The FB Story

I’m “Fabulously Broke” better known as “FB“.

In a nutshell:

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 a year while blogging through it all.

When I work, I now earn about $17,000 – $21,000 a month on average, and my personal spending budget is around $1000 a month for rent, food and life. That budget doesn’t include traveling (about $5000 – $10,000 a year depending on where we go and for how long).

I also have a business spending budget for when I am working which is around $500 – $3000 a month, but when I don’t work, that budget is generally $0.

Note: I was down to my last $15,000 in my debt when I quit my job and became a freelancer.

I got a contract immediately after I quit and earned $85,000 gross from a 3.5 month contract. I used that money to clear the rest of my $15,000 debt, a mere 5-6 months ahead of schedule.

I was inevitably on track to clear my debt by the middle of the following year (which instead of having cleared it in 18 months, would have been 23-24 months or 2 years), and it was just a matter of time, seeing as I had already cleared $45,000.

I want to clarify that I didn’t suddenly get $85,000 from a contract and used it to clear my $60,000 debt in 18 months.

I actually worked to get my debt down to those levels, living and spending on very little each month, seeing as I was fortunate enough to have my company cover my basic needs (shelter, food) for part of that time, but not all of it.

I didn’t go out to party, I didn’t spend on anything except train tickets back and forth to visit my BF, and in the last year of my debt repayment, I moved back in with my parents, paid rent, paid for my own food and incidentals, and kept living on as little as possible, while channeling every last penny to debt.

So yes, I earned a lot of money near the end of my debt, but my debt was almost gone by then. I would have cleared the rest of it in half a year.

I also have another blog I started near the end of 2009 called The Everyday Minimalist, and here’s a preview of what the blog is about:


A Minimalist’s Train of Thought

Less money spent means more money saved

More money saved means the longer you can live in financial peace and security

Financial peace and security comes from owning less

Less stuff owned means less to carry around, move or have to travel with

Less responsibility for your stuff also means less maintenance and more time

The more time you have, the more relaxed you will feel

The more relaxed you are, the less you will care about stuff

If you care less about stuff, it means you’ll care less about image

If you care less about image, you will care more about experiences and memories

If you care more about experiences and memories, you will be happier with less

If you are happier with less, you’ll never want or need for more

The less you want or need for more, the more you will feel free

The Everyday Minimalist

I am not “BROKE” any longer! :D

As of 2008, I am not “broke” any longer, but I can’t give up the moniker. It’s just too much of who I was before, and it makes me remember what I went through and where I came from.

So in case you were confused, it’s just a nickname. I really prefer to go by “FB“.

AS A BLOGGER

As a new money blogger I entered the personal finance world and soon realized that there were so many people out there telling us to punish ourselves and do penance because of our debt.

I wanted to blog about being normal. Shopping on impulse. Making mistakes and learning.

I don’t punish myself for a $3 chocolate bar because I don’t believe in depriving yourself or giving up on things that you love, if you can afford it and you make room for it in your budget.

(Okay, so I didn’t always follow that rule of being able to afford it either. :P )

But this is what personal finance is all about – never being perfect all the time and making mistakes so you can learn and grow.

Even TODAY and for the rest of my life, I will still make mistakes with my money.

I buy things I shouldn’t and I go out and do things on impulse. I also lust after STUFF (which is kind of funny seeing as I’m now a minimalist).

I do things that make no freaking sense whatsoever and the blog was a way to help me not only get out of debt but to develop those ingrained money habits that will last with me forever.

Before I thought about my debt or my money (which was never, prior to 2007), I used to shop to fill my emotional void, which I hear, is quite common.

Now when I shop, I appreciate the purchase, I aim for quality and for items that I don’t see every day and I wholeheartedly believe in the principles of cost per use, but I don’t abuse it just to buy items I don’t need.

Even though I feel I am a pretty lenient sort of blogger, I have no mercy or pity for people who don’t try and don’t take any action to change their situation.

