I spent last week trying to get my work computer to function properly so I could do my job. I am happy to report that it worked without a problem the entire shortened work week.
On Tuesday, I went to my local favorite taqueria, El Charro. I schedule my Wednesday trip as my one lunch I allow my self to eat out a week. I knew I wouldn’t make it on Wednesday so I went a day early. A few weeks ago his cook quit so he has been making all the food himself. Being a slow day he didn’t have his waitress their either. He spent the entire time I ate talking my ear off about how he wanted to buy a small farm to have cows and chickens. I think he is lonely without his cook.
Friday morning I got up and went out to my car to drive to work. It didn’t take me long to realize something wasn’t right. My front driver tire had become completely flat over night. I got a ride to work. The windchill was seven F so I didn’t want to be outside fumbling with the spare. The warning brake light had also been coming on so I already wasn’t to sure about driving.
Also on Friday my W-2 from my employer became available. That same day I did my taxes electronically and it got accepted by the IRS. I should see my refund in a few weeks if not sooner. This really does highlight my changing relationship with money. In the past I have waited until the week of April 15th to do my taxes. I have always gotten money back. It has only been the last two years that I have done my taxes as soon as possible so I could get my refund early. Just another symptom of my just not really noticing money. Oh and that refund would be spent as soon as it hit the bank account. Who am I kidding, that refund was spent well before it ever got to me.
Debt My Eternal Companion
For almost all my adult life I have had credit card debt. Usually a large amount of it. For one brief shiny moment in the early 2000s I had no cc debt. Even then I still had a car loan. I lived under a vague sense of dread. I knew it wasn’t good to have so much debt but I tried not to think about it too much. I would look at what I earned and justify that I could make the payments and would eventually pay off all the debt. Maybe I just needed another raise.
Poor Attempts at Tackling the Problem
I tried some lame attempts at dealing with my CC debt. One of my earliest efforts was the debt-o-meter. I graphed out on paper all my debts. I naively looked at how much I made and calculated how quickly I would pay off the debt. I had no actual budget and I completely ignored the fact that I was paying interest on that CC debt. The amount I was paying off never came close to what I thought it should be. I think I gave up after a few months.
Another one of my classic debt handling techniques was the balance transfer. I would get a new offer for a 0% APR transfer for 12 or 18 months or even a new credit card offer with a balance transfer. I took advantage of these always with the justification that I would have plenty of time to pay it off before I had to start paying interest. I remember one particularly big transfer when I got my Discover card. I think it was an 18 month offer. About three or four years later I looked back at the discover card and its’ balance was almost as I high as when I had first made the transfer. I had only been making the minimum payment that entire time. I actually had to check if I had been paying interest. That is how out of touch with my money I had become.
Honestly Assessing the Situation
I finally came face to face with the problem when I started using the mint website
. I entered all my various account numbers and there staring back at me was I giant number. I tried to rationalize the big scary number for awhile. Then one day I did the unthinkable. I calculated how much in total I was paying in interest charges. I then extrapolated that to get a ball park of how much I had paid in interest over the previous ten years. I think horrified would be the word to use for my reaction. I knew I had to actually do something and thus began the process of getting a handle on my finances.
Why Debt is Horrible
You might be thinking what’s the big deal, debts not that bad. Everybody is in debt. Two realizations made me determined to overcome my debt.
Interest is a very powerful financial tool. In the long run you want to be using it to make you money. When you owe you are paying interest. Especially with the high interest rates on CCs you are just burning your money for no reason. It dumbfounded me when I realized how much money I had simply thrown away because of my lack of financial sense.
Debts are chains. Debts control you and restrict your choices. You are beholden to the person/company that holds that debt. They have claims on your choices. Want to switch careers? Sorry you wan’t make enough in the beginning to cover your debt payments. Want to move? Sorry you can’t afford the initial outlay of money to set up the new situation. Being open to opportunities has been one of the main motivations for me to get out of debt. You are also chained down by fear and stress. If you lose your job how will you make the payments? If your car breaks down or someone gets sick, how are you going to pay for that? Debt is a vicious cycle of dependence and exploitation.
Warning: techy post ahead
Half way through Monday suddenly my work laptop’s screen went blank. After a second it popped up a drive error and then went to the BIOS. There is a menu in most bioses, biosi, bioseseses? anyway you tell the computer what you want it to boot up from. When I looked in my BIOS no options to boot from existed. I appeared the drive had disappeared. When I checked the hardware settings the drives (it has 2) showed up.
I grabbed a bootable Windows 10 USB disc from the IT guys and set about trying to fix my poor laptop. I tried to do everything I could to repair or fix my Windows. Nothing worked. I couldn’t restore. I couldn’t fix the master boot record. Nothing worked. On top of that everything took forever. The computer seemed to be walking through molasses. I decided to just re-install Windows. I had everything important backed up. I made my big mistake when I decided to just use one of the existing partitions on the SSD instead of formatting everything.
