Financial Fast Day 14 of 21: 5 SMART Steps to Financial Freedom

Using SMART Method to Financial Freedom

I struggled for years wondering why I couldn’t get out of debt. Or I would get close to it and it would escape me again. I had read Suze Orman and David Bach’s books. I had watched numerous television shows on debt management, using credit wisely, and good credit versus bad credit. Yet I was still $50,000 in debt. Then I found Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). From this program I became DEBT FREE. But I won’t focus on the program but on what I discovered about using the program.

I had to develop a 5 step action plan to reach financial freedom. I had goal the overall goal to become debt free but I didn’t have a SMART plan. I needed an action plan that was Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. I used FPU baby steps to develop my SMART plan.

I applied the SMART action plan for every single debt I had by doing this:

  • I first listed each debt by name, current outstanding balance and minimum payment.
  • Then I organized debts from smallest to largest debt amounts outstanding.
  • Finally I wrote specific statements for each debt that included monthly payments, when I would complete paying off the date with a reasonable or realistic timeframe.

This is an example: I will pay off my Visa card with the balance of $1287 by December 27, 2015 with 4 monthly payments of $321.82.

  • S = Specific – Pay off Visa Card
  • M = Measurable – Outstanding Credit Card Balance $1287, so you measure the change in this amount.
  • A = Achievable – $321.82 – Select a payment amount that makes sense. You can turn off cable but keep basic internet. You need to make necessary budget cuts to come up with as much cash to pay off debts.
  • R = Realistic – Pay off only ONE debt at a time. This way I could focus on it and just make minimum payments on other debts.
  • T = Time Bound – The deadline of December 27, 2015 with a 4-month time period

As a goal oriented person, this method really worked for me. As I achieved one goal, I would take it off my list and then “snowballed” that payment onto the next debt. This method kept me focused on accomplishing each goal. It also kept me from feeling overwhelmed and focused. This is a very doable method that you should try.

Day 13 of 21: Making The Most of the Money You Have

Most people never seem to have enough money. Enough money is never in their bank account. Enough money is never in their savings account. (Hopefully, they have a savings account.) Enough money is never in their retirement account. (It is better to start earlier than later.) There is never enough money to cover all their living expenses. So what are people to do?

Create a budget. No really! If you want to know where your money goes, you use a budget. I know I know you HATE budgets. To you want to CONTROL your money? A budget gives you the CONTROL over your money. This is a simple budget for you.

Bill Amount Due Date
Rent/Mortgage $
Electric $
Gas $
Water $
Groceries (ONLY) $
Cellphone/Landline $
HOA Fees $
Car Note $
Fuel $
Insurance $
Childcare $
Student Loans $
Cable/Internet $
Credit Card 1 $
Credit Card 2 $
Credit Card 3 $
Other Loan 1 $
Other Loan 2 $
Total $
Pay Check Week Ending $
Pay Check Week Ending $
Amount Remaining $
Savings (If Balance is not Negative.) $

This is a simple budget will aid you in seeing where you need to streamline your expenses. If you use your debit card or credit card for purchase, you can run a report in your account to determine how much you spent for fuel and groceries. You can use your most recent utility, credit card and landline bills.

For some you just don’t make enough money. A part time job or a new job will help you cover your expenses and debts. As you can see dining out, entertainment, vacation and any other costs are not included. Remember this is a FINANCIAL FAST. Those items are not necessities to live. Try the budget out to make the most of the money you have.

Pen and Notepad
A blank notebook and pen to begin budgeting.

Financial Fast Day 12 of 21: Most Difficult Financial Obstacle

Struggling today will make you stronger tomorrow
Struggling today will make you stronger tomorrow

It is day 12 of the financial fast. I have completed 11 days of the financial fast. It has had its difficult moments.  I’ve learned much about my finances, myself and my money habits. Most important thing I have learned is the most difficult financial obstacle for me is my mindset.

My spending habit to use my budgeted money is too loose. If I decided I didn’t want to eat leftovers, I would go out to eat. If I decided I wanted a new dress, shoes, jeans, etc., I would go buy it. The ease at which I would spend money on a whim because I wanted things really surprised me. While the money has been budgeted, the purchases were not necessary.

