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With so many disparate goals for this year, some that focus on debt-reduction and others focused more on savings, I felt a bit like we’ve been playing a game of tug-o-war. We want so many different things and, like a child, we want them all NOW!!!

Ugh. Why does adulting have to be so difficult?

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Source – Someone, buy this for me! ; )

When we got hit smack in the face with our looming IRS debt, it forced me to take a step back and re-assess our plans for the year. Some changes I have already implemented (which will go into effect in April) include:

  • Reducing my retirement contributions. My university requires a minimum 7% contribution. I had been investing an additional 3% of my salary (for 10% total), but given our need to get some liquid cash for the IRS (and for debt payments, as well), I called HR and reduced my contributions down to the minimum 7% required.
  • Eliminating extra mortgage payments. Though we closed in November, it still feels like we just barely got here! When I set up our mortgage auto-payments, I set them to include an extra $300 to go directly toward principal. Our required payment was $950, but we’ve been paying $1250. I called the bank and removed our extra principal payment, reducing our auto-draft down to the minimum $950/month that’s required.
  • Practicing patience. I already talked about how my daughter lost her water bottle. Instead of immediately replacing it, I’ve made her start using my water bottle as her own. Unless her old one miraculously turns up (no idea where it is – it’s been lost for 3 weeks now), she won’t be getting a new water bottle until the start of next school year. In the past, I would’ve just immediately purchased a new one. But now I’m examining every purchase and really making an effort to practice patience anytime I’m thinking of buying something that we don’t immediately need.

All of these changes are in an effort to FOCUS on one thing at a time. Dave Ramsey talks about the power of focus (which, I believe, helped motivate the way he designed the Baby Steps so one “goal” is being focused on at a time).

We just have to get out of debt. It’s got to be done. This month marks completion of my third full year of being on this debt-reduction journey. There have been lots of highs and lows and this HUGE tax bill has definitely got me a little down. But, if anything, it’s just made me strengthen my resolve that we need to get out of debt ASAP!!! We had two years of hard-core debt reduction (no frills), one year where we loosened the purse strings a bit, and this year will be a mix. We do have some fun things planned (still doing our first ever Mom-and-Dad getaway sans kids this summer! Eeeeee!!!!!!), but I’m really realizing how much SOONER we can be out of debt if we return to our steadfast FOCUS on the goal at hand. It’s a tough thing going through this journey for SOOOOOOOOOO long. But that’s what the deal is. We started this journey with nearly $150,000 in debt and only making about $50,000/year! Obviously with those numbers it was going to take some time. Things have changed – our income has gone up and our debt has shrunk as we’ve been making huge payments. But it’s time for a renewed focus. I don’t want to be doing this for another three years. That’s too long. I want to try to cut that time in half. If we can be debt-free in a year and a half, I would be overjoyed! I can see the light at the end of a tunnel if we’re only talking about another year and a half!!!

Some of this is just rambling thoughts. I’d like to write up a whole “3 Years Reflections” post with thoughts and reflections on the entire debt-reduction process, to date. But in the meantime, I just wanted to jump on here and say “Hi!!! and let you know about some of the upcoming changes I’ve made in an effort to increase our monthly take-home pay so we have extra cash to throw at debt. It needs to happen. I can’t wait to kick our debt’s butt. Next debt on the chopping block is our medical debt. By this time next month, it will be 100% GONE and then we’ll be on to just the student loans. Can’t wait!!!

Hope you’re having a great month!


  • Reply anon |

    You ARE adulting. It’s just a bummer sometimes. But look at it this way–you are still contributing toward retirement, you are still paying your mortgage, and the water bottle is also a lesson. I mean, you’re still “making it.” Sure you had to divert funds because of an unexpected expense, but you HAVE the funds to divert, both because you make more money and because you have less debt. If your IRS debt really ends up being 10K, that’s a bummer. But you will be able to pay most, if not all of it because of how hard you’ve worked until now. And being responsible, even when it is hard, and sticking to a plan, even when it would be easier to quit are both major hallmarks of being a grown up.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you!!! : )
      We still haven’t gotten our final # from the accountant. I’ve had to take over additional documents (my fault – I’d forgotten about some stuff until it arrived in the mail), but I anticipate hearing back regarding our final meeting likely in the next week.