They knowingly put themselves in that position, or try to pull out the excuse of sentimentality and using emotions as an excuse for their poor financial decisions. If you don’t even make an effort or try, then I have no sympathy for your situation. Just. TRY.

I also hate it when people tell me that they don’t have any money. I think it’s true in about 10% of the examples being given to me, but not in 100% of all the cases. It’s very rare that I cannot look at a budget and squeeze $100 out of it. (And frankly, if you are really on the red lines of your budget, you need to make more money in whatever ways you can.)

People can always find the means or the money to do and get what they want, they just need the discipline to start and stop making excuses because the hardest part is in the daily execution, not the plan.

ABOUT MY PERSONAL LIFE

I didn’t start out in life feeling adequately prepared to handle my own money and quite frankly, I never even thought about my money until I started my first job out of college, saddled with $60,000 of debt on my back.

My childhood was an odd middle-class existence. I also talked briefly about what my parents have given me, financially and in hindsight my parents gave me an invaluable life lesson without even knowing it – I refused to end up like them.

Note: Many people have written nasty emails telling me that they didn’t understand why I felt entitled to get money from my parents for my education.

For the record, I didn’t.

It was that they promised it to me that I believed it, but then they pretended they never said a word.

Who doesn’t believe their parents when they’re young? Had they not promised anything to me, I never would’ve expected anything.

I also refuse to act like my brothers Mr. Jones and Cheap Opportunist, who are on truly different ends of the spectrum in terms of personality.

I wish someone had taken the time to sit down with me in high school and go over the basics of life before I entered college.

In retrospect, I’m thrilled that I’ve learned such hard lessons at a young age with debt. Better now than at 60.

I’ve really looked at my money in-depth and I feel confident going forward. I sleep well at night and I feel secure financially with the habits I’ve formed over the years.

WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING

I am a consultant and that means I take care of business.

(Really, I solve business problems :D )

The pros and cons of being a consultant is that you travel a lot. It’s fun but also exhausting.

I got into my job by chance, and negotiated a 30% salary increase over their starting offer, which is why I’m so passionate about people trying to get the most out of their careers. I am especially interested in helping women (young ones like myself), get what they’re worth.

So there you have it. I love my career and I cannot imagine doing anything else. It’s rare to find your vocation and I’m so grateful for it.

Being a consultant also helped me find minimalism, and I credit that to being the #1 motivator for me to not buy as much as I did before.

Because of my debt, I came up with an unusual arrangement where I gave up my fixed address, lived out of a hotel with just a suitcase, and ended up realizing that I didn’t need a lot of STUFF to be happy.

The bonus is that I’m now buying and using less to save on waste, which helps the environment, and it’s really helped me clear down my debt because I was saving on two of the biggest parts of anyone’s budget: rent and food.

HOW I GOT OUT OF DEBT

For the record, I hated numbers all my life. I was good at math but not so great at thinking a budget was cool. I thought it was a financial prison.

I very quickly changed my tune once I saw what a budget could do for me and my debt. I love budgeting, tracking my expenses and having watched my debt melt away, I am now watching my money grow. (The latter is not quite as dramatic as watching your debt disappear, but it’s more exciting.)

When you have a purpose for money and you don’t see it as something evil that you cannot control, it changes everything.

 

I suggest you start tracking your expenses and stick to your budget ASAP. You can do it via Excel (who’s my best friend!) or use a free software like Mint:

 


FREE Money Management

MONEY IS A GREAT SLAVE BUT A TERRIBLE MASTER

I was in debt by $60,000 and here’s a snapshot of all that I owed and owned as of May 2006.

Pretty depressing huh?

Even with that, I didn’t get serious about my debt until around May 2007, when I started using my budgeting and expense tracking Excel sheet.

As a result of taking better care of my finances, here’s my debt repayment history.

Can you imagine how long it would have taken me to get out of $60,000 of debt had I let it linger with just my minimum payments?

120 months (10 years) instead of 18 months.

