Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Get Out of Debt

I despise debt. It makes me crazy.  Crazy anxious and nervous.  It feels overwhelming, and makes me fear the worst.

What if I lose my job...
What if I lose my house...
What if I can't feed my kids...
What if I can't take care of my kids...
What if I have to live in my car...
What if I have to live in my car, and then I lose my car....
What if it's winter when all this happens...
What if I freeze to death in a back alley behind a Chinese restaurant?

Rational? Maybe not, but it could happen. IT really COULD.

After my divorce in May 2013, my debt was at an all-time high.

June 2013: -$27,706.  Seriously stomach nausea, and insomnia. AND I was technically a homeless, single, mother of three.  I was not okay.



Here's was my debt breakdown:

Credit cards and student loans: $18,168 - Most of which was credit cards.
Car loan: $4,038
Balance due to my divorce attorney: $3,600
Charges for necessary items: $1,900 (mattresses for me and my kids)
Total: -$27,706

As of Today: September 20, 2014 my TOTAL debt is -$2,500 (aside from my mortgage.)

Yes, I have eliminated $25,206 of debt in 15 months.


When I posted this about a month ago on Facebook so many people asked me to write about how I did it.  So here you go.  I am not an expert, but these principles worked for me, and I hope thy can be helpful to someone else.

Everyone's situation is unique.  Income, outside circumstances, ability to change... these all vary. However, I think these principals could work for anyone.



1.  Reduce living expenses.  This is the number one most important change I made.

I will acknowledge this was easy for me because I was in a transitional period. I didn't have to proactively make hard decisions to change because the change part was already in motion. I just had to make the right choice to alter my lifestyle.

I should mention that prior to the divorce I was paying 79.4% of all of my families living expenses and still paying extra against my debt.  It wasn't necessary for me to change my lifestyle.  I could have elected to maintain the same standard of living-- and take a long time repaying my debt.

  • Buy a house. Unless I wanted to continue the transient lifestyle, I needed a place for me and my kids to live. I did not want to rent.  In my opinion, renting is just as bad as debt because you are paying someones return on investment and getting very little in return. When there isn't an option except to rent, then rent CHEAP and save your hard earned money to buy a house.



Off my soap box... I looked for a smaller, efficient home, to save on mortgage and also utilities.

Prior home: 2030 sqft
New home: 1850 sqft.

My new home is super energy efficient.

Prior home: average monthly gas and power bills: $270.00
New home: $90.00
Cash Flow: +$180.00

The mortgage obligation. I don't want to publicize the actual numbers, but here's the monthly cash flow: +$250.00

Eliminated services I no longer needed with a smaller house and yard.
Home Phone: +$40.00
Pest Control: +$40.00
Lawn and tree services: +$47.00
Cash Flow: $127.00

Add to this the my budgeted allocation for debt reduction: +$600.00

Cash flow: $1157/ month.

2. Meticulously track the debt. I downloaded a Debt Reduction Calculator from this website: http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html
Credit goes to Vertex42.
  • I entered all my debt and interest rates. This made it so easy to focus on the debts with the highest interest rates. More importantly, the constant knowledge of EXACTLY how much debt I had-- and the total cost of that debt in interest, made it really easy to make wise financial choices.
The spreadsheet lets you choose paying off the lowest balances first (instant gratification) or highest interest rate first.  Now really?  Most of us get into these situations based on instant gratification, so just toss that.
3. SAVINGS!  Contributing to a savings account was critical.  I like to consider a savings account "budgeting for incidentals,"  With a savings account established, I never had to add to my debt for unexpected expenses.
  • I started out moving $200.00 a month into savings till I had about $1,500 reserved. That's not much, but it was enough to keep me in the black.  
4. Expected and unexpected "extra" income. Extra cash flow such as tax returns, escrow account adjustments, insurance losses, selling personal property... and of course then the divorce settlement check finally through.
  • It's so easy to take what feels like "free money" and go PLAY.  Vacation, shopping, new furniture, boob job, tummy tuck....  All the typical things a newly divorced woman wouldn't mind spending money on.  Instead apply huge payments against the debt.
This is one of the hardest disciplines for me. I feel like I have been so good about everything else, I deserve a reward.  I worked hard for this extra money, I deserve a reward.  This money wasn't planned into my budget so it won't effect my goals, I deserve a reward....

