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Frugal Living Topic: Therapy???

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I certainly don’t read every single frugal living/paying off debt blog in the world. But I browse a good handful! And one thing I’ve never seen anyone talk about is therapy. Because it costs a lot, right? And it’s kinda taboo to talk about?

I had to deal with a big emergency with my Dad in the middle of last week. Without going into details, it was insanely stressful. I started thinking about the most stressful events I’ve personally experienced in my own life. This is probably a good Top 5 list:

Ashley’s Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events

5. Moving cross-country the second time/tied with planning an out-of-state wedding

4. Moving cross-country the first time

3. First year of twins’ life (living in a state without any family support; trying to complete my Ph.D. during this time because I had the twins the summer before my last year of grad school)

2. Emergency c-section of twins after developing HELLP syndrome.

1. Current Dad health situation

So, yeah. Dad’s health issues definitely secure the place of #1 most stressful thing I’ve ever dealt with (I realize this is small potatoes compared to what many others deal with. I’m just talking about me and my situation, not making any judgments about anyone else).

Anywayyyyyyy….. I ended up spending nearly 6 hours on the phone on Wednesday after this emergency situation occurred. I had to speak to a hospital, a social worker, my brother, my sister, my uncle, my dad, the social worker again, and on and on and on. Six hours is seriously not an exaggeration. And that was just on a single day. The calls continued throughout the rest of the week (and into this week).

So my Dad’s last test was expedited and occurred on Monday.  And guess where I am today? Flying back to Utah. My Dad’s follow-up with the specialist is tomorrow. My sister and brother are coming, too. It’s a whole family affair. Diagnosis Day. After tomorrow, Dad will be able to apply for disability, he’ll need to permanently relocate, we’ll start trying to sell off his things, take over managing his finances, and on and on. Lots to be done.

And over the weekend I was struggling. Like, hard.

I’m really a very level-headed person, but the stress has been eating away at me. I’m now working a full-time job PLUS a part-time job, I’m spending HOURS a day with issues related to my father’s health, not to mention normal life stuff (which was busy enough before any of this ever happened). It was just all too much!

I had a good cry and let it out. Felt much better afterward. You all know I’ve been hit pretty hard with this process already, but this was my first real cry and it felt like a bit of a release. Cathartic.

And it made me think…..maybe I should look into therapy???

To be perfectly clear, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with therapy.  That being said, I’ve never actually seen a therapist in my life. It feels a little foreign. I’ve always just talked over my problems and/or feelings with my friends, family, or hubs. But this feels different. No one I personally know can relate. No one knows what to say. And I just feel like its burdensome to continue bringing it up in conversations.

Enter:  health insurance!

Before starting my new job our health insurance didn’t cover any type of mental health care. My new insurance has a deductible, of course, but covers the majority of the cost of speaking with a professional.

In all honesty, right now I feel like I’m too busy to even take the time to talk to someone. I’m already struggling to keep up with my responsibilities.

But once Dad gets moved to a new permanent residence, the semester begins, and things settle into a bit of a routine…I’m thinking I might see a therapist a few times. Not an ongoing forever type of thing. But I feel like I need someone to talk to about this. I mean, clearly I’m having issues, am I right?

I can’t be the only one in the world. Why does no one else in the frugal living world ever talk about going to see a therapist? Maybe they think it’s cost prohibitive (before my insurance I would’ve thought that, too). Maybe they think it’s too personal to mention in such a public space (probably true?). Maybe I’ve just missed seeing people talk about it? Maybe they talk to a pastor or preacher or someone for free (we go to church occasionally…but don’t have anyone I’d want to talk to like that for counsel). I tried looking for support groups on Facebook, but it just doesn’t feel the same as speaking to a real human sitting across from you.

So I just wanted to throw this post out to the world. I don’t really want opinions on if I should or shouldn’t go (pretty sure I’m going to go. Just need to wait a bit for things to settle down so I have a chance to research people/places and find the time to go).  I’m just kind of curious why I haven’t ever seen anyone else mention therapy before.

Have you ever considered prioritizing the costs of therapy even within a tight budget? What have been some of the most stressful events in your life?


My Thoughts About My Month Off

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I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to their week, even after the bad news we all got (Ashley’s Father). Ashley- if you’re reading this, my heart goes out to you and your family during this time.

