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Brace Payment Be Gone

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Braces have been part of our lives for almost five years now. You can read some history in these two older posts.

A Car or Braces

Braces – Part II

But I am excited to announce that as of yesterday, all brace debt is GONE! Paid the final $460 payment!

(Braces were not in my budget as I have maxed out my FSA deductions from my W2 job and have been using it to make the payments since I started my W2 job in March.)

Man, this feels good!


First Paycheck = FAIL!!!

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I received my first full paycheck at my new rate of pay. I was shocked that it was much lower than I had anticipated (even after using a couple online calculator programs to try to accurately predict take-home pay).  My expectation was that I’d earn somewhere between $5-6,000/month take-home.  The reason for the large range is that I have a LOT of money coming out in pre-tax deductions, including:  medical and dental insurance, Flex Spending Savings accounts for health and dependent care, and 7% retirement investment (required and matched by my employer). In total, I have 20% of my check removed pre-tax. Taxes remove another 20% of my paycheck. So when looking at my base weekly salary compared to my take-home pay, I’m only actually bringing home 60% of what I earn (to be fair, I’m saving money by being able to pay a portion of medical and childcare from our FSA with pre-tax dollars, but our FSA has caps that we exceed, so some of those expenses are still paid out of my take-home pay post-tax).

After all deductions, my first full paycheck was for a total of $2269. I get paid bi-weekly, so we’re talking about $4500/month for most months (except for the odd month with 3 pay periods). This was a huge shock, given that we’ve been quite accustomed to budgeting for literally double that income amount.

I’ve never shared exact income numbers before on the blog because it made my husband feel uncomfortable for his business earnings to be shared and analyzed. But now that he’s shut his doors down and it’s all me – I feel fine with sharing my personal income. Guess what, y’all….my salary is $95,423/year. That’s with my big raise. I was originally hired at $55,000 two years ago. I guess there’s some disconnect in my brain or something because I thought $95k sounded like “BIG MONEY.” When I got my raise I was overjoyed – I was expecting a huge, wild difference in my rate of take-home pay. Under $5,000/month was NOT what I was expecting. Call me spoiled or privileged of whatever else you want (and I own that I am some of those things – I’m lucky to have the job I do), but this was a huge shock.

So although it feels like “starting over” (although it’s not!!! We’re still down nearly $80k in debt over the last 3 years), it’s definitely a come-to-Jesus moment. Hubs and I have had to totally start over on our budget with fresh eyes. Thinking about how to continue making progress on our debt reduction journey while simply surviving (here, we thought we’d be “thriving” with this huge raise). Some tough realizations have been made:

  • Hubs must keep earning an income somehow. Hubs has run a successful flooring business for almost a decade, but recently quit to go back to school. Many people have commented that he should keep his business going for some side-income, but it just doesn’t work that way. Unless you’ve owned a business in the construction trade before, you probably don’t realize how expensive it is just to maintain the proper insurances, licenses, etc. Hubs is NOT the type to do business under the table without the appropriate certifications. It’s a big problem in his industry (and where we live, in particular), and he was not about to go that route. But to just keep his insurances and licenses up to date cost several thousand a year. When we looked at what he was bringing in part-time versus the costs to keep the company legal, it just wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile. And, maybe surprisingly, the flooring trade is not as flexible with a school schedule as we need. Hubs’ first semester back was this past Spring and he had many stressful calls from employees (or worse, home-owners) with issues that demanded immediate attention, while he was still stuck in class for many hours to come. All in all, this was a losing proposition for our family. So now we’re trying to think of more flexible and accommodating ways that hubs can earn some side-money while in school. So far brainstorming has included: driving for uber or lyft, doing some type of food delivery, and perhaps trying to become a personal trainer. Remember – hubs has been big into health and fitness the last couple years, so the latter is his preferred method, but it will also take the longest to get started and requires additional research first. Any other ideas?
  • Food consumption has to get under control. A friend recently posted on facebook to inquire about how much her friends’ families pay per month for groceries. The most common number I saw was $250/week. I have to say, for the past couple of years since I’ve been working 2 jobs, our food budget has been way over $1,000/month (including groceries + eating out). I mean, $1,000/month was a GOOD month. But remembering back to when I first started blogging, it hasn’t always been this way! In fact, my original grocery budget was only $400/month!!! And I stuck to it! To be fair, it was never easy. I would spend a TON of time researching sales, carefully planning meals around sale items and food we already had in our pantry or freezer. I would easily have to go to 2-3 stores per week to get the best priced items (Walmart does their ad matching, but our local Walmart doesn’t have great quality produce). I’d also make a ton of items from scratch. Everything from breads and homemade granola bars to fruit leather and yogurt – even baby wipes I made myself for cheaper than could be bought bulk at Costco. Between ad searching, meal planning, grocery shopping, food prepping, and scratch baking, I probably spent a good 10-15 hours/week on my efforts. It paid off big-time in terms of money saved, but I just simply lacked the time when I started working full time (plus kept my part-time job, on the side). When I accepted my big raise I had to sign a non-compete so I had to leave my part-time job. So even though I still work full-time, I have significantly more time in the early morning/evening/weekend hours to try to devote to some of my old grocery-saving ways. I don’t know that it’s reasonable to get back to only $400/month. But I think if I shoot for $550-600/month (again – that’s for all food: groceries + eating out), it would be a huge savings over our current spending. I’m going to give it an honest effort for the month of August and see how I do.
  • The budget, in general, needs to be slashed. It’s scary how easy it’s been for things to creep up over time. When I first started blogging all our gifts were in the $10-15/range. Recently our gift-giving has been closer to $25-35+/gift. Hubs and I have both rejoined a gym. It’s very important to hubs (and he spends legitimately a ton of time there), but maybe I’ll cancel my own membership to try to save some money since I’m perfectly happy to run outdoors for free as my preferred form of exercise. I also had a friend recently mention that some health insurance companies offer discounts for gym memberships? I need to call Blue Cross, Blue Shield to inquire about this. Spending across the board needs to come down.
  • Debt payments??? Probably the hardest thing to accept is that our debt payments are going to drastically decrease. We’d grown accustomed to throwing thousands a month toward debt! I’m talking many months where we were paying $2500-$3000/month toward debt!!! Obviously if I’m only bringing home $4,500, there’s no room for a $3,000 debt payment. It’s just not possible. So we have to adjust expectations, adjust our 2017 financial goals, and just keep plowing forward, making as much progress as possible with what we have to work with.

So, ultimately, we need to cut our expenses AND try to find a way to increase our income. There’s not much wiggle room for me (since I can’t pick up side work in my current industry), but I think we can try to find solutions to get hubs some part-time side gigs. My focus will be best spent on trying to reduce our food expenses, since that tends to be our #1 monthly expense (cumulatively speaking. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s true).

So there you go – I’ve laid it all out on the table. Next up will be formulating a solid budget plan and figuring out how to juggle our debt payments. Especially now that we owe $1,000/month to the IRS from our poor planning last year. Ugh! But baby steps here – if I think about everything at once I become overwhelmed so it’s one thing at a time. We now have a solid “income” figure so we know what we’ll be working with in terms of take-home pay. Now it’s time to figure out how to make our outflow match with our inflow and to find additional areas to cut back.

 

How much does your household spend per month on groceries (and how many people are in the household)? How do you save money on your food budget?


The True Cost of a Deck

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Thanks for all the comments on my latest post about motivation. I’ve taken the comments to heart and am really doing some serious pondering and life planning for moving forward. I’m trying to minimize the financial bleeding this summer, and then jump back full-force in August with some renewed energy. I wanted to try to go gung-ho this month, but with my lower pay and some unexpected expenses (see below) I just don’t think I can even reasonably expect to try to create a $3,000/month budget for the month of July. We’re going to take on more debt. Sigh. But in August I’ll have my first full month of new salary and our bills will have hopefully stabilized enough for us to create a new budget. From what I’ve figured, I think my take-home pay will be around $6,000/month when my new raise goes into effect. So far the budgets I’ve been playing with are still around the $7,000ish range, so I’ve got to figure out how to come up with an extra $1,000 month (or, alternatively, how to cut an extra $1,000/month from the budget). I’ll write up a post soliciting advice soon.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my latest unexpected expense in a story I call “The True Cost of a Deck.”

My mom and stepdad still live in the same home that I was raised in from the time I was 10-years-old. The house is in a highly sought-after area in Austin, TX and has appreciated well during the time they’ve owned it. It’s beautiful and I love it, but it no longer serves my mom and stepdad’s needs. It’s too large, taxes are too high, and it’s too-tall (two story, when they’d prefer a single story).