Keep in mind that I earned $65,000 until August 2008 (near the end of my debt repayment cycle), so I paid off most of that massive debt on what I’d consider a good starting salary for a business school grad.

That big drop in October 2008 is when I used my earnings as a freelancer to clear the remaining $15,000. Basically I quit my company and started working directly with clients, which quadrupled my income.

If you’re interested, the following image is my history of my Net Worth (Assets — Liabilities = Net Worth).

 

See that kind of crazy jump around August 2008?

That was when I left my corporate gig as a consultant, went freelance and ended up earning a gross total of $85,000 for 3.5 months.

Going freelance means I quit what I was doing and did exactly the same job for the same clients, but I work for myself.

With that, I cleared my $15,000 in debt, bought a used car in cash (it has paid itself back and then some), and saved the rest of my money to live off on when I don’t have a contract.

This is my snapshot of what I owed and own now as of November 2008, about a year and a half later after my debt was gone.

Here’s the range from 4 years of my net worth from 2006 to 2010:

Note: I took the numbers from November 2006 to November 2010, but Excel formatted them strangely as the months of January, not November.

I went from -$60,000 in net worth at the end of 2006 (more 2007) to $180,000 in net worth by the start of 2011.

In about 4 full years, I increased my net worth by almost a quarter of a million — $240,00.

This chart just shows from end of 2006 to the end of 2010.

(Yeah if I wasn’t so clueless about money to begin with, I could be $30,000 – $60,000 richer than I am.

Good lessons learned and seeing this strengthens my resolve to be money smart.)

Now that I have money, I can spend on what I want, but the funny thing is I don’t feel the desire to buy stuff or upgrade my lifestyle.

In fact, I’ve experienced lifestyle deflation, not inflation.

I spent perhaps $35,000 a year or more in expenses, and now I’m spending around the $20,000 – $25,000 mark.

I am going to be frugal forever, because there are a ton of examples of people out there who have big brains and earn super high incomes but aren’t good with money at all.

It is really the smart spender, hardcore saver, average Joe or Jane who are the most brilliant at managing their money. I mean, I don’t want to end up like this guy!!

THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE EARNING A GOOD LIVING
BUT LIVING POOR LIVES

I still keep my income in perspective to what other people earn, because sometimes you just get so caught up in everything that you forget that other people are trying to make it by on less.

And that could have been me had my situation been different, but I also don’t want to continue paying for my guilt.

I’m grateful for everything I’ve been given, from the hard lessons to the great opportunities.

MY CURRENT SAVING & SPENDING HABITS (2010)

When I get to work in a full month, I earn about $17,000 – $20,000 a month (gross).

When I don’t work, it’s $0.

As for my expenses, I try to stick around the $1000 range for expenses; most of the time, that’s more than enough to live on because it covers my basic living and gives me some fun money as well. I’ve also eliminated a lot of things from my life.

As a freelancer, since I don’t work the full year (ranges from 3 months a year to 9 months), and I only need to work just about a month or two to cover my expenses for the whole year, which is really freeing.

This means that when I do work, I bank as much as possible for those lean years.

So for example, 2009 was not a fat year. I went down about $20,000 in net worth, spending money on living without making much money.

2010 in contrast, was a fat year.

I made ~$187,000 (gross) in 9 months and I banked $130,101 of it.

You can read about what I spent and what I saved in my spending and saving year of 2010.

Even being out of debt, I still make a budget every month and track my expenses in my budgeting spreadsheet, which can be found here.

And that’s my life to date. (Updated as of: May 2011)

Past & Present PF (personal finance) goals:

  • 2006: Graduate and get a job (-$58,000 net worth, $60,000 debt)
  • 2007: Figured out my money (Done)
  • 2008: Clear $60,000 of Debt (Achieved September 2008)
  • 2009: Reach $100,000 net worth (Failed)
  • 2010: Reach $100,000 net worth (achieved in July 2010)
  • 2011: Reach $250,000 net worth Travel the whole year for pleasure

Questions?

Please contact me here or drop your questions in the comments. I always try to reply to everyone.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.