Finding Freedom

How quickly can a fool find his money again?

I currently have a whole bunch of debt. Hmm...I wonder how much I could get for my kidneys?
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Another Vacation Tip
I am finding that many of the local newspapers here in Minnesota have coupons for some of the things that I was planning on doing anyway. So, it would seem, then, that even on vacation it is prudent to check the local papers for ways to save money.

After all, if you can save enough from not spending a couple dollars here and there, perhaps you will be able to do an entirely new activity that you may not have had money for before. Why spend it if you don't have to, right?
posted by shamedsteven @ 3:28 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
On Vacation
Even on vacation, there are opportunities to save money.

I am staying, as a guest, with my girlfriend and her family in Minnesota (AKA The Land of 10,000 Mosquitoes). Her parents purchased into a timeshare, and so they can trade their vacation time for other resorts through the same chain.

Now, even at a resort, all things are not free. A round of golf is apparently in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks a person, and a four hour fishing trip with use of their lines and hooks is about forty-five bucks. This came as news to me.

However, there are certain activities that you can do for free, or at least for a very minimal cost. For example, I have gone out with people and played tennis for a couple of hours for free. This has provided some very low cost entertainment as well as some exercise to boot, and when you are hefty like yours truly, any exercise is a good thing.

I understand that swimming and spending time in the hot tub are also gratis.

In any case, I say, look for a couple of more expensive activities and save your money for them, as opposed to getting nickel and dimed (bikes are twenty bucks a day to rent!) out of the vacation money that you have worked hard to save.

I know for myself that one of my big expensives is going to be salve for all of the bites that I have been getting, but that's another story.
posted by shamedsteven @ 11:57 AM   0 comments
Friday, May 26, 2006
I received my new credit card with the new lower APR than Chase has, and I called them up and transferred the balance right away. This means that I could, possibly, have money for forty more burritos in the coming year.

You see, in college, and largely because I am a glutton, I oftentimes measured my net worth in how many burritos I could afford. There are several delicous taco shops around here that provide exquisite California burritos for about three bucks a piece (with tax).

So, with the roughly hundred and twenty bucks that I will not be paying in interest, I can purchase forty burritos. Or, I guess, I could save it, or pay down other balances or something... :-).

I also received my new health insurance card in the mail from Kaiser Permanente, which I guess means that I can now get sick whenever I want to, so that will be good.

And finally, I don't know how much I will be able to post over the next several days as I am going on a trip to Minnesota, and as we all know, Minnesota does not have internet access. In fact, I think that it's illegal there. However, should I find some back room internet parlor, I will be sure to check in.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:09 AM   1 comments
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Direct Deposit
Something that I recently discovered is that I can choose to split up my paycheck into three different accounts with the use of my direct deposit program through my work. This will be quite beneficial to me when I get my savings account opened online, because if I don't see the money in my checking account, odds are that I will not spend it.

What can I say? Some of us need to be tricked into saving money.

Now then, the real trick will be to "forget" that I have this other account. Anyone know how I can pick up selective amnesia?
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:48 PM   0 comments
An Engagement Ring
Not that I want to appear to be cheap or stingy for my love, but I was just wondering if anybody had any money-saving tips for buying an engagement ring.

As it is, it's going to be a huge amount of money to invest.

I'll go out on a limb and say that it's probably a bad idea to put in on a credit card... :-)

Can anybody provide any info about this? Are there good ways for going about shopping for a ring versus bad ones?
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:14 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The luncheon was uneventful, although the CEO spent a lot of time talking about natural gas, which is what I work with, and he had many good insights about the natural gas business.

It was good for me to be able to spend some time with someone who obviously loves this business, as I am feeling kind of burnt out on it, no pun intended.

And, as far as questions, I didn't even get to ask one. So, all that apprehension was for nothing.

Oh well.
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:15 PM   0 comments
Today, I get to have lunch with the CEO of our company (well, me and all of the other new hires from quarter one). This is kind of a big deal because we are a fairly large and successful company. We are in the Fortune 200.

In any case, they told us to come with a question, and while I know that I don't have too much of a readership yet, I was wondering if anybody had any ideas about what I should ask him.

I know that this will be a difficult task for anyone stumbling across this, especially because I don't feel like I can give away too much more about where I work. But if anybody has any ideas, I would be glad to hear them.

