progress at last!

And we’re back after a week-long hiatus. (Sometimes what’s going on in real life is more important than documenting it, you know?) But since I last shared an update two weeks ago, a couple of exciting things have happened in regards to my Defining 30 quest, but the biggest one is:

I finished writing my second holiday novella!

I didn’t just finish writing it, but I’ve sent the story to my publisher, and we’re in the waiting game to see what happens next with it. This feels extra exciting, because after mulling over the idea for about seven months, I finally sat down and created character sketches and an outline during my staycation. Then I spent the next two weeks writing the 25,000 words.

I made some adjustments as I went–eliminating a couple of scenes that weren’t so necessary–but I basically stuck to the script I created.

This story actually takes place from two first-person points of view, which was kind of a fun challenge for me as a writer. I wanted to make sure each person’s voice sounded true to who they are, while also fitting into my voice as a writer. This is something I’ve been more aware of in the past couple of years–how every word your character says has to sound like something he or she would say. They can’t all speak and think exactly the same or they aren’t unique. Maybe that’s an obvious thing to most writers, but for me, it’s something I’ve been working on developing more as I develop new characters and stories.

But back to the POVs. Writing in Scrivener made this process easy to do and track (I wanted to make sure each person had the same or similar amount of screen time). I used the color-coding system, and it not only kept me organized, but looked kind of pretty.

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So now I get to go to our official list page and check one item off and add it to the done-zo list. That’s super exciting.

I mentioned that there were other exciting developments in my quest for 30th birthday perfection, so I’ll just list them and develop the answers more thoroughly in future posts.

  1. I have officially stuck to my healthy eating plan for more than a month as of yesterday. After trying lots of things to jump-start a reasonable weight-loss program during the first few months of the year, it feels good to stick to the plan, which in term means…
  2. I’m being more active, which also means…
  3. I’m starting to see results in the mirror and on the scale.
  4. My latest statements from the credit union (car loan) and loan agency (student loan) show that I really might be able to do the whole “get out of debt” thing.

These are all good things, and I hope to have lots more to share on this front soon. Good stuff.

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getting my money right

To better manage my debt, which admittedly isn’t terrible, but is still money┬áI owe, I realized I needed to take a more active interest in my finances. I’ll admit, I hate money. I hate keeping track of it, and I kind of hate spending it. I’m the sort of person who gets buyer’s remorse before she ever hands over cash or swipes the credit card. But, our world runs on currency, which means I have to deal with it or go off the grid, and I’m too pretty and dainty for that sort of life.

At the end of January I had a financial come to Jesus with myself. I checked for balances on all of my accounts, which again aren’t that numerous, and figured out exactly how much I still owe on my car, my student loan, and the two credit cards I have open (one is essentially a store card that will be closed once I pay off the tires I had to purchase last fall and the other is one I try to pay off in full each month). I also did a quick estimator of what my financials would look like after filing my taxes (I was still waiting for a W-2), again to give myself a fiscal forecast. While this was by no means fun, it also wasn’t as painful as I imagined. I even came up with some game plans for myself.

Cash Flow: Essentially a balance worksheet, I’ve been meaning to keep one of these for myself ever since I turned 18 and my dad told me it would be a good idea. He has always kept one for his finances, and it’s a great way to keep track of your expenses and spending while also giving yourself the ability to see how you can pay off your debt more quickly or make other plans. I know there are apps and websites that will manage this for you, but honestly, getting regular alerts about money stresses me out. So, following the template my father shared with my sister and she shared with me, I set up my own tax flow. Again, daily reminders of finances are no fun for me, so I’ve set a goal of checking and updating my cash flow once a week–or at least every other week–to stay on top of my money.

Car Loan: This was a pretty exciting figure for me to see when I opened up my year-end statement from the credit union, particularly considering what the opening balance was for me. If I pay the amount due each month, I will make my last payment in February 2016. That’s only one year away, which is awesome. Still, how much more amazing would it be to have my last payment come out in December and to start 2016 with only my student loan still to pay? So, that’s my new goal now, to pay off my car loan by December 15 of this year if not before. Having that extra amount of money at the end of every month would give me an opportunity to build up my savings more, which I’ll need to do if I want to be homeowner ready by 30. The extra money would also just give me options. Right now I’m somewhere between taking part of my federal tax return and applying half or all of it toward the loan payment or just making a goal to write a check sometime around my 29th birthday. I still have some time to decide.

Student Loan: Again, I was kind of pleased when I saw my balance. I officially owe less than half of my original balance, and I now have a decent idea that this was supposed to be a 10-year loan. (I told you I really didn’t have a clue on what was owed or how, just that I’d set up automatic payments.) While I’d like to get to a point like I am with the car loan, where I can see exactly when my final payment will be made, for now I’ve made the commitment to increase my monthly payments beginning this month. These weren’t particularly huge to begin with, but I will now essentially pay about double what is due each month. I will re-evaluate this in June.

Credit Card Debit: I carried over more credit card debt from 2014 than I would have liked. However, I should be caught up on my primary credit card by the end of this month. I also placed some calls on my store credit card (which were the most frustrating parts of this financial planning ordeal), but that’s squared away, and I will have it paid off by May.

So that’s my update on my quest to get my money right. I won’t bore you with more number details for a few months, but hopefully by then I have some good news to report.