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Stephannie’s Debt Introduction

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Note: Stephannie has taken the time to provided the following post to show why she thinks she would be a good blogger for BAD. Take the time to read her story, then ask any relevant questions that you might have. This is part of our attempt to find the newest blogger for BAD. You can find more information about it here

My name is Stephannie, I am 33 years old and my husband and I suffer from debt regret. I can’t say that it’s always been this way. I had no problems with debt when I first started to accumulate it but, more on that later. Let’s do background first. When I was growing up finances were not something of which my parents spoke. I don’t ever remember hearing about a household budget. It was absolutely taboo to mention how much you made and you never, I mean NEVER asked someone questions about their income or their financial situation. My mom was always very frugal but my dad had no problem spending money, especially if what you were spending the money on was fun. I don’t remember them ever discussing finances within earshot of my brother and I. What we heard was ” We can’t afford that” from my mother and “You only live once, right?” from my father. Needless to say, by the time I got to college I wasn’t exactly prepared.

My debt story truly began when I started college. Luckily, my parents paid my tuition so that I wouldn’t have to take out any student loans. I worked part time to pay for books and other necessary things that I needed for school. The problem with this arrangement was that if all of my money went to gas, books, and supplies then how on earth could I pay for important things like clothes and going out? It did not take long to find a solution to that problem. One glorious day as I walked through the campus courtyard I saw a table set up that was giving away t shirts. Who doesn’t love a free t shirt, right? Well, there was a catch of course. In order to get the shirt you had to fill out an application for a credit card. I swear bells rang and angels sang. Not only could I get a free shirt but, I could also get a magical card that would buy clothes that weren’t even close to being free. Let’s just say it didn’t take long for that card to start smoking from overuse.

Once I was introduced to the fabulous world of credit cards I basically lost my mind. The first one was so easy to get that it was closely followed by a second and then a third. It was completely doable to only pay the minimums and I was living a fantastic, carefree, well dressed life. A couple of years into college I met a wonderful young man. Three months later we were married. It’s pretty safe to say that we were not financially prepared. We did not even talk about our personal finances until a few months after we were married. It then became clear that while we were both sharp dressers and excellent accumulators of fabulous “stuff” we were not exactly money managing geniuses.

The early years of our marriage were not exactly spent living large. Between the two of us we made about $22,000 a year. I had a monthly car note of $250 and we rented an apartment from my parents for $250 per month. Our combined credit card debt was about $6,000. With all of this information in mind I’m sure you can see that for us, the next logical thing to do was to have a baby. It’s really amazing to me how two relatively intelligent young people can make such terrible decisions. Ah, youth. Anyway, our first daughter was born in 2002 and in our infinite wisdom we decided that I would quit my job and stay home with the baby. This lasted for exactly one year.

Through the next couple of years my husband and I worked, paid bills, raised our daughter, and paid some more bills. It’s funny, I can distinctly remember thinking that if either of us were to ever make at least $20 per hour then we would be free of our money worries. Doesn’t sound like marriage and a baby made me much smarter, does it? In 2005 my mom and dad sold us a rental property that they had owned for many years (it was actually their first home and we lived in it until I was about 10). They were generous enough to sell it to us at a price well below market value and also allowed us to live with them for a year while we put every penny we had into renovating it. Because it was such a great deal my husband and I thought it was a good idea to take a loan out for more than the price of the house so that we could pay off our other debts which, of course, had just gotten higher. Woohoo, debt free!!! Nope. We were debt free for all of about 2 months before we took out a couple of loans, put some more purchases on credit cards and bought a more expensive vehicle. I swear we are smarter than we sound.

In 2005 my husband interviewed for a great company and if hired would be paid about $15,000 more a year than he currently earned. We got the phone call in July with the job offer and in November I was pregnant with our second daughter. We carried on for about two years with little changes in our debt. Our lifestyle “improved” significantly but, we felt like having debt was just the way things were done so we made no efforts to get rid of it.

