The End (for now)

In October 2013, I wrote the first post on this blog. I had hit Rock Bottom, rather hard, and in the early stages of the journey Out of Debt, I got company from Guilt and Shame, keeping me from reaching out to or confiding in the people closest to me, but offering me an anonymous platform here.

Apart from a very select group of “real life” friends, I soon learned there was no need to feel lonely: not only  did I learn I was far from the only one who’d – for whatever reason – dealt with debt, but I found interesting reads and guidance through the tunnel of which I thought the light was switched off.

Today, I’m still in debt, but the +84K I was facing a little under two years ago, has almost been reduced in half, and I’m still aggressively paying back what is left. More importantly – and more than ever – I know the day will come that there’s no debt left, and that day has become a very real target.

I turned from an emotional spender, addicted to brands and all things fancy, to someone who finds joy in very small and simple things. Don’t get me wrong, I long for the day where I can purchase nice things again, but when that day comes, I’ll know I can buy them. I’ll know that I’ve paid rent and all my bills, that I’ve put money towards savings and an Emergency Fund. I’ll know I’ve looked after retirement and insurances. I’ll know that I’ve done well.

I haven’t been able to keep up with writing here, for the fortunate reason that I have a job that I love. But on a more personal note, because I feel this blog has served its purpose to me, and I want a final cut with the life that once was, in honor to celebrate the life ahead of me.

I do have a new 365 days project up and running, though – with less writing and less focus on money, but nevertheless a journey. You can find at www.chasingdreamsandapples.wordpress.com, and learn a different perspective on my life. You can also follow me on Instagram: debby_1979.

I hope to see you there.

For now, on here, this is goodbye. Thank you so much for reading – and for posting your own tales, stories and adventures out of debt. Along the way, I got to “know” many of you, some in person, some just virtually – but all of you so supportive – and I can’t thank you enough for that.

And take it from someone who, at some point, thought it was hopeless: it isn’t. There’s a way out of debt – it’s not easy. It’s very hard at times…

But – my God – is it worth it.

Keep believing.

All my love,

Debby.

 

A Year of More.

Last year, I wrote a post on Fit is The New Poor, where I listed 12 Ridiculous Resolutions, determined to stick with them throughout the full twelve months. But as it appeared, even ridiculous resolutions are hard to hold on to, and while they served their purpose for a good while, it got harder to dedicate my time to them as my life took a turn.

It was resolution #10 that stirred some commotion, in the early hours of 2014. I had toasted loudly to the switch of years, proclaiming that the time had come to for me to Fall in Love. A statement that had some people believe I was jinxing the very possibility of that happening. For a while, it didn’t look good. Being broke and financially instable, I felt anything but diving into the dating scene, let alone dipping as much as a toe in the pool of fishes. But then a new job came, accompanied by a new salary, career opportunities and newfound hope… and weeks after that all fell into my lap, I was able to check off one resolution of my list as completed. For the first time in forever, I won’t be scanning a room, looking for the next best victim to kiss when the clock strikes midnight and the ball makes a stop above Times Square. This time, I’m just gonna kiss my boyfriend, full on the lips.

Although I’ve definitely proven that resolutions – in any shape or form – are bound to be broken, forgotten or dished along the way, I now also know for certain that you do get what you set out to acquire.

I had to give that some thought for the year to come. Was I going to make a list again, a second attempt to stick with stuff that seemed worthwhile in the final days of a year passing? Or was there any other way to approach the New Year with a clear statement of my expectations?

So I decided not to be modest, and just take a bigger bite out of life – that’s how hungry 2014 has made me, as it was a year filled with miracles, however small.

So for the coming year, I’m setting my mind on…

… more love. More adventure. More work. More happiness. More friendship. More champagne. More laughter. More Money. More humor. More writing, maybe. More prosperity. More success. More small acts of kindness. More giving. More yoga. More parties. More healthy food. More sports. More summer. More affection. More Kundalini. More kisses. More New York. More travel. More hugs. More small things. More big things. Meer fun. More joy. More knowledge. More books. More days of “la belle far niente”. More busy days, adrenaline rushing. More opportunities. More dreams. More listening. More miracles, for sure. Meer Being. More me, but also more of him…

… you know, just a little bit more of all the good and pretty things. That’d be more than enough.

And for you, I wish for the same.

Cheers.

via  stylabl.com

via stylabl.com

Oh, Hell No!

A couple of weeks ago, my health insurance started sending me emails, reminding me that it wasn’t too late to get my (free!) annual check-up AND receive a 40$ Amazon gift certificate. The latter is what had me cave in. Plus, it seemed legit to have my health checked – better to be safe than sorry.

So, I got online and browsed their list of doctors, and chose an office close to my job, so I could head in prior to work.