The plan has been to put the house on the market this coming spring. My mom, a real estate broker, has tried to dedicate much of the last year to putting in updates that were needed to bring the house up to modern-day and to maximize the amount they can list it for when it goes on the market. They’ve done updates in the bathrooms, the kitchen, and with the floors. The last remaining big thing has been the deck.

My mom’s house is built on the side of a hill. When you walk in the front door it’s at ground level, but then the ground slopes steeply so when you walk to the back door of the house (still on the first floor), all the sudden you’re an entire story above ground. They’ve had a back deck that you could walk out on with stairs leading down to the backyard grass below.

The deck is entirely made of wood and it has been heavily used and abused across time. At this point, parts of the deck are warped and rotted and it is unsafe to be on. Many of the surrounding homes had similar problems and all have had their decks redone at some point in the past 5-10 years. My mom, the last hold-out on the street, felt the time was finally right to replace their deck as it could raise safety concerns for potential homebuyers.

My stepdad, a very intelligent academic-type who likes to think himself a DIY-er, spent months thinking up plans for the deck. Finally, they decided to shell out the money to have a professional draft the plans and provide a list of materials needed to complete the project. The plan was for my stepdad to do the work himself. Once plans were procured, my stepdad went to work. Literally on Day #1, before anything else had been done, he got up on a ladder to cut down the limbs of an overhanging tree. When the large branch fell, it took out the ladder my stepdad had been standing on. Chainsaw in hand, all 3 (stepdad, ladder, and limb) fell to the ground. What could have ended in serious disaster (I shutter to even consider the possibilities), ended up not too terrible. My stepdad sustained a severe tear of his rotator cuff that would require surgery. After meeting with multiple specialists (he didn’t want to accept the truth), he begrudgingly agreed to hire out the rest of the work, given that he required immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery. Any plans for future deck-building were gone. In fact, he was told, the muscles in his arm/shoulder would likely never be the same again.

My Stepdad’s surgery was this past Friday afternoon. Early Saturday morning, my sister (an RN) went to visit and check on my stepdad’s bandages/dressing. While there, my Mom encouraged everyone to go outside to see the progress being made on the back deck – now being completed by a hired contractor. Outside, everyone admired the deck. It’s costing an arm-and-a-leg ($20k compared to the $5-7k DIY estimate), but it’s going up quickly and looks beautiful!

Everyone started walking back around the big hill toward the front of the house when my mom tripped on a piece of debris from the construction, fell, and landed hard on her arm. My sister said the “pop” was audible and unmistakable. My mom’s arm was bent backward and sideways, an unnatural direction that can not occur with healthy, intact bones. An x-ray at the ER later verified the extent of the break. My mom was in so much pain that she almost passed out a couple of times: during examination and immobilization.

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My mom had surgery today. Now both people (Mom & Stepdad) have an arm immobilized, recovering from very recent surgery. Neither can drive due to high dosage pain medicine, nor can they do much of anything on their own. In the time between my Mom’s break (on Saturday) and her surgery (today), my Mom has been in such excruciating pain that she’ been nearly helpless, even with her good arm. Meanwhile, my stepdad’s surgery went well but he’s been battling nausea and vomiting due to the pain medicine he’s on (even after having the doctor call in a lower dosage pain medicine). It’s just a mess.

My sister, now 7 months pregnant, is the true hero of the story. She took off almost a full week last month to help move my dad to his new facility. And she’s taken off almost a full week this month to help with my Mom and Stepdad. She’s gone over daily to make meals, take out trash, clean dishes, etc. etc. She had taken over a case of waters and literally had to pre-open all of the bottles because neither parent could seem to do it one-handed. I mean, it’d be comical if it weren’t my parents!

So this deck that was only going to cost about $5,000 to replace will now likely end up costing over $30,000. It’s about $20,000 for the deck itself, then the out-of-pocket max will be hit for both parents due to their ER visits and surgeries, not to mention loss of work (for them and for my sister). I booked a flight and will be arriving on Friday afternoon. I don’t have the money to go and I really don’t have the time, either. But I have to be there for my family. I just have to.

I’ll be in Austin from Friday-Monday. I’ll be back in Tucson in the office on Tuesday, and then I immediately leave for a work conference trip from Wednesday through Saturday. Then the plan is to round the family up and hit Disney later that week.

