At the end of summer, I mentioned at the end of a post that I planned on setting myself financial goals connected with rewards, like I had successfully started doing with my sewing projects. Well, I did. I had a come-to-Jesus moment with my debt, made myself a little chart to track it monthly, and came up with a list of prizes I could get for myself when I reached certain milestones. As the milestones get further on, the prizes get bigger/more expensive and harder to obtain. So I start out with the Frozen DVD and go all the way down to a $100 item off a wish list, with really big prizes, like a new DSLR or vacation on the “you have a really long way to go” mental list. (There were a few more prizes added after I made the chart, things I thought of later, which I would allow myself to substitute for another prize of similar value).
My chart begins on September 1, 2014, at which point my total debt–credit cards, student loans, and car loan–was $110, 680.99. Note that there is no mortgage included in that amount. It’s frightening, I know, especially given how little I make in my current position. I spent the last year adding to my credit cards instead of paying them down like I wanted to because of things like oil (HOLY CRAP THAT IS EXPENSIVE and I live in an old poorly insulated house in New England) and a broken coil spring on my minivan and too many pets and frankly, denial. I’m not sure I could have survived another year the way I was going.
But now, see how steeply those lines on my chart drop? As of November 1, my total debt was $105,503.17. I paid off more than $5,000 of debt in TWO MONTHS!
How did I do it?
First, and most importantly is to note that when I decided to take this job, despite the fact that I really couldn’t afford the major pay cut, I decided that if God was truly calling me to this place, as I believed She was, then She would provide. I did not expect that provision to come in the form of The Dude. Remember yesterday’s post? God is darn tricky with exceeding expectations.
Anyway, one of the reasons Dude moved in was financial. It made a whole lot of sense for us to get down to one set of groceries, utilities, and other expenses. He currently still has his other house, but will probably sell it, despite the terrible real estate market. So now that Dude has taken over most of my main recurring expenditures, a majority of my income is going towards paying down my debt. We want to be debt-free together, and he’s willing to help me achieve that.
Secondly, I am being more careful with my expenditures, and any “extra” money that has come my way has gone onto my highest-interest credit card, including a hefty tax refund last month and a couple good sales from one of my Etsy shops.
I transferred some debt from a high-interest card to one with much lower interest (but no promotional period, so no stress about not paying it off in time and getting hit with interest anyway), and I applied to re-finance my auto loan.
I also just started a part-time job with a spice company, which doesn’t pay a ton, but is just the right amount of hours that I can do it alongside my ministry, is fun, doesn’t require a whole lot of deep thinking, and allows me to bring home yummy spices. Also, I smell delicious when I get home! I am hoping to do at least one or two craft fairs this holiday season as well, to sell some of my other wares.
While I don’t expect that I’ll be able to pay down $5,000 every two months, getting such a big jump start has been wonderful motivation and reinforcement! I am excited for the first of the month to come so I can calculate the numbers, and looking at my chart–on which the numbers only decrease in increments of $500–I may get to the bottom before I reach the last of the dates (which is not a terrible problem to have)!
Here’s a funny thing, though: I haven’t given myself any of my rewards, though I’ve earned five already. It’s nice to have the permission and not feel like I am restricting myself too much, but so far I haven’t wanted to spend the money, preferring instead to keep plugging away at paying down my debt.
I still have a loooooong way to go down this road. There are so many milestones to look forward to (the next big one is getting under $100,000), but they won’t come quickly or easily. There are moments when I am amazed at how quickly it’s going, or how much $5,000 is, and then I realize how little that is in comparison to how much is left and that I still have years to go until zero debt. I’m sure there may be months in the future of very little change when I’ve had to put money toward an current expense rather than those in my past.
But in the meantime, I’m learning to live within my means, to be resourceful, to be grateful for the abundance that surrounds me, to be generous with what I do have and humble enough to accept help when I need it.
I can do this. And so can you!