Nothing Special, Really

Monday, August 10, 2009

Just Some Stuff

Hello there.

Yes, it’s been a while. I haven’t felt like posting much lately, nor do I have as much time to post as I had over the past year. I know a lot of my readers rely on my blog to know what’s going on with me, but for me, that’s not much motivation to post. This blog is supposed to be a creative outlet for me, but yes, sometimes, that creativity is fueled by life events. I haven’t post the past couple of months because I haven’t felt anything interesting to post about. I’ve had a lot of things happen since my last post, but nothing that jumped out to me as something I wanted to write about.

So I’m forcing this post out for two reasons. One, for the sake of my readers who want to know what’s going on in my life (yet, for some reason, choose not to call or email) and two, perhaps by just recapping what’s happened lately, I’ll trigger that creative spark. So here goes.

When I last left you, the ‘Betes was on my mind. It’s something that’s always on my mind, even if I’m not managing it as well as I could. The good news is that I’m managing it better than I thought, despite a scare that I had a little over a month ago. For some reason, my glucose was testing higher than normal. It still wasn’t astronomically high (for those with the ‘Betes, I was running between 170-180) but it was higher than I normally test, and it wasn’t coming down as fast as it usually does. It seemed for a while that, no matter what I ate, I couldn’t get my sugar down to normal levels like I usually can.

I was really bothered by this because I couldn’t help but think that I was mismanaging my Diabetes for a very long time. While I was unemployed, I could only afford to check my blood sugar periodically. My concern wasn’t that I was running high that day, but that I’d been running higher for a much longer period of time. I started freaking out, to the point that I left work one day because I couldn’t help but fixate on my blood sugar.

The good news is that it was a smaller issue than I was making it out to be. I finally went to see my doctor, and my blood sugar has improved a lot since I was diagnosed. When I found out I had Diabetes two years ago, my A1c was in the low 9’s. When I tested it again last month, I was at 5.9. For those not familiar with that – my 3 month average blood sugar was now in the normal range, and very close to what a non-diabetic would measure as. This was a relief for two reasons. One, it meant that my blood sugar spike was most likely just a recent thing. Two, it meant that I had been fairly successful managing my diabetes through diet & exercise, even despite the fact that I still have a lot of room to improve.

The flip side is that my doctor felt my cholesterol was higher than he preferred, despite the fact that A) it had improved vs. two years ago and b) only my good cholesterol was outside of the “good” range. He prescribed me two medications, one to help lower my bad cholesterol, the other to raise my good cholesterol. I haven’t done anything with those prescriptions; instead, I scheduled an appointment with a different doctor for another opinion. I don’t want to be on three medications, especially when I’ve shown improvement just through diet & exercise, and still have room to improve in those two areas. I haven’t been happy with my doctor since I first saw him, and this was the final straw. I met with the new doctor last Friday, and he confirmed the same thing I was thinking - I'm in a great position to be able to reduce my cholesterol via diet & exercise if I put the effort in to it. Plus, this doctor loves beer and doesn't think 6-10 drinks a week is excessive for me. Methinks I have a new doctor now.

......

About three weeks ago, Wac and I finally bought our tickets for our much-delayed trip to Chicago. Some of you have asked “Why Chicago?” It started a couple of years ago when Wac expressed an interest in moving there sometime in the future. At the time, I had no interest in doing so because I had only been in Seattle a little over a year. However, I told her that we should at least check it out, and if we end up being serious about doing so, we need to check it out a couple times, especially during the more miserable seasons. We planned to go in 2007 but we weren’t able to afford it. We budgeted for it last year but unemployment prevented us from going. This year, now that I’m working again, we made it a priority in our budget.

Despite the difficult winters and the muggy summers, I’ve seen, heard, and read enough about Chicago that makes it sound like an appealing place. Take the weather out of the equation, and everyone I know who’s been there has nothing but wonderful things to say about it. We planned our first trip during the middle of October, so I’m sure we’ll have a great time as well. I think we’re both in a position, especially Wac, where we’re viewing this more as a vacation than a scouting trip for our next apartment. However, it only took me a week to fall in love with Seattle, and it could very well happen with Chicago.

......

I sold my car. I put it up about three weeks ago on Craigslist for $2200. Four days later, I sold it to the first guy I showed it to for $1900 cash.

Wac and I thought the decision through pretty extensively. Originally the idea was to put the money into my car to get it fixed. It needs a new radiator right now and, eventually, a new water pump & timing belt. That’s about $1700 to put into my car that I’m not going to get back when I sell it. It is a Honda and still has great mileage, but it also has considerable body damage that I never got fixed. There’s a dent in the rear passenger panel that would have cost $1600 to get fixed; at the time I needed money so I pocketed the check instead.

Anyways, we were going to put in at least the $500 for the radiator to get the car running until the timing belt was due & either fix that or trade it in for a new car. We’ve both been interested in the Mazda 3’s, and we’d both like a more professional car than my beat up Accord or her less beat up 98 Tacoma. I was going to put my car down as a trade in towards the Mazda when I had a realization about 2 months ago: we don’t even really need a new car right now.

