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Financial Goals: 2017 & Beyond!!!


For the past couple of years I’ve made our family’s financial goals public, sharing them with you all and tracking along throughout the year to see how we did (see 2015 goals here and 2016 goals here). We met our financial goals the past two years and hope this year will be no different.

2017 Financial Goals:

  • Pay $30,000 Toward Debt. This may seem like no big deal since we had this same goal last year and met it, no problem. But this year will be different because our salary is going to decrease a bit. Hubs is going back to school and mid-way through the year I’ll be leaving my part-time job. I’ve kept hinting that I have some news on the job front but I’m still not in a place where I’m able to share it. Probably within the next few weeks I’ll be able to elaborate on this. Overall, though, our salary will be down this year compared to last year.
  • Fully Fund A Roth IRA. Our first two years of debt payment were narrowly focused on debt payoff at the exclusion of all else. When I started my full-time job in August 2015, a 7% retirement contribution was required (and is matched by my employer). In the past year (we’re almost at the 3-year mark for our debt payoff journey), I’ve tried to add in a little extra balance. That means more of a focus on savings for retirement and on spending a little bit for fun (e.g., monthly date nights, kids’ activities, etc.). I’m still continuing to do my mandatory pre-tax retirement contributions (it goes into a 401(k) type thing, but the education equivalent…I think it’s a 401(c) or something??) I’ve also tried to separately put a little money into a Roth the past couple years, but we’ve only managed to do about $1,500 or $2,000ish each year. This year the goal is for us to have 1 fully funded Roth at the maximum allowance (I believe it’s still $5,500). In the future we’ll work toward having 2 fully funded Roths, but I think just having 1 will be a good goal for this year, as we still work diligently to reduce our debt.
  • Mom & Dad Getaway. This is still a very new and not fully fleshed out goal but one that has been floating around in my mind for quite awhile. For newer readers, hubs and I have twin 4.5 year old girls. One of our favorite (pre-baby) passions was to travel. We used to travel a LOT. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we have in our mind for why we want to be debt free: so we can have the freedom to travel! In February 2015 we set a goal to go on a cruise for my Mom’s 60th birthday and we did! We saved up for over a year and in April 2016, we went on a family cruise. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it. But it kind of re-kindled this flame in my heart – this desire to travel with my husband! In the past nearly half-decade since we’ve had kids, we haven’t had a single overnight away from them. Not one. We love our kids, but I also think we’re now at the point that it would be healthy and good for us to have a little mini-getaway solo. It likely wouldn’t be for long (we’re thinking 4 days/3 nights) and it likely wouldn’t be extravagant (maybe drive out to San Diego since that’s only a few hours drive). So I’m sure it won’t be as costly as the cruise was. We don’t have defined or “set” plans in place, but we’ve talked to hubs’ mom about it and she’s volunteered to come out to Arizona and watch the girls for us so we wouldn’t have to be paying for childcare. I don’t know when this would be (maybe over summer; maybe not until fall), but it will happen sometime in 2017. It needs some work to make the goal more defined, but it’s a definitely goal we have for this year.


I know this is a get-out-of-debt blog, so some of the things I talk about (e.g., savings, spending) may be a little controversial. I am proud, overall, on how frugal we have been and how much we’ve been able to reduce our debt. I think ours is a success story. If we had less debt, we may have just been able to go gung-ho the whole time (we did for a solid 2 years!!!) and just eliminate the debt in its entirety. But with the amount of debt we’re grappling with, I didn’t think it was possible for us to be “gung ho” for a solid 5-6 years. I knew we would end up falling off the wagon. Therefore, we’ve purposely built our budget in a way where we can SUCCEED. That includes building in a little “wiggle room” for a monthly date night, weekly dance class for the kids, and having friends over for dinner every couple of months. These “life” things are important to us and we wouldn’t be able to make it through to the finish line if we didn’t allow them.

It’s been so encouraging to watch our debt shrink. We now owe $75,000 according to our most recent debt update. Here are our long-term goals:

2017: $30,000 toward debt payments

2018: $30,000 toward debt payments

2019: DEBT-FREE by the middle of the year!!!!

2019 still seems so far off! But then, we started this journey in 2014 and that feels like it was just yesterday! So I know 2019 will be here before we know it. We’re over half-way there!!! I hope you’ll continue to stick around while we’re on our journey. And I wish you luck on your journey as well.


What are your 2017 financial goals? Do you set annual goals for yourself and/or your family?

Ashley’s Year In Review (2016)


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 2016 Goals Wrap-Up (With December Debt Update)


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


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


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
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?

Ashley’s September 2016 Debt Update


Better late than never, right?

After I realized I’d missed our extra student loan payment, I initiated it on October 1st (a Saturday). It showed “pending” in Navient’s system for several days and didn’t actually show up as being applied until Wednesday. I don’t like posting on Wednesday (I like to leave it for Hope), so here we are with our SEPTEMBER debt update nearly a full week into the month of October. So sorry about the late update!

Check it out:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
ACS Student Loans$85856.55%$25September$8215
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$53500% (through April 2017)$500September$7650
Medical Bills$57110%$25September$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$83,173 (Aug balance = 85,553)$2775Starting Debt = $145,472

Several exciting milestones are coming up:

First, we’re just over $3,000 away from our next $10,000 milestone.

