Yay! It’s Gettin’ Guesty time!
This week we have the wonderful Jenny from Ex-Consumer
Jenny writes about getting out of debt, becoming more frugal, living lighter, exploring the world of minimalism and all the life that falls in between on her blog, Ex-Consumer.
Decide to Be Done With Debt
I am so excited to be contributing a guest post for And Then We Saved! Anna has been a great inspiration to me as she shares her story of her debt ditching successes. Reading about how she achieves her goals has motivated me during my own quest to debt freedom.
Making the Decision
Here’s the thing about getting rid of debt. About 85% of it is just making up your mind to become debt free. Once you’ve decided you don’t want the debt anymore, it’s easy to make plans to ditch it for good.
Up until early last year, I had never even considered a life without debt. Sure, I’d always been diligent about saving for retirement, but financing cars and using credit cards were things I did regularly…and planned to do indefinitely.
Through a series of new ideas I was exposed to through books like Your Money or Your Life and Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Make Over, and blogs like And Then We Saved and Get Rich Slowly, I began to question all of my previous assumptions about debt.
As it sunk in that I didn’t have to finance my life, I started to get excited. And motivated. And hyper-focused on getting out of debt as soon as possible.
Running The Numbers
Early last year, I started to really consider how much we were paying in interest on the credit card balance we were carrying. I realized that for a $1,500 balance (typical for us) on a card with almost 10% interest, we were paying about $150 per month in interest!
When I started to look at carrying a credit card balance as blowing an extra $150 each month just for the privilege of delaying payment, it all started to seem pretty silly. So last April we paid off our credit card balance and haven’t carried a balance since.
Starting 2011 With a (Debt-Smashing) Purpose
At the start of 2011 I began making additional cuts to our budget. We canceled cable, nixed our landline, stopped eating out, and tightened up our energy consumption to lower our utility bills. Before I knew it, were we paying $100s less in expenses each month.
All of this money we’re saving each month goes towards paying off our consumer debt.
Where I Am Today
I won’t bore you with all of the financial details, but my husband and I started this year with over $25,000 in consumer debt, and as of the first of April we’re down to owing about $11,600.
That means we’ve paid off over $14,000 in consumer debt so far this year! Here are some of the things we’re doing to free up — or create — the money needed in order to pay those debts down:
- Pay off our credit card and then stop using it.
- Cancel cable.
- Disconnect our landline and begin using a self-hosting phone service called Ooma, which costs $3.50 each month (after the initial $200 investment in hardware).
- Install a water saver shower head.
- Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
- Caulk the windows and exterior outlets in our home.
- Turn the thermostat down two degrees in the winter and up two degrees in the summer.
- Sell things we no longer want or need on Craigslist and eBay.
- Sell the gold jewelry I no longer wear.
- Sell our old books, DVDs and CDs to Half Price Books.
- Stop eating out.
- Stop buying things we don’t need.
All of these things individually would have made a small difference. But when they’re combined, the difference they make is astonishing. I’m so encouraged and motivated by the awesome progress we’ve made so far this year that I’m consistently looking for more ways to save — or create — more money to get these debts paid off for good.
Once the consumer debt is gone later this year, I’m planning to beef up our emergency fund (currently only $5,000), and start a car fund so we never have to finance a car again. Then we’ll be aggressively paying down our $180,000 mortgage, with plans to have it completely paid off in the next seven to eight years.
Again, deciding to pay off your debts is easy once you make up your mind to become debt free. For years I was content to carry debt indefinitely, until one day I wasn’t. Once I made the decision to rid myself of all of the debts for good, the process built momentum.
Now I know it’s only a matter of months before my consumer debts are completely gone, and that is a great feeling!
Jenny ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then We Saved!
P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!
Hi Anna! Thanks again for the opportunity to 'get guesty' on And Then She Saved! :)
Thanks for the great post! I have started selling things we don't need or use anymore on Ebay with great success. But I was wondering about your comment about selling your jewelry. Where do you go to do this and know that they are going to give you something towards the actual value of the piece? I don't want to just let my valuable things go for almost nothing, which seems to be what most people are paying these days.
I have been toying with the idea of getting rid of cable, but with three teenage boys in the house, I suspect I would meet with some very strong objections, especially with summer coming. And football season for the hubby. But we are committed to paying off the debt, so maybe? I recently realized that we are paying $200 a month in interest charges on our large credit card and we are making arrangements to use everything we've got to get it paid off within the next six weeks. $2400 a year is more than one tuition at the community college for my oldest son and when I thought about it that way, it just seems so stupid!
Thanks again. And let me know about the jewelry thing!
Hi Chelle! I've sold jewelry two different ways. The first time I sold some jewelry early last year, I mailed it to US Gold Buyers. I had a good experience and made a little money. Most recently, I drove my jewelry to the little jeweler right up the street and walked out with almost $800.00.
I've let go of trying to get what I think an item is worth. Just because I was willing to pay a certain price for something, doesn't mean someone else will pay even close to that price for a previously owned item — whether it's jewelry or a chair.
I try to think of it like this, I wasn't wearing the jewelry and I didn't want to store the unwanted jewelry. So, any amount of money I received would help me achieve what I do care about right now — which is paying down my debts.
We have two sons (seven and 20-months), so canceling cable was a non-event at our house. But, I can see how teenage boys might not be aas forgiving. ;)
And yes, just getting rid of all the interest we were paying on our credit card made a huge difference! Good luck getting yours paid down! It's so motivating once you see that balance dwindling.
