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2017 Planning

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Hi friends! How is 2017 treating you so far? So far, so good over here! Just trying to balance work and childcare (always!!) The kids have been out of school all last week (they go back to preschool this coming Monday) so I’ve been drowning in work-related tasks while I’ve been trying to juggle childcare with hubs. Yikes!

Speaking of hubs – a quick work-related update:

Remember when we spoke about hubs going back to school full-time and closing the doors to his business?? Well, slight change of plans…

He IS going back. He’s starting with 9 credit hours; his classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays. That leaves him with quite a bit of spare time still on his hands (though, to be fair, his classes are basically ALL.DAY on M/W, so he’ll need to spend quite a bit of time on the other weekdays actually studying, doing homework, etc.).

Anywho, hubs landed a really big contract around October-ish that was supposed to be completed by the end of 2016. For newer readers, hubs is a wood floor contractor & installer. Unfortunately, the contract was for a big “new build” condo complex and anyone who is familiar with new build knows that they are rife with setbacks and delays. The same was true here. Floors are one of the last things to go into a new home, so hubs’ schedule kept getting pushed back more and more and more while other contractors were working on their parts of the project.

I think you can see where this is going.

The project was not complete by the end of 2016. Not even close. In fact, hubs had only just barely begun! (again – this was due to no fault of his own – this is just how new builds sometimes go).

At this point in time, hubs has a two-man crew still working for him. Rather than renege on the contract he had signed, he’s having his crew continue working for him on this big project. He’ll be able to check in on days he’s not in class to make sure all is running smoothly and according to schedule, but it shouldn’t be a big time commitment for him since the work is actually being completed by his crew.

After paying salaries, he obviously wont’ be making as much as if he were doing the work himself (which was the initial plan when we thought it would be done by the end of 2016), but he’ll still be making a nice little chunk on the side which will help add a bit of a buffer as we transition into the land of no-more-work. I think this is a great thing, though. It will be nice to have a month or two of additional side-income (from hubs’ business) before we transition into me being the sole earner in the household.

Speaking of, I’ve been running numbers over and over again trying to make our 2017 budget “work.” I think it’s just going to require a bit of flexibility because right now with our debt-payment goals and everything else….if I were the sole earner it just wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be making enough to cover our budgeted items.

To be fair, this is with a budget that is dolling out $3,000/month for debt payments, alone. It may be that some months we are unable to make such a large debt payment. As I’ve alluded to, I also have some employment changes in the future, too, so there are lots of balls up in the air and lots of considerations at hand.

I currently have a few blog post drafts going (one with a 2017 budget and one with 2017 financial goals). I’ll do my best to try to get one of those posts up this coming week. I’m just counting down the days/minutes until we have regular childcare again! Whew! Especially now with the girls being older (4.5 years) and not napping – there is not a single break during the day in which I can get real work done. I do a good job of attending to emails, etc. but anything other than the basic necessities is pretty tough to squeeze in! Yikes! Any work-from-home parents out there?? How do you do it!?!? The kids each have little workbooks so I’ve tried to have “work time” for all of us (like, we’ll all sit down to do “work” together), but the interruptions are constant and, while that’s okay when I’m just doing emails, it makes it challenging to do any serious work that requires extended concentration, etc. I’d love any tips (though, hopefully this problem will dissolve once preschool is back in session!)

Have a lovely weekend!!


Ashley’s 2016 Goals Wrap-Up (With December Debt Update)

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2016 has been a rough one for many. Have any of you seen this meme floating around the interwebs?

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 3.07.22 PM

(Here’s one source, but I’ve seen it on multiple accounts. It’s everywhere.)

Makes me chuckle. Although 2016 has been tough in many regards (and I have a year-end wrap-up post in the works with more info on my 2016), it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, I’ve had a pretty good year when it comes to my financial goals.

In the beginning of 2016 I set these financial goals for myself and my family:

  • Save $10,000 for down payment for a home.
  • Save $5,000 for an emergency fund.
  • Put $30,000 toward debt.

These were pretty lofty goals at the time they were set. But then our income just exploded.

I ended up working all summer (an extra 3 months worth of income), I taught an extra class one semester, and hubs landed some big contracts in the Fall.

Without any major financial set-backs this year (*knock on wood*) we managed to hit these goals out of the park!! I’ll explain each in more detail below.

