Overwhelmed? Sometimes that’s a good thing.

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“There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality.” –Seneca

Let’s face it, feeling overwhelmed is always terrible in the moment. The good comes when you get through it and realize you were strong enough to overcome obstacles or events you never thought possible. Whether it’s an event or a revelation, you have more power than you know.

If you follow this blog with even a little bit of regularity, you may know that last year my son got lead poisoning, we found ourselves unexpectedly in the housing market as a result, and when we finally found a house we could afford we discovered we needed to renovate it much more extensively than we initially thought. Those events are why we wound up in an overwhelming $50,000 of consumer debt. Many of them were outside of our control, some of them weren’t.

Fast forward to the start of a new year and we have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and are working hard to pay off our debt. In less than 6 months we’ve paid off around $8,000! There is a certain level of pride and satisfaction knowing that we are able to solve many of our problems ourselves.

Spending Diet Wins – January 2017

  • Canceled my $19 per month ancestry.com membership because I finally found my biological family on my father’s side after 14 years of searching!
  • The dentist decided to waive our $1,700 bill because my husband and I were the first clients at her new practice.
  • Taught a résumé writing and LinkedIn profile optimization class at Boston Center for Adult Education, which I will earn $400 for.
  • Earned $72 sending items to ThredUp.
  • Pivoted my business model from active income to passive income by creating résumé templates and selling them on my website. Earned $69 this week selling the new résumé templates on www.talentcounseling.com.

Spending Diet Losses – January 2017

  • Purchased an area rug for our living room. It’s a short-term expense of $119 but will save us hundreds of dollars in the long run because it will break the cycle of my son’s monster trucks destroying our hardwood floor when he launches his toy monster trucks off his Hotwheels ramp.
  • Finally broke down and purchased a new pair of flats because my current pair tears my feet up every time I wear them. Will send the old pair to ThredUp, as they are still in very good condition. I made the difficult decision to purchase a rather expensive pair of Rothy’s because they have no seams, which means they shouldn’t destroy the top of my feet like all other flats do. Used the money I made selling résumé templated to pay for part of the purchase.
  • The electric bill came in $160 higher than I expected, so we didn’t have as much extra money as we normally do to put towards credit card debt. We also decided to try and prevent future surprising high bills by converting our 30-year-old thermostats to newer, programmable thermostats. We received 2 for Christmas and purchased 2 more.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Overwhelming

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. You can purchase expertly designed résumé templates that will expedite your job search at www.talentcounseling.com . You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

Paying off $20,000 of Debt in 2017

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“This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. –Douglas Adams

Cut yourself some slack.

That’s my new year’s resolution. Cut yourself some slack. 2016 sent me into self-defense mode. Due to some unexpected circumstances, I found myself fiercely defending myself, my family, and my finances.

2016 sent me into self-defense mode. Due to some unexpected circumstances, I found myself fiercely defending myself, my family, and my finances.

It’s time to conserve energy and let my guard down just a little bit in 2017. In part, this means not expecting myself or others to be perfect. It also means evolving from a “spending fast” to a “spending diet”. My spending diet really won’t change much, since I failed at my spending fast in one way or another every week in 2016. Instead, it just means I’ll have a small budget for things that happen frequently, like forgetting my lunch. No, I won’t be buying the $10.99 sandwiches from the place next door, but I won’t beat myself up if I spend $2.95 on oatmeal from the vending machine once or twice a week.

Don’t be fooled, though. I still have the goal of paying off $20,000 of debt this year. However, I won’t be taking on new résumé clients, which means we’ll need to be extra careful about where every single penny goes. It’s a lofty goal, but that’s okay – there’s a good chance that we’re capable of achieving it.

