Accomplished: #157 on My List of Life

Road to Becoming Debt-Free
Debt is something that most people have. Nothing is free in life and items that are worth something come with some sort of a price tag. Aside from the purchases made in stores and online, most people spend a considerable amount to enrich their lives.

That being said, people can spend between $30,000 to $50,000 for a post-secondary education, which is often paid using a student loan, such as OSAP, which can take years and years to pay off. Next in the journey of life people may purchase a vehicle and finance it, by obtaining a car loan to purchase said vehicle. Then there are people who have saved enough for a down payment are able to afford a house by borrowing money from a bank or lender in some form of a mortgage. To top it all off, everything comes with crazy fees and monthly payments that have to be made plus any applicable interest, which doesn’t really help anyone get out of debt. Finally, we come to the silent killer of all savings, which is used in everyday life for groceries, clothes and impulse buys, the ever accumulating, all evil credit card. Sure a $10 purchase here and a $20 dollar purchase there don’t seem like much but that’s the thing about credit cards, in your head you just see the purchases for what they are at the time of purchase not realizing that all those small costs add up. It usually doesn’t hit you until you see your statement for a few hundred dollars, on top of what you already owe.

Credit card debt is one of the worst types of debt to have, due to the high interest rate that is charged, usually between 14% and 19% every time you have a balance owing on your card. Since I do not have a car loan or mortgage, I will be sharing my debt adventures revolving around education loans and credit card debt. I have to admit that I was one of those people who had ‘savings’ in my savings account, while I also incurred quite a lot of credit card debt. Although in hindsight, this method does not make sense, seeing a positive amount of funds in my savings account, helped me avoid the reality of the mountain of debt that lay in my credit card accounts.

After my transformation and turnaround attitude towards life a few months ago, I decided to sit down and write down everything I could do to live my best life from a financial lens. Fast forward to today, Saturday, February 21, 2015 and I can say that I have successfully paid off all my credit cards after many years of paying ridiculous amounts of interest and fees. Now that I have reached this point all I want to do is shred them into pieces and never look at them again. Next I am going to target paying my personal line of credit which I used to pay for my education. After that I will pay off the remainder of my OSAP student loan and will be able to cross them off my life list as well.

Reality Check
I knew that my limited income would not be enough to meet my financial needs, so as unglamorous as it is, I have recently started a second job. I am using that income solely to pay off my line of credit and I understand that any financial sacrifices I make now, will only help me in the future. The reason I chose to pay off my credit cards first is that I referred to finance guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s rules to paying off your debt and Luke Landes’ methodology to paying off your personal debt avalanche, which explained what types of debt should be paid off first and what steps you can take to help you assess your debt and create a plan of action. Paying off your debt or at least making the minimum payments is crucial, as this effects your credit score, which is relied upon when making bigger purchases such as a car and a house.

Tips to help you get out of debt:
Ending the Debt Cycle
With the many different technological applications available to us these days, I chose Mint to help me organize my finances and establish a reasonable and logical budget that would help me in paying all my personal debt, which consists of my student loans and my line of credit that I used to pay for my education.

Mint
 
has proven to be an invaluable tool, kind of like my own personal finance police. It is available on your smartphone as well as your tablet or computer, it is very user-friendly and all you have to do is register and enter all your financial information. It reminds you of upcoming bill payments and tells you when you have exceeded a budgeted amount; you can also adjust the frequency of the emails and number of notifications to fit your needs.

I also used a smartphone app called Savings Made Simple, which is available on the Google Play Store. This app allows you to set ‘savings goals’, you simply enter what your saving for, the amount you want to save, the currency you are saving in and the deadline for your goal. Another unique feature that really allows you to ‘see’ how much you need to save is the goal payment breakdown function which shows how much you would need to save daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly to achieve your goal. You can even set reminders and automatic payments as well so you don’t have to enter a payment each time one is made, however, I feel a little rush when I can check off another payment made, so I don’t use this feature. Each payment that is made increases the percentage of the amount that is left until you reach your target goal.

Reminder: No matter how big or small, debt is a big burden. Whenever possible, be willing and open to making sacrifices so that you can pay off your debt and start living.

What methods have you used to pay down/off your debt? Please share what worked for you and what didn’t.

Stay strong and beautiful!

The Importance of Following Through

In my life, I have been burned several times, mainly by repeating the same mistakes, making excuses for and blaming others for my problems. I used to think that running away from my problems was the best way to deal with them; I thought out of sight, out of mind. I began to accept my life and became comfortable with the circumstances and quality of my life. When people close to me told me that I could be doing something better with my life and that I should stop being such a failure, I said that I would make it in life and I would (insert list of lies here).