  • Save $10,000 for down payment for a home. Once this goal was set, I really put it first above  all else. Initially we were going to start looking at homes in May, but we pushed it back a bit when we felt we needed more time to save up an EF, etc. We found “the house” in August and it was a long process, but when all was said and done we finally closed in early November. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to save the money in-time when we were shooting for a May timeframe, but by the time November rolled around we had more than enough saved for our down payment. With the money we saved (+ a generous gift from my mom) we had just over 20% to put down. We also had some cash reserves still on-hand that came in quite helpful when we needed to buy nearly $4,000 worth of “stuff” to get moved into the house (e.g., refrigerator, blinds, etc. See this post for details).
  • Save $5,000 for an emergency fund. This goal was so important to me, personally. This was the real reason why we delayed our house hunt from the beginning. We had our $10,000 saved up, but had nearly no emergency fund and I felt like it was just a recipe for disaster to buy a home with no money on hand. After we pushed back our original “house hunting” date, we were able to continue to stack money (again – I picked up work over the summer and additional classes in the Fall, too, which really helped in this regard). As I type this post, we have exactly $5,085 in our dedicated Emergency Fund and I consider it fully funded for the time being. Eventually we’ll try to bump this up to a full 3-6 months ($5,000 is about one month for our household…maybe 2 if we really stretch). But while we’re still in the process of debt repayment we’ll leave it at $5,000. I did have some comments on the house post that mentioned making a separate house-related EF (especially given the age of our home, etc.). I’ll address that more in my forthcoming 2017 Goals post. Look for that post likely next week sometime.
  • Put $30,000 toward debt. This is just such an obscene amount of money to pay toward DEBT in a single year! It’s crazy to think about how many families are struggling just to get by on $30,000 total annual income. When I first started blogging here our household income was just under $50,000. Thinking of that time (and there would have been zero chance we could have put a full 30k toward debt) compared to where we are now…I’m just amazed. Life has had it’s fair share of ups and downs, but we’ve been blessed in the financial realm this year. Check out our December Debt Update table:
PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$110715.80209December82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86215.8025December
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85376.5533December
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72326.5528December
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$64026.5525December
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85376.5534December
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$161356.552020December
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$30000% (through April 2017)$1000December$7650
Medical Bills$56360%$25December$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$75,171 (Nov balance = 78,345)$3399Starting Debt = $145,472

With our last large debt payment from December 2016, we’ve managed to cross the finish line on our final financial goal of 2016. We have officially paid over $30,000 toward debt this year!!! See below (with a previous goal check-in post found here):

Month 2016 GOALS 2016

January

Goal: $3500 $4013
February Goal: $1000 $1261
March Goal:  $1000 $2134
April Goal:  $2000 $1521
May Goal: $2000 $1325
June Goal:  $4000 $3500
July Goal: $4000 $4928
August Goal: $2500 $1374
September Goal: $2500 $2775
October Goal: $2500 $2750
November Goal: $2500 $2625
December Goal: $2500 $3399
Total Goal: $30,000 $31605

Some months were up and some were down, but the highs and lows all averaged out and still allowed us to hit this monstrous goal we had set that didn’t even seem feasible in January of 2016 and yet, here we sit at the end of 2016. Mission accomplished.

For anyone casually stumbling across this blog (as well as long-time readers – thanks for sticking around!!), I just want to stand on the top of a mountain and shout: I’M A REAL PERSON. A NORMAL HUMAN BEING JUST LIKE YOU. THERE IS NOTHING SPECIAL OR OUTRAGEOUS ABOUT ME AND MY SITUATION. IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU!!!!

Three years ago, I never would have believed I’d be sitting here today having annihilated nearly half of our debt!!! It’s a pretty incredible things and more great things are on the horizon.

How have you done on any 2016 goals? Are you taking stock and making plans for 2017 goals??


Ashleys November 2016 Debt Update

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Another month is over – time for another debt update!

November was a good month! In some regards it was pretty pricey (hello, new house!!!), but in other ways we were able to be thrifty and save. In the end, we had a decent debt-payment in November and are expecting an even BIGGER one in December! Our first mortgage payment isn’t due until January and rather than let the “extra” money float away (or be absorbed into holiday/Christmas stuff), hubs and I have purposely budgeted to make a big debt payment this month.

