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!


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.


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!