Year In Review – The Highs and Lows of Financial Catastrophe

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I promise you’ll hear more from me in some form in 2020. I plan on doing even more blog updates, and I’m 3-4 chapters into writing a book that I’m starting to feel really good about. I don’t know jack sh*t about getting a book published, but I knew even less about responsibly managing my finances and I figured that out, so what do I have to lose?

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If you had talked to me in early 2019, I would have told you that we were losing our house. I would have also told you that we were struggling to figure out how to pay our bills, or even keep food on the table. As fully-grown adults in our 40s, my wife and I had manage to make almost every poor financial decision possible, and were now faced with crippling debt.

We formed a plan over January and the first part of February, and all of the math showed that we would nothing short of a small miracle to escape our predicament. We knew which things to pay and in which order, but if even the smallest thing went wrong, we were in some serious trouble.

We focused every single resource we had at the problem, and we sacrificed as much as possible, sometimes resorting to eating just Four Eggs a night. All the while we hid the family from everyone but our closest friends and family (and the readers of this blog), and we wallowed heavily in guilt and remorse.

I try not to exaggerate for the sake of exaggeration, so trust me when I say that it was the worst time of my life. As always, perspective is key, so I’m sure there are some of you that have gone through far worse, but for me this was the low point.

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FUN FACT: The previous low point was explaining to my Mom that in order to pull square with the Columbia House cassette tape club, she was going to need to help me purchase 300 cassettes in the next 11 days.

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I really couldn’t see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and it sucked big ginormous bags of ding dongs.

What a difference a year can make…

We are now on the cusp of 2020 and we have made huge strides in wiggling free of the grasps of this big, stinky, slime-covered debt monster. I traded in my car, we got side hustles, we sold possessions, and most importantly… WE GOT EDUCATED.

I don’t mean we went back to night school or anything (let’s not get stupid), but instead we made a concentrated effort to track every penny and learn how to properly spend, save and invest. I got my kids into investing too! They now both have savings and investment portfolios, and are well on their way to avoiding the dumb mistakes their two parents made.

Are we out of the woods? Not exactly. If you know anything about this blog, you know I’m brutally honest about my situation, so I’m going to admit that we still have some credit card debt, student loans, two cars and a house payment. We’ve got work to do.

That being said, we also know exactly what to attack and where to keep this debt-paying train rolling.

So without further ado, here are the final numbers for us in 2020:

Total Credit Card Debt Paid: $51,348.27
Total of All Debt Paid: $71,055.42

You read that correctly. On top of the $51K we paid off in just credit cards, we were just shy of paying off another $20K in additional debt.

In 2020 we will finish paying off our remaining credit card debt, and in the following years we will focus on knocking out the student loans next, followed by the cars, and then the house.

I have learned two INSANELY important lessons in all of this:

  1. If you are in a similar situation, please know that you are not alone. There are people and groups out there willing to help for free. Don’t spend a bunch of money and put yourself further into debt by paying for a bunch of expensive seminars or classes. Poke around on Facebook, Reddit, and other similar sites and you’ll find lots of amazingly smart people willing to help you in whatever financial situation you might be in.
  2. It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you can do it. Don’t compare yourself to my situation or to anyone else’s that you might be aware of. Attack your problem in a way that makes sense for you. Get educated, listen to podcasts, read books, and then hit your own debt head on. As I’ve told people who have asked me for tips and tricks, this is all just one big gnarly math problem that you have to solve. Once you’ve solved the equation, then you just have to be patient and stay the course.

I promise you’ll hear more from me in some form in 2020. I plan on doing even more blog updates, and I’m 3-4 chapters into writing a book that I’m starting to feel really good about. I don’t know jack sh*t about getting a book published, but I knew even less about responsibly managing my finances and I mostly figured that out, so what do I have to lose?

I hope you have a truly magical 2020. For those of you who have offered guidance and support over the past year, I can’t thank you enough. I’m truly getting choked up as I type these words thinking about how gracious and supportive some of you were to a complete stranger.

For those of you feeling hopeless about your own financial situation… you know what? Even if you’re just feeling slightly bummed (I realized hopeless might be a bit extreme), please keep pushing. I can almost taste how wildly elated I’ll feel when our debt is gone once and for all and the weight is off our backs. Find your motivation and don’t stop until you get there.

Also, if anyone knows Ben or Jerry, please pitch them the flavor of Wild Elation. Tell them it tastes like a mix of tears of joy and shredded credit cards. We’ll split the profits!

Happy New Year!

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