Here’s how we did in November:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$686846.55%$2000November$82433
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$40000% (through April 2017)$600November$7650
Medical Bills$56610%$25November$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$78,345 (Oct balance = 80,712)$2625Starting Debt = $145,472

YOU GUYS!!!! Not only are we finally in a new digit (in the $70,000’s instead of $80’000s), but we are THISCLOSE to reaching the half-way mark in our debt journey!!! We started at about $145,000 so when our total debt reaches $72,000 we’ll officially be HALF WAY to debt-freedom! It’s only a few thousand away!

Our debt reduction journey began when I was selected to start blogging here in March 2014. My goal is to have officially hit our half-way point by my 3-year bloggiversary in March 2017. I can’t believe I’ve been around so long! Initially when I began here I thought I’d only be blogging until our credit card debt was gone…but then I ended up hitting it out of the park and eradicated our credit card debt in just THREE months (I thought it would take a year or longer!)! I wasn’t done yet, so I decided to stick around for the long-haul. So glad to have so many of you as readers for this entire time (and welcome to new readers!)

It’s also time to begin thinking about 2017 financial goals. Goal-setting has always been one of my “things.” I really enjoy setting goals in different aspects of life (e.g., financial, work, personal, etc.) and I frequently take stock to see how things are going. I’ll be working on a post soon where I discuss the outcome of 2016’s financial goals and I lay out a plan of goals for 2017 moving forward. I’m excited to start seeing this debt really melt away as we near the half-way mark. Can’t wait!

What financial goals did you make for 2016?  How are you doing on them?


My Loan Request Was DENIED!!!

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First thing’s first. Welcome, Amy! I’m so excited to have another blogger up in the mix! I was a reader long before I was a contributor here so I’m super pumped to be able to follow another blogger on their debt journey! Yay!!! I can’t wait to get to “know” Amy as we share this debt-reduction journey together!

(Side Note:  I’ve also seen many people ask about Hope in recent comments. I don’t have any updates, but I’ll send her a quick email today just to pass along our warm thoughts and kind regards. I honestly don’t have any additional information at this time but I wanted to address it because I know lots of have asked about her recently).

I hope all our American readers had a lovely Thanksgiving this past week! It was JUST what I needed! Quiet, low-key, relaxing, etc. We spent a solid 3 days in a row at home (we had friends over for play dates on Friday & Saturday so we weren’t all alone), and it was GLORIOUS to just hang out and relax. This was our first Thanksgiving in a very long time where we were just at home – we didn’t go anywhere and we didn’t have any guests here, either. I used it as an excuse to go super easy for Thanksgiving. We just had meat, 2 sides, and a single dessert. That’s it. I have to admit that I kind of missed not having a ton of Thanksgiving leftovers (my favorite is a thanksgiving sandwich with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey – but we didn’t even do ANY of those foods this year! Our main was ham and our sides were green beans & sweet potato casserole). We did buy a mini (2 lb) butterball turkey that I’ll probably cook sometime this week, but hubs had specifically requested ham for our main meat for Thanksgiving so that’s what we had.

And then I applied for a student loan consolidation….and I was DENIED!!!!!

I couldn’t even believe it.

According to Credit Karma, my credit is in the “excellent” range. They have my credit at a 760 or 785, depending on the site (Equifax & Transunion, respectively).

What possible reason would they have for denying me a line of credit?

An outstanding collection.

That’s what they said. The thing is, I’ve literally only had one “derogatory” mark on my credit in my life. It was from when I was 18 or 19 (nearly 15 years ago now) for not paying for those 10 DVD’s for 1 penny thing (mine was via Columbia House, but surely you’re familiar with those programs – there were several in that time-frame). It was a legitimate debt that I owed and, funny thing is, I even tried to pay for it a few years after-the-fact, but I couldn’t get the creditor to send me a letter stating that the debt would be settled in full after payment, so I never sent the payment. It aged until it fell off my credit and I haven’t even thought about it in years.

According to Credit Karma, I have no derogatory marks/late payments/etc (like I said, due to its age, this one negative mark long-ago fell off my credit report). I’m telling you, I’m kind of a stellar client from a lender’s perspective. I’m conscientious, pay on time, more than the minimum, etc. etc. Plus the lender who denied me also had me link my different bank accounts so they could see that I had lots of assets available (not only from my EF, but also my retirement, and I’m listed as a joint account holder on my Dad’s account, too, so although  I don’t consider his money “mine”, its a lot of additional liquid assets that are mine from a legal perspective since it’s a joint account). Soooo…what the heck? I don’t get it. But that’s that.

So this lender is out. I still have other options, but I was just shocked about this denial. Truly, genuinely shocked.

