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Monday, November 3, 2014

Holy Crapoly! "A Field Guide to Happiness" at a Steal!

Hey Peeps, pardon this thing that seems like a sales pitch, but Linda Leaming just posted on her facebook page that her book A Field Guide to Happiness is on sale over at Amazon. Well, the e-book version anyhoo. So, all you folks who wanted to win in me wee give away but didn't, you can snag a copy for $1.99 until November 10th! Holy crapoly!

No, I'm not getting any kick back for this. I just adore her and love the book. So, snag a copy! I'll hopefully have an interview with Miss Linda up before the end of this month. Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

More important than all that noise, VOTE TOMORROW. It matters. Yes, I know the game is rigged. Yes, I know big money is fucking us all over. Even more reason to fight back with all you've got. Your vote is a powerful tool in that arsenal. Use it. (Please and thank you.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

And the Winners are...

The winners of Linda Leaming's new book, A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up are...(drum roll) Elizabeth and Roxie! Yay!

Awesome sauce divas, please email me your mailing addresses at consciouslyfrugal (at) yahoo (dot) com, and I will ship your lovely books.

I'm going to compile a list of questions for Linda Leaming this week, so if y'all have anything you'd like to know about life in Bhutan, the life of a writer, etc., just ask away in the comments section, and I'll include them in my interview.

Thanks for playing, y'all. In  honor of how awesome you are, I leave you with this:


YOU'RE WELCOME.









Friday, October 17, 2014

Free Snaps Cook Book (and don't forget about the give away!)

First, here's a quick reminder about the give away (2 copies!) of the fabulous book A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up. 

Take your pretty self to the post below this bad boy and comment to enter. If you have any questions for the author, Linda Leaming, jot those down as well. I'll be doing an interview with her later.

Since I'm all about free, cheap, and awesome, I thought I'd quickly share something you've all probably heard of: Good and Cheap, a SNAP-friendly cookbook. SNAP is the new fancy acronym of what we used to call food stamps. Anyhoo, Good and Cheap was a graduate project of Leanne Brown, who wanted to provide a resource of healthy, affordable recipes for folks living on SNAPS. The best part of this cookbook? It's FREE. Just click the link above and download that puppy.

I've tried a few recipes and enjoyed them all. It's a great little primer on how to eat well on a tight budget. My favorite element is that she encourages substitutions. I watch a lot of America's Test Kitchen (ATK) on PBS and was starting to think that if I didn't follow a recipe exactly, the entire kitchen would implode from my epic failure. Turns out, that's not the case. ATK is just run by folks with OCD. Bless their hearts.

Anyhoo, the recipes are simple, not all carb-laden, and encourage use of what you have. I tried a new way of making brussel sprouts that has become my go-to, and in my newly discovered bravery, I added a splash of half-and-half to it. Hello, delicious. But we all know that fat makes everything better, which is why my fat ass makes everything delightful.

Wait, what? Oh yeah, Good and Cheap. Give it a read, download, and cook yourself a series of delicious meals for only $4 a day. And don't forget to sign up for the give away in the previous post! Doors close at midnight PST on Monday for that freebie delight.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review & Give Away: A Field Guide to Happiness by Linda Leaming

A few years ago, I read and reviewed a delightful book called Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming. Absolutely loved that book. If you haven't read it, go do so now. It's ok. I'll wait. Back? Great. You dug it, didn't you? I knew you would.

I ended up becoming pen pals (do we call it email pals these days?) with Linda and even bought a couple of her husband Namgay's paintings. I kept hoping she'd write another book, because I wanted to know more about Kinlay, if she ever traveled back to the States, and to see if she could make me laugh about stuff that's actually kind of horrifying. (She has an odd talent with that.) So I was super stoked when I learned she would have a new book coming out. Even more excited when she sent me a copy to review. But then I got nervous. Nervous, children.

The last book about travel and living in a new culture that I read and also loved (Under the Tuscan Sun) had a follow-up (Bella Tuscany) that sucked hairy donkey balls. Holy shit, Batman! What if Linda's new book sucks? No matter how groovy I think my email pal is, I am not praising a shitty book. Ain't happening, son. Well, glory to the Almighty, I don't have to worry about that. I actually think I might like her follow-up, A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up more than I did Married to Bhutan.

First things first: Linda Leaming is funny as fuck. Hi-larry-us. I read most of the book in public, which means I made a complete fool of myself, laughing and snorting in front of strangers. But I could not help myself. She has a lovely way of making her self-deprecating humor seem universal, thereby somehow letting us all off the hook for being jackasses (on occasion, naturally. I'm sure you're brilliant most of the time).

