The hardest part of approaching the finish line

Our debt free journey has been a long one. We started our journey in 2008. It’s been a long seven years. Now that we are approaching the finish line, we have also entered the most difficult part of the journey, making it to the end.

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We started this marathon with over $220,000 in debt. We have paid off over $158,000. It started slow but as we cut our budget and increased our income, we started making huge progress. We faltered a bit after we paid off the credit cards but we got back on the track and started running again.

We have $62,071.23 left and it is becoming more difficult to stay motivated.

When we started our minimum required payments were over $2,000 per month. That was a tremendous amount of money, especially since we were making about half of our current income. Today, our minimum payments are $436.48.

It’s easy to get into a false sense of security. When I make those large debt payments every time we get paid, I think of all the things we could do with that money. $436.48 per month isn’t a lot. We could swing that even if one of us lost our job. We should ratchet up our savings, go on a trip, buy my husband a car. There are so many things we could do with that money rather than sending it to the stupid bank.

Then I remember the outstanding balance. $62,071.23 hanging over our heads. It’s like a weight holding us down. While $436.48 doesn’t seem like a lot of money, $62,071.23 sure is. It’s keeping us from fully following our dreams. It is risk that we just don’t want to have.

Next to my desk, taped to the wall is our debt snowball from when we got back on track in August 2013.

Debt snowball

 

It is a reminder every day to keep me on track. It not only reminds me where we are now, but also where we have been and how far we have come.

While I enjoy the sense of security that I have from paying down the debt, I’m fairly certain that I will love the sense of security when that debt is completely gone.

 

End of the year financial review for 2014

There is nothing like a year end review of your finances to give you a bit of a heart attack. This morning, I went through all my old budgets to calculate how much we’ve paid in debt and interest in 2014. It’s interesting to get an annual view, especially when you are making goals for 2015.

If you want to do your own review and don’t have budget sheets handy, just go back to you bank statements and add up all the payments you made to creditors. If you check your final statements for 2014, they should list how much you paid in interest to each of those creditors. Since we only had four debts left in 2014 and three of them are involved with our taxes, I needed to get those numbers anyway.

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Last year, I didn’t do a full debt roundup but I did calculate the amount of interest we paid in 2013: $6,990.

So how did we do in 2014?

In February, we paid off my car. Total paid on the car in 2014: $10955.80.

In June, we paid off my husband’s student loan. That month our total debt dropped below $100,000. Total paid on Jeff’s student loan in 2014: $21,433.32.

In July, we started hammering away at the home equity line. My goal is to have that paid off by the end of February. Total paid on the home equity line in 2014: $31,772.60.

If you include interest, we paid $71,352.98 on four debts. We paid $5,418.56 in interest. That means we paid off $65,934.42 in debt in 2014.

When I first looked at all of those numbers, I was a bit shocked. That’s a LOT of money. We also did some work around the house, had some significant car repairs, paid some vet bills for one of our cats, made some investments in our business, made our tax payments, and increased our savings a bit. We were able to do all that and still pay almost 52% of our take home pay in debt payments.

This also helped me confirm that we can pay off our remaining debt in 2105. Our current balance is $64,504.21. That consists of $15,649.97 on the home equity line and $48,854.24 in student loans. If we were able to make $71,352.98 in payments in 2014, we should be able to do that again in 2015 as long as I can find another teaching contract or find other ways to increase our income. We are already looking at the later just in case another teaching contract does not come through.

This has also made me start thinking of all the awesome things we will be able to do once we are debt free. We should be able to pay off the house in a few more years. We will be able to increase our retirement contributions and give more. We will also be able to start traveling again.

While these numbers gave me a few heart palpitations, they also gave me hope for the future.

Have you done a financial review for 2014? Have you made financial goals for 2015? 

Why I wouldn’t change a thing

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Today, I turn 35. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking of the past as I set goals for the future. Thinking back to some wonderful memories and some not so wonderful ones, I often think if there is anything I would have changed along the way.