Second, the next digit we’ll be seeing is in the $70,000’s. That’s significant because our half-way mark is just above $72,000. So we’re just a little over $10,000 away from the half-way mark! Everyone keeps saying after we cross that threshold that the debt will just start melting away! It’s felt like a long, hard slog so far the past nearly 3 years of debt-repayment. I’m VERY excited to get over that hump.

Third, do you recall how one of our big 2016 debt goals was to pay $30,000 toward debt this year?? Check out where we now stand in terms of that financial goal:

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  
November Goal: $2500  
December Goal: $2500  
Total Goal: $30,000 $22,8310

It’s going to be tight, but we’re right on track to hit that goal. It’s so crazy to think that many families in America are struggling to survive on a total household income of $30,000. Meanwhile, we’ve been blessed with an increased income that has allowed us to put that much toward debt! I mean – whoa! Moment of silence or respect or something. That’s a massive figure!

So much to be thankful for and still so many exciting milestones on the horizon.

Full steam ahead!!!

Do you make annual financial goals? What were yours and how are you doing on them?

Ashley’s December 2015 Debt Update


Here we are on the last day of the month/year. How has your December been?

Aside from a couple little financial hiccups, ours has been fabulous! During the school break I’ve actually unplugged for full days at a time (a rarity, especially when you work online!) and its been great to just be around and enjoy family without constantly checking email!

But let’s not forget why we’re here. We had some lofty goals in terms of debt repayment that I wasn’t sure we’d meet this month (in fact, I have said several times we probably would not meet our goals).

After all the dust settled and the paychecks had been cashed, let’s see how things shaped up this month.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
License Fees-2.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
ACS Student Loans$85966.55%$20December$8215
PenFed Car Loan$31812.49%$1800December$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$26120% (through April 2016)$400December$5937
Medical Bills$59360%$25December$9000
Totals$102,502 (Nov balance = 104,704)$2522Starting Debt = $145,472

After all was said and done, we ended up paying just over $2500 in debt this month. Our initial debt payment was actually about $300 lower than this, but I squeezed every spare penny out of the budget and was able to make an additional last-minute (December 30th) extra payment to the car loan.

Our final consumer-related debt, the car, is now at a balance of $3,181. And our overall debt balance is at $102,502. So we did NOT make our goals of paying off the car or dipping below $100k in debt this month as we had hoped. 

That being said, come hell or high water, we will meet both of these goals in January. So we’ll be a few weeks behind the initial goal, but not by much.

Another one of our 2015 Financial Goals included paying $30,000 total toward debt during the year. Here’s where our final debt payment numbers landed:

January $1678
February $1822
March $653
April $1796
May $1708
June $725
July $2125
August $2250
September $2575
October $5513
November $2751
December $2522
Total $26118

So, again, we didn’t quite meet our goal, but we weren’t terribly far off either.

Overall, I’m quite proud of how well we’ve done in 2015. Let’s not forget that hubs’ business has had a bit of a rough year. His income wasn’t as high as it was in 2014 (and he had a couple months with no income whatsoever). Plus, I didn’t start my full-time job until the end of summer, so my income didn’t increase until the second half of the year.

When I set our goals, I always like to set “reaching” goals. This means they’re not easily attainable in-the-bag type goals. They’re goals where the numbers don’t quite work and, yet, I set the goals anyway because I want something to reach for and work toward. So the fact that we didn’t quite make our goals doesn’t bother me as much as one might think (though, don’t get me wrong, I would have LOVED to reach our goals!). My point is simply that I think the goals did their job. They made us work hard to try to do something crazy – something the numbers said wouldn’t or couldn’t work. And we made incredible progress, so that’s something to be proud of.

And, I have a mini-secret up my sleeve. My “ace in the hole”, if you will.

Just as former blogger Adam posted that he and Emily are effectively debt free (see their update here), I have similar news to share. You know how every month I’ve reported that I’ve been saving money toward Cruise 2016? Well, guess what…

As of this month (December 2015), I have $3,300 in one of my Capital One 360 savings accounts for the cruise. But the next cruise payment isn’t due until February 2016. So what I’m saying is that we actually have enough liquid cash available to be entirely consumer debt-free today.

In fact, I had initially planned to “steal” from myself (from the cruise fund), pay off the car in full, and then spend January/February re-saving that money for the cruise. However, after the unexpected extra expenses this month coupled with the fact that we really have little-to-no additional savings to speak of right now (not to mention we’re still in Texas so if we encountered any problems on the trip back to Arizona, etc.) I wanted to err on the side of caution and keep that money in the bank.

That being said, mark my words:  We will be consumer debt-free in January 2016. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it the old fashioned way (i.e., using our pay to finish paying off the last consumer debt). But even if something crazy happened, we had extra expenses or whatever, and we didn’t have enough money to quite cover the full amount of debt, I fully intend to use all our available capital (including the cruise fund) to MAKE SURE our consumer debts are fully eradicated before the end of January.