There were too many times that I said I would do something and failed to follow through and complete what I said I was going to do. Pretty soon people near and dear began to lose faith in me. They treated me like I could not be trusted with even the simplest things, I felt horrible and useless. I was being babysat about everything I did and was asked too many questions; I was pretty much being monitored by my own family and friends.

The fact of the matter is no one wants to hear that they can’t do something, nor does anyone want to be lectured about how they are lazy and how they are not going to go anywhere in life. It was hard to hear and I got all defensive, because it was the truth. I had just been avoiding my problems and just going through life without actually living. Needless to say I didn’t get very far in life.

After I graduated with my undergrad I moved to a new city. Shortly after, I broke down and started crying hysterically filled with anger, sadness and regret. That day I truly felt the deep impact that my failure to act on what I said had. I reached a point where I was so fed up with my life and my circumstances and sick of feeling sad and throwing pity parties about where I was in my life, I decided to make a change and my attitude. More importantly I apologized to all those that I had let down and took personal responsibility for all my mistakes and all the times I didn’t follow through.

After facing the obstacles that resulted from my poor choices and repeated mistakes, I have begun to set goals and construct a plan of action to achieve those goals. I have made the decision to work hard everyday so that I can get one step closer to achieving my goals. It took me quite awhile, but I now know more than ever that it is important to do what you are going to say. Speaking from experience, if you don’t, you start to lose credibility, and get associated to words such as being a liar, unreliable, a failure and that you’re all talk and no action. I can also tell you that complaining doesn’t help, it just wastes precious time.

A few months after moving I had a lot of time to think about my thoughts and I noticed that most of them were negative and self-sabotaging. Since then I have taken a new perspective on life. I vow to work towards repairing and rebuilding the relationships that I have ruined by giving my all whenever performing any task as big or small as it may be.

My new found motto is “don’t say it, just do it“, and let everyone see the results for themselves. This is based on a results oriented thinking that stems from knowing what I need to do in my own mind without involving others in the process. Simply put, my only enemy, is me.

I have made so many mistakes and have regrets about decisions that I have made in the past. I feel like I am paying for them now but I am not going to sit here and complain about it. I have realized that the only thing I can do moving forward is to learn from my mistakes to ensure that I don’t repeat the same ever again. I used to view being a failure and constantly failing as one of the worst and scariest things ever. Now, I have changed the way I think about failing and view it in a more positive light; I have discovered a way but there is a better way, so I must try again.

What added to my positive, new outlook on life is Tony Robbins. I have started listening to Anthony Robbins Personal Power II series and can say that this has been really helpful. I recommend it to everyone and anyone who is looking for the fundamentals to becoming successful. Tony keeps you accountable and motivated, he gets down to the roots of success and how you can reprogram your thoughts and mind to live your dreams.

Remember: Don’t be afraid to admit your wrongs, failures or mistakes, after all acknowledgement is part of the learning and improvement process!

Have you ever felt this way? Please comment and share your story.

Stay strong and beautiful!

So You Want to Buy a Car?

First of all, Congratulations!, because this usually means that you have been smart with your money and now have enough for a down payment to search for and ultimately purchase a car. Hopefully, you have already weighed the pros and cons and considered a variety of transportation options before making this decision.

I recently helped someone I know purchase a car and I just wanted to share my experience and what I learned.

Setting a budget

Getting a car should benefit you, so you should certainly set a budget with respect to the purchase price as well as what amount you would be willing to pay bi-weekly or monthly for your payments and other costs. There are a number of costs and payments that you need to keep in mind including the purchase of the vehicle, fees, gas and car insurance. The larger your down payment, the more you can spend on the purchase price.

Now that you have the money, you also need time

Buying a car requires a lot of time, whether you are spending time browsing car dealership websites or viewing ads posted by private sellers, there is no doubt that you will need to dedicate a certain amount of time to view potential vehicles that you would like to observe in person and test drive if applicable.

Research is key!

To start your amazing, yet sometimes frustrating journey, it is recommended that you do extensive research.

With the advancement of technology and the internet, including apps on smart phones, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and methods to obtain information about vehicles that are available for sale. The methods we used were online sites, newspaper ads and smartphone apps.

