Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Want to save $20,000 in a year?

English teachers abroad are in very high demand and just by being a native English speaker you are qualified to get some pretty high-paying jobs in foreign countries like Thailand, Korea and China. I say high-paying because while they may not be as much as you can make in the States, the cost of living in these countries is extremeley low. Even if your income was about $30,000 you could get by easily on $10,000 a year, especially if they provide you with housing. You can command even more money if you have a TESOL certification and can make money on the side working as a private English tutor.

Not only will you be able to save up money but you'll be able to experience another culture first-hand. You can never truly grasp a country in 1-2 weeks while on vacation and you never get below the surface of the tourist traps to see how people really live. Plus you won't have to go away on vacation because there will be plenty of exciting places to explore in your new home.

Living abroad is probably not for everyone. You'll most likely have to live without a lot of the creature comforts that we take for granted in the States like huge living spaces and air conditioning wherever you go, but once you live without them for a while you realize that you don't really need them and you appreciate them a lot more when you do have them.

I most likely won't be able to save up loads of cash while I'm living abroad because I plan on doing a lot of traveling around Asia but the good thing is I won't have to go into debt to it!

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Selling my soul at a garage sale

Yesterday my friend and I had a garage sale to get rid of as much stuff as we possibly could before we move to Thailand. I've never been much of a garage-saler, mostly because I am never up early enough to make it to them on the weekends. I knew people would be cheap and would try to haggle, but I wasn't quite prepared for the extent of people's audacity for bargaining.

First of all, I set off going around my apartment thinking that I would get rid of nearly everything so that all my material belongings would be able to fit into one suitcase. I soon found out that parting with things was harder than I imagined. Things that I hardly noticed on a daily basis took on a sudden sentimental value. I vowed to be strong despite my over-emotional reactions because I figured it would be worth the temporary pain to be divorced from any material longings.

So I show up and put my whole life on display. I figured people would be quite impressed. I was selling some nice stuff, some stuff was practically new, never been used and of course, I bought it so it was of the highest quality. Boy was I wrong. There is something infuriating and humbling to see someone pick through your belongings and see them turn up their nose at it. Or when someone asks you how much you want for something and you say $1 and they put it back down and walk away. What? Was $1 too much for you? I paid $20 for that thing! Were they expecting that I would say, "Free for you!" You can't buy anything for $1 anyways. Even a pack of gum costs more than $1!

I never got the whole bargaining thing down either. I would try to start off high expecting them to counter offer and they would just walk away. And if I started low they would try and haggle. This one lady came up with her arms full of stuff and offered me $4 for it all! She must have lost her mind. I thought well I'll try and haggle because I needed to get rid of the stuff anyways so I countered with $7. A whoppin $3 more and she looked at me like I was crazy and said "I said $4." I was tempted to tell her to stop wasting my air and get out of my face, but I decided to take the polite route and told her that her offer was too low. For that amount of money, I would rather donate it to the Goodwill so that the money will go to a good cause instead of some cheap rich lady who's husband was waiting for her in their nice car with the engine running.

I ended up making nearly $60 which isn't bad because nobody bought the major stuff I was selling. And to be honest I don't even remember what I sold. The rest of the stuff will probably end up at the good will, hopefully to homes that will get some good use out of them. And the extra $60 will go to payoff the debt and/or my savings account!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

More surprises up my sleeve

I made a big decision. To celebrate getting out of debt I'm going to make a drastic change. I'm moving to Thailand to teach English. I've already been offered a job there at a private school and a good friend of mine will also be teaching at the school with me. I'm very excited about the change.

It seems like now would be the perfect time to do something like this. I'll be debt free, I'm just getting out of a long relationship and I have no job so I have no obligations to keep me here. I'm young and have no mortgage and I'm in good health and adventurous. How many times in my life will I be this free?

I did some calculations and decided to make a major personal finance faux pas: I'm going to cash out my 401k to pay off the remainder of my debt. I guess Henry's comments were right; once you start toying with the idea it's hard to give up. I'll have to pay the 10% penalty and taxes but I figure I'll have to pay taxes when I retire anyways and the 10% is worth the peace of mind of not having debt hanging over my head anymore.

