March Monthly Report – Hopeful

Hullo,

I started writing this post during the Easter weekend. And though it is now over a week since then, I hope you had a Happy Easter/Passover/break from work last week Friday! Since I am an independent consultant, I never really take a break from work. But it’s ok because I like the other benefits of working for myself. That is, when I have ’em.

Back to business, this past month I again didn’t make much progress reducing my debt. Sad face.

However, the great news is that my monthly income went up, because I got a couple extra contracts! So I pretty much earned almost what I would earn in a normal month. The first new contract is already finishing up. But the other client is longer term so I will have somewhat steadier income for at least the next 6 months. Will still need another contract though to make close to what I was earning before income dried up in October.

My main client, that I will be leaving, also has a deadline to start paying up some of their outstanding debt by the end of this month. And then more next month. Hopefully, that will happen. So I can pay off more than the minimums on my loans, for at least the next 3 months.

Anyways, as implied earlier in this post, I didn’t put much of my earnings into my debt, because I have to build up back my emergency fund. And also, taxes.

I tried to keep down my expenses as though I had no income. Here are some ways I spent my money.

DINING EXPENSES

JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH
$59 $81 $143

Ok, dining expenses don’t look like the dining of someone living as though she had no income. Most of that money was spent on dinner for a friend on her birthday, along with paying for my dinner. And then I also went to one networking dinner. Besides that, all my “dining” expenses were really coffee/juice at coffee shop meetups with clients.

In March, I spent literally no money on entertainment. Add that to the dining situation and I think you’ll have a good idea of my social life in wintertime in Canada (as mentioned in my last post, February’s spending on recreation was a fluke).

ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES (TRAVEL, DRINKING/PARTYING, RECREATION)

DEC JAN FEB MAR
$0 $10 $136 $0

This was fantastic news for my wallet. Not so fantastic news for my social life. I always question my reason for living in Canada, whenever I go through winter and its associated blues.

In total, apart from money put towards loans and a little money I gave to my Mum, I only spent $310 for the month. That includes the expenses noted here.

Anyway, time to stop putting off the inevitable: the summary of where things stood at the end of March. I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t much further from where they stood at the end of February.

NAME JULY 31, 2013 MARCH 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $39 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($109,142 CAD)
$77,984 USD
($88,036 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $17,774 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $154,527 CAD $105,849 CAD

February’s balance was $106,223. So that means that in March I paid off a paltry $374, even less than the month prior.

What hurts the most is that I dumped well over $1000 CAD into my loans , not to mention the loss I make monthly whenever I convert my CAD$ to USD$ at the bank, for them to wire to my loan account. Also, in March, I actually put in $149USD more than the minimum, whereas in February I had put in just the bare minimum. Yet, I STILL paid off less in March than in February. Furthermore, if the exchange rate wasn’t so horrible, I would be much closer or already at the point where I’d be celebrating getting my loan down to under $100K.

So again I will leave you with a song. What hurts the most, was being so close…

By the way, while I will easily admit to liking country music, I do listen to all types. And I swear country music is not the predominant music that plays in my head!

Also, I am TRULY thankful I live at home and don’t have to truly worry about rent and other expenses that come with living on one’s own. And I am hopeful that the coming months will be better than the Oct to Feb period.

February Monthly Report – I’m Blue

Hola,

I’ve been feeling like it doesn’t make sense to update when things are going downhill. But hey, maybe I can be inspiration to others for persevering, to show the dark before the light.  You know, when my luck turns around as I know it will. Eventually.

Actually, I thought I’d have a great post for you today, thanks to an expected influx of cash. Main client who owes me a ton of money had promised they’d be able to pay me this week. Alas, it doesn’t seem like it is going to happen, as the money they received is now tied up and might be going to someone else they owed money before me. *Siiigggghhh*

I have told them that I am likely going to leave entirely at the end of this month if things don’t change. And in two weeks, no matter what, I will start doing more hours for another client and reduce my time working for main client. Because I need to start getting more regular income again.