I feel like this is getting terribly long so, I’ll cut to the chase here, and if chosen I’ll go into more detail at a later date. After a few years of living in the house we bought from my parents a house came up for sale in their neighborhood. We bought it and turned our first house into a rental. Our debt currently consists of two mortgages, 4 credit cards, one vehicle loan, one furniture loan, and one signature loan at our credit union. We also have a decent amount of medical bills due to some health problems my husband has had over the last year.

A little over a year ago I started to feel like getting out of debt was the best, and more importantly, the right thing to do. When I first started to feel this way I started to look up any blogs I could find that were written by people dealing with the daily struggles of paying off their debt and becoming debt free. That is when I found Blogging Away Debt. When Claire decided to stop blogging I really wanted to put my name in the running but, I was hesitant because I felt like we have made so many mistakes when it comes to our finances. Now that another opportunity has come up I don’t want to let it pass me by. There is still a lot I don’t know about how to reduce our debt in a smart way but with all of my research I’m learning new things all the time. I think it would be so good for me to share what we are dealing with and to get feedback from others who may see things in a way that we have not thought of.

Oh, and just one more important piece of the puzzle. We live in the south and my husband works full time and makes well over that magical number of $20 an hour. I ran my own business for 3 years but, 6 months ago I went back to work full time so that we could try to really put a dent in this debt. Needless to say, my younger self’s thoughts about money worries not existing if we were to make at least $20 an hour turned out to not be true. I’m sure you are totally shocked.

I would rather not get into hard numbers until after a decision about the new recruit has been made but, I will say that our total debt is around the $200,000 mark. This does include both mortgages, we feel like they were both good purchases from an investment stand point and about a year ago we refinanced them both for 15 years at much better interest rates. We also have a home which we have recently (2 months ago) inherited. While we do not owe anything on it, it is costing us a bit in upkeep and we have yet to decide what to do with it.

I’m so glad I got a chance to do this and if I’m chosen, Yay! If not I’ll be so excited to see what the next person has to say but until then, please feel free to ask any questions you may have!

jeffrey

Jeffrey tries to remain in the back ground of this blog as much as possible and support the bloggers so that they can share their stories.

Latest posts by jeffrey (see all)


30 Comments

  • Reply Meghan |

    Hi Stephannie!

    Good luck with your chances at being the next blogger! A few questions I think are important to consider (although I hope as a fellow reader you have already considered them!):

    1. You recently mentioned starting a new job (congrats!), are you comfortable with the amount of time that will need to be devoted to a blog to make three posts a week?
    2. I will assume that your husband is on-board with you putting this all out there, is he a willing participant in the “kicking debt’s butt” plan?
    3. Can you give some examples of a couple of changes you have already made to start paying down your debt?
    4. You mention that part of your debt includes two mortgages, will you be including that as part of your goal to be out of debt? If not, what would the debt number be minus the mortgages?
    5. Do you have a timeline for how soon you would like to be out of debt? What would the timeline be if you excluded the mortgages?
    6. Are you willing to take suggestions from readers, implement them for a period of time, and then report back to us on the results?
    7. What level of intensity do you think your desire to get out of debt currently is? Do you think you would be okay with making the (sometimes) uncomfortable sacrifices that go with increasing that intensity?
    8. You mentioned that your parents never discussed money in front of you (other than expressing their opposite views), as your older daughter is (I am guessing) 12 will you be including her as appropriate in making changes to reduce your debt?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer, I can relate to much of your situation so I look forward to possibly hearing more from you in the future!

    -Cheers!

