Money Reinvention: Next Steps

Photo Credit SueBarrPhoto

Photo Credit SueBarrPhoto

So we’ve talked about getting clear on your budget and your needs. We’ve talked about tracking spending and calling creditors. We’ve talked about getting right in your mind about money. So, now what? Well, lucky for you, and me. I’ve written pretty extensively about what we did with credit counselors and how to pick a good one.

For information on our “next steps” go here.

For information on picking a reliable and safe credit counselor (there are SO many scammers!) please, read this. It includes an editorial note with what I’ve recently learned about credit “counselors”.

We’ll be back next week with how to live on next to nothing and not feel like you are. It can be done. I promise!

Budget Living, Living Well

The little barren Christmas Tree farm is how we felt in Christmases past.

The little barren Christmas Tree farm is how we felt in Christmases past.

The Husband came home last night and announced we can not make any changes to our kitchen as planned because we will need all our money to pay off the damage he did Christmas shopping. This was an exaggeration of course, but we have had a bit of an indulgent season this year, as it is the first time in five years we have had anything substantial to spend on our kids, and the first time in over ten years where we could even imagine buying eachother more than under shirts and handkerchiefs.

So, we’ve been a little giddy with Santa Spending Power of late, and it’s all going to work out just fine. You know why? We planned it. It may feel, and look like we’re just going hog-wild with spending this season but in reality it is all very well thought out and based on a year long budget that made room for the freedom to give, give and give some more this year.

It won’t happen again, because if it did, we may never retire. But this one year, we are rewarding ourselves for five years of tight purse strings by giving anyone we want exactly what they want, and it is a glorious treat.

I can’t help but think though, if it weren’t for the bad times, this time wouldn’t feel quite as good. I do not want to live the way we had to in the past, but I do appreciate all we learned and how it forced us to change the core of who we are when it comes to money. It really was that; a total overhaul, a Reinvention if you will, of who we are and how we relate to money. It wasn’t easy and it sure wasn’t fast but it isn’t as scary or hard as you (and I) may have thought.

I’ve gotten some questions about how we did what we did recently. I’ve also gotten some requests to write about it more. I haven’t answered the questions or written about it all because I just had to take some time to breathe. The truth is, when you’re in the thick of it for as long as we were, you aren’t quite sure how to describe what you’re doing. Then, when  you’re out of the deep, you just need some time to take in the air above ground for a bit before you can formulate a summary of what happened down there.

But as the end of the year approaches and I start looking at what I want to do with this blog, as I’m apt to do when milestones pass, it occurs to me I just may be ready to answer questions and write about money.

I want to share what we did and how we did it. Because if I can help even one person avoid the traps, or even shine a light on those that may be at the bottom of the well like we were for so long, then all of our time spent down there won’t be in vain. Because, spending at Christmas feels good, but paying it forward feels better.

So, look out in the new year for more about living on a budget** and living well. I’ve learned it is possible to do both and feel good about each.

 

** If you have specific questions or just want to hear a word of hope, leave requests in the comments section. I have a lot to share but I would love to address concerns you have. All stories are different so mine might not be exactly yours but I’m happy to find answers you might need! Just ask.

 

Reinvention and ID Theft

LifeLockLast week I had the great fortune of hearing my money-hero speak. Jean Chatzky has been my personal money guru since we started to get ourselves out of the mega-money jam of aught 9. (She hates the term guru. She told me herself. We’re besties now.)  I could gush for the entire page about how much I admire her intelligence and the way she balances financial know-how with feminine sensibilities and more than a little style. But I won’t gush. It’s not attractive. I should know, I gushed unapologetically when I chatted with her face to face.

The reason that I won’t go on and on about all things Jean Chatzky isn’t because it’s annoying (it is), but rather because the topic she was speaking about is so important, I have to address it first.

I spend a great deal of my life online, not just here, at the blog but elsewhere on the great big internets as well. I love the convenience of apps on my tablets and phones and the older I get the more it seems I shop from behind a screen. I have always been a little wary about internet security, but for a very long time, no one would have wanted my identity so I didn’t spend too much time worrying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always taken precautions, but I never thought it could happen to me.

Here is the simple truth: it can happen to any of us, and it isn’t just as easy as a stolen credit card. Identity thieves literally steal your life and then make it a living hell.