This month, I uncharacteristically counted my chickens before they were hatched (expected windfall from overdue invoices). I waited until last week but the client was so good at convincing me that I would for sure have gotten paid by this week that I went ahead and splurged a little to try a winter sport. So I spent quite a bit on doing outdoor recreation last week and also paid in advance for it again next week. Ended up losing my phone during last week’s excursion, of course. So I then had to buy a new phone…I was planning to get a new phone in May anyways, but it would’ve been nice to not have to unexpectedly spend hundreds with my precarious financial situation.

And I believe the Canadian dollar fell more.

Needless to say, I didn’t make much progress reducing debt this month.

My dining expenses went back up but is still not too bad. I went out a little more overall in February because I could feel myself getting hit with a big case of S.A.D. And I wanted to curb it by distracting myself. That’s why I did the winter activity too – I need to find something that will lessen my winter depression. Still in the process of trying to improve my mood at the moment, especially since it seems like winter WILL NEVER END in Canada.

DINING EXPENSES

DECEMBER JANUARY FEBRUARY
$201 $59 $81

Groceries went down from $83 to $35.

Entertainment wise there is that outdoor thing I did. So my entertainment expenses definitely increased in February. And will likely be a similar figure next month.

ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES (TRAVEL, DRINKING/PARTYING, RECREATION)

NOV DEC JAN FEB
$13 $0 $10 $136

You should really add another $120 for the gear I had to buy to be properly dressed. Got the cheapest gear available but cheapest available is still darn expensive. Winter sports is a pretty expensive pastime! Another reason to intensely dislike, nay abhor, winter!

Here is where things stood at the end of February:

NAME JULY 31, 2013 FEBRUARY 28, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $0 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($109,142 CAD)
$78,302 USD
($88,286 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $17,937 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $154,527 CAD $106,223 CAD

January’s balance was $106,705. So that means that in February I paid off a paltry $482. Not even $500. The heart is low. The heart is so low…

January Monthly Report – Giving Thanks

Hi all,

I am back with my January report!

I’ll start with the good news. I got a small contract that will help cover my monthly expenses for January and February! Very thankful for it, especially because I wasn’t out looking for another contract (got my hands full with my current contracts). It literally just came to me.

The bad news is that the loonie, i.e. the Canadian dollar, keeps falling. I will probably have to re-adjust my debt reduction tables in 3 or 4 months to better reflect the average exchange rate. Not looking forward to that at all as it will increase my amount owing by at least $10K CAD. *sigh*

Anyways, let’s go back to business.

My dining expenses went back down! Only went out to eat with friends once and the rest was for family takeout.

DINING EXPENSES

NOVEMBER DECEMBER JANUARY
$133 $201 $59

My spending on gifts actually went up from the $240 it was at Christmastime. I spent $291 in January! That was mainly for a snowblower for my Mum because I was tired of having to shovel snow and I didn’t want my mother to be breaking her back to do it either. And, since I earned money this month, I gave a little to my Mum.

I also spent $82 on groceries.

For entertainment, it was again another good month spending-wise. Not so good though for my social life. I only spent $10 for a Groupon type recreation deal that I will be using in the next couple months.

ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES (TRAVEL, DRINKING/PARTYING, RECREATION)

OCT NOV DEC JAN
$30 $13 $0 $10

And my dental expenses went back down to normal monthly levels.

Here is where things stood at the end of January:

NAME JULY 31, 2013 JANUARY 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $15 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($109,142 CAD)
$78,555 USD
($88,571 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $18,134 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $154,527 CAD $106,705 CAD

December’s balance was $108,196. So that means that in January I paid off $1491, far below my minimum threshold of $2500 per month in debt reduction. But I’m in lockdown mode financially now so I am okay with that number.

I have started out the year behind schedule. But one of my clients promised to pay me the massive amount owing by the end of this month. Hopefully that happens. So that by March I will be square again and can make up the payments. At the same time, if things don’t improve I will have to start finding new contracts around then too.

Here’s to hoping things work out financially for me this month!

 

2014 Report – Another Year Over

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2014 is over and, as always, I am thankful to get the opportunity to see the start of another year.

Today, I bring you the end of month report for December 2014 as well as a debt progress summary.

In December, I had zero money coming in and the Canadian dollar fell even further against the US dollar. At the same time, some of my expenses went up instead of down. For instance, I spent a bit more on dining out because of the holiday dinners and meetups with friends.

