Hello there!

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

My name is Amy and I am joining the bloggers here in the BAD community! I am so looking forward to the support that this community offers, and hope that we can encourage and inspire each other!

My relationship with money really began in my childhood. I grew up in a family where money was always an issue. I remember being in elementary school and being afraid to ask for poster board for a school project because of the cost and always being aware that there was more month than money. This type of childhood had both advantages and disadvantages. I certainly learned how to work and how to stretch a dollar, but I also never developed saving habits (because there was never money to save!). I also have a tendency to feel like we are doing well as long as bills are paid on time, regardless of how much is left in the bank. The concepts of going without and delayed gratification are also very difficult for me, My teen years were tumultuous, and filled with my first job and what felt like endless amounts of money, coupled with no guidance on what to do with that money. To say that I developed some bad spending habits is a bit of an understatement! While I feel like I have mostly turned those habits around, I am sure that you all will help be find even more room for improvement!

I married my sweetheart M at the ripe old age of 20, and we are still happily married thirteen years later, but have no children. We certainly want children, and a chunk of our existing debt is a result of paying for fertility treatments. Another large chunk is student loans. We were both students when the economy crashed, and ended up living off of students loans for a time after M was layed off from his job. We also have a car payment, appliance loan and a mortgage. I will be outlining the details of our financial situation in a post a few days from now.

M has a steady job that he loves, that puts us firmly in the middle class for our area, but he works long, demanding hours, I am currently a homemaker (I can hear the calls of “get a job” already!) I do have some medical issues that have led me to not having a job, but I am not opposed to going back to work. In the mean time, I make a little bit on the side by babysitting and renting out a spare bedroom in our home.

Our reasons for needing to scale Mount Paymore are relatively simple… freedom! We want to be able to make decisions without monetary concerns taking as large of a role as they do now. I want to live a life where a car repair doesn’t have the potential to be catastrophic. M would like to go back to school someday, and we would like to possibly pursue adoption, both things that we don’t feel comfortable doing because of where our finances are right now.

I will have all the nitty gritty details of our financial situation up sometime Monday. In the mean time, Do you have any questions you would like me to cover?


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!


We Bought A House!!!!!

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We did it!

After endless back-and-forth negotiations, a variety of snags and snafus, and having to change our closing date not once but TWICE, we are officially home owners! YAY!!!!!

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Image source. Note – this is an image that came up in a search of “Arizona houses.” This is NOT our house. As I said before, I won’t be showing a picture of our actual house.

 

We actually closed about a week ago. It was nice because it was a couple days before our 6th wedding anniversary, so we joked that this year for our anniversary we bought ourselves a house! Lol! Go big or go home, right? : )

Shout out to our families who have been so helpful! My Mom helped us with a portion of our down payment and both of our moms have been here recently (first hubs’ mom came out, then my mom) so they have helped with packing, entertaining the girls, and getting everything ready for the move. Hubs has also done a ton. Funny story – this isn’t the first time that the bulk of moving duties have fallen to him. At least twice before I’ve been gone/out of town during moves. I have left with things in disarray and returned with everything moved into a new space! Ha! This time I wasn’t entirely absent (I haven’t gone out of town), but I’ve been pretty busy with work so hubs has definitely taken the lion’s share of packing and boxing and moving. He started with cleaning and moving pretty much immediately after closing but it didn’t become official (aka: we didn’t sleep in the new house) until this weekend. Now I can’t wait to get out the holiday decorations and go to town! : )

This is random but….does anyone remember this ancient blog post? The post (almost 2 years old at this point) was about the thought of having hubs get a vasectomy. GUESS WHAT’S HAPPENING TOMORROW, Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!! ((insert giant grin here))

Sorry, let me try to contain my excitement (hehehe!)

Poor hubs – he’s not so excited. What a way to be rewarded for all of his hard work in the past week! But I, on the other hand, could not be more thrilled!!! We’ve known that we are done having kids for awhile, but having the little snip-snip is the last thing to make it really super-duper official and I can’t wait! I’m taking off early tomorrow so I can drive him to the appointment, as he’s got a prescription sedative to help him relax and he’s not supposed to drive on it (for a man whose usually cool as a cucumber, he’s pretty anxious over the whole thing). Then back to business as usual.

I’m really looking forward to the end of the semester! I feel like such good things are on the horizon – new house, hubs starting back to school, a new year, etc. It just feels like a fresh start or a re-set of some sort. Not that this year has been bad (in fact, there’s been a lot of good), but I did call summer 2016 the summer of death and I’m excited to see what new adventures lie ahead for us as a family.

