Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! Mission Accomplished.

I always look forward to this time of year as an opportunity to look back, and make a list of new goals and resolutions for the coming year. Last year, I accomplished just about half of my 20 goals--not great, but I am most proud of one of them: 

Get out of debt/start saving. 

Done, and done!

I'm a little ashamed to say that my debt was purely my own fault. I was lucky that I didn't start out with school loans--I went to UC Berkeley as a CA resident, and my parents paid the relatively low tuition fee. However, I was never good at managing my money and in college started using credit cards too freely. Trying to live on a bookseller salary for about a year and a half after college while moving across the country didn't help, either. And along the way, various other unforeseen emergencies and, uh, vacations (including going to Australia for a wedding) added to the debt, which reached $20,000 less than six years ago. 

I went through a period of two+ years where I hunkered down, went on no vacations, and barely bought anything (I avoided going into stores at all to fend off temptation), slowly paying off the debt on my meager publishing salary while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I cancelled some and put away other credit cards (at one point, at the advice of a friend, I literally froze my credit cards in a bag of water in the freezer!), and slowly chipped away at the balance. 

About three years ago, my mother offered me an interest-free loan to cover the remaining debt, which I accepted. I learned to make purchases with cash or my debit card. My mantra was NO NEW DEBT. A few years ago I opened up an ING account to simultaneously save for certain expenses I didn't want to put off, like my computer and my trip to China. 

And finally, on my trip home last week, I paid off the remaining balance of my debt to my mother. Here I am writing the check that ended it all:
It's hard for me to believe that I'm actually debt-free, and even have an emergency savings fund started. It's a whole new world for me! Who knows, maybe I can even start saving to buy property some day.

So, what's on my agenda for next year? I generally make goals in several categories: personal, professional, and health. I'll share two of my resolutions in each category:

-Post on this blog at least once a month (and not just an animoto video or a cross-post from the Blue Rose Girls)
-Clean my room at least once a week for a half hour (unless it’s already clean!)

-Come up with plan to manage submissions in a more efficient way--do not keep authors/agents waiting for more than 3 months
-Read (including audio books) at least one adult book every three months, one published MG/YA book every month (I know this probably seems pitiful, but I always feel guilty when I'm not reading submissions)

-Get at least eight hours of sleep three times a week
-Exercise at least two times a week

What are some of your resolutions?


Anonymous said...

Are you sure you didn't post *my* resolutions here? :) They sound pretty familiar. I'm still working on the debt thing, because of grad school, but I'm almost done, and I think this year is the year to get it all paid off (minus the student loans, which will take a while longer). My other major goal is to save up to buy a condo or something, if I end up not moving to NYC, or to move to NYC if I find a job there. Here's hoping that the freelancing works out, actually, because I kind of like the freedom to live where I choose!

SWILUA said...

One of my resolutions was to not get a(nother) parasite this year.

sounds like it should be easy, since I live in America and all, right?


I have babies who think it's hiLARious to eat their own poop, so you'd be surprised...

happy new year!

yamster said...

Congratulations! Now start contributing to your 401K. Free money, seriously!!!

I never really make resolutions, but I am trying to eat more healthily. More fruits and veggies, more organic foods, items with fewer ingredients on the label and less processing, that kind of thing.

alvinaling said...

Oh, yes, I've contributed to the 401K since I started working, so I'm in good shape there, at least!

Kerry, I think your babies should resolve to eat less poop in 2009.

Libby Koponen said...

CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING OUT OF DEBT. Now, never get into it again -- ever!

I made that resolution when I got out of debt the first time -- in the first year that I worked at Fidelity, I paid off all my debt (student loans from graduate school, irresponsible spending, having a horse I really couldn't afford but couldn't bear to part with) -- I paid them all off. I vowed never to get into debt again.

THEN, after many trips around the world - some paid for with my salary, some with credit cards, high rent, not working for a year and living off credit cards, later, I was in debt again, even MORE!

Now, I am not (perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but I will: because I filed for and got bankruptcy), I really did learn my lesson: I have no credit cards (by choice, I've proven that I can't handle them) and pay for everything with cash or do without. Doing without is a lot easier than I ever would have thought, I think maybe the whole country is going to become more frugal and get over the glut of spending of the last decades....go back to a more Benjamin Franklin approach to money.

Someone on NPR said recently that Ben Franklin would be "rolling in his grave" at how we have all been spending since the eighties!

ANYWAY, CONGRATULATIONS. It's a wonderful feeling to pay with cash and save.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on being debt free. That is definitely the way to go! :) Is that a Tarkay in the background? I love his prints.


Heather said...

Congratulations for being debt free. He is quite a monster to tackle!!

And here's to your sleep and exercise!

My goal this year is to write everyday. I also want to make friends with a treadmill, and learn to love oatmeal.