I’ve learned my finances could be better. I thought I was doing an outstanding job. I was just doing alright. I thought I was excelling and I was just passing. I am not accustomed to just “passing”! So I now I know I have changes to make. *sigh* I don’t sigh because I won’t be shopping on the whim. I sigh because I have missed valuable opportunities with my finances. I will not get the time lost or opportunities gone by back. However, I have learned a valuable lesson.

While I still have urges to go shopping on a whim, I fight diligently to control them. I try to remain focused on being a better steward of my money. I’m in the midst of a mindset shift when it comes to my money.

My Heart, My Home – South Carolina

South Carolina Flood Prayer RequestAs a South Carolina resident and native, this has been a difficult year. While I am not physically in South Carolina during the flood, it is my home and my heart. So many people whom I love and who love me are there. I grew up and learned so much in the Palmetto state. While no place is perfect it is my home.

I have talked to many family members over the last few days to see how they were doing. I inquired about their needs, if I could provide any assistance or if I needed to drive home. They have all said no. They wanted me to remain safe and to come home once the water had receded. All of my loved ones are all safe and did not sustain any injuries or property damage. They have been fortunate.

However, many people did not fare as well. Our neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances have been directly impacted. Most will not fare well financially. Flood insurance was not even a thought for many because they didn’t live on the coast or a large body of water. Yet there homes are flooded from numerous damn failures, overrun rivers and streams, and sewer systems that couldn’t possibly sustain all the rainwater.

Take this time to be better prepared financially. Many times people will only investigate and obtain insurance after a natural disaster or seeing a family struggle to cover funeral costs. I highly encourage each of you to obtain home owner’s insurance, basic renter’s insurance and life insurance. If you have minor kids, many times they can be riders on your policy. The general comment I get back when I suggest getting renter’s insurance is “I don’t own that much stuff.” I would like you to count the number of shoes you have and multiply that number by $50. If you don’t have that amount in your bank account you need to spend the money for renters insurance.

If you are in a financial bind, wherein you are NOT eating out, struggling to pay rent, buy groceries then find a way to raise the money to pay the monthly cost for insurance. It is truly a peace of mind during a very stressful time.

Thank you for the prayers, support, love, encouragement and donations. They are all truly needed and accepted with thankfulness and graciousness.

Financial Fast Day 11 of 21: Misplaced Entitlement is Keeping You in Debt

Entitlement in itself is not bad or negative. But when misplaced it can lead to poor decisions and bad habits. We are all entitled to fairness, happiness, freedom, etc. The belief you are entitled to many material items will and does lead to debt. Where do we go wrong with entitlement? There are various reasons. I will only discuss a few of the most common reasons we feel entitled. First we compare ourselves to our friends, neighbors, coworkers, athletes, entertainers, etc. Many times measuring ourselves to these people cause us to make bad financial decisions. Secondly, we see money in the bank or have a high salary, so I obviously MUST buy this.  Thirdly, I was deprived of this as a child so I or my kids deserve it. Not having something as a child doesn’t mean you should have it as an adult. Forth, I work hard so I deserve this. Lastly, I’m already $150,000 in debt so what is another $5,000. If I’m already in a bad place, it won’t get better if I pass up something that will make it worse.

Entitlement is tied directly to your emotions. It is key to reflect on your feelings when purchasing physical items and services. Ask yourself these questions. Do I truly need this service or item? What purpose will it serve to you and your family? Will I be able to grow and learn from it? Can I positively impact the lives of others with this item or service? Anything with true value allows you to do just that.

You are really entitled to prosper! How does letting these negative thoughts of entitlement lead you into prosperity? How do your actions of entitlement lead you to prosper? How have the things and places you have been made you prosper? When you answer these questions be open and honest. Take action to change your thoughts of negative entitlement to reach real prosperity.

Financial Fast Day 10 of 21: Know Your Value!

You as a person have value. Your value is not based on your bank account, investment portfolio or material items. Your value is found in your passion, purpose and view of life. As you come into your own, you begin to recognize your value.

I say all of this to let you know debt, bills and being strapped for cash can confuse you. You as a person have VALUE! You are worth more than worrying how to pay a bill. You are worth more than stressing how to feed your family. You have VALUE because you are an incredible human being. I have faith you will find your value, if you haven’t already.