So we are effectively consumer debt-free now (in the sense that we have the money to pay off the last of our consumer debt), but we will become actually consumer debt-free within the next couple of weeks.

You can imagine that this is one of the biggest things on the forefront of my mind and I basically can’t shut up about it. My family has asked if it feels amazing and, although it feels pretty good, I still think there will be a big difference once I actually transfer the funds and see zeros on the balance owed of our vehicle. Just thinking about it makes me smile. And now I’m totally “that person” because I bought both my sister & my brother a copy of Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover for Christmas (during their $10 sale! Couldn’t pass it up!) Edited to add:  This is totally creepy, but the link to Ramsey’s book automatically appears, perhaps since it’s tagged to this post. I did NOT link it myself, nor is the link an affiliate link. In fact, it seems like I cannot remove the link without changing the wording of the post to not include the book’s name. Really weird/creepy, and I don’t particularly like that, but just wanted to be transparent that the link appears to be an auto-generated thing and I do NOT make any type of money or kick-back if you buy the book.

Just to be clear, I don’t blindly follow everything Ramsey says (as you can tell from my 2016 financial goals), but I do credit him (and Bobby Bones!) with jump-starting my mission to become debt-free. And I want to spread the message to those I love! What better gift to give than the gift of financial freedom? LOL. A bit of hyperbole (it’s not like I’m paying off anyone else’s debt), but it’s like giving a roadmap that can help others, so of course I want to share that information!

Anyway, this post has become entirely too long and I’ve got to run! New Years Eve is my birthday and I have lots of fun plans for family time, getting my hair professionally cut/colored (gift from my Mom and the first professional job in a really long time), lunch with my Dad, sparklers with the kids, etc. etc. etc.

I wish everyone a safe and happy New Years! I’ll catch you on the flip side! 😉

2016 Tentative Financial Goals


Hubs and I are both natural savers (though, admittedly, he would like to save more than me). So it’s been tough to have such a low EF and throw all of our extra money toward debt lately without having much saved for a rainy day.

That’s all about to change, friends.

Hubs and I have been discussing our financial goals for 2016. We’re still hashing them out so this isn’t a definitive 100% set list just yet. And I welcome your input, too. But here’s what we’re thinking.

  1. Save $10,000 for a down payment. One of our big goals for this year is to buy a house. This gets pretty personal (in terms of personal finance), and I’m sure there are strong opinions all around regarding buying a house while still in debt, but this point is pretty firm in both of our minds. Our price point is the mid-100’s. We want to put 20% down to avoid PMI. To do so, we will use $10,000 (which needs to be earned and saved in 2016), and add to it $10,000 I have currently in a money market account. Yes. I rarely talk about it, but it still exists. Our thoughts are that we’re simply moving the $10,000 from one type of investment (money market) to another type of investment (real estate). In addition to that, my mom has generously offered to gift us an amount (I will not disclose) that should tip us over the 20% threshold and still leave us with funds for closing costs, etc. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gift as, again, this gets pretty personal. We are very grateful for her generous offer and feel comfortable with accepting it because this is something she has always told us about. She made a similar gift to both of my siblings to buy their first homes so this is something she has planned and prepared for for many years. One important note is that our current lease ends in August (though our landlord is very flexible and aware of our plans. He has already told us we could go month-to-month if need be when the time comes). Because we’d like to find a home over the summer, we need to save up that money during the first part of 2016. The sooner, the better. So this goal will heavily impact budgeting during the first half of the year.
  2. Save $5,000 for Emergency Fund. Really all of our savings funds need to be beefed up. As a reminder, I use Capital One 360(<refer a friend link) and have separate accounts for all of our different savings goals. These accounts range from the typical Emergency Fund to a health/dental/vision fund, car repairs fund, Christmas/travel fund, and more. Realistically, I’d like to save more than this (again – we’re savers by nature). But I wanted to start with $5,000 and go from there. We need to save room in the budget for debt!!!! Which brings me to our final goal of 2016…
  3. Put $30,000 toward debt. One of our goals for 2015 was to pay $30,000 toward debt. We did SO GOOD and have come SO CLOSE to meeting that goal. I’d love to have upped this figure to something closer to $40,000ish, but with so much of our money being diverted toward savings in 2016, I think $30,000 is still a good number to stick with. Once the house stuff is all situated, I bet debt reduction progress in 2017 will be gangster-status!

That’s it! It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that $10,000 + $5,000 + $30,000 = $45,000 toward debt and savings in 2016! That is such an insane amount of money! We are eternally thankful for our well paying jobs and relatively low cost of living in the state of Arizona. If you were to tell me three years ago that these would be my goals for 2016 I would have laughed in your face! Thinking back to the two struggling people just trying to get by while caring for twin infants makes my heart hurt. We were drowning in debt, maxed out on credit, and just trying to grasp at that next paycheck. It is no exaggeration to say that blogging here has been absolutely transformative for our family! We have accomplished more than we ever thought was possible!

Yes, we still have a long way to go (nearly $95,000 in student loans remaining). But just looking back and seeing all the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time (less than 2 years) is so heartening. It just fills me with hope and promise for a future in which we can eventually be fully debt-free. I cannot wait!