On the financial front – I may have lied. I said I was going to refinance my student loans THE SECOND that the house deal went through. But now that I’ve been thinking about it, I’m not so sure. I still have 9 months left of interest-forgiveness for my subsidized student loans (through IBR), so now I’m thinking I might only consolidate the unsubsidized loans and leave the subsidized ones for the time being so I can get all 9-months worth of interest-forgiveness before I throw them into the consolidation? However, I have issues with Navient every time I turn around, so I’d love to rid them from my life. In the end, I think I’ll do nothing this month. Over the winter break I’ll start my investigation into student loan consolidations/interest rates/etc. and probably make a more concrete decision before the end of the year (because that will greatly impact our financial goals for 2017).

Anywho, I gotta jump back into work! I hope your Mondays are off to a good start (look at me actually blogging on a Monday – pat on my back) ; )

Talk soon!

~A


Talking about debt

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This past weekend I took the girls to one of their friends’ birthday parties. I was hanging out chatting with the other moms when I mentioned my husband heading back to school and the crazy discount we receive ($25 per class!!!). It’s practically free!!

One of the mom’s lamented, “Must be nice, I still have 20 years left on my student loans!”

Another mom chimed in, “I just applied for public service student loan forgiveness so mine will eventually be forgiven.”

Another mom also nodded, mentioning how the interest payment, alone, is the same as her car payment.

And I said….nothing. It felt too odd to chime in that we’re actively working on aggressive student loan pay-down. Like it would be smug or elitist or something to suggest an alternative option. No one pays off their student loans early. Would I come across as conceited or like I’m talking down to them? What do I even say? “Well…just so you know, there ARE other options. I started with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt but I’m now down to about $70,000. If all goes well it should be gone in just a couple of years!!!” (Insert big smile here)

It just didn’t feel like it would go over that well. And I didn’t want to be “that person” making others feel bad or to come off like I was bragging or something.

What would you do? These are not close friends (my close friends & family are all very aware of our debt journey). These were random acquaintances. Parents of our kids’ friends. I would love to give them some hope that it IS possible to pay off even outrageous debt in less than the mandated loan length. I honestly think many people don’t even consider it an option. It’s never occurred to them that it’s possible to pay it off early.

If you were in a similar situation would you have spoken up?

I’m genuinely interested because I want to be a source of hope for others that it IS possible…but when I’m still in the trenches myself I can’t say “I’ve done it, you can too!” (because we still have a LONG way to go before we’re done!!!) Plus I really fear coming across as pretentious or condescending if I were to say something. Thoughts?


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?


Hurry Up & Wait

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My experience with home-buying thus far can be summed up as follows:  hurry up & wait.

There have been a handful of times when I’ve received middle-of-the-day calls from the loan company like, “hey, we need X, Y, Z documents RIGHT NOW or else the world is going to explode!!!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

Okay, okay, maybe a bit of hyperbole there. But that’s how it’s felt. Like hair-on-fire emergency-status and they need these documents STAT!

But then I drop what I’m doing, find X, Y, Z documents, scan and send them over and….nothing. Crickets. A bunch of hurry up & wait.

We’ve already had our closing date pushed back once. Then we got this email on Monday (I’ve redacted identifying information):

I am waiting for the HOA to get me a copy of the Master Insurance Policy. I have been working with [insurance company] and they have to request a copy from the Servicing department. I have called a few times and they’re still working on it. My last call, [insurance representative] said they should have it by end of day on 10/26. It normally does not take this long to obtain this document. I have moved your closing date to 11/04 for now and once I receive the HOA document, we can look at closing earlier. I will call you once I have your loan back in Underwriting for final review.

Sigh.

So closing has been pushed back yet again. Thank GOODNESS we have a great relationship with our landlord and he’s cool with all of this! Our last month of our official lease was in August and we’ve been month-to-month since then (at no increased rate!!!) Our landlord knows we’re in the process of buying and has been so generous with allowing us to stay at our current rate until we are closed on the new house. It’s truly a blessing because otherwise we’d be homeless and living in an Extended Stay hotel right now!

I’ve had a couple people comment to ask about the house and the truth is that I’m feeling a little…not secretive…but maybe “private” is the right word?? I had a Tucson-local recognize me one day when I was out with my family (hi, friend!!!). It was fun to meet a reader but it was also a little….unsettling. I’ve posted lots of pictures and it’s not like I’ve bent over backward to hide my identity or be anonymous or anything (I’ve intentionally kept some things a little ambiguous, but I’ve mostly put myself out there). It was flattering and fun but also a little weird. I think I’m able to share so much personal information about myself so freely because I really feel like this is almost a journal. I love the readership and appreciate all your kind comments and constructive criticism but it still feels….kind of unreal. If that makes sense. Like I’m sending an email to a friend. Not like I’m really publishing information about our salary, our debts, our spending, etc. etc. etc. for the entire world to see and judge (though that’s exactly what I have done, heh).