I spent Tuesday getting Windows installed and setting up all my work stuff on the computer. During the process I could tell something didn’t seem right. Everything went very slowly. The laptop which used to take maybe ten seconds to boot up now took over a minute. I noticed all sorts of disk errors in the log.
After struggling for a day I tried to fix these problems on Wednesday afternoon. I decided to scan the discs to see if I could find any problems. The second I tried the computer went blank and went right back to the BIOS.
This time I decided to do things correctly. On Thursday I low level formatted both discs and then checked them for errors. None showed up so I re-installed Windows 10 again from scratch. By Friday I had everything installed and set up. The discs were not complaining in the error log and the laptop was back to booting up in seconds. Fingers crossed I actually fixed something.
Like last Sunday, this Sunday was extremely cold. Instead of making chili like last week this Sunday I chose to make chorizo tacos and imagine I was spending the day somewhere warm.
It was the first full week back at work after the easy days of the Holidays. I settled back into the routine easily and the week passed quickly.
Friday I got the good news that my Dad finally had been discharged from the hospital. He got to sleep in his own bed and my Mom got to no longer spend all her time at the hospital.
The weather forecast for the weekend called for a couple of inches of snow on Saturday (YEAH) and it to be really cold on Sunday(BOOOO). In anticipation of the coming cold weather I went out in the rain(not snow) on Saturday and bought what I needed to make chili. Nothing quite as good on a cold day then a steaming pot of Chili. As my chili simmered on the stove, I watched football and waited for the snow to start. I kept waiting for the snow to start. We go no snow of consequence. MEGA BOOO!!!
Sunday dawned frigidly cold. I think the high temp that day was 11F. I staid in, cleaned, and watched football(American). I decided to bake some bread to fill the place with wonderful smells. I had a lot of energy during the day and wanted to get some stuff done. I realized that when I have a lot of energy I become very ADHDy. I would run over here and do a little bit of something, then get distracted by something else and get a little bit done. I realized I needed to make a list and do one thing and get it done. Then I moved onto the next thing. Then I got bored and did nothing 🙂
Random highlight of the week. I bought a five dollar scratchy ticket and won twenty-five dollars.
Another slow week to ring in 2016. I had plans on New Years Eve to go out and hang with some of my friends. It seemed to cold and there was no way I would go driving on New Years Eve. I like not being in accidents with drunks. So my options were to walk there and back or to get a ride from one of my friends and then walk back. No way would I get into a car with a friend how had been drinking. I decided to stay in with the my cat.
New Years Day I didn’t do much. Watched some bad college football and did a little shopping.
On Sunday I drove up to Naperville to finally see the Star Wars movie. I liked it but want to see it again until I make up a final opinion. I visited my Dad who is still in the hospital.
Here is a list of my favorite top 5(actually 6,, I couldn’t decide on just 5) music Monday songs of 2015 from 6 to my favorite. There were actually only 42 not 52 music Monday songs last year.
Blog in Review
I had written in an earlier post that there are two traditions on this blog. Posting the five things I am thankful for on Thanksgiving and posting Michael Bublé‘s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on Christmas day. I forgot the third tradition. Posting the five most read posts of the year. Without further ado in increasing order of uniques:
5.Music Monday: Gareth Emery feat. Bo Bruce – U
I really haven’t figured why some things are popular and others not on my blog.
Slackers Guide to Life Year in Review
In my attempts at self improvement last year, I focused on finances and debt reduction. I gave myself a budget and staid within it for 11 months of the year. Most importantly I’ve managed to pay off half my debt. This is one of the first time in my life I stuck to something for a long period of time and had success. On one hand I feel really good about it on another hand I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. The giant pile of debt is half the size it was but it’s still a pile of debt. I feel like as long as I have any debt I have not reached my goal, which I haven’t. I am pretty happy were I am right now in my life and what things are moving toward. To many people who have known me for awhile my life looks pretty much the same as it has for the last ten years. But a lot things are working internally in my life.
What’s in Store for Next Year
I am going to continue my quest for self-improvement using the tips I posted about yesterday. In the financial area I plan to continue to follow the habits I built last year. I am also going to look into bringing in some extra money. I have pretty much ebayed everything sell able in my place so I have to look elsewhere.
On my wall I have placed the year long calendar shown above. Actually it’s twelve months printed out from google calendar. I was inspired by the people over at http://www.neuyear.net/. I was going to buy one of theirs but decided to save money by printing my own. It’s not as cool as theirs but it will do the trick.
I have mentally divided the year in quarters based on that calendar. With each three month period I plan to concentrate on one area my life I would like to improve. I am beginning the year with health and fitness. I’ll keep you posted.. if I succeed. If I fail I’ll remain silent 🙂
Here is looking forward to 2016 being filled with health, love, and peace.