Hmm...Maybe I'll ask him if he'll give me a loan to pay off my credit cards. Yes, and maybe then he will ask me to leave... :-)
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:20 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
My Grandfather
Out of everybody in my family, I think that I respect my grandfather's approach to money the most, and this is the fundamental reason why: the man hates to purchase anything with credit. If he does put anything on credit, he is sure to pay it off before the end of the month so that he doesn't get zinged with an APR.

He is a small business owner, and his business does pretty well. Because of his relative success and keen financial savvy, the only large purchase that I ever remember him saying that he had to get credit for was the house that he and grandma currently live in. They have been there for thirty years, probably, and the value of that house has more that quintupled. Other than that, he pays for whatever vehicle he is buying with cash.

Now that's freedom.

As I sit here writing this, I find myself remiss for not remembering his example earlier on in my current struggle. Namely, I guess, before it became a struggle would have been a good time to remember it. :)

Ah well, I guess we live and we learn, and some of us insist on learning the hard way.
posted by shamedsteven @ 5:37 PM   0 comments
Savings Accounts
I am currently gathering information on a couple different savings accounts. I would like to be able to put away a thousand dollars into one of these accounts so that I could have the money readily available for emergencies if necessary. Plus, these accounts are currently paying higher interest rates than any bank location in town.

I am considering both ING Direct and Capital One.

ING Direct offers a 4.15% interest rate with no minimum amount necessary and no finance charges, while Capital One offers a high yield money market account at 4.55% that has no finance charges with only a $1 minimum.

I will have to do some more investigating before deciding on anything, but I know that I like a higher interest rate.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:42 AM   2 comments
The New Card
I don't know why, but the new credit card with the lower APR just can't seem to get here quick enough. I find myself daydreaming about not having so much money on a card that is charging me up the ying-yang (which is the technical term, I believe).

What's funny is that I never used to worry about money. Unfortunately, now I find myself worrying about it every day. I am looking forward to the point in time when I can just sit back and relax knowing that I don't owe the credit card companies a dime.

That will be a sweet day, but in the mean time, as Richard Dreyfus's character in "What about Bob?" says, I just need to take "baby steps."
posted by shamedsteven @ 9:46 AM   0 comments
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Weekend
Well, it decreased my bottom line a little bit, as I had no option but to pay for gas on the credit card, but I was able to go home this weekend and see my family and friends, some of which I hadn't seen in a couple of years.

It was great fun, and while it affected me negatively financially, I think that I affected me positively emotionally. I am recharged and ready again to face the monotony of work.

It was a good reminder to me that not everything needs to be about dollars and cents; sometimes it makes sense to spend money to remember who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming.

How beautiful it would be if we all were able to step away more often.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:49 AM   0 comments
Friday, May 19, 2006
Something That Makes Me Happy
What is to follow is not sound financial advice as much as it just makes me happy.

I, like many people likely reading this, get three or four credit card applications in the mail per week. Now, as much as I like getting mail, this is kind of ridiculous.

So, what I decided to do is to remove anything on the application that would identify me, and then put the blank application plus whatever other random paper debris I have lying around (other card applications, old church newsletters, magazine subscription cards, etc) into the envelope. With this completed, I seal it up and mail it back to them, on their dime.

If they are going to spam me, by golly, I'm going to spam them. Plus, as the return envelopes always have postage paid (which they somehow neglect to do with the payment envelopes once you are approved), I enjoy decreasing their bottom line, if only by dimes and quarters.

I addition, I can only imagine what the person whose job it is to open the mail's face would look like.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:47 AM   0 comments
Credit Card Tip
In the last few weeks, I have found it incredibly beneficial to my financial life to not carry my credit cards with me. Obviously a lot of people say that a person should carry a credit card for emergency situations, but, for me at least, I oftentimes think that a book on sale is an emergency situation.

This way, I am left with only my debit card, and, as overdraft fees are a lot more obviously detrimental to me in the short term, I am a lot more likely to just pass up an item that will cause me the $25 fee that go along with the book that I can obviously just do without.

Seriously, if you don't have them with you, you can't use them, and you can't increase your debt.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:26 AM   0 comments
Balance Transfer
I was just approved for a credit card with an APR for balance transfers that is substantially lower than the APR that I have on the Chase credit card. Needless to say, when I receive the card in the mail, one of my first items of business will be to get that money off of the Chase card. By doing so, I will be saving 11% in interest per year.

With the current balance, that's a hundred and forty or so bucks a year that I won't have to pay in interest. WOO-HOO!

The trick for the Chase card will then be resisting the temptation to spend the, now free, money. I will likely cut it up or hide it someplace so that I will not be as likely to use it anymore.

