Becoming Jill: Adventures in Adulthood

Chapter One: In which I create a budget. Pizza is eaten. Tears are not shed.
March 11, 2010, 5:22 pm
Filed under: money | Tags: , , ,

After making the choice to turn around my life, I instantly realized that I was going to need some help. Now, I have never liked admitting to needing help, or asking for it. I prefer to do all things well, and to just not DO the things I don’t do well (which, as it turns out, is a bad idea). I realized that I had an amazing resource in the person of my best friend.  After I worked up the courage to admit to her that I was in over my head, the lovely and amazing Karen generously agreed to be my financial guru and sort through my monetary pit of destruction.

After I made some attempts to figure out my sources of income and expense, we sat down together for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. I learned all KINDS of things!

  • Who knew that one could include annual expenses like car tags and gasoline for trips home in one’s budget and save for them all year long? Amazing!
  • You can negotiate things like credit card payments. Again, who knew? Not me. I just don’t pay them!
  • If you eat cold feta, garlic, and tomato pizza before working on your budget, you will be in a much happier mental place to work on said budget than you were when you were starving!
  • I am actually capable of discussing money without crying. Hooray!

We made a fancy Excel chart to track everything, and now I have a clear idea of how much money I need to devote to every area of my life, every single month. It feels so grown-up and official! The end result of all this math was realizing that my expenses currently exceed my income by about $300, which could explain why I was having to pay my bills on a rotating basis… In order to make up the short-fall, I will be

  • Rethinking my current cell phone and plan. I bought a smartphone last fall, not realizing that you are unable to turn off the data plan and just use it like a regular phone, so I am currently paying $30 per month on top of the regular plan. I still have a lot of research to do in this area before I decide the best path to take. It would be pretty pricey to break the contract and switch to another carrier, so I am looking at purchasing a used basic phone and downgrading to a basic plan without a lot of minutes. Anyone have any brilliant suggestions for affordable cell phone plans?
  • Calling my credit card company to try and negotiate my interest rate and the minimum payment so that they are more budget-friendly. I am feeling pretty apprehensive about this, as I have never attempted anything like it. Ideas?
  • Calling the loan company that refuses to put an educational loan into forbearance, despite the fact that I am volunteering for a year with AmeriCorps VISTA. All the other companies cooperated, but Great Lakes Financial Services refuses. Sadface! I could certainly put that 80 bucks a month to good use, like PAYING THE RENT or something!
  • Trying to negotiate a lower premium on my car insurance.  Again, no experience with this. When I got this policy, I was told that the rate is higher because I only live a mile or so from downtown St. Paul, which apparently costs more. Boo!
  • Getting my food support re-established. AmeriCorps members are eligible for foodstamps, and the $200 per month has made all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, I am having to re-apply, and haven’t gotten any benefits since December. Beans are good?
  • Getting my taxes done and figuring out if I will get a rebate, which could go towards rounding out the budget.

Based on how all of these negotiations work out, the amazing Karen and I will looking at the budget a second time and making adjustments. Hopefully we will be able make it balance! As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I am not allowed to earn any money outside of my monthly living stipend, which makes it a bit more difficult. I think we are up to the challenge!

PLEASE let me know if you have good tips for negotiating these kinds of things— I can use all the help I can get!


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

1) If the credit card company turns you down for a reduction in rates, ask to talk to a manager.
2) Try a prepaid cell phone. You don’t have to sign a contract.
3)I have, at least, 10 great ways to enjoy beans.
4)Email me, once in a while.

Comment by Candace


1) Yes, good plan. Also, I found a helpful article on MSN Money about negotiating with CC companies.
2) That’s an option I am looking into- any recommended companies?
3) I do eat beans, but would love your recipes.
4) Email works both ways 🙂
5) Call me!

Comment by becomingjill

I thought I taught you a lot of those things! Maybe that was in your phase of not listening to your mother? I hope it works with Karen’s help!

Comment by jan

Mother, I don’t know WHAT you are talking about! I always take all your advice, obviously! 😉

Comment by becomingjill

You go! I am so proud of you, and you will feel totally empowered after talking with those credit card managers and loan managers! Keep us posted.

Comment by Sarah

Cell phone idea: Credo will buy out your current contract if you sign up for their service. (I don’t know if there are exceptions for smartphones, but it might be worth trying.) And, Credo gives money to good causes – so you support charities just by being a member. (I don’t see the offer on their website, but I get letters about it all the time – so you might just call their customer support and ask.

Comment by Chandra

That sounds great, Chandra! Thanks for the tip– I will definitely look into them!

Comment by becomingjill

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