She is also the only Westerner who can talk about Buddhism without irritating the living bejeezus out of me.  I live in the Los Angeles area, where people routinely shove their heads up their asses in homage to yoga (not Buddhist, I know) and quote the Dalai Lama as if he is, in fact, a god. They preach about the ills of ego while shoving botox and juviderm in their faces at an alarming rate, oblivious to the irony. If I make it out of Southern California without punching one of those annoying assholes, it will be a miracle.

Clearly I have not mastered any Buddhist principles.

Anyhoo, do you ever have those experiences where you receive a bit of information or some kind of comfort just as you need it? This book was absolutely that for me. One of my mantras for this year is Calm the Fuck Down. A Field Guide to Happiness's first chapter? Calm Down. Can I get a witness?

Beyond her hilarity, the book actually gives practical advice on how to be happier. Chapter three, Learn to Breathe, relates a Buddhist story about a monk, our brains, a tree, a demon, and breathing. I cannot tell you how many breathing exercises people have tried to teach me over the years. They did nothing but irritate me. But something about this story and how she relayed it put a visual in my mind that actually helped me get through a very difficult stretch (discussed here, in a post about growing up in a violent home). People have been trying to help me calm down with breathing exercises for 20 years to no avail. All it took was one Southern writer telling a Buddhist tale. Who knew? I now use that visual to help me focus on my breathing and (say it with me now) Calm the Fuck Down daily. It is changing my life. (Thank you, Linda.)

There are lots of other examples of simple, practical tools, such as drinking tea (which sounded more like LSD in that chapter but I'll let you suss that one out for yourself) and taking long walks that are told with such humor that it seems like something I had never considered previously. Then again, walking in the mountains of Bhutan is an experience I couldn't fathom before I read her work. There are tender chapters, See the World with Your Heart and Parent Yourself, where Linda's humor is matched by a softness that made me wish I could cuddle the book without getting paper cuts.

But I think what I loved the most about this A Field Guide to Happiness is that it acknowledges that life is hard. Americans are diabolical when it comes to positive and magical thinking to the point where we seem to believe that if life isn't one constant state of bliss, we're somehow doing it wrong. Linda actually has a chapter titled Don't Expect Everything to Always Work Out. I was a bit shocked when I first read that chapter title. That sentiment is the antithesis of what so many of us hear these days, particularly in the age of the "Law of Attraction." I firmly believe that relentless insistence on blissed-out positivity is actually making us more anxious and depressed. Sometimes shit doesn't work out. And that's okay. (See chapter 1: Calm Down.) There is such a sense of relief in acknowledging that life ebbs and flows and is often difficult. That does not mean it is broken. It just is. Even when things suck, it's okay. I don't have to force a silver lining. I can just sit with it and then go about my day. Insert deep, relieving sigh.

A Field Guide to Happiness is a beautiful book. Hilarious, tender, insightful, and delightfully accessible. I love it. I think you should have a copy, which is why I'm giving two copies away. I'm also going to interview Linda (she doesn't know this yet, but by god she'll tolerate it) for this little corner of the interwebs.

So, if you would like to be entered into the give away, please leave a comment indicating so in the comments section. Folks who comment via email, feel free to let me know via email. And if you have a question for Linda about the book, her writing, what it's like to live between Bhutan and Tennessee, how she manages a cross-cultural marriage (that shit ain't easy, yo), or anything else your pretty little head can think of, just ask in the comments section, and I'll try to add it to the interview mix.

The give away closes next Monday, October 20th, at midnight. If you can't wait that long, I encourage you to get a copy for yourself. It's definitely going to be one of my go-to books for a shot of humor and practical wisdom to help me through this strange experience called life. I think it will help you too.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Domestic Violence

Pardon the lack of posting. I've been insanely busy! And just plain ol' insane. Please also forgive me for delving into (seemingly) non-consciously frugal related topics. But then again, all of this stuff is connected. At least for this gal.

*Trigger warning* I am going to talk about domestic violence/men's violence against women. If this is a sensitive topic for you, please exit this blog and spend some time with Calming Manatee.

I normally do not write or talk about this issue, as it is a major trigger for me. But I am learning that avoiding the issue results in compulsive behavior around spending and eating. At least for me. I'm sure the rest of you are way saner. So, in the name of sanity over compulsion, I'm going there.

