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Starting the Debt-Reduction Mission

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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?


Vasectomy or Vasecto-nope???

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Can we talk about something a little more…errr, personal today???

If you’re a newer reader, my husband (32 yrs.) and I (31 yrs.) have twin 2.5 year old daughters. We love them oh so much and our roles as parents. Buuuuut, we don’t want to do it over again.

This is something that we’ve thought a LOT about in the past few years. From the beginning husband has always been fairly certain he does not want more children. I waivered a bit more. When the girls were infants I was firmly in the NO MORE KIDS camp. Then around their first birthday I thought….maybe we might try again at some point? Not soon, but someday? I love the idea of having a little boy. And what great helpers would two older sisters be?

Then the romance of those daydreams wore off. In the past year I’ve sold off and/or given away ALL of our baby stuff. The older the girls get the more I think I NEVER want to do the baby stage again. Over Christmas we held friends’ newborns and ooh’d and aww’d over them. When asked if we wanted another of our own I instantly (maybe a little too sharply) replied, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!”

The truth is I really don’t want to do it again. I like the idea of having a boy, but (1) you don’t just get to choose the gender, and (2) I like the idea….but I don’t think I’d like the reality.

I just can’t do it again. The sleepless nights, the endless diapers, the spit up, the breastfeeding woes (I was committed to breastfeeding and did so for 6 months but it was a struggle every single day). Not to mention I had a very difficult pregnancy and came down with HELLP syndrome toward the end. I ended up delivering the twins via emergency c-section when my blood count numbers were plummeting and the doctors were afraid they might lose me. It was traumatic to say the least.

Here’s a snippet I’ve copy/pasted from my personal blog about the experience:

Nurse: *walks into room* – Where’s hubby?

Me: He went to go get some lunch

Nurse: At the cafeteria?

Me: No…..at a fast food place.

Nurse: Will he be back soon?

Me: He should be……why???

Nurse: *nervous giggle* (there’s a pause as she turns away from me, busying herself with something; after a couple minutes she turns, sits on the side of the bed and says): Well…..remember how I drew that blood from you this morning? It turns out that some of your levels are extremely abnormal. In fact, they’re so abnormal that I’ve talked to the attending OB, and she wants to go ahead and deliver your babies today.

The rest was a bit of a blur.

I never want to do it again. Never. Ever. Ever.

So all that being said, I am currently on oral contraceptives. However, I do NOT want to be on birth control the rest of my child-bearing years. I really don’t like introducing hormones into my body at all but I haven’t wanted to risk a pregnancy so I’ve resigned myself to this as a solution for the time being. I’ve played around with various types of birth control options over the years and I really just don’t like any of them. None of them are great long-term options for me.

Know what is???

Chop, chop honey!!! (tee hee)

Yes. A vasectomy.

If I’d known that we were for sure done with children earlier, I would have just requested getting my tubes tied when I was already in for C-section surgery. I wasn’t sure at that time. I am now.

Husband obviously isn’t crazy about the idea of the old snip-snip, but he also knows he doesn’t want more kids.

Plus, many insurance companies pay huge portions of the vasectomy surgery now (many pay the full thing, minus a copay). Alternatively, the cost of a child from birth to 18 is nearly a quarter of a million dollars (according to CNN money)

I’d love to get your opinions on this. Please, please keep your opinions to more financially-based (rather than religiously-based). I’d also love to hear if you have any personal experiences. I have one girlfriend whose husband had a vasectomy after their third child (7 years ago) and now she is LONGING for a fourth child. A vasectomy-reversal is much more costly than a vasectomy and it is more invasive, difficult to recover from, and is not always a guarantee of success. She regrets the vasectomy and has urged me to wait longer until making a final decision. When is the right time for this type of decision (especially since I’ve wavered in the past…I’m firmly in the NO MORE BABIES camp right now, but could I change my mind again in another year???)

Thoughts??? Opinions? Personal experiences??


Year of Becoming an Adult: January

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This year one of our resolutions (for hubs & me) was to do a lot of not-so-fun things that we’ve been putting off for far too long in the name of finally growing up and becoming adults.

We’ve planned things out so we have at least one or two big items to knock off our list every month. Hopefully by the time December 2015 roles around we’ll feel much more settled into our “adulthood” and many of these important items will be distant memories, having been taken care of months prior.