Writing this post seems pretty trivial after this weekend, but now it’s nearing the end of my month off from paying off any debt, I want to provide everyone with my what my feelings have been during this time:

  • I felt like I had more money than ever before. Which was true- I’ve never been able to spend like I spent this month without incurring extra. And even with this fact in mind, the money is all gone, sorta- I put $500 into my savings.  But I can plainly see how people’s expenses can grow to meet their income, and it a lot of cases, exceed their income, without a good deal of oversight.
  • I felt good spending the money. It was awesome (and greatly needed) that I bought new clothes. It felt good to be able to spend “freely” in Disney. We’ve certainly enjoyed eating out and going for ice cream and the other activities we did that we normally wouldn’t have.
  • But I don’t want to make it a habit. I had a ton of money to spend, I spent it, it felt pretty good spending it, but I don’t want to make it a habit. In the short term- I have the goal of paying off debt while saving as much as I can for retirement. In the long term, I may be debt free, but I don’t want to live with a mountain of stuff only because I’ll have the money available. I think this may be obvious to a lot of you that I wouldn’t want to end up this way after spending so many years tackling this debt, but I want to reiterate it here for my own peace of mind after all the spending I did this month. It was a fun month but not the lifestyle I want to live.
  • And at the end I’m no happier than I was. At the end of this month, with all the money I spent, I didn’t leave this month any happier than it began. It may be because I still have a mountain of debt to payoff, or it may be because after all the “stuff” I bought, it couldn’t buy me happiness, just like the cliche saying. The Disney trip made me unbelievable happy and I’ll always have those memories- but it was over in an instant and we we’re back to everyday lives, albeit with some added post-Disney depression.
  • However, it did make me ready to go again for more payoff. I think this was the biggest outcome I got from the month off. TBH- I was feeling very mentally drained towards the end of June, which I think you could all tell, so this allowed me a little bit of R&R. But now, I’m READY to get back into it! Like an athlete that had to sit out a year due to injury, I’m going to hit the next half of my payoff with a full head of steam, (while still having that oh so important life/payoff balance :))

What are your thoughts concerning my month off? Have you done anything similar? Was it worth it or did you regret it? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have one more week of my month off (but I pay my mortgage this week, so it won’t feel like it), at which point I’ll be back with my weekly debt updates and my month ending reviews.

Have a great rest of your week!


Pretty Torn Down

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I truly appreciate the thought out comments on my last post (The Next Step.) I have read every single one of them. But frankly, this time, the “doormat” “enabling” etc. comments just tore at me. I realize that I signed up for this but more importantly, I realize that it’s a lot easier to stand on the sidelines and yell direction then it is to actually be in the middle of it where the action is actually happening. I wonder if some of you realize that…

I have contemplated not returning, but I’ve never been one to shy from a fight, so after a couple of weeks of licking my wounds.  I am back.

So to follow up on that last post…

1. I am not doing anything illegal nor am I committing insurance fraud.  The car has sat with occasional driving when I needed it or when he would visit the kids.  He has another car with one seat in it he uses on a daily basis.

2. While it may be in my name, etc. it is HIS car and HIS debt.  That is spelled out clearly in our divorce decree and I do not think it would be right to discuss HIS debt here.  Thus, no numbers were mentioned in that post.  I just wanted to get your feedback on that being the next course of action.  From the responses, I would say everyone overwhelmingly agreed with my desire to rid my name of that debt although many differed on how it should be done.

3. Hiring a lawyer to do this, that or the other.  No offense to the lawyers who may be reading this, but are you crazy?  Have you gone through a divorce where there are kids and property?  Well, I see/hear about it EVERY day from other of my single mom acquaintances…$20K and counting in legal fees, , chasing and waiting for child support, limited child support based on his income and it never stops until the kids reach 18.  I paid $75 and did my own divorce paperwork.  I got exactly what I wanted…full legal and physical custody of the kids.  He got the car to finish paying off.  I also got a relationship with him where I could say “the kids need” and he was willing to work with me on money without feeling like I was coming after him.  And I don’t have to go back to court  every time things change or chase him down for child support via more court appointments.  I have seen the results of that many times over and do not want it for me, my kids or even him.  Sorry if you don’t agree, but I KNOW this was the right decision.

