Debt Update 2015: Still Paying Off Debt While Freelancing (Real Numbers Alert)

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Yes, we’re still hacking away at our debt, Dave Ramsey style! We’ve made a few small adjustments, though, so I figure it’s a good time for an update.

Here’s our working situation: JHubbs is a classroom teacher, and I am a freelance writer. I bring in the bulk of our income, but JHubbs provides us monthly stability and health benefits.

Since 2011, we’ve been aware of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. That turned us off credit cards (mostly) and gave us some principles to work with. We didn’t truly embrace it until 2013, when we facilitated our first class. We’ve been as hard core as we can since then, hoping to get to do our debt-free scream some day. And the next budget meeting we have, I want to set a debt-free date by doing some hardcore math.

Saving

  • We have our Dave Ramsey-style $1000 emergency fund in cash (this is the longest we’ve had one without touching it!)
  • We also set aside a $6,000 buffer because I am freelancing. This allows us even more security and a maternity leave if we were to be blessed with a baby.
  • I tend to be a “hand in the cookie jar” saver, so we made the $6,000 account “invisible” on our mobile app and when we sign in. It’s there, but it is way out of sight and so it’s been safe for about a month.
  • We also save a $1700 “Sarah’s Paycheck” each month so that my income covers what JHubb’s doesn’t each month. Now that we’re out of desperation mode from when I was first laid off and didn’t know freelancing would work out, we are going to up this to a normal paycheck and start being more regular about our house “income.” I’ll likely share another post about how I boosted that number and how it goes.

Debts

  • A small victory I don’t give us enough credit for is that we stopped using credit cards a long time ago! So even though our balances are patiently waiting for us to snowball through, we are not digging the hole deeper.
  • Our first five-figure month, we paid off one of our cars! It felt better than I ever thought it would, and we can’t wait to pay off the other one.
  • We’re about to pay off our tax debt from last year, then we’ll tackle a $6,000 credit card, and then we’ll tackle this year’s taxes ($9,000+). (The FPU program goes down your debts smallest to largest, regardless of the payment/interest so that you get those quick wins and get empowered to keep going… that is DEFINITELY working for us!).
  • Since we’ve been married (at that moment we combined all our debts and started the first attempt at Dave Ramsey’s method) we have paid off $44,423. That feels UNREAL! We have $75,000 to go, and hopefully it won’t take another four years….
  • Let’s see… if we paid $2,000 to our debts every month, we’d still be in debt for 37 months, or three years…. Ow. Maybe I shouldn’t do that math just yet. Here’s a better one: if we pay $2,000 to our debt per month, we’ll be debt free (except for student loans) in 16 months!!!! Now that’s a number I can get excited about! Based on our income, this is a doable plan!

Spending

  • I bet it’s the same for everyone in debt — spending has been causing us trouble lately! We’ve been in “emergency mode” for almost two years, even though I replaced my full-time income my first year freelancing. Only now are we starting to loosen our belts and get more comfortable with our income… and that’s leading to looser spending (no bueno).
  • Trouble spots for spending include things we can’t/won’t cut out: my health stuff (supplements out the wazoo, homeopathic visits, counselors), and vacation/relaxation things to bring down stress levels around here. Granted, the vacations are in the $1,000 range, which could be high or low depending on what you’re used to (about half for lodging and half for travel/food for two people).
  • I am proud that we’ve upped our tithing to more than we get for spending money. That might be my favorite expense each month because I’ve never been a really strong contributing member of a community like that.
  • We also added a “Catholic Community” fund in addition to tithing so that we can support Catholic businesses, books, and authors, and gather copies of our favorite “share your faith” products (for me that’s Rediscover Catholicism and for Josh that’s Why Do Catholics Do That?). Soon we hope to purchase this Pork Kills Love shirt for Josh!
  • The biggest problem we have is the “Murphy Fund,” where we have money in limbo and it just slowly dissolves over time with “legitimate expenses” that come up. For example, we had $1600 waiting for its next orders, but we still haven’t moved it out so it’s dwindled to $800 because of: extra groceries, new shoes, tea, Amazon supplements, Amazon food restocking, extra gas, Meet-Up renewal, etc. Things that are negotiable as necessary, but still not planned. But it always helps me to talk it out, so I have hope we’re going to put a stopper in this ASAP.