There have been times along this journey where I have questioned my decisions and cursed myself for some of them. I have been frustrated with things that have happened in my life and tried to wish them away. As I turn 35, I realize that all of those things have made me the person I am today.

Every decision, every trial has shaped me, has put me in the spot I am at this moment. Even my cancer diagnosis eight years ago threw me on a new course in life. It made me realize how much I loved the man I married. It opened up a new career path which I truly love. It put me on a course to start my business, to teach people all over the world through my YouTube videos, to mentor students and change lives, to start this blog.

Most people would think, at the very least, I would wish to erase cancer from my history. But even that is so tightly woven into the person I am today that, even though it haunts me, I would not erase it from my life.

I would not erase our debt either. I’m not sure who I would be if we had not had to dig ourselves out of the massive debt we created. Has the journey been less than pleasant at times? Oh hell yeah, but it has also been an amazing experience.

Over the past 17 years, I’ve learned that I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

I quit a good paying job when we had mountains of debt because I put my health first.

I held my bald head high in a room full of business people as I started my accounting firm.

I stood in front of a classroom, scared to death, to share my knowledge and experience with students, some of whom older than I was.

Together, my husband and I have paid off over $155,000 in debt when it would have been easier to just give up and declare bankruptcy.

We stayed together and fought together when many times it would have been easier to just walk away.

As I sit back and reflect on all those moments and wonder how things would be different, I realize that it’s not worth the chance. Even changing one small thing might make everything else completely unrecognizable. It’s just not a chance I would be willing to take.

I am a product of ALL of life’s experiences: the good, the bad, the amazing, and the pretty damn crappy. Here’s to looking back in another 35 years and still being at peace with all those life experiences.

 

 

Early morning rambles: Dirty Dishes, Debt Progress, Space Heaters, and why I love Amazon

With all my goal planning for 2015, I’m trying to get myself on a more regular schedule. This is difficult because as a college instructor my schedule is different each day. Still, I know I can do better. Today is the first day of doing better.

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Today, I woke up at 5:30 because this is the time I need to get up on my early days. This is often difficult on Wednesdays because I usually teach until almost 10pm on Tuesdays. Yup, Tuesday is my early day and my late day. Oh joy! But today, I did it. Now I wasn’t very productive for my first half hour. Actually, I wasn’t productive at all but that first half hour allowed me to get my bearings and do a bit of planning for the day.

The first think I noticed was a pile mountain of dishes. The reason we have so many dishes is because we have been eating at home a lot (frugal win!) and have been very busy working on projects to bring in extra money (yay money!). That leaves little time or concern for dishes until they are about to leap off the counter and attack you!2014-12-10 06.12.07 That was a very scary thing to see at 5:30 in the morning. First thing on my list: dishes. I started the dishes at 6:00. It didn’t take long and the after shot is much better.

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I also started some iced tea. Making iced tea saves us a tremendous amount of money. I always fill up my water bottle before leaving the house. My husband drinks black tea and I drink green tea. You can purchase large tea bags at Wal-Mart so you aren’t dealing with a ton of little bags. By 6:30, the dishes were done, tea was steeping, and I had coffee in my hand.

My next order of business was to get our finances updated. My husband gets paid biweekly on Wednesdays and today is pay day. I typically update our check register and budget on the days he gets paid. I entered all the transaction since the last time I updated the check register and added Jeff’s paycheck to the balance. I then added any bills that would come out of the account over the next two weeks.

Since most of our bills are due at the beginning of the month, I made a $2,000 debt payment on our debt snowball. This brought the balance on the home equity line to $19,460.02. I was doing a happy dance to see that balance drop below $20,000. In July, the balance was almost $47,000. I still have another $2,700 to pay toward the snowball before Christmas but that will happen next week when I get paid.

By 7:00, I was done with the personal finances. I took a few minutes to chat with an old friend who was also up and running fairly early. By 7:30, I was out of the shower and dressed for the morning portion of the day (A.K.A. jeans and a hoodie). I went back down to my office to get my company’s books updated since I deposited some checks yesterday. Instead of turning up the heat in the entire house, I used my space heater.