Needless to say, when I called, I double-checked whether this female doctor whom I hoped would become my local generalist, accepted my insurance. I checked again when I finally got to the appointment, and when they wanted about every bodily fluid to exam at the lab, I triple-checked whether all these costs would be covered. I’m not peeing in a cup if it’s going to cost me 400 bucks, thank-you-very-much.

But all was good, the results came back without anything to worry about. Healthy as a horse, this one!

Until I checked the page at the insurance’s website today and I nearly died of a heart attack: it stated the lab work claim had been approved (for an amount of 483 dollars!), but my visit to the doctor itself got denied, and I owed 398 dollars.

Say what!? Hell, no!

via degrassi.wikia.com

via degrassi.wikia.com

In the past, I probably would have cried a little, and then eventually shrug and spend about 400 dollars on a doctor’s visit I hadn’t really needed to begin with. But I refused to let this go. And so I send them a nice an email.

I emailed this to customer service also, but I’m so aggravated that I wanted to address this:  

a couple of weeks ago, I got some emails calling for an annual check-up. No harm, no foul, I thought, and since 2 doctor’s visits are included in my plan, I used your search tool for a doctor.    

Now, I see that the claim for this visit was denied and I should pay almost 400$??? for someone to put a stethoscope on my chest and have me pee in a pot??? Because she’s “out of my network”? How is that even possible if I found her through the your recommended doctors?? 

No. 

We pay over 400$ a month get my ass covered here in the States, and I cannot agree with this way of working – which, since I found this doctor through your search engine – is misleading. 

 

I had an email back within the hour, stating there had been a mistake, and I didn’t owe a single penny.

And that, people, is why you need to question everything.

Update: Getting a Raise.

Yesterday, I got to witness the difference between working for a horrible company and working for an amazing company.

Without even having to ask and regardless of my thoroughly written previous post, I got offered a raise. My bosses’ way of telling me they’re happy with me, my efforts and appreciative of how I’ve been handling my job.

I had a huge migraine last night, keeping me from jumping up and down and doing a little crazy dance on the Subway home, but man, ‘happy’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

happy-dance-o

Next up: revising my budget…

And stepping it up at the job even more.

 

Preparing for a Raise.

For my new job, I’m currently the only employee in the States. That means I have no daily supervision during my workdays at all – my bosses are abroad, and although we Skype often, there’s no one around to check if my lunch break was 24 minutes or 46.

That liberty and independence is great – although, I must admit, not for everyone. Self-discipline is key here: at the end of the day, the job has to be done, and eventually, results will need to be shown.

That also means that I have quite some responsibility. 17 people rely on me growing the business over here. So along with all the effort I’m putting in, I know I’m blessed with immense growth potential, pride in building something from the ground up.

I can’t complain about my current salary – it’s a good start. However, effort needs to be rewarded, n’est-ce pas. And when it comes to money in New York City, less is definitely never enough, so we all strive for more.

Now, if there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s to ask for a raise. It’s like wanting to sell a house: you know you’ll never get what you want, and the buyer will always feel like they’ve paid too much. And although I have not yet excruciating numbers to bring to the table, I have been preparing to justify a raise, and this is how:

 

  1. Keep track.

I learned this one the hard way and during my previous job, where my ‘efforts’ were questioned. From day 1 at my new job, I’ve been keeping a log: one where I note my day to day activities, and one where I keep track of all my calls (I do a lot of prospection). The former is brief and gives an overview of my day: from 9 to 11 I answered incoming emails and made relevant calls, did paperwork and organized incoming mail. From 11am to 1pm I focused on Business Development and set new visits and presentations. It goes on like that, until the day is over.

For the latter, I keep track of all the offices I contact: when did I first call them? Who did I speak to, how did I follow up that call? By the time I finally get my foot in the door and set a presentation, I may have called on them four times over a span of two months, but at least it shows how much effort it took me.

 

  1. Investigate.

Ah, the internet, that bottomless well of information! In order to know if you get paid well for the job you’re doing, dedicate a little time to investigation. When we set my initial salary for a job that no one really knew what it would imply, I was happy… but now that I know what I’m really doing, and how that translates in a title, it’s time to step it up. My current income is about 10,000 dollars lower than the average pay of someone in my position (in New York). And that’s a no-no, peeps. That means someone out there might be willing to pay me a lot more for my knowledge. Leverage!

via knight.knationu.com

via knight.knationu.com

  1. Make yourself Irreplaceable.

Ok, this is a tough one, everyone is replaceable, right? But there are ways to make it a little tougher. In my case, it’s my list of contacts. In the beginning, I really planned on putting that list on our companies server, but after careful consideration, I thought… nah, this info is too valuable. In the event that I walk away, someone else would have to start all over again, causing a huge delay. Try to do, have or mean something for the company that is of value – not so much to you, maybe… but definitely to them (or other companies).

