How Getting “Outed” At Work Turned Into One of The Best Parts of My Week

It was just another workday. I was swiftly replying to emails left and right as I prepared for one of the biggest projects of the year. Then, out of the blue, an email appeared in my inbox:

My heart stopped. My palms got sweaty. I started to panic.

I had no idea what to do. A colleague of mine, an individual that I had worked with on a previous project, somehow stumbled upon this site. We had never even had a discussion about personal finance, let alone this site at all. At the time, they were definitely still more of an acquaintance. Thoughts began to race through my head: How did they possibly find my site? I’m not an anonymous blogger, but should I try “hiding” a little more? Will this somehow get to my boss and eventually I’ll get fired for blogging about my debt payoff? Crazy, I know, but those are the crazy thoughts you have when you are unexpectedly outed.

After a minor panic attack in my cube, we exchanged emails back and forth about our love for the PF Community (oh, what a wonderful feeling!) Since I was in the middle of a huge project, we decided to get together in the near future to chat about our shared interest.

I completely forgot about our exchange until earlier this week when this Outlook invite came through my inbox:

Instead of my heart dropping like last time, my heart soared.

A Debt Free Accountability Group!? Like minded people at my place of employment, quite possibly the last place I would think to find it? I couldn’t have been happier. I immediately accepted and wished that our meeting could come sooner.

Twenty minutes before our first meeting I scrambled to put together my financial goals for 2018. In our short 30-minute meeting we introduced ourselves to each other, our current financial situations, and shared financial resources (the debt snowball calculator!) and books to read (I happily suggested The Simple Path to Wealth). They explained to me that their meeting cadence is to text each other on Monday morning with a few small goals for the week to hold each other accountable. The meeting may have only lasted 30 minutes, but I can honestly say it was the best 30 minutes of my work week (no offense to my job, I still love that too!)

I’m still in awe that somehow I found a perfect group to meet with during my usual 9 to 5 grind. The feeling of meeting with like-minded people is one of the best feelings out there. As nervous as I am for others to find out about this blog, the fear of being “outed” was definitely worth finding friends who share the same interests as you who encourage you to reach your goals. Without this blog, we would have never found one another. How powerful is it that something as simple as documenting your debt payoff can lead to a group of friends that can share their financial goals with one another? That, my friends, is the power of the personal finance community.

Do you share common interests about personal finance with co-workers? Have you been “outed” before and how did you deal with it? How did it make you feel?

January 2018 Debt Report

The first month of 2018 is officially over, so it’s time to see how closely I followed by budget this month. I want to track the progress I make on my journey to debt freedom, so until my debt is fully paid off, I plan to report each month on how much it is decreasing. Here’s how my debt is looking at the end of January 2018.

Student Loan Debt as of January 2018

After ending 2017 on a really high note, I was so excited to start 2018 with lots of momentum. I’m dedicated to pay at least $1200/month to my loans, if not more. I’d love to aim for closer to $1500/month and though it will be hard, I know I have it in me to knock out as much debt this year. This past month I was able to maintain paying off my budgeted amount, but for some reason, it’s not calculating correctly in Student Loan Hero so the amount you see above is incorrect. In reality, my total balance is closer to $42,400!

Budget Updates

I’ll start with the area in which I didn’t do so good. I went a little overboard in my Splurge category this month. Hear me out though! I went on a work trip this month and had to buy some new clothes for it. Usually, I can get away with wearing jeans and a nice top at work, but for this trip, I needed to purchase some dress pants. While shopping, I ended up finding some additional great end of the year sales. Oops! I know I’ll get maximum wear out of the pieces I purchased, so though it made me go over in my budget this month, I know it’s worth the long-term purchase.

Additionally, my largest purchase of this month was a ticket to the Lola Retreat. I attended the first ever Lola Retreat in Portland last summer and it completely changed my life for the better. The Lola Retreat is a 3-day weekend for women to come together and talk about finance. After spending 3 days with amazing, money-minded women, I left feeling so inspired to tackle my financial situation. This year’s retreat is taking place in one of my favorite cities, New York. I honestly feel that without the Lola Retreat, I wouldn’t have felt so motivated to accelerate this blog as much as I have. So when ticket sales opened, I jumped at the opportunity to buy a ticket to this year’s event. If you are a woman and interested in taking your finances to the next level, I encourage you to join me and 80 other women in NYC this spring!