For the month of January we have a couple big things on our “Becoming an Adult” list:

  • Make wills for myself and hubs
  • Fill out power of attorney forms for myself and hubs
  • Add each other to our savings/checking accounts

I wanted to give a little mid-month update on how these things are going.

We used Legal Zoom to make wills and fill out power of attorney forms. It was so, so easy and painless! I really thought there would be a lot more emotion wrapped up in it (it just seems so morbid to be making decisions about who will raise your kids if you and spouse die, etc.), but it really wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. And it was quick! Only about 10 or 15 minutes total! This is not an advertisement (I’m not being paid by them, nor did I receive any discounts or anything), but I really would recommend the website for simple wills (if your estate is super complicated you may need an actual attorney).

Buuuuut (there’s always a but), when the documents arrived at our house I realized things would be a bit more complicated. Apparently in the state of Arizona wills have to be notarized PLUS have a witness signature, and the witness cannot be the notary, nor can they be anyone related by blood or marriage (so hubs and I cannot be each others’ witnesses). So we’ve reached a bit of a hangup. It’s not a big deal to get a friend to go with us to have the documents notarized and serve as a witness, but it takes more arranging of schedules and whatnot. It WILL happen this month, but its not done yet.

The checking/savings accounts are not complete yet either. I called and talked to my bank(s) to see if this could be done online and no, it cannot. I have to go to the banks in person with husband to have him added to my accounts (and have me added to his). Not huge, but just another annoying hurdle to getting everything in place.

But at least we’re in the process of working on this month’s goals. I’m sure glad we broke things down into bite-size chunks because it seems like everything is just a little bit more annoying/time-consuming/difficult than expected. It’s nice that we’re not trying to do everything all at once. If you want to see some of our other goals for this year (the year of becoming an adult), see the post I wrote about here. I’ll be sure to keep you updated as the year moves along.

Do you have any big financially-relevant goals this year? What are you working on?


Responsible Pet Ownership

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Let me tell you a little story about our dog, Rocky.

Rocky1

 

 

Rocky is an incredible dog. Well-behaved, intelligent, and loyal. One of the best.

But when he was a puppy he was T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.

 

Rock1

I distinctly remember at least 2 separate instances when I was this.close to taking him back to the pound (he was a rescue dog).

He got into everything! He had an insane amount of energy and regardless of how many walks, trips to the dog park, and hours spent playing fetch, he could never get it all out. He’d come inside and just destroy everything!

Rock2

As a puppy he did all of the following things: (1) ate a hole through a wood door large enough to walk through, (2) ate an entire leather cushion from a couch, (3) ate through chicken wire, (3) ate a friend’s hat, sunglasses, and shoes as the friend was sleeping on our couch.

This just scratches the surface. He was destructive. And he ate everything.

So one day we’re at home and Rocky starts freaking out. He starts running in circles around our living room at lightening-speed. Then he stops, starts staggering side-to-side like he’s drunk and about to fall down, then he goes right back to running (repeating the run-stagger cycle over and over).

Hubs (boyfriend at the time – this was 10 years ago) and I watched in shock of what was going on. Even for our high-energy Rocky boy, this was crazy behavior. Something was wrong.

At one of the staggering intervals, husband grabbed Rocky and scooped him up in his arms. We ran to the car and drove as fast as we could to the vet clinic just up the road. This was not our usual vet, but we had just moved and this was the closest vet to our new place. We knew we needed help fast.

Once there the vet got to work right away. She pumped his stomach, but didn’t find anything too unusual (I say “too unusual” because she did find some t-shirt material and padding from our patio furniture – true story – but those items would not have caused his behavior). The vet, obviously an animal lover, was not kind to us. She basically accused us of having drugs lying around that he surely must have ingested. Absolutely not! We were not drug-doing type of people!

An overnight stay and several hundred dollars later, we were able to bring Rocky home. Never figured out what was wrong, but he ended up being okay.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We realized what Rocky must have gotten into.

I was in college at the time and it was finals week. I’d been having a lot of anxiety and my relative-to-remain-nameless (since I’m describing a felony and all) gave me a couple of Xanax pills. Obviously not prescribed to me. But my relative thought it would help me relax enough to do well on my exams (I had bad test anxiety at the time). I never did end up taking the pills. They were wadded up in a paper napkin and had been thrown on a kitchen counter. Eventually I forgot about them all together. Then the napkin disappeared (aka: Rocky got ahold of it), and I never even thought twice about it. It is not a usual thing for us to have drugs (prescription or illegal) lying around so it never even crossed my mind.