I could cancel it, but from what I understand, that would give a serious ding to my credit rating, and as it is currently **insert raspberry noise here**, I think that it's probably a wiser choice to keep it active and to just not use it.
posted by shamedsteven @ 10:16 AM   2 comments
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Slick Deals
I have added a link to the above mentioned website to the links section of this page, or you can also click here.

What this site does is provide user submitted deals for that day that they have found around the web. The items mentioned here are either greatly reduced in price or sometimes even free.

Give it a shot. I go there every day to see what that day's options are. Sometimes it's stuff that you wouldn't ever need, like hundreds of pounds of lard for $0.50 cents a pound, but generally it's good stuff.
posted by shamedsteven @ 3:28 PM   1 comments
With Interest Rates in Mind...
It appears that Chase Bank is raping me the most when it comes to interest rates. Perhaps I'll work towards taking this one to zero in the next couple of months just because of that.

All of the other cards have reasonably similar interest rates, so while I am taking down Chase, I'll have to think about where to go next.

Although I don't have the latest data, I think I remember that Aspire was zinging me pretty good with interest rates as well, so perhaps I'll need to get that guy next.

We'll just have to wait and see.
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:21 PM   0 comments
Interest Rates
This are the APRs that I am up against with my credit cards*:

Orchard: Purchases--15.9%, Cash Advances--24.65%
Pay Pal Buyer Credit: Purchases--23.25%
Discover: Purchases--13.74%, Cash Advances--22.99%
Chase: Purchases--28.99%, Cash Advances--28.99%
Capital One: Purchases--19.8%, Cash Advances--19.8%
MBNA: Purchases--21.98%, Cash Advances--21.98%
Bank of America: Purchases--0%, Cash Advances--0%

*Providian and Aspire are very irregular, and I don't have current information on these yet.
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:15 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Several Options
I need to know a bit more about my current situation, but, as I see it now, there are a couple of different options for paying off my debt.

The way that seems to make the most sense is to evaluate which cards have the highest interest rates and pay those down first. The benefit to this would be that I would be saving money in interest rates, theoretically. However, some of my higher balances have lower interest rates, and so it seems like whatever money I would save by paying off the higher rates would be eaten up by the interest on the higher sums.

The next is to pay off the lowest balances first. I believe that the main benefit to this would be seeing my work paying off more quickly. A lower balance is not nearly as motivating as a zero balance. However, I would still be paying more money in interest thataway as I would not be tackling the higher balances.

A third way would be to tackle the biggest amounts first. By doing this, I would eventually be left with just smaller and small accounts to tackle. As you can tell by the list below, the last couple are almost mountains to climb, while the first one, especially, is a lot more of a mole-hill.

I'm sure that there are other methods, but I think that these make the most sense (and cents) for me, at least as far as I can tell now. It is most likely that when I compile all of the interest rates for the various cards that I will have a better idea of how to proceed.
posted by shamedsteven @ 4:12 PM   0 comments
Debt as of 05/17/2006
This is how my debt currently breaks up among my credit cards as of today:

Orchard: 272.10
Pay Pal Buyer Credit: 827.20
Discover: 943.18
Providian: 965.07
Chase: 1324
Aspire: 1844
Capital One: 2952.18
MBNA: 4441.84
Bank of America: 4560.

This adds up to a total of $18,129.57, which is better that what I reported yesterday. However, this total will go up slightly because I have made some payments, but have not been charged the interest for them yet.

This is my starting point. I will see it through to fruition.
posted by shamedsteven @ 3:37 PM   0 comments
As I stated in the previous post, I really believe that choosing to teach as opposed to getting a reasonably paying job was the worst decision of my life. I believe that everything else that I chose to do was a desperate attempt to try to make money so that I could make ends meet.

To my ever loving shame, one of the methods that I tried to use to make money was gambling. I thought that I was smart enough to beat the system, and in doing so, forgot the four little words that nearly every person who has gambled will tell you: the house always wins.

It started out with blackjack. In perusing the gambling books at the local Barnes and Noble, I found a book that would teach me how to count cards. I attempted this numerous times in blackjack games with several decks, and, although I would sometimes have moderate gains, I would more often than not lose all the money that I had come to the casino with. When you consider that I was playing a hundred bucks at a time and I only made about $450 a month, you can see how things got to be pretty tight.

One day, on a whim, I opted to go into the poker room. As I understood the basic tenets of poker, I figured that I would do fine. I sat down at a $3-$6 limit game, and I walked away with three hundred and fifty bucks, which I know now to be an outstanding and just about miraculous amount of money to gain, especially in a limit game for a novice player.

