Category Archives: Debt Reduction

‘Fession

Well, the gig is up.  Here we are nearing the end of July, and I still have consumer credit outstanding.  The Number is flat-lining at $11k.  (To my eye, the ‘k’ looks so much more pleasant than horrid $000s.)  Past attempts at retail restraint have been well meaning but doomed from the get-go  – due to prior bouts of clothing and accessory starvation (resulting in bingeing) coupled with plain old lack of willpower.  My last plan was to limit purchases to ‘just what I really LOVE’, which didn’t work because, clearly, my ability to love inanimate objects (clothes, shoes, handbags) knows NO BOUNDS. 

So, I ‘fessed up to my husband about my personal debt load.  Rather, my husband inquired about my outstanding credit card balances, and I told him.  He was less than pleased, but not particularly surprised.  Kind of anticlimactic – he appreciates that I make an effort to not schlump around, and has at least a basic understanding of the concept that a certain level of non-schlumpiness comes with a price tag.  Who knew?  I feel a little silly about trying to be so subversive about shopping.  Also in my favor is that I have more job stability than previously anticipated – a surprising change from earlier in the year – so he is more relaxed and I feel less guilty about impacting the family in a negative way in a down economy and weak job market for finance professionals.  

My husband and I differ in our approaches to money.  I am better at picking stocks and investments, but am missing the saving gene.  My husband alternates between crushing conservatism and day trading, but is a fantastic saver.  I suspect his saving ability relies largely on gender – he is not female, hence is immune to the siren song of the Jimmy Choo.  In most economic climates, I am comfortable carrying a certain amount of debt, a small percentage of my personal GDP so to speak.  My husband is not at ease with any debt, as the plaintive cry of the Chloe bag does not keep him awake at night. 

The long and short of it is that I am shifting down to second gear in my quest for financial health (and wardrobe improvement) – the slow track.  And this is what I am wearing today:

XO

Debtonaire

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Filed under Chloe, Debt Reduction, Polyvore, Shopping, The Number

Back from Hiatus! (and Progress Report . . .)

It has been an unforgivably long time since my last post. My absence has been due to partially to torrentially horrid conditions at work (20%), and partially because . . . I just D-E-S-P-I-S-E all the barbaric self-inflicted personal maintenance and wardrobe deprivation seemingly necessary to reach my goal of “debt free by June 30th 2009” (80%+). It’s embarrassing as I was so gung-ho.  In the end, I just couldn’t stick with the plan – couldn’t do it a minute longer and was ashamed to own up. I am weak weak weak, and clearly apocalyptic cost cutting is not in my nature.

New plan– get what I need and no more. It has to be perfect: fit, color, fabric all flawless. If not, back to the store it goes. (This sounds basic but for me is a huge obstacle – I don’t like returning things to the store or even repacking returns to send back, so in the past tended to keep or give away substandard purchases. Yup. Seriously. Another bad, embarrassing habit now out in the open. Another confession:  I reeealllly can’t bear going to the gas station and am trying to train my husband to do it for me, automatically, like an upgraded full-service option – but that’s another story.)

On my Spring purchase list: versatile dresses – the sort that can be worn at a wedding, work or out to dinner with carefully shifted accessories; nice (aka leather or fabric not rubber) flip flops to supplement and enhance my Havaiana stockpile; short sleeve cotton/linen/silk cardigan to go with everything 24/7.  Not purchased this Spring – a new handbag.   However I did send one of the Chloes to refurb for freshening with very snappy results. 

During hiatus I have resumed salon waxing (thank goodness) and lash tinting – but at a less posh salon. Instead of Keratin Complex straightening I have been using Living Proof NoFrizz and am hopeful this will get me through the humid months and into Fall. I had a little laser to correct some sun damage, and a little Botox to correct the crevices the market turbulence left on my forehead. However, apart from the odd mani-pedi – I AM doing my own toes and fingers.