Apparently the vet was right. *cringe*

I tell this story to say that, since this time, being a responsible pet owner has been of the utmost importance to me. I’d thought we were responsible pet owners at that time, too, but obviously we hadn’t shielded our eat-everything puppy from the dangers of some prescription pills that were lying casually on the kitchen counter.

And above the ramifications for the pets, themselves, responsible pet ownership pays off financially. Being responsible in this situation (i.e., putting the pills away in a safe place) would have prevented the hundreds of dollars we spent on emergency vet bills that day, not to mention the stress and heartache of thinking we were losing our beloved dog.

Pets can be expensive! But if you’re going to be a pet owner, being a responsible one is important.

Rock3

Have you had any scary pet crises? How much did the ordeal cost you?

Have you owned a rambunctious pet before? Our dog is THE BEST now, but those first 2 years of his life were pretty rough! ; )


Matt’s Debt Update

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Hey everybody! Happy Weekend! I want to share with everybody where I currently stand in my debt payoff and show everybody how far I’ve come:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Balance- August '13Balance- March '14Balance- September '14Balance- CurrentTotal Paid Off to Date
Sallie Mae- Private Loans
Composite (See below)$93,587.66$86,649.97$84,941.71$65,191.89$60,693.68$32,893.98
Sallie Mae- DOE LoansComposite (See below)$8,000.00$5,083.38$1,856.20$0$0$8,000.00
AES Student LoansComposite (See below)$9,000.00$1,100.11$0
$0$0$9,000.00

Citizens Bank Car Loan4.71$16,240.61$11,748.07$10,188.50 $0
$0$16,240.61
Debt Totals$126,828.27$104,581.53$96,986.41$65,191.89$60,693.68

I populated this chart with some important milestones in my debt journey. I want to show everyone my original debt totals as of my college graduation (May ’09), when I sat down and decided to pay off my debt for good (August ’13), my original BAD interview post (March ’14), my update to Ashley (September ’14) and my current debt totals (1/7/15). There’s one caveat to this- I didn’t acquire my Citizens Bank car loan until March ’12, but I wanted somehow to show everyone it’s original balance, so I stuck in with my May ’09 totals.

What I didn’t include here is my mortgage. I it track just like I do with my other loans, but my main concern here is ridding myself of my student loans. If people would like to see it, I have no problem including it, as well.

And now here’s the breakdown of my student loans:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Balance- August '13Balance- March '14Balance- September '14Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$26,493.12$26,210.03$25,443.30$24,841.55$2,995.69
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$20,794.59$20,558.16$19,949.39$19,480.87$2,716.15
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$18,473.10$18,039.17$3,424.33$2,965.20$17,726.90
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$9,172.55$8,923.87$8,370.22$7,966.07$2,384.11
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$5,801.57$5,739.61$5,571.75$5,439.99$656.04
Sallie Mae 064.75$4,484.9$3,935.73$3,824.74$2,262.38$0.00$4,484.9
Sallie Mae 074.75$1,930.19$1,693.88$1,646.13$0.00$0.00$1,930.19
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$3,603.87$1,856.20$0.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$1,416.22$0.00$0.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$1,100.11$0.00$0.00$0.00$9,000.00

I’m hoping this adds some clarity as to where I am, since I’ll be referencing these charts in the future. Please let me know if I have to make any tweaks to this!

Edit: Thanks to Sue for commenting that I should add the interest rates to charts. These have been added above.

-Matt


Matt Here

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Hello everyone! For those who may not know, I initially interviewed to be part of this blog last year with this post (Matt’s Intro). Unfortunately, I was not selected by the community to be one of the original 4 posters (tbh, I was a little heart broken). Despite this, I was not deterred from getting rid of my debt. Now that only 2 of the original bloggers remain, I was asked by Jeffrey (with some help from the other bloggers) to start blogging here on a weekly basis; I will be taking over the Tuesday spot. I could not be happier to share my journey with you.