Have you ever been caught off-guard about an unexpected credit denial?

How did you spend your Thanksgiving holiday? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?


Student Loan Refinance

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I’m sure I sound like a total flake after just saying (in my most recent post) that I likely would NOT be refinancing all of my student loans at this time….but now I’m leaning the other way again.

Here’s the deal – Navient just won’t get their act together and stop pissing me off! It’s just such a terrible company to do business with. I hate them so much I’m really considering giving up my interest-forgiveness just so I can get rid of working with them as a lender!!!

Remember my most recent Navient snafu? As a quick catch-up, they overcharged me for 2 months over the summer (to the tune of about $500 each month). I called to have the money re-allocated toward the correct loans (I want the money to all go toward my unsubsidized loans – as currently dispersed the over-payment was spread equally across all loans). I was told this problem was being resolved (second time I called about it). On call #3 I’m basically told it’s just not going to happen. They claim that my initial Income-Based-Repayment plan application was denied.

This, in spite of the fact that I have NEVER received any documentation from the company saying anything about a denial. In fact, quite the opposite, I have documentation showing my IBR renewal was approved.

I’m told that it was initially denied due to over-payment on my loans (go figure). Then when I called in early October about the discrepancy, somehow they went ahead and approved the IBR, which went into effect in October. Essentially meaning that during the previous two months (August & September) I was not on IBR and, therefore, was not overcharged on my monthly payment. There would be no payment re-allocation, I am told.

That’s it.

I have no fight left in me. I’ve been down this road before – I’ve written my legislatures, I’ve involved a third party conflict-resolution group, I’ve jumped through all the hoops and taken all the necessary steps, spending hours of time, attention, and never-ending phone calls and ultimately I lost. I’m not even going to fight it this time. I haven’t the time.

So I kind of feel defeated. But at the same time, I feel like I absolutely cannot stand to do business with Navient any longer.

And so, perhaps a little sooner than I’d thought just one week ago, I’m going to start researching student loan consolidation programs.

I’ve already received lots of great comments on what many readers have done, but this time around I want more specifics. If any of you have refer-a-friend codes, please leave them in the comments. I’m going to look into at least a few different loan consolidation programs/places to check for interest rates. I’ll probably do a consolidation in December. I’m still not sure if it will be a full or partial consolidation (I still may opt to only consolidate unsubsidized loans initially – I want to look into different options). Just any tips or suggestions would be appreciated. I’ll certainly report back on what I’ve found when I am done with all my research, too!


The Biggest Mistake in Debt Reduction

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debtreduction

I’m finally debt free and in the process of becoming debt free, I read a lot of articles on how to do it. While most of these give good advice, they often leave out the most important part that, I have found, will actually make or break your debt reduction journey. I have no idea why most articles don’t talk about this, but my guess is because it’s different for every individual which makes it more difficult to put it nicely in to a 10-step debt reduction mantra.

Yes, it’s important to come up with a debt reduction plan whether that’s doing a credit card debt snowball, consolidating debt or even bankruptcy. Yes, you need to look at ways you can reduce your debt, spend less money and create a workable budget. Yes, you should probably look at ways you may be able to bring in some extra income through side jobs or part-time work. But before you do all that, you need to take a look at the emotional triggers that brought you to the current debt you have.

While many personal finance writers and gurus talk about the need to get control of the numbers, those numbers will never be contained until the emotions that drove the debt are addressed. That can make for some strange conversations. When people learn I managed to reduce my debts of over $40,000 and asked me how I did it, they are often surprised when I tell them I was able to do it because I finally decided to go to a psychologist.

I’m sure there are exception to this rule, but I believe in order to get out of debt, the first step most people need to take is to go to a psychologist to better understand themselves. I tried to get out of debt dozens of times over a 10 year period, and I failed miserably each time before I decided to see a psychologist. I knew what I was supposed to do, but much like dieting, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two completely different things.

For me, it was about security. I grew up poor and we never had a lot of things. As I got older and I was able to earn my own money, I liked to have things. It made me feel secure. My income allowed me to get credit and that credit allowed me to get into debt as I continued to buy things to make myself feel more secure (when in reality I was actually damaging my financial security). It wasn’t until I was able to work out the emotional reasons behind why I was purchasing and going into debt that I actually had the opportunity to begin to free myself from it.

