Debt Lessons from a Romance Novel

I love Nora Roberts. I grab her books the first chance I get as she tends to write the type of romance I want to read – a strong heroine whose life is enhanced by love. I recently picked up The Liar.

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This could be a story about how Shelby returned home and tried to rebuild her life, the debt could be treated like a bit of worrying thing but something we aren’t reminded of every chapter. Instead the debt is a secondary character.

At the start of the novel Shelby is living in a mansion and has discovered that everything she thought they owned (cars, house, furniture)  is actually owned by lenders with payments in arrears to the tune of $3M. The way Shelby works on getting herself out of debt reads like a how to guide and it’s pretty darn detailed.

To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with she’s got 12 credit cards, a mortgage, back taxes and now untold bills from accountants & lawyers. There’s mention of her setting up payment plans with the credit card companies and the IRS. As for the house, she’s made a deal with the mortgage company for a quick sale.

Lesson 1: Figure out the mess and approach the companies to arrange payment options

The mansion of course has had staff but we learn that she’s let them go. Instead she spends hours cleaning and sprucing for the open house. She also closes up rooms in the mansion and tries to not use the luxuries available.

Lesson 2: Give up extra services and utilities

It seems they were living quite a glamorous lifestyle and had the stuff to prove it. Shelby finds areas to sell clothing, accessories, jewelry, art, wine, etc. She checks out consignment shops, jewelers, pawn shops, online auction houses, and the list goes on. For items she needs, such as dishes, she buys cheap replacements and sells the extravagant sets. She finds a gift that still has the tags on it and returns it for a full refund.

Lesson 3: Sell your extras. 

At this point, she’s gotten quite a chunk of change from all her sales. While a lot of it will go toward her debt load she’s aware of her own needs. She needs a computer to track her financial situation, find work and do research. She needs a vehicle to return home, get to work and be mobile. She purchases a laptop and used vehicle.

Lesson 4: Spend wisely to achieve your goals

When purchasing the vehicle she pays cash and asks for a discount. She saves $1,000 off the sticker price.

Lesson 5: Know your bargaining power and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal

As she needs to move from the mansion she debates renting a U Haul or using a moving company. In spite of the price she opts for the moving company as she won’t be able to move all the furniture on her own.

Lesson 6: Sometimes you need to spend money.

This is a romance novel so money is spent on a few meals out and clothing. These expenses are treated as necessary for mental health but aren’t excessive. So far in my reading I think she’s made a total of 3 McDonald’s trips and purchased a dress. There’s also strong focus on home cooking.

Lesson 7: Treat yourself, wisely.

Of course, leaving an dazzling life behind to return home can set tongues wagging. Shelby tries to focus on all the positives in her life and the benefits of returning home.

Lesson 8: Know what matters to you

She’s fortunate to have a great network filled with people who are willing to help her. One of the things she struggles with is accepting help as she refuses to take handout e.g. someone paying her debt. She is determined to not abuse her relationships.

Lesson 9: Recognize the difference between a hand up and a hand out.

Shelby’s overwhelmed by the staggering amount of debt she finds herself in. She beats herself up every so often for her position but she doesn’t wallow. There are constant references to her updating her spreadsheet.

Lesson 10: Keep plugging away.

There are loads of others scattered throughout but the above stood out to me. It was a surprising place to find these and it was a bit wonderful to read a novel where the main character is struggling with debt.

Have you read anything lately that had surprising lessons?

 

 

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Another book to Change Your Life

Have you guessed that I love reading? In clearing out my shelves I found The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.

school of Essential IngredientsThis book is lovely because I’ve been racing through the last few weeks. I’ve been so focused on the destination that I’m exhausted. I’m not enjoying the journey at all. Rather than admiring the fact that I’ve cleared out 9 bags of clothing, 4 boxes of books and began cooking again I’ve been looking ahead to all the things I haven’t done.

This book was a breath of fresh air that I needed. I won’t give anything away but the writing focuses on the beauty of the moments. It’s also quite focused on cooking, not a favourite pastime of mine but one I enjoyed more after reading this again. If you’re in the mood to read about food told in great detail then this book is for you. Me? In the craziness that’s been my world this past month I needed a book to remind me to stop and smell the roses instead of my to do list.

Today I looked for beauty in everything, focused on the moments and celebrated task completion. It’s been my best day in a while and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going.

Do you have books that revitalize you?

Dangers of Reading

It’s a small volume. It doesn’t look like it’s going to shake up your whole world. The serene cover that looks like a water colour is soothing. You’re lured in. The writing is soothing, light, spiritual almost. You fall deeper into the trap. Then some sharper tones emerge, orders really, but they are so quickly followed by a self-deprecating laugh that you don’t really register it. The next thing you know it’s 10 p.m., your eyes are tired, your back aches and you want to crawl into the mountain of clothing on your floor and fall asleep.

