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Smithee Debt Update, Mid-March 2010

This article was written by in Debt Reduction. 3 comments.

The last three weeks have been pretty lousy for my push to get rid of the credit card debt before summer (summer? When did I decide that? Just now, I guess). With a total balance of about $5,500, and making payments of at least $1,300 a month, you’d think it’d be a straight path to zero balances. When I started the debt updates on January 26th, my total credit debt was $6,828. If everything was going as planned, the debt should now be at $4,200. I’m an entire month off schedule.

I can account for two big chunks of that: $200 for improv classes and, just yesterday, about $500 for my car’s 60,000 mile maintenance. It’s the kind of car maintenance that’s so involved they give you a free rental car for the night and ask you to come back the next day. The rest is that insidious “$5 here, $30 there” behavior that has plagued me for years.

Bad Habits, Good Habits

But, just like every news story about our economy recovering, signals are mixed. I actually think that slowly, my behavior is trending toward “responsible”. This last weekend I made a one-day trip to Austin, TX to attend a memorial party for an old friend, and by the time I got home on Saturday, I was definitely over-budget for the week, even ignoring the impending car maintenance. I have the sort of personality where once I fail a little bit, I feel like failing more and giving up. I had spent more on gas than usual, which led to treating myself to a couple of fast-food meals on the ol’ debit card.

On the other hand, a few days previously when we came home to find our cat had passed away, we had enough in our joint savings account to pay for a proper funeral, of sorts.

I’ve also had a cold for the last two weeks. Feeling sick breeds germs, not good behavior. This morning, knowing I hadn’t saved enough during the week to pay for a fill-up at the gas station, I was resigned to holding on to just a few dollars to get me through to Saturday morning, when I can start fresh with $100. My attitude toward the whole thing was poor enough that I nearly stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. Fortunately, I remembered that I also have a responsibility to myself to eat lunch.

I just looked, and I have $11 until tomorrow morning. I should be able to find something cheap for lunch and bring back the rental car with a full tank. I think there was at least a quarter-tank in my real car when I dropped it at the dealer yesterday. I hope it’s enough to get back to work, and then go home again. It should be.

Debt Totals

Here’s where things stand right now:

Credit Card Debt Totals Change
Legacy Debt $690.84 -254.11
Newer Debt $4,807.72 +150.01

Normally, I post this table right after making the big payment toward the Newer Debt. I haven’t done that for this update, because I’m not sure if that 4,807 number includes a $50 hold from the rental car company. Either way, I did just this morning make a payment of $150, which is what I had leftover after the 60k service. Possibly, the net change since the last update is one penny.

Things I Put on Plastic Since the Last Update

  • iTunes – three moments of weakness, totaling $6.78
  • Google AdWords – $8.35 – I got my first royalty check for a funny movie I made, and I thought it’d be worth trying to advertise for it again
  • Donation to the DNC – $30 – I mentioned this last time and said I’d be canceling it, not because I’m disillusioned, just broke. This was the last one; I finally got through to them after the snowstorms
  • Podcast subscription – $5 – this one won’t be going away
  • Highway tolls – $40 – ugh
  • – $9.90
  • Snacks on the way to Austin – $2.99
  • Extra gas for the trip – $25.44
  • Jack in the Box – $4.97
  • Whataburger – $7.91

The silver lining here, is that past trips to Austin would cost many hundreds of dollars, some of which would’ve gone on a credit card. From a logical perspective, it was a silly, brief trip, but friendship isn’t always logical. And while we were there, my wife won a free pass to next year’s SxSW Interactive. Normally when we go to Austin during SxSW, we just hang out with our friends instead of actually spending money on badges. Once the credit card debt goes away, I’ll have to decide if I want to get a badge, too.

You can cheer me on and/or witness my money minutiae on Twitter if you want to.

Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published March 19, 2010.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Jeez. I stopped by to say hello and maybe leave a witty comment or two, but now, after reading this article, I am completely depressed.

I’m sorry to hear about your cat.

Well, on the bright side, at least you are working down your debt. Keep it up! :-)


Len Penzo dot Com

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