Browsing posts in: Successes

New Job and a New Outlook

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I am slowing shedding the feeling of shame I’ve been carrying for the last couple of years since we moved out of our home and into the apartment.  For the first time in a LONG time, things are really looking up!  It has been a really rough time, especially since December when everything changed so suddenly.

As I mentioned in the comments of my last post…I GOT THE JOB!!!

It’s full time, full benefits, work in an office…real life job!  And the way it happened could not be any more providential!  Here’s a little back story.

When we began our Christmas visit with my grandmother, I spent a great deal of time applying for jobs…everywhere, all over the world.  Well, I had been through this before, know the holidays were not a good time to be in the job hunt, but I continued to persist.  The job I got is one of those jobs.

Then while we were in Texas visiting my immediate family over Christmas, I got a text from our ‘landlord’ that the camper we were living in had been damaged and was no longer liveable.  Can you say full panic mode!?!  Up until that point, I had planned on us living in the camper until April when we could 1) wrap up the school year and 2) finish Gymnast competition season at Regionals.  Then was planning to move to GA to my grandmothers or travel for a bit.

With nowhere to live any longer, the timeline moved up for the GA move, but I was able to secure temporary housing in VA for a month while Gymnast finished his regular season meet. And to give us time to pack up and get things into storage and so on.  My grandmother graciously let us move in with her with first week of February.

On our trip to GA with our final load of belongings, I got the call. They were interested in my varied skill set for a brand new position, but I lived in VA. Oh, how funny, I’m was actually driving down to GA with our last load of belongings to complete a move to a town, that is literally one town over from the corporate base of this company.  They headquarters are 12 miles from my grandmothers home, 12 miles!

Our first three weeks in GA were filled with in person interviews, personality test, reference checks and phone follow ups, and our last Friday night there (before we returned to VA for a week) they called at 4:12pm and offered me the job, met my salary requirements and I start NEXT WEEK!!!!!

The timing of the call, the timing of the interview process and the start date…after over a year and a half of searching, I can only say that God had a hand in this.  But there is more, this company gives back to foster/adoptive charities (hello, near and dear to my heart,) the owners actually know some of my extended family (small town but wow,) and one of their goals is to empower women/moms.  Holy cow, can it be any more perfect!

Granted, this will be a BIG adjustment for my little family.  I will be going to an office for the first time in 13 years. My grandmother has insisted we remain with her for at minimum another month while we adjust to the new life and she will help with the kids.  She’s watched us homeschool all these months we’ve visited her over the past couple of years, and is comfortable with keeping the kids on track to finish out the year.  We will have school on Sunday evenings where I will give assignments for the week and then we will meet a couple more times during the week to make sure we are on track.  It’s not going to be easy, but I am confident we can adjust.

I am keeping both my part time jobs for the time being both for security and to help me get back on solid financial ground more quickly.  All jobs are aware of the situation as far as me working them all.

And just a small financial win…okay two wins. Maybe three.

  1. I was able to replace the tires on my car, yes, I waited until it was dire, but I paid in cash!
  2. The kids have all received a small stipend for some summer clothes and are looking forward to getting to shop. (They have had a couple of weeks to make lists and think through needs and wants, etc.)  This is especially crucial for the two youngest since they hit major growth spurts this year, so nothing old fits.
  3. I have almost $500 in an emergency fund, consistently saving 10% of any monies received.

I am so grateful for this community and the constant encouragement. I’ve still got a wait until I get my first paycheck and see how all the deductions and so on work out before planning a budget and starting to look for housing.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers this week as Gymnast will compete at his state meet this week, his last with his current team…it is bittersweet and he is really struggling with the move the most because of it.  And then we will return to GA to start our “new life.”

 

 


New Job!!! (Kinda)

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If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that I’ve been hinting at some job changes coming up. For the past year and a half, I’ve had two jobs.  Job A: My full-time (in person) academic job. Job B: Adjunct teaching part-time online for a different place. It sounds reasonable, but my “part-time” job was like working the hours of another full-time job and I knew the schedule was unsustainable long-term.

I want to tell you all the crazy details (I swear there was about a 48-hour-period where I was absolutely freaking out) but it’s probably in my own best interest to be vague.

Long story short…I guess I kind of experienced a “bidding war”???? That makes me sound like a prostitute – like I’m selling myself to the highest bidder. And I hate for it to come across that way, when I know that’s not who I am. But…that’s what happened.

I was offered a job for significantly more than my current salary. But when I went to resign, I was offered significantly more than the other offer to stay. I’m talking, my salary increased by about $40k in a 48-hour period. On paper, anyway (the contract has been signed, but the salary doesn’t go into effect until this summer, after my current contract ends).

