Friday, March 23, 2018

March 2018 Update: $49,993.81

Hey everyone! I wanted to post this month's total debt before we do more shopping this weekend (we always have the money to pay for what we buy but because we put it on credit cards to earn points, the balances then sit there awhile pending and cannot be paid off until they clear).

This month, we actually got below $50,000! I added a little extra to our debt repayment from our tax return because I wanted to get below $50K and we were so close. 

I don't think there has been any other major drama so far this month, but I have started to realize that spring in general is just a tough time for expenses. There are baseball registrations, car registrations, swimming lessons, homeschool curriculum and gardening purchases that add up quickly. I know this upcoming month we will also need to take our car in for its 120,000 mile tune-up and that will cost something too. I am grateful that we at least have a tax return to work with to cash flow these expenses.

This will be a quick update this month, but I hope to post more about some projects in the upcoming month that I am working on, such as sourdough and re-doing our raised beds. If you follow me on Instagram you can see more up-to-date pictures of what I am working on.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

February 2018 Update: $51,581.58

Wow, February was more dramatic than I expected it to be! Taxes are always stressful to do, and one of our sons almost had to have surgery (but miraculously avoided it). Not only that, but so much has happened this month that when I was getting ready to publish this post, even more things happened which caused a delay in our monthly report. Just so you know, this debt amount is as of today, but I'm filing it under February because the student loan balance hasn't changed too much. There were also quite a number of financial blessings that we received this month which I will detail below, but first, let's get to the numbers.

This month, our total debt is now $51,581.58.  We received our federal tax return in February and  decided to fund our emergency fund instead of putting it toward debt for the time being. The main reason for this is that after some thought, we felt better about raising our emergency fund a little in the event that something ever happened with my husband's job. All is well right now, but because we are home owners and have his parents as co-signers, we felt like it was the more responsible thing to do to raise our emergency fund a bit. As we wind down the last couple of years of debt repayment we will probably put that tax return back toward debt. The cost is only about 2% interest and is worth the peace of mind it will bring us.

Good news - our van is paid off!
We did, however, use $200 of the return to pay off the remaining balance on our van! It would feel awesome save for the fact that we still have over $50K in student loans, but now we can focus entirely on those.

Of course, this past week, we heard some weird noises coming from our van and when we took it in, it looked like there were a number of repairs that needed to be done. Fortunately one expensive one was paid for by an extended warranty we had, but we were still set back by $600. We are already dipping into that extra emergency fund from the tax return, but that's okay.

A costly surgery, avoided
Earlier this past month, my son started having problems with an injury on his hand that had taken place in January. He had been sitting on a table and used his hands to lift himself off of it, and had a pencil in his hand. He accidentally stabbed himself and we took him to urgent care who gave him a few local shots and removed a piece of wood. They couldn't find anything else, and at the follow up neither could our pediatrician.

A few weeks later, though, it looked like there was in fact a large piece of lead in his hand that was trying to get out. When we consulted with our pediatrician and then a plastic surgeon they wanted to do outpatient plastic surgery with general anesthesia. Aside from the cost factor, we were against it because we weren't sure it was necessary. We were planning on seeking a second opinion when miraculously the lead came out on its own! We continued to soak his hand and watch for infection, but it has been several weeks now and his hand is healing just fine. I still cringe to think that we might have gone through an outpatient surgery that would have cost thousands of dollars in medical bills. It felt like a gift from God.

Other financial blessings
(1) Our washer has been making grinding noises and we've been told by a repair guy that the transmission is going out. Then our neighbor came by and asked us if we needed a washer because he was upgrading. For $20 (a tip to have the delivery guys haul his old washer from his basement to ours) we now have a good backup when our other washer eventually dies.

(2) I heard from a friend that a new gym was opening up that only had a $5/month membership per person if you go 12 times a month. My husband had been going to the YMCA but they charged $38 just for him. I went along with it because I knew that he needed a stress release. We both switched over to this new gym and will save over $250 a year by doing so. Not only that, but the new gym is only 4 minutes away and has massage chairs in it! I've already enjoyed having a way to get out of the house and improve my health.

(3) I received 2 free garden show tickets via my husband's friend and enjoyed an outing with a friend of mine. Then I saw on Facebook that a local gardening organization was hosting a free seed giveaway for the community. I went with my son on Saturday and got 89 packets of seeds. Most of them are old seeds from last year, but from experience I know that most of these will be viable for several more years! The retail value of these seeds is probably around $150! I was particularly delighted to find a packet of Sun-Gold cherry tomatoes which I have always wanted to grow but had a hard time finding. Again, it felt like a spiritual hug and encouragement to find an outlet once again in gardening this year.

I always forget how expensive March is. With swimming lessons and baseball to pay for, I am sure that our progress on debt will be slightly slower than it is in other months. But in the midst of this month I am looking forward to a visit from an aunt I haven't seen in 9 years. And hopefully I will be starting seeds, preparing garden beds, and working on a built in desk unit for my dining room. I would be glad if we could steer clear of any other drama but you never know. At this point, I try to cope by just taking each situation as it comes, doing the best we can, and focusing on what we can do for that month.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

7 reasons why we are saying no to Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Some are predicting student loans to be the next financial crisis. Whether or not they will pose a problem in the future, many already feel their pain now. They prevent people from getting married, having children, or even buying a home. Yet they are also considered to be a norm when it comes to getting an education.

