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The Green Eyed Gimmies

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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.

Hugs,

Ashley

 

Ashley

Texan at heart; Arizonan on paper. Lover of running, cheese, camping, and family (fur-family included!). Blogger, motivated to get out of debt YESTERDAY! Follow along with my journey!

Latest posts by Ashley (see all)


20 Comments

  • Reply dh |

    I don’t know her blog but I looked at it after your post. I looked pretty quickly but here are my thoughts:
    – Personally I’d rather take more time and not live in my in-laws’ basement. πŸ˜‰ If you add up your rent over the 3 years you’ve been blogging, that’s probably about half of what you still owe, I’d guess.
    – From what I can see they only started saving up for a down payment after becoming debt-free. You are not yet debt-free but you’re closing on a house soon!
    But it’s human nature … just keep on trucking, and remember that so many people feel the same way when reading YOUR posts! πŸ™‚

  • Reply dh |

    I looked back at the dates and see you’ve been blogging for 2.5 years, not 3. But still!

  • Reply Theresa |

    It is hard to not compare. But you’ll get there. The whole process is such a personal experience.

  • Reply Amber Masters |

    I definitely think one of the very hardest parts about getting out of debt is comparing yourself to others! We have nearly $600k of student loan debt that we are blogging away. Many of our friends who were similarly situated (500k of debt or more) have chosen income based repayment plans, had family that could help pay loans off, etc. it’s been hard to watch their lifestyles increase dramatically, meanwhile we are eating ramen and trying not to turn the lights on at night haha. Thanks for sharing this- it’s exactly how I have been feeling this week. Gotta keep perspective in mind and not worry about other people. Each of our journeys is our own πŸ™‚

  • Reply Maureen |

    Great post Ashley! I have followed Stephanie’s journey since the beginning and have had some email communication with her. You are so right that in this debt payoff journey you have to find what works for you. For those that are checking out sixfiguresunder.com Stephanie readily admits and blogs on more than one occasion that what works for her certainly is not the norm and will not work for everyone. They are in fact living in her in-laws basement (like cement walls type basement) far from her husband’s job with four kids. It works for them and it was a personal choice they made. I am happy for her (and you) that you each have found your balance that works for you.

    The timing of your post was just the reminder I needed today. Thanks! I have shared at different times bits of my story ($186K in law loan debt, a relocation and a bloodbath on real estate at the downturn of the market coupled with buying a new house in a much more expensive town/market), etc. We have always made enough money to cover the bills and then some, and I always overpaid the loans (and other debt) each month, but about 2 years ago months I got much more serious about it. I figured out that with what I have paid in interest on my loans in the last 7 years I could have bought a NEW LUXURY SUV. That is sickening!

    However, when you are dealing with such large balances, it gets harder and harder to find the sanity in the little wins. I, like you, now strive find balance. I never gave up giving getting my hair done (I save money by going to a friend), I still have $110 month Direct TV bill which some would cringe at (but hey our cell phones and internet are covered by our employment, we don’t go to movies, rent movies, and we are avid sports fans that watch a lot of live events and we live out of our favorite team’s network). For me those little luxuries are my “entertainment.” I don’t eat out often, I take my lunch every day and I even iron my husband and my work clothes/laundry instead of taking it the cleaners (although I admit this one is going to the first to “go” when the debt is paid off–it tests my patience and sanity. I hate ironing!). With that said, I am not a Dave Ramsey follower. For people like you and me Ashley this is going to be a many year journey (I am on year 7 after I graduated, but have only been gungho the last 3 years and then we added to our debt significantly with a move). I have to find balance to save for retirement, have an emergency fund, and make a mortgage payment on a house that I call home (rent would cost us more than our mortgage where we live anyways). So, strike the balance, don’t apologize (not that you were) and full steam ahead!

  • Reply tpol1 |

    I think you have been doing great. There are many things I would have done differently if I were you but still, everybody is different. What is important is to be able to deal with a negative situation and overcome the obstacles in your own way. I congratulate Stephanie and keep cheering you in your quest to become debt free.

  • Reply Cathy D. |

    Love, love, love your message today! Thanks Ashley for reminding us that we each have our own journey. I started mine in 2008! It came to an abrupt halt shortly there after with the economy tanking, but I did pick up steam several years ago and just keep plugging along. My husband is not on board and sees no hurry so without his support, we keep taking vacations and spending most of our money on our kids (we paid for college and we pay for a traveling soccer athlete). With one more college bound kid, my husband is allowing him to look at schools we can’t afford, so we do agree that student loans are not an option. He will be eligible for scholarships (we live in Georgia and the HOPE scholarship covers more than half the tuition, while the scholarship is not needs based and only requires a 3.0 GPA). Thanks again for the reminder to stay away from student loans! Good luck with your journey! I enjoy reading your adventures!

  • Reply Isabella |

    This is such an excellent message! You have to do what works for you to have a successful outcome. It’s not a race, but a journey to the end. I admire the grit of Stephanie and family to get out of debt quite quickly, but her in-laws have supported them big time with the housing situation, something I would never do to my parents, even if they insisted! That’s a huge difference right there, if your are comparing your circumstances. Too much deprivation can derail a good debt pay-off plan. I compare it a lot to dieting—sometimes you just have to have that bit of chocolate!

  • Reply Walnut |

    I also read Stephanie’s blog and am super proud of her. Stephanie lives a very, very different life than I do, but I read her blog because she reminds of innovative ways to be frugal. She also exemplifies how she is living out her values every day, which is great inspiration. Hopefully the bits of jealousy you feel are extra motivation on the days where you just want to give up and book plane tickets to Texas to visit family.

  • Reply Rosalind |

    I sometimes envy you. I have $60k in student loan and credit card debt, but can’t pay the student loans because I work minimum wage, and paying the credit cards is devastating me financially.

    It could always be worse!

  • Reply Kerry |

    Dave Ramsey is a pompous blowhard who in his best moments is just a pill, and in his worst is a supercilious braggart and fraud whose professed belief in Christ does not follow through to his actions.

  • Reply Malady |

    It’s a really good point Ashley. We are all on our own journeys.
    I take heart from yours – I couldn’t do total austerity and having reasonable “living” with focussed debt reduction seems the way to go for me too. I love reading about you and your ups and downs. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Jean |

      Maybe it’s time to look for another contributor? It’s been over 6 weeks since Hope’s last post. From the sound of things, she’s in survival mode at the moment; she doesn’t need this hanging over her head.

      • Reply Jasmine |

        I actually reached out to the Contact Us email. I had applied back when Jeffrey was looking for a new blogger (when he had everyone right an intro post and people voted). I know the site’s been sold since then, but I’d still be interested in sharing my journey and getting help. I never actually heard anything back though.

        • Reply Kili |

          You should Just Start telling your Story in The comments πŸ˜‰ ill gladly read From Another contributor

          • Jasmine |

            I think I will start posting more in the comments when it’s relevant to share my story/perspective, but I wouldn’t want to hijack Ashley’s comments by outright blogging in the comments. I just wish the owners were more responsive.

  • Reply Cory |

    Really should be looking to add a new contributor on a regular basis. The very nature of the website would have a limit on the expected length of a contributor. It was nice for the short while it lasted to have 4 different stories to follow. I suppose there is probably an upper limit of the number of people I would want to follow. Being proactive is always a better solution. Hope everything is well with Ashley. Assuming she is just busy with closing on a house?

    • Reply Mindy |

      Hoping she’s busy with house stuff and that something hasn’t happened with her father.

So, what do you think ?