Recently we’ve been working on getting our backyard landscaped. It literally consists of a mixture of construction debris and weeds. Along this adventure we’ve been faced with the fact that we will not be able to do all the pretty things we’ve envisioned in a short period of time. We have this beautiful and tranquil, yet simple and practical backyard retreat in mind with grass, stone, a walkway, plants and flowers. However, we’ve only been able to do small things here and there.
We are tired and exhausted of worrying about money, bills or possibly losing my husband’s disability. Being a Veteran’s Caregiver I know how unstable that can be with random Bureaucrats seemingly dictating who gets disability.Who gets to keep theirs and how much. And it’s not like they pick the most convenient times to make those decisions. Anyway, back to the topic at hand: DEBT.
We have decided to start our journey to become DEBT-FREE!
Becoming Debt-Free Phase 1
Step 1: Set a Goal!
Our overall goal is to become debt-free, including the mortgage within the next 25 years. This is our overall goal! At this point in time we are working on making our first dent into the massive pile of debt we have. Much of it stems from the years right after my husband was medically discharged from the Army. Another major portion was acquired after I suffered a loss last year. At that time it made me feel better; but now I just feel extremely guilty about it.
Debt has caught up with us and we need to do something about it NOW! We set an overall goal we want to work towards and multiple small goals.
Step 2: Know your Debt!
I am usually quite aware of the bills and I have considered myself a perfectionist money hoarder. But last year my world just collapsed and I lost all track of self-awareness. I lost track of our finances and I lost track of our debt management. It wasn’t until I was able to maneuver out the fog when I was able to clearly see the ‘damage.’ My husband and I sat down and compiled a list of all our bills! We chose to list them in two ways: 1) Debt by Balance and 2) Debt by Interest rate. The purpose of this was to see the different interest rates we are paying on our debt. And then see the different balances to determine how we will pay this debt off.
Step 3: Know your expenses
Now that we have an idea what our total debt is, we went on to look at our monthly expenses. On top of the list we added all the necessities, such as Mortgage, Utilities, Food and Transportation. Then we added other things like Cable, Entertainment and Coffee Shop Trips/Energy Drinks -which should fall under necessities in our house. This allows us to see where our money is going every month.
Step 4: Agree on a Emergency Savings
When it comes to setting up Emergency Savings, I’ve been bombarded with different opinions. Some might say that one should have at least $1,000 in Emergency Savings. Others might suggest more like $5,000. Then, others might say that nothing below 3 months worth of monthly expenses is acceptable in Emergency Savings. So, given the fact that we live off my husband’s disability at this point and that I am still going to school, we are a bit limited on how much we can save on a month to month basis. However, we also KNOW it’s important to have some sort of Emergency Savings. Therefore, we’ve agreed to tackle this one in steps as well. Having ANY amount in savings is better than having NONE! We know we want to get to a point where we have at least 3 months worth of expenses plus $1,000! So, our first (sub-)step is to have $1,000 in savings. Then we will add on to that every month until we hit our personal goal.
Step 5: Create a Budget
Now that we know what and where we spend our money, we were able to set up a budget. Since I like to use Coupons, weekly sales and Meal Plans, I also created a Weekly Budget for my Grocery shopping. I have managed to cut our monthly Grocery expenses from about $1,000/month for three people (which is A LOT) down to about $500/month for three people. Our son needs a few special items to adjust for his sugar and wheat intake and my dear husband is extremely picky on what he eats. I wonder if years of eating MREs in the desert has something to do with that? Overall I think $500/month has been a great success for us, though.
I went as far as to create another table that allows me to note how much I budgeted for a given week. How much I actually spent and whether I overspent or stayed within my budgeted amount. This means that I can put the surplus in savings.
Step 6: Don’t forget to budget for FUN
My son is not necessarily into sports like we would like him to be, or society thinks he should be. He’s more of a Nerd, like myself. And doesn’t have any issues building things with his Legos or taking a trip to the Science Museum. Although, he has found a love for Soccer! His Coaches have been amazing and so welcoming to him. I think that is why he’s started to like Soccer. The problem with that is that our son is a busy-body. He HAS to be challenged at all times. Otherwise boredom and frustration-induced Meltdowns and Tantrums due to a disruption in routine will be the norm in our house.
My husband likes to play video games and watch movies. There aren’t many things he can do that he genuinely enjoys anymore. So, I try to make an effort to make sure he is able to do these few things.
Therefore, it is a REQUIREMENT that we budget for F-U-N!
The Psychology major in me is definitely in favor of this step. I think it is important to enjoy something nice every once in a while. To me it’s like having a weekly “cheat-day” on my diet. If I don’t have that one day where I can eat a big slice of pie, a humongous bowl of Vanilla Ice-Cream or a piece (or two) of bread slathered with Nutella, I will crash and burn about 2 weeks into the diet! Seriously!
For these reasons, I make sure we budget for entertainment.
Step 7: Never Quit!
We’ve gotten ahead so many times and fallen flat on our noses just as many. However, one thing we’ve always managed to do is to continue! If you are choosing to become debt-free as well, I ask you this:
Please don’t give up! Never quit!
How have you chosen to tackle your debt?
Here is a total list of all the forms I’ve used in this process:
If you think you might benefit from using one of these forms, feel free to download a copy; I’ve created a couple with different colors.
Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.