I'll also be selling my car when I move so that will give me enough money to pay off my student loans and have a couple thousand left over for emergency money. I'll be completely debt free, no credit cards and no student loans and with money in the bank. I didn't think that would be possible for another couple of years. I'll also be selling my portion of the furniture to my ex-boyfriend and I'm selling all my books and DVDs on Half.com. Everything that I own will soon be able to fit into a couple of suitcases.

After being in debt for so long and having material possessions tie me down, it'll be an interesting experience to live without any of those constraints. For me, the whole point of getting out of debt was to be able to experience freedom again. The freedom to go where I want to go and do what I want to do and to have freedom from any worries about things.

For example, a couple of weeks ago someone hit my car and left a scratch on my bumper. I was so mad that someone could hit my car and not leave a note. I was angry because I would then have to either fix it or just accept the loss. It sounds silly but when you have things you always have to worry about them breaking or getting lost or having to replace them. I want to be in a place where none of that matters.

I probably won't move until mid-August so I'll have enough time to take care of all the loose ends. I'm not sure how accessible the internet will be but I'm hoping to continue to blog, probably not solely about personal finance but also about my travels and experiences in Thailand!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gambling isn't for me

Yes, I know it's been a while since my last blog posting. I admit I've been going through a blog funk, mostly because life has been hectic and I've been frustrated with the pace of the debt payoff. The smaller it becomes the more impatient I become to get rid of it. It's changed from a giant menancing dragon into a tiny pestering fly in comparison which I'm happy about but I just wish I had a fly swatter that would make it go away NOW. :)

The new job took a dive for the worse. I took a gamble even taking the job and that gamble isn't going to pay out. I knew it was 50/50 going into the mortgage business now because rates are going up and a lot of places were struggling as business was drying up but the promise for greater pay was too alluring to pass up. Unfortunately, I think the promises were too inflated so I'm going to start looking for another job. It's a bummer because it throws another wrench into the debt reduction plan but hopefully another job will come along, this time a stable, normal job.

I was contemplating cashing in my 401k to pay off my credit card just so that it would be gone and done with. I have about $4,000 in the 401k and I think after paying taxes and the penalty I would have just enough to pay off the rest of my debt. I know, I can already feel the angry comments being hurled at me. I'm not going to do it, but it's tempting! The thought of not having any more credit card debt makes me tingle a little.

I'm going to do something I have never done in the history of this blog. I've added a Paypal donation button. If you've enjoyed reading my site AND feel it's a worthy cause AND you are in the financial position to do so, you can make a small donation to help me get out of debt. I've avoided adding these types of links to the blog in the past because I'm definitely not looking for a handout. Don't donate because you feel obligated or anything like that, only do so if maybe I've made you laugh or gave you something entertaining to read while you were at work or you've been following my story from day one and are as excited as I am to see me get out of debt. Of course, all of it will go directly to paying down the evil credit card.

Soon people, soon. Only $2,150 to go. It's so close but farther away than I would like.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm a Carnival Flake

Umm, oops? I signed up to host the Carnival of Debt Reduction a couple of months ago and totally forgot about it until I saw Mighty Bargain Hunter's post about the carnival. At first I thought he had gone nuts but then I realized that no, I'm really just a Carnival Flake. My apologies to all! But check out MBH and the posts he's selected for this week.

I'll ban myself from hosting carnivals from now on. :)

The debt reduction has reached a snail's pace but I'm still trying to make progress towards my goal. Soon, very soon, I will be able to say that I'm free from credit card debt.

I finally received my pin number from HSBC but I refuse to transfer any money to this account. The 0% interest balance transfer game is tricky business and the last thing I need is for HSBC to mess something up and cost me a lot of money. I made $90 in interest last month from the money I borrowed from my credit card at 0%. It feels good, like I am recouping some of the money I have paid them in interest over the years. But I must caution that I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. You must be extra vigilant to make sure that all of your bills are paid on time or they could spike your interest to some ridiculous amount and you'll be in a bad position.

On another note, if you haven't seen it yet you should check out the movie,The Inconvenient Truth. It might not necessarily be directly related to debt reduction or personal finance but it will make you think twice about the consequences of consumption and material excess. If financial freedom, peace of mind and a comfortable retirement doesn't motivate you to save your money and stop buying "things," perhaps the end of the world might give you the impetus to reconsider your spending habits? I kid, I kid. Kind of.

The website also has some eco-friendly money saving tips. Check it out.

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