‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: April

Whew, what a month April was.

To start things off, we hit the four-figure month at the start of the month. I had hoped that number to happen at the end of March, but a delay in the paycheck from my side gig kept that from happening. But a paycheck is a paycheck, even if it comes in late, so we took it in stride. Combining that late March money with the rest of April’s efforts turned out to be quite a landslide.

Amy managed to find a few dollars here and there from grocery shopping, and we scraped by on clothing money for the month to make a hard push this month to see how far we can go. The effort was a smashing success.

April 2018

It’s the end of April, and our remaining loan balance is down to $3,643.22. It’s insane to think that at the end of March we we had $10,467.32 left, and now the end is completely within reach.

Sadly, the snowball is going to slow down quite a bit. My side gig has come to an end, so whatever is left will come from income from the primary job, and cuts/savings we make throughout the next six weeks. The good thing is, we have narrowed down to just six weeks left — 45 days from today to be exact.

But, you never know where extra money is going to come in. I’m going to try and sell a few things, and when I got home there was an unexpected royalty check (I’ve done a little writing before) which will also help the cause.

I am truly thankful and blessed to be able to do the side work, but it wasn’t without sacrifice. There were many days of working the day job, coming home and having family time, then working on the side gig late in the evening. It took a little bit of a toll, both mentally and physically. I could certainly stand to lose a few pounds that I put on, and I haven’t exactly been 100-percent “present” for anyone for the past few months.

And now, everything is slowing down. Spring is here, and things are in bloom. The irony is not lost on me. We’ve gone through the dark of winter, and now we need to see what is starting to grow.

Only 45 more days and this long journey will be over: it’s slow and steady from here on out.

How weird people live

It’s been said that normal people are broke, and weird people are the ones who are trying to be the opposite.

We are definitely weird people. Lately I have been learning more about how these weirdos live.

Last week a friend hit me up to join him for lunch. He offered to pick me up, and when I went to his car I was blown away. Gone was his crappy beater car, and in its place was a 2011 Honda Civic. As long as I have known him, he hasn’t had a car made in the same decade he was currently living, but something had changed.

By both our standards, the car was quite an upgrade. It was clean, ran great, and had a nice interior. It has a few miles on it, sure, but with Hondas and Toyotas, more than 100,000 is just getting broke in.

I feared the worst when I got in his car.

“So, what are the payments like?” I asked.

“No payments,” he said.

“You paid cash? Well, a cashiers check?”

“Yep,” he said.

Just a few years ago, he and I were neck and neck with our debt. He pulled ahead, and began saving cash instead of making payments. When his old car finally went to the Great Junkyard in the Sky, he got this car to replace it. And he still has money in his emergency fund.

Another friend of mine also got out of debt a few years ago. I told him of our progress, and he told me the best is to come.

“It’s amazing how much opens up when you don’t have debt hanging over you!” he said.

I had to know more. What kind of things?

“The ability to save more quickly. The ability to take vacations with cash. Not being in the materialistic rat-race, always having to keep up with the Jones’.”

It’s hard to be weird. We could easily afford a car payment and upgrade a vehicle, perhaps even both of them right now if we wanted. But doing so would take the momentum out of our primary goal: to kill the last of our debt. What good would it be to go back into debt this close to being done? What sense would it make to go into debt when we are done?

So, we ride this out. We work on patience. It takes discipline to be weird, to not rush out and satisfy our desire for instant gratification.

It’s interesting being this close to the end. At the moment, I can only wonder what the other side looks like. If my weirdo friends are any indication, it’s a life filled with more peace and stability.

That sounds pretty good.

The duality of staying on the path

Last weekend, after working all day on my side job on a Saturday, I decided some family and outside was important so I grabbed my son and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

Across the street on our cul-de-sac is a heavily wooded area, so we opted for some exploring. From the outside, it was a little rough. There were logs to climb over, thorns, vines, and various detritus to overcome. My boy is 3.5 years old now, and I was sure he would want to turn back. Nevertheless, he persisted. We fashioned a couple of walking sticks, beat against branches in our way, and pushed on deeper into the woods.

The further we went, the clearer the area became. The trees were more spaced out, and it became much easier to walk. We kept going. We had to see how far we could go. It was new and exciting. We stumbled upon a path in the woods. I’m unsure how it got there. Was it from the abundant deer we have in our area? Was it from neighborhood kids from before? There’s no way to know, really.

The path isn’t visible from outside of the woods. The path is only visible when you’re deep in it.

It struck me how similar that is to how things are going for us now with our financial journey. When we first got started, getting adjusted to being on a budget was not easy. Saying “no” to desires can be quite an exercise in self discipline. There are plenty of thorns that crop up along the way, like unplanned or forgotten expenses, which can be a defeating blow, at least momentarily.

Over time, the woods opened up, and the walk became easier. We have gotten used to a new normal and deny ourselves things all the time.

I ran out of cologne a couple of months ago, and decided not to get more until we are out of debt. It isn’t expensive, but it would take away from The Cause. My black hoodie has holes in the pockets, and a small brown stain on it that I’m positive people notice when I’m wearing it. The bands near my wrists are starting to fray as well. I don’t care. It’s good enough and the weather is starting to get warmer anyway. I’ve talked about how terrible my car looks, but it runs and it’s paid for, so screw it. I swallow my pride, pull into the parking lot where I’m surrounded by cars made within the last decade, and go about my day.

My wife is a natural saver, while I am a natural spender. Somehow, over this journey, I have started to change. I’m not tempted like I used to be. Believe me, I have tried. I have looked at cars and driven by houses for sale in the hopes of a little motivation, a little more drive to push in. It hasn’t worked. There was once a time I would scheme and plot to get things I wanted without saving up for them first. “Oh, I think we can afford it. I can make the monthly payments. We can make this work.”

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And now, I’m hardly tempted. I’m on a path, in the middle of the woods, here with my family. I can only wonder what it will be like when we’re out, but we’ll find out soon enough.

The Beginning of the End

It’s a Big Day™.

For the first time in my post-college adult life, since marriage, since kids, since what feels like forever, we are down to four figures of debt remaining. Eighteen years of stupid later, the end is in sight.

I received another paycheck from my side gig today, then turned around and put almost all of it on the debt. This marks an important milestone for us. Since starting The Cause in ernest on Sept. 11, 2016, we are now down to 25 percent of our debt to go.

Throughout this journey, we have marked our milestones with celebrations. At 75 percent, we did something, although I really can’t remember what exactly. It was probably food. When we hit 50 percent, we combined a celebration with a birthday gift to my youngest daughter, going out to eat (the milestone gift) and playing video games (the birthday gift).

I’ve been telling the kids that when we hit 25 percent, we would do “froyo for dinner.” Yes, we are quite the health-conscious parents. When you celebrate a milestone in The Year of No, you gotta make it count. The links snipped from the Debt Chain, we did froyo for dinner. I’m glad I skipped lunch today.

Family celebrating with froyo
We celebrated hitting a milestone of having 25 percent of our debt left with a little froyo for dinner.

We’re down to $8,433.66 left to go. I have thought all day about what it means to be here now. For years this has felt like an impossible task. Then we got serious, and less than two years later, here we are headed toward the end.

The ending is there; We can see it. It’s closer than ever before. We are coming around the final lap and we can see the ribbon waving in the wind at the finish line.