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 – 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 $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?

Our Debt Snowball – March

3 months = $9,326.47 in debt paid off

I’m weeks late, but I owe you all a monthly update on our Debt Snowball.  Just to recap, in January we began our trek to being debt free by following Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

To paraphrase, you make a list of all of your debts from smallest to largest.  You pay minimum payments on all of your debts, except for the smallest.  Every extra dollar you can spare gets put towards your smallest debt, until you have successfully paid it off.  Once the smallest debt is eliminated, you move on to the next smallest.  You are able to roll in the monthly payment you were paying on debt one, in addition to all the extra dollars you can spare, and put it towards the second debt.  This is how the snowball gets rolling.  The more debts you pay off, the more you have to put towards the next and so on and so forth.

In addition to paying off our debts we continue to put small increments into our savings account, since we are still in the process of house hunting and want to continue to see our down payment grow.

In January we started with one of the student loans still out from my husband’s undergraduate degree, with a balance of $2,993 and a monthly payment of $127.  We were able to scrimp and save and really scrub our budget and were able to put $1,520 towards that loan.  I couldn’t believe we were able to come up with that much extra!  It cut the loan in half!

Come February we paid off the balance of $1485, and celebrate having paid off our first debt!  Now we took that monthly payment of $127 and were able to roll it into our next debt.  Next up with a credit card with a balance of $1895 and a monthly payment of $60.  In February we were able to contribute $3,073 to our debt snowball.  Yes, this is a huge amount.  No, we did not just have that much extra laying around.  There were a couple of contributing factors.  My husband received a stipend for his part time coaching gig, and I received an unexpected bonus from work.  Since these are not income amounts that we budget, we just took them an applied them directly to our debt.  At this point, two months in, we had paid off $4,593 in debt!  It felt amazing!

Now, welcome to March!  Our second, the credit card that started with a balance of $1895 was down to $315.  It was a small enough amount that we were excited to pay that off quickly.  By March 3rd we were able to celebrate having paid off our SECOND debt!  So now we were able to take the monthly payment of $127 from debt one, and $60 from debt two, an automatically be able to add $187 monthly to our next debt without changing anything.  Next up was another credit card with a balance of $1820 and a monthly payment of $45.

This month we were able to scrounge up $1615 of our own money, and then made the decision to take $3118 out of our savings to really eliminate a fair amount of our debt.  Currently our house hunt is on a pause, so we were comfortable with using this amount, which still left us with our down payment goal sitting in savings.  That meant that in March we paid off a total of $4,733.47.  We celebrated having paid off our THIRD debt!

We are have now started chipping away at the loan we have our on my husbands car.  We started with a balance of $6,011 and a monthly payment of $234.  Each month, without changing anything, we are able to apply $127 from loan 1, $60 from loan 2, and $45 from loan 3, for a total of $232.  That almost doubles what his monthly car payments were!

So far in 2016, just 3 months in, we have paid off a total of 3 debts and have started on our 4th.  We have put $9,326.47 towards our outstanding debt.  UNBELIEVABLE.

We definitely know that not everyone will have the ability to take savings and apply chunks of money to outstanding debt.  Dave Ramsey actually suggests that you completely wipe your savings, except for a $1,000 emergency fund, and put it all into debt.  We just aren’t ready to take that leap just yet, but we are enjoying seeing how fast our snowball is growing.  Maybe work bonuses or stipends are not a part of your life, but that is ok.  Even without all of those extra large amounts, I have been amazed at what we can contribute to paying down debt just by really looking at our spending habits and scrubbing our monthly budget.

The month of April will be more of a “normal”  month for us.  There won’t be any extra income amounts coming in, and we won’t be drawing down from savings.  I’m interested to see what a regular month looks like for us, and I’m excited to see our snowball continue to grow and make momentum.

Thanks for joining us on our journey!