Regular readers know by now that I was a raised in violence. My father was an abusive alcoholic. My brother and I used to joke that we thought we'd end up dying in a murder-suicide at the hands of my father, and we couldn't believe we were still around. Sadly, not all of my family members are fairing well. Addiction and violence are often systemic and multi-generational in families. My family is pretty much a textbook case.

Recently, an NFL football player was caught punching his wife on video camera. There was a great deal of discourse about it in the media. As is typical in discussions around men's violence, a majority of the conversation centered on the victim's "role" and "responsibility." My facebook feed was littered with chatter about her "choice" to stay with  him. I saw virtually nothing about his choice to punch her in the face. I actually got into an argument with a guy over his focus on her choice to marry the guy. I might have dropped an F-bomb or two. Were he in front of my face (he lives in my building), I would have decked him as I asked him why he "chose" to provoke me. Needless to say, this shit pisses me off.

For anyone who doesn't understand why women "choose" to stay, let me offer a story. One night, my mother packed me and my sister into the car (my other sister no longer lived with us due to my father's violence, but that's another story entirely) and attempted to leave my dad. Somehow, he found us. He always did. We were still trying to make our escape as he rammed our car off the side of the road. In typical fashion, he had a loaded weapon with him and threatened to use it if my mother didn't allow him into the car. Fearing for our lives, she let him in. He proceeded to bash her head into the dashboard the entire way home as my sister and I sat in the back, screaming. In between blows to her head, he threatened to kill us if we ever left again.

Choice is not what you think it is in violent environments.

Let's talk about choice of a different kind. Why do we choose to focus on the victim's "role?" Misogyny is at the table, of course. Victim blaming is a national pastime, at least when the victim is a woman. But I think there's another issue at play here--men's collective responsibility to address their violence and create solutions. There are anger management programs that are court mandated. I've never read any research on their efficacy.  Thus far, the only public campaign I've seen around men's violence involves the "Real Men" campaign, where celebrities hold signs that read "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" or "Real Men Don't Hit Their Partners." This campaign is useless horseshit.

Forgive me for getting on the "nothing's ever good enough" bandwagon. I really don't mean to do that here. I believe ANY effort in addressing men's violence against women is a good start. But I have to ask, is the "Real Men" campaign truly your A-game? 'Cuz if so, you need to get back to the drawing board, son. Let me explain why.

The Real Men campaign is an attempt at shaming men into behaving better. It uses the language of misogyny, which is asinine. If men who hurt women aren't "real" men, what are they? Bitches? So, um...they're women, and that's inherently gross, amiright? If they aren't men, are they then boys? What's wrong with being a boy? Are boys inherently violent? I don't think so. If we're asking men to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their behavior, I would argue that shaming is the least effective way in which to do so.

Shame doesn't heal. In fact, shame can push people into unwanted behavior, namely addiction and violence. Hurt people hurt. Hurt people merit our compassion. We know this, but we have such a difficult time having compassion for a violent man. His behavior is repugnant. Brutal. How in god's name can we possible have compassion for someone who does such unbelievably fucked up things? Because lawd knows, no matter how you feel, behavior is a choice.

My father and uncles used to tell stories of how their mother would beat their younger siblings when they were breastfeeding. If one of my uncles was teething and bit down on her nipple, she would start beating them in the face. The older kids would rush in and grab the baby from her. So, yeah. It doesn't surprise me that my father, having been battered since birth, grew up to be an abuser. That's the only way I learned to have compassion for him--seeing him as an infant, being beaten. Did that excuse his brutality towards my mother? Of course not. But it did help me realize that shaming him would do nothing to mitigate his violence. It made me realize that to stop the violence, he would have to heal his woundedness. He would have to choose to walk into dark memories he tried to drown with booze and drugs. He would need a support system in which to do so. That support system isn't going to be found in the Real Men movement. That support system didn't exist when I was a child. In fact, domestic violence wasn't even a crime when I was a kid. I ain't that old.

Make no mistake--real men brutalize women. I don't even want to get into the crap around gender stereotypes here. The husbands, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, brothers, and friends who hurt us are real men. That's the problem. They aren't some fictional "other." They are men we love. Men who are respected in their communities. Men who make us laugh. They are men we love. Can we just say that a few thousand times? The men who hurt us are men we love. They. Are. Men. We. Love. I loved my father. Felt fiercely loved by him. His love helped to ground me. The parts of my being I love the most are from my father. And he was also a man who terrorized me. The most broken parts of my being are from my father. That painful dichotomy is the reality of domestic violence.

