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Ashley’s Bloated Budget


I have to be honest. I’m totally nervous about this post.

When I first started blogging here back in early 2014, I experienced a lot of backlash. It’s tough to put your entire financial world out there on the internet for a bunch of strangers. And tougher, still, to take in the comments and criticism of very personal financial decisions.

But then the tides changed once I started experiencing some success.

Within 3 months of beginning to blog, I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. In total, I paid off just over $25,000 of debt in 2014, just over $26,000 of debt in 2015, and over $30,000 of debt in 2016!!!

Once I was winning with money, the criticisms mostly melted away. I felt more support and encouragement. Not as much judgement or negativity.

Then the summer of 2017 occurred. Poor spending decisions have been made. Income has been reduced. Outflow has increased. I’ve been struggling with some personal mental health issues which have prevented me from spending as much time and attention with our family budget as I should have. Things have just spiraled.

There’s no one single “thing.” It’s more like an avalanche of smaller stuff. Death by a thousand cuts. And all the sudden I look up and realize that our minimum monthly debt payments are so out-of-hand that I don’t know what to do. We’re nickel and diming ourselves to death. To the point that we have no money for food. We have to rely on credit to buy our groceries.

I tried to start over from scratch. I’ve been using YNAB, but I haven’t been able to make the money work for several months now. Our expenses exceed our income, no matter what I do or how I try to shuffle things around, there’s just not enough. So I opened a simple Excel spreadsheet. I wrote my monthly take-home pay at the top and started listing expenses in order of importance. Here’s what I got:

We’re down to $1264 to spend on all of our monthly needs in terms of food and clothing, savings, and/or additional debt payments.  It doesn’t feel like enough….especially since the debt figure ($1098) does NOT include any student loan payments, given that they’re in deferment currently.

On my post about increasing student loan payments, many people tried to give me encouragement that we COULD put $1,000/month toward student loans. That it was totally possible.

Well…..not with only $1264 at the end of the month. Not when we don’t have enough money to buy food or gasoline for our cars. Not when there’s zero wiggle-room because we literally don’t have a single penny in any emergency fund. Not when Christmas is coming up and we have no way to buy gifts for friends or families. Not when our property taxes are coming due!

Can we decrease our fixed bills? The “utilities” line item ($650) includes water, electric, HOA, cable, internet and phone. We can try little things to save on energy, but we’re in a contract with the cable/internet company and same with our phones. HOA is also “set.” So not a lot of wiggle room there.

We do have some debt payments that have lower balances – once we knock them out we can reduce the monthly minimum. But we can’t just be paying minimum payments – we have got to be paying as much over minimum as possible in order to make any headway.

I’m preparing a full debt update so you can see a larger financial picture (give me a couple days to get it posted). But it seems pretty clear to me – we have to find ways to increase our income. $4880/month is not enough for us to achieve our financial goals.

My sister recently added me to a Dave Ramsey Facebook group. It’s been a huge motivational boost to see so many stories of sacrifice and determination. So many debt-free success stories, pictures of fully paid homes, etc. I know we will get there. Our path hasn’t been linear and I think that’s okay. Sometimes “life happens.” Sometimes you have to take a step back and focus on yourself or your family. But we don’t want to live in a state of debt like this forever. The only way out is to put our heads down and plow forward. And that’s just what we intend to do.

As always, I welcome and appreciate your constructive criticism. I’m back to square one here. Googling sample budget plans and just trying to figure out how to survive without taking on additional debt. I’m a little nervous and scared of the path ahead. Our first 2 years of debt-reduction were totally bare-bones. I remember the days well. That was back when I was working part-time from home so it was easier to cook from scratch, meticulously research and shop sales, etc. We’re in a totally different situation now.

It wasn’t easy then. It won’t be easy now. But nothing worth having ever is, now is it?

Give me all your tips! Link to web resources, give me book recommendations. Even just a word of encouragement is appreciated. Thank you all, especially those of you who have been around and seen my story evolve over the past nearly 4 years! It’s been quite a journey and we’re only half-way through it!


Facing The Harsh Reality (Re-Do!)