Q4 2016 Stats

  •  Consumer debt: $49,164.39
  • Mortgage debt: $104,426.91
  • Student loan debt: $84,082.22
  • Total debt: $237,673.49

Stats going into Q1 2017

  • Consumer debt: $42,438.63 (we’ve paid off almost $7,000 in 3 months!)
  • Mortgage debt: $103,925.28
  • Student loan debt: $84,990.10
  • Total debt: $231,354.01

Goals for 2017

  • $37,000 of consumer debt by end of Q1 2017
  • $32,000 of consumer debt by end of Q2 2017
  • $27,000 of consumer debt by end of Q3 2017
  • $22,000 of consumer debt by end of Q4 2017

Biggest Wins of 2016

  • Took $1,766.48 out of savings and put it towards consumer debt after determining that I was losing more money to the interest rate on credit cards than I was benefiting from the interest rate of my bank account. (Please note, we still have a 3-month emergency fund in place)
  • Switched to a daycare that costs $30 less per week, for an annual savings of $1,560
  • Negotiated working from home 2 days per week (with an hour long commute each way, that’s a lot of time and gas money saved)

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Capable

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin has products that can help you with that. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

Buying Begets Buying – Defeating the Consumer Cycle

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It’s no secret that buying begets buying.

This is true even if you start out with the best of intentions. You buy a new pair of shoes because you truly need them and suddenly your clothes seem shabby compared to those new shoes, so you buy new clothes, too. This rule of thumb applies to almost every area of your life. You buy a new couch because your old one is falling apart and suddenly you find yourself also buying a new entertainment center and coffee table because the old ones didn’t look quite right with the new couch. (For many people there is also a physical release of hormones when they shop that perpetuates this cycle, but that is a topic for a different post).

How do we make it stop? The first steps are to be aware of the cycle, acknowledge the urge, and then refuse to indulge it. If you just can’t get it out of your mind, look for alternate solutions. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint would make that coffee table look brand new. Maybe shaving the little balls of bunched up fabric off of your sweaters would make your old clothes look as good as your new shoes.

You’ll start to notice less stress in your life once you retreat from the cycle of consumerism. When you buy new things you’re losing much more than money – you’re also losing the space in your home needed to store those items and the time it takes to clean and maintain your new things. If you’re not buying item after item, you’ll get all that time and space back. Who knows what you’ll do with all of that freedom. Perhaps you’ll spend more time with your family, write a blog, or start your own business!

I dedicate most of my extra time to my family, my résumé writing business, and to getting out of debt. In the last 4 months, we have lowered our credit card debt by $6,725.73 and paid $8,439.98 more than the monthly minimum (interest is bitch and ate up $1,714.25 of our debt reduction efforts over the last 4 months).

Spending Fast Wins – Week 17

  • Paid $576.77 extra to the credit card with the highest interest rate.
  • Celebrated Christmas frugally. I gifted a much-needed toaster to my husband and only purchased 1 toy and 1 book for my kiddo.
  • Sent another bag of stuff to ThredUp.

Spending Fast Losses – Week 17

  • Forgot my lunch twice and had to purchase food, instead.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Retreat

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

What’s in a Minimalist Mom’s Capsule Wardrobe, Anyway?

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How are mornings at your house?

At my house, mornings used to be chaos. Then, about a year ago, I got rid of most of my clothes and was left with a capsule wardrobe, which brought a whole new level of calm to my morning routine.

Never again would I have to sift through a bunch of clothes just to decide I had nothing to wear. To top it off, the capsule wardrobe meant I got to postpone my decision fatigue for a few hours.

If you’re wondering what’s in a minimalist mom’s capsule wardrobe, here’s the list:

Tops

  1. The Rowling Top in black from MM.LaFleur
  2. The Sant Ambroeus Jardigan from MM.LaFleur in deep indigo
  3. The Woolf Jardigan from MM.LaFleur in black
  4. Navy polo shirt from Burberry (purchased for less than $15 from ThredUp)
  5. The oh-so-comfy Studio Wrap in iron blue heather from Athleta
  6. Printed sleeveless top from Tristan
  7. Mixed media dark green long sleeve top from Ann Taylor (no longer sold, but similar to this one)
  8. Tab sleeve blouse in dark blue (no longer sold, but similar to this one from Ann Taylor)
  9. Dark green sweater from Ann Taylor LOFT (no longer sold, but similar to this one)
  10. Dark blue cotton one-button blazer from Banana Republic (no longer sold)
  11. Gray motorcycle zip blazer from Ann Taylor (no longer sold)
  12. Sleeveless blouse from Ann Taylor in winter spruce (no longer sold)
  13. Sleeveless gray cotton top from Ann Taylor (no longer sold)
  14. Black and white speckled sweater from Ann Taylor (no longer sold)