It's so much easier to talk about a woman's choices in violent situations, because we can have compassion for the victim. We can talk about self-esteem and choices, because it doesn't really require any real systemic change. Domestic violence shelters exist. Women step up and take care of our own. Over and over and over. (Not to suggest even for a moment that there are enough resources out there for women.)

But what of men? What are men doing to step up and take care of their own? The only effective, national programs I have seen to help wounded men center around warriors. Men who have gone to combat and return with PTSD, some of whom are violent towards those they love or end up in the criminal justice system. Warriors are working to take care of their own. They help each other go to dark places, to heal from unimaginable pain. Counseling, meditation, group therapy, EMDR, and a host of other therapeutic modalities exist to help warriors.

I don't think we can ask warriors to carry the burden of healing men's violence as well. It's too much to say--fight our wars, take care of your own when they return broken from combat, and oh, by the way, can you also deal with the general population's violence against women? KThx! But we can ask the Average Joe to pick up the tools the warrior community is using to address violence against women. And make no mistake--this is a men's issue. I really don't like using the phrase "violence against women," because it doesn't lay responsibility at the feet of men. Let's call it what it truly is--men's violence against women. It's a men's issue. And it's high time men stepped the fuck up and started dealing with it, because the only way it will ever end is when men decide to make it stop.

There is no choice a woman can make that will stop a man's violence. Improving my mother's self-esteem would not have stopped my father's fists. My father was completely responsible for his own behavior. The only way men will stop hurting women is when men choose to stand up, reach out to their brothers, and provide the support necessary to give men a space in which to heal.

So, why do I bring this issue up? Beyond, yanno, my never ending love of TMI? Because I have PTSD. It's common among folks who grow up in violence (and survive rape, combat, insert whatever other horror). I have had that diagnosis for 23 years. It wasn't until I started working with veterans that I learned there are specific protocols for treating it. (No, I don't know how I was given the diagnosis but not ever provided treatment for it. Welcome to healthcare in America.) It's common for folks with PTSD to engage in compulsive behavior as a means for escape. We all engage in escapist behavior to some extent, but PTSD takes that extra-extra-read-all-about-it mile.

I've coped with all kinds of compulsive behaviors over the years, which has greatly impacted my health. I've known women from violent backgrounds who have closets stuffed full of clothes they've never worn because they shop compulsively and ended up drowning in debt as a result. I have painful health issues because I've eaten compulsively (officially Binge Eating Disorder) for years. Until we realize what's truly going on, we simply jump from one new budget or diet plan to another, confused as to why we can't seem to make that shit work. Well, we can't make that shit work 'cuz it's not the budget or the lack of broccoli that's the issue. It's the running and hiding from ancient wounds. Yanno, the same impulse that makes a man run to a bottle and violent outburst.

That is the path I find myself on now, in my attempt to reach health and financial stability. It is overwhelming and frightening and blessedly freeing. I wasn't able to admit the impact of PTSD to myself until I started working with veterans and realized that my issues mirrored theirs. What surprised me most was that I wasn't able to feel safe enough to take the steps necessary to start the healing process until after my father died, because part of me, buried deep, was still terrified that he would find me and kill me. If you don't look at it, it doesn't exist, right?

Which brings us back to the issue of choice. I choose to take care of myself. I choose to take zero responsibility for my father's violence. I choose to lay the responsibility of men's violence directly at the feet of men. This is your tribe. Your community. Your gender. Deal with your shit.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Methods for Cutting Spending

In my quest to get out of debt without going full on bat shit over it, I've realized that I need to cut spending so that I can accelerate debt payment AND still buy crap I want and need.  I'm not going full on frugal zealot here, 'cuz I'm old and bitchy and the moment I try to deprive myself, I end up compensating by binging in some manner. So, I suppose I should say that I'm old, bitchy and insane. Fair enough.

After spending like a typical American (aka above my means) for a few years, I'm pulling myself back into my consciously frugal ways. I've gotten better about battling the impulse to throw money at every problem. I got a new dog recently (post on that adorable doll coming soon!), and she loves to sleep in the oddest places. I realized a nice little doggie house would be good for her. Gotta buy that! Uh, no. No I don't gotta buy that. I can let her continue to sleep in odd places and buy nothing. I can also convert a cardboard box into a little dwelling (gonna do that eventually). Doing nothing is always an option. So is being creative. Money doesn't need to be thrown at every issue that pops up. Can I get a witness?