I can’t even believe it! I’ve known there were going to be some changes, but I had fully expected to be reporting to you about having an entirely NEW job. There are some aspects of my full-time job that will be changing (more responsibility, etc.), but I’m staying in my CURRENT job and will be saying goodbye to my part-time job, effective this summer. One of the conditions of my new salary was that I had to sign an agreement not to seek outside employment in my area for 3 years so I cannot legally stay at my part-time place. Overall, it was a great deal and I was happy to sign it (there was a lot more than just the increase in salary, too; The package was quite generous compared to comparable positions in different departments and universities).

Our household income will still be a little less this year than last year (this raise doesn’t fully make-up for what I’m losing in terms of my part-time income, though it’s close. But additionally, hubs’ business continues to ramp down so his income is way down). Even so, it is an exciting thing to have secured such a huge raise after only being in my current position for a year and a half! Frankly, this type of thing is unheard of in academia! But I feel like this is also the culmination of a significant amount of hard work coupled with a bit of dumb luck/being in the right place at the right time and having a specific skillset and expertise that is highly valued. I love my full-time job and couldn’t be more thrilled that I get to stay!

Have you had any good news on the job-front lately?


Ashley’s Year In Review (2016)

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It’s funny how almost universally across-the-board, people have complained about what a terrible year 2016 has been. Was 2016 good to you and your family? Or did you also have your share of bad luck and/or mishaps?

I think for our family it was a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, we did quite well on the financial front. No complaints there! But there were still some quite challenging parts of 2016.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane, complete with links to relevant posts should you be interested to go back and re-read some of the drama (or the triumphs) that I wrote about this year.

 

Dad Issues

In August 2015 my dad was diagnosed with frontoemporal degeneration (FTD). It’s a rare form of early-onset dementia (NOT Alzheimers) for which there is no treatment and no drugs available to slow it’s progression. 2016 has been a rough year in that regard (and, to keep it real, I suspect things will only continue to get worse and worse until his passing. Degenerative diseases such as this one never get “better”….only worse).

This year we moved Dad from his primary residence in Utah down to his secondary residence in Texas so he would be closer to family. I went to Utah and cleaned out his house over the summer and got it on the market. We were lucky to get a bidding war and the house sold immediately.

After some rough patches involving receiving calls from the police and a few-day detainment (against his will) at a mental health hospital, from which he was released with bruises and abrasions all over his body, our family had to make the difficult decision to move him yet again. He was moved to an independent living facility and his second home was put on the market. We are currently under contract for it (fingers crossed – the closing date is set for early January!!)

Unfortunately, things have continued to degrade even with his current living situation. He has recently had his car and keys taken away (he only got to keep them this long after passing a clinical driving evaluation last September, but his forgetfulness meant he kept forgetting where he was going mid-trip. At first we put a GPS on his car, but eventually we decided it was safest for him to be off the road). We’ve recently received another call from the police (the “emergencies” feel ever-present at this point) and to keep him from being detained in a mental health hospital yet again, we had to promise we would make a plan to get him moved to a locked memory care facility. While in Texas this December I’ve been touring and looking at several options. The goal is to find a high quality one and have him moved within the next couple months.

I know a lot of these issues are more personal in nature (rather than financial), but it’s been a BIG part of my life in 2016 and I plan to continue sharing tidbits here and there. I even wrote about how I started to go to therapy, in large part, due to the stresses associated with my dad’s situation. I think it has helped immensely.

The other thing that makes my “dad issues” relevant to this blog is that I am also responsible for handling all of my Dad’s finances. Thankfully, Dad had a decent asset-base accumulated before his diagnosis and retirement. It is my job to make sure his assets last the rest of his life (no small task when the cost of his care is roughly $5,000+/month!!!). Meeting with financial planners/advisors and forming a long-term financial plan with his assets is likely going to be a big part of 2017.

 

Work Issues

I started off the year trying to negotiate title and raise at my full-time job. Though I didn’t secure either at that time, I did negotiate to work over the summer, which meant an additional 3 months of salary (I called it a “raise” in this post, but it’s really just additional compensation for the additional WORK I was doing). It was a big deal from a financial perspective, though, because it was a substantial amount of extra money on top of my regular salary.

However, working over the summer also meant I had to secure some summer childcare. Finding high quality childcare at an affordable rate has been one of the most consistently challenging things about having children, in my opinion. I think this issue is probably a bit exacerbated for us given that we do not live by any family so we’re entirely alone in that regard. Fortunately, we were able to find a solution.