Let’s take a step back. Take a look at your actions, thoughts and dreams. Recall a time when you failed. At first you didn’t feel positive or happy. Then you started to reflect on it. Failures don’t impact your value. Knowing you have value impacts your actions, thoughts and dreams! This simply is having self-love. It is you understanding no one can validate you and nothing can devalue you. It is important for you to understand others may NOT see your value. This does not matter. No one can give you value but you!

As you travel through life’s peaks and valleys, remember you are GREATER than them all. You have value!

Financial Fast Day 9 of 21: Is Saving a Priority for You?

Managed Money Has PurposeDo you struggle to save money? How do you make saving a priority over frivolous spending? How many brand new toothbrushes did you forget you bought, have you eaten half of the food in your cabinets/pantry you bought 3 months ago?

First, begin tracking everything you spend money on from bus fare, a soda from the vending machine, a new pair of sneakers or dental floss. It all adds up quickly if you aren’t careful. Keep a pen and pad with you or keep receipts that accumulate daily. Record each expense and add up every cent you spent that day. At the end of every week, record your weekly expenditures. Do this for 2 to 4 weeks. Notice where you spend the most money and why. Are you not preparing for meals away from home? Are you snacking during the workday via the office vending machine? Is the local trendy coffee shop with free Wi-Fi costing more than internet at home?

Next, take inventories of items in each room of your house. Grab a pen and pad or use Evernote to record how many old toothbrushes you have or hair combs. Keep a tally of each item. If it is not something you will be using in the next 6 months, has been used for its purpose or it has expired, simply throw it out or recycle it.  Example: Go through your bedroom closet and count then number of black slacks you have. Do you really need all of those black slacks? Try each pair on? If they don’t fit, place them into the donation pile. Do this same exercise for your tops, dresses and shoes as well. You now know what items NOT to purchase because you have a plethora of them in your home.

For excessive food, you can either donate half of the item.  Now create a tasty menu for the week or even month. You can have Velveeta cheese, shells and frozen broccoli. With the cans of tuna, you can make tuna muffins. The cans of beans can be made into soups, chili and dips.  Take some time to create build a menu with the food items.

From now on when you go out shopping for non-essential items, don’t buy an item you like or want at that very moment. Instead walk away and wait 24 hours. If you are constantly thinking about the item, then go back to purchase it but only use CASH. When you are purchasing shoes and clothes, ALWAYS try them on before purchasing them. Many people wait until they get home and when it doesn’t fit they fail to return it. Money wasted! If you don’t buy it, put the cash you would have spent in a savings account, a jar or under your mattress.

Financial Fast Day 8 of 21- Does Money Burn A Hole in Your Pocket?

Is this a REVELATION for you? But just because you have money, doesn’t mean you should spend it. You have paid all your bills and debt payments for the month and have even put money into savings. However, you have money remaining. So what do you do with it?

When I was in debt any extra money I had went to pay down my debt. It wasn’t even a second thought. Now that I am debt free, I have to find new places to put this extra money. Should it go to Fun/Blow Money? Or maybe I should put it into a Birthday/Christmas Savings Account? I could just use it for entertainment like going to a concert, symphony, play or state fair. The possibilities are endless.

To reign in my options, I started with the things I like to do. I enjoy listening to music, traveling to the Caribbean, buying gifts for others, and reading. I enjoy personal development activities too. I could go to some conferences and local events focused on my career, interpersonal skill development and developing a new technical skill. I could learn a new hobby too. The list of possibilities keeps growing. I had to shut the valve off.

I brainstormed all the things I could do with my money on various post-it notes. I then categorized them into short term, intermediate and long term. The short term activities were things I could start immediately spend my money on.

For short term activities I undertook almost immediately.  I researched and purchased my first stocks. The next one was learning to use WordPress. I actually found FREE resources to learn how to use WordPress. *saving money on a short term goal without evening trying*I discovered an entire community of people who loved WordPress. I researched hiring a professional business coach to start my dream business. I started working with my first business coach to discover where best to put my talents and passion for my business. Last activity was donating to a cause I believed in like scholarships at my college alma mater.