So the month of July is turning out to be totally nuts. And it’s costing an arm and a leg two arms! (groan, har har).

At least we have our health freedom, right?

Stay safe out there, DIY-ers! I’ll catch you from Austin on the flipside!


Finances & Fitness

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Hubs has become quite the fitness aficionado lately. Remember back in 2015 when he lost a ton of weight? He ended up losing 60 lbs. in total. In 2016 he was really just learning to maintain his weight through having a healthier lifestyle overall. He eats pretty clean, drinks lots of water, exercises regularly, etc. This year (2017) he decided he wanted to try to build some muscle mass. Well, mission = accomplished! I think his whole year was made last month when, while on our mom-&-dad getaway, a kid at the hotel’s pool area asked him if he was a professional bodybuilder! LOL! He ate up the compliment and was floating on Cloud 9 the rest of the day!

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As a disclaimer, I gotta say his “before” picture is in a shirt that was stained, not dirty. Hubs was a flooring contractor so all his work clothes eventually had stains all over them from glue, paint, etc. Just kinda gross to see all the “gunk” – it’s not just filth! Ha!

The truth is, hubs works hard for the gains he has made. Our summer has been a little more relaxed, but during the academic year he had been waking up faithfully at 4:45am so he could be at the gym at 5am when they opened, get in 1.5-2 hours of gym time, and be home in time to help get the girls dressed and ready for school. Even on vacation he went to the hotel gym daily. On our long driving days to and from Texas, he figured out creative ways to still get in his workouts by doing youtube videos using one’s own bodyweight for resistance, etc. When the rest of us want a bowl of ice cream after dinner, he prepares a bowl of fruit for himself. He’s dedicated like that.

I’ve wanted to get back on the whole fitness wagon lately. I used to be really into fitness, and while I would describe my current body-type as “average”, I’d love to get back to a place where I could consider myself “fit.” Unfortunately, I’ve found myself lacking motivation. The other day I was talking to hubs and asked him about how he stays so motivated – how he can push himself day after day to make healthy choices, sacrifice sleep for his gym time, choose the healthier food option when a sweet treat is right in his face, etc. I wish he had some secret trick I could share (or sell for $$$), but we all know that’s not the way it works. His response, “You just have to make the decision and stick with it.”

Me:  But it’s too hot to work out!

Him:  The gym has air conditioning. And you should be sweating while you’re working out anyway.

Me: But I’m tired!

Him: You won’t be after you get your heart rate up and going.

Me: UGH!!!!! BUT I DON’T WANT TO!!!

Him: Well….that’s your problem then. : )

As we talked about it, I couldn’t help but draw the parallels between FITNESS and FINANCES.

I recently admitted to letting our finances slip a bit over the summer. I’ve slacked off on a lot of the money-saving habits I used to have. It’s been months since I’ve designed our meal plans around sales and ads, for instance. I used to do that weekly – our meals were specifically planned based on the kinds of food on sale at our local grocers. It’s been years since I’ve done the envelope system. Or since I kept a “30 Day Wish List” prior to buying household stuff.

I think I’ve just been lacking motivation. To be honest, it’s probably been going on for awhile. I’ve been able to get away with it because our income has been high enough to compensate for some poor planning and spending habits. But when our income dropped, I really never buckled down. I never started the process of really trying to cut back significantly and, instead, I continued to spend like all was normal.

I’ve wanted to change, but I didn’t really want to put in the work to make it happen. Kind of like my fitness journey. Heh.

I don’t have any grandiose conclusion right now where I can say “That’s It! I’m back on the financially-fit bandwagon!” The truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it, but not a lot of actions just yet. I really feel somewhat immobilized by our lower summer income (hub recently stopped working to go back to school and I had to leave my part-time job due to a noncompete at my full-time job). It feels like no matter what I do, I’m not sure that I can make our outflow match our inflow right now. It feels helpless. I’ve intentionally never given exact income figures (though it’s not a total surprise, as I’ve been pretty open about our budget and expenses, etc.). But just to give ballpark numbers, we went from earning a take-home salary of roughly $10,000/month….to right at $3,000/month. Practically overnight. Granted, these are take-home numbers (insurance is paid pre-tax, some of childcare and medical is paid pre-tax, mandatory 7% investment is pre-tax), so the low $3,000 number doesn’t mean we’re only making $36,000/year. We’re still making significantly more than that. But just in terms of dealing with take-home pay, we’ve experienced a huge drop over the last couple months.