The stories from a LifeLock study on Identity Theft were harrowing. People went years without knowing the full extent of the damage being caused to their credit. Some even told tales of their children’s identity being stolen years before the kids were even old enough to need to to know.

What does identity theft have to do with reinvention, you ask? Well, it turns out the times you may be most susceptible are times when you’ve reinvented yourself. Newlyweds, New Parents, Newly Single and New Homeowners are among the most in danger of having their identity stolen, simply due to the amount of information they are sharing with broad audience.

So what can we do?

A few things, it turns out.

  1. Watch what you share and with whom. It should go without saying, but know that nothing is ever really private. Turns out, it’s not just passwords and sitekeys thieves go after. Really what they do is gather as much information as they can about a person so they can piece together a complete identity. Sharing a picture of the new house? Hide the address. How about your sweet newborn’s face with the instagram world? That picture may alert someone to a new baby social security number to locate. Tweeting about a sweet new pair of shoes you scored on sale? Keep location out of the photo. Shopping habits, inadvertent locations, children’s names can all be pieces of a thieve’s puzzle. Guard them online as well as you do IRL.
  2. Check Your Credit. It’s often hard to know if you’ve had any problems if you don’t know what your credit report looks like. I check mine pretty obsessively because it has been my job for the last five years to build my credit score (Also, Jean Chatzky told me to). You should make it your job too. Know your credit so you know if someone is trying to wreck it. You can do it for free so there’s really no excuse.
  3. Vary your passwords. I mean, duh, right? This seems like a no brainer, but I was pretty shocked to learn the number one password is still ABC123. Seriously, people? Surprise, surprise, Ms. Chatzky had a suggestion for passwords wherein you think of an important sentence then use the first letters of each word along with a number and symbol for a pretty hack-proof password. I know, I know, it’s impossible to remember a million different passwords for your million different accounts. I’d argue it’s a heck of a lot easier to remember passwords than it is to try to rebuild your identity after it’s been hacked an stolen.

 

LifeLock invited me to lunch to hear the results of their study on identity theft. All opinions are my own.  LifeLock is a company that offers services to keep your credit safe or restore it if it’s too late. There is a lot you can do on your own, but LifeLock is an extra step for extra security.

 

 

The Target Red Card: A First Step

TargetBTSFor the last five years we have been working to pay off an astronomical amount of debt. Much of that debt came from living on a credit card for the better part of two years after I left my job. (Yes, I know how stupid that is, please don’t leave comments with financial gurus I should read. I’ve already read them.)

Needless to say we had closed all of our credit card accounts and I had gotten very adept and averting my eyes and quickly shaking my head no when anyone asked if I wanted to save whatever percent today by signing up for a store card. This was particularly hard at Target, where I seem to shop more often than I bathe sometimes. (Kidding…maybe.) Oh, how I wanted loyalty coupons and a 5% discount every time. But, no. No credit cards for this girl.

One of the behaviors of financially successful people who I’ve read about on the sites of those very same financial gurus you are dying to tell me about is that of people using their credit cards for them. I mean, there is something to be said for getting 20% off or loyalty or points to pay for trips and clothes. I just never figured I’d be that kind of person.

Then I listened extra-close one day at the checkout counter and heard the lovely Target lady (no, not Kristen Wiig) say the magic words, “Target DEBIT card.” Wait, what?

Yep, I could be one of those people and not even have to sign up for a credit card. I signed up on the spot and have since used that bad boy to save myself 5% multiple times. Not to mention the awesome coupon pack I got this year at back-to-school time which saved me some addition cash.

I’m starting to figure out what I should have known years ago-how to make my money work for me. One small step feels like this little red card. I’m all for loyalty programs that give back to the buyer, especially when they’re at the store I see more than my shower. (Kidding…kind of.)

 

** Full dicslosure-this is NOT a sponsored post, (Oh, how I wish Target was on my team.) but I was invited to a Target back to school event where the kids and I got a sneak preview of all their fun BTS clothes and accessories (like the cool stilleto tape dispenser in the picture). That said, they didn’t ask me to write about anything. I just really did this freakin’ Red Card so much I wanted to share-especially if you’re skeptical. I’m here to tell you, from what I can see, no strings, just savings.