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Posts tagged with: consumer debt-free

WE DID IT!!!!!!!

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I thought we’d have to wait until the end of the month, but hubs’ month has started out on an upswing, which gave us the extra leeway to make the call.

Actually, I’d tried to call yesterday but I called at 3:40pm Arizona time (=5:40 EST), and they closed at 5:30pm EST. Rats!

But that didn’t dampen the mood any this morning when I called bright and early and made the request:

Customer Service: Thanks for calling PenFed, what can I do for you today?

Me: I WANT TO PAY OFF MY CAAAAAAAAAAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!

I think the representative got a bit of a chuckle out of my excitement. He even gave me a hearty congratulations and “Wow, good job!” after looking at my payment history.

It takes 2 days to clear and then they’ll start the process of getting the title mailed out to me. He said it can take up to a month total. But that doesn’t stop the excitement from growing inside me.

IT’S MINE! IT’S MINE! THE CAR IS OFFICIALLY MINE!!!!!

Actually, this was our last consumer-related debt (only remaining debt is medical and student loans – see latest debt update here), so really EVERYTHING we own is officially ours!

No more monthly payments for furniture loans (see here), vehicle debt, or license fees (see here). Everything we own is OURS! Not a payment owed to anyone! No one can come and take anything from us.

It’s a glorious feeling, friends! So freeing! About 100 times better than I’d even expected!

Hubs had to work today so he wasn’t here to witness the actual moment of pay-off. But you can bet I did a happy dance around the living room and made the girls give me repeated High Fives all around!

I can’t stop smiling! It feels so, so, so good!

I know we still have a long way to go (I just want to acknowledge the obvious), but for today let me just soak up the feeling. Feels so freeing! If you’d asked me two years ago, not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be sitting here today! In fact, my original goal was just to pay off our credit cards (a measly $10,000 compared to the over $50,000 we’ve paid in the past 2 years). Seriously – the power of this community is incredible! The support and the accountability it provides! I just. I can’t. I’m so happy!

Hugs and high fives all around! I feel like this is as much an accomplishment for YOU as it is for me. You’ve pushed me along and gotten me here, after all. For that, I’ll be eternally grateful!

Hope your Mondays are as INCREDIBLE as mine has been! : )


5th Wedding Anniversary

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When hubs and I got married we’d already been together for nearly a decade. We met the first week of my freshman (his sophomore) year of college. The rest is history!

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When we got married in 2010 I was about $70,000 in debt and still in grad school (racking up more debt). Our parents helped us with much of our wedding costs but our honeymoon was up to us. With little to our name (and yet, apparently still feeling that we “deserved” a honeymoon), we decided to go the cheaper route and head to Mexico. It’s close, (relatively) cheap, and easy.

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My real desire was for a long Hawaiian honeymoon. I’ve heard stories about the island chain (my mom lived there for a few years in her early 20s), and of course I’ve seen photos and videos of its beauty. It’s just sooooo $$$$$!

At the time I resolved in my mind that we’d have a second honeymoon for our fifth wedding anniversary. Destination? Hawaii. Because, of course, by the time our fifth anniversary rolled around we’d have it all together financially. Right?

I can’t help but to laugh, though I’m also so proud of how far we’ve come. If it weren’t for the accountability of this blog and the journey we’ve been on the past couple years to get out of debt, it’s highly likely we would have gone on that Hawaiian vacation. We’d end up putting much of it on credit cards and still have a mountain of other consumer-related debt (not to mention the daunting student loans).

So, our fifth wedding anniversary was November 6th.  My mother-in-law was in town for a visit. She graciously offered to watch the girls (free childcare!) and even gave us a giftcard to our favorite steak house as an anniversary gift. Score!