Bottoms

  1. Black dress pants similar to these from Banana Republic
  2. The Foster Pant from MM.LaFleur in midnight blue
  3. Statement ankle pants from Banana Republic (unfortunately, they no longer make this design)
  4. Black skinny jeans like these from Banana Republic
  5. Blue denim skinny ankle jeans like these from Banana Republic

Dresses

  1. The Emily Dress from MM.LaFleur in deep forest green
  2. The Nisa Dress in deep indigo blue
  3. A timeless black dress from MM.LaFleur that is no longer sold but has a similar design to this dress
  4. Floral print long-sleeve dress from Tristan

Shoes

  1. Black Alegria dress pumps from Hush Puppies
  2. Nude Juliana pumps from Cole Haan
  3. Ecco Trace Tie snow boots
  4. Matt black ballet flats by Tieks
  5. Burgundy wedges from Cole Haan (no longer sold)

Spending Fast Wins

  • Despite December being more of a ‘spending diet’ than a ‘spending fast’, we still managed to pay $977.69 more than the minimum towards our credit card debt because my awesome spouse picked up a ton of extra hours this month!

Spending Fast Losses

Too many to count, but here’s a good faith effort:

  • We ate out 3 times.
  • Even though it wasn’t a necessity, I decided to finish the kitchen renovations because I had some paid time off I had to take before the end of the year. Luckily, this cost less than $80, but that was still $80 that could have gone towards debt.
  • Purchased an extravagant Christmas present and birthday decorations for my kiddo.
  • Forgot my lunch and had to buy it at least 3 times in the last 2 weeks.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Calm

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

Seeking the Mystical Land of Debt Freedom – Spending Fast Week 15

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In 15 short weeks, we have managed to pay $5,383 towards our consumer debt and $4,106.27 towards our total debt.

Why is the total debt amount less than the consumer debt amount? I wondered the same thing. Then I realized that neither of us are making payments towards our student loans. One sitting in forbearance right now and the other is in deferment for the next few months. Clearly, not paying the interest on these massive loans is foiling our debt reduction plans. We will need to reassess and see if we can start covering the interest on those loans, at a bare minimum.

Spending Fast Wins – Week 15

  • Paid my kiddo’s emergency room bill within 30 days of receiving it, making me eligible for 20% off the bill. This reduced the total bill from $126 to $101.

Spending Fast Losses – Week 15

  • I relapsed hard on my spending fast this week. I’m talking dinners out, drinks, and a minor online shopping binge. The good news is that all of the return labels have been printed and everything that was ordered online is slated to go back on Monday!

So, what’s in the boxes that I just couldn’t resist?

  • And a few other miscellaneous items that are just too shameful to own up to.
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This is what it looks like when you relapse on your spending fast.

 

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Mystical

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

If Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, Could Minimalism be Sacred? -Spending Fast Week 14

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If cleanliness is next to godliness, could minimalism be sacred?

Perhaps.

I’m not a religious person, but I was raised as one. I remember hearing people talk about “the path to God”. I suppose that nothing can truly be sacred to me since I’m not religious, but I must say that this path to minimalism has been quite eye-opening. It’s lead to soul searching and resulted in coming to terms with truths about myself I didn’t even know existed.

Sounds a bit like religion to me.

If so, it’s more along the lines of a religion like Buddhism than Scientology or Christianity. According to the all-knowing internet, Buddhists believe that life is full of suffering caused be desire and that the way to end this suffering is through enlightenment.

Sounds a bit like minimalism to me.

On a different, but related note, I have found December to be quite challenging. Have you?