DINING EXPENSES

OCTOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER
$172 $133 $201

I also spent about $240 on gifts.

Thankfully, my family is not big on Christmas gifts. However, a family member had a significant birthday, there are kids in my household and I also bought little holiday gifts for a few friends so that’s why the figure is $240. AND I also spent $1000 more on health (dental) expenses than I had been averaging the past few months.

Another thing to give thanks for is that my holiday spending was limited to eating out and gifts. I had no entertainment expense! The cold weather is not conducive to my going out. Yesterday, for instance, the weather was feeling like a positively depressing -30C/-22F. When winter hits in Canada I know I can look forward to spending much less on entertainment!

ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES (TRAVEL, DRINKING/PARTYING, RECREATION)

SEP OCT NOV DEC
$0 $30 $13 $0

Also, since I had no incoming cash flow, I did not give my Mum money for the family this month. A bit of the dining expenses up above though was towards a couple family takeout/delivery meals (pizza and takeout).

Here is where things stood at the end of December:

NAME JULY 31, 2013 DECEMBER 31, 2014
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $38 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($109,142 CAD)
$79,667 USD
($89,936 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $18,260 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $154,527 CAD $108,196 CAD

November’s balance was $110,767. So that means that in December I paid off $2571, just meeting my minimum threshold of $2500 per month in debt reduction. A minor miracle considering I had no income!

At the end of December 2013, I was $139,881 in debt. So that means that in 2014 I paid off $31,685 or an average of $2640 per month. On a salary that ended up being quite a long ways below the six figures it would have hit had I been earning proper income the last 4 months of the year.

Overall, I have paid off $46,331 in 17 months! And that doesn’t include most of the interest payments!

I am currently on track to meet my goal of eliminating my debt in a total of 5 years and that is great! I may not be quite where I want to be right now financially, my savings are currently being depleted and my future is still quite uncertain. But I’ve begun to accept uncertainty as my permanent status in life anyways. And, more importantly, I am super thankful that I got good income for as long as I did and that I was able to pay off as much as I did! Many people’s entire gross income is the total I paid off this past year and many of those people work a helluva lot harder or at least expend a lot more physical energy working in their jobs than I ever will. So I AM thankful!

My financial wish for 2015 is that I, and any readers in a similar boat, will attain our debt reduction goals this year!

May Monthly Report – Material World

Hi all. I apologize for not posting the last two weeks. Things got busy with main client the first weekend and then this past weekend was spent preparing for and then moving downtown. I also didn’t have internet at the new place for a few days. So it took me longer to download my bank account transactions to my personal finance software, run my reports and do my usual monthly analyses of spending, expenses, etc. One day I will write a post about the process and tools I use to keep track of my money. Today, however, I will give an update on my debt reduction progress as of the end of last month and my life in the new digs.

Since I last posted, I paid off the last of the student line of credit (LOC)! Yay!
LOC paid

So that’s one more debt erased! Or rather squashed – haha. Next step is to focus on the b-school loan since it has the higher interest rate!

By the way, I realize that I have been zigzagging between the avalanche method of debt repayment (where you pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first, in descending order of interest rates) and the snowball payoff strategy (where you pay off the smallest debts first in ascending order of debt size, to get emotional wins). To be honest, I wasn’t really consciously following either one. I made sure to pay off my credit cards first because they had the highest interest rates AND they were the smaller amounts. Then I needed the emotional win of paying off my student line of credit (it’s been 11 years since I’ve had it!). And now I am back to focusing on the debt with the highest interest rate because the saved interest payments on my massive b-school loan will be a lot of money.

Alright, back to my progress…I didn’t get to throw money at much else besides the LOC because I didn’t have as much money coming in this past month. A couple payments I was to get in May have been late. And I didn’t want to put too much money towards the debt without for sure knowing I had a certain amount in my savings (planning for uncertainty remember?). In addition, besides the extra expenses of rent and living expenses, I am planning to spend a few thousand towards much-needed dental work before the summer is out. I will write about them later but my teeth issues are depressing 😦 . The point though is that, thanks to those mentioned things, I was more conservative this month in the money I threw at debt.

