It’s no secret that things have been financially tough for a lot of people lately. I’m not independently wealthy, but I’ve felt pretty blessed to have a steady job and even a few small extra streams of income. With that said, there are lots of expenses to meet every month, and I think I can do much better with how I manage that income. My goal for week three was to do something small to help me get into a better financial situation.
I think there are a lot of available resources out there to help people financially. For instance, I went to my bank’s website and there was an informative web seminar posted called “Stay on budget for 2010” that I listened to. (If you have a minute and are interested, you can check it out at https://www.zionsbank.com/webcast_0110.jsp?zid=1776.) They also have an online budgeting tool (found at www.zionsbankezbudget.com) that you don’t even need to be a bank client to use. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Aside from listening to the seminar and starting to formulate my own personal budget (which I plan to implement ASAP), I wanted to take concrete and measurable action this week. So, I focused on Lucy.
I drove around for years in a blue used ’89 Toyota Corolla I named “Waldo” because I was constantly asking, “Where’s Waldo?” when I was trying to find him in a big parking lot. Sadly, the day came when Waldo had to retire and I was faced with my first purchase of a car on my own.
Luckily, my roommate’s father worked for a car dealership and gave me a screamin’ deal on Lucy (named because she’s a redhead and I love her). I was surprised that my years of never using a credit card worked against me, because I didn’t have much of a credit history. They did the best they could to find me a car loan, but the interest rate I ended up with was pretty high.
This week, I decided the time had come to stop throwing money away on interest. I went to a credit union my friends recommended and met Marie. I had done my homework, so the process went pretty smoothly. On the first visit, I gave her a lot of information and documents that I had collected. Then Marie got the loan approved and I returned to finish the deal. She handed me a check to pay off the loan to my former creditors and got me set up to pay the remaining balance to them. The bottom line is that I went from paying 9.79% interest to 4.99% and cut my monthly payments pretty much in half.
The process was pretty painless, and I wish that I had done it sooner. But truthfully, I don’t know if I would have taken the initiative to refinance the loan if it weren’t for this experiment. It has helped me shake up the way I use my discretionary time. It’s offered a shift in perspective and a fresh curiosity about life. It’s been great to have goals, motivation, and accountability to explore new things. And this week, it feels good to have taken a few small steps toward financial freedom.