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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!


Bill Collectors!


It won’t come as a surprise to most of you but Steve’s mortgage company is looking for him at my address.  I rejected a certified letter the other day and have returned as “no longer at this address” more than a few regular mail letters.  I don’t know for certain but I surmise that he has followed through on a plan of proposing his renters assume his mortgage.  By the timing of correspondence from the mortgage company I’m guessing that things are following their usual Steve course.  In my opinion, Steve answers to no one you see…not anyone…including his mortgage company.  Boy am I glad I never got my name wrapped up in that black hole!

I am not without fault in the creation of my own debt but (in my opinion) there is one major, fundamental difference between me and Steve: I pay my bills.  I do not avoid payment!  Even if it means I have to call and humble myself to explain my circumstances, I will do that before I will stick my head in the sand and act like nothing is happening.  With time and distance I have concluded that this blog may very well have been a major catalyst for my divorce.  It was much too close to the truth for him.  It was much too candid. It was much too real.  The grief I would encounter when I’d share too much was consistent but, for whatever reason(s), I wasn’t willing to stop and back down.  I envision it like the walls of a room just closing in on him.  My truth was his nightmare and he could not take it anymore.  I am so thankful for that reality.

Thanks for your supportive comments to yesterday’s post.  I am in therapy that is covered by my insurance.  I am reflecting on how I got to this place in my romantic relationships and uncovering some significant core issues.  However, this blog cannot and will not be about my relationships.  Can you imagine the backlash from readers seeking debt reduction info only?!  😉  That part of my life will remain private for my sake, the sake of my children and the sake of any man who may enter my life.  I will only say I am enough of an optimist to dare to say that I do believe in the goodness of humanity and that I do believe in love.  Call me a rose-colored glasses kinda girl.  I refuse to be bitter.  Whatever lies in my future on that front remains to be seen but I will maintain a belief in the positive and not the negative.

As for my vehicle, I guess I don’t see the little 28 mpg Toyota SUV as a luxury vehicle.  Maybe that is my overindulgent side, I don’t know.  It does not have bells and whistles and I am perfectly content with that.  It is a newer vehicle with a very real value on the reliability side.  We’ve had this chat before on the blog.  I am not willing to sacrifice peace of mind for a $3,000 car.  I won’t apologize for that either because I feel very strongly about it.  I am so blessed to have the help I have and I WILL pay it back!




Debt Update


We had our first hit to cash savings this month. We actually would have skipped by but the $690.00 healthcare payment had to come from somewhere.

So far, we haven’t received any bills from the hospital so I’m crossing my fingers on that one. We should be fully covered… but you never know.

My Debt
Original Debt: $38,495.86
Added Debt: $1,781.50
Total Debt: $40,277.36
Paid: $32,329.36
Remaining: $7,948.00
Cash Savings: $5,890.00

Broken Down
Auto Loan 1: $0.00
Credit Card: $0.00
Student Loan: $7,948.00
Auto Loan 2: $0.00
Vet Loan: $0.00

*As a reminder, cash savings is in preparation for costs of time missed from work and from any hospital fees. All remaining funds will be applied to debt.
**Cash savings is in addition to our emergency fund.

A Hutch Update…


A few thoughtful readers have asked how my dog, Hutch, has been doing since the rattlesnake bites to his face.

The swelling went down, the lumps disappeared, his cheerful personality returned, and I’m happy to say, he’s completely back to ‘normal’.

I’ve been sensitive about taking him running since his neck was so grossly disfigured and swollen. His collar didn’t fit for more than two weeks after the bites and for at least another week after that, he was too sensitive to wear it.

Several weeks ago, I started to take him out once or twice a week. I wasn’t sure he would be able to adequately communicate pain or discomfort and was concerned about causing damage. Last week I got home from work and he met me at the door dragging his leash behind him, the waste bag holder bouncing off the walls and thumping loudly against the furniture.

I guess when it comes to communication, Hutch is pretty clear.

Saturday morning, I woke up early and decided to let him jog as far as he wanted to jog – assuming he’d tucker out at 3 miles or so.

At mile 7.5, I was the one to call it quits. When I turned around for home, he glared at me defiantly and pulled at his leash to continue forward. Apparently, the little guy is trying to make up for lost time. I missed my running buddy and I’m sooo glad to have him back.

His companionship makes the vet bill a little less painful to pay.

You can see one of the scars on his left side, but other than that, he looks great!



A reader asked for some advice regarding her husband. My husband never hid debts so I don’t have any experience in this area.

How would you deal with this?:

Can you provide any suggestions for someone whose spouse is still in denial about their spending addiction? My husband has been hiding his debts from me for a long time. Now, because his bills are out of control, he can’t hide it anymore & pay his share of the household bills. I have offered to help, suggested counseling…does anyone have any suggestions?

How to avoid paying too much in interest…


Oops! Thanks to a heads up from readers, I realized I was paying my bills incorrectly!

I know, I know, leave it to me to figure out how to pay my bills wrong.

I haven’t been requesting my lender for Auto Loan 2 to place all payments toward principle and not advance the payment! I’m left paying a little more interest than I should be paying.

Even in my non-debt reduction days, I always paid a little more on my car payments. I’d let it get a month or two ahead and consider it my rainy day fund. If I couldn’t afford my car payment one month, who cared? I wouldn’t get penalized for not paying. But now that I’m a YEAR ahead in payments, perhaps it’s time to request all payments from here on out go toward the principle.

If you are pushing forward on those car payments (or mortgage payments, student loan payments, or other secured loans), remember to request a principle reduction.

And thanks to my readers for making the catch!!