Posts tagged with: getting out of debt

Ashley’s New 2017 Budget


It’s been awhile since I did a full budget post. As I was working on this post, I was reminded of the reason – these posts always take sooooo long to pull together. I double and triple check everything 10 times to make sure there are no mistakes and to make sure I have solid footing on where all of these numbers are coming from.

These are good posts for me to do, though, because it always offers an opportunity for us to make subtle tweaks or changes to the budget. This time around, the big one was with our Roth IRA savings. We’ve only been saving about $100/month toward a Roth. But one of our 2017 goals is to fully fund a Roth at $5500 this year. In order to do that, we’re going to have to increase our monthly rate of savings for our Roth!!

At any rate, I want to show our budget and then offer some explanation below:

Mortgage $1250
Property Taxes & Insurance $350
HOA $40
Electricity $165
Water $75
Phones $150
Cable/Internet $130
Preschool & Childcare $1100
Gift-Giving $50
Personal Maintenance $50
Restaurants $300
Entertainment $100
Kids’ Activities $100
Groceries $600
Fuel $100
Household Goods $100
Clothing $50
Category subtotal $4710
3-6 month expenses, Full at $5,000 $0/mo ($5,000 current)
Car Repairs, Full at $2,000 $200/mo; ($676 current)
Kids’ birthday, Full at $500 $50/mo; ($150 current)
Travel/Christmas; Full at $500 $50/mo; ($50 current)
Annual Fees $240/mo (revolving)
Girls’ College Savings $50/mo
Roth IRA Savings $460/mo
Home Improvement $350/mo
Summer Vacation Savings $500/mo
Category subtotal $1900/mo
Student Loan Payments $2200/mo
Medical $25/mo
Balance Transfer $800/mo
Category subtotal $3,025/mo


TOTAL = $9635/month


The biggest “note” right off the bat is this: I do NOT make $9635 “take home” per month. I don’t make that much. So that’s a problem. But here’s the deal – we’ll make it work.
At least for the time being, hubs is still drawing a little bit of additional income, so that helps to supplement my income. But as the year progresses, assuming our income will go down at some point, we’ll end up having to cut back. Likely the cut-backs will occur in both the savings and the debt categories. Some of the savings categories are easy to cut (e.g., travel/Christmas or kids’ birthdays); some of the savings are short-term and will go away eventually (e.g., summer vacation savings). But some will be harder to cut out (e.g., girls’ college savings is set to draft automatically from my account and if we want to hit our fully funded Roth IRA goal, we need to be pretty consistent in that savings category). I hate to cut back on debt at all, too, but if faced with a lack of funds at the end of the month, we may have to dip below my projected number. To be fair, our 2017 goal is to pay $30,000 toward debt, which is “only” $2500/month, so we’ve got a bit of wiggle room if we need to make a slightly lower debt payment (though I’d LOVE to pay MORE toward debt and hit our goals early!!!)

In terms of the monthly bills and expenses, most of those are pretty “set” at this point. We did our 100% bare-bones blog days (a full 2 years) and have just started loosening up the purse strings a bit for the sake of our sanity and longevity with our get-out-of-debt plans. We may try to make our “entertainment” budget cheaper (which accounts for our monthly date nights and any family activities we do), and I’m always struggling to try to spend less on food (either/both in groceries & in eating out). I could skip or reduce the personal maintenance budget occasionally (which accounts for things like yoga/exercise stuff, eyebrow wax, hair care, makeup, etc). But for the most part, the monthly bills are going to be hard to see much wiggle room in at this point.

So all of this brings us to this point…. It’s kind of scary to see a budget that our projected income cannot cover. To accommodate for this, all savings and debt payments will be made late in the month. That way, we can alter payments (and savings) as needed so that our budget isn’t exceeding our monthly income.

There you have it! January debt update coming soon, too!


If you keep a budget, what are your proportions of monthly expenses, savings, and debt? Ours are 48% monthly expenses, 20% savings, 32% debt. Of course, that’s just the budgeted categories and things are subject to change as income decreases. But as budgeted, I think that’s pretty good! I’d be proud to pull those numbers! What are your numbers?

