Where in the world are the BEs?

Back to work.  That’s where we are.  I hate that I haven’t been blogging.  I really do.  But life has gone back to normal only now there’s another little human that needs attention and snuggles and my boobs, so I’ve been MIA. 

I remember when I was pregnant with Ellie.  A friend was describing life with two to me.  She said, “You know how you feel like you have hardly any time for yourself now?  Take that little bit of time away.”  And she was right.  Very, very right.  Still, I wouldn’t change a thing and I know that this time where Ellie and Ben are so young and need me so very much is short and precious.

Moving on…..I posted on facebook about my family celebrating our two year anniversary of our debt diet and I promised I’d blog more specific details about it.  I’m pretty sure I probably make some people uncomfortable when I talk about money.  It’s so taboo in our society, like I’m walking around in my knickers or something.  But really, I’m over it.  Debt is a HUGE issue in our country and if sharing my story of how we are clawing our way out of it helps somebody else then that’s good stuff.

Where did our debt come from?  I would love to say it came from amazing vacations.  Man, do I wish I could say that!  Sadly, it didn’t.  The debt, in a nutshell, is as follows: mortgage, student loans (lots of student loans), a car payment and two credit cards.  And the two credit cards only have sucky stuff on them.  Basically, one of our dogs had a major accident with a wheelbarrow a few years ago.  I’ll spare you the horrific details.  She had to go to an emergency animal hospital that was EXTREMELY misleading about the costs of her treatment.  We thought we were getting into a financial situation that we could manage and her treatment ended up being three times the maximum price they quoted us.  I can’t talk about it too much or my blood pressure goes up.  But what could we do?  At that point, our sweet Katie was safely out of surgery and needed care that only a 24 hour animal hospital could give her.  Our hands were tied.  The other suckage on our credit card is because one day it started to rain inside our house.  We decided that was not a water feature we were into and immediately got a new roof.  Cha ching. Cha sad face ching.

We’ve been using the principles from the book, The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey (why can’t I figure out how to underline?  I have to underline a book title!).  The book is fantastic, simple, honest and has lots of testimonials in it to keep you motivated.  The basic gist of it, and I’m grossly oversimplifying right now, are create a $1,000 mini-emergency fund, figure out a monthly budget, create a chart of your debt in order from least to greatest (including monthly minimum payments) and dump any and all money you have into your smallest debt while paying minimums on everything else.  Once the smallest debt is paid off, you move on to the second smallest debt, only now you take the payment you were making on debt #1 and put it towards debt #2, creating a snowball effect.  Get it?

In our first year, we paid off $12,201.13.  That means we paid down, on average, $1,220.11 per month (I don’t include July and August for us because I don’t get paid during those months and our budget switches over to survival mode).  We created our mini-emergency fund and paid off our two smallest debts.  This year, we paid off $7,765.96.  We paid down, on average, $1,109.42 per month (I am only including seven months in this which I’ll get to next).  We paid off our next smallest debt and have less than $2,500 left on the debt after that. 

There were hurdles this year as expected.  I took a 5 month maternity leave (hence the 7 months number when I did the averaging).  We had to completely gut a room for Ellie’s nursery complete with new windows, insulation, walls and doors.  And wowza, did the cost of materials go up since my husband did Ben’s nursery.  Damn you, housing market crash.  There were some obvious expenses related to Ellie like her car seats.  We had a $1,000 car repair (in our final month when I was so excited to rally and see how much more debt we could chip away at in the final days).  Ben’s food allergies continue to blow my grocery budget out of the water.  That’s about it.  Oh, and the biggie.  How did I forget it?  My take home pay shrunk again as I’m now in my 3rd and not far from my 4th year without a contract.  Governor Christie’s moves to increase my pension and health insurance contributions have eaten away about $400 of my take home each month.  My lack of a contract is another issue I can’t really talk about without getting extremely, extremely angry.

I also forgot about another major issue this year.  It relates back to my lack of a contract.  Basically, the raise I anticipated way back when would’ve went towards Ellie’s daycare expenses.  And that raise still has not arrived.  So the money had to come from somewhere.  It came from the student loan payments.  They’ve been deferred for a while now.  It kills me.  Are you ready for this?  In the 10 months they’ve been deferred, they have accrued an additional $1,925.42 in accrued interest.  Gah, it’s like a knife to the heart.  That amount was deducted from our total debt paid off.  It hurts to think about.  Once I have a contract, I’ll be back on track but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.  I really truly never thought this contract fight would’ve gone on for so long.

Our budgeting effort was not nearly what it could’ve been this year.  That’s on me.  I’m the chief financial officer in this house and frankly, I was freaking pregnant and ex.haust.ed.  Working full time plus chasing Ben was all I could manage.  Then Ellie was born and I was ex.haust.ed.  Working full time plus chasing Ben plus caring for Ellie is all I can manage.  I’m hoping that I can step it up now that Ellie is almost a year and maybe (maybe??!! Please??!!) will start sleeping through the night.  Ever.  Seriously, she still gets up 2-3 times a night.  She’s nocturnal, like a hamster.  A really cute hamster.   

Any questions about our debt diet?  Give me a shout.