4. You like reading Ashley…great!  I like reading Ashley too.  Life was definitely much more simple when I had two little kids and a husband helping pay the bills, and had a corporate job.  But that’s not my life anymore and frankly, despite the hardships of the last years I LOVE my life.  I love spending every day with kids, seeing them evolve and grow with every new experience and “lightbulb” learning experience.  I love my clients and the flexibility I have to work when and where I want and do work that challenges me.  The absolute only thing I am missing these days from life is having a couple more bedrooms…but you know what, that will come.

I have read Blogging Away Debt since the very beginning.  I would check back daily for new posts and was sad when there were days or weeks between them.  But I was most interested in reading about the different bloggers life – challenges, successes and yes, sometimes even failures.  It inspired me.  So that’s how I write.  While the blog updates with charts and numbers are great, they are not my style.  If you don’t like it…that’s okay, there are two other bloggers.  I can’t/won’t be everyone’s style.  But I would like to share a quote my parents taught me growing up “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” and always “Silence is golden.”

More to come this afternoon…


Summer Book Club Review: Complete Guide To Money

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It’s time for our first summer book club review!

Did you read Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money with me?

ramseyphoto credit

If not, no worries! I’ll be announcing the next book club read at the end of the post! And read my review anyway – maybe you’ll get something from it even without reading the whole book.

Let’s get started….

My general thoughts are that the book basically rehashes a lot of his other books that I’ve read (I’ve read Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership). Even so, his writing is fun and engaging. He’s definitely a charismatic speaker and it comes through in his books, too. There are a lot of repeat stories that I’ve heard before on the radio (and/or read in previous books), but there are certainly some new ones too. Also, he’s pretty honest and open about the fact that the book covers all the same stuff he talks about on a regular basis. So you go into it almost expecting a bit of a review (at least that’s the case if you’re a regular Ramsey reader or radio show listener).

One of the things I enjoy is that Ramsey includes “We Did It” stories throughout the book as a motivating tool to read about real life people who applied his principles to reach their financial goals. I also like that he pulls in Twitter and Facebook posts as an added connection to readers.

Here are some quotations (some are direct quotes some are paraphrased) of things that jumped out at me as I read through the book:

  • If you start at age 16 and never have a car payment, but instead invest the difference, you’d retire a multi-millionaire just by avoiding car payments. Why not teach THAT in school?
  • Debt is a product. It’s the most successfully marketed product in all of history.
  • Dave’s grandma always said: “There’s a great place to go when you’re broke….. To Work!” (<<<my personal favorite quote from the book!)
  • Most families going through Financial Peace University program are debt free except their house in 18 months!!!
  • How would it feel to have absolutely no debt hanging over you?
  • How much of your income is currently going out in the form of payments every month (e.g., credit cards, home equity loan, mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc.)? What could you do if you actually got to keep that money?

While reading the book I also jotted down a couple of my own personal stories that related to things Dave mentioned in his book.

  • When I was a kid (not even 18 yet), I got a membership to Columbia House. They send you a bunch of free DVDs, but then start mailing you random DVDs every couple weeks which they bill you for in-full until you send notice to cancel your membership. I’d gotten caught up in the program and hadn’t canceled in time and owed money that I never paid and, eventually, it went on my credit. Again…we’re talking about something from nearly 15 years ago. The debt was small (under a hundred dollars), but it stayed on my credit forever – well past the 7 year mark – because creditors can do an account inquiry, which counts as account activity. Eventually I just paid the debt off so it would go away, but I was shocked to find out that the whole “it drops off your credit in 7 years” myth is NOT always the case. Columbia House showed me that by hanging around probably 12 years or so.
  • Ramsey talks a lot about how debt collectors have all kinds of terrible techniques to get you to pay THEM before any of your other bills. After my grandfather’s death, my maternal grandmother (who now lives in assisted living funded for by my mother) didn’t have a lot of income. She got behind on her bills and had credit card debt collectors calling her relentlessly. They convinced her to pay her credit card bill before her own mortgage and utility payments (which my mom was forced to step in and cover to keep the lights on). Obviously you shouldn’t be taking on debt you can’t afford to pay back. But you should also make sure you have a roof over your head and food in your fridge (and electricity to power the fridge) before paying back scummy credit card companies! No debt is the way to go!
  • Ramsey talked a lot about the power of marketing on buying decisions. I saw this come to light the most when I was planning our wedding 5 years ago. I swear, everything is marked up 10x just because its associated with a wedding. An identical product intended for a birthday party (instead of wedding) is so much cheaper! There’s something about weddings, specifically, that make people feel obligated to spend. I remember joking with friends at the time…. “if you truly love each other, you’ll order the specialty cocktail napkins with your personalized monogram! If you don’t upgrade but opt to stick with the regular napkins, you’re surely destined for divorce!!!” No, no one literally said those words to me. But that’s certainly how it felt!!!