I walked into a little private jeweler with a three stone diamond and gold ring that I don't wear and he told me it's worth $3,000, but I probably would be lucky to get $500 for it right now with the economy.
I have no problem letting go of anything I am not using or wearing. That particular ring is pretty and I like it, but I'd rather have no debt. I just need to figure out where I can sell it and who will give me the most money for it. It would make a great engagement ring for someone.
We are just to the point where our savings equals what we owe on the credit card, or will in another two weeks. We are planning on taking everything out of savings and paying off the credit card. Then we will be free of a huge monthly payment and free to start socking money away without paying interest. I hate to empty the savings account, but I'd rather not pay the $200 in interest every month!
I'm trying to figure out what else I can sell and make some money off of. I've committed to cleaning out the crap in our house that isn't being used, so this will be the summer of paying down debt and decrapifying! Some stuff is going to the dump, some to charity, and some being sold.
Thanks for the tip. I was wondering about US Gold Buyers (saw their ads on tv), but I'm afraid that if I send it in, they will keep it and send me nothing like what I would want for it, which would be the $500 the jeweler told me I should get for it. Can you get the jewelry back if you don't like their offer?
Oh, and I may have to wait until summer is over to do anything about the cable. I think the screaming might be too loud if I did it now with a 12 year old, a 14 year old, and a 19 year old, all of whom have televisions in their rooms with cable. I need to call the cable company and see how much we would save. But I am also guilty of watching a LOT of cable – mostly movies, which I could get through Netflix if I signed back up with them.
Great post! Thank you Jenny! The idea about selling unwanted jewelry is particularly interesting to me. I will link up with your blog as well. I have one too about trading financial markets ) and I am writing right now about getting funds together to start a Trading fund. Where I live, there is a kiosk of gold buyers (inc broken jewelry etc) — with the high price of precious metals like gold, this trend will probably continue so other readers who want to sell their jewelry might find it comforting to walk up to a local shop / pawnshop instead of mailing – after all, the jewelry has value.
Have you looked into car sharing? It's cheaper than owning. The whole collaborative consumption movement is something anyone looking to save should be interested in. It applies to most parts of our lives, and it's one of those things that once you start doing it, your whole mindset changes, and you want to do it with everything! (well maybe not EVERYTHING) :)
Hi Charmel! I agree, I chose to take my jewelry to a local jeweler the second time around because it was just less of a hassle. I drove up the street, walked in with my jewelry and then walked out about 15 minutes later with a check for $795. It was quick and easy!
When I mailed my jewelry to US Gold Buyers, there were a lot more steps involved. It's still a good solution for some, but I just found it easier and quicker to make a quick trip to a local shop. :)
I have not looked into car sharing, but it sounds interesting! We live in an area where a car is necessary (no close public transit), so we need some form of transportation to get to and from work and such.
I'll curious now though, and I plan to look into whether there an interest in car sharing in my area.
Thanks for the great tip!
Chelle – Yes, US Gold Buyers will send the jewelry back to you if you a.) don't like their offer, or b.) decide not to accept their offer. They were really profesional and pleasant to deal with in my experience.
We have Netflix and have found that we don't miss cable at all. In addition to movies, Netflix has some great Showtime series (Weeds, Dexter, etc.) that have kept us entertained when we feel like getting into a great series. Also, Hulu always has any network shows we've wanted to watch for free! We subscribed to HuluPlus for a few months, but found that the free service from Hulu worked great for how we used it.
And surprisingly, I actually haven't watched any T.V. in the past three and a half weeks. It's really bizarre. I've been blogging and networking a lot, so that's been filling the T.V. *void* for me in the evenings! ;-)
Maybe you could talk the boys into some summer jobs to help pay for the cable.
Great post Jenny, and congratulations on how much debt you've smashed this year! Great going :)
Thanks Laura! :)
Hi interesting post, thanks for the food for thought. We decided once & for all to takle our debt last year (we're in the uk). We then sacrificed a lot to achieve it – stopped going out more than once a month, got rid of satelite & got a freeview dish – do you have something similar in USA? – less channels but still loads of carp to watch! reduced utilities (only 1 bath a week, the rest of the time showers) a big one was controlling groceries, drawing up meal plans based on what we had in the cupboards/fridge, going to the supermarket with a list & sticking to it, checking the fridge & cupboards regularly to ensure no foods are going off. We cleared our debt in Oct last year & it has been great, we're now saving to relocate to Brasil :-) Best thing I ever did, not longer have to worry about an emergency as we would be able to cope with it.
Hi Donna! I'm not sure about the freeview dish in the U.S., but we did buy an antenna so we can receive all of the local channels for free.
I love hearing from people that have accomplished my goal of becoming debt free! Thank you for your comment and congratulations on achieving your goal!
I love reading about these types of goals being reached! That's how I got turned on to ATSS (and Anna) in the first place. Jenny, great post as always! You are so disciplined, I look up to you for that kind of thing ;)
Hi Marianne! Thank you for the vote of confidence, although I was just realizing that Kirk was the only one generating additional income this month. I didn't sell a single thing on eBay or Craig's List. We're planning a huge yard sale and I feel like I keep using that as an excuse to not try and sell anything else.
But, we're still moving forward and making progress. :)
Just FYI, if your interest rate on your credit card is 10%, then that's an APR…meaning the $150 you quoted would be the yearly amount paid in interest on that balance, not monthly. To figure out the monthly interest, you would divide that number by 12.
Hi Shawna – you're absolutely right! Thank you for catching the error in my calculation.