Six years ago, I shared here about my journey out of $35,000 in credit card debt. That journey did, and still does, feel momentous, but the thing about a journey is that there’s always another place to go.
In 2011, I was okay with student loan debt and a hefty mortgage, but now, after having two more kids, I am no longer content with the status quo of perpetual payments. I am ready to tackle these two massive debts. You with me?
With the birth of each additional child (our kids are eight, four, and 18 months old), our finances have become tighter and tighter. Sure, I get a small raise each year, but health care costs also rise just as much, if not more. There are shoes to buy (kids’ feet grow fast), preschool and summer camps to pay for, two more mouths to feed, and unexpected expenses such as plumbers.
Honestly, I’ve never been great at budgeting, thinking that as long as there is enough money to pay the bills, we must be doing okay. I sensed trouble when, last fall, I couldn’t completely pay off some expenses I’d put on a credit card. Bank of America charged us interest for the first time since 2009. What the heck was going on? I tried my old spreadsheet method of tracking expenses, but I couldn’t get a good sense of cash flow. Meanwhile, I did a low-interest balance transfer to a Discover card. That at least gave us breathing room on that blasted (but relatively small, compared to before) credit card balance until we stabilized. (Yes, I know balance transfers are a shell game, but I had to do something.)
Then, in May, I tried another budgeting method, the kind where you estimate your income for the upcoming month and build your spending based on that amount, starting with essentials such as housing, food, and utilities. May was a truly horrid month because, for the first time, I clearly could see how much money we were bleeding out. At the beginning of June, I freaked out, wailing to my husband that I didn’t see a way out, that I was tired of how hard we worked, and yet still were in a mess like this. Boo hoo hoo.
Well, and then I asked the bank, and found out just how close we were to being able to drop PMI (private mortgage insurance). I sent the check for the final small amount. An “extra” $75 per month. I analyzed our usage on some automatic expenses and found a few more dollars’ worth of wiggle room. As for groceries, I’ve become even more organized with my shopping list and menu planning. I started shopping at not just two, but three stores, to get the best deals. Verizon also just lowered our phone bill by $20.
June was better than May, July was better still. Now, in August, I can see where our money is going. We are sticking to a budget, talking about our spending a lot—and it’s working! We are so close to paying off that stupid balance transfer. And then? We’ll actually pay more than the paltry minimum amount on our student loans for the first time pretty much ever.
I know this is going to take a long time. That’s why we’ll make sure to have nice, comfortable shoes along the way.