Side Income Updates

I’ve been seriously slacking on making any side income this month. Work obligations took up 100% of my time in January and unfortunately, this blog had to be put on the back burner. Now that I finally have free time again, I look forward to dedicating a lot of time to growing this blog.

Life Updates

As I’ve already mentioned, I was involved with one of the largest events through work earlier this month since my time at my company. For weeks my life was completely dedicated to this event and I was working anywhere from 10-12 hour days, including weekends. I’m a huge believer in work/life balance but during these work weeks, that did not exist. I barely had time for myself, let alone any personal obligations outside of work.

That event is officially over and I’m so happy that life has returned to normal. I’m beginning to map out my future travel for this year. This month alone I’ll be traveling to Dallas and California for work again, in March I’m taking a girls trip to Chicago, in April I’ll be in NYC for the Lola Retreat, and in June I’ll be in San Francisco/LA for my cousin’s wedding. I’m incredibly excited that I have so many upcoming trips but I must remember that Tom and I still need to plan our international trip for the year! #firstworldproblems, I know 🙂

Honestly, I’m just glad to have my life back again after feeling like work took that away from me for a month. I still need to outline my financial and personal goals for the year, so expect that in a future post. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the extra time I finally have back in my life. That means relaxing, reading books again, catching up with friends and family and having time to make home cooked meals again. 2018, I know you are going to be amazing!

How are you doing with your budget this month? What has helped keep you on track? What are your financial goals for the upcoming year?

What Happened When I Gave Up Instagram and Snapchat

This time last year, I was that girl.

The girl who would wake up each morning and immediately grab her phone. In the dark, dreary hours of the morning before work, I would scroll and tap my way through Instagram and Snapchat. Through the Instagram stories and snaps, I would live others’ lives – moments that happened while I slept. On my lunch break, I would repeat the same process as the morning, clicking through others’ – even strangers’ – moments of their mornings, afternoons and evenings.

I was watching the happenings of their everyday lives: their picture-perfect morning coffees, their craft brews or cocktails over happy hour, who they were hanging out with, or their perfectly Instagrammable dinners. I would constantly open my phone throughout the day to check for new updates. This would repeat hundreds of times a day, day after day, month after month. I was consumed with watching their lives unfold.

Throughout my day, I would add perfectly curated stories to my own feed. The perils of my long commute on a snowy morning (I couldn’t forget to add the temperature sticker or location of exactly where I was!). A Snapchat of the picture perfect cup of coffee at my desk (and inserting a beautifully written caption of “Monday Mornings” in the corner of this photo). A photo of my legs propped up on my couch at the end of the day with a glass of red wine in my hand (with a Boomerang of me pouring the wine in my glass, too).

My best stories would come from my vacations, or really, any time that I could show the world that I was, for a brief time, escaping the perils of the 9-to-5 grind. Through my screen, I could feel the longing of others who were viewing my story, filling with jealousy when they would see me tanning on the beach in Colombia, drinking a mojito in Mexico or drinking a glass of champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I knew they were jealous because it was the same feeling I felt every day, watching the “perfect” lives of my friends. So when it was my turn – after putting in hard hours at work and earning my PTO – I needed to show the world the amazing life I lived, right?

But then one day it all came to a screeching halt.

Why did I feel the need to document every moment of my life?

At the very core, what was I trying to prove? That I lived a perfect life? That Tom and I were happy? Why did I feel the need to prove it, when indeed, we were actually happy?

Who was I trying to prove this to anyway? My friends? My family? Random acquaintances that “follow” me?

I decided to completely stop using Instagram and Snapchat when I realized that all of the moments I was documenting in my “stories”, were ultimately being lost forever. They lasted for 24 hours and vanished into thin air. Unless I saved each individual story, those moments would never come back. They were moments that should have been saved in my memory, but I couldn’t truly remember them if I lived them through a phone screen.

I understand wanting to document a moment to look back on in the future. I love looking at old photos and certainly want to be able to look back on the beautiful memories of my life when I’m older. To achieve that, I can take photos or video. But adding minuscule moments to an app to showcase to the world? I realized I was only doing that to prove to others that my life measured up to theirs.

