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Posts tagged with: gazelle intense

Starting the Debt-Reduction Mission


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?

Debt Repayment: Ashley’s 6-Month Reflections


It’s been 6 months since I started the concerted effort to pay down debt ASAP (truth be told, we had already been paying down debt prior to this, but at a much more relaxed pace). In some regards it feels like it has been much longer than 6 months, but in others it feels as though this journey has only just begun!

I’m hugely proud of the progress I’ve made. I’ve mentioned before that in January 2014 I made a list of goals for the year and one of the goals was to have my credit card debt paid in full. Not only is that goal accomplished, but it was accomplished months ago, only 3 months after starting on this wild journey. So in that sense, I’m blowing my goals out of the water.

At the same time, the more debt I pay down the more looming and monstrous the student loan debt appears. I feel like I had just put the student loans out of my mind while I was focusing on paying down other things (and they sat in deferment and continued to grow, and grow, and grow…). But now that they loom high on the horizon, the intimidation and fear-factor is real. It feels like an insurmountable obstacle. I know I can do it and I know it will be done. One day we will be debt free!!!! But at the same time, it feels like such a distant future that isn’t quite tangible at this time.

(and now I’m going to be a weirdo and do a little Q&A interview with myself, heh).

What’s been the hardest part?

The hardest part has been putting some of my wants on the backburner right now. I remember starting this journey and others talked about how difficult it would be to cut back travel. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but I realize now just how often we did travel (it didn’t feel like it because it was just going to visit family – not exotic vacations or anything – but we did travel pretty frequently). I’ve had to forego my expensive hair cut/coloring, traveling to visit family as often as we’d like, and just many of the pleasantries in life that I used to do without a second thought (biggest one = eating out!!! I still struggle with this!) So it’s basically just learning to make do with what I’ve got and delay gratification until the future.

What’s been easier than you thought?

Honestly, once I really started sticking to a budget (which I’ve always made but used to be more of a guideline than a rule), everything just fell into place. I’m not saying I’m perfect because there are certainly budget categories that I struggle with, but having the accountability from you all has certainly helped. And now that I track every dollar, it’s just so easy! I don’t even have to think about spending money because I already know where each dollar is allocated. In a similar vein, I think that starting to live on last month’s income has hugely helped the budgeting process, making it much easier to track and stick with.

What’s keeping you going?

When I talked about balance I told everyone I was going to stay nose-to-the-grind until March 2015, at which point I’ll let up steam a little. I think having a one-year time frame is really good for me. Of course we won’t be debt free by that point, but I don’t think I’d be able to stay as super-intense-focused as I need to for the full 3-4 years (or however long full debt repayment will take). Having a realistic deadline is really helpful. Whenever I’m feeling mopey about not buying something I want, I think that I can totally make it another 6 months. Of course I can!!! (Side note: I don’t want this to sound like I’m going to throw caution to the wind and spend-spend-spend come March 2015. But I do think it will be a nice breaking point to pause and reassess some goals and timelines for debt repayment. And FYI I am very proud to be credit card debt-free and will NEVER GO BACK into credit card debt again!!!).

What would you tell others?

Definitely, for sure, blog away your debt! Lol. I joke, I joke. But seriously, I feel like having this platform has been a game changer for me. Having all of your immensely helpful suggestions, as well as your gentle chiding when I go astray has been incredible. There’s nothing like a public forum to keep you accountable, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity! For most people (who don’t publicly blog about their debt), I would say that the written budget is key. And, also, there’s something that has to change inside you. I’ve heard Dave Ramsey talk about this and its so difficult to explain or quantify, but its like a switch has been flipped from “it would be nice to get out of debt so I’m just going to think about it and mull it over and complain about it” to “I AM GOING TO GET OUT OF DEBT…NOW!!!” I don’t know how you reach this point, but I think everyone has to get there. If you’re not there, it’s not going to work.

Thank you all for being a part of my debt-repayment journey the past several months! I appreciate you all more than you know! I owe you all a debt update. I admit that some of the looming student loans have made me less-than-thrilled to add up the numbers (because the growing interest is just sickening and I don’t even want to see it!). But its been over a month (last debt update here), so it’s time. Be on the lookout for a debt update soon.

Happy weekend!!!