Debt. It’s the thing lots of us just don’t talk about. Brad and I have made many money mistakes in our life. We’ve had Ups and Downs and relied on our families’ to help us out of both small and large pinches over the last fifteen years.
Even when we became mostly financially stable, we didn’t make the best choices because we didn’t focus on the right priorities first, but put that money into trying to grow our businesses versus getting creating a buffer for ourselves when the leaner months approached.
All that changed for us in the last year. We realized we were making way more money than what our bank account showed on a regular basis. Where was it all going? Where were we losing money? When you have an irregular income, it’s super easy to SPEND it when you get a windfall because you’ve set yourself up to depend on that windfall to “catch you up”. The last quarter of 2018 for the first time in several years, the “windfall” wouldn’t catch us up. We relied on that to keep us from grinding when we should have, we relied on that to carry us through on too many occasions.
So, we sat down and really truly looked at our spending and made a decision that we had some choices to make. Putting our finances in the FOCUS seat was very eye opening and if I’m being honest, scary. Here are just a few things we discovered.
- Working extra hours without a specific intent caused our childcare to be outrageous.
- Working “a certain number of hours” per week was way LESS important than how many minutes we actually worked in each hour.
- These extra hours took us away from our kids too much and did nothing to increase our overall income.
- Focusing on others and pouring into them financially at the risk of our own income was a really bad choice.
- Our end game goals were not being met because we were not focused on the daily, short-term stuff that matters.
- The stress of never having enough time and/or money was becoming a strain on all our relationships.
A New Focus. The new focus we took was a journey into “what do we owe”. I had for months (well let’s face it, years) just shoved all those lovely collection envelopes to the side and went along with my day. I dove in head first and started looking through piles of paperwork, calling hospitals and doctors offices, and was determined to find out what the true damages were. I looked at the total we owed for over 100 creditors. Why so many? Well many of it was medical bills from Brad’s stroke and every single provider sends a separate bill. Some of it was old debt that has just hung around on credit reports. Then there are the 6 credit cards we got to “rebuild our credit” after our bankruptcy in 2006.
I’ve spent the last 6 weeks logging the amounts, looking at what we’ve already paid, negotiating some of them being written off due to age and listing them all from smallest to largest. I’ve read every #debtfreecommunity and #daveramsey account on instagram and read as many blogs on the subject as I can.
We are taking the principles of what we’ve read, and we are forging a path that works for us and our original debt of $257,096.39. Thus far, between minimum payments, write-offs and negotiations, we have paid off $27,620.03 so our total now is $229,475.76.
That’s a ton of money right? Right! But having it out there for the world to see (or my immediate world at least) makes me more accountable. YNAB is the budgeting software we are using and it is an amazing product. It is helping us look at our money daily and putting it to work for us the way we need it to.
Until we are moved and settled, I won’t be doing anything other than minimum payments. For that reason alone, I almost didn’t publish this blog post but I feel like no matter how slow it may seem at first, any progress is just that….progress.
Here’s to some #debtfreedeasons ~