition to keep us warm. When we raised our voices to complain, we were slapped with titles like, “spoiled” or “entitled.” People say things when they’re angry or scared that they later regret, but words have a way of sticking around forever.

Back in middle school, I once used the word “entitled” instead of “deserved” in a paper. My teacher circled the word in red and wrote a note that has stuck with me for 13 years. She said, “Something entitled is given for free. Something deserved has to be worked for. We are entitled to live, we deserve to choose how.”

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“We are entitled to live, we deserve to choose how.”

Boy, was that more than a simple vocabulary lesson. Gen Y has been placed in a world of choice by our parents- a world in which we can be whatever we want. We can dress up like superheroes every day, or discover the cure for cancer, or create works of art that will be in our children’s and grandchildren’s textbooks.

It’s all right there in front of us like a smorgasbord of life achievement. We can see the plates, we can smell the success, but there are so many people at the party that all most of us got left with are the scraps. We may have been entitled to a seat at the table, but did we deserve to have our plates filled yet?  Maybe or maybe not, but we did deserve the chance to prove that we can succeed on just scraps.

After all, it’s possible to assemble a four-course meal from scraps, if you’re willing to spend enough time scavenging.

So, to my fellow Gen Yers, I say this: We know we have the potential for great things, and we know we’re sick of being told that we’re lazy or delusional. It’s time we did more than write on our blogs or Twitters about how unfair the world is, and acted on our own potential.

We deserve to prove that we are exceptional, because our parents and grandparents sacrificed so that we would be. They put us in head start preschools, they taught us about seizing the moment, they even bought us handheld devices that have more computing power than a rocket sent to the moon in 1969. The methods to success may have changed on us, but that doesn’t mean our tools won’t still work. We just have to learn to use them a different way.

And before the comments start coming in about how bad the economy is and how it’s impossible to find a job, let me say this. My dad used to tell me something that his father told him, “you’re never too good to flip burgers.”

Chances are, you’re not going to find a fulfilling job, or even one that uses your college degree right off the bat. I worked at GameStop for two years. That certainly didn’t use my Master’s Degree (although the discounted video games certainly helped my wallet). I fought for minimum-wage jobs (and sometimes neglected to mention my Master’s degree) so that I could pay my bills, and I used my free time (what little of it I had) to pursue the things that did make me happy.

It took me ten years after high school graduation of working minimum-wage part-time jobs (ask me about the 4 months I worked at a skating rink, or any of the times I got ignored for being a girl in a video game store), but I earned my full-time job, and I got to see my dream of being a published author come true.

The world is unfair. It totally is.  We’re going to be judged unfairly and called things like Yuppies and GYPSYs. We may very well end up flipping burgers with a Master’s degree. but that doesn’t mean that all we’ll ever be is a burger flipper.

Fulfillment in life doesn’t have to come from a job title, and it certainly doesn’t ever come for free. The best way to get people to stop saying that we’re lazy or delusional is to prove them wrong.

And once we discover how to use our tools in this new unplowed garden of a world, you can bet that our grass will be greener than anything anyone has ever seen.

 

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Up, Down, and All Around

13 Sep

It occurred to me sometime last month that I needed to get back into blogging, since my brain does better with the weekly pressure release of writing a post. It took me until today to finally sit down and write a post. I’d say this is out of character for me to delay something, but really, it isn’t.

So, here’s what I’ve been doing since July 16th:

  • I learned to not be afraid to ask for stuff because sometimes, people will be willing to give it to you. It turns out that the saying, “you’ll never know unless you ask” is true. Who knew? I also learned that I have people in my life who will be enthusiastic about my projects and supportive of my goals, even if such projects and goals are a bit odd. This was an excellent discovery, and I’m ashamed at how long it took me to arrive at it.

 

  • I got fed up with my vertigo and started working with a new doctor to get some answers. With the cross-country flights I have for work every few months, it’s no longer a workable solution to just treat the attacks when they happen.  So, I’ve been undergoing some tests. Some of these have been far more pleasant than others. One of them was called a VNG test, which I’m pretty sure stands for Violent Nausea Generator, because that’s exactly what it does. The doctor was trying to identify my vertigo triggers, and I’d say he found them because I had vertigo for three days straight afterwards.

 

  • I went to Dragon*Con and for once, I didn’t overspend. The overspending part came afterwards, when I had a friend in town from England and we set out to do as many American things as possible in two weeks.  It was worth it until he informed me that he wasn’t supposed to cross state lines AS WE WERE CROSSING A STATE LINE.  So, you know, at least I got to cross “commit a minor felony” off my bucket list.  And if anyone from the government asks, Chattanooga is now part of Georgia.

