Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

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I hope you get some ideas from this post that help you tackle your finances. This blog has been beyond cathartic for me, and I hope it’s helped a few of you. If you’re in a situation like we were (are), get serious about finding ways to fix your problem. Everyone’s situation is different, but I can almost guarantee you can find at least something in your spending habits that will help!

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We all have those friends who make proclamations that we can tell are destined to fail from the moment we witness said friend’s plan of execution. Here are a few of the more common ones I’ve encountered:

Musician

The Proclamation: “I’m going to get serious about pursuing a career in music, and be a Lead Guitarist for a metal band!”

The Execution: Purchasing of “the 100 easiest riffs in rock history” book from the used bookstore and practicing for 30 minutes a week in the garage.

The Result: Lead Line Cook at Chili’s.

Weight Loss

The Proclamation: “I’m going to dedicate to finally shedding these extra pounds and getting my summer body back!”

The Execution: Cookies.

The Result: Beaches are overrated anyway.

Acting

The Proclamation: “I’m going to make a legitimate run at finally being a serious actor.”

The Execution: Booking a commercial for a local Kia dealership in your hometown… in Iowa.

The Result: Iowa.

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There are lots of examples like this, but you get the idea.

So, when my wife and I decided to make the proclamation that we were going to do away with our debt and seek true financial independence once and for all, I was deeply concerned that we would fall into a situation like this where our intentions were pure, but our executions left much to be desired, and thus we’d be in the same mess two years from now.

As of this past Friday however, I’m now convinced we will achieve our goals. Trading in a car that I loved and put so much of my identity into (right or wrong) on a used economy vehicle has helped me prove to myself just how serious I actually am.

While this was the decision that ultimately convinced me, I thought it might be beneficial for some of you in similar situations to see what we’ve done since January of this year (2019 for those who might read this in the future) right up until now:

Credit Cards
When we started this journey, we had 12 (!) credit card and student loan accounts. Here is the breakdown of how we’ve tackled each:

  1. Toys R Us (29.99% interest) – CLOSED – Paid off. GONE!
  2. Bank of America (23.99%) – CLOSED – Paid off. GONE!
  3. Lowe’s (23.99%) – CLOSED – Paid off. GONE!
  4. Furniture Store (23.99%) – CLOSED – Paid off. GONE!
  5. Wells Fargo Loan (17.49%) – CLOSED – Scheduled payoff is September 2019.
  6. Care Credit (29.99%) – CLOSED – Scheduled payoff is September 2019.
  7. Macy’s AMEX (27.99%) – CLOSED – Consolidated to 12% Marcus account.
  8. Macy’s Store (27.99%) – CLOSED – Not a typo… we had 2! Consolidated to Marcus.
  9. Discover (14.99%) – CLOSED – Scheduled payoff 2020.
  10. First Tech PLOC (13.99%) – ACTIVE – No charges since January.
  11. Navient Private (7.5%) – NOT ACTIVE – Scheduled payoff is sometime before I’m 80.
  12. Navient Federal (4%) – NOT ACTIVE – Scheduled pay off is sometime before I die.
  13. Marcus (12%) – NOT ACTIVE – Not a revolving line. Scheduled payoff 2020.

In total, we have closed all of our accounts but 1, which is the lowest interest rate and has a very low credit limit, allowing us a safety net while we build savings. Of the closed cards, we have paid off 4, and will close out two more before the end of the year. We are going to work as hard as we can to have all of them eliminated by the end of 2021, or 2022 at the VERY latest. By the end of the year alone, we will have paid off close to $50,000 in credit card and student loan debt!

Not bad! So how did we do it? Keep reading!

Nice-To-Haves

We took a good hard look at where we were spending money, and either canceled or restructured several of them:

  1. Cell Phone – We switched from Verizon to T-Mobile, and in doing so saved over $100 a month. The bonus here is we got free Netflix, and a free 3rd line that our son now uses for the cell phone that he personally saved for.
  2. Car – At first I simply refinanced my car at a lower interest rate but thought better of it, and instead traded the entire thing in on an economy car, saving us between $400-$500 a month.
  3. DirecTV – We cut the chord! We went for several months with Netflix only. Now we have Netflix and Sling, BUT our Netflix is free as part of our awesome T-Mobile deal, and Sling is only $25 bucks a month! Compare this with our old $187 DirecTV deal, and it’s easy to see why it was a good call.
  4. Various – Along with these we cut a few odds and ends such as an old Adobe subscription, a seldom-used Hulu subscription, and an Xbox Gamepass subscription that my son is now paying for on his own.

