The Green Eyed Gimmies


Has anyone read the classic Bernstein Bears book (or seen the associated cartoon) about the Green Eyed Gimmies?

It’s really a lesson for children about how they should be happy with what they have and not always be looking for something new/keeping up with the Jones’, etc.

But it’s hard not to make those social comparisons, you know? It’s a natural human thing to look at our neighbors and feel a little pang of jealousy when they have the shiny new car or insert-whatever-the-new-thing-is.

Recently I experienced a little bit of my own Green-Eyed monster, but not about something you might think.

Does anyone else read Stephanie’s blog – SixFiguresUnder?? I have to admit I’m more of a casual reader, but I think someone recommended it back when I first started blogging here and, every couple of months, I’d head over to her blog to read their latest debt update.

It’s been a minute (so I’m a little behind on this), but I recently went to check out their latest happenings and was shocked to see that they’re now DEBT FREE!!! (read Stephanie’s debt free post here).

Now, I don’t know Stephanie. Never met her in my life. I have no connection to her or her family. But, as a reader, I was happy for them! Becoming debt-free surely must be an incredible feeling!

But I was surprised by an underlying feeling….that of envy.

Stephanie and her family managed to pay off $144,000 in debt.

My starting debt was $145,000.

Stephanie started blogging in September 2013.

I started blogging just a few months later, in February 2014.

Our incomes started out about the same – Stephanie’s first reported monthly income was under $4,000 (from here). Our first monthly income was just over $5,000 (from here).

Our incomes even increased around the same time. Her husband, a lawyer, opened his own practice which dramatically increased their income. I found a full-time job, which dramatically increased our income. The big difference were that they had fewer fixed expenses so a larger proportion of their income was able to be put toward debt. We do pretty well in our house, too, but Stephanie’s family has us far beat both on groceries (one of our big expenses) and on rent/utilities (they live for free in their in-laws’ basement for now).

We’re different people. Different situations. But the desire to make comparisons is strong. I knew they would finish their debt journey before us. When Stephanie started blogging they were already down $40k, starting right at $100k in debt. And we didn’t even start our debt journey until a full 6 months after them. So obviously we would finish after them! We had different start points; it’s only natural we’d have different end-points.

Even so, I felt jealous.

Ohhhhh how I yearn to know what it’s like to be fully debt-free! To not owe anything to anyone.

I love listening to the debt-free screams on Ramsey’s radio show because it’s so motivating and inspiring. But somehow, reading it online caught me off-guard (my own fault, because I wasn’t following their story closer…I should’ve known it was coming up!!!)

So I try to remind myself about all the AMAZING things we have already accomplished!

Our only remaining debt is for student loans and medical debt. That means we own ALL of our possessions 100% outright (ahem – at least until we close on the house). NO ONE can come and take ANYTHING from us as a repossession or as collateral on an existing loan. Electronics, furniture, even vehicles = all are OURS!!!

And we’ve paid SO MUCH DEBT off already! Yes, we still have a long way to go. But I’m proud of where we’ve come from!

For newer readers, you might have a hard time believing that when I first started blogging here, many didn’t think I’d make it. There were whole GOMI threads dedicated to the Blogging Away Debt bloggers (Yes, I know about them. No, I don’t visit them often. And we’re rarely discussed anymore for that matter). People thought I was an airhead. Naive, dumb, blonde – whatever you want to call it.

I was a different person then than I am now. A lot has transpired in the past almost 3 years!

I still have my “airhead” moments. I am human, after all. But I’m learning.

I got my first job! I have been working hard at negotiations (for title, raise, etc.)! I’ve learned about buying (and selling) homes! I’ve been working on the ever-elusive work-life balance. And even as we’ve increased our spending on “life” stuff (e.g., date nights, family entertainment, foods-not-cooked-from-scratch), we’ve still continued to put a good proportion of our income toward debt each month. In a typical month, about 25% of our take-home pay goes straight to debt. That’s in addition to our savings goals, our monthly expenses, etc. I’m proud of that figure.

Recently I received a comment on an old post. Someone asked why I was still saving for retirement, contributing to my kids’ college accounts, and saving for an emergency fund all while trying to get out of debt. Dave Ramsey talks about how when you split priorities, you never get anything done. That’s why he’s all about focusing on one thing at a time.