Before my husband went to law school in his 40's, we had been officially debt free for a couple of years. He and I both knew he needed to change careers, and as much as we didn't want to do it, we knew we'd have to borrow some kind of money to pay for it. After reading blogs of debt-free living, it was really hard to go into debt again, and it's been even harder to get out of it. But we also knew what we were borrowing and did our best to keep expenses down.

When he graduated, my husband continued working for the state and under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, he could technically qualify for having all of his student loans forgiven after ten years of public service. I don't question the forgiveness program itself - my husband makes a decent amount below the going market rate in exchange for working for the state and has only seen one small bonus in his first year. My brother-in-law got a free ride to medical school in exchange for becoming a doctor in the Air Force. In my mind, working for the public or a non-profit and getting your loans cancelled in 10 years offers more incentive for professionals to serve those in need.

But we have talked over this several times and decided that we are not pursuing the Public Loan Service Plan. If an emergency happened that required all of our extra income, and did that for 10 years, we might consider it, but there are so many other reasons not to, like these:

1. It feels too long.
Even though the average repayment program is 10 years, there is something we really crave in being free of this debt in less time than that. If we spending the money on other things

2. It's too uncertain.
With the latest administration changes, it seems that many programs in the Department of Education are under scrutiny, including this one. Lawsuits have been filed over miscommunication on what type of loans qualify, or which months of work will count toward your 120 months of service. We have the type of loans that do qualify, but when I looked at the forms it wasn't something where you could sign up, get admitted to the program, and then start tracking your accrued months. They seemed to say that when you finally accrued your 120 months you could then apply for forgiveness. Allowing interest to accrue over 10 years just seemed to risky.

3. It would close off options for us that might open up in the private sector.
My husband is happy with his job, but things can always change, or he might decide to switch his focus in a couple of years - we don't really know. If he was locked into public service, it would become increasingly difficult to switch to something that might be better for him down the road.

4. We have debt, but not so crazy that there's no way we could pay it off.
There are other things we would love to spend our money on - a good private school for our kids, home improvements, or vacations. But we both feel a little bad spending extra money on things like this while letting our student loans go unpaid.

5. It's a good exercise to live with less, even when it's painful (and trust me, there are times when it's really painful).
Going through this process of living on a limited budget is nothing new to us, but there are many good lessons to learn from it. Once we are finished we will know how to sacrifice to reach a financial goal or cut back on spending if an emergency occurs. It also helps us to remember what the good life is all about.

6. We'd probably not spend it very well if we didn't put it toward debt.
Have you ever noticed that the more money you have in your bank account, the easier it is to spend it? This happens to us around Christmas when we get gift money or on our birthdays. I know that if we saved all of our extra income, more of it would be spent on impulse purchases or things we don't really need because we had the money. It's better in my mind to keep things lean so that we're not tempted to overspend.

7. As bad as it feels to pay so much, it also feels good to pay back what we borrowed.
I am looking forward to the day where we see zeroes in our remaining balances and knowing the hard work we put into our debt was worth it. We borrowed this money to go to law school and it will feel good to pay it back.

What about you? If you had the chance to get loan forgiveness after 10 years of service, would you take it?

Monday, February 12, 2018

What is the good life?

Lately I have been listening to Dave Ramsey a lot on his podcast as I prep dinner or fold laundry. Even though I don't subscribe 100% to his methods (we use credit cards and pay them off), I find the problems people call in with and his answers helpful. It is also good to hear someone say over and over, "You need to pay off your debt. This is important. This is a good thing."

One of the other things Dave Ramsey says is that we should live like no one else so that one day, we can live like no one else. It seems that he acknowledges that part of this "living like no one else" one day will involve generosity. But it also seems that some of the future "living like no one else" has to do with having nicer things because you can now afford them. I don't necessarily disagree with him, but in my own life, I have tried to be careful in this debt-free journey to not view myself as living a life that I can't wait to get out of so that one day I can buy a lot more or have a better life.

I don't want to live these years of paying off debt as quickly as possible so that I can get through them. Even if our budget is limited, even if we actually do eat beans and rice once a week, even if my shoes have holes in them and I hate my curtains and wish I could buy new ones, I want to truly say that today, right now with unexpected medical bills or uncertain work situations, life is good.

It is good because even if everything were taken away from me, I would still have God and His gracious love.

It is good because I have four rambunctious children who are eager to learn and can't go to bed at night without asking for a big hug, kiss, and tickle.

It is good because I have a husband who is an involved father and is steady when I am not.

I don't want to miss the beauty of today while I am working to get to tomorrow. Every day is a gift. Today is just as much of a blessing as the day we will get out of debt, it's just that the blessings sometimes look a little different ;). There might be the blessing of having limited resources so that you learn to be creative, or the blessing of not being able to go out as much so that you get to spend more time with your children.