Budgeting

We set some aggressive budgets as a family which we have mostly stuck to. It hasn’t been fun at times, but we just keep telling ourselves it’s only temporary until we get our debt under control. We broke our budget down into 3 categories:

  1. Groceries – Pretty straightforward. If we eat it, drink it, or use it around the house, it goes here.
  2. Gas – Again… straightforward. My wife’s vehicle, my vehicle, and our lawnmower.
  3. Other – This one is sort of a catch-all. Right now it covers things like going to a movie or dinner, Birthdays, craft supplies, etc.

I also built a monster spreadsheet that tracks every single penny we make, and where we spend all of those pennies. DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY EXCEL! I’m an idiot and I was able to figure that sucker out. You can too. Trust me!

Smart Shopping

  1. Amazon Subscribe N Save – I ran through this in a previous Tuesday Tip Jar, so hit that post for details, but we have been thrilled by our savings from using this feature on Amazon and bundling items to get the maximum discount.
  2. $9 dollar jeans – Don’t focus so much on my awesome jeans deal that I discuss here, but instead focus on the fact that if you’re willing to take the time, you can find great deals on just about anything! I also use Groupon, and have found such gems as a rad new hat for $6 bucks with free shipping!
  3. Costco Gas – I’m fortunate to have a Costco on the route I take to work. I diligently fill up there each week, and I’d say I save around $.30 cents per gallon on gas. That adds up!
  4. Thrift Stores/Garage Sales – My wife is a f*cking deal NINJA. She comes home with rad stuff that looks brand-spanking-new half the time, and at a fraction of the cost. I won’t claim to be an expert, but trust me when I say there are deals to be had at these types of places.

House Refinance

People have varying opinions on refinancing. Do your research for sure, but in our case it made sense. We have only been in the house a year, so it wasn’t as though we went from 20 years paid off to having 30 again. Plus we got a much lower interest rate, saving us hundreds of dollars per month that we can focus towards debt.

Tax Returns/Stock/Bonuses

Whether it was savings via the things mentioned in these categories or via some other earning source, literally every spare dime we made this year went to debt. No birthday presents for mom or dad (kids still get them of course), no vacations that weren’t within an hour drive, and any extra income such as bonuses and tax returns ALL went towards debt!

Was it fun? OH HELL NO. It will be SUPER-FUN when we are debt free though.

Side Hustles

We got pretty damn good at side hustling, and we plan to get better as time goes by. Just a few of the things we did:

  1. Yard Sale – My wife organized a community wide yard sale, got our Homeowner’s Association to pay for it, made it a rather large event, and made us close to $1,000 bucks. Aside from putting little price stickers on things, it wasn’t a ton of work.
  2. Facebook Marketplace – With any remaining items that didn’t sell in the yard sale, she put them up on Facebook, and has sold almost all of them.
  3. Crafts and Jewelry – My wife makes some truly stunning jewelry, as well as jewelry hangers, decorative boxes, and more. She has been bringing in a nice chunk of change with all of this, and it has really helped!
  4. Rover.com – My wife also joined Rover and we have had our first set of visitors! If you aren’t sure what this service is, see my previous post.
  5. Freelance Art – I am an artist and cartoonist, and I am fortunate enough to have a very regular and long-standing client that nets me around $250 a month for my art services creating pull-tab style games for bars and casinos.

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There might be more that I’m forgetting, but typing it all out like this has made me realize that we were serious about financial independence long before I traded my car in last week. We are going to dig out, and we are never going to turn back!

I hope you get some ideas from this post that help you tackle your finances. This blog has been beyond cathartic for me, and I hope it’s helped a few of you. If you’re in a situation like we were (are), get serious about finding ways to fix your problem. Everyone’s situation is different, but I can almost guarantee you can find at least something in your spending habits that will help!

In my Wednesday post, we’re going to be talking numbers. I’m worried people are getting thrown by how much I may or not have paid off versus what their personal situation might be. So make sure to check that one out.

Thank you as always for stopping by!

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If you’ve got a question or a comment about anything in this post, please post it below! As you can tell, I’m a pretty open book, so ask away!

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