Overall, I’d give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It never drew me in to where I just couldn’t put the book down. But its a quick and engaging read and has lots of helpful info, even if much of it is review.

What did you think?

What would you do with your extra money if you didn’t have any debts to pay?

And….drumroll please……..

Our next summer book club selection is:

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Your Money or Your Live:  9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence.

So pick it up from your local library. This will be our selection for the month of July. If you have another (financially-oriented) book you’d like to read, leave a comment with your opinion and I’ll select another one for August!

 


Weekly Debt Update #19- Father’s Day Weekend and Disney Prep

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Hope everyone is having a wonderful day.

This past weekend was Father’s Day, of course, so for all you fathers out there- here’s to you. Since my dad was down in Orlando visiting my nephew all weekend, we did not do any celebrating. After talking with my mom and brother, we’re holding off celebrating with my dad until the weekend of the 4th, since we all have the weekend off. However, just like for mother’s day where I celebrated GF being the “mother” of our dogs, she did some amazingly wonderful things for me. First, she made me breakfast, and then I got to spend most of the day doing what I wanted (spent playing guitar) while she worried about taking care of the chores. She made the dinner of my choice (her awesome homemade chili and a Greek salad) and then took us for a drive to a little, but fairly famous, road side stand for root beer floats. On the way back, we stopped at a beach and relaxed in the park. Here’s me on a child’s swing, lol:

IMG_3779.JPG (1)

As for Disney prep- I appreciate all the amazing comments on last week’s post. We now have some ideas for what we are going to do for food on our way back. Chances are at this point, we’ll find a grocery store outside of Disney and grab some items to pack in our cooler on the way back. Like I said before, GF has begun picking up non-perishables for the ride down. The way she coupons and shops, I don’t see a problem having enough non-perishable foods for both the way down and the way back up. We also started doing a “hardcore” cleaning of our house. The house never gets really dirty, but we don’t clean into the nooks and crannies too often. GF and I agree that there’s no better feeling after vacation than coming home to a super clean house. This way we won’t have to worry about doing much in the ways of chores when we get back. If there’s one thing about Disney, with the amount of walking and the lack of sleep, you could use a vacation after, so to speak, lol.  We started doing the cleaning last night and we’ll move room to room until we leave in a couple of weeks.

For the last week of debt payoff, here’s the numbers:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,838.59$3,998.65$57.94
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,702.35$3,494.67$48.15
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$5,925.89$4,424.29$345.74
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$48,466.83$62.120.83$451.83

My Apologies

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I want to apologize for not having a post written for my day today. Given the holiday and the day off yesterday, I got my days all mixed up and I forgot today was Tuesday. I fully intended on writing my post tonight (thinking today was Monday), until GF texted me, asking me when I was going to post:

GF: “Are you going to post today?”

Me: “I’m writing my post tonight but I won’t post it until the morning.”

GF: “It’s Tuesday, though”

After a few minutes thinking about it:

Me: “O #$%@. I forgot.”

Me: “The holiday really screwed me up.”

I spent the whole day at work before this point thinking today was Monday. So, instead of trying and failing to put something together, if you can forgive me, I’ll put together my post I was originally intending on writing and post it on Thursday (since Hope posts tomorrow).


Cruise 2016 Update

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Remember when I first told you all about my plan to set sail in February 2016 on a cruise with my family in celebration of my Mom’s 60th birthday? Well I’ve got some updates….

Initially, the plan was for this cruise to be a 100% surprise for my Mom. The entire family was in on it and the loose plan was for my stepdad to tell my Mom that he was going to take her on a trip (she would surely assume they were going to San Antonio, as they regularly do), and then drive down to Galveston where the cruise ships dock. The rest of us would surprise her there on the dock. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!!!

Well, the more planning we were doing, the less likely it seemed that this would stay a surprise. There were so many logistics involved (e.g., making sure she had enough time off work, making sure she packed appropriate clothing and swimwear, etc.) AND some of you commenters planted little seeds of doubt in my mind. You mentioned that maybe she’d prefer her dream cruise vacation to Alaska ALONE with my stepdad. And then I had a conversation with my Mom where she mentioned that since she’s gotten older she much prefers the MOUNTAINS over the beach (since when, Mom?!?!) The point is…I started second-guessing myself.