As for my life and last month’s spending…

If you remember from my last post, I told you all that I planned to temporarily move from a rent-free situation with the ‘rents to downtown living for the summer. That time arrived last weekend! Last Saturday, I moved into a condo for the three full months of summer!

It is a pretty nice, centrally-located condo with lots of amenities. The complete opposite of my living environment at home. And it is in a totally different type of neighbourhood from where my family lives. I got a really good deal on this nicely furnished luxury condo. It was listed at a price I could not afford so I emailed the owner and asked for a greatly reduced price, with the offer to pay all 3 months upfront. He initially said no. But then he emailed later saying that though he had others willing to pay more he liked me (he probably checked the links I gave him and googled me to make sure I was legit). After some back and forth we agreed on a price. I met him, saw the place and it worked out!

Basically, I negotiated the rent price (protip to saving money taught to me by my parents: negotiate on everything!).

funny negotiation

Nonetheless, I will also confess that, in securing this sweet pad, I went over my monthly rent budget quite a bit. However, by renting for only 3 months instead of the 4 months I had been thinking I’d do, I will end up spending the same amount of planned money on rent. A shorter stay in uber-convenient, swankier digs was a price I was willing to pay. Best believe that I will be using as many of the amenities as possible. And, since I have no flatmates, I achieved my goal of having a place where I can finally host visiting friends, without worrying about flatmates. Also, I figured that since I will be able to walk to many places I will be able save on transportation costs.

In other news, last weekend was also my birthday!
happy dog birthday

And as I feared, downtown living, with fun and temptation within easy grasp, started out proving to be rough on the wallet. As part of my birthday celebrations, I went proper clubbing for the first time in many years. And was simply reminded why I don’t really like the clubbing experience. It is time-consuming and expensive!

Club night was the day of my move but I unexpectedly had to help my parents with something so I spent all day driving them around. This had me moving in and getting ready two hours later than I intended. I was going to a nice club with a dress code (clearly not my choice) and my company was to include at least one girl I knew was going to go all out with dressing up. She is one of my new friends. We had gone out the night before to a stylish event and she had come dressed to turn heads, while I basically just flung on whatever clothes I could grab. I didn’t want to disappoint her again Saturday night. She hadn’t said anything Friday night but I definitely felt imagined her disappointment.

Most of the time, I try to avoid comparing myself to other women. But sometimes I can’t help it. Like when I know I am going to a club where most of the women will be dressed to kill. So I spent a lot of time on Saturday getting ready – deciding on a nice outfit, doing my hair and doing my makeup. Then because I started getting ready late, by the time I was ready to leave the apartment, it was after the time I should already have been at dinner with my friends (dinner was to be our first stop before the club). I had been planning to take public transportation to the restaurant, 15 minutes away. But I was late and in super high heels and a cab would take 7 minutes and only cost me $10 versus the $3 bus ride, i.e. $7 more. So I took a cab.

After dinner we briefly went into a pub and then went to the club. By the time the night was done I had spent $70, including dinner! I know that’s a small amount for clubgoers and high rollers (of which I count many of my former b-school classmates) but it was a big amount for me, especially since I had also gone out the previous two nights and had spent $40 each of those nights. That was a $150 weekend just for entertainment alone! I justify it a little though, because last year when I became 30 life was pretty depressing for me. So I tell myself that that big spending on just food and drinks was ok because it was my birthday, I didn’t do anything for my 30th last year and I don’t spend on myself like that often.

The cab spending is what I will have to watch out for…I live near enough to everything that it shouldn’t cost me more than $10 to take a cab anywhere, which is pretty cheap. However, public transportation is cheaper and runs 24/7 near enough to me that I can take it late at night. As long as I am not in heels. This is why I will try to avoid clubs/dressy lounges this summer and if I take a cab I will try to have at least one friend with me so we can split the cost.

On the bright side, this week I have already saved on a few round-trip transportation costs, because I walked to events/meetings. So cheers to that!

I will continue to keep you posted of my spending. As of now, here is a summary of my debt situation.

Name July 31, 2013 May 31, 2014
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0
Visa $8,653 CAD $0
B-school loan $96,800 USD ($105,503 CAD) $95,807 USD ($104,420 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $19,351 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $150,888 CAD $123,771 CAD

That means that so far I have paid off $27,117 of my debt, which is not bad and still keeps me on track to my $30K payoff goal by July. However, I also have a goal to put at least $2500 per month towards debt, preferably $3000.