I didn’t purchase anything on Black Friday but have fallen into a vicious cycle of purchasing and returning things since then. The shopping must stop. It is a complete waste of time. And so my public announcement happens right now: I will suffer less if I want less. The cycle of shopping and returning things is an obvious indicator that I have not achieved that yet. The shopping will stop. I will work on getting better at wanting less. Who knows, one day I may actually find that I do want less. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

Spending Fast Wins – Week 14

  • Made over $900 of extra income by booking another résumé client, even though I said I was going to take a break from the résumé writing business for a bit so that I could have some time to relax. This client is on the ball and seems to have realistic expectations, so I think it will work out well.
  • Found a daycare closer to home that we like and that will cost $140 less per month than my kiddo’s current daycare.
  • A loving and generous family member took note of our efforts to pay off our debt and the fact that we had just been through 2 months of one financial emergency after another. They covered the cost of my the tires that my husband needs and included a note that read, in part, “Sometimes you just need a break.”

Spending Fast Losses – Week 14

  • Bought a Christmas decoration that my kiddo asked for.
  • Ate lunch out once.

 

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Sacred

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

In Anticipation of the Urge – Spending Fast Weeks 11 & 12

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In anticipation of the urge to join the mindless consumer masses on Black Friday, I went shopping on Wednesday, November 23rd.

That’s right – the woman on the spending fast went shopping.

But here’s the thing…

I didn’t actually spend any money.

Do you remember week 4 of the spending fast, when I bagged up a bunch of clothing and sent it to ThredUp for an estimated $81 return? Well, the return was only $36.60 because they didn’t accept as many items as I expected them to. The initial plan was to put that money towards the credit card with the highest interest rate. Instead, I went shopping on ThredUp. For only a couple of dollars less than my credit, I purchased a “new” purse and blouse for myself and a zip-up hoodie for my kiddo, who is growing like giant kelp. I don’t know why we say “growing like a weed” when giant kelp can grow up to 60cm per day. I already had the itch go start Black Friday shopping, and now instead of going through the mental strain of trying to resist the urge, I have satisfied it. While everyone is online and in stores shopping this weekend, I will be daydreaming about the few items that will arrive soon and will be doing productive things with my life, like hiking the trails in the nearby park with my kiddo.

I already had the itch go start Black Friday shopping, and now instead of going through the mental strain of trying to resist the urge, or giving in to the craving and binge shopping on sale items that don’t need, I have satisfied the urge. While most people are online shopping this weekend, I will be doing things like walking the trails in the nearby park with my kiddo.

So, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a noise?

If a woman went shopping, but no money left her bank account, did she really spend any money?

Spending Fast Wins – Weeks 11, 12, and 12.5

  • Negotiated working from home 2 days per week. With an hour-long commute each way, that will save a lot of gas and car maintenance.
  • Negotiated my credit card APR from 18.99% to 13.99%.
  • Played the credit card shuffle and all credit card balances now have a 0% promotional APR for several months (note: not everyone will consider this a win since many advise that you not take part in playing the credit card shuffle.)
  • Returned the clothing I bought in a moment of weakness while sick 3 weeks ago

Spending Fast Losses – Weeks 11, 12, and 12.5

  • Indulged in a drink with a friend, twice.
  • Purchased a stuffed animal for my kiddo, who loved absolutely loved it and had to get rid of all of his stuffed animals when we moved.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Anticipation

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on LinkedIn

A Little Hyperbole Never Hurt Anyone – Spending Fast Week 10

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Right now I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

For the last week, I was so sick I thought I was going to die.

For the last 10 weeks, I’ve been on a spending fast.

Well, clearly I didn’t die – it was just a combination of bronchitis, a sinus infection, and an ear infection at the same time.

I also realized that I have really been on a spending fast. More like a spending diet. I have been replacing things I run out of without giving a lot of thought to whether I really need them. For example, I ran out of exfoliating face wash and was about to purchase more when I realized that would be the second time I would be purchasing it since I started the spending fast. I did a little research and learned that I can use old coffee grounds to exfoliate, instead. $11 saved right there.