The last thing I want to do is take on additional debt. Furthermore, we’ve been down to one car since November when my radiator got really bad, and we’ve been fine since then. There were a couple times when I had to bus it to work, but with Wac working downtown, only one of us has to worry about commuting by car regularly. On the weekends, if we’re not doing stuff together, we’re very rarely in a position where both of us are going somewhere that requires a car.

When I came to this realization, I was literally beaming. I was in the middle of reconfiguring my budget, and the idea that I could get an extra $2k to put towards my debt, on top of eliminating my monthly insurance payment, was seriously exciting. Reducing my debt is my number one priority right now, and selling my car can knock out two credit cards right away & get months closer to having $0 credit card debt.

I hated to say good bye to my car. It was the first car that I purchased that I was actually proud to own or enjoyed driving. The day before I sold it, I took it to the car wash. I had an old CD in that I hadn't listened to since before my radiator cracked. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got slightly misty-eyed driving it that day, but, it’s just a car. Any sad feelings went away once I looked at the stack of hundreds I had sitting on my desk.

......

I mentioned before that my biggest priority right now is reducing my debt. I had paid off most of my credit cards before I moved to Seattle but, in the year and a half following, I proceeded to run them all back up and then some. The biggest reason for this is that I failed to adjust to a more meager lifestyle when I moved here. My expenses increased but my income really didn’t. I used whatever cash I had saved up to get by the first couple of months but when that ran out, I didn’t adjust and started using credit instead. It’s pretty ridiculous the amount of credit card debt I have but it was my own doing.

I caught bits and pieces of the documentary Maxed Out a couple weeks ago, about the supposed evil doers that are credit card companies. I’ll grant that they do have some unsavory practices, like jacking up your interest rate at the slightest hint of a problem, outrageous fees for being over the limit or being even just a day late, and relentless solicitation. But, for the most part, the movie played up the American public as the victim, and I don’t buy it. I’m sure my perspective is skewed a bit from being on the lending & customer service side of credit cards for nine years, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people in trouble with credit cards. Certainly, there are some unfortunate circumstances that get people into trouble that they can’t avoid, but often, the problems people get into are self-inflicted.

I’m not unlike many people in that my credit card woes are the result of over-consumption. I bought too many things I didn’t need, and I used credit cards to get them. Instead of being responsible with my credit cards and using them only when absolutely necessary, I used them to finance vacations, numerous dinners and bar tabs, and countless items that I either don’t use or don’t have any more. A responsible credit card user would have found cheaper ways to eat, refused to buy things that weren’t essential, or saving up enough cash to use for a vacation instead of charging it all. I know I can’t be the only one who did this.

I started heading down this path of debt freedom last year, when I used part of my severance package to pay off my car. In hindsight I should have been more responsible with my severance, but at least it was a start. Being unemployed certainly changed my focus from paying off debt to just staying afloat, but now that I’m steadily employed again, I’m on the path to paying off my debt in September of 2011. I could pay it off sooner if I wanted to be really frugal; the fact that I’m planning trips for Chicago & Vegas this year, as well as a large chunk for Christmas, probably extends that date by about 4 months. I’m fine with that though because at least I’ll be paying for those trips with cash this time.

Actually, I’ve accelerated that schedule by at least 2 months already. April and May were successful poker months for me. Although it wasn’t the most money I ever won at once, I won $600 in my first ever flat-out tournament victory. I also had several smaller victories that totaled $1200. Last month, I got concerned about my ability to cash out that money down the road, so I took it out now with the intent to put it toward my debt. I didn’t use as much as I planned for credit cards, but I paid one off completely and cut another one in half. I was close to using a lot of it to replace our TV that broke down, but since one of our friends came through and loaned us their extra, I was able to stay smart with it.

What’s ridiculous is that, once my credit cards are paid off, I’ll be at a point where every other paycheck is essentially free for whatever I choose. I can’t imagine what that’s like – the closest I’ve come to being so financially free is when I was living off of student loans. But it’s safe to say I’ve learned my lesson. I spent the entire decade of my 20’s being burdened by debt (crazy to think that at one point I was stupid enough to consider bankruptcy or voluntary repossession because I was falling behind on my car payment every now and then) – I’m looking forward to spending my 30’s doing something completely different – saving. Saving money for a house eventually, setting aside a considerable amount each month for retirement, building up a nest egg. These are all foreign concepts to me but, with each credit card payment, I’m able to get just a bit closer to making that a reality.

......

See you next time.

2 Comments:

  • "I haven’t done anything with those prescriptions; instead, I scheduled an appointment with a different doctor for another opinion. I don’t want to be on three medications, especially when I’ve shown improvement just through diet & exercise, and still have room to improve in those two areas." - Matt


    I say that's a smart decision. It is in a person's best interest to always ask for a second opinion.
    It is also good to know you manage your diabetes well. Unfortunately, there are millions of people today who do not know they are at risk of having diabetes.

    By Anonymous Edwin, At August 10, 2009 at 6:21 PM  

  • Glad to hear from you, I would email you if I had your email???

    By Blogger New Life New Challenges, At August 11, 2009 at 8:58 AM  

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