Financial Freedom!

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I’ve written before about my progress towards financial independence. We have been lucky enough to remain employed during the craziness of the last year, and so we continued to chip away at our mountain of debt.

Yesterday I paid off one of our last remaining debts. When I first decided to work towards being debt-free, it seemed like an insurmountable hill. I did a bit of research and found Dave Ramsey and his snowball method. I figured I’d try it. Even though the method doesn’t make the most financial sense, it made psychological sense. So I aimed at our smallest debt first, even though it didn’t have the highest interest rate.

After paying off our smallest credit card bill successfully, I moved on to one of our car payments. After 6 months, that car loan was paid off. We kept plugging away, throwing any extra money we made towards a debt.

After over a year of being mindful of our spending and concentrating on paying down our debt, we are (essentially) debt free! Now, a bit of explanation here, because we do still have two debts – our mortgage and one car loan. However, using the snowball method, we have paid off a car loan, a bank loan, and 4 credit cards! That means that all the money we had been throwing towards debt can now start going into savings and other investments.

We are likely going to move, so paying off our mortgage isn’t a huge goal for us. Our mortgage payment is small and it’s only a 15-year loan. When we do move, the equity in this house should pay for our next house outright, as we are planning on downsizing quite a bit. So for us, the mortgage debt, while still there, is not a huge concern.

The remaining car loan is for my husband’s car, which he is currently not driving, since he has a company truck. It isn’t getting used for daily driving, which means he isn’t putting any real mileage on it. We will still be paying on that loan, of course, and I will pay extra, as always, but that car will likely be traded in as well when we move, so again, it’s not a huge concern to us right now.

The mortgage and the car loan both have low interest rates, so it was more important to us to wipe out the credit card debt first anyway. We were able to pay off the last remaining card with our tax refund this year, and paying off that balance felt so amazing! I can’t wait to get the next statement with that $0.00 balance on it. 😀

With our debt paid off and my oldest graduating with no student debt, we feel like we have achieved some amazing goals. We still have tuition for my youngest and those last two bills, but we will be able to put away a significant portion of our income each month, even after accounting for those.

When I first started this journey, it felt like we would never make it. Every time I turned around it felt like we had another bill to pay, so to have made it to this point is a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. I’m not abandoning my spreadsheets or budgeting planner, but instead of groaning every time I see a balance, now I can smile as I see our savings grow. My husband and I are excited to make plans now that we have achieved our goals – the future is definitely looking bright.

Learning and Drawing

Find mandalas like this one on my YouTube channel

Things have continued to be busy at the Hermit Hut. I am still working, though Spring Break can’t get here fast enough! I am still drawing and still trying to grow my fledgling YouTube channel.

It’s always fascinating to me how much I don’t know when I start a new project. I mean, I jumped into starting this YouTube channel, and in just a few weeks, have discovered how much I don’t know about how YouTube works.

I thought blogging experience, SEO knowledge, and things like that would carry over. Turns out, not so much. :/ I mean, I understand more of the jargon than some people (I hope, anyway), so I think I have a leg up there, but delving into tags, keywords, analytics, etc. – it’s enough to make my head spin.

While I continue to plug away creating content and learning as I go, I am trying to remind myself to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? I do, however, have days where I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark. Just finding other channels to follow – other artists, people who draw mandalas – has been hard. My YouTube search-fu is apparently lacking.

So, I am trying to be kinder to myself and remember all those clichés –

Everyone has to start somewhere.

It takes time to build something good.

Turkey is better than ham. (Maybe that’s just my stomach and not a cliché. I can’t remember.)

In any event, I continue to draw, both here and over on YouTube. I’ve actually drawn a lot of mandalas, now that I stop to think about it. 20-some YouTube videos and over 80 mandalas here – so I am over that 100 mandala mark. 😀

I am getting faster at drawing (I hope that’s a good thing), which means I am drawing more mandalas in less time. I’m happy with the results – I hope you enjoy them, too. Head on over to YouTube, watch a couple of videos, and if you would be so kind, give me a thumbs up and subscribe if you like what you see. I’m off to draw some more!

Have You Noomed?

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One of the changes I’m trying to make is to get healthier – trying to eat better, stay active, etc.

I started walking in the mornings with my youngest, and although we took a bit of a hiatus due to the crazy weather, I’ve continued to walk on the treadmill. I’ve managed to continue it for long enough that I now feel worse if I don’t walk. Even if I really don’t want to, I can usually manage to cajole myself onto the treadmill with the assurance that I will feel better afterwards.

However, we all know that just exercise isn’t enough. While I am feeling better, I would also like to shed those pounds that have crept up on me during the last few years. I never had to watch my diet when I was younger, and as I got older and my life got more sedentary, it’s become a never-ending battle.

I love sweets. I crave sweets. And if I force myself to not eat them, I end up bingeing on them because my brain/hormones/body chemicals insist that I need them. So, after reading various things about Noom, I decided to give it a try.

They are offering a free 14-day trial, so I signed up. I gotta say, so far I’m not all that impressed. You get what you pay for, I know, so I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this free trial. However, what I’ve gotten so far hasn’t been much different than what I would get from a free app like MyFitnessPal.

