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Lusty Lady

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Monday, January 14, 2019

My Washington Post article on couples and debt, and how I plan to pay mine off

In many ways, my new Washington Post article on couples and debt (which also got picked up by their women's publication The Lily and was reprinted at by the Los Angeles Times) was a challenging one. I first submitted an essay about my personal experience with debt and dating, and was asked to expand it into a reported article.

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That part was interesting as I got to talk to experts, including a three financial planners, a financial therapist and Bad with Money podcast host and author of the new book by the same name, Gaby Dunn. I've alluded to and once written about my debt before, but this piece had a higher profile, and I knew family members and friends would see it, and that was scary. I never want to look like a failure, even when I am. I'm not saying I consider everyone who has debt a failure, but for myself, I do, because the reason my debt is so high is my own doing.

I lived way beyond my means when I was in New York, and even though I haven't lived there for almost six years, the effects linger. Only in the last few years has my business grown in a way that paying it off is now in the foreseeable future. I had intended to have it paid off by the end of 2019 but had more expenses than expected, so that projected debt-free date is now the end of 2020. At the same time, in growing my business, I do need to stick to the "you have to spend money to make money" adage. So I'm doing things like attending creative business conference Alt Summit in March in Palm Springs (called Alt Oasis this year because it's six days long), considering hiring a publicist for my December Best Women's Erotica of the Year book launch and will be investing a lot of time into launching my online classes, hopefully by mid-March. Those things are all important to me for various reasons that essentially boil down to not wanting to do the same thing over and over and expect things to change. Having the classes will also help me pitch myself as a places like Alt Summit. I meant to apply this year and a combination of stress and anxiety and negative self-talk prevented me, but I plan to launch a class on the subject I want to teach on, which will make applying easier.

The only way I will reach the next level in any area of my business is to experiment and try new things. I can't travel as much as I used to, and even if I could, in-person erotica writing classes, which I love teaching, can only reach 20-30 people at a time. My online class will be able to reach an infinite number of students all over the world. When I taught in Berlin last year, I had someone in another part of Germany ask if I was teaching there. Soon I'll be able to say yes to that. I'm looking forward to it, but it's also a commitment of time and energy (the costs so far have involved buying a microphone, which I did in...2017).

My point is, I'm doing a lot on the debt reduction front, and will be writing much more this year about debt and money, probably on Medium. But since I've lived with some for of debt my entire adult life, I've also adapted. I don't buy myself too many things these days, but when I turn in an anthology manuscript, I treat myself to buying a book, provided my local library doesn't carry it. I occasionally buy myself a Leota dress, although now I have a whole row of them in my closet, and got gorgeous ones for my birthday and the holidays. I've cut back immensely because what I want more than anything is to see a zero balance everywhere. I won't be going to New York too often. But I will make sure when I'm there I see one of my best friend's newborn twins, even if an extra day means paying for food and subway fare. I also need to have a life, especially to counteract the times when I work really insane, stressful hours, as I've done a few times over the last few months. I'm trying to move away from those but sometimes as a freelancer last-minute assignments happen, or I get sick and can't work as efficiently as I wanted to.

The truth is, part of me still thinks, Well, if you onlypay bills and necessities, you could pay off all your debt this year. I'd have to crunch a lot of numbers to see if that's strictly true. I could certainly come very close. But aside from the many business expenses I pay, from postage to buying books to send to authors to smaller things like renewing Flickr (yes, that's what I still use to post images on this here blog), I wouldn't be able to take my mom to Tribeca Film Festival as I did last year for her birthday. I wouldn't get to visit my family on Martha's Vineyard in the summer. I think the difference between me now and me back when I was accruing tons of debt is that I value every dollar I spend and consider it carefully. On our drive down to Virginia in December, I was proud of myself for forgoing my daily cup of decaf coffee and saving the approximately $2 it would have cost, because the craving wasn't that bad. But on the way back, I had a cup, because I knew I'd have a headache otherwise. What I most look forward to about debt-free life is not having to do all those calculations. In the meantime, my other way of tackling debt is, hopefully, upping my company's income by 20% this year. If I can do that, I'll likely have a lot more bylines and be able to look back at my 2019 work with pride.

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