 That’s it for our money journey for now! How are your finances? Are you on a debt-free journey?

Learning How to Have Fun, July 20-24

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Hey, so, you know those funny movies about workaholics who realize there’s more to life than working? I’m kind of living that script right now, complete with three consecutive counselors (over the years, of course) giving me “homework assignments” to go have fun. Here’s the next one:

This week was pretty low key, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t a direct result of attacking fun head-on. Here’s what I got up to:

Fun Thing 1 – Meditating every day

Meeting with a particularly wise friend this past Saturday lead me to promise to meditate each day for 30 days. So far so good! I don’t know that I can point to a particular benefit, specially since I also got a massage that week, but I intend to stick with it and see if it’s as life changing as they say. JHubbs and I often use this relaxation tone to chill out at night (and sometimes with company, like last Thanksgiving!), but for meditation I’ve been using The Meditation Podcast and it’s okay. I’ll probably buy one of the apps my homeopathic doctor suggested when I can figure out the iTunes payment verification process (Buddhify is $4.99 and Simply Being is $1.99).

Fun Thing 2 – Coloring to podcasts/music

Several nights this week, I colored mandalas instead of doing chores or continuing to work. This is a relaxation technique I got from my counselor, and I’ve found that it’s actually fun to do as a group of friends, too. It lets your mind float free while your body is sort of accomplishing something, and the results are beautiful.

This is the coloring book I got, though it was only because this one was out of stock at the time. There are a surprising number of options for adult coloring!

While I did this, I set up our old iPhone 4 and iHome docking station as a music and podcast zone for the living room, since the TV is in the closet indefinitely. I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Podcast and I’ll listen to Phoenix Helix Reversing Autoimmune Disease podcast another day. I also filled the podcast up with awesome old-school bands (for me) like Great Big Sea, Bush, Counting Crows, and Dr. Dog.

Fun Thing 3 – Shortening my workday

Thanks to a particularly emotional counseling session, I’ve seen the light about my work schedule. I’m going to take up some “Summer Hours” indefinitely and do my best to stop working around 1 or 2pm. Thinking about this made me cry, which is a good sign that I need to do it. And it’s not about the money, per se, because money is just an indicator of success as a freelancer (and we all have a bit of a chip on our shoulders about proving that we’re successful as freelancers). What really kills me is missing out on all the potential things I could accomplish if I just kept working.

Already it hurts to think about a solid 2-3 hours per day that I will need to spend on self-care or my relationships instead of building an online empire or doing more client work….  but that attitude is not serving me well, so it’s time to discard it for a phase. And something I shouldn’t be thinking about but I totally am is that when you put boundaries on something it often improves and works better than ever before. So the workaholic in me is a little excited that by working less I’ll be naturally energized to do more in that time (condensing solid work into the hours of 9-1 rather than the attitude “from waking to sleeping I will do as much as possible” will focus my energies).

Fun Thing 4 – Massage

Massages are scientifically proven to reduce stress, speed healing, and facilitate hormonal/adrenal balance… three things I desperately need to do. So even though I am reducing my hours (and therefore in all likelihood my income), we are adding monthly massages to the budget to facilitate this kind of healing. I feel like a schmuck to be incorporating this kind of luxury to my monthly routine, but I can’t deny the fact that overcoming autoimmune takes some expensive solutions (AIP food, homeopathic supplements, etc). So… there it is. I did this Tuesday of this week and it was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

Here are other “Fun Homework” updates you might have missed:

July 13-17: Playing with the cat, Minions, Reading fiction

July 20-24: Meditating, Coloring, Shortening my workday

What kind of fun did you have this week?