This is a guest post from paidtwice. When I asked for help with guest posts early this morning, she had one in my inbox before this afternoon. Thanks paidtwice for guest posting!
I’m a planner. I plan and plot and calculate and plan some more, but sometimes life throws a wrench into those plans. Recently, my mortgage company sent us a letter letting us know as of February 1st, our payment would be going up by about $58 a month due to a miscalculation of our property taxes last year and another property tax increase this year. To many, a $58/month increase would not be a huge deal. For us, it is – we are working our way out of significant debt and have a budget so tight it squeaks. When I got the letter a few days ago, I honestly felt sick to my stomach. We have been doing so well focusing on our debt reduction and clearing our credit card debt – what will happen now? It seems every time we pick up any kind of momentum, life throws a wrench in our plans. After letting my feelings sit in my head overnight and percolate, I came up with 5 ways to keep motivated through this setback as well as ones in the future and even feel not so bad about it as well.
First, I gave reality time to sink in. I had expectations from before I read the letter that I had to give myself time to let go of. This can be a short or long process depending on the severity of the setback (having my contracting position unexpectedly end in October took me a lot longer to adjust to), for this, it generally took overnight for my brain to accept that the new situation was now reality.
Next, I kept my eye on the long term. This change in our monthly bills certainly affects our budget, and may slow down our debt reduction progress as well. But when you are looking at a scenario of 36 months to being all but mortgage debt free, a few months change doesn’t necessarily matter as much as it might. I don’t honestly know if this change will result in our missing the goal date, but we have a lot of time to make adjustments and push to make that goal date regardless. Time is on our side in this.
Which led me to remember why I’m doing this in the first place. This isn’t some kind of contest with myself and I’m not doing it for bragging rights. If the setback results in us not getting out of debt until a few months later than we planned – that’s okay. Because the overall goal is to get out of debt. And if we accomplish that, everything else is just gravy.
Another step I took was to adjust my short term goals as soon as possible and focus on those new benchmarks. One of our short term goals is to completely eradicate our credit card debt by August 2008. We have a car loan and two student loans to deal with after that, which is why our overall debt reduction goal is three years from now. We are actually on pace to completely eliminate the credit card debt by April of 2008, so even with this setback, we should be able to accomplish our August 2008 credit card debt gone goal. Focusing on that fact has helped me to be calmer and more settled about possible fluctuations in the long term picture.
And most importantly, I’m not giving up. This isn’t all or nothing. We have budgeted $810.40 to send to debt every month, plus any alternative income we can raise to supplement that. If one month, we can only send $752.40 because we haven’t raised any alternative income, then so be it. That is still more than our minimum payments, and we are still moving in the right direction. And you never know what is around the next corner – and sometimes it actually turns out to be good!
Overall, this focus on and journey through debt reduction has been an amazing learning experience for me and has even taught me more than a few things about financial planning and personal finance in general. I can’t say I would have chosen to be in debt to learn those lessons, but I can say I am grateful there were lessons to be learned in the process. And we will accomplish our debt free goal – early, on time, or late, it will happen. Our perseverance will see us through.
Thanks again to paidtwice for guest posting!