I responded simply that “I’m not following Ramsey’s plan.”

I wish I could. I wish we could be that focused.

But that’s not our reality.

Most of Ramsey’s followers get out of debt in under 2 years. I believe their average is 18 months.

We’re (nearly) 3 years deep, with perhaps another 2-3 years to go.

That’s too long to put off life and living, in my opinion.

We didn’t start out with only $45,000 in debt. We had $145,000 to contend with. And a lot transpires in the 5-6 years it will take us to be fully debt-free. Too much to go without for so long. As an anecdote – I remember asking my mom for foaming hand-soaps from Bath & Body Works for my birthday one year. I distinctly remember nearly tearing up about it. I felt so deprived that I would never be able to buy a stupid $5 soap because we were using the cheap bulk soap from Costco and refilling our hand soap pumps. How I longed for those Bath & Body Works soaps. Would I ever get to have fancy soaps ever again? Surely not! We couldn’t justify a $5 soap in our tight budget!!!

I couldn’t live like that for a half decade or more. Some are stronger than me. Some may be less materialistic. Some maybe just don’t care a single iotta about their soap. And, to be fair, I still refill our hand soaps with the cheap bulk stuff from Costco. But this is just a silly example to discuss the idea of “living” while in debt-repayment. We were BARE BONES for a solid 2 years. I’m talking not a single new article of clothing, not a single professional hair cut or color, not a single vacation, all homemade foods/all the time, all from scratch/all the time, etc. I made my own baby wipes, for goodness sake!

And I just couldn’t do it forever.

At the end of the 2 year mark we made a conscious decision to loosen up the purse strings a bit. For us to make it through to the end of our journey, we just had to allow some room for “living.” Now we have monthly date nights (and we pay a babysitter to watch the girls!), we went on our first real vacation (cruise 2016) this past April, I’ve bought new clothes – mostly for work, but when I need a new pair of jeans I just buy them instead of continuing to mend and re-mend the hole-in-the-crotch of the pair I already own (true story – I mended the same hole 3 times when I first started debt repayment. I refused to buy anything new and was determined to “make do”). The point is that we had to find what worked for us so that we can make it to our own finish line.

How that looks will be different for every family.

Maybe your family can scrimp and save and not spend a penny and be out of debt in 12 months. I would be the first to congratulate you (and I’d try to not be envious!) : )

But maybe your family needs a little bit more room in the budget for discretionary spending. Maybe that’s what you need in order to survive the long haul to debt-freedom.

I don’t regret the beginning of our debt journey. I think the first two years of super-strict spending gave us the jump-start we needed and put us in the right frame of mind to succeed. But there came a time when we also needed to be realistic with ourselves about our own limitations. We couldn’t keep at it forever at that pace. Rather than fall off the wagon entirely, we made the conscious decision to loosen up the budget a little. It can be a slippery slope and it’s not the right choice for everyone. But it was the right choice for us. And we’re still making killer progress, thank you very much (latest debt update here).

So maybe this is a “do what I say, not what I do” moment.

When you feel yourself becoming envious over someone’s debt journey, remember that it’s just that – someone else. It’s not you. It doesn’t reflect on you one way or another. It’s a different person with a different situation under different circumstances. What might work for them may not work for you and vice versa. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and never give up.

My debt-free date may not be right around the corner….but it will be here before we know it!

Until then, I’ll keep you in the loop about our latest adventures on the journey.




Grin and Bear It!


Hi all!

I hope your weeks are off to a nice start! It’s still stifling hot here in Tucson (mid 90’s over the weekend), but we’ve been packing in lots of fun fall activities! This weekend we went to a pumpkin patch and the kids had an absolute blast! As they get older it’s so fun to really celebrate and enjoy the holidays together!

Today I just wanted to give you the latest on my Navient grievance that I aired last week. Basically….it’s gotten worse (is that possible? yes, yes it is).

My payment due date is the 10th. Recall I was being overcharged by $500/month and was told they would not have it resolved by my October payment, but it should be shortly thereafter. So I logged into my account like a fun little game – how much have I been charged???

Only I see a long line of red exclamation marks and this message:






On every one of my Department of Education loans (strangly, the federal loans were fine).

Ummmmm… can that be? I’ve been on auto-pay for over 2 years!