I continued to pour myself into work this year. This entire year I’ve worked two jobs:  one at my full-time place of employment (where I’m a benefited and salaried employee) and one at my part-time place of employment (where I’m a contracted employee who receives no benefits, but I get paid very well and have been teaching a full-time load worth of classes). I can’t say anything yet, but there will be some changes coming to this situation at some point in 2017. I’ve said all along that I couldn’t keep both jobs forever. It’s just not a sustainable situation to basically be working two full-time jobs. Changes are on the horizon and I will share more details when I am able. But as far as 2016 is concerned, I’m very pleased with how things worked. I was really able to use all of this additional income to hit our big financial goals. To break it down, we paid $31k toward debt, got $5k in an Emergency Fund, $10k for a down payment, and another $4k in miscellaneous household expenses. That’s $50,000 this year that was put either toward debt or savings. And this speaks nothing of the 10% of my full-time income that goes directly into retirement accounts (7% is mandatory and I do the other 3% voluntarily), or the money we put toward our kids’ 529 accounts, etc. Can I say it again? $50,000 toward debt and savings!!!!!! That never would have happened without my work situation this year. Never. I’m so thankful that we were able to put that money toward hitting our financial goals rather than see it wasted or to slip away into who-knows-what.

 

Financial Successes/Milestones

Our family, as with many others, was not immune to crises and sadness this year. I called summer 2016 the summer of death. Hubs’ maternal grandfather died. My maternal grandmother died. And our sweet dog of 11 years died. It was a tough time. But even though we had our fair share of “lows”, our biggest “highs” this year were all financial in nature.

One of the biggest, to me, was when we finally paid off the car, officially becoming consumer debt-free in January 2016. Even though it’s been nearly a year since then, I’m still riding that “high” as it was the sweetest, most freeing feeling thus far in our debt-reduction journey. That same month, we finally dipped down into 5-digits of debt (when we started blogging we had nearly $150,000 of debt, so getting down into the $90,000’s felt like a huge milestone in its own right). By May of 2016 we had officially reduced our debt by $50,000.

We were able to increase our annual income by picking up additional work and I did end up getting a small (3%) raise at my full-time job, all of which helped immensely with our financial goals. I was able to recently announce that we met (nay, exceeded) all 3 of our 2016 financial goals!!!

Aside from becoming consumer debt-free, the second biggest financial “win” this year was when we were finally able to purchase our first home!!! We put 20% down to avoid PMI and financed on a 15-year fixed at a 2.75% APR!! I still kind of can’t believe it!!! Playing around with a loan amortization spreadsheet, it looks like we could have the house paid off in as little as 7 years (with the remaining student loan debt paid off within another 2-3 years). I’m still playing around with our new 2017 budget and will likely write about it’s details in a forthcoming post sometime in January.

 

Frugal Lifestyle

The first two years of debt reduction were pretty hard-core restrictive. This past year we’ve loosened up the purse-strings a bit in an effort to try to have a bit more balance. We’ve gone on more regular date nights (sometimes monthly, sometimes every-other-month, but the goal has been to do one per month), and our BIG thing this year was when we saved up all cash for over a year to go on a cruise in April!! I wrote about our savings habits that allowed us to cruise (here & here) and our practical tips for cruising with kids (here).

Even with a few extra indulgences, we’ve still maintained a pretty frugal lifestyle on the whole. I wrote a few blog posts this year about different ways we tried to save money:  like changing our car insurance (here), making homemade lemonade for cheap (here), and limiting kid’s activities to one at a time (here). We also had did a whole slew of frugal kid crafts:

  • Homemade Valentine’s cards (here)
  • Homemade Mother’s Day cards (here)
  • Teacher Appreciation gifts (here)
  • Last Day of school gifts (here)
  • Teacher Christmas gifts (here)

I’ve found that kid crafts are totally the way to go for cheap gifts. The recipients tend to appreciate them more than cheap crap I might otherwise buy from Target, and it ends up costing us far less money. It warms my heart when we visit family back in Texas and see some of our kid crafts proudly displayed on the fridge or even in frames hung on the wall!!! So sweet!

 

Student Loan Drama

Even though we’ve been blessed in the financial realm this year, we’ve still had a couple of frustrating set-backs. For long-time readers, you’re probably sick of reading about all the student loan drama in my life (Navient is my loan service provider and they are truly the worst entity I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in my life).

I wrote this year about the time when Navient switched my loan to being unsubsidized when it was bought from ACS (here ), as well as how they’ve charged me extra on my student loans (here ).