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?



Back in December 2015 we hit a big milestone. We had officially paid $50,000 toward debt!!!

What a huge thing! Just thinking about paying $50,000 toward debt in two years (a rate of $25,000/year – nearly half our annual income when we first started blogging!) is mind-blowing.

And just last month we hit another big milestone. One that I have mixed feelings about.

We have now decreased our debt by $50,000.

Say what?

When we hit the first $50,000 milestone, that was money that we’d paid toward debt. But, obviously, most of our debts have interest attached to them. So just because we paid $50,000 toward debt didn’t mean we’d actually decreased our debt by that amount because a good chunk of our money was going toward interest on the debt.

It took another FOUR MONTHS to finally decrease our debt by the same $50,000 that we’d celebrated back in December.


It makes me sick to look at the size of our student loan debt and realize how much we’ve paid that has only gone toward interest. Nothing toward any principal reduction at all. And to see the calculations that say “if you pay the minimum payment, by X time you’ll have paid X amount.” You all know what I’m talking about. Credit card statements have the same statement on them. So you’re looking at your current debt number, but then you see that if you only pay the minimum that in the end you’ll end up paying MUCH more than the original debt amount. After all the interest is included, it can be close to paying 2X! Two times as much as the initial debt!


I had a couple people comment on nearing the $50,000 debt reduction mark and ask whether I was excited.

Yes, of course I am! That’s a huge reduction in debt!

But I have mixed feelings. It’s also a little kick to the gut. Knowing we’d paid $50,000 back in December, but our debt numbers didn’t actually reflect a $50,000 decrease until 4 months later. Four long, grueling months of making major debt payments. All of which was consumed by interest. Boo!

It’s a valuable lesson, though. The debtor is a slave to the lender. Another reason to never, ever go into debt again (*ahem* except for a mortgage).

When you think about debt payoff, do you tend to think in terms of dollars toward it (including paying interest), or in actual amount of debt reduction? I report both in my monthly debt updates, but I tend to think more in terms of dollars spent toward debt (including interest). It sucks that there’s such a lag behind dollars spent & dollars in debt reduction.

This, too, shall pass


I know I keep talking about how “busy-busy-busy” or “go-go-go” I am all the time now.

I love my job(s) and I’m very thankful for it them, but the schedule can also be a bit overwhelming sometimes.

The end-of-semester craziness has been kicking my butt and I’ve been looking forward to summer. Just hold on a couple more weeks…a couple more weeks and everything will calm down. That’s been my mantra.

And then I realized…it won’t.

At my part-time job, summer is pretty crazy. It’s great pay (because it’s the same amount of pay, but I’m paid in 2 separate chunks – one check in June and one in July – as opposed to having it spread across 4 months. So it essentially “feels” like double the pay). But it’s also a TON of work to do the same amount of teaching/grading/etc in a shortened schedule.

I’ve also reported how I managed to get my full-time job to extend my contract so I’ll now get paid all summer from the full-time job, too. That’s fantastic news on the financial front (the equivalent of a 33% raise compared to my current salary)…but I don’t get paid to just sit around watching TV. I get paid to WORK! So that means all summer long I’ll be doing just that…working my tail off. At two different jobs. And then fall will be here, and spring, and summer. Wash, rinse, repeat (side note:  I haven’t turned in notice or anything, but I’ve basically decided in my own mind that next summer – summer 2017 – will be my last semester working for the part-time job. The logic was that I want to work there the full calendar year of 2016, but then I won’t want to quit mid academic-year, so I’d wait until the 2016-2017 year is over, which ends summer 2017).

On a surface level, its a bit overwhelming. The cruise was fantastic for a short-lived stint of relaxation. But I’m also longing for summer time and the long days and carefree nature it usually has associated with it for many of us in academia.

But when I find myself stressing out over the lack of time and amount of work to get done, I just stop and take deep breaths. I focus on the moment, write up a To Do list (this is strangely therapeutic for me), and start knocking out line item by line item.

