Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting to Zero (Debt)

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 I am writing this blog post despite our disagreement that this is private because of all the commotion on debt - the mortgage debt, the car payment debts, the credit card debts and god knows what else...frankly every which way you look you get charged for something or the other...do you really let the debt take charge of your life or do you want to live life a free person. How true is the saying - Debt is the slavery of the free!!!
I choose to live my life free and if it means disciplining myself to wield my common sense, will power and power of judgement to the choices I make in life so be it...here are some of the things that worked for us :
  1. Keep on top of your expenses : If you follow your spending, you have a good idea of what your budget needs to be...I have key categories and usually stick to the budget I set for myself every month
  2.  Accountability : One person needs to take accountability for the home finances - monthly payments, insurance payments, miscellaneous payments, taxes (income and property), DMV. Yes, it is a daunting list but very manageable with a little bit of organization
  3.  Be Aware and downsize where appropriate : Be aware of the prices you pay for things -- it is pain free, convenient and economical to order things online (think Amazon). In 2010, I gave up the Comcast Triple Play and moved to individual services for phone, Internet and cable and saved roughly $100 a month ( $1200/year). We had an SUV which was barely giving us 10 miles/gallon and we downsized to a sedan which was diesel, giving us almost 30 miles/gallon and it is K1's dream drive.
  4. Cut out the frills, don't be afraid to use coupons and shop sales: For health, we shop in the farmer's market ( surprisingly cheaper than buying produce at Safeway, TJ's or Whole Foods), we pack lunch for all the three of us at least 4 days a week...we don't really invest a whole lot of time cooking but try and make easy, quick and healthy meals that work for us. I proudly proclaim that I shop Sale, I use coupons and am not brand loyal - just ingredient loyal...in my mind Oats is Oats whether it's Quaker,  Oats from Bob Mills or the bulk section @ my local grocer.Coldwater Creek, Jones New York and Ann Taylor have amazing deals about 2-3 times a year and I make sure I order my clothes online then (it saves me time and serious moolah ). I go to Costco about twice a month for all my cleaning stuff, vitamins and all my nuts. I am a focused buyer -- usually have a list and stick to it.
  5.  Save Wisely: I was a little stupid when it came to starting a retirement account, what motivated me to start one was a 1:1 match by my company. Now I save fiercely ...I maximize on my 401K, put money aside for my child's college fund and investigate other opportunities to save. I use my credit card like a charge card, paying off the entire balance diligently every month.
  6. Ask yourself the question do I really need this : It is so easy to get into the vicious cycle - to earn, spend, want more and spend more -- clutter your house with art, little thingies and clutter your mind. Our house is minimalistic - we have reduced our buys to essentials . With things that we don't need or have out grown ( and you have some of those when you have children) - we actively solicit friends to take them, we sell things on craigs list or we donate to salvation army. We have an empty and sort of organized garage. My pantry is the one area which is work in progress -- I do tend to buy more food than we need but have been able to keep waste down to minimal.
  7. Be Happy and let your hair down : We don't count the pennies. We splurge where it makes sense - zoo subscriptions, theater, movies, activities, dinners, vacations. Yet more often than not happiness for me is a walk down the bay with family checking out the pelicans flying away gracefully, or the seal bobbing up and down in the water sunning or a heart pounding "bollyburn" class in the gym. I have realized that material/money is a mean to an end...not the end and it certainly does not make me  happy.
I think living with or without debt is a personal choice -- what makes sense to me might be total nonsense to you....in the end it is about doing what makes you happy. What makes me happy today is remembering the wonderful Chenna Poda, I had made almost a year back...it is a typical east meets west kind of a recipe...if you want to make this wonderful creamy Indian Cheese Cake, the recipe is here

This recipe goes to Anjali's event - Cakes, Cookies and Desserts @ Sugar and Spice Tales.

 How has the weekend been treating you?

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