On the internet, dealership websites allow you to access the inventory that a dealership has on hand, the listings online can change daily so you may need to check back often as it could change daily. Another way is through private sellers. These people usually post ads on websites such as Kijiji or Craigslist and given the increased risk for a scam and to avoid the headache, we avoided this option. Newspaper ads often display ‘blow out sales’ that dealerships are having. However, they are limited time offers and sometimes have a catch. Smartphone apps are good for searching on the go, when you don’t have a computer or laptop handy.

Which car?

So you have created a budget and now you can begin to look for cars that fit your criteria and meet your needs. Some questions to ask include the purpose of the vehicle: are you using it to commute to work and back home?, will you be using it to travel long distances? what kind of roads will you be driving on? what kind of climate/weather do you experience? who will be riding in the car?

Cars come in all different shapes and sizes, so it is important to establish a guideline and checklist about what you want in your new car. Create a checklist of features you would like to have in your vehicle, then rank them as ‘must have’, and ‘would be nice to have’ and look into vehicles that satisfy your list. Some of these include: driving train (AWD, FWD, RWD), Body type (SUV, truck, sedan), appearance, fuel efficiency, transmission type (manual, automatic), resale value, colour, safety, comfort and size, among others.

Vehicle Reviews

Once you have an idea of which vehicle you want to purchase, it is useful to research further into the different models and features that are offered in the vehicle and the line so you know what to look for when considering similar vehicles.

It is good habit to always do your research and homework when purchasing new items. It is especially important to apply this when purchasing a vehicle.

New or Used?

Cars come either new or pre-owned/used. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both types, so it’s up to you to really do a cost-benefit analysis and decide which works best for you. The only thing is that sometimes you will notice that the price between a car that is one year older i.e.) 2014 than a newer car i.e.) 2015, the price difference may not be as big as it is for other even older vehicles. At this time, it is good to consider the differences between the cars such as the number of kms that are on the used vehicle. There may also be differences in the features and accessories that are included that you should take into account.

There are several factors that determine whether it is worth it for you. Some of the more notable advantages of buying a used car instead of a new car is that it is generally cheaper to buy used. There is less depreciation, since the vehicle is not new and insurance tends to be cheaper for older vehicles. Of course, on the flip side there are also some disadvantages that you should think about when deciding what type of vehicle you want to purchase. Since the car is older, it could be a lemon that used to be someone else’s problem, which would require more frequent maintenance and potentially higher costs down the line. Another disadvantage is that newer models are often equipped with improvements to technology, safety and other features. Although it may not be a big deal to some people, used cars present limitations including the lack of certain features and a smaller selection of colour. Since the vehicle is not new, there may be little or no warranty provided.

Lease, Finance or Purchase

When it comes to purchasing a car there are different options that you can use from a financial perspective. You can either lease, finance or purchase the vehicle outright. Leasing isn’t common as there are negative connotations associated with it; that it’s a rip-off. It is safe to say that most people will finance their vehicle.

Since most people cannot afford to pay the full purchase price in cash, you will probably need to apply for a car loan which depends on your salary, credit history, score and what interest rate you get approved for.

Other things to consider: if you have an existing vehicle, you can often ‘trade-in’ your vehicle for some money. The goal is to obtain the lowest interest rate or minimize your payments and do whatever works best for you, financially.

The Car of your Dreams

So your research has paid off, you have found the right vehicle for you and all that is left to do is to visit the dealership in person, so that you can physically see the vehicle and assess its features and take it for a spin.

Be open to similar vehicles that may be older and offer better features; do not be stuck on one vehicle.

Test Drive

To get a real time feel for how your potential vehicle operates on the road, it is necessary to test drive the vehicle. Bring a friend of family member with you and have them sit in the back seat as you drive, then ask for their opinion, i.e.) comfort, smoothness of the ride, space and overall feel and impressions.

Your Future Car

After taking a few vehicles out on the road, you decide that this is the right car for you. You know how much it will cost you and get in  touch with your bank or the financing department about what rate they can offer you. In my experience we narrowed down our options to two (2) vehicles, one was a brand new base model and the other was a year old, higher model with very low kms. The next step was to crunch all the numbers.

Crunching the Numbers

Now that you have a rough idea about how much you can afford for everything i.e.) how much the vehicle will cost you and how much your payments will be as well as how much you can finance, it is time for you to crunch the numbers and determine what works best for you.