At the end of April my debt was $126,370. With May’s end of month debt balance being $123,771, this means that last month I put $2599 towards debt. That’s a little short of my $3000 per month goal. But I’m actually surprised. In a good way! With all the spending I’d been doing and few payments towards debt, I thought I only paid off $2000 at most (low expectations all the way).

This month of June I will again be spending extra on living expenses AND also have to put aside money for future dental treatment so I don’t know that I will be able to put $3000 towards debt. Hopefully, I will! Please check back in a week or two to get an update from me!

Journey to $25K

Hi all. In my last post I explained how I found myself $151K in the red last end of July. In this post I will bring you up to speed on how I paid off $26K in nine months. I put $25K in the title because it sounds better. Like one of those long-distance races.

As a reminder, here is what I owed last July:

Name Amount Interest Rate
Mastercard $6,123 CAD 19.99%
Visa $8,653 CAD 15.75%
B-school loan $96,800 USD ($105,503 CAD) 8.25%
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD 5.5%
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD 4.5%
TOTAL $150,888 CAD

My general strategy in life is to enjoy it as much as I can but set low expectations. This way I get to enjoy life but I am hardly ever disappointed and more often than not I get to be ecstatic by the smallest of achievements or things that happen in my life. I am a peachy overachiever, aren’t I? Anyways, since I have that outlook on life, I try not to count on money too far in advance. This includes salaries and contracts. So when I signed the first contract mentioned in my last post and set about planning out my money, I only counted on a little money at a time and tried not to count too much on money I did not actually have in hand.

The First Contract

That two-and-a-half month first contract had an initial deposit, a midpoint payment and a final payment. I was to work as a strategic consultant for the client. A few days before the first payment (and for each one thereafter), I wrote out how I would allocate that payment. With the first payment, I only allocated money to paying the minimum payments on the line of credit and credit cards and the monthly amount for the loans. The extra was set aside to save towards the next month’s b-school loan payment, by far the biggest fixed expense at $745USD per month. In my mind, the client could theoretically end the agreement whenever they wanted and I wanted to ensure that if that happened I would at least be able to survive a month.

Thank God for my parents and my live-free situation with them! My family immigrated to Canada eleven years ago. Living at home with the ‘rents is not unusual for people of my background and, in general, for many immigrants where I live in Canada. In fact, most of my unmarried friends here (who are friends from undergrad) are like me and still live at home with their parents, although we are all nearing or past 30 years old and we all have decent or well-paying jobs. So I have little-to-no shame from living at home, the opposite feeling from many North Americans I’m sure.

Ok, so as I was saying, the first payment was allocated mainly towards meeting the minimum monthly payments on my debt. With the second payment, I was a little more adventurous. I allocated a few hundred dollars more than the minimums to both credit cards and set aside money for the next OSAP payment. I also put some money in savings.

Just before the deadline for the third payment, the client asked me to continue on for some more months and do more work. Lady Luck or God was smiling down on me! This development was amazing. Especially since, what with my low expectations and all, I had been thinking I’d get fired. But I guess they were happy with the work I was doing for them. Happiness abounded on my end with that request for a new engagement with that client!

With the third payment from main client I set aside some more money towards future b-school loan payments. I was determined to eventually have at least six months of b-school loan payments put aside. I also put aside some money in savings and allocated a little money to give to my parents. Once I knew I had a couple more months of money coming in with a new contract I felt it was my responsibility to give at least a tiny bit back to my parents (a couple hundred per month), especially given my family’s financial position (Mum with lower-paying job, Dad unable to work since shortly after we immigrated, an unemployed sibling, two other siblings working minimum wage and two kids).

I also put aside money in my monthly budget to order biweekly takeout for our family of eight. I should be giving my parents way more but my parents completely support my goal of paying off as much of my debt as possible. They agree that I should do this while I am earning decent money because they also advocate a debt-free life (except for a mortgage) and who knows how long I will be earning decent money? They are also pretty frugal too. When it comes to financial outlook on life sometimes, despite me calling them out on being too cheap sometimes, I have to admit that in my case the apple did not fall far from the tree.