A couple of months ago, I actually posted an update of where I stood in my debt journey in the comments section of one of Ashley’s posts. I’ll just copy and paste it in it’s entirety:

Well…. I hadn’t heard back from Jeffrey so I figured I’d give you an update…so here goes… From my introductory post, my debts were student loans @ $86,797.91, a car loan @ $10,188.50 and a mortgage @ $71,444.55. My current debt stands at $65,191.89 of student loans, no car loan (paid off last month) and $70,661.61 of the mortgage remaining. A quick calculation shows I’ve paid off $32,577.46 worth of debt in 6 months. I currently make $60,000 a year or $847.50 a week after all my with withholdings are taken out.

My original timeline, when I wrote my introductory piece, was to be debt free in 42 months. My current timeline is to be debt free in 23 months.

Here’s what I did to pay off so much so quickly in only 6 months:

  • I got rid of Directv, firstly. This saved me 89.37 per month. Unfortunately, I was locked into one of those 2 year contracts but you can get out if you pay them $20 per month remaining on the contract. I paid $260 to get out, but I recouped that money in only 3 months. I was only watching ESPN at the time and we have Netflix, which made cutting the cord easy.
  • I had almost $5,000 in an emergency fund which I decreased to $1,000 and used the $4,000 to pay down my car.
  • I had $1,000 in an investment fund which I cleared out to pay down my car.
  • We have a really good system in our house where I pay the mortgage and all the house bills (gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage and internet) and my GF buys all the food. This said, I have a weekly, $0 based budget, where I determine my weekly expenses and “pay myself” $70 cash from an ATM on payday for any misc. food and gas for my car. I then put the rest of the money towards debt. I get paid on Wednesday and by Thursday I normally have $0 in my checking account. The $70 I pay myself was a trial and error of which amount of money allows me to go the whole week with some cash, without having any left over on the next payday.
  • I do a lot of driving for work (which is usually where my $70 cash goes), which they reimburse at $.56/mile. I get paid for this and reimbursement for my cell phone at the beginning of each month. I use this extra to pay down debt, which can be anywhere from an extra $300-$600 per month.
  • I’ve sold a lot of things during the summer to make some extra money to put on debt,
  • By far the biggest thing I did to pay down the debt was withdraw from an old retirement fund I had with the government. When I fully withdrew the account it had roughly $24,000 of pre-tax dollars. After taxes and the penalty I was left with $15,000 or so. HIGHLY controversial (especially if you read over at Man vs. Debt) but I had help making the decision. I sought out a Dave Ramsey ELP (which is a fantastic program) who figured that for my age (27), my discipline and dedication, the amount of money was relatively low, I could pay it back quickly and it was ALL going towards paying down debt then the financial 10% penalty was worth the emotional benefit of having less debt. I don’t regret this decision for one bit.

As you can see, things are a lot different when you’re unmarried and without kids. I can sacrifice in many ways that you could never (and for good reason) do with your husband and two daughters. Although great for paying off debt, my lifestyle is certainly not without its cons either- I’ve lost touch with most of my college friends and even though my family is only 1.5 hr drive from me, I haven’t visited much in the past year. But in my opinion, it’s all temporary, and once the burden is gone, I can budget for night’s out and travel and vacations and all the other fun stuff I’ve forgotten about.

Thanks for listening and sorry for the length, just a lot to go over, lol. There’s light at the end of the tunnel!!

So that’s where I stood as of September 30th and not much has changed. I continued to pay down my debt into October, but given the holidays and needing a little distraction from debt pay down, I took “off” November and then used December to build my emergency fund back up. All said, I’m ready to hit it hard again and cannot wait to get some pushing and prodding from the BAD community!

I’ll be posting my as of 1/7/14 debt numbers at the end of the week.

-Matt


House of Sickies

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This sounds familiar….didn’t we just go through this like a month or so ago?

Ugh! I guess illness is common this time of year, particularly when you have wee ones in preschool exposed to (and bringing home) all kinds of nasty bugs!

I have that awful cloudy-head thing going on that’s making it difficult to concentrate on anything so forgive me for taking a couple days of recovery time. I hope to be back to regular blogging on Monday.

In the meantime, where do you find chicken noodle soup when you’re sick?? I used to always make hubs run out to Quiznos to get a cup of soup, but all of the Quiznos locations around us have shut down. Aside from canned Campbell’s crud (pardon my true feelings there), can I find good chicken noodle soup at a grocery store or any other fast food-type chains?? Maybe in the frozen section or something??? I called our local Sprouts to find out what they’ve got on hand today but none of it sounds appealing. I sure do wish I could get some of my Grandma’s homemade chicken noodle right about now. Welp!