I call up to Navient and am informed that – somehow that no one can quite explain – my auto payment withdrawal has been removed from my Department of Education account. ALL of those loans are past due.

I asked if this was related to their overcharging me to the tune of $500/month?

They don’t know.

I asked if this would affect my income based repayment?

They don’t think so.

I asked if the monthly debit has been corrected?

They don’t know.

Then they ask if there’s anything else they can help me with.

Ummmm… didn’t really help me with anything, now did you???

(Ultimately, I was instructed to make a one-time payment for the month of October, then wait a week and call back again to see if everything has been fixed. Yeah, won’t be holding my breath holding out hope for anything positive to come of this).

And as if Navient’s nonsense isn’t enough to make me rip out my hair – our house closing has been pushed back. After the inspection we’d negotiated for some additional repairs to be done and I guess it’s taking longer than expected. So our closing has been pushed from the 14th to the 28th, pending everything getting done in time. Bummer.

On my last Navient post a couple people commented and asked about private student loan consolidation companies. Just to reiterate – I’m not doing anything until the house deal is closed. But I’ve been researching and looking at SoFi. They’ve got good user reviews and seem to be a reputable company. But we have such a broad readership here, I’d love to ask for your opinions!

Have you ever done a student loan consolidation through a private company? What were your experiences like? Good, bad, ugly, etc??? Would you recommend your company? Why or why not? I’d love any info you can provide!

And, just for fun, do you have any fun Fall plans on the docket this month?? I wish we lived closer to an orchard! There’s one about 90 minutes away, but our weekends are pretty full. Maybe in November we could make it out there – I’d love to take the girls to pick apples and just enjoy the experience! Do you have any annual Fall traditions as a family?

Ashley’s September 2016 Debt Update


Better late than never, right?

After I realized I’d missed our extra student loan payment, I initiated it on October 1st (a Saturday). It showed “pending” in Navient’s system for several days and didn’t actually show up as being applied until Wednesday. I don’t like posting on Wednesday (I like to leave it for Hope), so here we are with our SEPTEMBER debt update nearly a full week into the month of October. So sorry about the late update!

Check it out:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
ACS Student Loans$85856.55%$25September$8215
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$53500% (through April 2017)$500September$7650
Medical Bills$57110%$25September$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$83,173 (Aug balance = 85,553)$2775Starting Debt = $145,472

Several exciting milestones are coming up:

First, we’re just over $3,000 away from our next $10,000 milestone.

Second, the next digit we’ll be seeing is in the $70,000’s. That’s significant because our half-way mark is just above $72,000. So we’re just a little over $10,000 away from the half-way mark! Everyone keeps saying after we cross that threshold that the debt will just start melting away! It’s felt like a long, hard slog so far the past nearly 3 years of debt-repayment. I’m VERY excited to get over that hump.

Third, do you recall how one of our big 2016 debt goals was to pay $30,000 toward debt this year?? Check out where we now stand in terms of that financial goal:

Month 2016 GOALS 2016
January Goal: $3500 $4013
February Goal: $1000 $1261
March Goal:  $1000 $2134
April Goal:  $2000 $1521
May Goal: $2000 $1325
June Goal:  $4000 $3500
July Goal: $4000 $4928
August Goal: $2500 $1374
September Goal: $2500 $2775
October Goal: $2500  
November Goal: $2500  
December Goal: $2500  
Total Goal: $30,000 $22,8310

It’s going to be tight, but we’re right on track to hit that goal. It’s so crazy to think that many families in America are struggling to survive on a total household income of $30,000. Meanwhile, we’ve been blessed with an increased income that has allowed us to put that much toward debt! I mean – whoa! Moment of silence or respect or something. That’s a massive figure!

So much to be thankful for and still so many exciting milestones on the horizon.

Full steam ahead!!!

Do you make annual financial goals? What were yours and how are you doing on them?

Navient is Back At It Again


Just the latest in my long, long history of grievances with Navient.

When I realized I’d missed that extra debt payment in September, I was carefully reviewing my account history and something jumped out at me that caught me off-guard:  I’m being over-charged roughly $500 per month.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t noticed the egregious error earlier. I blame it on my busy schedule, but really there’s no excuse to have not noticed such a HUGE discrepancy.

Here’s the short of it (I’m trying to run out the door for work, so sorry this is a little rushed)….