My new raise goes into effect soon and as much as I am LOVING the academic freedom this summer, I can’t wait for August to roll around just so I’ll be able to experience my first full month with my new salary (remember that raise I got months ago but doesn’t go into effect until my new contract??? Can’t wait!!!).

ANYWAY…..

I just wanted to check in with you all and be honest and open about where I am in my debt journey right now. I have no doubts that we will make a full rebound. I know it. But right now I’m still just kind of limping my way through, trying to find that motivation that comes so naturally to my hubby.

Share a financial (or fitness-related, if you prefer) WIN you’ve made recently! I love hearing other’s successes!

How do you keep your motivation high when you’re not really feeling it? Fake it till you make it? Any other tips or strategies?


How to Deal with New Financial Concerns for a New Generation

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In agrarian times, people were more concerned about crops than money. Then again, crops were money. No wheat, no eat. Contrary to the popular narrative, there has always been credit. People have always needed to borrow goods or services against the promise of future payment with interest.

Generation Xers share many of the same concerns as the agrarian. But along the way, we have developed a few concerns our forefathers and mothers didn’t have. The U.S. is a society of plenty. But it is burdened with epidemic levels of financial stress.

Every generation is convinced that people from the previous generation could not possibly understand what they are going through. And to some degree, they are right. Times, technologies, and social policies change. And personal finance is a different proposition for each passing generation. These are some of the concerns of the current generation of under-forty-somethings:

Old Money

One of the concerns shared by the younger generation is not just about making enough money, but about the system of money itself. In part, this generation is suffering from tracking fatigue. Gold was virtually untraceable. Then we moved to paper with serial numbers, checks, and now electronic transactions.

So reliant are we on electronic transactions that we don’t even carry money anymore, certainly not any money that is completely under our control. Cryptocurrency is a form of money that has the convenience of electronic transactions, but the privacy and control of gold.

Genesis Mining is just one of the many companies that provide the modern-day experience of mining it like gold, but without the picks and shovels. The method of how bitcoin is made is less important than what it enables. Besides enabling anonymous transactions all over the world, it offers a 0-exchange rate currency. One bitcoin is worth the same regardless of where it is mined and where it is spent.

Today, if you are even suspected of a crime, you can be traced by your money, it can be frozen by governments, and rendered indefinitely unavailable. And it is just one more way in which you don’t have the control over your life that you thought you did.

Social Insecurity

In the U.S., Social Security is a federal program that provides a financial safety net for seniors. It is based on the number of years one works, and the amount of money put into the system.

But it is not a one-to-one program. It pays out more than we put into it. And there lies the rub. At the beginning of the program, there were very few beneficiaries, and many workers contributing to the fund. Today, there are almost as many beneficiaries as there are contributors. We are below three workers to one beneficiary. It need not slip much further before the system is completely unsustainable.

People under forty have a right to wonder if social security will be there for them. Eventually, it won’t be, at least on the track it’s on now. And politicians do not have the will to address the issues before it completely crumbles. First, their families will be taken care of for life. Second, voters tend to be older. Messing with social security is political suicide.

Debt Slavery

Not everyone has the option of a side-hustle. But it is a very interesting idea nonetheless. It is just one of the many ways younger people are trying to manage the reality of pervasive debt.

That debt begins the moment we decide to go to college. $160,000 later, you will need to buy a house. That $200,000 mortgage plus a $25,000 car gets you ready for your $20,000 wedding.

In the 1950s, a person could buy a home and start a family without a college education as a working-class citizen. People from that era didn’t need to incur so much debt to live the American dream. That same dream requires us to be mortgaged to our eyeballs.

Money will always be a tool of governments. Safety nets from the 1930s will not last forever. And debt is a constant. The old dream is dead. It is time for new dreams that are bigger than America. It’s time we dream the dreams that encompass the world, and a brighter future for all.


Life Lately

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Hello, friends!

I apologize for my absence! June has been an absolute whirlwind of a month! I feel like I just blinked and all the sudden we’re two weeks deep and I haven’t written a single post! Yikes!