The thousands of times I opened my apps to look at others’ lives snowballed to make up hours, which turned into days.

Instead of admiring others’ lives and being jealous, I could have used those lost days to work on my own life.

So, what truly happened when I gave up Instagram and Snapchat a year ago?

I took my life back.

I used those hours to work on myself. I started reading books again. I taught myself how to build a website. I followed recipes and learned how to cook. I re-organized my finances and paid off thousands of dollars of student loan debt. I learned about the stock market and bought my first shares. I enjoyed amazing moments with Tom, without feeling the need to document any of them. We shared those moments together, just the two of us.

My life changed for the better. I was focusing on improving myself instead of comparing my life to others’. I no longer felt sad and jealous while I scrolled through a feed because I simply eliminated it from my life. I no longer found happiness from the number of views I received or how many likes my photo got. Instead, I was just purely happy with the life I lived, no filters or anything.

But, I’m not saying I’m perfect. There were times throughout the year when I would re-download the apps to post a photo or two. Succumbing to the pressure – showing the world that yes, I’m still here, I can still show you this happy life I live. Quitting the apps doesn’t mean I’ll never go back. It just means that at this time, I choose not to use them. And surprisingly, I don’t miss them at all.

Also, I understand that each person has their own reasons for using social media. It may be to grow your blog, your followers or your business. It may be to stay connected with friends and family. I still continue to use Twitter to stay connected with the personal finance community and to grow this site. I encourage you to take a look at each app you use on a daily basis and really think about the purpose it serves in your life.

Are you using social media to prove that your life is “enough”?

If so, take back your life. Take time to improve yourself. Make the first steps toward a dream you’ve always had. Live your life through your eyes, not your camera lens. Take back the wasted days spent watching other people live their lives.

I promise you, it may be one of the best decisions you ever make.

December 2017 Debt Report

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for more information.

I’ve decided to switch some things up and change my “Savings Reports” to “Debt Reports.” I want to track the progress I make on my journey to debt freedom, so until my debt is fully paid off, I plan to report each month on how much it is decreasing. Here’s how my debt is looking at the end of December 2017.

Student Loan Debt as of December 2017

I’m closing out 2017 with about $43,500 left in student loan debt. That still seems like a lot to me, until I think about how much I’ve paid off this year alone. It wasn’t until spring of last year – when I began documenting my journey – that I truly got serious and started putting 50% of my after-tax income to debt alone. So how much exactly did I pay off in 2017 to my student loans? Drum roll, please…

$12,461 FREAKING DOLLARS (!!!!!)

Isn’t that AMAZING!? LET THAT SINK IN, PEOPLE! Here’s my debt payoff progress from 2016-2017:

So yes, 2017 was a GREAT year for me in terms of paying off my student loan debt. Can I celebrate now?!

Budget Updates

December’s budget was a little tighter for two reasons: 1) Christmas and 2) unexpected car and health expenses. Christmas typically involves spending a lot of money due to multiple family gatherings, food expenses, gifts, etc.  However, this year our families saved hundreds of dollars by doing Secret Santa on one side, and almost eliminating gifts altogether on the other. I am quite thankful that our families decided to go this route (perfect timing, right?). At the end of the day, as much as I love gifts and as cheesy as this sounds, the best gift of all is spending time with family and friends. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky I am to have such a tight-knit support system in my life. After all, that’s what truly matters to me.

As mentioned above, the second reason I went a little over budget this month was due to unexpected expenses – both car and health-related. At the beginning of December, the first big snowstorm of the winter hit and I ended up needing a part replaced on my 10+ year-old car. Thankfully, it cost less than $100, but it was still something I didn’t account for in my budget. One goal I have for 2018 is to create a pretty hefty emergency fund for future expenses like this.

In terms of healthcare, I found out in December that my health insurance was changing dramatically. I decided to get my yearly physical and my 6-month dental cleaning, which both ended up costing me more due to an extra test, and having to get a cavity filled (WHAT!? I literally brush my teeth three times a day and floss. I’m not quite sure how this happened…) On top of that, I pre-paid my health insurance for January in one lump sum, which was not cheap. Ouch. I consider my physical and mental well-being a top priority and am happy to spend the money for physical upkeep, but it pushed my budget a little over the edge this month.