Edited: HUGE thanks to those of you who reached out after my last post completely disappeared! It seems silly because its such a trivial thing compared to real-world issues, but I was SO BUMMED when I thought the post was gone! I really appreciate those of you who took screen shots, typed up word docs, and provided links so I could re-access this content! I’m sorry I can’t re-publish the previous comments, but at least the content was saved! THANK YOU! <3

This was a tough one for me to write and to post. I’m about to let you take a peep into our current financial situation. It’s not pretty. I appreciate constructive feedback, but go easy on me!

I’ve already talked about a dozen times about how our finances got out-of-control over the summer months. Everything was fine through April-ish. But then a perfect storm hit that we did not weather very well. First, my final paycheck from my part-time job was in April (even though I worked into May, my contract was written with 4 lump sum payments and the final one was paid out in April). Just like that, we were down $3,000/month (that’s how much my part-time job paid. Note – I had to leave my part-time job because I got a big raise at my full-time job and had to sign a non-compete).

Hubs’ income from his company had been dwindling for months as he was back in school full-time and only had one crew working for him. He continued to pay for all his business (and personal) expenses, but when his licenses and insurances all came up for renewal the best option for us was to call it quits. By mid-June, he was out of money and all his expenses (that he’d previously budgeted and paid for separately out of his business income) needed to be included in the regular household budget. We lost his income and added a few line-items to the “expenses” portion of our budget (specifics in a future blog post).

Our income had plummeted overnight.

We’d grown accustomed to an income of over $10,000/month! And then, just like that, we were down to an income of only about $3,000/month (my take-home pay from my full-time job). We basically kept on spending like it was business as usual. My raise would go into effect mid-August. I thought that if we could just hold out until September (my first full month at my new rate of pay), that we’d be golden! I was expecting to have a huge bump in my take-home pay. I was hired at $55k and when my raise went into effect I’d be at a $95k salary (in 2 years’ time!). I thought my take-home would be over $5,000/month – somewhere in the $5-6k range (note: I have a lot of automatic payroll deductions – see more here).

What I did NOT expect was that my first paycheck with my raise (for 2 weeks of work) would only be $2269. We’re talking under $4500/month. Nearly a thousand per month under what I’d been anticipating, and less than half of what we’d grown accustomed to bringing home.

I spent a lot of time in August (after that first paycheck) looking at our budget trying to make sense of it and see how I could make it work. From an objective perspective, I know $4500/month is a lot of money. Many families get by with half that amount! When I first started blogging, our household income was only $4,000/month so we’d done it before! And that was when our babies were in diapers still! Surely we could do it again!

But the numbers just didn’t work. Our lifestyle had become inflated. Our budget was bloated. We’d picked up a lot of monthly payments that didn’t used to exist (more on that in a future post). And no matter how I tried to look at it, our expenses exceeded our income.


And so, we continued to live on credit cards.

The blog was just purchased by its new owner at that time. I didn’t know if I’d even be blogging anymore. So, I gave up. Without the public accountability and with our financial situation seeming so bleak, I didn’t think it could be done. I didn’t see a way to win.

Fast forward to today. Last month (September) was the first month that we were able to balance our budget since April. For four months (May – August), we were in the negative every month and supplementing our lack of income by relying on credit.

We’re still not in a good place.

Although we didn’t go into the red last month, it was just barely by the skin of our teeth! I had to implement that surprise No Spend Week the last week of the month. And, oh yeah, September was a 3-paycheck month!!! How will we do it with a normal (2-paycheck) month? How can we get by on our current income?

I did change my payroll deductions so I have a slightly higher take-home pay. Instead of $2269, my paychecks are now $2440. Among other things, we also have a huge tax debt we owe. I could adjust my withholdings to get a little more back per check but am purposely not doing so until the tax debt has been paid in full. It’s going to be awhile.

Bottom line, we need to get a budget in which we are somehow living on $4880/month. At this point, our expenses exceed that amount. Heck, our debt obligations alone are over a third of that! It’s kind of scary stuff still.

We’re committed to cutting back in many places. Hubs finishes his personal training course this month and will hopefully be able to land a part-time job. And we’ll supplement in the mean-time by selling everything we can to try to earn some side-cash and STOP increasing our debt by living on credit. Gulp!

More concrete budget details to come.