So after a LOT of phone calls with my sister, internal wrestling, and careful thought and consideration we came up with a plan. My sister was having my Mom and Stepdad over on Mother’s Day and made a little craft to present my Mom. First, the card:

Your 59th was pretty crappy.

All we want is for YOU to be happy!

So your 60th is all about you.

And now its your turn to choose.

Then my sister presented her with three envelopes. Inside each envelope was a different vacation: a ship to represent the family cruise, a mountain to represent a mountain-oriented family vacation, and a picture of Alaskan wildlife to represent the Alaska vacation.

My sister explained what each picture meant and what the vacation would entail (we did a lot of research on each of the trips so sister presented all the information of where we would stay, what we could/would do, ports of call for the cruises, etc. etc. etc.). My mom was shocked and surprised and didn’t know what to think. She said she needed some time to think it over and let us know by that same afternoon that her choice was the same one we’d originally made: Family Cruise 2016!!! So it’s on.

Skipping forward….

One of the BIG things about this vacation, to me, is that it be paid with 100% cash. I am very excited and working very hard to make it a complete debt-free vacation.

Another thing is that this gives me a really concrete goal: have all consumer debt paid in full by the time we set sail! I’ll still have student loans to contend with, but it will feel so satisfying to be able to make the trip down to Galveston in a newly paid-off car!!!

And a final update – the cruise is booked! There was a $1,000 deposit, so I wanted to wait until we had that saved up in cash. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that cruises can book up so far in advance. We were originally going to cruise in February 2016 (I thought 9 months in advance was plenty of time to book), but we’ve had to push it back to April 2016 to get the accommodations we wanted (two absolute must-haves were 1. adjoining rooms for sister & I so we could let kids nap in one room and have adults in the other, and 2. A 6:00pm dining time, since the kids are already asleep before the 8:30pm dining time and they need to EAT before bed!) Apparently, those two things go fast so we pushed back the sail date a couple months to make these things happen.

All in all, I’m super excited. I’d wanted this to be a big surprise for my Mom, but I think it’s better this way since she’s now been part of the planning process, has been able to voice her opinion of what matters to her (e.g., she wants an upgraded larger room), and has time to adequately prepare (basically diets all around for every one of us, lol).

So there’s the update.

We’re now officially booked (paying all cash, thankyouverymuch), and I’ve now got extreme motivation to be consumer debt-free by April 2016.

I know some of you were interested in the exact costs associated with this vacation. To give some additional information, we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean cruiseline. Our itinerary is an 8-day/7-night trip to visit 3 different countries (set sail from Galveston, docks in Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico). We are paying for four people (no, kids aren’t free), but are all staying in a single room. We chose an interior room (I’d really wanted an exterior for the extra square footage, but settled on the interior since it was cheaper and we could be adjoining with my sister’s family). The total cost including taxes, port fees, and pre-paid gratuities is $2496. This cost includes all food on the ship (there are options to pay for dining at certain on-board restaurants, but the free options are already delicious, gourmet, and FREE, so we won’t pay extra for food). We will, however, budget additional money to pay for any miscellaneous expenses that come up, including souvenirs, possible excursions (e.g., they charge money to go to the beach at the different ports of call), and any food we eat while visiting the different countries we’ll be visiting. In total I’ve planned to set aside $4,000 for the trip, which should be MORE than enough. I’d rather have extra money set aside and end up being able to make a debt payment with leftover money after-the-fact rather than come up short on cash. So that remains the plan.

I know the whole idea of a cruise while still in a mountain of student loan debt is controversial so I won’t be bringing it back up a lot. But I stand by my thoughts in this post where I described how and why we came to this decision. I’ve also had a couple commenters ask if we plan to do any type of celebration once we pay off all consumer debt. I think the cruise is celebration a-plenty. Yes, it’s technically for my Mom. But it will be fabulous to pay for the cruise all cash and know that – for my family – the trip also marks an important milestone in terms of being committed to NEVER acquiring additional debt in our lives (big exception: we still plan to buy a home at some point!) Sooooo…..consumer-debt free by early 2016! That means we’ve got some serious work to do on our car loan! Better get to it! ; )

What do your 1-year financial goals entail?


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