Category Archives: Getting out of Debt

Debt Free Anniversary – 4 years

Debt Free

Four years ago our daughter was in kindergarten and I took a part-time bakery job to get a little more income rolling in (my take on Dave Ramsey’s ‘get a job delivering pizzas’).  We were watching our grocery expenses (beans and rice, as Dave says) and throwing everything we had at the mortgage which was ticking down into the $20-30,000 range.

We got to the point where we were looking at our emergency fund and savings and said to ourselves: “What return are we getting on the savings vs. what is the interest costing us on our mortgage?”  When we were below $20,000, we decided to take a chunk of savings and pay our mortgage off (of course we left enough to cover home ownership-type emergency expenses).

Getting it actually paid off was interesting!  We had to call the mortgage company and get a final payoff amount. We had a limited number of hours to get a cashier’s check from the local bank and get the whole thing sent via express service to the mortgage company.  They wanted every last dime of interest, you can be sure!  Our local banking staff were excited for us, and they waived the fees for the cashier’s check.

The next day we went right back to rebuilding our savings, and we haven’t paid interest ever since!  Staying out of debt has had a huge effect on our family’s financial future.  Our accomplishment is something we share readily with our daughter, and we hope it will be an experience she can look back on when she makes her own financial decisions for college and beyond.  We will celebrate as a family today with breakfast out (we are off work and school by chance today), a special dinner, and family time.

This post also appeared on:




Busted Bubble – There’s No Money Tree

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM

I may be a grown-up, but I still haven’t gotten over the fact that there is no magic money tree.  I bought a nice pair of dress pants for church… and it is never fun to enter those purchases into Quicken and deduct the money out of the budget, even when I have funds saved for such purchases.

My daughter is now learning about this hard reality as she transitions into allowances and chores.  “Teachable moments” are cropping up left and right!

“Can I have money for the Scholastic book fair?”

“No, you haven’t read the last book I bought but you are welcome to use your own money.”

“But I am saving my money for something else!”

“Me too!”

She went on to wonder what would happen if she were the ONLY one in the class with no money for the book fair.  I said she would have to tell her friends she is saving her money for something else.  This conversation, for me, echoed many of the financial decisions my husband and I are making every day.  Why do we only have 1 bathroom… because we are saving for something else.  Why does my husband drive an ‘entry-level’ car… because we are saving for something else.  Freedom from debt is a wonderful situation, but it is still a life filled with many purposeful decisions about money.

Oh, and the book from the book fair that she reeeaaaally wanted?  The library has a copy waiting for us on reserve.


Back from my Blogging Siesta

A whole lot of eating going on!

A whole lot of eating going on!

Happy New Year!  The past few weeks have just flown by in a flurry of cookies, rich foods, and somewhat carefree spending.  We had an excellent Christmas.  My mom made my daughter an American Girl doll bed, which truly is the best bed in the house.  She also spoiled me with a retired American Girl item off eBay for my doll, Addy.

What are your plans for New Year’s?  We usually have a family movie and snacks in front of the TV.  We will also play our new game, Ticket to Ride, which was a family gift.  We are having great fun with it.


Ticket to Ride

My husband and I talked over our budget plans for 2014 and I will post about that soon.  It is so helpful to look into the year ahead and get a sense of where you need your money to be.   Writing down the goals is an important next step to keep your motivation up!

Questions you might ask about the year ahead:

Auto expenses… will you need new brakes, tires, etc.?

Debt expenses… do you have loans and what debt can you kick to the curb this year?

House expenses… how old is your hot water heater?  Dishwasher?  Furnace/air conditioning?

Health expenses… dental work?  Medical or health concerns not covered by insurance?

Kid expenses… sports teams, summer camps, tuition fees?

Vacation expenses… what can you afford in the coming year?  Will you need to travel to any weddings or family events?

“Wants”… are you saving for any other “wants” such as replacement furniture, hobbies, home improvement, clothing?

Those are the things we are contemplating as we plan for 2014.  Now back to the cookies…

Savoring the Holiday Season

I can sense the holiday mania revving up, judging by the volume of retailer emails in my inbox.  Express clothing store is open at midnight on Thanksgiving??  Not for me, even with a 50% discount.  The best way I know of to enjoy the season is to make a plan for what needs to be done, what I can spend, and what I am buying at which stores.  Fewer trips saves money and sanity.

Enter… Flylady’s ‘Cruising Through the Holidays Control Journal’ – available free at  Here’s how I use mine.

Print your control journal for free

Print your control journal for free

You can set aside 10-15 minutes a day to bring your holiday plans to life.  Don’t stress yourself out by trying to knock this out in one sitting!

Menu Planning

Menu Planning

Are you hosting a gathering?  This is my menu plan in the works.  I also have notes for what categories of food others can bring.   Will you be needing any items such as disposable plates, paper napkins, or drinks & alcohol that you don’t normally buy?  Today I made a note to ask my husband what drinks he plans to serve, and what supplies will he need to do that.