You weigh in every day (which seems a little crazy to me, given that your weight fluctuates so much daily). I used to weigh myself once a week, but fine, I’ll do it every day. Then you log your meals. Again, pretty much the same thing you’d get from other apps. Logging every piece of food you eat is ANNOYING. I’ve decided that’s why they make you do it – because eventually you get so tired of having to log foods, you eat less just so you don’t have to log it. :/

The way they classify foods is strange to me. The system is fairly simple – green, yellow, red foods. Green foods are better, yellow foods are ok, and red foods are to be eaten sparingly. However, lots of foods that I would think to be green or at least yellow, like flavored popcorn, fall into the red category. I’ve done several Atkins-type diets before, but oils and fats, which are preferred for Atkins, are red for Noom. Also, Noom does not tell you outright how many calories you get each day. It wasn’t until I was logging my meals that I noticed the daily calorie allowance.

Noom does give you daily articles to read about the psychology of their program, but so far, there’s been no real help from the app. Oh sure, I can log my weight, my water intake, my daily step count, but there’s been no real interaction with anyone. I thought I would at least get some feedback/help from the ‘Goal Specialist’ they assign to you, but I think it’s just a bot, because there is no real conversation or information from mine. Just platitudes every once in a while with maybe a question thrown in. But when I answer the question, silence.

The ‘community’ they tout doesn’t kick in until you pay – AFTER your free trial ends. Apparently, when I actually pay the fee, I then get assigned a group of people they’ve ‘hand-picked’ to be a support group and some kind of coach (I can’t remember the fancy name off-hand) that will hopefully be an actual person. We’ll see.

So far, it’s not been anything I couldn’t get for free elsewhere. However, I do recognize that I need help with this goal, so I am going to suck it up, pay the fee, and then see how things go.

Have you tried Noom? Did it work for you?

Hectic, But Good

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It’s been a hectic week for me. Work has been crazy because we had Parent-Teacher conferences this week. Which means I have to work several evenings, so my schedule gets thrown out of whack.

But it’s all good, and now it’s over. 😀 I’m still trying to make various changes in my life, including getting healthier and working on other projects. I did farm out my quilt/blanket projects to someone else, which lifted a huge weight off of me. The pieces for those projects have been languishing around my house forever, so getting them on track to be finished feels amazing, even if there is some slight guilt for not doing it myself. :/

Since I am having someone else complete those projects for me, I can focus on other things – like my baby YouTube channel where I draw mandalas real time on screen. Click the link and see what you think – maybe like and subscribe while you’re there? 🙂

There was also some good news this week. After completing our 2020 taxes, we are getting a refund. One that will allow us to finally pay off the last of our remaining credit card debt! Once that is done, our only remaining debt will be our mortgage and one car loan. It feels like it took forever to get here, but I am so excited to finally see that last credit card bill!

That means we can start taking the money that would have been applied to that debt every month and start doing other things with it – like investing and/or saving it. It’s taken years, but it definitely feels like we have rounded a corner with our debt. My oldest graduates college in May, so that is another huge load off of us. I’m extremely proud that there will be no student debt on her shoulders when she graduates.

I posted before about paying yourself first and since the beginning of 2021, I have been doing that. Once we get paid, I immediately take 10-15% of our pay and put it in savings. I get to feel better about watching that savings balance grow, and we are still able to pay all of our bills (including extra on debts). And since that money is gone immediately, we don’t miss it – which means we have been spending more than we should anyway.

It has also been really great to buy things and pay cash for them. A few months ago we were able to purchase a new smartphone for my husband and pay for it in full without having to do a payment plan with our phone provider. And when our dishwasher finally became so loud you couldn’t hear the TV over it, we were able to go to the store and pick out a newer, quieter model. (Confession – it did get put on the store credit card, but we have the cash and will be paying it off in full when I receive the bill – we saved 15% on the price by doing it that way.)

I’m excited about all of the changes in my life so far. I can’t wait to see what is waiting for me next!

March Planner Stickers

It’s almost March, which means I needed to get my planner stickers laid out for the month so I could start planning. I actually had this layout done last month, but my cutting machine was giving me fits. I print out and cut two different pages of stickers – one that has a lot of the monthly stickers I use, like the month name and date covers, and one that has my notes/to-do list for the month.

However, I could not get my machine to cut the stickers correctly. I tried everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to get it to work, short of recalibrating the machine. I even reconfigured the furniture in my office so that I could plug the machine directly into my PC rather than using the Bluetooth option. Finally, after multiple botched attempts and wasting a LOT of sticker paper, I tried to recalibrate the machine.

Imagine my surprise when everything cut perfectly!?

Our only guess is that somehow the file got corrupted and was causing the machine to cut wrong. Frustrating, especially since, of course, the corrupted file was my template. So, after recreating the template and the stickers – voila! Everything is done and cut exactly as it should be.

I didn’t want to do the traditional St. Patrick’s day art for March, but I did want to use a green color scheme. I added a couple of Celtic knots as a nod to my husband’s Irish heritage. Green isn’t my favorite color, but I like how it turned out.

Now my planner is complete and I can start working on checking off the other items on my to-do list!