We did exchange gifts, but we’d set a $50 limit. Much higher than our usual gift-giving budget (which is in the $15-$25 range). I got hubs a nice leather belt (which he desperately needed after his major weight loss! He’d been using an old one that he’s punched extra holes in!) Hubs got me a Fitbit, which I’ve been wanting but was NOT expecting because they’re $100+. Turns out he found me a (very) gently used one on Ebay. Still had all its original packaging and no signs of wear. Works great (except for the sleep tracker, though that has nothing to do with the thing being used)!

I wanted to post on Facebook about our anniversary but decided maybe I’d hold off until we’re fully consumer debt-free.  A few close friends and family members know about our debt-free goals but I honestly don’t think anyone realizes the extent of our digging the past 2 years to try to get out of this hole. The extent of the sacrifices we’ve made or of the actual amount of money we’ve put toward debt ($25,000/year for the past 2 years)!!!  I don’t want to be overly obnoxious about it, but I’d like to acknowledge it. If for nothing else than to give others hope that they, too, can dig deep and find the willpower to get out of debt. That it doesn’t have to be an illusion or dream. It can be REAL. I’d post something along the lines of….

In November we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, I’d wanted a Hawaiian vacation. Instead, we buckled down and got to the business of paying off debt! After the past 2 years of hard work and over $50,000 of debt paid down, I can officially say we are now DEBT FREEEEEEEE!!!!!!!*

*Note: This really only applies to consumer debt, as we’re still working on student loans, but it just feels like a HUGE milestone to have made it this far. Also, we’re taking a big ALL CASH vacation in April to celebrate my Mom’s 60th! We are blessed!

The note part will be a comment on the original post (because I do think it warrants the explanation that we’re not fully debt-free, though I don’t want to dampen the original post by tacking it on there. It belongs more as a footnote in the comment section).

So, mark my words….this will be a Facebook post happening very, very soon. Will it be December? January? I don’t know. But I know it will be soon. And when it happens I’ll take a screenshot to show you guys so we can all celebrate together. I’m counting down the days/weeks/months until (consumer) debt-freedom!!!

Anniversaries happen every year. Only once in my life will I become consumer debt-free. Why? Because once it happens, I’m NEVER going back into debt again. NEVER.

Hawaii, I will visit you one day. Not this year. Probably not even next year. But it will happen. And it will be the BEST vacation EVER because it will be guilt-free, paid for in cash with cash to spare. Just as it should be.


Skating on Thin Ice

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Since I’ve started working full time (and having the steady full-time paychecks that come along with it), I’ve noticed one BIG change in hubs’ and my mentality toward debt payments:  We’re a lot more eager than we used to be.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’ve always been eager to get out of debt! But what I mean is that we aren’t taking as many precautions and have a little bit dangerously low safety net in place currently.

Prior to landing the full-time job, we had extremely variable income. In hubs’ job, alone, he’s had months where he’s made nothing and months where he’s made nearly $10,000! That’s a huge fluctuation! While my income was always a little bit more stable (in terms of the same amount of money almost every month), it was an adjunct position so there was no stability in terms of long-term job security. I sign a semester-by-semester contract so I only ever have a guarantee for just a few months at a time.

My full time job now fills that void. It offers safety and security. I know that, no matter what, I’ll be getting a paycheck every two weeks for $X amount (of course, this is assuming I fulfill my job duties…I’ve never heard of anyone being fired mid-semester but I presume it could happen if one were to just drop off the face of the Earth or something drastic happened). But you get my point. This steady money provides a bit of a safety net that, otherwise, we had to do ourselves through savings.

So, although I don’t like how thin we’re running on money right now, we’ve been making some much riskier financial decisions than we have in the past.

All of our savings accounts are dangerously low. Under a thousand in our emergency fund. Only a couple hundred in our car repair fund, a couple hundred in our health/dental/vision fund, a couple hundred in our annual expenses fund. All of our savings are grossly under-funded right now. Plus, we’re slipping into a limbo of living on last month’s income. Basically, I still use my full-time paycheck to live on last month’s income, but all of my part-time pay I’ve started using toward the current month to boost up our debt payment figures. Same thing with hubs. He had a no-income month in August and, since then, I’ve been using his pay for the current month simply out of necessity! It’s a slippery slope and I know that we’re sliding a little bit.

