Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

Simply Living has been on extended hiatus once again!  Here is a wrap up of 2016!

We began 2016 embarking on a Debt Snowball as we worked to pay down our existing debt while searching for the perfect home.  Dave Ramsey provided most of our foundation.  We listed our debts from smallest to biggest and delighted in watching the snowball grow.

We had 8 steady months of paying down our debt.  We were able to eliminate 2 student loans, 2 credit cards and a car loan.  A total of $18,412!  That sure felt like an accomplishment.

As we paid down our existing debt, what we were able to afford for a house continued to grow.  In September we were excited to finally have an offer accepted, and we closed on our first home in November!  This did mean that we had to pause our debt snowball, but I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish in our short 8 months.

During 2016 my husband and I both started new jobs and we completed our first Whole30.  Two really big personal achievements!  We celebrated with a week long cruise around the Caribbean in August.

We ended 2016 in our new home surrounded by stripped wallpaper, new floors and too many paint cans to count.

This year we are extremely excited that our family will be expanding and we will be able to welcome our first child, a son!  We have numerous house projects under way, some big, some small and some very unexpected.  All significantly more expensive than we had planned.  Things are moving and life is happening quickly!

We are back to scrubbing our budget, particularly with a new house, new baby on the way, and a maternity leave around the corner, we are having to be creative in finding ways to make our finances balance.  While we might not be able to put everything into a debt snowball right now, we have learned many ways to be frugal and stretch our paychecks while preventing taking on additional debt.  I’m confident that these skills will help us through the tightest times.

Stick around to see what 2017 has in store for us!

Our Debt Snowball – August

8 months = $18,412.37 in debt paid off

In January of this year we started our Debt Snowball, partially following Dave Ramsey’s method.  To see the beginning of our journey click here.  This was the year that we hoped to find our home, so by paying down our existing debt we knew we would be able to afford more house.

We are still on Step 2, which can last for months, even years.  During this step,  you make a list of all of your debts from smallest to largest.  You don’t pay attention to interest rates or anything other than total pay off amount.  Then, you tackle the smallest debt first.  You make the minimum payment on everything except for that smallest debt.  On the smallest debt you scrounge around and scrub your budget, every extra dollar gets put onto that debt, until it is paid off in full.  Once you have tackled one, then you move on to the second smallest debt.

In these past 8 months we have been able to pay off 2 student loans, 2 credit cards and a car loan.  Let’s just reflect on that for a minute…5 monthly payments eliminated!  Some months we are able to contribute more, other months are tight and we contribute very little.  But every small bit adds up, so it still feels good.

This month we contributed $1,855 to the debt snowball and then added an additional $2,000 from savings.  Normally we don’t tap into our savings since that is our house down payment, but this month was a little different.

Since it has been 8 months, and we are starting to get serious about starting our house search again, it was time to re-evaluate our current monthly payments.  After checking in with our balances, I realized that what we were currently putting the “snowball” towards was not the smallest balance.  We had a student loan, which had a monthly payment of $262, with only a $2,753 balance left.  By taking the money out of savings, we were able to eliminate that loan completely, meaning that monthly we are now adding $262 into our snowball.

Now that we have re-evaluated what the balances of our remaining debts are, we have a new game plan of what to attack first.  But again, let’s reflect.  We have eliminated 5 debts!  We have paid off $18,412 in debt!  It’s amazing and rewarding to see it working.  Each month we see that amount grow and grow and it becomes that much more motivating.

September will be a tricky one for us.  My husband returns to work after labor day, with a 3 week unpaid hiatus.   He is also returning to a job that does not pay as much as his previous monthly income.  But we are rolling with it, and reminding ourselves that even if we only contribute a little bit each month, it is getting us that much closer to financial freedom.  At least until we sign that mortgage!

Some tips we like to remember when times are tight:

  1. Eat at home instead of in restaurants
  2. Make meal plans so we are spending less and using all of the food we purchase
  3. Pack our lunches for work
  4. After receiving a paycheck pay all the bills upfront that are due before the next pay period to avoid annoying late fees or over draft fees
  5. Only use our bank ATM’s to avoid transaction fees
  6. Eliminate credit card charges, use only cash on hand.  If we don’t have it, then we can’t afford it!
  7. Maintain our $1,000 emergency fund for true emergencies
  8. Make a budget and stick to it!

8 months = $18,412.37 in debt paid off

Our Debt Snowball – July

7 months = $14,557.22 in debt paid off

We began this debt snowball in January, so it has just been 7 months.  Basically it has evened out to us paying off just about $2,000 a month. Some months we have had extra to contribute, other months we are barely able to set aside anything extra.  But we have kept up a fairly steady pace, and it is so nice to see that snowball just grow and grow.

July was not the most fruitful month for our debt snowball, but we still made a little dent.  We are continuing to pay down the unexpected $1200 dentist bill and dog training from last month, so that has set us back a bit.  But, ever little bit of extra cash we have goes towards the debt.