Most people know they spend too much and that’s the reason they are in debt. Again, just knowing this isn’t enough to help you get out of ebt. What most people don’t know is the emotional impetus that leads to their overspending. Not taking the time (and often the difficult emotional journey) to understand why you spend the way you do is the biggest mistake most people make when they are trying to get out of debt.


Ashley’s October 2016 Debt Update

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I hope you’re all having a good week! Our kids are out of school Wed – Fri this week so my mom flew out to help with childcare (since hubs and I both have to work still), so it’s been a lot of fun to visit together and it’s always great when Mom visits! For instance, my freezer is now full of homemade freezer meals that we can quickly and easily heat up on our busy weeknights!

I’m not even going to lie – this semester has been kicking my butt a little. I’m sure you can tell based off the more sporadic posting schedule as of late. Mid-semester there was a faculty member who, due to persona reasons, had to stop teaching a class. In week 8 of 16. Guess who got to pick up the class? This girl! I’m happy to help out and it will work out in the end (my department head is giving me a course release in exchange) but I’m definitely feeling the burden of the extra work at an already extremely busy time!

BUT –

we’re already on the downhill slope toward the end of the semester. Just a few weeks to go and I’ll be home-free! And it’s going to be such a fun winter break! We’ve made reservations for our family to travel up to the Flagstaff area and do the North Pole Experience. I’ve wanted to do it the past couple years and have kept ourselves form doing it due to budgetary constraints. This year I knew I wanted to make it a priority so I’ve been putting little bits of money aside each month to help offset some of the costs (much like I did when I saved a couple hundred bucks each month for an entire year in order to pay for cruise 2016 entirely with cash). This experience obviously wasn’t as expensive as the cruise, so I’ve just been setting aside $50 for the past couple months. I was able to pay for our tickets out of my pocket of cash and we still have a little leftover (that I’ll continue to add to this month and next) to cover the cost of a hotel and food or souvenirs on the trip. CAN NOT WAIT!!!

But that’s neither here nor there. Feast your eyes on the main reason for this post:  my October debt update!!!

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$70,4266.55%$1975October$82433
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$46000% (through April 2017)$750October$7650
Medical Bills$56860%$25October$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$80,712 (Sept balance = 83,173)$2750Starting Debt = $145,472

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty bummed that we ended up SO.CLOSE to the 70’000s for our total debt owed. Just another $700 and we would’ve tipped over! But we’ll definitely be there by the end of this month.

The other important thing to note is that ACS is now off the debt spreadsheet table. ACS sold my last remaining loan with them (I used to have 2) to Navient. That means Navient now services 100% of my student loans. Blah! Speaking of, I still haven’t resolved my most recent Navient issue. They DID straighten out the auto-drafting issue and have updated to the correct payment (they had been grossly over-charging me). BUT, they still haven’t re-allocated the extra payments toward the loans I would have selected. So another phone call is warranted, but has not yet happened. It’s on my “TO DO” list for Friday (fingers crossed that resolves it).

Otherwise, things are moving right along. Still on schedule to close on our house very soon. I’m still holding my breath and crossing my fingers that it all goes through (after already being delayed twice). This weekend is also my husband’s and my 6th wedding anniversary! It’s going to be a bit of an anticlimactic one. My Mom leaves town on Friday so we had a VERY low-key date night on Wednesday night. We wore jeans and went to happy hour sushi. Nothing fancy or special, but it’s always nice just to have time out alone together (since typically we’ve got the girls anytime we go anywhere). Last year I mentioned how – when we first got married – I had hoped we would be able to spend our 5-year anniversary in Hawaii. Instead we made a major debt payment and just went out to dinner. Nothing crazy. I don’t regret our choice in prioritizing debt payoff in the least. I think it’s the best thing for our family. And it’s easier to maintain determination and stamina now that we’re adding in a bit more balance to our lives (e.g., like planning this Christmas trip to Flagstaff and going on more regular date nights, etc.). It’s all about trade-offs between debt payment and “life” happenings and I’m happy with our balance right now. At the same time, I look forward to the day when we can travel more freely without worrying about cost or the trade-off between paying off debt and making memories together. I’ve never been to Hawaii before and have always wanted to go. A second-honeymoon seems like the perfect reason. It’s not in the cards this year (though we’re still doing fun, albeit cheaper, family activities). But a second honeymoon WILL happen someday. It’s just one more of our “rewards” we’ll be able to indulge in after cleaning up this debt mess!  Every month – just a little bit closer to our debt-free goal!

How is your debt repayment going? Have you paid off any debts recently?


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