The Next Couple Contracts

Alright, back to paying off my debt!

The second contract from my first lovely client would take me to the beginning of November. Near the end of that second contract I got a second client. It was a pretty small programming job (I’m a developer too) but that meant a couple thousand dollars more, i.e. more money! Joy!

In those first months to November, I continued my strategy of putting some money aside for the b-school loan payments, paying the minimums for the OSAP loan and student line of credit (LOC) AND putting more than the minimum payments towards the two credit cards. At some point, I decided to throw more effort into paying off the Mastercard since it had the higher interest rate. So, for instance, there were times I’d pay $300 towards my Visa bill and $1000 towards the Mastercard. With that strategy, I paid off my Mastercard balance by the beginning of November when I got that last payment for the second contract from the main client!

mastercard paid

The Fun, Frugal Lifestyle

In addition, in those summer months to November (and the final payment for that second contract from the client) I also continued to limit my spending. I am a pretty frugal person in general especially when it comes to spending money on myself. However, in those months I took my frugality to another level and continued operating as if I was unemployed. I was razor-focused on getting rid of my credit card debt. As I mentioned in my last post, I’d never really carried a credit card balance before (except on a few occasions in the past when I forgot to pay). At the same time I do love to socialize and one of my goals last summer, being back in Canada, was to make new friends. To serve both these desires. I mostly attended only free or low-cost events.

Thankfully, the city I live in has many free events in the summer. I was (and still am) living with my family in a working-class suburb with no access to a reliable car. Once I started telling friends that I was getting clients, many asked me about plans to get a car or move out on my own. My answer was always the same. I feel no pressure to move out and by delaying gratification and staying home longer I can save money. In addition, owning a car, even the cheapest of the cheap, is more expensive than public transportation. Also, why get a car when I live in a city with perfectly fine public transportation?

So I had to take public transportation to the free or low-cost events I usually attended, all of which were usually downtown, 1.5hrs away. I often waited until my Mum was home before I left to attend an event. I did this so I could use her metropass. She usually has a monthly metropass that allows for unlimited travel using public transportation. By borrowing her pass, I saved money on a roundtrip, i.e. $6. It seems little but every little adds up when you are trying to save! Also, by saving money on transportation, I could buy a coffee or a drink at an event and not feel so bad about the spending. With my socializing strategy, I mostly did evening and weekend events.

I like going out and meeting new people but I am a pretty low-key person. I don’t need to have bottle service when I go out. I will buy drinks for friends when I’m making money or if it is somebody’s birthday I will buy the person a drink or present. In those days of extreme frugality though, I never overspent on alcohol. Never more than two drinks when out. And, while I love dancing and like to dress up sometimes, I generally have zero desire to attend clubs/lounges/events where I HAVE TO dress to the nines to get in. I don’t crave material possessions. I also don’t snack often or get urges for fast food or takeout and I could eat the same meal many days in a row without getting tired. So I am content with the food I get at home. In fact, I don’t eat out often, only for one or two of those aforementioned social events to meet new people and one or so nights a month with my friends. Probably a total of three times a month on average. This is in contrast to the things that are common with the business school crowd post-graduation.

Luckily, none of my former business school classmates live in my city, my friends here are also pretty frugal and my new friends understand my situation of trying to lower my debt. So I have zero pressure to keep up with the Joneses. (EDIT: OK, I won’t say zero pressure since many of the people with whom I interact for work are in the top 1%. I just focus on being professional and maintaining some distance with them. I have never been one to become good friends with colleagues. My personal life never mixes with my professional life.)

All in all, I don’t feel like my social life suffered much.

The great thing too is that since I started out self-employed right off the bat, I didn’t have to worry about buying clothes for work or money for transportation. I also work mainly in the tech industry and, lucky for me, the tech industry in general has a pretty casual dress code. And I only met with clients in-person once a week on average. Plus, I am good with working from my bed so I didn’t need to frequent a coffee shop to get work done (coffee shops meant unnecessary spending). If I got stir-crazy from being home too much or I needed a break from my always noisy home environment, I went to the public library down the road where wi-fi was free.

