Thursday, August 24, 2006

the starving student, returned

hey all,

i know i've been MIA for a minute, but its been a hectic few weeks. last week i took a trip back to NYC, which completely busted my budget, but was 100% worth it (and necessary) . i got to be with my beloved (yay!) and see a few friends. ever since returning i've been thrown back into school (teacher training!) and have been SO amazingly tired.

my financial journey is still going.

i'm broke, but i know why. it wasn't a surprise, and i spent the money on purpose. so i can't complain about that can i? this week, the union reps came to talk to our class about enrolling in a 403(b) retirement plan. i'm all over it, although i'll have to ask the rep if they match funds. but i'm very excited. i'm about to begin my teaching career, about to start yet another semester of university classes, and move into a new phase of life. financially, i'm not in horrible shape and i'm looking forward to making some extra money to pay down my bills and build up my credit.

at this point i'm so tired and hopeful and happy and exhahusted. life is moving so fast and i can see my ideal financial future within my grasp.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Help! I'm In Debt!

In an event to arm myself with as much information as possible, I surfed over to They have a fabulous section on debt management and how to get out of it (perfect for me, righ?). I took the Debt-O-Meter quiz, then proceeded to read the 5-Step Emergency Plan for dealing with deep debt. I'm not in DEEP debt, I can use many of these strategies to help me out.

Because everyone is different, I thought I'd ask you guys to share your most-useful debt relief/credit repair strategies. If you've gone through credit hell and lived to tell about it, share!

We can all use the knowledge.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

the procrastination disease

Hi my name is Common Cents and I'm a procrastinator!

*Hi, Common*

i've procrastinated my entire life. from writing papers to paying bills, i've continued to put things off until tomorrow because...i can. so far it's been a mixed bag. even though i've been stressed and pushed to the limits, i've had success at work and school even though i wait until the last moment to work on it. but with money...i haven't been so lucky.

i think if i sat down and tried to quantify just how much procrastination has cost me, in dollar bills, i'd be sick. countless late fees, collections items, and just things that i've forgotten to pay...all of it has added up to a small mountain of debt and a credit report with more negatives than an algebra test.

getting financially fit requires more than just watching what i spend. our finances tend to be an extension of our emotions and no matter how much i'd like to "get it together" financially, it's not going to happen if i don't get myself together in the process. there is a lot going on in my life right now. i'm switching careers, my beloved awaiting trial, my son is constantly growing, and i'm doing it all solo. it's a hard road to travel alone and i turn to other things (eating out, buying things for my son, etc) for comfort. whatever the case, i'm going to take a more holistic approach to my finances and my life so i can finally be free.


Monday, August 07, 2006

I've seen the promised land

...and it doesn't include working!

during my lunch break i decided to stray from my normal routine of grabbing whatever my company offers (yes, we get free lunch) and heading downstairs to talk isht with my co-workers, and decided to make the 5 minute drive to santa monica's 3rd street promenade.

since graduating from college I have forgotten what summer "on the outside" looks like. when i lived in NYC i used to go outside every day during lunch and walk around, but never too far because i had to be back in the office. now, back in cali, nothing is really within walking distance and it is usually too much of a hassle to drive somewhere, maybe get stuck in traffic, then try to find a parking space, so i usually stay here at the building. but not today. this is my last week here (yes, it's official) so i'm a little more bold, not caring if i get back EXCATLY at 1pm (bad Cents *slaps hand*). so, i broke out in search of some fresh air. at the promenade i browsed the Apple Mac store (please God, send me a black Mac Book!), i browsed old navy, J crew, Express, and B&N. i watched mommies and nannies push babies around in their Maclaren & Peg Prego strollers....and it hit me...

THIS is what i want!

i want to be able to push my son around in his stroller with a strawberries and cream frappuccino in one hand and a few shopping bags in the other. i want to be able to take him to the park, to the beach, to the movies, anywhere...and feel confident that mommy has enough money to buy him (or herself) a little something. this life i want for myself is not about money, but more about comfort. knowing that you are financially secure and able to enjoy it is priceless.

for too long i have operated on the starving student level. four years after undergrad, a year out of grad school, a baby and a soulmate later, i'm too old to play that role any more. i don't want to decide between paying the rent or the car note. i don't want to juggle bills, don't want to worry about answering my phone for fear it’s a collection agent, and i don't want to have to pass up those cute shoes when i see them.

i've thought about this life for a while now and i've come to realize that it's not going to happen without a serious income. and I’ve also realized i'm not going to make that income doing only what i do now. so the side hustle hunt has begun. getting free financially is not only about paying off my debt, but also building wealth and enjoying it. i don't want to work for someone else for the rest of my life. hell, i don't want to be working 5 or 10 years from now. but if i can work hard on my "normal" job, and hustle (legally) on the side, then i might just be able to reach the promised land sooner than I think.