My plan was always to refinance my student loans away from Navient as soon as our mortgage loan went through, but then when I tried I experienced a set of frustrating set-backs in that regard, too (see here and here). A few of you have recommended getting a new credit card so I can continue doing balance transfers (the Citi Simplicity card was recommended by a couple of you because they have a low balance transfer initiation fee and 0% APR for 21 months). Is this the best one? Any other suggestions? I’m not keen on the idea of getting another credit card, but a loan consolidation would also have been a new “line of credit” so I suppose its basically equivalent (though psychologically it feels like a different thing). I haven’t decided what to do in that regard just yet, though I do hate Navient with a fiery passion and would LOVE nothing more than to rid them from my life!!!

 

Wrap Up

All-in-all, I cannot be mad at 2016. Every year has its own set of opportunities and challenges and this year was no different. Though our challenges were deeply personal (like the dad issues) and painful (like the multiple deaths), I think the good outweighed the bad on the whole. And I am so, so proud of all the financial WINS we had this year and how far we have come in the financial realm. I’m excited to start a new year and I hope and pray it will be a great one for my family and for yours!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017! Happy New Year!!!


Ashley’s June 2016 Debt Update

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I’m really excited about this month’s debt update! I’d originally hoped to put a solid $4,000 toward debt this month and, although we didn’t quite hit that number, we did put a full $3,500 toward debt!

I know I’ve said this before, but moment of silence for that huge, astronomical number!

((((((silence))))))

Thank you! I just like to acknowledge that $3,500 is a ton of money!

If the average American household income is $55,000 (source), then this represents roughly a full month worth of net income for the typical U.S. family. Craziness!

See for yourself…

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$698266.55%$2955June$74218
ACS Student Loans$85966.55%$20June$8215
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$68500% (through April 2017)$500June$7650
Medical Bills$57860%$25June$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$91058 (May balance = 94,292)$3500Starting Debt = $145,472

Two things excite me about our debt update this month:

  1. We’ve dipped into the $60,000s for my Navient student loans! I know we still owe a ton, but it’s SO exciting to finally hit a new first digit! The entire time I’ve been blogging Navient has been up in the 70,000s range, so this is a huge deal to me! To be fair, it’s only within the current calendar year that I really started tackling the student loan debt-mountain! (note – I was paying toward student loans all along, but not at a very aggressive rate, as I had prioritized other debts first). I can’t wait to continue seeing this number drop!
  2. We’re super close to hitting a new first-digit of our overall debt! At $91,000 currently owed, we should definitely but down into the $80,000s range by next month! EEEK!!! Again (I must emphasize this for newer readers), I know this is still a disgusting amount of debt. But when I started blogging I had nearly $150,000 of total debt, and it feels like just yesterday when we broke the $100,000 barrier, so the last $10,000 has gone in basically the blink of an eye (ahem – it’s actually taken 5 months, but whose counting?)

I’m really feeling the momentum now and it seems like the debt is just melting away! We still have a LONG way to go, but I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvenated! We’ve had great pay in June (budget update coming soon!) and expect to have great pay in July as well. That really helps as we’re working on pounding out a lot of these student loans.

Also, I’ve grouped all my Navient loans together just for ease, but I’m actually paying them one-at-a-time (first I targeted the highest interest loans, and now that all the remaining loans have the same rate I’m targeting them by smallest first – the snowball method). I’ve actually paid a couple in full lately and it feels SO SO good every time I log into Navient and see another loan with zeros all the way across for amount owed and upcoming payments. These are just the kind of emotional “wins” I need to really feel like we’re on the right track. And it feels GREAT!!!

Next steps – build EF and buy a freaking house!!!

 


Cruise 2016 Planning

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In February we made our final payment for Cruise 2016. At this point our cruise has been paid in full, my plane ticket has been paid in full, and a few cruising essentials have been purchased with cash (e.g., new swimsuit, floppy sun hat, and a snorkel set so far). In addition to these, the remaining items for us to pay include transportation for hubs and the girls, all cruise-related gratuities, and a few more clothing items for the fam. Plus, I’d still like to have a nice little big stack of cash for while we’re actually on the cruise. All food is included in the cruise price, as well as water, tea, and lemonade. But if we want any other drinks, any souvenirs, want to gamble, etc. etc. etc….all that costs money.  My mom generously paid for a couple excursions for all of us as our Christmas gift in 2015, so the actual excursions have been paid (but, again, possibility of off-boat meals or souvenirs).  All in all, though, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Even after paying for the things listed above, we still currently have $2400 in our Cruise 2016 savings (I save for different goals in various Capital One 360 savings accounts < refer a friend link). I’d anticipate maybe $200-$300 in our remaining expenses (things like new swimsuits and sandals for the girls, and I’d like us each to have at least one new outfit, plus the obligatory trashy magazines and some snacks for our room, etc.). And there’s still 1 month until our sail date so there’s still time to save up some more.