My minimum payment is about $130/month. When I re-did my paperwork for Income-Based-Repayment over the summer I was notified it would go up a little bit (like $20 or $40….I can’t remember now, but not much). Only, that’s not what happened. For the past two months (August & September), my auto-debit withdrawal has been over $650. I  always make extra debt payments on top of the minimum and pay – in total – over $1,000 each month. So it didn’t make a big difference in terms of actual money spent because I always put well extra into Navient anyway. But what it did is take my money and mis-appropriate how it was spent. Instead of putting all the extra (over and above my true minimum of about $150-ish) toward the unsubsidized loans, it was being equally distributed across all loans. That’s not at all how I would appropriate it myself.

So I called up there to ask what the deal was. And I was told that apparently there was some issue. The system “shows” that my payment should only be the $150-ish payment, but the auto-debits are actually around $650ish (yes, I know. That’s why I called). It was a total error on their part. They would put in paperwork to get it fixed. It probably won’t be fixed by the October debit, but then it will go back to normal in November.

The representative was all happy with herself for putting in whatever notes to bring it to their internal auditor’s attention. Happy that she had resolved the problem.


Ummmm……lady. You get this means you’ve been overcharging me to the tune of $500-ish per month for what will now be 3 months. That’s an extra $1500 you have basically stolen from me. Illegally. You think that’s just going to fly??? (yes, I would have given them that extra money anyway with my extra payments but, again, I would appropriate it completely differently than they have done; also, with the way they’ve done it, a great deal of that money has gone straight to interest instead of toward principal reduction).

The best I could get out of the representative was a promise that after the situation has been resolved, I can call back and they will allow me to re-allocate those extra funds toward the loans of my choice. Doesn’t really make me feel to warm and fuzzy inside. I also have about zero hope that this actually gets resolved as promised. I mean, Navient has quite a long history of lying to me. Repeatedly. All the time.

So there’s that.

Today, though, I’m going to choose to focus on the positives. I’m thankful that we have that extra money. that the extra $500 Navient is literally stealing from me does not force us to go without food, housing, or utilities. That we have the money to spare.

I’m going to try to let it go. I’ll call back toward the end of the month as they’ve requested and see if it makes a difference at that time. In the meantime, I just have to let go of the anger and the frustration. I don’t have any space or time for that negativity in my life.

But you better believe… SOON as the house stuff is done (currently set to close on Oct 14th! EEEK!!!), I’m consolidating with a private company as fast as humanly possible. I’m SO STINKING SICK of Navient and their absolute incompetence (at best) and downright illegal activities (at worst). Sick of it. Also, my last ACS loan has notified me that it’s going to be migrated to Navient, too. Fabulous. Last time that happened my loan “switched” from being subsidized to being unsubsidized. An issue that I spent months dealing with and countless hours (and even wrote my legislatures and involved a 3rd party group for problem resolution) and, ultimately, nothing happened. They just f-ed me. And they got away with it. So I’m pretty excited to rid Navient from my life once and for all. As SOON as the closing is behind us, I’m done with them.

Have you ever experienced serious over-charging by a student loan company? Trying to focus on the positives, what’s something good that’s happened recently or something fun you’re looking forward to this week? To share one of mine, we had an awesome weekend! Saturday was packed full of fun stuff – two different kids’ birthday parties. Sunday was full of relaxation. A nice mix of fun/activities and family time/relaxation. The perfect weekend balance!

Debt Update Soon



Just one more reason I’m thankful for this blog – it forced me to catch an error on my part!

For some reason in our budget (we love & use YNAB) I had entered our planned extra student loan debt payment, but I never actually scheduled or initiated the transfer. So when I sat down to type up our debt update for the month of September – gasp – I realized I’d totally missed a major payment! Thankfully, the regular payment is set up on auto-withdrawal so I wasn’t late or anything (no penalties, etc.), but it means our debt numbers were all off because I hadn’t made our largest debt payment of the month! Yikes!

I immediately initiated the transfer of funds, but I’m waiting to complete the September debt update until when I have concrete number to give you for the actual debt amount (I never know since some of the payment is applied toward interest; so I don’t know what the debt reduction and current debt amount are). As soon as the Navient system is updated with my payment I’ll get a debt update up. The rest of the table is already completed so it’s just a waiting game so I can plug in that one final number.  :)

Has anyone else ever forgotten a pretty sizable debt payment?  That explains why we had extra cash in our checking account. Doh!