This semester has tested me. It’s pushed me to my limits and I joke that it’s caused me chronic pain (I now regularly suffer from tension headaches. It sucks.). But I’ve consciously made all of these decisions with my debt in mind. I’ve taken on extra work, have two jobs, etc. because I WANT TO GET OUT OF DEBT!!!! This isn’t just for fun. It’s serving a greater purpose.

One of my 2016 goals is to pay $30,000 toward debt this year. But what if I do more? What if I actually kick off $35,000 in debt?

Then next year, when we aren’t saving for a down payment toward a house, what if we get up to $40,000 or $45,000 on debt payments?

We may only be a couple years from being fully debt-free!!! I know once the debt number gets smaller it’s just going to fly by.

We’ll get there. Probably sooner than I even think. It will happen.

So, in the meantime, please excuse my occasional whining about how busy/chaotic/crazy my life is. This, too, shall pass. And when it does, we’ll be that much closer to financial freedom!

For those who are currently debt-free, how long was your journey? How long did it take? For those still on the path, what’s your projected timeline like?

Starting the Debt-Reduction Mission


Today I want to talk about a little of the back-story that lead to me really kicking into high gear on our family’s debt-reduction mission. Check out my story and be sure to leave yours in the comments! I’d love to hear more about what caused you and your family to decide that you really needed to kick some debt booty!

If you’ve read my debt story then you know that I haven’t always lived my life with debt. It wasn’t until I started graduate school that I took out my first student loan, then another, and another. Meanwhile, I also financed basic life essentials by paying with credit cards (and never paying them off). In the span of just two short years I amassed over $70,000 in debt.

It was an overwhelming amount of debt so I kind of distanced myself from it, psychologically-speaking. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make any real progress on it until I was done with grad school so I just pushed it out of my mind until that time.

I graduated with a Ph.D. in August 2013. I was lucky to land a position the same month, but at that point I still wasn’t gung-ho about debt reduction.

Really buckling down with debt-reduction had been in the back of my mind for awhile, but I hadn’t felt a great sense of urgency. I was making over minimum payments, but didn’t have a set plan in place (like my debt attack plan of action), and although we had a budget, the spending categories were all set much higher than currently (specifically, a lot more went toward groceries and eating out each month).

But the seeds had been sown.

By Fall 2013 I was really starting to feel more of a need to get our finances in order. I was working full-time (side note just to clarify the job situation…..I was hired at my old alma mater and worked a full-time/in-person position. But only a few months later in December 2013, the faculty member with whom I worked moved to a new university. I continued to work for the new university through distance, but switched from being a full-time employee to a part-time contract employee. This is the “University B” I’ve referenced many times). I started putting big chunks of my paycheck toward debt.

During this time, I started to immerse myself in stories of debt reduction. I’d been reading BAD casually for awhile, but I went back and re-read entire bloggers’ stories. I did the same thing with No More Harvard Debt, Man Versus Debt, and Fun Cheap or Free.

In February 2014 I was listening to my favorite morning talk show, The Bobby Bones Show (it’s a syndicated radio show in several markets across the U.S., so check it out, it’s really good!) and they had Dave Ramsey on. I’d heard the name Dave Ramsey before (Beks even wrote about attending Financial Peace University), but had never googled him, read his books, heard his show, etc. Bobby Bones had him on the show that day to give financial advice to one of the show’s producers, a mid-20s guy named Ray. Ray had just bet (and lost) his truck in a Super Bowl bet (True story. He got money at a cash-for-title place and bet it all on the Super Bowl. He lost the bet, his money, and his truck. You can see the segment here if you’re interested)

Anyway, this was kind of a turning point for me. Hearing Ramsey on Bobby Bones really made me curious about this money guy. I looked up his show and downloaded some (free) podcasts. Hearing the callers’ success stories and debt free screams was so incredibly motivating. I’d already been actively working on debt reduction, but this was the point at which I decided we needed to really be gazelle intense about it (a term Ramsey frequently uses).

This all set the stage perfectly for when Adam and Emily decided to step down as bloggers, and new bloggers were selected (in late March 2014 – you can see my first post as an official blogger here).

That brings me to the beginning of my journey here.