 

  1. Give it Your all.

I can not tell you how good I feel at my job. I’m trusted, respected and appropriately praised for my efforts. However much I want a raise and for – what I believe to be – the right reasons, there’s one thing both you and I need to understand. If you’re working for a company, here’s the rule of thumb: a company’s main goal is to make money. That means it’s not there to pay your rent, your grocery bills, your Netflix subscription. You (and me), the employee, we get paid an amount of money that might allow us to pay for all that, but initially, you get paid an income because you put in a service, labor, an effort. A raise, then, is a reward for walking an extra mile, show results, benefit the company.

I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind these past months: my financial wealth will go up, if the company’s financial wealth goes up. And that should be the goal: make the company better.

 

via leslieknopelifecoach.tumblr.com

via leslieknopelifecoach.tumblr.com

That all being said: I’m visiting the Belgian headquarters in December (following spending Christmas with my family!), and that is when I anticipate having a talk. Fingers crossed!!

 

PS: on an unrelated note: I’m meeting my boyfriend’s family on Thanksgiving. I guess you could say I got a raise in this relationship as well…

The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything.

If you haven’t heard of Banksy, you’ve been living under a rock and I feel for you in that tight spot it must be over there.

If you did, you know that he manages to keep his face a mistery from the world, succeeding better at that than the guys from Daft Punk. He’s basically responsible for making graffiti Uber Cool, heaving it to a form of art and using it as a platform to get us questioning issues such as our Social Media Use or our Consumerism.

Ever since I’ve started actually consciously dealing with my dollars, I’ve been wondering about our consumerism and the influence of adds on our shopping behavior. See, I’m one to switch the channel when a commercial comes up, I cringe when You Tube has one of those 28 second promo videos that you can’t click “Skip” for and unless it has a super-catchy-pitch-that-I-can-use-as-an-instagram-quote, I don’t notice the billboards.

But since people still spend huge amounts of money on adds and commercials, I figure they work and we all get subconsciously spoon-fed our next purchase: a ticket to the Lion King. Ten pounds of M&M’s. A couple of square inches in a storage facility. An Alexander Wang for H&M dress. Health insurance. A chemical peel. An education.

Did I tell you Times Square is around the corner from me and I get there on a train plastered with silly adds? Yeah.

Once you start to notice how many things you – quite literally – get slapped in the face with, almost constantly, you’ll be amazed. And you’ll start seeing how we’re being manipulated in spending money even more, after seeing this picture I found on Banksy’s twitter account (not sure if it’s his work)…

 

From Banksy's twitter feed @therealbanksy

From Banksy’s twitter feed @therealbanksy

The joy, indeed.

In Which I Got a Proposal.

First things first: going away for a weekend to the Poconos, isn’t as relaxing as I’d pictured: Add three couples and 5 kids to my little persona, and you get a bunch like Brady. Needless to say, I didn’t get to use the laptop I’d dragged along for some “fall foliage inspired writing.”

The good thing about escaping hectic Manhattan to some less populated (and perhaps less polluted) area, is that you get to witness there are still stars in the sky. Like a lot of them. I think we’re good for quite a few millennia. But boy, oh, boy… the joy I felt when the skyline lit up like a torch in the distance, the feeling that “home” was getting closer and the smile of pure gratitude I still feel to be a part of all that jazz, made the entire trip worth my while.

Don’t be mistaken though, I had a great time, and on Sunday we decided that under 50 degrees weather had nothing on us. Adults and kids alike, we bundled up and went for a hike through the woods, where I did get treated with an abundance of fall colors…

photo 1 (2)

photo 3 (1)

… and some more Blair Witch Project – like scenery…

photo 2 (2)

fitting the upcoming Halloween Theme.

 

At night, one of the kids – a 5 year old boy and son of one of my best friends – came up to me, pulled my pants and with a seriousness only 5 year old boys can muster, asked: “Can I marry you?”

So I replied the only thing suitable: “Well… do you have a ring?”

The confusion on his innocent face undeniable, I figured it’s better to let him down easy, and to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice – preferably at a much older age, but still. “See, if you ask a girl to marry you, you also have to give her a ring…” I suggested.

“I don’t have a ring right now…”, he replied, “… but I can ask my mom.”

After we finished laughing – assuring him that in no way his request had caused some people to choke in the grilled salmon we were having – we shook hands on the potential of ‘when you are 25 you can maybe ask again’, ignoring the fact that I’ll be 55 then and – also potentially – not being as desirable as I am today (ahum)… And I concluded, that well…

I have options.

The boyfriend took note of that.