I was also a little worried that carrying a credit card balance especially in relation to my limits would negatively affect my credit rating. So I called my card companies and asked for credit limit increases to ensure that my utilization would be below 50% on each card and in total. They gave me the increases as requested, when one would think that my high utilization and month-to-month high balances would have signaled red flags for them. The credit card world is really something! I guess my good record in the years prior helped.

The Third Contract From Main Client

Anyways, God and luck came calling a third time. Towards the end of that second contract with my main client (sometime near November), they again decided to rehire me! This time we set up a recurring engagement. If all went well, I’d be on a monthly retainer for 6 months to the end of April.

Then I got a couple more clients!

I continued to map out exactly how I would allocate each payment. With the third longer contract from my main client, I started planning a couple payments in advance. I also increased the monthly amount I was giving to my parents. It was still just a tiny fraction of what I was earning. But I think that the quicker I am out of debt the quicker I will be able to help them more. After paying off the Mastercard, I focused on the Visa. I got that paid off at the end of last year.

visa paid

At one point, I calculated that from July to January I spent an average of $347 per month on non-debt expenses and that included me taking two 2-week trips to see friends (b-school friends) in the US!

Current Financial Situation

Ever since I paid off the credit cards at the end of last year, I’ve been focusing on the student line of credit (LOC). I know it has the lowest interest rate but an extended family member co-signed that line of credit for me eleven years ago. I hate being indebted to people in general, including family members, so the line of credit was my next target because I don’t want someone to have one of my debts on their credit record. It also seemed like an easy target since it was the next lowest debt after the credit cards. As of today, I am just under $900 away from paying it off!

Actually, I would have paid off the LOC more quickly. However, I was also focused on saving a significant amount to carry me for a few months of unemployment, just in case my main contract wasn’t renewed, my other clients dried up and it took me a while to find more clients (you’re looking at a real optimist right here!). I was also determined to save for living expenses for 3 months downtown on my own this summer. Come hell or high water I will be taking that break from living at home. Because, I might be frugal but, I firmly believe in enjoying life to the fullest as much as possible. We are only young once and I AM making a little money. Thus, I made the effort to save to have the experience of living downtown, even if only for a short period of time (I am BIG on experiences!). So, yeah, it is taking a little longer to pay off the LOC than it should have taken.

I have also loosened up a little with my spending. Now, instead of living like I am unemployed, I live like a college student. Big change!

On the brighter side of things, I’ve saved almost $14,000 CAD and $2,000 USD, on top of what I had in the bank last July. The $2,000 USD saved added to the $2,000 USD I had in the bank before ($4,000 USD total) is for future b-school loan payments (almost 6 months worth!), while the nearly $14,000 CAD plus the little CAD dollars I had before is a contingency fund for my next bout of unemployment.

Furthermore, altogether, including interest, I have dumped way more than $25K towards paying off my debt. However, if we compare the amounts owing last year to the amounts currently owing (9.5mths) here is the sitch:

Name July 31, 2013 May 15, 2014
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0
Visa $8,653 CAD $0
B-school loan $96,800 USD ($105,503 CAD) $95,909 USD ($104,532 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $19,501 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $886 CAD
TOTAL $150,888 CAD $124,919 CAD

As you can see my total debt has reduced by $25,969! As I mentioned earlier, in that same period, I also increased my savings by just over $16K!!!

All of this was made possible with gross earnings of somewhere around $60K in these nine months (obviously I don’t want to give away my exact income here). Of the money I spent in that time, i.e. the $18K difference (income – [debt paid + savings]), much of it was towards interest payment expenses, including $6,300 towards the b-school loan interest payments alone. Another big expense was the couple thousand in taxes I had to pay for my net earnings from the second half of last year.

I still have a long way to go but I feel good about my $26K reduction and my $16K savings. My goal is to have at least $30K paid off by the end of July this year, the one year mark of when I got my first client.

I think I can do it!

And with that, I end the everlasting story of how I made the journey to paying off more than $25K of my debt in nine months. I am super thankful for all that I have been given this year. Main client has renewed my contract indefinitely too. And I have other clients at the moment. So yeah, suuuuper thankful!

What a difference nine months makes, eh? 😀