I’ve been lucky. I’d already committed to debt reduction previously, but hearing Ramsey for the first time, and then starting to blog here (and the accountability and encouragement that comes with it) has been a real kick in the pants! I have no doubts that I’d still be on this debt-reduction journey regardless (even if I hadn’t been selected as a blogger here), but I also have no doubt that progress would have been much slower. So I’m very grateful I’ve had your support and encouragement along the way. There’s still a long road ahead, but it actually feels doable now (something I couldn’t say only 2 years ago).

How did you get started on your debt reduction journey?

Question of the Week – Bad Decisions


This is our Sunday series where we all respond to reader questions. If you want to submit a question, please go to this post.

Question of the Week

What were the worst decisions that led up to your current situation of being in debt? In hindsight what could you have done differently? How will the knowledge of those decisions effect your future decisions? posted by Kili


I don’t know that I can pinpoint any one decision that put us into our current debt situation.  I regret our furniture loan for reasons that I’ll get into in an upcoming post but everything else kind of, I don’t know, snuck up on us.  I know that probably doesn’t really make sense but, that’s how it seems.  I think our problem was that we could afford the debt we were taking on so, it wasn’t something we worried about. Up until just a couple of years ago we felt like having debt was perfectly acceptable and something with which we were comfortable. One thing we did that I feel certainly didn’t help, was that we thought using credit was a way to make our money really work for us.  We would have the money to buy certain things but we would buy on credit because getting under a certain point in our savings made me anxious.  I know some people can use their credit and pay if off immediately.  We never seem to do that and eventually it wasn’t possible to pay off all at once. Then, the medical problems hit and that took away from savings and added to our debt.  Now, as far as what we could have done differently, we could have used cash and if we didn’t have enough cash then it wasn’t something we really needed. That’s how we are living now and how we will continue to live in the future.


There are two that come to mind right away.  One the furniture loan, I should have been more alert and realize that the payments didn’t equal the loan amount to have it paid off in 18 months.  That cost me probably an additional $3k-$4k.  The second was putting all that money and time into a house that neither the wife or I wanted.  It cost us all of savings, put us more in debt, and let the ex live in a better house.  The only solace I get out of it, is that our daughter will be living in a better, safer house.As for what I have could have done differently, I am not really sure about the house.  But the furniture loan, we could have paid cash for this.  We had the money, I was just to focused on building our credit.  These decisions effect all my decisions lately, for I thought I was doing everything right when it came to using “credit the right way” but when I hurt myself… I quickly found out how much credit really affects you, when you can’t pay it off right away.


I don’t even know where to start with answering this one.  Would the worst decision be the tv and gaming system while in grad school for my newlywed husband or the Disney trip right when I had paid off my credit card just a couple of years ago? Maybe it would be getting rid of an older car due to the divorce rather than sticking with it and having it paid off by now. Or the one I question the most often these days, living in a tourist town where the cost of living is so high in general.  I can’t narrow down my worst decision easily, but there have definitely been milestone events like those above that have heavily contributed. 

Now, how would knowing and evaluating those affect my future decisions? Well, as I get older and hopefully wiser there are two things I know.  I HATE living with debt, having the chance at getting behind when there are bumps in the road with work is sickening.  And with my kids, I will not pay for ‘stuff’ but I am willing to compromise on experiences.  We have just wasted so much on stuff and I see it thrown away, broken or become so quickly out-dated, that it’s a complete waste to me.  With those two things well in hand, I will focus every bit of my energy now on getting out of debt and once there focus on staying there.  And I will not be swayed by the “gimees” that got me as a young parent, but rather weigh the money spent on kids from the long term experience perspective.