My goal is to have plenty of money for our trip, and still have plenty leftover at the end. I really want to just have a good time and enjoy our vacation while we’re there without worrying about money so I’m not imposing strict limits on spending (with the caveat that, obviously, we’re paying cash so we can’t go over our cash limit). I hope to still have plenty of money leftover once the trip ends so we can throw it toward our debt and play a little catch-up since the first part of this year is going to be spent mostly in savings-mode (building back up our EF and saving for a house down payment).

But even though this is a get-out-of-debt blog, I just can’t feel guilty about this trip. We’ve been planning and saving for it for over a year (since February 2015). This was NOT a light-hearted decision made on a whim. We’ve carefully carved a little money from our budget every single month to make this goal a reality. The trip comes at a great time, as we finally declared our freedom from consumer debt! But, really, the point of the trip was to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday. Having lived through the completely unexpected turn of events in the past year that ended up with my Dad being laid off from his job, declared permanently disabled, and being diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration (a rare form of dementia), I’ve really stopped to reflect on my life and my relationship with my family. It’s hard not living near them and having them in my daily life. And there’s no promise of how much time we’ll have together. So as much as this trip is a celebration of our passing the critical consumer debt-free threshold, it’s also a celebration of family, love, and life. An opportunity to cherish the moment, even when we still have a lot of work to do on the get-out-of-debt front. Basically, it’s my way of claiming some balance in this crazy life of mine; one that’s totally changed in the past 2 years while I’ve been blogging. I wouldn’t change a minute, but I don’t take it for granted either.

I know that many readers are still deep in the trenches of debt reduction and I’d hate to feel like I’m bragging or rubbing our success in others’ faces. So I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the cruise, but I do want to acknowledge that it’s coming up in a few weeks and to talk a little about how we’ve been able to scrimp and save and actually afford the trip by paying in all cash (Cliff’s Note version:  basically, we planning and saved for a looooong time).

Hubs and I used to love to travel. Since our wedding in 2010 we haven’t traveled anywhere other than to visit family (which is still travel since we live out-of-state, but it’s not the exotic, beach-laying or mountain-skiing type of travel/vacations of the past). I’m so excited to have our first vacation as a family of 4 (+ extended family) and to build some memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.

I can’t wait!



Weekly Debt Update #27- One More Down, Two to Go!

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Hey everybody!

I’m feeling pretty awesome today! The reason? I paid off Sallie Mae 04 this weekend! I paid off the last $1,221 in one swoop. When I graduated college in 2009, the original balance of this loan was $10,350.18. The balance as of mid-May ’15 (when I started hitting this loan hard) was $7,407.64. It feels fantastic to have paid this loan off in essentially 4 months (I took off in July). Now, I only have the 2 big ones left. After I replenish my EF and get my car’s annual inspection (end of October/early November) I’ll be ready to hit Sallie Mae 01. Here’s my updated balances:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,662.64$4,174.60$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,556.32$3,640.70$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$0.00$10,350.18$1,221.75
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$42,218.96$68,368.70$1,221.75

I’m shooting for having a paid off Sallie Mae in August of ’16, which would only give me 10 months to do it. It’s aggressive, but I definitely feel it’s doable.

Funny story concerning my student loan payments: I had a meeting with my bank to go over my checking/savings accounts and to see if they could offer me anything else. The lady that I met with must have gone through my account activity because she asked me a couple of specific questions: 1) Why do you pay estimated taxes? (Easy explanation concerning the withdrawal of my gov’t retirement account in 2014) and 2) Who is Navient? I told her this was my student loan provider, so she asked how much I owe since I pay them roughly $2,400 a month. I told her about $300,000. Lol- her face went white, like she couldn’t believe it. I then told her I was joking and I only owe about $40,000. I then explained to her than I’m working really, really hard to get them fully paid off and that, between my loans and my car, I’ve paid off $62,000 in 2 years. She was stunned and couldn’t believe I’ve accomplished that much in such a short time, especially on a single salary. That felt pretty awesome too, to be honest.

As for any type of celebration, we didn’t really have one. GF wanted to celebrate it, so she offered to make a celebration meal. As a kind of off the wall response, I asked for raspberry crepes. For never having made them before, GF did amazing! They were so good and the perfect celebration as we had most of the ingredients already at home and didn’t have to go out anywhere. Here’s a pictures:

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Like I said above, I’m going to take the next couple of weeks to replenish my EF before hitting Sallie Mae 01. I hope everyone has a great week!

 


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