So, although I am more sane and better groomed, what has this fiscal detour done to my debt repayment plan? As of today, “The Number” is roughly $11,000.00, down from the $14k-$15k range at last writing. All my department store accounts have been paid off – all that is left are balances are on two Visa cards. By the end of June, one of those cards will be paid off in its entirety, and the other will have a $7,000.00 balance. And counting.
Back soon. Really.

XO

Debtonaire

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Filed under Debt Reduction, Personal Maintenance, Shopping, The Number

March Madness?

I am reviewing my finances for February.  Despite unnatural disasters (see Liquid Keratin) and a few/several/many indiscrete purchases (see Checks and Balances) and several visits to the MediSpa (more on that later) I appear to be making slight progress with my debt levels.  My total personal debt has decreased marginally from $15,116.13 at January 21 to $14,961.93 at February 13.   At least the accelerated debt service to Visa is outstripping my spending.  The large payments made over the last few weeks are largely possible due to – I hate to admit it – the salon services I have avoided this month.  My only salon visit this month was for corrective color – a non-negotiable necessity.  

 The best news so far this month is a forecasted budget surplus of approximately $1,500.00 by 3/6/09.  This amount could flow through the bottom line straight to a new handbag – its almost enough for a new Chloe – however, I will likely get a couple pair of shoes and some great accessories to jazz up my basics.    Should the surplus be applied to debt service, probably yes.  I can’t go cold turkey – total deprivation will only lead an unfortunate occurrence . . . an incident at an outlet mall or ‘rack’ store where returns are not accepted.  Self restraint is so much better in moderation.  I am going to make like a Democrat in Congress and spend spend spend that surplus . . .

XO Debtonaire

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Checks and Balances

I haven’t posted for a while due to a severe bout of whining that I have been trying to stave off.  The orange hair incident was disheartening, and frankly, I harbored doubts that I would be able to continue with such a strict regime of DIY activities.  DIY is exhausting and time consuming and not therapeutic in the least.  I justified a lot of bad spending behavior because “I work so hard, I need to relax” and  “I work so hard, I deserve to own the overpriced XYZ”.  The primary flaw in this logic is that I still work hard and am about to be unemployed. 

My hedge fund job was demanding before the credit markets went to hell, and now it is interminable.  Is it completely unreasonable, after a hard day of battle, to park myself in a massaging easy chair, glass of wine in hand, and peruse US magazine while my hooves are dunked in paraffin, scraped and painted back into the semblance of human fingers and toes?  Post topple, I am truly grateful and somewhat surprised every time my firm makes payroll.  I work hard, keep my chin up, try to keep people off the window ledge, and come straight home from work every night.  No cocktails, no dinners out, no picking up a quick pair of shoes ‘to wear to that thing tomorrow night’.  Once I arrive home, my husband and I deal with dinner (from ingredients NOT even a take-out box).  If the stars align, I hit the treadmill or the gym.  I can still get away with the glass of wine and a gossip magazine, and I do have a cute little portable foot spa and a great stash of pedicure supplies, but adding these items to an ordinary weeknight results in a hot mess and sheet marks on my freshly-varnished toes.  Perhaps I am healthier person post topple, drink less, consume less sodium, have some interesting war stories, but so far it does not appear to build character.  I am neither a better or more likable person for any of this nonsense. 

Last Thursday morning, I nearly ran over my Cleaning Lady in the foyer while dashing through my pre-CL cleaning regimen.  CL is very personable and I don’t mind chatting with her at all – she used to work in HR before fleeing corporate America for her current vocation, which she says allows the flexibility to handle the schedule of three active children.  Apparently, CL’s business is suffering – half of her households have cut back to once a month or cut out cleaning services completely.  She was able pick up cleaning of a veterinary clinic at night to make ends meet.  Her husband will soon be severed from his job at a plastics molding company with a meager package.  Finally, CL hit me up for any Goodwill bound clothes or shoes – apparently I am the same size as her 14-year old daughter. 

