‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: July

Although we became debt free in June, The Year of No is still in effect. However, July became The Month of Yes.

In July, my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Instead of putting money into savings, we allocated money to taking a mini vacation to someplace we have never been before, the Lake of the Ozarks. We did a staycation for the first few days with the kids, then my parents took our three children while my wife and I got away for a few days all to ourselves.

It was great to be able to take a vacation and not be burdened by “How are we going to pay for this later?” However, the month was not without some share of financial setbacks. We had some van trouble that needed repairs, but fortunately only had to dip into a little bit of savings to pay for it. Plus, we know how to take a cheap vacation. We used Airbnb for our lodging, rented a vehicle at a discount with our Costco membership, and didn’t eat out much. Instead we cooked meals in the kitchenette where we stayed. An anniversary gift that paid for a meal at a nice restaurant also helped (thanks mom and dad).

We’re no further ahead from when we paid off debt in June, but we’re not really behind, either. Now we have a new goal. It’s clear to us that the van is reaching the end of the line for our needs. Although I would love to save up a big, fat emergency fund we will have to instead save to replace the van within the next six months or so. I suppose that while we save, we will still be saving money, so that still sort of counts as a temporary emergency fund. It sucks that we need to replace a vehicle, but that’s the way it goes.

It could be worse; we could have debt left to go. But, we don’t!

Sadly, this means that we’ll have to put off our trip to Disney World. We had hoped we could go sometime in February, but now I have no idea when that will come. That’s not an easy trip to take because of the expense, but this will give me some additional time to research how to take the least expensive trip there to celebrate our debt freedom with the kids. I keep finding resources on how to make that trip less expensive, and I’ll be sure to share my findings when I figure out more in the months to come.

So now, we return to our frugal ways. It’s becoming more clear to be that being out of debt is not the end of the journey, but rather, the beginning.

‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: May

Even though I felt like this month has felt a little slow, we are now a step away from the end.

For the month of May, we paid off $1,979.39. We have $1,676.75 left.

Through some creative budgeting (it’s fine, really – nothing crazy), it appears the final debt payment will be June 15, 2018. God willing, we are two weeks away from being debt free.

I make that prediction with a strong degree of caution. Things could happen in two weeks. Emergencies could come up, or some tragedy could befall us that would mean it gets postponed.

In addition, we’ll have a child’s birthday party to pay for out of the next pay period. That alone will require a little creative party planning to pull off.

Alas, here we are. Many mistakes have been made along the way, but now we have wisdom. We have tried to wander out of debt, but now we are running. We used to be losers. But now, we are winning.

This will be one of the longest stretches of time in my adult life.

Bring it on.

‘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.

‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: March

While much of the United States is caught up with college basketball fever this month, we’ve had our own version of March Madness.

This month has been a very busy one. I have worked a lot, and Amy has been busy tending to the kids more than usual. However, we did take time for a little fun on March 17.

Yes, that was St. Patrick’s Day, but it was also her birthday. We budgeted for some gifts for her, and we went out to eat on the cheap thanks to some free gift cards to a local restaurants received from from friends.

March 2018

In March, we paid down $3,392.59, bringing down our remaining loan balance to $10,467.32. I am very excited that we are almost down to having a four-digit figure on our loan. How exciting! I’m a little peeved it didn’t happen this month. We are so close, but we will simply stay the course and keep plugging away.

Perhaps more importantly, when we reach anywhere in the $8,000 range, that’s when things start getting interesting. That figure is what I call “The Beginning of the End,” which will bring us to just 25 percent left.

I’m thankful that we don’t have anymore birthdays or big events for awhile. I hope that April stays an anticipated snoozer as far as expenses go. Thanks to a wonderful Christmas gift of season passes to our local amusement park, we have cheap entertainment for the family when it opens April 21. All we have to pay for out of pocket is the parking fee, bottled water we always bring with us, and snacks we leave in our vehicle.

Stay the course, keep focused, keep grinding. The light at the end of the tunnel is right around the corner.

‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: February

The theme for February was full steam ahead.

It’s tax season, and even though we no longer own a house that we can deduct interest from, having three kids and student loan debt interest is still a tax saver. I have tried cutting the money I get back from the government each year by raising my deductions, but we still get money back. I suppose the money we give to the local grocery stores make up for the amount we receive.

February 2018

We are staying the course. We have held the line on expenses, and I started a side gig doing some freelance website work. I haven’t gotten paid but a tiny amount from that this year, and nothing in February. But March will be a different story.

The weather was nice enough for me to grab a walk with a beloved co-worker, and during our walk he made me realize something: we are only six months away from being out of debt. I moved up my projected worst case scenario from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1, and in my head I was thinking it was nine months away. My friend corrected me (since it’s almost March) and said, “Hey, that’s just six months away.”

That gave me chills.

The final rundown for February 2018 looks like this: we paid down $4,913.03, starting March with $13,812.35 left to go.

March likely won’t be as fruitful, but seeing the Progress Chart dip down has really got me me thinking about how close we are to having four figures of debt instead of five.

Shock and awe, shock and awe.

‘The Year Of No’ monthly report: January

We are making good progress.

It makes sense to me that if I’m going to continue to record the emotional progress of our debt snowball, that I should also record some numbers as well.

I don’t have real solid data from long ago, but as evidenced in the audio recording from 2005 in my last post, we had around $68,200 in 2005.

Then we did a few things right and a million things wrong. We had some kids, bought a house, yada, yada, yada. And finally, after more than a decade of screwing around, decided to get really serious about paying off the debt going all in.

I officially count the start of our debt snowball at July 25, 2016, the day our former house sale was finalized. At that time, we owed $34,076 in consumer and student loan debt combined, plus an additional amount that I borrowed from my parents to help us move. The parent loan was paid back immediately after we received money from the sale of our house, leaving us with our other debt.

We started Financial Peace University on Sept. 11, 2016, with $34,076 in debt. We used whatever was left from the sale of the house, and threw a bunch more at the debt to reach around $29,000 by the end of 2016. That was pretty good progress, but the bulk of that were proceeds from the sale of the house.

My goal for 2017 was to try and pay down an additional $10,000. It was a lofty goal, but one we didn’t hit. We slacked off a bit in the summer, but still did OK for the year. At the end of 2017, we were down to around $20,000 left in student loan debt.

Which brings us to the present.

January 2018

There was a lot of hustle happening in January. To really get things moving, we did some radical things:

  • Said “no” to the kids over and over and over about buying “stuff”
  • Said “no” to ourselves a lot on buying “stuff” as well and stuck to the budget very strictly
  • Stopped going out to eat once a paycheck (I am paid twice per month)
  • Stopped the monthly “kids night out” at our local YMCA and date night with it
  • Changed cell phone plans to a cheaper rate
  • I found my name on the KansasCash.com website and found a small amount of money the Kansas State Treasurer’s Office was holding for me
  • Sold one of my guitars
  • Stayed home a lot, but mostly because it was a cold month
  • Received some additional money because of changes to the 2018 income tax withholding tabes
  • Took steps to increase income from freelance work, which should begin to solidify in February

Because of all of that, we were able to pay down a whopping $2,170.53, bringing our remaining debt down to $18,666.54 to start February.

We started a Debt Chain for our kids, with each link representing $1,000 and a final one that says “Debt Free!” It’s a $20,000 chain made out of construction paper, but today the kids got to cut two rings off the chain.

That feels pretty awesome. Now let’s see what we can do in February.