(Re)Creating Carly











Yep, you read that title correctly. In just two months, I’ve managed to pay off $4,000 of debt. How did I complete this most incredible feat, you ask? Well, I didn’t resort to selling my eggs (mostly because you have to be under age 28 to do so) and I didn’t get a visit from the Publishers Clearing House (do you think anyone has ever really gotten a visit from Publishers Clearing House?). What I did, however, is follow tried and true get-out-of-debt techniques.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Hello (and Goodbye), Tax Return. I put my entire tax return towards my debt. Yes, all of it. Sure, I could have used the money to buy those amazing knee-high boots with the triple-buckle detailing that I really wanted, but I decided having food, shelter and less stress over debt was a better option.

2. Track it. I wrote down EVERYTHING I spent — from the fifty cents I put into the parking meter to my monthly enslavement payment, also known as NYC rent. The simple act of tracking my purchases made me more aware not only of what I was spending but why I was spending. More often than not, I purchased things because they made my life more convenient. But guess what I’ve since concluded? Being broke really isn’t all that convenient. In the end, I decided I could live without much of what I wanted to buy.

I also discovered that what had been slowly killing me financially over the years wasn’t a secret designer shoe addiction or luxurious escapes to tropical islands. It was food. I ate out. A lot. I ordered in. A lot. I threw out decaying produce. A lot. In order to get rid of my debt, I had to get rid of my love affair with Indian take-out. And Brazilian take-out. And freshly made organic juices at the amazing little market down the street. This was not easy. And after a week of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, I started thinking maybe being in debt wasn’t so bad after all (see section on finding support). But, eventually, I decided to become more creative with my groceries (i.e., I learned to cook) and am now eating much healthier for a lot less money.

Once I started tracking my spending, I began challenging myself to spend less on groceries than I did the previous month. I started checking out weekly circulars online, searching for coupons, and stocking up on the things I needed when they were on sale. Although this takes a bit of planning, it’s not nearly as tedious as I’d imagined. “Oh, it’s only a dollar,” I used to say to myself over and over again until all those “only a dollar”s became hundreds of dollars that I could have used to pay off debt–or buy some Indian take-out.

Up until this point, I had been convinced that I didn’t have even an extra dime to squeeze out of my monthly budget to help pay off debt. I was wrong.

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3. Make More Money. Even after the extra couple hundred dollars I managed to save from coupon-cutting and eating in, I knew the only way I was going to get rid of this debt before my 100th birthday was by bringing in extra money. I found a part-time job after work and put every penny I earned from it towards my debt.

4. Find Support. It helps to have a Partner-in-Debt helping you stay focused. My budgeting buddy and I are in constant contact about how we’re saving money or when we’re feeling the urge to cheat. We’re available to talk each other down from the peanut-butter and jelly covered ledge or give each other high fives when we get that $15 bottle of conditioner on sale for $3.50.

I also came clean to my friends and family about my situation, which is crucial. What I found out was that many of the people I know are either in a similar situation or have been there at some point in their lives. People were actually okay with meeting me for hot chocolate instead of dinner or going for a walk instead of going to the movies.

Lastly, I subscribed to emails from learnvest.com, a website dedicated to helping people take control over their finances, and the daily bursts of virtual motivation have gone a long way in keeping me focused.

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5. Sacrifice. Finally, I decided that if I really want to be debt-free, I have to make sacrifices. I capped my entertainment spending at $100 per month. YIKES. This includes meals out, haircuts, clothes, manicures, trips, etc. — pretty much everything that is not a need. DOUBLE YIKES. Although this has been the most difficult part of the process for me, it has helped me prioritize my wants. Do I want to go out to dinner with friends or do I want to buy a new shirt? Do I want to be free from debt or do I want to look cute walking down the street in those knee-high boots with the triple-buckle detailing? Hey, nobody said this would be easy!

It has also helped me become more creative with my free time. I mean, this is New York City–there are a ton of free things to do. (Note to self: write future blog on all the free things there are to do in New York City.)

To be sure, this is just the beginning. $4,000 down. $17,000 to go! But I know if I stay committed and focused on the end goal, before long the money that I’m using to pay off my credit card debt will soon be money I can put towards investments and, occasionally, knee-high boots with triple buckle detailing. And Indian take-out.

How do you prioritize your spending? Do you have any tips for saving money?



{March 26, 2013}   My Epiphany

My epiphany didn’t come while walking through Central Park and stumbling across a four-leaf clover. Nor was it borne out of a wine-induced conversation about life and love with close friends. Nope. My epiphany came the moment I asked my ex-boyfriend for $500 to help cover my rent.

At 38 years old, this was not how I imagined my life would be.

A little background: I moved to NYC in February of 2007, after spending too much time living in the Bible Belt of America. I was 32 years old, ready to take on my lifelong dream of living in New York, and ready to pursue a career as a public school teacher in the Bronx. Realizing my other goal of becoming a published writer, I told myself, would happen easily–what with all the vacations and summer breaks. But two years of graduate school, one difficult break-up, and the most challenging and time-consuming job I’ve ever had later, I found myself buried financially and completely ignoring all the things in life I had ever cared about.

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So the day the money changed hands between my ex-boyfriend and me, I decided it was time to make a change — starting with taking control of my finances. I calculated my debt and realized that I had racked up just over $21,000 in credit card debt since moving to the city. TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. First, I researched ways to kill myself, but they all seemed a bit too painful to me, so instead, I decided to woman-up and deal with it.

Thankfully, I had a friend who was also struggling financially and wanted to join forces. (In fact, almost ALL of my friends in NYC are struggling in some way financially. At some point in our lives, someone had convinced us that if we went to college, found a job, and worked hard, we’d be able to afford food and a roof over our heads. SUCKERS. Clearly, they didn’t mean in NYC.) She and I decided to start a little budgeting club for two, and we made a pact to spend the next however many months and years getting out of debt and becoming financially secure.

As soon as we started, I could tell that THIS was the beginning. THIS was the beginning, not just of me getting out of debt, but of me realizing all of my life’s dreams. I suddenly felt empowered.



et cetera