Saturday morning, with the rough edges of my current fiscal situation ground down a bit after my conversation with CL, I resumed self-improvement activities.  I attended an early morning spinning class and caught up with a friend for coffee.  I further extended my virtuousness into Saturday afternoon by performing several waxing and facial treatments on myself.  While not a totally unpleasant way to spend a couple hours (in that it is more pleasurable than shoveling rock), it does cut a chunk out of the weekend.  I will also cop to a certain level of personal fulfillment in that I am improving in speed and skill level with the Nair wax strips (and am now utilizing the strips on parts of the bikini area completely forbidden by the good folks at Nair . . . with no ill effects thus far).  I do not miss shelling out $120 per session for a Brazilian wax plus waxing of various appendages.  I personal exposure due to the ‘ princess pose’ or the bacteria laden community wax bucket in the least. 

Control of my plastic this month has been less than masterful.  I swiped my VISA card with vigor during the first week of February and regrettably report several unnecessary, albeit lovely, clearance priced, purchases.  Total damage is over $1,000.  Arguably this amount will offset somewhat by payments, as well as savings in aforementioned areas such as waxing.  This behavior does not move the Number in the appropriate direction, which is closer to zero.  To recap, February purchases as of today included. 

Miu Miu –spike heel hidden platform loafers – Plum patent – $145

Cole Haan Collection – tall boots – Brown $200

Cole Haan Collection – tall boots – Black $200

Anthropologie- black wool cropped jacket, cotton lace top and t-shirt – $220

Victorias Secret – boy shorts (5 for $25) and t-shirt cardigan $32 – $57

Sephora/Ulta/Macys – make-up and other personal supplies – GO SMiLE, gloss, liquid liner, powder $200

 

 

The Miu Miu’s are perfect and update all the neutrals in my closet.  The tall boots are beautiful – parade- gloss-style super stiff and shiny leather, extra tall shaft and almond toe – very sleek with a medium heel . . . too perfectly timeless to pass up, not to mention they were practically free.  I absolutely did need them in both colors.  Anthropologie there is no good explanation for.   I don’t typically venture into Anthropologie due to an extreme allergy to rick rack, but a friend recommended the adorable buttery soft t-shirt.  I happened upon the black jacket (I have it on now!  Have worn 3 times since purchase on Thursday – great with trousers, skirts and jeans) and black cotton lace top (mysteriously can be layered over or under literally everything in my closet) while waiting for a fitting room.  All the clothes and shoes were marked down at least 60% – massively clearanced items are so tempting – particularly when I didn’t buy everything I needed for fall and winter to start with.  The boy shorts and cardi from VS and make-up etc. are mostly necessities, although I could have waited on the GO SMiLE kit but it was on sale. 

Factoring in my corrective color debacle and the afore-mentioned clothing and accessory acquisitions, things are off to a really bad start.  The rest of February needs to be exemplary and March as a whole must be a better month.  In the meantime, I will put together a Goodwill bag for penance. 

XO Debtonaire

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DIY Round #1 . . . Bikini Wax

Analysis prepared for yesterday’s post, Keeping Up Appearances, brought to my attention an alarmingly large monthly tab for personal maintenance.  Allow me to recap:  $1,000 per month (roughly $1,250 including cosmetics, skin and hair products) Just To Look Normal.     

Once I recovered from the shock, it occurred to me that my personal maintenance expense category, sizable as it may be, provides an opportunity.  While eliminating items from the category is not currently an option I am willing to explore, it is possible that my personal maintenance dollars could be spent more wisely, freeing up more dollars for debt service while maintaining my current level of grooming.  The spas and service providers I frequent do a great job, but I haven’t shopped around to any extent.  Additionally, although I rarely even file my own nails, there is certainly the possibility of taking on some personal Do-It-Yourself (”DIY”) projects. Certain items, such as Botox, laser and other treatments typical administered under medical supervision would not be applicable for DIY, but there are many other items that could, conceivably, be performed by civilian personnel, such as myself, provided  directions are carefully adhered to. 

