Tag Archives: daily worth

The Holidays have Landed

Although I am open to listening to Christmas music all year long, I find that I willfully hold off in September and October so that it seems more festive when I start listening to it in November.

Yesterday, both to and from work, I listened to a mixed CD that my sister Jenni made for me last winter, filled with Christmas songs or songs that mention snow or winter, or both. It was fantastic. The timing aligned with the onset of the cold season here in Sicily. Yes, I just went to the beach on Monday, November 5th. And, no, we have not yet turned the heat on in our house. Cut me some slack, weather is relative, and for Sicily, it is getting cold!

After I cracked the door with the winter music, I reminded myself of the early mailing deadline for my post office (December 3rd!), and the Christmas gifts I still exchange with my family. A mix of siblings, cousins, and parents that is boring and complicated to explain, but pretty darn fun to shop for. Of course, the most enjoyable shopping is for the darling nieces and nephew!

With these thoughts in mind, I was enticed to purchase a holiday planning guide from the financially savvy women at Daily Worth. This is the same website that prompted my musings on debt. The Peace of Mind Holiday Guide can be purchased as a PDF ($9.99) or an ebook ($4.99) by clicking on this link.

Because I am still one of those crazy readers who hasn’t purchased and e-reader, I opted for the PDF. I am confident I will get an e-reader someday, and maybe someday soon, but I am historically a late-bloomer when it comes to technology. I was still on cassettes when everyone else had switched to CDs; the last of my college friends to switch to a cell phone; didn’t join Facebook until 2008; late to the smartphone party…and still waiting to dive into the e-reader pool.

The PDF version is a 41-page document that focuses on enjoying the giving that you do during this season. It offers tips and tactics to avoid the stress and overspending that are hallmarks of the U.S. tradition of holiday overindulgence. Just like we tend to eat one too many Christmas cookie, many of us buy one too many gifts…and to what end?

My goal in purchasing the planner is twofold: (1) to investigate Daily Worth and (2) to investigate my holiday spending habits.

Why investigate Daily Worth? I have been receiving Daily Worth emails for approximately a year and I appreciate the nudge they give me to refocus on finances. I understand and appreciate the complexity of investment tools available, as well as the necessity to be engaged with my financial reality in order to execute a successful financial future. Yet, I am dismayed and disgusted by the blatant greed represented by the parts of the financial industry that focus on more, more, more. I feel like Daily Worth helps me find an entry point in the discussion that I haven’t been able to identify in any other place, online, with financial professionals, or among friends.

Yet, Daily Worth also makes me wrinkle my nose as it assumes my consumerism level is much higher than it is; it offended me with its post-election edition; and it has just a tad too many advertiser posts mixed into its regular email content. Thus, I frequently consider discontinuing my membership and am constantly investigating Daily Worth content for reasons to stay with it or to quit it.

Investigating my holiday spending habits is a more understandable and probably a shared interest among many of us. Not only do I appreciate having a game plan going into the season, but perhaps I will accomplish the tasks associated with spreading season’s greetings far and wide in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling liked I missed opportunities to connect. Too many years, December 19th rolls around and I realize there is no way I will reach out in the way I had hoped to do. Although I soothe that burn with the recognition that I do actively reach out to my friends and family all year long (and recognize other milestones with them), there is a special joy that comes with participating in a cultural celebration. For better or worse, my annual cultural celebration is centered on the Christmas traditions of gift-giving, sparkling decor, sharing warm sentiments, and snuggling up with loved ones against the cold, and sometimes snowy weather.

As I make my way through Daily Worth’s planning guide, I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has advice to give. How do you manage the demands of the holiday season? What traditions are your favorites? What traditions did you ditch long ago? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Debt or debtless?

Daily Worth provides an email service that brings financial discussion points and information to my attention. I consider myself financially naive; I have some basic tools, but I really do not know what I am doing. Daily Worth helps me slowly gain vernacular, awareness, and insight to how to craft a financial plan that will help me reach the future I see for myself. You can sign up for the email here*.

Recently, they sent me a link to this infographic:
(Click on the image to see the whole slide)

In keeping with the Cinquecento Project theme of focusing on the positive, here are my five most positive thoughts on my current state of debt:

1. Lessons learned. Life is a game of making choices about how to collect, use and preserve resources. Money is one resource. Time is another. I traded my time in law school for money and now I am trading time at work for the money to repay my loans. It is that simple. All of the side effects of this exchange are points of education for how I make future exchanges. (Side effects include: wobbly career arc, resentment of law school/policy makers, jealousy of those who have repaid their debt, self-hatred and self-doubt for arriving here, etc.) Another example: the 7.5% interest rate on my student loans compared to the low housing and car loan rates (3-5%) seems to tell me that society values consumerism over education. It also tells me that I was an ostrich with my head in the sand when I took on those loans. Lessons learned that will help me moving forward.

2. No credit card debt makes me feel free. Like nearly half of the respondents to the Mint.com poll above, I abhor credit card debt. Perhaps it is because I have been paying back a car loan, a student loan, or both for nearly a decade. I incorporated the interest portion of these payments into my life philosophy as as a fee for the ability to act (car to get to work/travel/family; attend classes at school); to pay a credit card company extra money is more like paying an extra fee for owning something (no action required). The actions are ones which I could take without the tools (car, professors), but that would be much more difficult (walking/biking/bussing; self-teaching with library books). To me, it is the opposite of shopping for discounted or sale items, it is paying an unnecessary premium on clothes, gas, travel, whatever is on the credit card. As a thrifty shopper, paying credit card interest undoes all the work I put into finding deals and using products thoroughly before discarding them. I paid interest one time to a credit card company while I was still an undergrad and since then I have been skilled and stubborn enough (it takes both, I think) to have avoided interest fees on my credit card.

3. Getting over my fear of debt. The echoes of the Great Depression instilled a fear of debt in my psyche; Aunt Fern’s stories of never buying anything unless you had the money in hand helped my fear take root, too. Now that I have significant student loan debt, I find that I actually live life a little more fully. This reflection echoes the life choices piece (#1), with a bent toward risk-taking and engaging in the moment. When I was living with well relatively low debt in my early-mid 20s (around $5,000, none of it credit card), I could theorize on numerous paths my life might take. Over my gap years (between undergrad and law school) I managed to tiptoe down several of these paths. As soon as the time came to commit to a certain path, I would leap back, scared of the financial (and other) consequences of committing. Now that I am bound to my debt for the next 12-23 years, I have had to make friends with it. The result is that I am more open to taking risks. After all, what have I to lose? I’m already in debt up to my ears and my world hasn’t fallen apart! Who knows what other fears have been holding me back?

4. I’m the lucky one. No matter the amount of debt, I am still among the small percentage of people worldwide who are fortunate enough to devote myself to study. I am not toiling in a factory, my body is not subjected to violence, and I have always had shelter, food, clothing and love. I am lucky to have this particular challenge to struggle against.

5. Realizing I believe in myself. This debt was and is an investment in myself. It was risky and though I was a bit of an ostrich when it came to sourcing the debt (seriously – 7.5% interest rate – ugh!), I knowingly took the risk because I believed enough in myself. I still believe in myself and know that I will eventually get to a place where I am not so scared and frustrated by the numbers.

What about you?
What do you think about Debt? Credit card or otherwise? Have you had positive experience where taking on debt helped you achieve another life goal? Is there something I am missing?

*Note: While useful to me, I tend to find that Daily Worth is geared toward a person who is more consumerist that I am. Still, the information is most often thought provoking at the very least and reminds me how much power I have over what my financial future looks like at the most.

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