ps: anyone with an legit work from home type moneymakers holla at me:


Friday, August 04, 2006

my credit according to experian

(click on image for larger image)

after tracking my spending for a minute (i know, i know...i still need to keep tracking), i decided to pull my credit report. i called to get my reports from all of the agencies (for free!), but me being me (read: impatient), i logged onto to get my credit report and score. according to FreeCredit (run by experian) my credit score is 555, which is "poor." this gives me hope because it has gone up since i last checked! i've gone from "very poor" to "poor" (lol) and slow motion is better than no motion.

breaking down the report...

my report indicated that i have 9 negative items and 13 satisfactory accounts. according to the score breakdown i can raise my score if i open a credit card and make all of the payments on time, so i'm going to open a secured card and work with that to raise my score. as far as the negatives....i'm open (suggestions?)...i want to get those joints off of my report (in time for apartment hunting). i've been scouring the Credit Boards site to find solutions, but it's very overwhelming (still). i'm going to stay on it though, i'm not in as bad of shape as i once thought, and that is very very good news.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006


so it's the day after i got paid and i'm already down to $332.03 in my checking account. yesterday my paycheck of $1124.60 was deposited, and i'm already almost back to zero. where did it go you ask?

because i have overdraft protection (which, isn't such a great idea because it pulls from my savings) and used my debt card a few times over the weekend, a little more than $200 of my check was eaten up as soon as it was deposited into my account (not cool!). so that left me with a little more than $900 when i checked my account yesterday morning. since then i've spent...

obviously there are a few places that could use a bit of improvement. i could have done without the books, even though one of them is for DH. lately i've been buying discount/used books from amazon. i think i will ONLY do that from now on to cut the cost. also, i can probably do without the netflix, especially considering i've had the same movie for about 3 weeks (it's hard out here for a video renter!). clearly i'm not using the service to its full potential. maybe i will drop down to a cheaper plan instead of cutting it out all together? otherwise, the things i bought (minus lunch) were all pretty necessary.

the little one & i are taking a trip to NY in about 3 weeks and i wanted to put more into my savings account for the trip, but it looks like i can only squeeze about $100 out of this check and put it away for our trip. the next two weeks will be a bit tight, but if can curb my spending, i should be cool.

watching my money evaporate is NOT a good look!

Side note: i've signed up for Pine Cone research (thanks Single Ma!) and i've already completed my first survey and received my $5. i'm always looking for ways to make extra money, so PLEASE if you know of any legit ways to boost the income...holla at me! i don't want to be working for the man forever!

side note # 2: all you mommies out there, i need you! where can i find coupons on diapers, formula, baby food etc, etc. cuz while he's the cutest baby in the world (smile!), my munchkin is proving to be VERY expensive! i will be happy when he can drink regular more Enfamil!


Monday, July 31, 2006


after a suggestion from Singla Ma, i surfed over to Credit Boards and proceeded to try to wrap my head around some of the steps i can take to get my finances back on track. there is SO much information over there! browsing the topics and reading some of the suggestions of others i once again felt overwhelmed. there is so much i didn't know. so much i wish i would have known in the beginning. and so much i still have to learn.

but i'm hopeful.

the strangest thing happened. last night i had a dream that i was embattled with a collection agent and i was hitting him with all the info i learned on Credit Boards. my information game was too tight and he was no match for me (ha!). i woke up laughing and hopeful. for the first time in a long time i realized that my future is actually in my hands. just because i made mistakes in the past, doesn't mean i have to roll over and accept bad credit for the next 7 years.

although i'm still trying to wrap my head around the endless amount of information on the site, i will definitely be doing my homework (at home and i am no longer entertaining the thoughts of bankruptcy or just giving up, resigned to a life of bad credit. nah homie....Com Cents is on the come up!

thank you to everyone who has commented, given advice, and pointed me in the right direction. your help is very much appreciated!


Saturday, July 29, 2006

writing it down

so i did it. i went through my bills and wrote down the amounts owed. some things i didn't have the bill for, so i had to call and find out the balance. what's the damage?


that is the amount i owe including my student loans. without my loans i owe
$6831.62, which isn't THAT high, but as i stated in the last post, most of that is owed to collection agencies.

so now what? i tried to do a preliminary sketch of how much i have to pay out per month and check that against my salary. every month i have to purchase/pay for...

Discover Card--$335 (will be paid off in October)
Baby Formula/Supplies--$150
Bally's Fitness--$36
total: $1713.21

my monthly take home is around $2200/month, and once i switch jobs it will increase, although i'm not sure by how much.

so writing it down has taught me a few things (some i already know).