Sometimes we can't see the blessings for what they are until they are behind us. I just don't want to look back and realize that I wasted them.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ditching Our Debt is now on Instagram!

Well, the weekend is in full swing here. My husband and our 3 boys got flu shots which were 100% covered by insurance, I've done my grocery shopping for the morning, and we're getting ready to go to a roller skating party tonight put on by a local church. It's much cheaper because it's being sponsored, but our kids have never skated before, so I'm hoping that there are no accidents requiring ER visits! I think that the last time I was in a roller rink was when the background music was Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper. It should be interesting!

I have had a personal Instagram account for awhile, but I'm excited to share that I'm also starting one for this blog! There are lots of little tidbits to daily life and my thoughts about them that I would like to share but don't always have time to write a full blog post about. So if you'd like to follow me, you can go here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

7 goals I have BESIDES paying off my debt

When you are tackling a big goal like paying off $90,500 on a one-income budget, sometimes the end can seem so far away. And sometimes, it can even feel like nothing else is really happening until you get your debt paid off.

But I know this isn't true. And it got me to thinking about other goals I could work on while I am paying off my debt. These goals don't involve spending money, but rather they involve spending my time more intentionally. Since I have found such motivation from posting my financial goals here, I am going to post my other goals here as well.

1. Work out 3x a week with videos that I already have.

I have been feeling like a slouch lately, and I know that some of it is because I haven't been working out consistently. I have a nice collection of workout dvd's and weights and a step, so I'm going to make use of them. I did have to buy an extra pair of weights but I used my Christmas money to do so.

2. Complete a 24-hr course on that is available for free through our library.

Have you checked out your local library lately? Ours is awesome and has free memberships to different learning websites. I'd like to work through a course on becoming a graphic designer first and then work from there.

3. Blog 2x a week consistently.

This is one I struggle with quite a bit, but I'm determined to do better!

4. Go to bed and get up earlier to re-set my mornings.

When you have four kids waiting for you to be "on" as you husband leaves for work, it's critical to have some morning time to yourself. I have been lazy lately in getting to bed on time, and often don't get to bed until 11:30 or sometimes even 12! But my mind is so much more clearer in the morning.

5. Organize our house from top to bottom.

Taking what I have and arranging it as logically and beautifully as I can brings me peace and joy. I actually like organizing over shopping and don't have to spend money to have a nicer home!

6. Read 3 pages a day from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.

This is for a plan my husband is leading with some of our friends. This book is over 1,000 pages and they're trying to get through it in 2018. I'm already behind, though, so I'm just going to pick up where everyone else is and try to keep up from now on.

7. Lose 10 lbs by my birthday in July.

Even though my "baby" is turning 4 this year, there is still that nagging weight hanging on from my pregnancy with her. I hesitate to get new clothes when I need them because I don't feel good at my current weight, so I'm going to work toward giving myself a birthday present this July :). Through our health insurance, we are able to participate in a program called "Naturally Slim" which begins next Monday. Thankfully it is after the Super Bowl!

Being debt-free will be wonderful, but I don't want to waste that time until then just longing for the day when I think I will have a "real life" again.

I will try and check in here monthly to post my progress. Do you have any goals? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Easy and delicious red enchilada sauce

Enchiladas are a big favorite in our house, and even though I don't make them every week, when I do, they are quickly devoured by our family. If you asked my kids, their preferred style would probably be "white" enchiladas which are made with a combination of sour cream, green enchilada sauce, and cilantro for the base. But every now and then I get a hankering for a good red enchilada.

Earlier this week I had an extra bag of cooked carnita meat left over from the freezer. My husband was out of town and I didn't want anything complicated with four kids to manage, so I decided to try my hand at homemade red enchilada sauce again. I sometimes buy the canned stuff from Aldi (which my mom loves so much that she has bought extra to take in her suitcase back to Alaska) but it's not my all-time favorite. Because you know, when you eat enchiladas, your mind should be thinking, "WOW."

I started with a basic recipe for fast enchilada sauce from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and tweaked it a little. This book is hands-down one of my go-to cookbooks, and while my edition is older, there is a new one available from America's Test Kitchen's website for around $24. Be sure to go there instead of Amazon, because at the time of this writing it looks like the price for new ones on Amazon are in the +$70 range!

Easy and Delicious Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

Makes 3 cups of sauce

1/2 onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp. cooking oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups crushed tomato puree
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
salt to taste (I use about 1/4-1/2 tsp)


1. Sautee the onion in 1 Tbsp. cooking oil for 5 minutes or until translucent and slightly carmelized. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant.

2. Add the crushed tomato puree, water, and seasonings. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. If you like, add one extra tablespoon of oil at the end for texture (this might be unnecessary, but it's what I did when I made the sauce that turned out perfectly, so I'm leaving it in - feel free to tinker!).

Tip: You can find cans of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce in the Mexican section of your supermarket. A little can goes a long way, and you can process them in the blender or food processor and dollop out 1 tsp. servings on a plate or tray and freeze. Then simply store them in a freezer bag and add to recipes when needed. I use these a lot for my blender salsa!
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