  • Reply Laura |

    I thought the water bottle was a good lesson to your daughter even if you weren’t watching your spending. If you are careless and lose or break something you don’t get to go out and buy a new one right away. It’s a lesson I’ve had to use with my son as well.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I agree 100%!!! They’re still quite young, but as they grow I try to sprinkle in little money lessons here and there. They still don’t really have a firm grasp of the value of a dollar, but they can certainly understand that things cost money, money is finite, and therefore we can’t just rush out and buy whatever/whenever. The water bottle loss perfectly exemplified that principle. Plus, the kids are all about “NO FAIR” right now (picked it up from friends at pre-school – ugh!). So I was also able to frame things by saying that it’s not really fair that one child keeps getting NEW water bottles because she’s losing her old ones, when the child who has kept track of her things still has her same OLD water bottle. That also helped resonate with them on the 4-year-old level. : )

  • Reply Angela L. |

    I’m not sure if I’ve seen this posted here before, but if you aren’t aware of it already, there’s a movement called “Buy Nothing.” It’s designed to be hyper local (neighborhood based) and cut down on consumer consumption. My Buy Nothing group is on Facebook and is a real hotbed of trading activity between neighbors. A great alternative to “I need something but don’t want to spend/have the money to spend on it now” or “go buy something brand new.” Your daughter’s water bottle made me think of it. It’s all traded for free. You can post things you want to get rid of or post things you’re looking for and people can respond if they have that item. I’ve found it to be useful in curbing my initial urge to go look for something at a store. My best experience was breaking a measuring cup in the middle of baking, posting that I was looking for a new one, and a neighbor a block away had an extra that she didn’t need. It was perfect!

    Anyway, just another tool in the arsenal of savings!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, I’d never heard of this but it sounds like such a cool movement! I already hopped on Facebook and there’s not one in my immediate area (where I live), but there’s one active by campus (where I work) so I’ve requested an add. Thanks for the tip!!

    • Reply Jasmine |

      There’s also freecycle.org. I don’t have a Buy Nothing group near me, but I do have several freecycle groups. Same idea. Different name.

      My mom’s AC broke a few summers ago and she wanted to buy a window unit to get by until she could afford to fix it. I asked on the group and that afternoon, I had a working unit to give to her.

  • Reply Angie |

    Despite all your ups and downs, I wanted to take a minute of thanking you for consistently sharing your story with us. Even though I’ll miss your “voice,” I really hope you have just another year and a half with us!

  • Reply Jean |

    How often do you get a paycheck? I get paid every two weeks and had my mortgage payment set up to take half out of each paycheck – that means one extra paycheck each year that goes directly toward principle, and I don’t miss the money. It cuts down about 7 years on a 30 year loan; I refinanced to a 15 year mortgage and I’m sure an extra payment each year isn’t going to cut that time in half but it’s better than nothing. 🙂

    You’ve done a FANTASTIC job of debt reduction based on your income. This is just a little bit of a slowdown in your progress but you’re still moving forward!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I get mine every two weeks, too, so this would be a really good idea to get at least one extra payment per year directly toward principle. I’ll probably leave it as-is for now to get over this hurdle, but then maybe look into this a few months down the road.

  • Reply dh |

    Any news from the accountant yet? I know this is driving you crazy but you’ve been doing a FANTASTIC job and this is just a temporary setback.

  • Reply Donnie Gardner |

    Ashley, sorry to hear about the IRS Bill that sucks! But I’m the exact same way when it comes to focus. There are so many goals out there and where to start. One thing I’ve done for this year is post my top 3 must do goals to my fridge. These are the must happen goals. They are also the ones that need to have action in order to get complete. Best of luck achieving all your goals!

So, what do you think ?