Make a grocery list

Make a grocery list

Start fleshing out the grocery list on the next page.  Is there anything you rarely use, such as maraschino cherries or worcestershire sauce that may be expired and needs replacing?  My worcestershire sauce was older than my daughter.  Oops!

Gift List

Gift List

A gift list is essential.  For me the gifts that send me out at the last minute are the non-family gifts:  mailman, teacher, garbage man.  Put on the tea kettle, put up your feet, and spend 5 minutes thinking of what gifts you need to have for family and non-family.  Will you be putting out a stocking or a shoe for St Nick on the night of December 5?  That is a week away . . .

The Cruising Through The Holidays packet also has useful pages for those who need to mail packages, or travel to a family gathering.  At the end of the year, save the pages you used for planning until next year.  You will have a record of what you spent on gifts, and what food items you served.  This will help you start to save money towards holiday expenses long before a Black Friday email has graced your inbox!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

Debt-Free, and the Ripple Effect


Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Most of the time I’m just carrying on in my frugal way, meal-planning and clipping some coupons when I can.  Every now and then something pops up that makes me aware of the far-reaching benefits of what we’re doing by living debt-free.

Recently we got a letter from our car/home insurance company (one of the large US insurance companies) saying that the Personal Umbrella insurance was being discontinued.  This is insurance that covers you beyond the limits of your usual insurance coverage and protects your assets should there be a large claim against you.  For example, the mailman trips over the Barbie doll pool party set up on your front steps and he suffers serious injury and can’t work anymore.  We found it odd that they weren’t going to carry this insurance any more.  After all, insurance companies love to sell insurance!!

Well, it turns out that they have a new policy, and the rates in the new product are partially tied to… credit scores!  When my husband talked with our agent he said we were fortunate that the cost of our new coverage was actually going to go down $50.  Of course, other factors also come into play with rates, such as prior insurance claims.   Since paying off all debt, our insurance rates have dropped across the board.

Small “wins” like this give me a little spring in my step, and encouragement to stay the course.

Reason 1,457 to be Debt Free

IMG_1900Everyone has an opinion on money matters.  Is there “good debt”? Should you avoid paying off your mortgage early because of tax benefits/deductions on the interest?  Today, I am as grateful as ever to be 100%  debt free because my husband may not get paid next week.

The US Government’s fiscal year ends Sept 30, and at the moment, no budget is passed for the next fiscal year.  Federal employees are in limbo while the House and Senate try to reach a resolution on the budget.  Guess what? They don’t play well together in the sandbox.  No resolution=no work and no pay starting October 1.

No tax deduction for mortgage interest can match the security of becoming your own bank. . . creating a situation where you can borrow from yourself should you face loss of income or another crisis.  Building savings is like making your own insurance policy that can be activated when life throws you a curve ball.  You can create this level of savings more rapidly the less debt you have.  The less debt you have, the lower your expenses are should you lose income.  We have money saved that will get us through this possible government shutdown, and we continue to save so that we could weather a more lengthy loss of income or other larger crisis.

A fellow blogger wrote this week on our tendency in America to curse the politicians minding the country’s budget in Washington without reflecting on our own money handling and personal debt.  Stop by and read his post  for more food for thought.

Getting Back to Work after Being an At-Home Mom


I left my career to be a stay at home mom when my daughter was three.  My husband and I worked hard to get into a financial position to make that a reality.  Between the cost of daycare and the hefty taxes on the second income, we were surprised at how quickly we adapted to the loss of income.  Being an at-home mom also allowed us to homeschool for the first year of kindergarten, which we all relished.

Once my daughter was in full-day school, it took me about 2 weeks until I felt the urge to work again.  The dilemma was that none of us wanted to get back to a lifestyle of paying for after school care,  emergency meals out due to lack of planning, and fights about who would stay home with a sick kid.

I knew there was no way I could fit into a schedule at a national company with shifts.  I was available from 8:45 until 2:00, not during Christmas break, or summer.  Sounds like just what you want to hear as an employer, right?  The upside is that I had a sales background and am a responsible person that likes to work.  My solution – a local fancy bakery!  In my cover sheet I laid out the whole situation, and offered that if they needed to slot in a college student to cover when I couldn’t work, I would be happy to give them my hours when they were home for winter break or summer.  It worked!

I really enjoyed the work, the customers and the 50% off discount!  The bakers were a crazy fun bunch.  The money I earned helped us in our last push to pay off the mortgage.  While we were getting our financial house in shape at home, the bakery was headed in the other direction.  Too much debt, creditors calling… you were afraid to answer the phone!  The bakery trimmed back to one location and that seemed to help.  I worked there for 1 year, but no regrets… and I still usually get a discount when I get to the other location!

What I learned from the experience is that even though you may not have the most flexible schedule to offer, an amazing work ethic and people skills go a long way for employers, especially in part-time jobs.  It’s better to be honest up front about your scheduling limitations.  I will bring you up to date on my current employment soon.

Have you returned to work after being a SAHM (or Dad!)?  What did you do to re-enter the workforce?

Getting Out of Debt Part 4 – Inspiration Strikes!