    • Reply Stephannie Tanner |

      Thanks for the great questions, Meghan!
      1. Yes, I feel very comfortable with blogging 3 times a week. I think this will help us with our debt tremendously so I’m definitely motivated! Also, in the next month or so my job will be extremely flexible so, that will help.
      2. He’s totally on board with some debt butt kicking!! However his reasons are different from mine. That is something I hope to be able to get into further, if I’m chosen.
      3. Some changes we’ve already made would be turning off cable, cooking more, and we’ve cut down on some of the more expensive activities our girls do. Also my going back to work full time has been a crazy huge change.
      4. I think of our debt as a two parter. The first part is our “stuff” debt. That comes to about $35,000. We’d like to get this done first, then laser focus on the mortgages.
      5. We hope to have our first step done in 18 months. The mortgages we hope to eradicate in five years.
      6. Yes! That is what appeals to me the most about this blog. I’m counting on people having ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of that could really push us out of our comfort zone.
      7. We are comfortable with hitting our debt pretty hard. We’ve got some plans in the pipeline that are going to be some major sacrifices.
      8. You and I need to go to some horse races together, you’re a pretty good guesser! My oldest daughter will be 12 this year. We toe a fine line with her because she takes things soooo seriously and worries more than any child should. We include her,to an extent, and are very honest with her about our finances and why we make the money decisions that we do.

      Thank you so much for the questions! I hope I’ve answered them clearly enough and if there’s anything else you think of please let me know!

  • Reply debtor |

    Not too many questions for her, but I vote for her because I like her style of writing and I find her story interesting.

  • Reply Julie |

    No questions, but it was very helpful to read your story! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Reply Stephannie Tanner |

      Thank you for reading it! I think we can all learn so much from each other.

  • Reply Julene |

    Your story sounds so familiar to mine except I only have 1 house mortgage. But the rest, the credit card buildup, the cars, the babies and the dream that when you make that specific amount of money it will all go away rings so true with me.

    I too wonder how on board your husband is. Does he realize what your family will be stepping into with this blog? Has his attitude about debt turned a corner like yours? Also I would be interested in knowing what you debt is without your mortgages since this is the amount that I would be most concerned with, at least for some time, on this blog. While paying off mortgages is a great thing, the consumer debt is more of my interest.

    Good luck!

    • Reply Stephannie Tanner |

      Hi Julene! He is definitely on board. We started tossing around being debt free a couple of years ago. Kind of like a joke at first. Well, not a haha joke but like being debt free was unattainable so why even try? Then we started taking small steps that have gotten a little bigger. As I’ve said in another reply, we have the same goal but not exactly the same reasons for that goal. Hopefully I’ll be able to get more into that later.

      Now, while he understands what it entails and is on board, he won’t be writing on the blog. Writing is not his thing but, I do plan on including his thoughts on what we do and how he feels it works or doesn’t work.

      Our consumer debt comes to about $35,000. Let me know if you think of any other questions!

  • Reply Angela |

    I thought Meghan had some excellent questions.

    I also agree with “debtor”, before I even read that comment I thought how I enjoyed her writing style.

    My biggest comment would be to make sure the husband is on board!

    Good Luck!

  • Reply Angella |

    I vote for Stephannie as well. Relate-able for me – same age range, location, and 20’s debt regrets. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your story, hope you are selected. (If not, start a blog!!)

    • Reply Stephannie Tanner |

      Thank you! I’ve considered starting a blog so, if I’m not chosen I may make that leap!

  • Reply Stephannie |

    Hi everyone! It’s Mardi Gras here so, I won’t be able to really sit down and answer questions until I get home to my computer tonight. But, I just wanted to check in and say that I’m really excited to answer them! Until then, Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler! (Let the good times roll!)

  • Reply Alexandra |

    i subscribe to this blog on my Feedly reader, so i very rarely click through to comment, but i just had to say i love stephannie’s writing style and sense of humor. would love to hear more about her and her family’s attempt to get out of debt!

  • Reply Erin |

    Credit card debt is more relatable to me than student loan debt. Stephanie’s story resonates a lot!!! Similar age, children’s age, stupid 20s problems!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      You said it! Stupid 20’s should be something you get warned about. Kind of like the terrible twos. Everybody tells you about that one!

  • Reply Mary |

    I enjoyed reading your introduction…I think you are a top contender (my opinion only, lol). From the surface, it looks like you have some great opportunities in terms of reducing your debt from the mortgages alone. Lots of housing options to reduce your debt and it seems like you could turn your situation around fairly easily by moving back to your first home; I’d like to hear more about them. One thing I like about your story is that you recognize how these past decisions have affected where you are today…I’d love to hear more about what your financial goals are…I mean I know you want to get rid of the debt but how do you want to live? Nice job on the introduction.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Thank you so much, Mary! Your question just makes me that much more excited about this opportunity. We haven’t really talked about life after debt. We know that we want to live on cash only when we are done but, other than that I’m not really sure. Definitely something to think more about!

