Thursday, April 9, 2015

mo money, mo problems. Part 2 of our debt story

Last time I told you how we had a small mountain of debt accumulated. I tell you this to be encouraged that it CAN be done. I used to read stories on Dave Ramsey’s website about how all of these people paid off their small-ish mountain of debt. Those people annoyed me because their debt was NOTHING in comparison to ours. We did it in three years. Here’s how:

  1. We started a cash budget. And started tracking where our money went. You know how you get your tax returns and it tells you how much money you’ve made that year and you wonder where it all went (mine was in my closet). Yeah, start figuring out where that money goes.
  2. Canceled direct tv. It broke my heart. I’ve read where people cut the cord and it was fine and they didn’t miss it one bit. I’m not one of those people. I miss it. We both miss it.
  3. Got rid of our landline.
  4. We tried to sell the Traverse. We really did. But the moment you drive a car off the lot, it instantly depreciates. So we kept it. And dealt with it.
  5. We cut out vacations. Not that we ever went on a lot of trips beforehand, but we really don't go places unless they have been saved for.
  6. I started working at a place that did tuition reimbursement. Got good grades so I could get reimbursed.
  7. Stopped the home improvements bus. Yes, I still have the same original ugly hunter green countertops that we’ve had since we moved in almost nine years ago. On the flip side, they’re really good at hiding dirt!
  8. Limited how often we eat out. This is hard for us. We both love eating out, but truthfully, after having Lucan we had less of a desire to eat out. No one ever thought “let’s go to a nice restaurant and see if our toddler can behave” was a good plan. I remember one harrowing meal at Granite City and thinking in my mind, “this is SO NOT WORTH IT.”
  9. Meal planning, which goes hand in hand with #8. We both make bad food choices when we have no game plan and are hungry to boot. And by bad food choices, I mean, takeout from Hy-Vee Chinese.
  10. Did not get smart phones until the fall of 2014. Wow. But oh how I love my iphone now. It makes me so very happy.
  11. I stayed out of the mall. I realized that I have less discontent when I have no idea what I’m missing out on.
  12. Started unsubscribing to some of the former shopping blogs I used to live for.
  13. Also unsubscribed from store emails. No, I don’t need to know that Loft and Gap are having a 40% off sale again.
  14. I don’t buy Lucan a lot of presents. For example up until this year, he didn’t get all of those small one-off holidays presents, like Easter, Valentine’s, Halloween, etc. This was the first time I got him more than a single Christmas present. I leave it to family and they are more than generous. If you come and visit our house, you’ll see that no one is lacking in toys. I’ve tried hiding Lu’s Christmas or birthday presents and then bringing them back out at a later date, but I need a better hiding spot. I continually catch Lucan downstairs standing in front of the shelves with all the toys on it and hear him asking “you can get just one thing down for me, right?”
  15. I think I’ve only bought Lucan one thing at Gap Kids. Ever. I’m sure this will probably change with little Miss, but for now, all of our kids’ clothes come from generous gifts, sales, consignment, garage sales, hand me downs and FB swap sites. Guess what – they don’t care. Side note: we do buy most of Lu’s shoes new now that he’s so active. But he only gets like two pairs a year. He’s a boy; he doesn’t know he needs more.
  16. We did in-home daycare as a cost savings thing. Granted, it was a complete mess of a nightmare, but it did save us some money. Headaches? Yes. Insensible rage? Yes. Fear of getting fired due to the number of missed days because your provider is flaky? Yes. If you can find a good in-home, go for it. It works for several of our friends, so it could work for you too!
  17. We garden. Or try to garden. We mostly do it because we love the fresh produce and not as this huge cost savings endeavor. Last summer I tried to use up all of our tomatoes and Lucan got really tired of finding tomatoes in everything or having five tomato based meals a week.
  18. We do canning. I really can’t tell you if we’re saving money by canning. I can certainly tell you that it’s hard to can with two adults who work full-time and have a very active child. Every year I tell myself that something's gotta give when we're up till midnight multiple nights canning. Obviously that something is my sanity.
  19. I have a group of church friends who are really gracious about organizing meals for new babies. It’s really wonderful and I have felt the blessings of those ladies. But sometimes I just can’t manage a whole meal so I make a loaf of homemade bread. People like homemade bread. I have to repeat to myself that I’m not a bad person for bringing a person a loaf of homemade bread.
  20. Harnessing the power of social media. I’ve seasonally borrowed items for my kiddos that I knew we would only need for a little while. Several friends let me have mint out of their garden when I asked on Facebook.
  21. For a while I made homemade laundry detergent. I didn’t like it so I stopped. But you might like it!
  22. I cut the boys’ hair. And I hate it.
  23. We only make coffee at the house on the weekends. Otherwise we suffer through work coffee.
  24. Use the library! Our library has an awesome selection of magazines and online magazines (check out zinio). I also reserve new releases on books and movies. Now if I could just stay on top of getting things back on time.
  25. Become a DIYer. Lance gets the credit for this one – he (and our families) painted the exterior of our house, fixed our water heater, garbage disposal, sink (multiple times), rewired lamps, fixed our dishwasher, rewired the stand-alone freezer, installed our hardwood floors, changes the oil on all of our cars, ignores the check engine lights (seriously, ours have been on for years), fixes things like water heaters, spark plugs, broken tire rods and axels, fixed bed frames, grills. Lance is my DIY hero.

So I don’t think any of my tips are earth shattering. The main things we’ve done: start a budget, stick to it. Learn how to do some small things yourself. If credit cards are hard for you, tuck them away. If shopping is a weakness, know your triggers and eliminate them (store sale emails, shopping blogs, malls). If you were an alcoholic, you wouldn’t hang out in a bar, right? 

Aside from the budget, I don’t think any one thing is going to make you a millionaire. But a combination of all these little things will add up and result in money saved. We both started bringing in higher paychecks and that was probably the tipping point in being able to pay off large chunks of debt. As Becky Bloomwood would say “I’m more of a make more money than a spend less type of person” (Confessions of a Shopaholic anyone?)

You can do this. Believe me when I say, been there, spent that, saved and lived to tell the tale.    

And completely unrelated, a video of me making Lucan cry by threatening to ship him off in a box. I thought he would think it was funny. I was wrong. 

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