  1. i don't owe THAT much: i owe less than $7k, which is totally doable.
  2. I spend money on random things: I take home nearly $500 more than I need to spend, yet at the end of the pay period i'm always broke.
  3. I have some room to pay off my other debt, but i have to be smart about it: before i call up the collection agencies and play let's make a deal, i should have an idea of what i can pay and not get bullied into paying more than i can handle.
overall i'm happy i wrote it all down. i now know exactly (more or less) of what i'm up against. i told DH and he said he's proud of me. he's happy i'm tryingto get it all together. that made me smile. i do feel 20 times smarter (but also 20 time broker), but at least now i have the power to make some changes.

now....if anyone has advice as to how to deal w/ collections agencies that would be great.

what do you do when....

you don't have credit card debt?

well, sorta

don't get me wrong, i owe money to credit card companies (and phone companies, and cable, and get the picture), but my accounts are all closed and i'm in collections all over the place. most of the "get out of debt" strategies i've seen and read about focus on making deals with your credit card company to lower your interest rate and pay on time....but what do you do when you're in collections??

my finances are so bad i've considered bankruptcy. it's not that i owe an insurmountable amount of money, it's just that i seem to owe everybody everything NOW. all collection companies want their money NOW. sure they may make some payment deals, but when you add up all the bills, it far exceeds the amount i can/want pay at once. i'm sure i haven't done much to help the situation either. my strategy so far has been to ignore the calls and lie: "uhhhh common isn't home right now, call her back later. thanks."

but now that i have a child & have started my life with the man i love, i don't want to be afraid to answer our phone. i don't want to worry about being sued (i've been threatened), i don't want to worry about anybody garnishing my wages, and i don't want my financial problems to stop us from buying a house or a car or anything else we'd like to do.

so today has come. i'm am about give my son some Scooby snacks, throw some toys in his crib and begin the process of opening up all my bills, figuring out what i owe and what i can pay. i am very nervous. i pray a gigantic amount of debt doesn’t haul off and slap me upside the head, but i'm ready to face it.

wish me luck. i'll keep you posted. oh.. .and thank you to everybody who has commented so far. your advice & encouragement has been very helpful!

ps--i've noticed that a lot of you PF bloggers have those fresh looking graphs on your page to track your net worth, debt, and savings...where can i get one? holla at your girl.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

starting from scratch

so it's time to start to get a handle on my financial situation, but i'm somewhat at a loss as to where to begin. using tidbits of what i've heard and read as a guide, i believe i need to first figure out what i owe and what i spend my money on.

finding out how much i owe is....scary. i have no idea how much i owe or to how many people I owe money to. my financial strategy so far has been to ignore the bills and the calls, because maybe ignore it, it doesn't exist. you know what they say, "ignorance is bliss?" but from my experience it is also very costly. so this week (and into the weekend) i will commit to figuring it all out. this will take quite a bit of work (and time). because i have to take care of my little munchkin, I will commit opening bills, writing down the balances, and figuring out a payment system after i put my little one to sleep. this journey is about making a lasting change, and change is often a tough, painful, yet rewarding process.

and i'm ready to begin.

sometime ago i bought David Bach's book, The Finish Rich Workbook. i remember reading through the first few chapters and just feeling overwhelmed. the book didn't inspire me (as i'd hope), but rather highlighted just how disorganized and out of wack my financial life is. I felt bad reading it so i stopped. with so much going on in my life i couldn't bear to face my money issues head on. but the time has come. i'm moving on to a different career where i'll be making a little more money (but only getting paid once of month! yikes!), i'll be back in school, and i'll have more time to spend with my son. so it's time...i think i will get back into The Finish Rich Workbook and organize my finances, and start trying to figure this thing out.

all you bloggers who are working toward financial success, if you have recommendations...please share. we can all use some good tips.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Change Is Gonna Come


after browsing several financial blogs, watching people get out of debt via Oprah's debt diet, and just being plain ol' sick and tired of being broke, it has come down to this: getting real and blogging about my (lack of) money and (lack of) financial discipline.

as a twenty-something, non-single, single mommy, i have a great deal of responsibility on my plate. unfortunately, at the moment, my beloved can't be here to raise our infant son or share the household expenses, so all of the responsibility is on my shoulders. and i've never been "good" with money. i haven't had the best track record sticking to any type of budget, my credit is beyond poor, i have TONS of bills, and i live paycheck to paycheck, barely making my salary stretch. and, i'm sick of it.

i can't live like this anymore.

the time has come to make a change. this blog was partly inspired by Single Ma. i have been a silent reader of her blog for a while now and her financial success is inspiring. watching her meet her goals while providing her readers with some info gems is so refreshing. see, no one ever sat down with me and taught me about money (beyond how to open a checking/savings account), so now i am stumbling and trying to figure it out on my own. i know there are SO many others like me, so i count on you guys for wisdom, advice, and support.

getting the bad credit gorilla off my back & finally learning and understanding money will be life changing. won't you join me on my journey?