The Year Of No

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We have declared 2018 as “The Year Of No.”

In September 2016, we started paying more — much more — than we had ever done before on our debt. We were taking Financial Peace University, and had a little bit of money left over from the sale of our home. Now renting, my wife and I decided to put all of the proceeds from the sale of the house toward the debt. It was dynamite to a logjam, and it really got the debt snowball rolling.

We made great progress. Most of 2017 we threw huge chunks of money at our debt. But during the summer, I got an idea in my head that we should take a family vacation. We had paid down 25 percent of the debt, and I felt like we could celebrate and be OK. We hadn’t taken a “real” vacation with all our of family since the youngest was born, and I didn’t want to let another year slip away without an experience like that. So we packed up on a five-state road trip and had ourselves a little adventure.

This put the debt snowball on hold a little bit. I came back from the vacation with mixed feelings. On one hand, we slowed down our progress, but I was really glad we did it. I enjoyed spending time with my family, and seeing new sights. Although I hate commuting, I do love a good road trip.

Toward the end of 2017, looking at at progress for the year despite the road trip, I started doing a little math on the possibilities for 2018. Things were good at work and I had received a bump in pay. I started analyzing things we could cut — things we left in our budget during the 2017 year — that could add even more to The Cause.

I got to work. We do our monthly budget in a spreadsheet, so I put our expenses in the document and started cutting away. I am a master of coming up with budgets. My wife hates to make a budget, but she can stretch money like nobody’s business. I must be forthcoming: I’m really good at making a budget, but not very good at sticking to them.

This is the really important part: I need a team. I need my wife to partner with me. I need my kids to understand what I want to do. I can’t do this alone.

One evening, I sat my wife down to show her what I had discovered: “I think we can pay off our debt in 2018, but it will require some sacrifice,” I said. I showed her my spreadsheet. I showed some numbers. I told her I can’t do this without her.

“OK, let’s do it,” she said.

On New Year’s Eve, we went out to eat for what might be our final time for awhile. Date nights that cost money? Gone. Going out to eat with the family? Gone. An occasional event with the kids where extra purchases could be made? Gone. We’re watching every penny, cutting every corner, and putting the rest on this final debt.

We’re only a week into it, and it’s a lot of daily mindfulness of all the little places we might be tempted to spend, or not find the best deal for what we need. I think this will be a good experience for us. We’re going to beat this thing, this year. We’re going to win.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but the adage is true: You can wander into it, but you cannot wander out of debt. You have to hate it. You must give it your all. It be must become the enemy.

We are finally at war. We are saying say “no” until it hurts.

And then, when all this is over, we’ll be able to say “yes.”

Amy and Eric Gruber
December 31, 2017: My wife, Amy, and I on our last date night before starting “The Year Of No.”