Friday, July 16, 2010

a costly surprise.

Things have been a bit topsy-turvy lately. 

Shaun and I, on a lark, went to look at a loft condo last weekend. It was nice, although not everything we were hoping, so there was no real temptation to actually consider making an offer. However, you know what happens when you go to look at a condo, right? Well, what happens is you meet real estate agents who suddenly know 12 properties that would be just “PERFECT FOR YOU” and apparently “THIS IS A GREAT TIME TO BUY YOU KNOW THE MARKET’S REALLY SOFT”.

So we kinda got a little excited, or at least I did, and started looking at condo listings, working out budgets, etc. Not for real, but just for … maybe. You know?

I had a few financial things I wanted to clear up though, before we even started looking at mortgage pre-approval stuff -- but in the process of clearing those things up I discovered something.

What I discovered was $9500 worth of debt I didn’t know I had.

Yeah, can you say BUMMER?

I had a lot of student loans in university, and the repayment process has been a nightmare. The loans have been moved around, split up, combined, split up again, transferred to federal locations, transferred to provincial locations, transferred back to a central location, and then split up again. Combine all of that with the fact that in my early 20s I was very irresponsible about money – so when that portion of the loan ‘disappeared, I didn’t exactly ‘notice’.

But it’s once again in my life. I’m bummed out, but kinda weirdly happy about it too. For the first time in my life I am actually on top of ALL of my finances. All my debt is accounted for, taxes are up to date, and I know every single penny I owe and to whom. I spent MANY hours this week going through a GARBAGE BAG full of mail, bank statements and bills and tax papers for the last EIGHT YEARS that I have been lugging around, unsorted and most still unopened. They're all totally organized now. I still need to work out a plan to pay off what I owe, but at least my eyes are totally open about what’s there. And I think that’s half the battle, right? It’s the same as with losing weight – you cannot go anywhere if you refuse to step on the scale and really see what the damage is.

So house-buying will go on hold for a while (which it probably would have anyway, to be honest, I don’t think we’re quite there yet), but I want to continue saving for a down payment. But I ALSO want to pay off this new debt (plus the other part of my loan as well). So that’s a lot of money that I need to be keeping track of and NOT spending. I’m trying to work out how to do that.

But I’m not actually that great with budgeting – does anyone have any advice? Or websites or books you would recommend? My first step so far has been to start recording EVERYTHING I purchase. I’m going to try to keep that up for a month, to see where all my money goes, but I’m not really sure what else to do. I’ve never had any success with sticking to a budget so we’ll see how this goes.