FTD Awareness


Hi, friends! Thanks for all of your comments on this post! I have loved reading your success stories. It has been so helpful to read about so many who have successfully navigated a mid-life career change and come out on the other side better for it. I so appreciate your support!

Today I’m re-posting an old blog (originally published here). Partly because I’ve been dealing with some serious FTD-related issues lately. The short story is that my dad has now turned to self-harm when he becomes frustrated (which is always). It’s created several mini-emergencies, as he’s cut himself with a razor, hit his head with a hammer in Walmart, and frequently punches himself in the stomach/gut area. My siblings and I are panicked trying to get these symptoms under control. He has a psychiatrist appointment today so – fingers crossed – we can tweak some meds and help reduce some of his anxiety and frustration. I just cannot even convey how sh*tty this disease is. And it gets virtually NO attention. There’s no funding for medical research whatsoever and, currently, there are NO medications available to help slow the disease’s progression. It’s just heart-wrenching to watch.

So, while I have this platform with a little bit of readership (thanks for reading!) I just want to do my part to try to raise awareness. You may also be interested in seeing this very short clip from the Today show. An expert in the field answered some questions about FTD, discussing key differences between FTD and Alzheimers. Check it out if it interests you.

Have a great day!


It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.


Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)

5 Ways to Remove Debt Collection Accounts from Your Credit History



There are several ways you can remove collection accounts from your credit report. Some removal methods may require negotiating. Others methods may require paying part or even all of the debt you owe. Each method listed below may be right for some situations but not others. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each method before you use it.

Negotiate Settlement with Creditor

It may be possible to negotiate a debt settlement with the creditor that you owe. This often means paying less than the full amount owed. In exchange, your collection account is changed to pay in full.

This method can be very effective when you owe more than $1,000. You will have to do some negotiating to get the best deal possible. The settlement agreement stipulates that the negative listing is removed when you make the agreed payment. You pay a lower amount and improve your credit.

Collection Deletion Payment

If your collection account has a balance of $500 or less than a collection deletion payment may be possible. You may be able to pay in full so that the collection is deleted from your credit reports. This method works well if you owe smaller medical bills, utility bills, or other minor debts.

You offer to pay the debt in full as long as collection account is deleted once payment is received. This will remove the accounts paid from your credit report. Without the account listed your credit score will normally increase.

Dispute with Major Credit Bureaus

Another way to remove a collections account from your credit is to dispute it. You dispute the account with the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. You must write a letter to each of the credit bureaus showing the disputed debt. In the letter state that you are asking for an investigation into the account. The law requires the credit bureau to investigate the debt.

The credit agency must determine whether the disputed debt is properly documented. This documentation must meet certain credit reporting requirements. Any dispute must be investigated and verified. If this is not done then you can force the credit agency to remove the account from your credit report.

Request Debt Validation

This method is similar to disputing your debt but it is more aggressive. You may need to file a lawsuit if you do not get a response from the credit bureau within the time allowed. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act this is normally 30 days. You must request debt validation in writing, and the letter should be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested.

The response timeline starts as soon as the credit agency receives your debt validation letter. Once the credit bureau receives your validation request they legally must obtain validation of the debt. A copy of the validation must be provided to you. If this is not done then the law demands that the credit agency remove the debt from your credit report.

If the credit bureau is not responsive then you may have to sue to have the debt removed. This can be costly. Documentation is usually difficult or impossible to provide. Many creditors do not have physical proof of the debt owed.

Original Creditor 623 Dispute

If you have tried to dispute a collections account with the credit bureaus without results don’t despair. You can use the original creditor 623 dispute method. You must send a dispute letter to the original creditor who placed the account with the collection agency. This method involves the Fair Credit Reporting Act section 623 (PDF).

Once the original creditor receives the dispute letter they must respond within 30 days. The creditor must verify the debt and prove you owe it. This method is especially effective at removing a collection account from your credit report.

Final Words

As you can see, fixing your credit score requires time and patience. If you want to remove these negative accounts from your credit you need to be persistent! Remember to keep detailed records and mail receipts as proof of your efforts. If you don’t succeed at first keep trying, using a different method if necessary. Eventually, you will be rewarded with a higher credit score.