So, the 1st method of cutting spending: just don't buy shit. Pretty simple, eh? Whenever I get the urge to buy something now, I ask myself: can I make do with something I already have to fulfill this want or need? Most often, the answer is yes.

2nd method: a cooling off period. I send a link of whatever I want to buy to my bestie, QP (that's short for Queefing Pussy. Be grateful if you're not my friend in the day-to-day, 'cuz my love is kinda mean), and he then mocks me in some manner for wanting whatever it is, then tells me to stick in in my Pinterest account and check back in a week to see if I still want it. It's an awesome trick, because the pinning makes me feel like I somehow "own" it, and I generally don't give a shit about it in a week.

3rd method: be aware of what I have and use what I have. It's actually fairly easy not to spend when you realize just how much crap you have, particularly after a couple years of buy, buy, buy. I have so many clothes, it's ridiculous. But that's a first! And one I am incredibly thankful for after years of awful fat girl clothes. (Thank you, Igigi.) So, for those items that I already have plenty of, I have a No Buying rule. No clothes. I have at least 4 dresses that need to be altered. Those are my "new" clothes, because I've yet to wear them. That's right! I own clothes I haven't worn yet. Excess, much? No new kitchen gadgets. Actually, nothing new in the apartment until my decluttering project is finished. I'm also using the "be aware" method when it comes to food. Digging through my pantry and freezer and using what's there. An inventory would probably help here, but ain't nobody got time for that.

4th method: no new recurring expenses and reduce those expenses where I can. I don't have a lot of the typical expenses most Americans have. No cable. My internet is about $20 a month, which is less than half of what most of my friends pay. No gym membership. I use a public pool that is much cheaper than a gym and allows a per-use payment system.

I can reduce some recurring expenses through crafty means. For example, I now buy flea meds for medium size dogs and use one tube for my two small dogs. $20 a month to $10. BOOM.

The one glaring recurring expense that makes me cringe is my cell phone. For years, I used a drug dealer phone (aka flip phone), despite being mocked heavily for it, at a cost of about $200 a year. When I got divorced and started dating, I caved and got a smart phone. (Dudes really love texting and exchanging photos. When did men become teenage girls?) I got an iPhone 5 for $50, which is apparently a good deal, but I pay $98 a month for my unlimited plan. That's too much. I am going to see about getting a cheaper plan when my contract is up. I dream that one day I will be able to give up the smart phone. Time will tell.

5th method: reduce or eliminate wasteful flexible spending. My biggest area of waste is in eating out. I've mentioned previously that I was spending $800 to $1,000 a month on eating out. My mother's best line in response to such idiocy? "I don't understand why you spend so much money on something that turns into poop." I've dropped that amount to $200 a month, and the majority of it needs to be in a social situation. I was eating shit tons of fast food and delivery, which was making me miserable. But going out with the girls, having a great meal and a few drinks? Absolutely wonderful. Granted, in LA, $200 doesn't take you very far, so we're doing picnics and other non-spendy stuff.

I currently spend about $100 a week on groceries, including household items like laundry detergent. I plan on separating out those costs and reducing my grocery bill to $60 a week, not including bulk purchase meats. I have 7 cubic feet of frozen dead animal, so I really don't need to worry about meat for many, many moons. $60 a week should more than cover veggies and other food items. I'm going to have to stop it with novelty items and buying expensive crap every single week. I don't need prosciutto every week. Special items should not be confused with daily items. Why I need to be reminded of this at 41 is absurd, but there you go.

6th method: if I can make it for less, do so. I purchase crazy expensive items that I could easily make myself. For instance, I pay $4 for a 12 ounce bottle of kombucha tea. That's kinda pricey for some bacteria-laden sugar water. Dumb. So, I plan to start making a few items myself that I normally purchase, such as kombucha, yogurt and bread ($4.50 a loaf. Seriously, assholes?). I'm also making my own "convenience" foods, which is really just about freezing items I've cooked in bulk.

I'm also going back to making my own cleaning products. Not that I actually clean. But I had started purchasing 7th Generation and other "green" cleaners out of laziness. Laziness will be the death of me. 

7th method: find cheaper entertainment. I am currently crocheting a MASSIVE blanket. Great project! I absolutely love it. I also spent $100 on the yarn to make it. That's a damned expensive blankie. So, I am learning how to do fun projects but with cheaper supplies. My next project will be a rag rug made from old sheets I no longer use. These projects also occupy my time, which decreases my urge to spend.