I know all of these factors combined (very small EF and other savings, smaller safety net through “last month’s income”) can come back to bite us in the butt. But my thought process is this:

I really want to pay off our car. Like….I really, REALLY want to pay it off.

There are two ways that this could go:

  1. We have a super small safety net until the car is paid off. Then we bulk back up our savings and everything is fine. No big deal.
  2. We have a super small safety net and something happens that requires immediate money and attention (e.g., big car repair, unexpected health issue, etc.). We divert the money we WOULD have put toward car debt toward the new issue. The car isn’t paid off as quickly, but we all survive.

Maybe I’m missing something, but this is how it seems to me. Even if (knock on wood) we suffered some unforeseen financial blow, we have the funds to deal with it…it would just require us to put less toward debt. So it would blow the goal of paying off the car by December, but we would still be able to weather the storm.

To try to make sure this is the case, I’ve been putting off debt payments until late in the month when I know, for sure, exactly what hubs’ income is for the month, how much money we’ve got for the next month (from our now modified living on last month’s income fund), etc.

It certainly feels risky at times, but my hope is that this is only for three months. By the time the new year rolls around I hope and pray that we’ll be consumer debt-free (meaning, the car has been paid off). If that’s the case, then we may take January “off” of debt-payments (aside from minimum obligations) so we can re-stock some of these savings that really should be funded at a higher level.

That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what curves life throws our way.

Have you ever lived with a super-low financial safety net for a period of time in order to try to meet some financial goals? If so, did it work for you?

We’ve done this once before. Back when we paid off our Wells Fargo credit card (in May 2014), I made a a giant payment (like $3500) to pay off the card in full before I even knew if we had the money available. To clarify, that’s when we had a 100% variable income (no steady pay), so we literally had the money in a checking account but I didn’t know if we’d have enough money coming in to cover the rest of our bills for the month! I made a giant leap and just paid the bill in full and crossed my fingers that it would all work out. Thankfully, it did. We earned enough to cover the rest of our bills and all was fine. I’m hoping for a repeat situation now. I want this car loan debt gone NOW!


Financial Priority List

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One of my new favorite things to do since signing my first full-time employment contract is to run numbers over and over again to determine our new debt-free date. 🙂

As a side-note, I ran across an old notebook from last summer (August 2014) where I’d written projected debt-free dates and was slightly heartbroken to see I’d originally hoped to have my car loan paid in full by January 2015. Crusher! Still about 15 grand to go on that one (latest debt update here). But I’ll be hitting it hard once the paychecks start rolling in.

Regarding pay, however, things are still a bit up in the air.

A reader who works in HR commented a couple weeks ago to say that I probably need to receive official permission from my new job to continue working at my online teaching job. I really hadn’t thought anything of it because I know lots of professors who adjunct teach at a community college on the side of their full-time professor gig. But as this is my first full time position and I absolutely do not want ANYTHING to jeopardize it in any way, I called HR to be safe. At first I got a casual response, “I don’t see why that would be an issue but I’ve never had the question before. I’ll check with someone else and call you back.”

So I go the rest of the day thinking I’m A-Okay until I get the call. Even though my part-time job can be completed at nights and on weekends, will not interfere in any way with my new position, and is only adjunct teaching (no additional responsibilities, etc.), the employee handbook has a little section stating that any employment for any other university or college MUST be approved by the department head AND college dean. Ouch.

I’m still hopeful about the situation. I really don’t think it will be a big deal given the parameters of my online teaching job (specifically that it can be completed any time so it won’t cause any impairment to my new day job, and it’s a simple adjunct position). BUT the bottom line is I have to ask for official permission to continue working for the online job and, if I’m told no, there goes my hopes of making serious progress on debt repayment.

