Monday, December 29, 2014

The year in review

2014 was a good year. Not an earth-shattering one, but it was good.

First and best is that DS was not hospitalized. Not once. Not a single visit to the ER. No serious illnesses. Just run-of-the-mill-treat-it-at-home stuff. I'll take it. He also turned 21, surpassing his life expectancy by a full three years. We are so very blessed.

On the job front, things went well. DH got a raise and his current income is solid - more than we ever expected he would earn. I was offered some freelancing opportunities and now receive a small, but regular, monthly check. Some months, it is that little bit that provides the cushion we need to ease the financial stress.

Speaking of financial stress, I have come to a point where it doesn't rule my days. The debt is still there and I still want it gone. But I don't lose sleep any more because we've tamed it enough so that we are able to pay the minimums without issue and usually have a bit left over to throw a decent snowball every month.

On the other hand, I think we have also fallen into that nasty trap of having enough to cover the bills with some left over. While we are in no way extravagant about anything, I have noticed that we are eating out more and not thinking about it. We will aim to get back on track this year.

The downside of seeing such a good income is that I am reminded every paycheck how much money we would have in the bank if it weren't all going to pay off debt.

The upside is that I am more determined than ever to eradicate the monster before DH retires. He has 10 more years on the job before he can start drawing a pension. My goal is to be done with everything - mortgage included - by then. We have a written plan and are determined to make it happen. We've come this far - we can't stop now.

So, here it is. Drum roll please. In 2014, we paid off $27,619.08!! That means that in four years, we have dumped $75,514.83 of debt. At that rate, we really are on track to meet our 10-year goal.

Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for your support and cyber friendship. Let's make 2015 the best ever!

Sarah

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The gift of giving

More than 20 years ago, at the office where I once worked, a co-worker and I started a tradition. As we worked 2nd shift, most everyone went out to dinner every night. So on one night in December, we asked everyone to bring a potluck dish and donate what they would have spent on dinner out. With the money raised, we bought gifts for a needy family that we found through the Department of Social Services. By the second year, we raised enough to sponsor two families. This year, we had more than $1,000 to spend.

I left that job nearly 15 years ago, but the tradition continues. My co-worker (and friend) is still there and is still coordinating. We contact the families and ask about specific needs before shopping. We deliver the gifts without children seeing so that the parent can give them the gifts as if they are from them.

The mother of one family said her 9-year-old daughter needed bras and underwear. Not having the slightest idea how to buy such things for a 9-year-old, we picked up mom and daughter and drove them to the mall so the girl could get fitted and find something she liked. As we pulled in to the parking lot, the child said "Is this a mall?" Um, yes, sweetie. "I've never been to a mall." She lived three miles away. We gave them $100 and told them to get what they needed. It took some prodding, but they finally went on their way. When we met up with them later, the mom looked at us with tears in her eyes and said "Being able to shop with my daughter is the only Christmas present I need."

Family #2 is a grandmother raising 7 grandchildren. When speaking with her, she mentioned that two children go to a charter school that requires a uniform. They have one each. A woman who was with us commented that she must do a lot of laundry. There was a pause. "We do a lot of hand laundry." She doesn't have a washing machine.

Today, we wrapped gifts for 13 children and 2 women. Piles and piles of gifts for children who know little of the world that exists beyond the poverty in which they live.

My Christmas is complete.

Sarah

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tis the season

Christmas shopping - done. Paid for in cash.

Gifts wrapped and under the tree.

Let the baking and Hallmark movie watching begin!

Sarah

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thankful for changes, big and small

I hope all my American friends had as happy a Thanksgiving as I did! We celebrated with family from near and far and, almost best of all, I didn't host for the first time in 20 years! I don't think I realized how much work it is to be the host even when the guests bring dishes to share. It was the most stress-free holiday I've had in many years and I think it will be quite awhile before I agree to go back to being in charge ...

This week, two things happened. First, DH received his vacation/personal day payout. His company does not allow employees to carry over days to the next calendar year so this time every year employees are issued checks for the unused days. DH has been with the company for more than 20 years, so he has quite a bit of time and because our travels are minimal while we are getting out of debt, he had quite a few left. The other event was a big check I received for some freelance work I have done recently. We don't put my paychecks into the regular budget because they are so very irregular. We let them add up in a separate account and every so often reassess what that money will be used for (that's how we paid for the $$$ transmission replacement on DH's car).

At any rate, between the two amounts, we were looking at more than $5,000 and we decided to take the plunge and apply every penny of it to our debt. This is where it gets good. We were able to pay off THREE debts!!! Three!! I am so excited to see the snowball finally rolling!

I am so very thankful.

Sarah

Monday, November 17, 2014

WE DID IT!!!!!!

It took 3 years and 10 months, but our debt is now below $100k!!!

Now, if you're new here you might think, big deal - you still have a boatload of debt. But let me tell you, this is a huge milestone. In January 2011, I wasn't even sleeping at night worrying about how I was going to pay the minimums on the gazillion bills. I was talking to collectors and talking my way into BLPs to make things more manageable. In the early days, some bills were being paid by other bills. There was precious little progress, but we stayed the course. We didn't worry about whether to spend anything on extras - because there was nothing there to spend.

And now here we are, having paid off $68k and inching ever closer to the halfway mark. We even have some extra each month to snowball.

We are proof positive that counting pennies DOES work. And the debt monster CAN be beaten back. I can't wait to see how quickly we can get rid of the rest of it!

Sarah

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Freebies and updated numbers

I love Kohl's. In recent weeks, they have sent me three cards in the mail worth $10. Not one of those "spend $50 and get $10 off." No, these are flat out $10. Each time, I've headed over to the store and spent some time searching for something that wouldn't cost me a dime. So far, I've gotten a picture frame and a Superman T-shirt, both of which will be Christmas gifts, and two much-needed hand towels for the bathroom. And I didn't pay a penny out of pocket. That's what I call a deal!

Yes, Kim, I've updated my numbers :) .... and I am inching ever so close to that monumental mark when I will be out of the six figures. You haven't updated yours in awhile. Are you trying to be sneaky???

Sarah

Monday, October 27, 2014

I am so mad

One of DS's night aides is a fine young man who drives 45 minutes to get to our house for a paltry salary. Last night, he texted DS that something had happened and he would be late. This morning, he told me the story.

He has to drive through a very small town to get here. Since June, he has been stopped by the police FIVE times at the same spot. Not once has he been ticketed. Because not once was he doing anything wrong. Last night, he was pulled over along with the speeding car behind him. The officer called for backup and approached our aide's car - with one hand on his unclipped revolver. After some time, an apology was issued and he was sent on his way. There are eight officers in this town. Every one of them is white. This young man is not.

I know racial profiling exists, but to see such an obvious instance of it against someone I care about had me shaking in anger. And our young friend was scared enough this time that he has decided to take a longer, out-of-the-way route from now on. All because someone apparently didn't think he should be out at night. America still has a long way to go.

Sarah