Different Types of Salespeople

Ultra Aggressive – out of the four (4) dealerships that we visited, there was one salesman who was quite aggressive, we looked around the showroom and inquired about some of the vehicles that we saw on their website. He was happy to show us around and provide us with more information. He even convinced us to take it for a test drive. We were running short on time and explained that we would need to come back another day. His attitude towards us went from priority to not even looking at us. It was quite the change in behaviour, but he just approached another potential customer and chatted them up.

Kind and informative – this type of salesperson is very warm and informative, cracking jokes here and there. This salesperson makes you feel comfortable and puts you at ease, making it hard to say no if the deal does not work for you. There are definitely several other types of salespeople out there, but no matter which type of salesperson you encounter, each and everyone wants your business. they will constantly follow up with you and try to get you to come in to check out ‘another vehicle’ or to test drive additional vehicles. So with that being said it is important to not fall into any of their sales tactic traps.

Deal or No Deal?

After all of the time and energy spent researching different vehicles and going to several dealerships, you have your eye set on a vehicle that matches your needs and is within your budget. The next step is to negotiate a good deal and to pay less than what the advertised price is. The dealership will make you an offer, which you can counter by presenting another offer, leaving room for some negotiation. Being able to negotiate with the dealership i.e.) getting them to throw in some freebies or extras without paying more, such as installing a remote starter or taking a few hundred dollars off the purchase price, it is always about how to get more bang for your buck.

When to say No

At the end of the day, business is business. It is helpful to keep your emotions out of your transaction. Although it is easier said than done, if you let your emotions cloud your judgment, this can actually work against you. Bring a family member or friend along with you, so that you have another person’s opinion to help you make a decision.

If you are unsuccessful in negotiating a better price or you feel that the salesperson is persuading you to make a deal that would not be best for you, do not be afraid to walk away. This shows the salesperson that you should be taken seriously and that you do not have a problem in taking your business elsewhere.

A Few more Things

Once you have negotiated a deal, you just have to pay a deposit and confirm your financing details. After that you need to confirm proof of insurance and wait for the okay from the dealership.

Done Deal

Everything is done, all you need to do is sign all the necessary paperwork, pay the rest of your down payment and finalize any last minute details then look forward to picking up your new car!

Congratulations and happy driving!

Have you bought a car recently?

Do you have any tips or tricks that you can share that may help others who are thinking of or in the process of purchasing a vehicle.

Stay strong and beautiful!

The Motivation Manifesto…Well Worth the Read!

As many others out there, I was on YouTube watching videos, when an ad came on for the “Charged life” by Brendon Burchard. I was instantly drawn to what he was saying in his video (The Charged Life). I hopped over to his channel where I watched a few of his videos.

I subscribed right away because there is a feeling of happiness I get when I watch Brendon’s videos; with just the right mix of positivity, motivation, wit and enthusiasm, these videos will definitely deliver a dose of inspiration.

As I was watching Brendon’s videos, I learned that he had just released a book called The Motivation Manifesto. I was so inspired by his teachings and videos that I purchased it via Amazon Kindle and began reading it immediately. book I was thoroughly impressed by Brendon’s philosophy. This book is a perfect combination of motivation and truth with a poetic essence.

While guiding you to take a closer look into your life and who you are as a person, Brendon provides helpful insight and reasons why we hold back and teaches us that anyone has the ability take to turn their life around and truly be happy.

Although simple concepts are used, The Motivation Manifesto truly allows readers to come to a deeper understanding of themselves, why we act the way we do, and addresses the steps we need to take to become personally responsible for our lives!

It reminds us of who we are and how we can get back to being who we were truly meant to be and how to live our best life. This book delivers a life-changing experience that I recommend to everyone.

If you have read this book, please feel free to share your thoughts.

Stay strong and beautiful!

Today is a New Day…NEVER Stop Improving

Having recently moved to a different province and not having any friends or family living here, I have had a lot of time to myself, which caused me to think and think and think some more. I have come to the realization that I am not getting any younger and the time to make changes is now!

I have always been the one to complain while doing nothing and expecting a different outcome. I have now reached a point in my life where I need to stop complaining and take action to change my circumstances. I know I can live the life I’ve imagined if I just tried a little bit harder each and everyday. It’s all about baby steps, changes in my mentality and the way I perceive situations.

First and foremost I must start adapting to a better lifestyle, by becoming fit, eating healthier and taking time to exercise. I must be more aware of my spending habits, pay off any and all of my debt and most importantly get my budget under control.

Forever and always grateful for the people in my life who love me and are there for me.

This is just the beginning and I am excited to get started.

Stay strong and beautiful!