The first item on my DIY list . . .  bikini wax.  Maybe a bikini wax seems an odd place to start, but frankly, its past time, and I do have some experience in this regard.  Last summer, under duress and with a great sense of urgency (pool party –  4th of July weekend – no openings with any of my regular aestheticians) I performed a bikini wax on my own bikini line using the Poetic Waxing kit.  Poetic Waxing, if you are not familiar,  is a strip-less, low-temperature wax product – the wax comes in a cute campfire-style mug and melts in a pot of hot water on your stovetop.  It is an amazing product for face and smaller, easier to reach areas of the anatomy, but in my view, not great for the bikini area.  Due to the contours of the to-be-waxed area, wax could only be applied in small patches.  Removal of the wax was painful. Pain Full. Truly a time consuming, painful and highly traumatic ordeal.  I am having a flashback just thinking about it. The end result was cosmetically pleasing though, and most importantly, I was able put on my bikini and hold my head high poolside.  

This time around the self-bikini waxing block, I tried the Nair Soothing Wax Strip kit, with fantastic results.  Twenty minutes later, after very minimal discomfort, absolutely no mess and a very cosmetic result.  The kit comes with pre and post wax wipes for the waxing area, and a set of large and small wax strips.  I was also able to cut the large strips in half or thirds to customize with no difficulty.   Again, seriously, almost painless.  Zero trauma to skin, emotions or pocketbook.  Retail for the kit at my local Target store was approximately $8.00.  For my bikini line, I used approximately half a kit worth of large and small strips.  (I am admittedly a bit ape-like in the bikini area – it is entirely possible that normal human women will need fewer strips.)  I was so excited about the Nair waxing kit that I woke up 10 minutes early this morning and used the rest of the kit on my forearms – which are once again hair-free and feel wonderfully naked beneath my cashmere sweater.   

Round #1 of DIY went really well, and I am feeling hopeful.  So on to round #2.  Earlier this week, while flipping through InStyle magazine, I saw an ad for Liquid Keratin, an at-home no-formaldehyde hair straightening solution.  I visited the website to view the ‘how-to’ video.  The process appears to be similar to the Coppola Keratin Complex straightening system I partake of three times a year in-salon.  My results with the Coppola system have been nothing short of amazing – no damage, just the shiny, perfect, can-air-dry-if-necessary straight hair I have prayed for every day on this earth.  Coppola can also be used safely on highlighted blonde hair – highlights are something I have in abundance and are necessary to my survival.  The Liquid Keratin also appears to have no harsh chemicals, and indicates that the treatment “nourishes and replenishes colored and chemically treated hair”.  At $500 a pop for Coppola three times a year in a salon, versus $69 for Liquid Keratin, I am open to a little experimentation.   I should have my kit today and will let you know how it goes. 

XO Debtonaire 

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Keeping Up Appearances

Last night I made a list of all my standard salon/aesthetician services. My annual total for personal maintenance expenses (skin treatments, hair cut and color and nails) comes in at $11,810.00 (or $984.17 per month) including gratuities. I was astounded. No, it’s not a fortune, but seriously, $1,000.00 per month just to look normal? This figure does not include skin care products and cosmetics, so conservatively this figure could be as high as $1,250.00 per month – again –JUST TO LOOK NORMAL. Not hot, not drastically younger than my chronological age, not even particularly well-rested . . . just NORMAL. Apparently, it is expensive to keep up appearances. Just for fun, here is my breakout:

Personal Maintenance Expense Breakout

Personal Maintenance Expense Breakout

Clearly, I need to better manage personal maintenance expenses not only to free up more cash for debt service, but also as a preventative measure in case of a prolonged unemployment scenario. Mortgage would certainly trump Botox, and by that time the Coppola Hair Straightening and lash tints would be long gone. What services should I keep? What can I do without or (gasp!) do myself? Difficult questions. I consider the above to be ‘bare bones upkeep’ – there are several other services in addition to the above that I feel would be beneficial, such as regular massages, facials and spray tan, but have not scheduled due to time constraints.
As blissful as a debt free existence must be, would I be able to enjoy it while sporting visible grays, a gorilla-like bikini line and ragged cuticles? Something’s gotta give. It’s time to explore my options in the personal maintenance arena. Wish me luck.
XO Debtonaire

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Filed under Debt Reduction, Personal Maintenance