Side Income Updates

Guess what!? I finally made some additional side income in December. Are you ready to hear how much it was? It’s a lot so get ready… $4.71! I think I’m ready to coast into early retirement now 😉 I made this through Ebates, a cashback website. I use their Google Chrome extension which literally takes no extra work – when I go to a website, it automatically tells me if there’s a rebate/cash back option available on that site, like this:

Up to $75 cashback? Yes, please!

Then, each quarter they send you a “Big Fat Check” with your earnings.  In my case, it happened to be $4.71. I’ll be expecting increasing earnings on future checks, and I already have $11.09 in my account for next time! This may not seem like a lot, but I’m getting money back on items that I would have purchased anyway, so why not use it? If you have never used Ebates before and are interested in earning cash back, use my link here and get $10 right away just for signing up.

On the blogging side of things, I was approached by a company this month regarding promoted posts. This was a pleasant surprise, as I’ve only been blogging for seven months.  It’s a great feeling knowing companies are interested in working with me and are willing to pay me for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t love the content they wanted me to promote, so I declined the opportunity. The lost income is a bummer, but in the end, I only want to promote products and services that I believe in wholeheartedly.

Life Updates

Tom and I are starting to plan our travel for 2018. I have two work trips to Dallas and NYC at the beginning of the year and will also be headed to Los Angeles for a wedding in June. On top of that, we always travel to an international location each year (check out my travel tips from a past trip to Colombia). However, we have no idea where we will be going in 2018, so if you have any ideas for a budget-friendly international experience, throw them my way!

We’ve both been engrossed in different passion projects – mine being this blog and his being the beginnings of real estate investing. We attended another PF Meet Up this month with Wealth Well Done, Apathy Ends, Financial Panther, Fiery Millennial, Mastermind Within, Budget On A Stick and Money Matters. I am continually blown away by the PF community we have here in Minnesota and how nice everyone is (must be that Minnesota nice! ;)) These get-togethers have definitely been one of my favorite parts of 2017 and I look forward to more in the new year.

So, here’s to 2018 everyone. I’m feeling motivated on all counts, especially with my debt payoff. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to pay off my student loan debt faster than anticipated? Who wants to make some bets? 🙂

When Debt Rules Your Life

When debt rules your life, it consumes you, dictating all of your thoughts and actions.

When debt rules your life, you eat, breathe, and sleep debt. The thought of drowning in debt constantly crosses your mind, hundreds or thousands of times each day. Every decision you make is made with debt hanging over you and staring you down. How will this choice impact my financial situation? You wake up with your debt and go to bed each night with it. You do this day after day, a cycle that never seems to end.

When debt rules your life, it’s hard to picture the future. In brief moments you can picture it – you imagine yourself on the other side, debt free, living a life of freedom because your biggest burden has finally been lifted. But, as soon as you start to feel a sliver of that happiness – boom – you are transported back to the reality of the tens of thousands of negative dollars you’re swimming in, barely able to catch your breath.

When debt rules your life, it gets in the way of your relationships, the most valuable joy in your life. It quickly becomes the focal point of every conversation with your partner. You see friends less because you’ve learned that you need to say “no” more than you can say “yes”. You’d rather stay in and write because it calms your soul knowing you are hyper-focused on your goals.

When debt rules your life, you question every decision you made to get here. Why did no one educate you on interest rates and how quickly they can multiply? Why did you use all of your hard-earned money from your job in college on booze, new clothes and eating out? Why do we continue to allow thousands of people to take out student loans without any knowledge of the financial impact it will have on their lives?

When debt rules your life, it tries to take every single piece of happiness from you. It holds on to you, never leaving your side until you do the hard work of paying it off. And sometimes that takes years – 5, 10, even 20, and over the course of time you learn to simply live with it. You push it to the side, acting like it doesn’t bother you.  You find comfort in thinking that it’s a normal part of life.

But no, debt is not normal. Debt should not rule your life. You should rule your debt, and once you do, the happiness will flood back into your life. You’ll be able to breathe again, knowing that the time you spent taking your life back from debt was hard – even painful at times – but, well worth it. You will have taken back the life you deserve to live. So work hard and hustle even harder, because though debt rules your life now, there is an end. And ultimately, you have the choice – how long will you continue to let debt rule your life?