It escalated quickly.

It began with a friend lending me this book.

Marie Kondo

It began gently enough and I finished about half of it during my lunch hour. I came back from lunch feeling fairly certain that I wasn’t willing to do the hard work that the author demanded. Take all my perfectly wonderful, clean, recently packed away laundry and dump it all in the middle of a room on the floor…Are you out of your mind? Apparently I’m out of my mind.

The book stayed with me through the rest of the afternoon and I found myself thinking about some of the key pieces of advice:

  1.  Do you have a clear picture of the sort of life you want?
    1. Define your goal, if you can visualize the sort of life you’d like you can work with it in mind.
  2. Does it spark joy?
    1. This is her requirement. Touch everything, don’t just look you must feel. If it makes you feel joy you may keep it.
  3. Does it work for you now?
    1. Not the person you used to be or the person you wanted to be but the person you are now. If it does, you may keep it.
  4. Do you need it?
    1. Do you have another item that does the same job or even multiple items that do the same job? If not, you may keep it.

Do these questions feel familiar? It’s quite similar to the way that I’ve been building my financial life.

Do you have questions that you find helpful in planning your financial life?  Would those four be of any use to you?

Stuff Part 2

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So writing about stuff got me thinking that I need to take a look at what I’ve got.

I haven’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up though I’ve had a few friends swear by it. It’s on my list as I’ve seen the way in which people who’ve embraced the concepts seem to be able to let go of items they don’t need.

In lieu of that knowledge, I began inspecting some of my heavy stuff areas. As I’ve mentioned I like to host, which means I’ve got loads of hosting things as well as kitchen gadgets. You name it I want it. Do I need it? Nope! Will I use it? Maybe, if I have it…

So I went through one of my larger collection cupboards and it was like Christmas. I emptied everything out in pieces and then packed it all most things back in themes i.e. glassware, plastic serving dishes, glass serving dishes, appliances, random gadgets. I found things that I forgot I had and would definitely use, you know, if I remember but I also found things I won’t ever use. They were either items that were such a good price I couldn’t resist or gifts.

As I’m not as dedicated as my friends who read the book I’m chickening out of actually parting with those items. Remember those pack rat tendencies that say, “If you get rid of it you may need it and then you’ll waste money buying it!”

Instead I’ve got them separated from the pack and I’m giving myself some time to say goodbye. Some items will be given to charity shops but some items have never been opened! These are going into my gift giving cupboard as most of them can be used to supplement gifts at Christmas.

What do you do with things you don’t need?

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Cutting out Coffee can Save You Oodles

No_Coffee_Challenge

I’m on a financial wellness re-reading kick. So I opened The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. There are loads of fantastic tips,however, it becomes immediately clear that I am a spendthrift with tightwad tendencies.

This by no means negates the usefulness of this book.  One of the items I struggle with is when there are articles that declare the amount I would save If I were to give up something for a year. I’ll  give it up but chances of me seeing a savings is slim. Basically I cut costs in one area and allocate those funds to something else.

With that sort of behavior it’s no surprise that I don’t see any savings. Amy in her many articles of savings explains the process well. When I save $10 on a gift, rather than spend more on gifts or put it toward another line, the savings should go into my savings account.

Now the hard part for me us putting this good advice into practice. I’m not going to make any rash promises, rather I’m going to track the amount I come under budget and put any ‘leftover’ money into savings.

Do you have bits of good advice that you find hard to put into practice?

What matters to you?

I’m currently playing book bingo and one of the squares encouraged me to pick up Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Debt Free Forever.

Debt Free ForeverIn Chapter 2, she speaks about figuring out why you’re trying to get rid of your debt. She talks about what’s weighing on your mind as well what’s important to you.

At first, I glossed over this section but Gail’s writing style forces you to not take shortcuts. So I found some scrap paper and started writing. Her selling point for making a list is so that when you’re tempted to go over budget, like I do so often, you’ll have a concrete list of reasons why you shouldn’t. It’ll also help you create realistic goals.

It’s funny, I found that my desires weren’t grandiose. I don’t want to live in a bigger place or drive a faster car.

  • I want to spend quality time with those I love doing interesting things.
  • I want to be good to my environment.
  • I want to be able to purchase new or upgraded items when something gets damaged without having to worry about using a credit card.
  • I want to improve my home. Not for re-sale but for me

This came after making a list of all the things that I want out of life, my core values and then ranking my list. The above statements are the summary of that list in order of my wants.

This is just the tip of her advice but I’m hoping that reminding myself what I want out of life will help me to stick with my plan.

What’s important to you?