What I deserve is to get rid of the debt burden.
What I deserve is a financially sound future.
What I deserve is my money working for me.
What I deserve is peace of mind.

I think I would rather have these things than a new couch.

5. Don't cut yourself off.  I still wanted to have fun.  I still wanted to eat out on occasion.  I wanted to take my kids on vacation.  I wanted to be able to go shopping. At first, these purchases where a little tight, but once I got debt reduction under way I started to build a little room into the budget for frivolity.  Everyone should be a little frivolous, so long as they are not going into debt to do so. 

Here's some personal perspective from my past behaviors:  

As long as I was paying cash for the frivolous then it was okay.  I was completely blind to the fact that I was running out of money at the end of the month and having to charge gas for my car.   

I'm not saying it was easy, but once my goal to be debt free became more important to me than having the latest and greatest the mental battle ended.  

I'm so close I can almost touch it.

xoxo Cam


Friday, November 15, 2013

Yeah, I know...

I really owe an explanation for my long absence.

It's coming.  2013 has been a very long year. So was 2012.

2014 is going to rock.  Seriously.

I'll tell you about it as soon as I can wrap my brain around it and formulate something read-worthy.

xo Cam

Leather Gallery

Welcome to my tooled leather gallery!

Camille McClelland
aka. WonderCam
aka. Leather Whisperer

camillemcc@gmail.com

This is not a complete gallery of my work, but the most complete collection in one place.

Enjoy and Happy Tooling!
































xoxo Cam

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Popularity.

"When I was a kid..."

We all have at least one story of when we felt bullied. 

I remember one time in Sunday School class there were not enough chairs.  A girl I looked up to suggested to the class that I could sit in one of the small baby chairs.  It hurt my feels enough that I've never forgotten about it, and yet, I know she wasn't intentionally trying to be mean.  If anyone else had said it then it probably would not have bothered me.

I've been thinking about the power that comes with popularity.  The power to sway opinions that can make or break someone.  I remember being so afraid of this one girl in high school.  Not that she was mean..  Not that I ever had a conversation with her.  ever.  She seemed nice enough.  She was confident, and radiant, and so stylish.  Always in the spotlight with her accomplishments.  I don't have a negative thought about her individually.  But she still scared me. 

For me it was the power she held.  What if I did try to talk to her or be her friend and she rejected me?  What if I did or said something embarrassing and she saw it and told someone.  Such power.

This whole post makes me feel so uncomfortable.  Brings back all those high school insecurities.  What if there are people like THAT girl who came across my blog and thought it was stupid for a grown adult woman to still be hung up over stupid high school popularity?

I'm not so afraid anymore.  I have life experience that has taught me who I am, and helped me to understand my own worth.  Sure, I have my self esteem ups and downs...  here is a secret-- everyone does.  Even THAT girl. 

I wonder... does THAT girl even know the power she held?  I would hope not. Power can do nasty things to good people.  Power instantly results in a feeling of superiority.  Are any of us really superior?  Hell yes.  Of course.  Not overall.. but in individual talents and accomplishments there is a resounding yes. 

For example, a lawyer must attain a certain level of education to earn a law degree.  I do not have a law degree.  I have not been to law school.  I have only been to one semester of college.  So... does a lawyer have a superior education in comparison to mine?  Yes.  Does that make the lawyer a superior person to me.  Yeah, no.. I don't think so. Not that I have anything against attorney's and not that I consider myself superior, either.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.. and that's what makes us unique, and and in many ways, provides an identity to hold onto. 

Where did all this come from?  This video...  I watched it.  Then watched it again.  Then called my kids in and we watched it together, and then talked about how it made us feel.

You should watch it.. right now.  It's from this website: http://www.upworthy.com/bullies-called-him-pork-chop-he-took-that-pain-with-him-and-then-cooked-it-into and was created by Shane Koyczan.

I wish I could say that I know Shane personally..  because I am so impressed with him.




There is great responsibility that comes with popularity.  Power.  Power to make or break a person.  Bullying must stop here, where the power exists to stop it.

xo Cam 
(I can't stop watching it)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Handmade U With the Leather Whisperer - April 2013

This is my good friend, and fellow Brave Girl, Rachel .



