Financial Freedom!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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.

Hectic, But Good

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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!

Money is a Tool

When I started my journey towards being debt free, it was because I realized that I am tired of working for ‘things’ that I often don’t enjoy and/or have the time to enjoy.

My husband works 10 hour days and many times it feels like we are passing ships, greeting each other as we go about our daily routines. We’ve had many conversations about what we want our life to look like, and none of them include killing ourselves working to be able to afford the latest new gadget or the biggest house. I like our current house, but it was never intended to be our ‘forever’ house.

I want to downsize our next house. I want to be able to pay less in bills so we can spend more on things we want – whether that is a vacation, books, a new hobby – whatever.

Our current house is a good fit for our life right now, because my children are still living at home. But once they move out, we will be getting a smaller house. My car is over 10 years old, but it is paid off, and that makes it worth more to me than a newer car with a payment. Would I prefer to drive a newer car? Sure, but I don’t want the ridiculous payment that would go with it.

I was watching a financial YouTuber and she made a comment that has stuck with me. “Money is a tool – not a measure of your self-worth.” I think I’ve gotten so used to thinking about what we’re “worth” that I forget money isn’t everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know money is important. But it is important because having it enables me to do what I want. Experiences are always going to be more important to me than material things. Do you know what is important to you? Or are you killing yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses?

I wonder sometimes if the ‘instant gratification’ culture of today is why so many people are in debt. No one wants to spend time saving up for a purchase, they just want it right now. So what if they have to pay 25% interest on the credit card to buy it?

I’ve tried to instill in my kids the need to budget and save and to consider the future. For example, my oldest wants a new pet desperately. So I’ve had several conversations with her about how expensive pets can be. Our last pet needed back surgery ($3K) as well as the routine costs for things like shots and grooming. Even though it was HER dog, WE paid the bills. (She got him as a gift when she was little.)

While it would be nice to have a pet, I’m not ready to get another one right now. And since she still lives with me, she isn’t getting one either. Although she isn’t happy, she understands the reasoning. Her money right now is better spent saving up for when she is ready to move out and live on her own once she is done with college.

I think people would be happier if they thought of money as a tool to help them achieve their goals and desires, rather than money being a goal itself. After all, you can’t take it with you. 🙂

Tired of Drowning in Debt?

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Credit: Pixabay

When I jumped into the planner world online, I discovered lots of Etsy shop owners and YouTubers talking about the Dave Ramsey method of budgeting.  I haven’t read everything by Dave Ramsey, but since I’ve always struggled with budgeting, I decided to see what he had to say.

**NOTE: I am not a financial planner or advisor, I am simply sharing a method that has worked for me.**

Everyone dreams of being debt-free, right?  But how do you actually get there?  There are a million financial advisors who can tell you what to do to become debt-free.  It’s simple – pay off your debts and avoid buying things on credit.  But simple is rarely easy.

And when you have a mountain of debt, even when you’re throwing every extra penny at it, it can feel like you’re not even making a dent.  What I learned from Dave Ramsey was to approach my debts in a different way.

What makes the most financial sense is to start paying off whatever debt you have with the highest interest rate first – that way you save the most interest and reduce your debt faster.  However, when your highest interest rate debt is also your largest debt, even when you’re paying extra, it often doesn’t seem like you’re making any progress.  So people become discouraged and quit making the effort.

Enter psychology.

People need to feel like they’re making progress in order to motivate them to continue their behavior.  So instead of paying off the highest interest rate debt first, Ramsey’s advice is to concentrate on the smallest debt first.  Yes, it doesn’t make the most financial sense to do it this way, because your large debt will still be accruing interest while you pay off the small one.  But – you will see progress quickly, and that will motivate you to continue doing what you’re doing.

Once you have one debt paid off, put that same payment amount towards the next biggest balance until it’s paid off, then repeat.  So, for example, when you pay off your car loan and your payment was $200, then you take that $200, plus whatever minimum you were paying on the next biggest debt, add those together, and make that the new payment amount for that debt.

Following this idea, rather than concentrating on my large credit card balance, I focused on the small balance remaining on a car loan.  Within 6 months, the car loan was paid off.  And the feeling of walking into the bank and paying it off was amazing! To help me keep track of what I’m paying, I created this Debt Snowball Tracker for myself (there are a million versions of these out there, so feel free to grab this one or make one for yourself):

IH Debt Snowball Tracker PNG

I currently have four credit cards, a car loan, a bank loan, and a mortgage.  I’m ignoring our mortgage for this purpose, because we will likely move and sell the house before we pay it off anyway.  We did just refinance our mortgage and were able to get a better interest rate and lower our payment, so that will help.

Simply having a visual tracker like this helps so much when you are budgeting and paying bills.  You can see how much the amounts are reduced in a single glance, and when you see that you are getting close to paying off the balance, it helps give you that extra push to get it done.

Once I paid off the first car loan, I have been adding that payment into the bank loan (our smallest remaining debt balance), and in just a few short months, it will be paid off as well.  After that is paid off, I’ll be able to attack our credit card debt and work my way through them as well.  And while I know that this approach doesn’t make the most financial sense, it has allowed me to be successful in making progress, and that’s what matters to me.