 

  • We finished filming the web series and began the long process of editing. You can see the official trailer here: Life Online Trailer. Thank you to all of our supporters for helping make this dream literally come true.

 

  • I had a short story published. Which is surprising, considering that I forgot the name of said story after submitting it and nearly missed out on the acceptance email.  You see, I had something like seven months to write the story, but due to a variety of factors totally within my control, I ended up writing the vast majority of it on the deadline day. I submitted it, and didn’t hear anything until the list of selected titles came out.  I didn’t see what I thought was the name of my story, so I assumed I’d been rejected.  Five months later, I got an email from the publisher asking if I was still interested in having my story as part of the anthology, but he referred to the story by a title I didn’t recognize.  As it turns out, I had submitted my story under a different title than I had thought, and then forgotten. That’ll teach me to second guess my titles. And also to make better notes on what I submit for publication.

The anthology is out now as an ebook on Amazon. You can buy it by clicking here: Forbidden Future. 12 cents of every copy goes to me, so I’m going to      need about a thousand of you to buy it. (I’m just kidding. There aren’t 1,000 of you reading this blog. I’ll be lucky to make enough to buy a few packs of              gluten-free ramen off the book. But you know what? That doesn’t make it any less cooler to see my name in print.)

 

That’s about it for what I’ve been up to this summer. As we head into fall, I get to look forward to the annual conversation with my grad school loan company over how much I make and how much I should send them each month. I imagine the conversation will be more animated this year, as they’ll have found out about my full-time job. On the plus side, that means more regular posts full of the monetary-related ramblings you’ve come to expect over the last year and a half.

So, you know, there’s that.

3 Years

16 Jul

It’s funny how many of our phrases about life have to do with transportation- we’re on the right path, at a crossroads, off the rails.  We’re in the fast lane, bypassing failure, in a rut. We’re enjoying the ride, flying solo, living on autopilot. And the list just goes on.

Three years ago, I didn’t need a metaphor. I had literally taken an unexpected turn that had left my world somewhat literally upside down and my plans figuratively shattered into slivers.  I don’t want to go into the details of the accident here, (if you’re curious, you can read about it in my post What Remains, which also has the open letter I wrote to the Honda Car Company the next day. Warning: there are pictures of the car after the accident in that post) because as each year passes, I try to spend more time looking forward than looking back.

The first anniversary of the accident, I was afraid to drive anywhere.  I sat at home and enjoyed the fact that I was alive.  The legal aftermath of the accident had been settled just weeks before, and I finally felt free to move on.

The second anniversary, I thought (and posted, see above) about how the accident had changed my life for the worse. I have to take more precautions with my back muscles, I flinch more when someone does something unexpected on the road, and I worry more when someone else is behind the wheel.  But dwelling on those things isn’t doing anyone any good, least of all me, so I decided to spend the next year looking forward.

I guess I succeeded, because I totally forgot that it was July 16th today.  I spent the day working with new coworkers, replanning my monthly budget to reflect my recent pay raise (YAY!!! But that’s another post), washing the car with a couple of six-year-olds, and filming scenes for a web series.  I did the things that make me feel happy and fulfilled, rather than spending my time contemplating the fragility of life and how lucky I am to be sitting here in front of my computer today.

I suppose that’s the ultimate sign that I’m over the accident.  It’s never on my mind unless I’m having back pains and have to explain why to someone.  I drive past the accident site without cringing now, and some days I don’t even notice it at all.  It’s just another intersection, although it is somewhat pleasing to see that the two perfect black circles from the impact of my hubcaps on the road are still there.

So this year, I’m only thinking about the accident for as long as it takes me to finish this post.  Then I’m going back to what makes me happy, which tonight is working with an amazing group of actors to make something that is truly funny.

Maybe by next year, I won’t need a post at all.

The (50% off) Descent

12 Jan

Well, it finally happened.

I resisted as long as I could.

I told myself I didn’t need them.

That I was just fine without them.

My life was complete.

I’m so ashamed.

That’s right, I’ve become…

A couponer.

Just now, I started a Google search for pictures of crazy couponers, and I lost 20 minutes while looking for cheddar cheese coupons (that stuff’s expensive, you know).  Earlier today, I spend 45 minutes trying to get around another website’s print limit when my printer decided to eat the page mid-print.  (It turns out Coupons.com is surprisingly easy to beat, but that’s beside the point here).