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I didn’t notice all that dust before I took the picture. It’s interesting what you see when you use a flash! I dusted it after I took the shot, but I wanted you to see how things really are around here. I am probably the world’s worst housekeeper. Oh well. The space heater saves me a ton of my gas bill and keeps my office nice and toasty. I just love it, dust and all.

We are still on budget for Christmas. I hate shopping so I’ve been doing most of mine on Amazon. I have picked up some great lightning deals and since I have been shopping early, I am also building up media credits. Amazon has an interesting offer for Prime members. If you are a Prime member, you get free two-day shipping. However, Amazon will give you a $1 media credit if you opt for slightly slower shipping. These credits can be used for books, music or movie rentals. I have built up a bunch of these credits and I’m still getting my packages in 2-3 days. Win-win!

It’s now 9:30. I feel like I have accomplished a lot this morning. I don’t need to leave for school until noon and my chores are already done. I’ll probably end up writing some more content for my other website, Accounting In Focus and work on my goals a bit more.

Do you feel more productive when you get things accomplished early in the day? What frugal things are you doing to stay on budget this month?

What are your 2015 goals?

You probably think I’m crazy. We haven’t even made it through the holidays and I’m jumping to New Year’s resolutions. There is so much to do right now, who has time to think about goals? I know what you mean. This time of year is so busy. We are all running like crazy people trying to determine the best gifts for our loved ones, cooking food that will cause us to need a diet resolution, and rushing from one holiday event to the next. Really, I get it.

Stop for a moment and take a breath. Maybe have a glass of wine.

Just pause.

I know you are busy but it is time to be intentional about your life. It’s time to make goals and write them down. It doesn’t take long. It took me just a few minutes to think out what I wanted to do in 2015. The planning part can take place over the next few weeks.

This initial part is to just create some goals. Maybe you want to pay off your car or a student loan. Maybe you want to save a 3-6 month emergency fund. Maybe you want to eat at home twice a week to save some money.

Just using the term "resolution" increases your chance of failure. Trust me, it's one of Murphy's Laws.

See? Quick but specific goals. This doesn’t have to be rocket science. I just want you to jot a few things down. They could be financial goals, career goals, health related goals, relationship goals.

Why write them down? Because you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down!

Don’t wait until January 1 to set some resolutions. I swear just using the term “resolution” increases your chance of failure. Trust me, it’s one of Murphy’s Laws.

If you need help thinking about some possible goals, here are my goals for 2015:

  1. Pay off our remaining non-mortgage debt, current balance $70,467.39.
  2. Build a 3 to 4 month emergency fund or approximately $15,000 in savings.
  3. Launch my first online course by May 2015.
  4. Help my husband publish his first book by July 2015.
  5. Lose 10 pounds.
  6. Attend the Launch Out Conference in June.
  7. Attend the PLF Live Conference (no date announced yet).
  8. Blog about our debt free journey.

These goals are fairly specific. Jeff and I also have more detail on some of these and action steps for what we need to do. That seems insane crazy to pull off the rest of the debt and the emergency fund but I think we can do it. It will rely on the course and book launches being successful.

The ten pounds is something I just really want to do for me. A few years ago, I lost 22 pounds and I have been hovering between 204 and 207 for over a year. I am done with that. I want to get below 200 and stay below 200 with daily fluctuations. I don’t have a plan yet but that will come soon (any ideas are welcome!).

I need your help to hold me accountable. I am going to spend most of 2015 discussing the daily tips we use to save money. Some big things, some small things, and our mindset that has kept us going this long. I’ll probably drag my husband in now and again to help document the last leg of this marathon. Blogging helps keep me on track. It’s amazing how much more grounded I feel after writing a post. You guys are awesome for that!

I also want to help hold you accountable. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for my email list. I will be emailing you all periodically to see how you are doing on your goals. You can sign up at the bottom of this post.

For now, what are some of your goals for 2015?