If you have seen my most recent posts you will see that we are also completing the Whole30 program.  You can read about week 1, week 2, and week 3.  With this program came a couple of different financial situations. The first week we spent much more than usual at the grocery store since we needed to stock up on Whole30 approved basics.  Each week our grocery bill has continued to be higher than usual since we are having to buy all kinds of organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed and cage free meats, and many additional organic or natural products.  However, we have basically completely cut down on going out to eat, and I don’t ever stop for coffee (oh how I miss my cream and sugar!).  Even though a cup of coffee is only a few bucks, it starts to add up pretty quickly!  So, we have felt like even though our grocery bill has increased, we are spending less on the take out, restaurants, and small wasted money here an there.  I suppose it has pretty much evened out.

Overall, this month we were able to contribute $877.06 to our debt snowball.  This month I also took a little extra money and put it into our house savings account.  Even though that has stayed pretty steady I don’t want to entirely forget about it.  Paying down our existing debt is our priority, but seeing our savings increase, even by a little, is a good morale boost!

To date, we have paid off just over $14,500 in debt!  I don’t know why but I think seeing it rise to $15,000 will feel like a big accomplishment…I’m determined to make that happen next month!

Our Debt Snowball – April, May and June

6 months = $13,680.16 in debt paid off

My poor little neglected blog space!  Life has taken over and unfortunately this has taken the back burner once again!  Many people find that summer time is when their schedules slow down, vacations happen, and there are more hours of the day to relax.  The COMPLETE opposite has happened to me this year.

My day to day job is working in Early Education, and during the last few months I have been frantically opening a new child care center.  It has been a fantastic opportunity to see it rise from the ground up.  I’m serving a client, so I have had to balance our company requirements, client requirements, construction snafus, building, fire and state inspections… on top of staff, families, parents and children who are all very anxious to get into their new space!  Everything, somehow, has come together and we are prepared to open our doors on Tuesday after the holiday weekend.  I may actually be able to breathe soon!

With all of that going on, my husband and I are also the co-director’s of Christian Education at our church.  The last few months have been the wind down of the year, which finishes off with a youth run sunday service.  So to say I’ve been busy…is just a gross understatement!

And yet, through it all, we have continued to plug away at our debt snowball.  We have made great progress…so here is a quick outline!

We began this process on January 1st, 2016.  To date, just 6 months later, we have paid off a total of $13,680.16 in debt!  Was it easy?  NO!  Is it rewarding?  Absolutely!

We have paid off in full 4 different debts.  A student loan ($127 monthly), 2 credit cards ($105 monthly), and my husbands car ($234 monthly)!  With these payments alone we are saving (rather putting towards other debts) a total of $466 monthly.

Each month we chip away, and as we pay off debts we roll that monthly payment into the next balance.  It has been great to see the snowball growing and growing.

Each month is different, sometimes we have plenty of extra $ to contribute, other months we see unexpected expenses that weren’t budgeted for that take priority.  For example: a very necessary but unexpected $1200 dental charge, expensive but important dog training program, and a summer vacation right around the corner.  Part of the importance of paying down our existing debt, while maintaining an emergency fund, is that we are able to accept these unexpected expenses without hurting too badly in the end.

I’ll try to keep you better updated with July!

Our $5 vacation fund

This year as we have set out to save save save, we still wanted to be able to create a rainy day fund without feeling guilty.  We knew our vacation week would be coming up in April, since we weren’t going anywhere we wanted to be able to make it a fun stay-cation.  What better way to enjoy a week than by being able to splurge on fun things without having to worry about the extra money we were spending?

Earlier this year we decided to start a vacation fund….with $5.  How does that work?  Easy!  Here’s how…

Neither my husband or I tend to carry very much cash on us, and when we do it almost already feels like it’s spent.  The balance is already reflected in our bank account, so any cash happening to be hanging out in our wallets feels like bonus money.  We agreed that anytime one of us had a 5 dollar bill, we would put it into the change jar/vacation fund.

Honestly, we didn’t really think it would amount to much, and we were really good about keeping each other honest.  Even if it meant that we had a $20 bill, purchased something small, and received $15 back in change…all in $5’s…straight into the jar it went!  It was hard to part with at times, but it started to feel like a game.

I received a $20 bill in a christmas card, into the jar it went.  Couple extra $1’s hanging out, toss ’em in the jar.  The hardest part was not constantly counting how much money we were gathering!  It was fun to see the jar start to fill up.

Well, last week was finally vacation week, time to break into the vacation fund!

5 Dollar Saving plan!
Our pile of $5’s!

Over the last few months we had managed to collect over $230 in 5’s!  (And a $20 and a few $1’s).  Woohoo!

Some of our vacation splurges included taking our nephew to a museum and out to lunch, nice meals out for us, a night away, a Brewery visit and a stop at our favorite bakery.

Harpoon Brewery
Fleet of beers and the best pretzels ever!
Cupcake Mojo

I definitely think it was worth it, and we are debating whether or not to start it right back up again.  How do you create a rainy day fund?