When we last left the ‘Getting Out of Debt’ story, we were doing the right things with our money (retirement, no credit card debt), but we still had no overall plan and were spending a lot of money as a result.  To go back and read parts 1-3 start here:

As the curtain opens on Part 4 of our story, a huge change has occurred – the arrival of our dear daughter.  For the first two years of her life I continued to work at my professional career, which entailed a long commute and a day care bill closing in on $10,000 a year.  Even more pressing was a growing desire to be home with her.  My boss was very family-focused and I continued to work by reducing my days in the office, and eventually,  job sharing with a friend and fellow mother at work.

Over Memorial Day weekend, 2007, I tuned into a TV show that radically changed our direction.  The show was The Dave Ramsey Road Show.  As Dave outlined his financial plan to ‘live like no one else’ we discovered we were already pretty far along.

  1. Emergency Fund of $1000 – Check
  2. Pay off all debts excluding your house – Check
  3. Emergency Fund of 3-6 months expenses – Check
  4. 15% income into retirement – Check
  5. Save for kid’s college – Check
  6. Pay off your mortgage – BINGO!
  7. Build wealth and give like no one else

Our house is small, but it is paid for!

We had never even considered paying the mortgage off early.  Dave Ramsey’s plan made so much sense to both of us.  We decided to attack the mortgage so that we could be free of payments and get to a point where I could stay home with our daughter.  Having a specific goal and a vision of the way we wanted to live gave us a laser-like focus on our finances.  We were about midway through a 15 year mortgage so our additional payments made a decent impact on the principal.  My daughter began to think every balding man was Dave Ramsey.  Instead of take-out from the Cheesecake Factory we were rocking the beans and rice at home!

As the mortgage ticked down, I was able to leave my professional career when my daughter was 3.  By the time she was in kindergarten, I took a part-time bakery job to earn extra money to throw back on the mortgage.  That same year we were able to make a final lump sum payment and finish the mortgage off!  When you need a large cashier’s check from the bank it makes you feel like you are participating in one of those scams to send money to a “prince” in Nigeria!  Mailing the check was exhilarating to say the least.  When my daughter went to her 6 year old check-up that week she announced to the pediatrician, “We paid our house off!”  The pediatrician said “What?  No one does that!!”

Since paying the mortgage off three years ago we have been focused on saving like no one else so that we do not have to take loans out in the future.  We have been able to enjoy more travel opportunities and I continue to work part-time in a job that lets me primarily be home for our daughter.  If you are interested in what Dave’s plan involves, I recommend getting the The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness book from your library.  If you want to give yourself extra inspiration, check out Dave’s video from the radio broadcasts.  Watch and read and do the steps until you find yourself beginning sentences with “Well, Dave says…”

Thanks for reading our story!

On Paying off the Mortgage…

“For the next 6 or 7 years, we did everything in our power to pay off our mortgage, and to the extent I can point to a specific time when my aversion to debt became a life-altering force, this is it.  I could not stand having that debt; it felt burdensome beyond all reason, like a whole-body flu I couldn’t shake.”- Ben Hewitt in ‘Saved: How I Quit Worrying about Money and became the Richest Guy in the World’

I had to share that quotation with you.  If you are on the journey to be debt-free, and are ‘gazelle intense’ you will understand this statement with every fiber of your being.  We feel the same way about ever taking on any type of debt again.

I requested this book from the library after Fiscally Fit Chica mentioned it a few weeks ago.  I am enjoying the book, but the chapters about the monetary system are a little too much to contemplate while sitting at swim team practice.  I am gaining the most from the author’s personal stories.

Have you read any great personal finance books this summer?

Getting Out of Debt Part 3 – ‘The Era of Good Feelings’

When we last left the ‘Getting out of Debt Story’ we were free of credit card debt – yea!  To go back and read the first two installments go here.

The next chapter in our story is called ‘The Era of Good Feelings.’  My 8 year old history-loving child tells me that the Era of Good Feelings refers to the time of  James Monroe’s presidency.  Monroe was cute, smart, popular, and the country was in the mood to party.  We were embarking on our own Era of Good Feelings after paying off our credit card debt.  Would you believe Mr and Mrs Saver test drove an Infiniti with intent to purchase?  Almost built a bigger house even though we were never home?  Got massages every month?  Shopped every weekend?  All true!

We were both working full-time and technically we could “afford” all of these crazy antics.  We weren’t adding new debt (other than our reasonable mortgage), but we clearly had no plan for our money.  Sure, we were funding our retirement accounts and bought some bonds here and there, but mainly we were spending.

We somehow managed to escape this period without doing too much damage.  We were still using Quicken and had a budget, but we usually spent all of our weekly money and sometimes even needed to take money from savings to cover the spending.

In retrospect, it is hard to believe we were such carefree spenders and it’s a bit embarrassing to think of how much money we must have spent at Starbucks.  Yet I do know the Era of Good Feelings is a key part of our financial story.  When I look back at it, this period of time shows me that we appeared to be doing all the right things with our money (retirement savings, no credit card debt) and yet we could have been doing so much more had we set specific goals or talked about what we wanted to accomplish with money.

When we come to the next chapter in our story, we meet the man with a plan. . .