May I be frank? (No, you’re Amy.) Right.
This has been a crazy year for us. Can’t you say that every year? Yes. Yes, you can.
But this year has been different. Really different than any year in our marriage and any year in my life.
Last Christmas, like every Christmas, we would get our Christmas cards and some of them had letters inside. They were the re-cap of the year: the good, the amazing, the lessons learned. I love those. My husband never really got into it so much until last Christmas. He knew the people who were writing them that we hadn’t seen for a few years and had taken a few minutes to really catch up with them. He mentioned that we should have something to report next year.
So we made some goals. One of which, was to pay of $5,000 of our credit card debt. I wrote it down on the white board and had no idea how or even if that would be possible.
And then, February 21st we went to our first Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. Actually, I went. Our little girl was too sick to leave with a sitter, so my husband insisted on staying home while I went to get a glimpse of this program.
To say it lightly, my world was rocked. I came home a completely different person. I finally had the vision that not only could we do it, but that we were going to do it. Absolutely. Going to get out of debt. My husband was shocked how much I was moved from that one meeting.
We took a look at our debts. At that point, we were making payments to 8 different debts each month.
Sure, Dave Ramsey calls it a snowball. Trent Hamm calls it the snowflake strategy to your debt snowball.
But in my mind, I see it like train tracks. Absolute train tracks. Every month, we have 8 trains that we have to catch, all headed in 8 different directions to make sure we have our obligations paid off. Here’s what those trains of ours look like.
The military offers you the possibility of one month’s salary as you plan to move to a new location. A lot of families just plan on that money to help with eating out, possibly living in hotels until they have housing arranged in a new place and/or adding the trimmings to make a new apartment or place feel like home. Sure, it seems like great money at first. But not when you have to pay it back the next year in a new place. We have just paid that back and have seen the monthly income check go up a couple hundred bucks.
Lesson learned: it’s no surprise that we will have to move again. Once our debt is paid off, we will have an account to make sure we don’t use that crutch of a moving loan.
Along with my husband’s promotion last year, there were several new uniforms necessary to purchase. The military sends you a clothing allowance all at once and you can pay either pay it back in one lump sum, or make monthly payments throughout the year.
Aaaand, guess which one we chose? I don’t even remember how we justified making these monthly payments, but we did. And it took a while. But now, we are DONE with those!
Those were only applicable to military families. Here’s where regular life comes into play.
Small student loan
When you go to a for-profit school, they make it really convenient to get the student loans. In fact, they make it part of the application process. How do I know this? I worked at one for a year. They trained us to make it really easy and walk people through the process.
But before I worked there, I was a student. Every year it was check in, go sit at their computer and do the FAFSA, and get started on school work. One of my loans was to Sallie Mae for $1500, plus interest. And sadly, I never thought about it before. Then I realized I was paying $50 a month on a $1500 loan. And I realized: They NEVER wanted me to stop paying! NEVER. EVER. EVER.
Do you know how mad that makes me now? Why didn’t I see that before? We’ve been paying on this $1500 loan for YEARS. Man, were we getting hosed.
That’s why I started this blog! That’s why I am taking a serious stand against debt! Because we are getting HOSED.
You, me, we are nice people. We follow the rules. We help others. And when I read a $50 payment I thought, ‘Okay, 50 bucks. That’s no big deal.” But the big deal is this little 50 bucks was going out of our family’s pocket every month for several years! Ridiculous. I don’t want that for you! Look at your balances. Get rid of them! You work too hard to just let someone take that from you. It’s that teeny, tiny, leak in the bucket that you can hardly see. And several of those will run your bucket DRY.
Needless to say, we paid off that beast.
Credit card 1
This one, mine, was the card that for a while, became the security blanket while my husband was on deployment. A quick run to Target was my connection to the outside world when I had a newborn, a look at fun items and quick purchase to make our little place a home.
What was wrong with me? Oh, I know. Deployment stress. Newborn. Lots of crying and letting baby grow. Lack of sleep.
Except those are all excuses. I was alone. Tired. And needed…something. Now I realize that I was using the credit card to feel a void in my life. My husband was gone. I was tired all the time. And I wanted to talk to someone during the day. I loved my baby, but I needed some adult interaction, too. It was a tough time.
If and when I’m stuck, feeling lost, alone and struggling like that, I will certainly most not be looking to buy some pretty little thing to bring in some happiness. The key for me will be to remember days like this when we’ve struggled for so long to get there.
Credit card 2
His credit card. For some reason, we always thought traveling home to visit family was better to put on his credit card…because he has a better percentage rate. HA! What were we thinking?
What a huge lesson we have learned. We have had to make sacrifices. And we have done it all this year: turned down invitations- even though we really wanted to join in the fun; watched movies at home instead of the theater; shared only one car instead of buying another and getting some major car payments; planned outdoor free activities just to keep us from spending money. And instead of pulling us apart, it feels like it’s only pulled us closer together.
We are right on track to having his car paid off by the end of this year. This. Is. HUGE. This means we are over half way there- not just in the total amount but in the loans left. And there have been days when I’ve been angry and pouting about getting up before 5AM to take Dad to work to make sure we can have the car during the day. There have been days when I’ve thought, “Oh man! Just forget this. Let’s go out and have a night on the town!” That’s when my husband pulls me in to make sure we are staying on track of our goals.
The 3 Big Daddies
So now all the trains are continually moving. That’s what they do. But we only have 3 payments left and the student loans will be done. As in….done. Fin. Finito. Done.
Starting next year we will be down to 3 payments each month. From 8 major payments and train cars to load up and send off in different directions. We just have three. These are the big daddies. These loans are going to take some work. These are the loans I thought we would be paying off for the next 20 years, like most of America. But we will conquer those. We will.
I can feel the momentum starting to get strong. I can see how we are paying much more on the payments than the minimums requested. I can see our faith begin to shine in the finances. I can see we are on the right track. And the train is moving faster, stronger, with more power. The peace that is over coming my heart and mind is tremendous.
I want this for you. I want you to have the success in the finances and feel the peace that can come from these decisions, hard work, and focus.
And I want remember this moment. We have some momentum building here. We are getting it. We still have lots of goals. There are people to help. Work to do.
But right now, to the Big Daddies I say:
“We’re coming for ya. We are building up steam…”
Tell me friend, how have you done on paying off the debt this year?