It’s not for lack of thought about you all! Things have just been, well, a bit crazy. Let’s talk some general life updates with some financial stuff sprinkled throughout.

First, my Dad has officially been moved to a locked memory care facility. My siblings and I have been dreading it for months, but luckily the move was far less terrible than the build-up we had in our minds. On moving day, my sister took my dad to a doctor’s appointment and out to lunch while my brother instructed movers to get everything out of the old place (an independent living facility) and moved over to the new place. My dad happily arrived at his new home exhausted and ready for a nap. He likes the food better, which is a big deal for him – he’s become quite picky over foods and hates things he once loved. I’m not sure if his taste buds have changed or what the “cause”, but he prefers bland things and his favorite “snack” is a piece of white bread or a Hawaiian roll. Very odd, but I’ve read other FTD’ers tend to crave breads, too.  He still does not realize he is locked in the facility and cannot leave. This has been a HUGE blessing for us! The facility is built around different courtyard areas so he can freely access “outside” whenever he likes, but the main exit is locked for patient’s safety.

The girls are in kindergarten camp this week. We’d originally planned to stay in Austin longer following my Dad’s move, but I’m so glad we decided to come back early so the girls could go to this camp. They are loving it and I think it is helping to assuage the new school/Kindergarten fears. We won’t have official class lists until August, but they’ve met all the kinder teachers and are becoming familiar with the school, the routine, meeting new friends, etc.

I’ve got to admit to making some poor financial decisions this summer. We’ve been making a huge sum of money the past couple years, but everything seemed to end at once. Now with my part-time job gone, hub’s job gone, and my new raise not going into effect until next month, it’s been a struggle to adjust. I haven’t done great with it. Hubs and I went on our “Mom and Dad Getaway” (one of our 2017 goals) and I feel real guilt over it. It was our first trip away from the kids for more than a single night since they were born (and they turn 5 next week!). I do think we needed the time alone together to reconnect and think it’s a healthy and important thing for couples to do if they can. But…we also could not have chosen a poorer time. I mean, this was the time that worked for me (with my work schedule, summers are best for a getaway), but it was a terrible choice of timing in terms of money (or lack thereof).

We were spending money we didn’t have. There, I said it. First time in the 3 years of blogging that this has happened. I paid for things on credit and don’t have the income coming in to cover the costs. So, there’s that. My raise starts July 1st, but since the paychecks are lagged, I won’t have a full month of my new income until August, at which point things should stabilize financially speaking. My original plan was to just stay treading water over the summer, but now I know that’s not going to happen. We’re slipping backward a bit. It’s not like we’ve gone out and bought a car or taken on tens of thousands in a home equity loan or something, but we’ve paid on credit for vacation items (hotel, food, etc) that we just can’t cover. And then on our way home from Austin we had a tire blowout. Remember how I just barely got new tires? Ha! I’d only bought 2. A couple hours and $500 later I bought 2 more (no chance to comparison shop or find a deal). We were so lucky that hubs’ felt the tire wobbling so he had exited the highway and slowed down the car before the blowout occurred. We were also incredibly lucky to have it happen to be in a small town with cell phone reception (much of the drive from Austin to Tucson is in cell phone dead zones in the middle of nowhere). So, I’m thankful for our health and safety and the fact that we could get the new tires relatively quickly. But it felt like God or Murphy laughing at us for the poor financial decisions we were making and just adding insult to injury. I guess we’ll see a credit card reappear in my next debt update. It’s a tough thing to accept, but ultimately I’m human and made some mistakes poor spending choices.

Despite the spending issue, work has been going well. I’m enjoying the change of pace the summer always brings. It’s been nice to have the hubs and girls around more (even though it makes working from home tough. I usually just go to campus). I’m able to catch up on some big work projects without having classes and 100+ student emails to contend with daily. I love what I do and feel so fortunate to have landed this position and especially the giant raise I secured (though won’t see until next month).

All-in-all, I’m doing okay. Not great, but okay. I’ve been struggling with some mental health issues related to dealing with my dad’s care and dealing with my siblings to try to secure him the quality care he deserves. It’s personal family matters so I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that it’s been a challenge. I know that ultimately we are so lucky! My dad had assets at the time of his diagnosis, so we are paying for his care with HIS money. It would be a whole different ballgame if it were my siblings and I footing the bill. But even so, it’s tough when there are major disagreements and I hate the strain that this has placed on all of us. I started going to therapy last year around this time and only went for maybe 4-5 months. I’m considering starting to go again, though, just because I did find it to be a helpful outlet. We shall see.