Spending Fast Wins

  • Negotiated working from home 2 days per week (with an hour long commute each way, this will save a lot of gasoline!)
  • Reduced cell phone bill by $40 per month.
  • Accepted a role teaching a résumé writing and LinkedIn profile course at Boston Center for Adult Education one Saturday every other month, which should generate around $400 of extra income per class.

Spending Fast Losses

  • I still haven’t returned the clothing items I ordered last week. I need to get my act together and request return labels for them!
  • I’ve been sick since last Friday and still wasn’t 100% when I returned to work this Thursday. It’s very difficult to turn down convenience when you’re sick because you have such little energy. This resulted in me buying lunch instead of bringing it to work on Thursday.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Hyperbole

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on Twitter or LinkedIn

Get Back 487 Days in Just 9 Weeks – Spending Fast Week 9

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“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” –Marcel Pagnol

According to unbury.us, I have shaved 487 days off of the time it will take to be free of consumer debt! That’s right, in just nine weeks my estimated date of being free from consumer debt has gone from August 2021 to April 2020. Now that’s a giant step towards freedom if you ask me.

Going into this post, I was certainly guilty of seeing the present as worse than it is. I was only thinking about how little I had put towards making more than the minimum payment this month. Then I took a bigger look at the last 2 months and realized that there is actually a lot of success going on – you just have to look for it!

Spending Fast Wins – Week 9

  • Transferred the balance of the credit card with the highest interest rate to a card with 0% APR until October 2018.
  • Paid for around $3,500 in car repairs with cash. Consequentially, hardly any money went into savings this month, but at least I was able to move things around in the budget and didn’t incur any debt as a result!
  • Got together briefly with friends this weekend, for free! Thanks to the town of Northborough, MA for having an outdoor showing of the Minions movie.
  • Thanks to Canva and Gratisography, I’ve been sticking to my plan of only using free images for blogging.

Spending Fast Losses – Week 9

  • I learned that I make poor spending decisions when I am sick. About $400 of clothing is currently in the mail on its way to me. On the bright side, it can (and will) all be returned!

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Giant

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on Twitter or LinkedIn

Symptoms of Artifical Happiness – Spending Fast Week 8

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“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his/her happiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person is going to be unhappy much of the time. 

If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”Andy Rooney

If you think about it, did people spend your childhood telling you how to be happy? Did those messages become even louder as you became a teenager and then entered adulthood?

It’s amazing that we’ve spent our entire lives chasing happiness, with the very real possibility that we are pursuing someone else’s happiness. Some people told me my job would bring joy. Others said that money would do it. Some said I needed to have a family to be happy. Others were convinced that a good night sleep was all it would take.

I am going to stop chasing happiness. Instead, I have decided to choose happiness. Sure, being in debt sucks and comes with a lot of risks. I will work to change that aspect of my life, but I won’t reserve happiness for the moment I have achieved that goal. Instead, I choose to be happy while making a concerted effort to change my circumstances.

Spending Fast Wins – Week 8

  • After 6 months of heroic battle with Verizon customer service, we finally received the $647 reimbursement that they owed us from a buy one get one free promotion.
  • Also reduced our Verizon bill by around $40 per month by paying off one of our devices and switching to a plan with less data. Uninstalled almost all apps on my phone that use a ton of data to ensure we don’t go over.
  • Saved at least $60 by dying and highlighting my hair myself.

Spending Fast Losses – Week 8

  • I did not have a perfect record of bringing my food to work and ended up purchasing a couple of breakfast items from the vending machine.
  • You may remember that last week my husband’s car repairs cost $1,200. This week, my car was in the shop, and the bill came to $2,300. I had a moment of irrational thought. That little voice in the back of my head that has been quiet for a while now. Well, if we’ve already spent $3,500 in 2 weeks, what’s another $70? And before I could stop myself, I had purchased a piece of art for my son’s  room off of Wayfair.

This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Artificial

headshotRobin Brodrick is a résumé writer, aspiring minimalist, Douglas Adams fan, and corporate recruiter in the cutthroat biotech and pharma industries. If you’re looking for a new job, or know somebody who is, Robin can help you with that, too. Visit www.talentcounseling.com to learn more. You can also follow Robin on Twitter or LinkedIn