(Re)Creating Carly











Less than seventeen months ago, I took the first step toward fulfilling my goal of getting rid of TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS in credit card debt. And, today, I am happy to report that I’ve reached my goal. (YAY!!)

Throughout this journey, I’ve learned a tremendous amount and in celebration of my achievement, I thought I’d share the top ten:

  1. Friends are people who love you regardless of how much money you have, where you can afford to eat, or what clothes you can afford to wear. I’m so grateful to have friends who love me, who root for me, who enjoy popcorn and movie nights and hole-in-the-wall dinner spots—and who understand when I can’t afford to attend certain events. My friends have been so supportive throughout this journey and I really couldn’t have done this without them.
  2. The simple things in life are free (or cheap). And the simple things in life also happen to be the best things. There is a ton of cool free (and cheap)  sh** to do in NYC. And pretty much everywhere. Do some research and find it.
  3. More people are in debt than you think. When you start opening up about your finances, others will, too. Once I shared my debt story, I heard from countless friends and family members who were also struggling financially. Being able to share honestly about what was going on in my life helped relieve so much of the burden. And not one person – not one—expressed any kind of judgment. To the contrary, most people showered me with support and encouragement, and actually looked to me for inspiration.
  4. Things don’t equal happiness. Happiness equals happiness. I lived on next to nothing over the past year and a half. I rarely bought things. And I was happy.
  5. Money matters. I recently read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a story of a woman who embarks on a yearlong mission to increase her happiness. She devotes one of her chapters to the idea of “buying happiness,” that is, purposefully spending to improve specific aspects of one’s life. In it she states, “When money or health is a problem, you think of little else; when it’s not a problem, you don’t think much about it.” I’ve learned that although having money won’t make you happy, not having it can make you pretty miserable.  If this seems to contradict the idea that the best things in life are free, it doesn’t. The best things in life are free, but if you’re constantly worried about debt, you probably won’t enjoy them much.
  6. Health is more important than everything. Everything. And, fortunately, exercise is free. And healthy food isn’t nearly as expensive as the world tries to make you think. A week’s worth of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins cost much less than a few nights a week cruising through the Wendy’s drive-thru.
  7. Ignoring problems doesn’t, in fact, make them go away. They instead manifest in other ways – stress, illness, unhappiness. When I finally opened my eyes and honestly examined my financial situation, for the first time in a long time, I felt as though I was in control. The stress and worry immediately began to dissipate. I had not yet paid a cent towards my debt, but I knew that I would.
  8. Tracking spending is the most crucial component of debt repayment. At least it was for me. I would’ve sworn on both my great-great grandmothers’ graves that I didn’t have even an extra dollar to put towards my debt. And I would’ve been damned to hell (or wherever you get damned for disturbing the peace of long gone family members) because I was wrong. But I didn’t realize this until I tracked my spending and discovered everywhere I was being wasteful. My debt accumulated over my refusal to accept the limits of my income and my refusal to believe that with a little effort I could, in fact, live within my means. It’s just take-out, I’d say. It’s just a manicure. Maybe my debt repayment wouldn’t have been so painful if I’d been working to pay off a 6-month trip around the world, but instead I was paying off old grocery bills and daily visits to the coffee shop.
  9. Don’t eat your way into debt. I didn’t realize that instead of spending close to $400 per month on groceries, I could spend about $150. I didn’t realize that instead of buying lunch and tea and breakfast sandwiches out every day, I could instead eat the leftovers from the dinners I’d made the night before. I didn’t realize that instead of ordering dinner out, I could actually just eat the food in my refrigerator before it spoiled. The worst thing about eating your way into debt is you have absolutely sh** nothing to show for it.

    My incredible view -- Blue Ridge Mountains

    My incredible view — Blue Ridge Mountains

  10. Debt is just a distraction. One of my favorite books is called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. In it, Pressfield discusses the struggle of artists. He calls the obstacles that get in the way of an artist’s work resistance. Resistance, as he describes it, appears in many forms, be it negative self-talk, or life hurdles such as illness or an abundance of obligations. I think having debt, at least for me, was a form of resistance that interfered with me pursuing something that means everything to me – writing my first novel. However, now that my debt is gone, instead of being focused on money right now, I’m at a gorgeous writing retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I type this, the birds are singing, wisps of smoky clouds are curling around the adjacent mountaintops, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

 

 

I haven’t been the most consistent blogger – I’m so sorry! But to everyone who has read, commented, and offered support throughout my journey, I sincerely thank you. Your interest and support has meant so much to me. Going forth, I will still continue to blog about things that interest me (and hopefully you, too)–like money, writing, and fitness. For now, on to the next goal! Xox

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When you focus on your goals, I’ve been told–and I believe it, the universe conspires on your behalf. But what happens when the universe goes on vacation? 
  

Sorry. I'm on vacation.

Sorry. I’m on vacation.

(Photo credit: Comstock/Getty Images)

It’s been a week of setbacks for me–from finding out my ex is moving in with his new girlfriend (It’s okay, REALLY, but couldn’t he have at least waited until I’m in relationship bliss and swimming in cash?)–to losing my laptop to an unforgiving motherboard merely seconds (okay, three months) after the warranty expired. It’s weeks like these that make me want to run out and book a trip to wherever Universe went and yell, “Hey, Universe! I can go on vacation, too, ya know!”

Sometimes these budgeting-superhero-amphetamines are hard to swallow. I mean, there are weeks (like this one) when I just don’t feel like making dinner. Weeks when I want to say yes to brunch and that new foreign film I’ve heard so much about. Weeks when the warmer temperatures beckon a new spring wardrobe. Sometimes life is stressful and it’s SO HARD to stay focused on the end goal.
 
I sat in my apartment the other night, looking at the same furniture and artwork I’ve been looking at for longer than I care to remember. And then I pictured my ex, taking time between his lucrative business trips to go house-shopping with his new girlfriend, while I’m sitting in the same apartment we once shared, lamenting over not being able to afford sunglasses or haircuts or the emerald and nectarine couture coloring New York City’s streets this spring. 

You’re all quite lucky I decided not to blog that night. It wouldn’t have been pretty.
 
But then a good friend-or five-gently returned (free of charge) all the advice I’d given them over the years. Things like “You shouldn’t compare yourself to others” and “Try to focus on all of the positive things happening in your life.” And instead of just dismissing these as empty platitudes, I decided the only way I’m going to survive the next fourteen months is to heed their advice, and quickly.
 
I started thinking about how I’ve paid off $4,500 of debt just in the past couple of months and how I’m about to send in another credit card payment next week. I thought about how I have my health (in the wake of the Boston bombings, this somehow feels even more precious), how my family is healthy, how I’ve started working out again, how I’m employed, how I live in one of the most amazing cities in the world, and how I have incredible friends that are willing to listen to me whine and remind me why I don’t have to (and, incidentally, are also able to show me how to install a new motherboard in my computer for next to nothing–booyah!). Really. I have so much to be grateful for. And with this quick shift in viewpoint, the fact that I have to forego a new outfit or dinner at that new spot downtown no longer seems like such a sacrifice.
 
It really is all about perspective, isn’t it?
 
There’s no doubt that the day I become debt free will be a magical moment for me.  But in the meantime, I have to stay focused on all of the amazing things happening in my life right now. There are so many.
 
Hey, Universe. Enjoy your vacation. You deserve it.
  
 
How do you stay focused on your goals? 
 
 


et cetera