To end on a positive note, let me share one piece of good news. You may or may not recall how I referred to Summer 2016 as the Summer of Death (we experienced 3 significant deaths that summer).  Well one of them was my husband’s grandfather. His estate went into probate and it took a long time, but my husband’s mother has now inherited a good bit of money. Although nothing was left directly to any of the grandchildren (meaning, my husband did not directly inherit anything), his mom offered to pay for 3 days in Disneyland all-expenses paid for our family! She covered the cost of tickets, hotel, food, travel expenses, and even gave us extra spending money to put toward purchasing souvenirs, matching shirts, or the like. I know it seems like a crazy juxtaposition to the “mom-and-dad” getaway we just barely had, in which we set ourselves BACKWARD in our debt progression. But this gift was given to us with the expressed intent to be put directly toward a family Disneyland trip (not toward general household expenses and/or debt). All of our travels thus far have been with extended family, so we have never had a family vacation with just the four of us and my mother-in-law wanted us to have one. We graciously accepted and have booked our room and tickets for next month (again, the idea being that it’s easier for me to travel during the summer – though it will be dreadfully hot!). The kids and I have never been to Disneyland before (hubs has, but it’s been many years), so we’re all excited to go! It may even slightly help with our current financial picture because the entire time that we are away will be financed on someone else’s dollar (so we may see a savings in our grocery bill or utilities for the time we’re away).

I hope your summers are going well! I must admit how tough it was for me to sit down and type up this update, knowing the financial details I would be sharing. I promise to have a complete debt update at the end of this month so we can catch back up with where our family is at now. My hope is that this is just a blip in the radar and that we’ll soon forget this ever happened and be well on our way to smashing our remaining debts!

Have a great rest of your weeks!

~Ashley


5 Point Plan for Getting Out of Debt

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Debt could be good because it affords you an opportunity to use tomorrow’s money to meet today’s needs. However, debt when not properly managed can cast very dark shadows over your finances and make it hard for you to become financially secure. This article provides five actionable steps that could help you improve your odds of getting out of debt faster and permanently.

Build an emergency savings fund

An emergency savings fund is money you set aside to tide you over during the proverbial rainy days. An emergency savings fund can help you cover unexpected expenses such as a broken faucet or a failed transmission among other things. Experts often advise saving up enough money to cover at least three months of living expenses.

However, it might be impossible for you to save up that much money if you already have a debt burden. Yet, you can still shoot for saving up $1000 in an emergency fund. You can reach the $1000 milestone by doing odd jobs, having a garage sale, or working overtime among others.

Get rid of all consumer debt

Consumer debt has a way of sucking people into the darkest recesses of a debt vortex because you’ll always have more reasons to take on more debt. Student loans, credit cards, gas cards, medical bills, and car loans are some of the consumer debt you should prune off your finances. If you are serious about getting out debt, you should start by paying off the smallest debt with the biggest interest payment. Move on the next debt with the second biggest interest payment work through the rest of your debt systematically.

Leverage the value of your home

A smart way to get rid of consumer debt (see above) is to leverage the value of your home. If you own a home, you’ll find it much easier to get out of limiting debt by taking out a home equity loan. A home equity loan gives you a huge emotional boost by lifting the psychological burden that comes with being saddled by too many loans to different creditors. Debt consolidation with a home equity loan means that you have only one creditor; hence, you’ll find it much easier to manage monthly payments and other parts of your finances.

Invest 15% of your income

One of the reasons you got into debt in the first place was that your expenses was more than your income; hence, you were forced to borrow money to make up the difference. You can improve the odds of your financial security by moving from being a spender to becoming an investor. Ideally, you should invest at least 15% of your income into investments that could bring in some extra money or investments that could provide you with income during retirement. Of course, you can start investing the little money you already have instead of waiting until you have a huge investment capital.

Build a real emergency saving fund

Getting out of debt is not an end in itself, being financially secure enough not to get back into avoidable debt is the real goal. You can take proactive steps to reduce your need for avoidable debt by building a real emergency savings fund. Building an emergency savings fund enough to cover at least three months (and up to six months) worth of your living expenses will put you in a strong position to weather most financial storms.


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