I have wished many times that I had lost that day, so I that I wouldn't have been encouraged to go back and play again. But after the initial victory, I figured that I could do no wrong.

So I went. And I lost. Regularly.

One night, after a particularly upsetting series of bad beats, I wandered out of the poker room furious at my plight, and I felt like doing something self destructive. So, I put the rest of the money I had with me, which was about $70, into a nickel slot machine. Through a series of small jackpots, I walked away from that machine with $500.

As I felt that this was my lucky night and figured that even if I walked out of there with $70 I wouldn't be too much worse off than when I started, I went to go play the high limit blackjack which only used two decks.

And, as it turns out, it was my lucky night. I walked out of the casino that, by that time, early morning with three grand in my pocket. I was, obviously, very excited. And so, every couple of days I went and played again, sometimes coming up and sometimes going down. My largest victory was when I started with about $1300 and left with $5700.

However, I again wish that I had not won that first night, because it kept me going back, and, as we all know, the house always wins. My luck held out for about a month, but ever since then, when I went back, I kept losing money. Let me just say that when you make, after taxes, a little less than five hundred bucks a week and you proceed to lose five hundred bucks in a little over five minutes, it makes you feel kind of sick.

As you have probably guessed, this is where I accumulated the largest amount of my credit card debt. Cash advances are a horrible thing when you think that you are smarter than the casino, especially because it hurts you in so many ways:

1) When you lose, you're out the money you had,
2) There are often cash advance fees that the credit cards will charge, and
3) The APR for cash advances is sometimes twice what it is when you just use your card for purchases.

All of those things made it more and more difficult for me to get out of debt. However, I have sworn off of gambling, and I haven't been in about a month's time. Unfortunately, the repercussions from that gambling trip have kept me at or below a zero balance in my checking account.

Gambling is part of the reason that I'm starting this blog. I want the accountability of having written about it in a public place to keep me from going back. I want to find the freedom from debt that I can only dream about at this point.
posted by shamedsteven @ 8:36 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
How I Got Here
I, like so many others, got to having such a huge amount of debt by making a series of poor choices.

After graduating college in 2004, I had a summer job lined up, but I didn't really know what to do for work come fall. Over that summer was when a friend of mine told me that she needed someone to take over a home schooled English class that she had been teaching. At the time it seemed like a good financial idea due to the fact that she had had about twenty students, and she charged about fifty dollars a month for a couple of class sessions a month.

20 X 50 = $1000.

While this isn't a huge amount of money, I figured, with rent being about $225 a month, that it was feasible. And so I volunteered to take over her classes.

I worked on putting together the courses throughout the summer, and I was excited to be doing something that I thought mattered.

Unfortunately, as fall approached, I noticed that enrollment envelopes were not coming in as readily as I had expected. In fact, I only ended up receiving nine.

9 X 50 = $450. $450 X 1/2 = $225 = My Contribution towards rent.

My problem? I had committed myself to something that I couldn't get out of that was just a bad situation to be in. As money proceeded to get tighter and tighter, I leaned more and more on my credit cards. I knew that I needed to get a better job, but I also knew that I had a responsibility to finish what I had started as it just wouldn't be cool to leave a group of students half way through the year. So, I battled my way through it, and, I hope, taught my students something about the English language.

Although I learned a lot about myself and the material, I consider taking and keeping the job as an English teacher the worst mistake I have ever made in my life. Many people will undoubtedly disagree with me about whether this was indeed my biggest mistake as they read in the coming days about the other ways I managed to dig myself into this hole, but I believe that I had I not chosen to make so little money for so long, my financial situation would not look anything like it does right now.

This weakness that I have shown in my personal life however, reminds me how flawed I am, and how much I need something to cling to in this life that is, indeed, flawless.
posted by shamedsteven @ 2:25 PM   0 comments
My Current Debt
I am a twenty-four year old professional with dreams of working in the arts. I have a college degree in music and a wonderful girlfriend whom I hope to make my wife someday in the near future.

I also have $18,343.03 in credit card debt.

What follows on these pages is my story towards finding freedom from the shackles of self-inflicted debt.

Won't you join me?
posted by shamedsteven @ 1:43 PM   0 comments
About Me
Name: Steven shamedsteven
Home: San Diego
About Me: Well, boys and girls, I, like a whole bunch of other people, made a series of "conscious, deliberate mistakes" and have ended up with a buttload of debt. What is chronicled here are some musings about the journey out.
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