To keep within my $200 budget and build a better social life, I will need to find fun stuff to do with friends that doesn't involve $10 happy hour cocktails. Dinner and drinks at home, hanging at the beach, etc. I'm also renewing my library card for free entertainment via books, DVDs and CDs. Hard to believe, but it actually expired and showed that I hadn't used it in 2 years! Insane.

8th method: therapy. This certainly isn't standard in the frugal living game, but I am creature of compulsion. Although it is primarily around food, there are times when I have shopped compulsively. So, I set up an FSA and will start seeing a shrink this month to help me learn healthier coping mechanisms for the ol' PTSD. And yes, I will totally do a TMI around all that at some point. You have been warned.

That's my plan, folks. What have I missed? Any suggestions? Are you still awake?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Long Climb out of Debt

I've been asked a few times about how exactly I plan on getting out of the massive hole of debt I'm currently in. I told y'all about the insane credit card debt, but I also have a car loan and student loan debt on top of the credit card crap (which will henceforth be called Idiot Debt).

So, over Labor Day weekend (thank you, unions!), I figured out my full debt package and plotted a plan. It will take a total of six years to knock out all the debt. I have the fortunate misfortune of making too much money to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (not 100% sure about this, but I am about 99.8% sure. I'll let you know if I find a loophole), despite the fact that I work at a non-profit. But, if I continue at my current rate of payment, I will have paid DOUBLE the amount of the initial loan by the time I'm done. To hell with that.

The six year estimate is a generous one, taking into account that Shit Happens. I did not calculate both "extra" checks (I get paid every two weeks, aka 26 paychecks, but base my budget on two pay periods a month or 24 checks) into debt repayment, or the full amount of tax returns (more on why I get a tax return at another time) or any raises. I allow that Shit Happens and something will probably pop up that will eat some of those "extra" funds. Despite the inevitability of Murphy's Law, I will likely get out of the hole sooner than that, but slow and steady wins the race.  At least in this brain.

Six years. I'll be 47. One, I cannot honestly believe I'm as old as I am (isn't that maturity thing supposed to happen at some point?) or that I will be creeping up on 50 and in debt. I want to cry. I want to believe fairies or a rich hottie or a huge pay increase (actually going to go after the latter, but that's another tale) will come along and save me, but the joy of being as old as I am has rendered me the following bit of wisdom: I am my own savior. No need to wait on anyone or anything else.

The game plan is this:
1. Pay off the credit cards first and aggressively as possible without going batshit or triggering any cray cray; when that's done, move those payments to the student loan debt. The car will be paid off at its current rate, because I have a crazy low interest rate on it.
2. All monies from raises will go into debt repayment. I didn't calculate that in, because in my field, you can never predict how that tide will turn.
3. Pick up a couple of paid freelance gigs each year and throw that money into debt repayment.
4. Earn a substantial raise (this is possible at my new gig, given the responsibility of my position, despite how insanely attached to martyrdom my field is) and toss it towards debt.
5. Reduce spending (this is a separate post).
6. Keep funneling unspent money from my current budget into my "wants" file, so that I don't feel deprived and say FuckIt and just go back to old behavior. Thus far, I have saved $360 towards some new furniture I'd like. It's incredibly motivating to save in this manner, for some odd reason, despite the fact that it's gonna take eons for me to afford the stuff I want at this pace. But I also have a rule of nothing new in the house until ALL the clutter is gone. That's also gonna take me forever. WIN-WIN, HEIFERS.
7. No new clothes for at least one year, except for undies and bras, 'cuz well...undies and bras.

When I hit that magical day of having paid off this hefty demon, I will then shove that monthly chunk into savings so that I can get the fuck out of this concrete shit hole and find my way back to a chunk of land and a piece of sanity. It's entirely possible that a number of magical things could happen that will bring me to a nice place in the country before then while still allowing me to pay off my debt. But right now, I have to plan with what I've got, and what I've got is a long ass road ahead. Paved in concrete and asshole drivers, SoCal style.

I keep telling myself I'm a late bloomer, which is true. The other reality is--holyhell, have I been a well-informed idiot. It's astounding that a handful of crappy years could cause so much damage financially, and even more unfathomable that I handled it so poorly. But what's done is done. Time to move forward, making sound decisions. I am grateful for the clarity I have now and for the earning capacity I have at this point in my life, particularly given my do-gooder field. Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, everything will be just fine.