Let’s step back a sec and talk numbers without actually talking numbers. Just follow me.

My new full-time job pays about 50% more than my current part-time online teaching job.

BUT

After running the numbers of all the deductions to be taken out from each paycheck, which are substantial (including: health, dental, vision, retirement, money for a flexible spending account for childcare expenses, taxes, etc. etc. etc.) I’m only going to actually be netting an extra couple hundred bucks a month. Soooo, practically the same monthly pay for my full-time job as what I make at my part-time job.

Of course, my money will stretch a lot further at my new full-time job because, unlike the part-time job, I won’t have to deduct funds monthly to pay my own taxes and health insurance. I’ll be paying for (part of) childcare with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be paying for health care with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be saving money toward retirement where previously I’ve saved nearly nothing. And so on.

But when you just look at the bottom line…. being able to keep my part-time job effectively doubles my take-home salary. So obviously I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that.

Cross your fingers for me. I meet with the department head the week of the 20th (exact date TBD) so I’m hoping to bring it up in our meeting and have it be no big deal.

In the meantime I have a just-for-fun list of financial priorities along with some projected dates.

Financial Priority List

  • September 2015 – Add $4,000 to Emergency Fund. With hubs’ no-income month of May and the fact that much of my paycheck was sucked up into an overdue tax bill, we basically lived on our EF for the month of June. We do have a little left (just under a thousand), but I’d like to beef it up to the $5,000 mark. If we put some aside in August and some in September, we’ll hit that goal. It’s tough to put so much toward savings instead of debt but I feel really strongly that we need to have a solid EF, if for nothing more than my own psychological well-being.
  • December 2015 – Pay off remaining car loan (approx. $15,000). This is still a bit of an aggressive goal, but as long as I’m able to keep both my jobs I think there’s a really good chance we can still pay off our car before the calendar year is over. I CAN NOT WAIT until this loan is paid because it will signify reaching the consumer debt-free mark – a huge milestone in my mind.

And here’s where things get controversial….

After the car is paid off, I definitely want to start paying more toward my student loans. But instead of diving full-force into paying off these loans with the gazelle intensity that I’ve tried to have for all of our other consumer-related debts, I want to split my priorities a bit. I still feel very strongly about paying off these loans as quickly as possible (especially the unsubsidized loans; and I plan to continue doing balance transfers to save some interest where possible, too). That being said, however, there’s something else I feel really strongly about too.

Home ownership.

No, we aren’t looking at places today. No, we don’t even know what the next year may bring (examples: (1) my dad’s scary health issues, and (2) I’ve still been in talks with the out-of-state university where I did my not-an-interview earlier this year). But all that being said, once the consumer debts are paid in full I think it will be important to start saving more aggressively for an eventual down payment. At this point I don’t know specifics (no idea the amount per month we’ll save versus the amount put toward student loans every month), and I really do want to stress that I want my student loans gone ASAP! I hate dealing with them every month. I hate the amount of interest they cost me. I hate their drama. I hate that they’re this huge, scary, black hole of debt on my credit report. So in no way am I suggesting that I’ll only pay minimums or drastically reduce debt payments. No way!

Look. It’s never been a secret that I really want to put down roots somewhere. I said it in my very first “Meet Ashley” post that I wrote when I interviewed to be one of the bloggers here. It’s important to me. The American dream and all that jazz. And the older my kids get, the more I want it.

I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this as time moves on. But for now, we’ll just say that I’ve got these two concrete goals (restock EF by September, and consumer debt-free by December), and then we’ll have to do some reassessing at that point. Either way, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty kick-butt year in terms of debt repayment. Full throttle ahead!

 


Cruise 2016 Update

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

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

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

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

Your 59th was pretty crappy.

All we want is for YOU to be happy!

So your 60th is all about you.

And now its your turn to choose.

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

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

Skipping forward….

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

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

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

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

So there’s the update.

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

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

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

What do your 1-year financial goals entail?