Anywho ~ it freaked my hubs out a bit, too. And since then I’ve been posting fewer pics. Again – doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who I am – but I’ve been intentionally adding in a little extra layer of privacy, at least for my kiddos’ sake. Soooooo, I’m not going to be posting any pictures of the house and will leave many of the details private.

BUT, BUT, BUT –

that doesn’t mean I’m not going to share anything!

Let me tell you a little about the house.

It’s just under 2,000 square feet (we’re currently living in 1,500 square feet so it’s definitely an upgrade in size). It’s four bedrooms (up from 3!), has two living areas, a dining room (and small breakfast nook), 2.5 baths, and a decent sized yard. It’s in our same general area (we love our current rental’s location) in a mature neighborhood with lots of nearby parks, hiking/biking/jogging trails, good schools & charter schools, and friendly neighbors (we’ve already met a couple of them)!

The house is nearly 30 years old, but has had lots of renovations. The current “owners” are a company that does flips. They’ve put in new floors, bath tubs, retiled the shower, put in new toilets, kitchen countertops, kitchen appliances, ceiling fans and fixtures, new paint, new water lines (to get rid of the old polybutylene), and many other upgrades. As part of our negotiations we also got them to do a new HVAC unit and new duct work, and new section of plumbing (where tree roots had grown into a pipe – shout out to our readers, a couple of whom suggested this might be a problem given the home’s age). There has been a LOT of work on this home in the past few months. We also feel like we’ve gotten it for a great deal. We know what they paid, we know what our offer was that was accepted, and hubs (as a flooring contractor) has guesstimated the amount of work that has been done, etc. and we think the owners can’t be making much off the property. It’s been sitting on the market for several months at this point so they’re probably just cutting their losses and moving onto the next property. But it’s worked out well for us.

I love the house but, even before moving in, I know it’s not our “forever home.” It doesn’t have space for a home office like I’d wanted, is not walking-distance from a jogging trail (it’s close, but not walking distance like our current rental house), and it’s kitchen isn’t the best design or configuration. The yard is a hot mess (I’m talking chest-high weeds all around. Zero in the way of landscaping or maintenance), it’s not in our ideal neighborhood, and the bedrooms and bathrooms are all a bit on the small side.

Before we decided this was “the one” we looked at a LOT of houses. Some that were right around our target price range (mid 100’s) and some that were on the higher end (high 100’s/low 200’s). We talked about the trade-offs of buying a little bit cheaper home that doesn’t quite have everything we want versus buying a more expensive home with all the wish list items. Ultimately, we decided that this was best for our family. It suits all of our immediate needs and has lots of great perks plus some added bonuses we hadn’t even considered (e.g., it has a wood-burning fireplace, which will be fun in winter; and it’s in a gated community, which is nice for safety/security). But probably the biggest decision factor was the price-point of the home.

Our goal is to continue pushing forward with debt-payoff. But now my sights aren’t just solely focused on the student loan debts. Now I’m considering the possibility of paying off a home mortgage. Living fully debt free. Wild, right?

I’ve done some basic calculations and I think it could be possible….within 5 or 6 years time. Yeah.  100% debt freedom. For real.

I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves (we don’t even own this home yet and I’m already fantasizing about paying it off – what is wrong with me!? lol!). But blogging here has changed me. Working so hard toward this awesome goal has changed me. It’s changed us as a family. And it just seems so plain to me. The way to financial independence is by being fully debt-free. With a home in the high 100’s or low 200s that would be further from our reach. But this home makes it possible. We would be living within our means. Nay, we’d be living below our means, really. Our mortgage would be such a small percentage of our monthly income that it’d still be easy to continue making big debt payments. And after the student loan debt is gone, we would snowball that money into the mortgage payments. And then into savings and retirement. And into travel and gift-giving and charity work. And on and on and the sky is the limit!

We have some pretty big dreams. Pretty lofty goals. And we see this house as part of that puzzle. A piece that is going to help us live a comfortable lifestyle and continue making progress toward our larger goals.

And we’ve definitely fallen for it. So there’s that.

Now let’s just cross our fingers that nothing falls through and it becomes ours in…oh a week or so, I suppose. : )

How long was your home-buying process? Ours has been ridiculously long, but my mom (a real estate broker) thinks a lot of that has been due to our jobs. I’ve only been in my current position one year and, prior to that, hubs and I were both self-employed/working contract-based jobs. That’s caused us to need a LOT of extra paperwork to prove our income, show that deposits in our accounts were due to business transactions (and not drug money I guess? I don’t know!), etc. Plus the negotiations, themselves, took forever. Lots of back-and-forth initially and again after the home inspection. Almost walked away a couple times in the process and ended up sticking it out after coming to terms. It’s felt like a total roller coaster (and it’s been a solid 2 months at this point since our first offer was submitted). I hope it’s all worth it in the end!!! : )