Tuesday, May 03, 2011


I'm not talking about wind-farms, organic farms, or natural gas. I'm talking about sustainabile finances.

Finally! I got to watch the show, Till Debt Do Us Part! I’ve heard of the show and I’ve even read Gail VazOxalade’s blog now and again. She’s a sassy lady who basically intervenes in bad debt situations. She makes couples who are in ridiculous situations get their crap together. It’s a bit like The Nanny. Anyone who has seen the Nanny knows that all she really does is go in, tell the parents to act like adults and take control, and then the kids start shaping up. Till Debt Do Us Part is a bit the same. Gail goes in and tells people they can only spend as much as they make, they have to ace their debt, and they often have to come up with extra sources of income. What do you know…life starts to seem better when these people start taking control and making their personal finances sustainable. Currently on the show, there’s a couple who are $60K in debt. Now they have to live on a cash budget, address relationship issues, and then at the end they’ll get $5000 to help with their debt. Some people use envelopes, Gail uses jars. These people are cutting their variable spending by 77%. You might be thinking, “Holy cow! That’s insane!” The thing is these folks aren’t really abnormal. At least I suspect that they aren’t. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a bazillion people buried in debt. There are a lot of people out there who need to get their financial crap together.

So here’s my take on it. People get pretty hyped up about sustainability in businesses and especially agriculture, but I’m not sure people apply these opinions to their personal financial lives. In my mind, sustainable means living now in a way that will make living later possible. At the very least, people should figure out how to live on what they have and not on what they don’t have. People need to be content. It took me longer than it should have to get my own crap together. So I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m not trying to make people feel bad. And obviously it's hard to be content. There's always something out there you want to have that you don't have.

Not going to lie…I had to make some changes in my spending in the last few years to make life sustainable. I had a chunk of credit card debt that needed to be paid off. To make it happen as fast as possible, I had to become so much more aware of how much I was spending on all the little day to day stuff. The biggest thing was making a reasonable budget and sticking to it. We’re not talking a general “oh it would be nice if my money flow looked something like this” kind of budget. We’re talking “I can spend $10 on coffee and soda this month and that’s it. Not a penny more!” kind of budget. Granted, that budget had some fun stuff worked in. Like I said, it was reasonable and I had to stick to it. In making that budget, I had to keep my priorities in mind. Those priorities were:

1. No more credit card debt
2. Emergency fund
3. Travel

It’s been a whole 2 months with zero credit card debt, and it feels so good! It feels so good and the budget discipline is so ingrained that I have ended up with extra money the last 2 months. That extra money has turned into a curve-ball fund. Unlike an emergency fund, the curve-ball fund is just for when life throws a curve-ball. For example, last month I was at a conference and I was texting like crazy. I texted $30 worth beyond my limit. Oops! This hasn’t ever happened, so it’s not worth it to me to spend an extra $10 per month to get unlimited texting. The other day, I really had the urge to hit up TJ Maxx. I didn’t need anything, but I ended up with some sweet sunglasses and a padded iPad sleeve. Boom. $30 impulse spending. Neither is a big deal though since I have a curve-ball account. Even on my measly salary I’m happy to say I’ve gotten to a place where I can cover surprises and I can splurge without freaking out. See? That is what I call sustainability!

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