My intermediate and long term goals are all focused on saving for my business. I am going to bootstrap my business. My mother did the same over 30 years ago when she started her business. I saw first-hand the struggle but thought it was the norm. I guess I am returning to path I have known as a child… OWNERSHIP of not only my work but my business. *SMILING*

Align Your Dreams

Financial Fast Day 7 of 21: How do you feel about the changes & Progress you made thus far?

WOOT WOOT! I’ve completed a third of the fast!  How do I feel? Relieved, shameful, encouraged, doubtful, accomplished, focused, driven, forgiving, more thoughtful, open… I have been through all of these emotions and then some.

First I feel RELIEVED. I feel relieved because I know I have more money available to reach other no financial goals. I feel relieved that I will be better prepared for emergencies. I’ve learned that I have more room to learn about my shopping habits.

Next I felt like a FAILURE! How could I not be more in control of my money? I mean I’ve listened to Suze Orman, Gail Vaz Oxlade and Dave Ramsey. I’ve done Financial Peace University. I’ve read several of Suze and David Bach’s books.  I’ve followed Gail on television and Facebook. I even use Gail’s budget for the most part. Yet I still was not as focused as I could be with my money. What did I do WRONG?

Then I reflected and felt ACCOMPLISHED. I am DEBT FREE! YAY! I purchased individual stocks this year which have been a long time goal of mine. I’ve ridded myself of a house I didn’t live in. It was just an expensive storage space. I have accomplished so much in starting my debt free journey so I didn’t be harsh on myself.

From there, I refocused. I am refocused on remaining debt free. If I don’t have the cash for something then it is not purchases. I am refocused building my own business. Being the daughter of a mompreneur I know business ownership has its up and downs but they will be all mine.

Now I am DETERMINED. I am DETERMINED to make a difference in this world because “to whom much is given” much is expected. Most importantly is sharing my story with others to inspire them. If I can do this, then anyone can. If you believe in yourself then I surely will believe in you. Even if you don’t believe in yourself I still believe in you.

Lastly, I am beginning to feel renewed…

Align Your Dreams

Financial Fast Day 6 of 21: How Do You Budget for Medical Expenses?

One of the financial fast group members had a medical emergency. She felt as though she had broken the fast to remedy the unexpected occurrence. We assured her that she had not. However, for future planning we discussed several methods to being financial prepared for medical emergencies and semi-annual dental cleanings, annual physicals, pre-natal care and the like.


Most people rely on the US standard healthcare provided through their employer. The type of insurance varies from person to person. In emergency instances, an in-network provider may not be available which usually increases ones out of pocket expenses. In other words, the insurance company will pay less on services rendered from an out of network doctor. When this happens it is best to have a flexible spending account (FSA) or/and a health savings account (HAS). They are different but both can be used for medical and dental expenses whether it is an emergency or preventative care.

Health savings accounts are like any savings accounts wherein the money is deposited into the account according to the employer’s schedule. So if you incur $1000 in medical bills, insure you have sufficient funds in your HSA to cover the bill. Otherwise workout payment terms with your provider.

If you are laid off or quit your job inquire about COBRA and American Affordable Care Act. If you can afford the premiums this is a worthwhile investment.

Local Dental Schools  

Many times dental schools will provide services at deep discounts. If you require attention, have no dental insurance and have limited funds be sure to contact any that are in your area.

Free Clinic/Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood or free clinic offers medical services as well. Because the services are free it can be difficult to get in quickly. However, it is a good option for medical services as most locations accommodate emergency visits.

Doctors/Dentists may offer charity services to income based clients

If you have a regular physician whose been your provider for years be sure to contact the office. Explain your financial situation and see what options they may have. Some doctors and dentists provide limited free or discounted services to customers based on financial need. In addition, as a long-time customer, the provider maybe willing to forgo charging a regular insurance customer rate since 1) you are a long-time customer and 2) you are paying cash so the doctor doesn’t have to go through insurance for payment.

Emergency savings

The best way to prepare for emergencies be it financial, medical/dental, home repairs, car repairs, etc. is having an emergency fund. Work to save at least $1000 for true emergencies. Create a separate savings account for this fund. As you get further out of debt you can build a larger emergency fund but $1000 is usually sufficient for most emergencies.

Stacks of $1 Bills
An Emergency Savings