Hands down the #1 decision that lead to my debt was the choice to go to graduate school. At the time, it felt like the only logical decision. I want to be a professor, therefore I must obtain a graduate degree. Even though I was 22 at the start of my graduate schooling (and, therefore, technically an adult), I don’t think my mind was capable of FULLY comprehending the amount of debt that I was about to take on. And I certainly wasn’t weighing the risks of graduating and being potentially unable to find a job. If anyone else has experience with student loans then you know that when you finally graduate you are required to take “Exit Loan Counseling.” Based on the amount of my loans, my exit counseling said I needed to seek employment making $95,000 per year. It was a punch to the gut and I felt sick to my stomach. Even if I land the coveted assistant professor position, salaries in my field start at closer to $60,000. Only tenured professors have salaries flirting with the $100,000 mark. I won’t dwell on how this could potentially have been the WORST mistake of my entire life. I am still, afterall, working diligently to try to get hired in my profession of choice. Instead, I’ll focus on how I could have done it differently. In Florida, I could have ONLY taken out loans for tuition. I could have worked extra jobs and eaten rice and beans and tried to avoid any additional debt. In Arizona (where my tuition was covered by the department), I really shouldn’t have taken out any additional loans at all. I did of course, but I could have gotten by without them. Finances would have been tighter and life may not have been as “glamorous” or fun, but then I wouldn’t be stuck facing the almost insurmountable amount of debt I have. For what it’s worth, I’ve been VERY vocal with my group of friends and family about the realities of a graduate education. I am not alone. Not by a long shot. There is a huge, growing number of highly educated people who are unable to find work after taking out disgusting amounts of student loan debt. I’ve even heard it likened to the next “housing bubble” – people are being given more credit than they can handle, many will undoubtedly default on their loans, and then…..????? I think these experiences will impact my future debt-decisions because I now firmly believe there is really no such thing as “good” debt. I don’t care if its real estate, student loans, etc etc etc. There are no guarantees with anything and every form of debt carries some VERY REAL risk.

An Introduction to My Debt – Hope


Note: This is the application post from Hope wanting to be the next blogger for BAD. Feel free to ask any questions, leave your opinion and express your feelings in the comments

I’ve been asked to introduce myself before and that was hard, but introducing my debt as a first assignment is like asking me to appear at an interview in the most horrific outfit I own, unshowered and without doing my hair and make up. Talk about intimidating!

The worst of it is the shame, trying to keep up appearances that everything is fine when I’m really just drowning in debt. Deciding who to pay, how much to pay and when to pay is really stressful. Juggling the payment dates to try to avoid a late penalty, a ding on my credit score and still have enough money to cover groceries and gas for the month. You are probably getting the gist of my overwhelming dilemma.

For the last three years or so, I have been trying to pay off debt. I have had some successes, but also some major backslides. But I am truly and thoroughly sick and tired of being so stressed about my overwhelming debt and I’ve recently added some serious motivation to 1) getting out of debt and on solid financial ground and 2) setting a good example as a steward of my financial well-being.

With that being said, I must tell you a little about myself. I am an entrepreneur, who has successfully run a home based business for the past 8 years. I have a Masters degree and market myself as a high tech virtual assistant which typically translates into either business system consulting jobs or technical customer service and project management for small businesses. I love what I do.

I am also a single mom, who gets sporadic financial support for two of my kids from their dad and an adoption subsidy for my other two. My kids are my joy, my reason for everything I do and the reason that I work from home rather than going out and getting a fabulous corporate job with a six figure income (at least that’s how it would work out in my head.)

This past fall I was blessed to fulfill a lifelong dream of adoption and welcomed twin teenage boys into our home on a permanent basis (they had been placed here two years earlier as foster kids and since going home did not work out…) They are my new motivation. You see, my other two children are younger and I anticipated having at least another 6 years to get right financially before I had to think about cars and college, etc. But now, that run is very short, the twins started high school this year and could possibly drive next year (it’s a privilege, not a right, of course.)

So I’ve GOT to get a handle on this. I’ve got to get on solid financial ground. I’ve got to be a good example. And I’ve GOT to do it now.

So now you’ve heard of my greatest shame and my greatest joy. My income comes solely from my business and some support for my children. Now, a drumroll please, my debt consists of:

– a student loan incurred during grad school
– a car loan (I had to get a bigger car with the addition of children, purchased early last summer)
– three revolving credit lines
– a personal loan from my dad (no interest)
– a maxed credit card
– a tax bill (that was due in Dec, 2013)
– a consumer loan.

The total owed is $77,792.80. Ugh, just makes me sick. But I am ready for a fight. I am ready to tackle this and frankly I can use all the help, advice and nudges to stay on track that I can get.