Rachel is AWESOME.  One of the most authentic, down-to-Earth people I know.  I met Rachel in February 2010 at Brave Girls camp and we have stayed in touch since.  I have visited her in Omaha and she has been back to Idaho.  She's just one of those people you want to know... especially with what I'm about to tell you...

Rachel has started an Art Retreat called "Handmade U,"  college themed "semesters" with intense art instruction. The classes are designed to start at beginner level instruction, but also include intermediate and advances techniques to reach all skill levels.  The setting is intimate and comfortable at the Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Omaha. 

For the "Fourth Semester" April 4-6, 2013 I will be teaching along with  Dawn Devries Sokol! I am so so excited, and honored to be invited to instruct.  Dawn will be teaching a Doodlicious Tapebound Journaling Class on Friday (seriously, she creates the most amazing journals, I can't wait to learn from her!)

This is Dawn, and a couple of examples of her work:



Ah-Mazing!


I will be teaching a class I'm calling, "Introduction to Leather Whispering"  We will go over all the basics of leather tooling, tips and techniques; and the class will include making a cuff, and a set of three tooled leather flowers. I'll provide step by step instructions, along with a written guide.  (My instructions will be WAY easier to follow than an Ikea "some assembly required" guide.)  But first...  I gotta figure out what the cuffs going to look like.

I know you've prob seen enough of my stuff to last you... but here's a few more pictures of some of my favorites.









If you are attending Handmade U...  Tell me what you want, and I'll work with popular demand.  I am so excited!  This is going to be a blast.  Oh, by the way... coincidentally, Rachel coined the nickname "Leather Whisperer" for me.. and it stuck.  :)

Handmade U is selling out fast..  I hope you make it!

xoxo Cam

Friday, December 28, 2012

2013: The Year of ACTION

I recently participated in a couple independent assessments called DISC and CORE.  They are the kind of assessments that measures the individuals strengths and weaknesses. 

The weaknesses part kills me.  As predicted, the assessment rated me very high on the perfectionist scale (clearly, this is not a grammar, spelling, formatting, or punctuation scale), which means having to stare down my flaws...ugh.  Kill me now.

My weaknesses ranged predominantly in:

confrontation
having to make hard decisions
and...what if people don't like me 

Anyone who knows me at all... knows this is SO accurate.  I would rather wait months, sometimes years, hoping a difficult situation will resolve itself, rather than address the issue head on... especially if the solution involves a hard decision that could result in someone not liking me.  (Egads!  not that!!)

There are so many things I have been procrastinating.  Changes I have needed to make for:so:long, but I was to afraid of the repercussions.  Afraid of hurting people I care about, and afraid of facing my fears.

It's time I stop being such a wimp.  I'm going to confront the hell out of 2013. 

I made a lot of decisions in 2012.  Free-ing, lighten-the-load, push-the-weight-off-my-shoulders, kinds of decisions. I feel so good.  They were not easy decisions to make, but the feeling that comes when I've made a decision I know is the right decision-- that is freedom and self-respect.

But, you know what I figured out in 2012?  It's completely possible to make BIG decisions.... and then go right on living exactly as you always have... without making any changes at all.  Sort of diminishes the whole point, but it's so much easier to not actually do anything. Life still sucks, but it's easier. Do I want an easy, sucky, life?  Yeah, not so much.

Action.  It's time to start DOING all the things I've been talking and thinking about. 

I have been procrastinating long enough...

Now, I am going to make a decision to have a hot long bubble bath....  And Im actually going to do it. 

See ya later,

xoxo
Cam


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Custom Hand-Tooled Leather Cuffs... the latest

This weekend I had a bit of time to catch up on some custom back orders.. I'm still a bit behind, but making headway.  Hey...  Good things come to those who wait, right?

... Or wasn't there something about a squeaky wheel......

Here's what I've been up to.  These are all SOLD custom orders... 


 
 
 



This next bit...  Makes me giddy.   A couple months ago Brave Girls Club asked me to come over and tool a cuff on time lapse.  This four hour+ process was trimmed down to a little over 8 minutes.  Its a bit hard to see the detail, but if you want to know how I do it..... 

I've got moves... 





Love Cam
xoxo
(Thanks for sticking with me)