The point is I’m sitting at my desk with a stack of papers and a grocery list, ready to do battle with Wal-Mart over retail prices on gluten-free spaghetti.  I tell myself that it’s because gluten-free foods run $2-3 more than their gluten-containing counterparts, and I’m just ensuring my dietary needs don’t run me into the poorhouse.  But that’s just the surface reason.

What I’m pretty sure has happened here is that my need to save money hasn’t evaporated along with my student loans.  The debt is gone but the penny-saving mentality remains.  Now it has gotten me lost in the land of anti-retail, searching for that elusive unicorn of coupons: the buy one, get one free.

BOGO sign

Sshh, don’t make a sound. You’ll startle it away.

So far, I’ve managed to stay to the light side- only using coupons on items (and quantities) I already plan to purchase, not trying to sneak expired or illegally doubled coupons by the cashier, and keeping my total number of coupons to under 7.  I fear the day may come when I let the sales dictate what I’m eating that week.  From there, it’s only a short slide until I find myself in a dark pantry surrounded by 1500 packs of paper towels, 16000 rolls of toilet paper, 3 camping stoves, and 17 gallons of ranch dressing, defying the government to come take my preciouses away.  (Someone promise me you’ll do an intervention before I reach that point.  Like, maybe after the second camping stove purchase.)

Until I reach that point of no return, I’ve got errands to run.  I found this great coupon for air fresheners that stacks with a coupon for ranch dres…. I mean, I’ve got 50 cents off Glutino-brand cereal.  Yes, that’s the coupon I meant.

Anyone have a good couponing story they’d like to share to make me laugh/feel better about my new habit/warn me off the path of addiction?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

New Year, New Blog

31 Dec

Here we sit at the end of the year.  12 months ago, I was sitting in the same chair on the same rug in the same room, but yet in a totally different place.

In January, I was working five part-time jobs, living at home, and $12,000 more dollars in debt.

Now in December, I am working one full-time job and four part-time jobs, will soon be living in a new apartment of my very own, and my credit report lists a dozen more “closed- paid in full” accounts.

Since I accomplished my goal, I’ve been trying to decide what to do with this blog.  After all, even though my undergraduate loans are gone, my graduate loans still loom large and forboding on the horizon.  I’ve decided that I’ll keep blogging here about money, loans, and life, but less frequently.  I do enjoy writing this blog, and I’ve heard from several people that you enjoy hearing about my constant battles with the student loan companies.

But, a new blog project is demanding my attention.  This is a project that I’ve been working on for a month or so now, and I’m excited to finally share it with you.  I hope you’ll check it out, and I hope the Americans among you will take in interest in it.

The new blog is called What The Health, and it’s being written by myself and a former classmate (this means we both hold Masters Degrees in Public Health).  We’ll be going page by page through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Healthcare Reform) and explaining in plain nonpartisan language what it means for the public.  We’ve also included a Cuteness Clause, for when the project becomes too tedious for our readers.  You can learn more about the project by clicking here: http://saywhatthehealth.wordpress.com/about/

I wish you all a very happy New Year’s Eve, and a wonderful New Year.  Thank you for supporting me on this journey through your comments, your subscriptions, and simply your page views.  You kept me going when I felt like there was no way I’d ever make it though my mountain of debt.  Cheers y’all.

 

Tallying It All Up

14 Dec

In case any of you missed it, I accomplished my goal on December 3rd.  I paid off my undergraduate student loans, and I have the picture to prove it:

zero balance

After I finished dancing around the room and texting everyone I’ve ever known, I sat down to total all my payments for these loans.

Over this past year, I paid just over $12k.  Over the 8-year life of my loans, I paid just over $26k.  Since my original loan total was $23,300, I paid about 10% extra in interest.

I could have done a lot with $26,000: a nicer car, a bigger apartment, a lifetime pass to Dragon*Con (and ones for 5 of my friends as well), or a trip to any convention I wanted.

Instead, I have a college degree that informs my work life every day, and shaped my life in so many other ways.  I think I made the right choice.

Here’s hoping my graduate degree pays off in the same way.  Because really, there’s so much more I could do with $70,000.

One final note: this is the first New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made and kept.  And no, next year’s resolution will not be to pay off my grad loans in a year, unless I win big on a lottery ticket in the next two weeks.  But I do have a new project starting on January 1st.  I’ll be posting more about that next week, so stay tuned.

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