  • Reply Erin |

    Stephannie is your best candidate so far. I really enjoy the way she writes. Her life really mirrors mine and I would love to hear about how she goes about getting out of credit card debt. I’ll continue to read if you choose her. I don’t really care for any of the other cadidate’s writing styles or stories because they don’t feel nearly as relatable as Stephannie does. Please choose her!

  • Reply DC - Kate |

    I agree with Erin. Stephanie’s story is compelling and I think she will make a great blogger for this site.

  • Reply Karen |

    I have been reading this blog for a few years now. Of the candidates so far I like Stephanie the best. Casting my vote!

  • Reply Sharon |

    I didn’t plan on voting, but I have to say that Stephannie’s positive attitude toward reducing her debt is motivating. I’m a long time reader, but I rarely comment. I think I would participate more in the comments if she is chosen.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Stephannie!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Sharon, thank you for reading my story and a double thank you for the encouraging words!

  • Reply Lin |

    I think Stephannie would be a great choice for the next blogger. If chosen, I’d like to hear from you about how you and your husband work out a monthly budget, who pays the bills, how you manage the financial decisions, etc.
    Good luck!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Thank you, Lin! Those are definitely things I hope to be able to get into!

  • Reply Heather |

    I don’t comment a lot, but I like your writing style and sense of humor too, very relatable. I cast my vote for Stephannie! I started reading the blog since Claire and it has been a bummer to not see someone follow through with blogging until they are debt free, but I can feel your motivation and dedication to getting rid of it, and thats what I like to see to keep my motivation up!!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Thank you, Heather! I’m absolutely motivated to get this burden of debt off of my family. That’s what is so great about this community. So many different ideas and ways of tackling a problem can be eye opening! Honestly, if I am lucky enough to be chosen, I kind of hope someone else is too so I can still be a reader as well!

  • Reply Anon |

    Great writing style! I am curious on what the actual number breakdown of debt is, because although I dislike any form of debt, having two mortgages plus the credit cards and only being at $200K in debt doesn’t seem that unrealistic. I mean, it isn’t unheard of to have one mortgage at that amount even after being a good consumer and putting 20%+ down. You kow what I mean?

    But I cast my vote for you! : )

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Thank you, Anon! I know exactly what you mean! We’ve made a lot of bad decisions where our debt and spending is concerned. Some of it was not thinking about how we’d be affected later on and some was because we flat out didn’t care. The mortgage debts are actually something we feel pretty good about. As I said before, our first home was a great deal (thanks mom and dad!) and turning it into a rental has been good for us, so far. The mortgage on it is almost $70,000. It’s an older home in an older part of town.
      Our current home is in a more desirable area but, is the smallest and least valuable of the others in the neighborhood. It also needed quite a bit of work. Let’s just say, the 70’s were alive and well in my little house! It was also a great deal because a family was selling it, after their dad had passed away, and it made them really sad. They just wanted it to sell quickly so they could move on. We were not in the market for a house at the time but we saw them putting the “for sale” sign up, stopped, and by that afternoon were under contract! There’s a crazy story about buying our house but, that’s for another day! Anyway, the mortgage for it is currently a little over $80,000.We aren’t sure what our plans for it are yet. We may make more improvements and stay or we may turn it into a second rental. Our area is booming right now and housing is expected to be in short supply. So, another rental could make sense. The rest of our debt is consumer and we also have a chunk of medical bills. Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure what those add up to just yet because I’m getting duplicate bills and it’s kind of a mess. If I’m chosen I intend to post amounts to the penny. I’d like to be able to do that in a true introductory post so that I’m not being redundant. I hope this helps to make things a little clearer!

  • Reply Melanie |

    I really enjoyed reading Stephannie’s entry and hope she is chosen for the next BAD blogger. She has a fun writing style and seems very relatable and open to questions and support.

So, what do you think ?