Monday, February 6, 2017

Accountability Partner

Although I didn't blog last year there were plenty of financial things going on. One fairly consistent financial aspect was reporting to my "accountability partner". I'm not sure if, or how much, I've written about my middle sister on this blog but she and I have somewhat been sharing a debt reduction journey over the years. We both racked up student loans and credit card debt throughout our undergrad and grad programs, and both had some real financial responsibility clean up work to do. We started our clean-up/ debt reduction journey around the same time and have over the years have discussed our progress. Our lives/ lifestyles are pretty different but it has been nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, share tips and resources, and just someone to keep me in check when things are rough.

Last year we started more formally and consistently checking in with each other, each Monday having a short phone call where we discussed the upcoming week's financial goals and anticipated challenges as well as reviewing how we did in the week prior. Of course, we didn't hit every Monday but the pattern was established and we've gotten pretty good at checking in at least via text if we don't have time to talk. There are a number of reasons having an accountability partner has been great for me. A) it forces me to look at my to-do list and break up larger, loftier goals into small week-size tasks to get done. B) it keeps those tasks at the front of my mind. and C) the obvious is it makes me accountable to someone outside myself and this blog. Not that my sister is going to come down too hard on me but she will at least point out when I'm trying to justify something that doesn't work.

Figured I could start posting my little weekly mini-goals here as well! I probably won't do it every week since it would get pretty stale when some of my tasks take multiple weeks to break down and finish. Anywho... in the past couple weeks I've made a list of things we will need for new baby and distributed to all my mom friends to see what hand-me-downs we can get, started pricing out the things that I already know we'll need to buy new, tried (and failed) to get an accurate estimate of what the labor and delivery charges will be after insurance (one of my continuing frustrations with our health care system, why does it have to be so damn hard to work with medical/ insurance companies), and started our taxes. 

This coming week I'll be focusing fairly intensely on taxes. I've completed my income and our deductions but now have to turn my attention to S' business since that will be part of our joint tax filing. No fun but extremely important to get done ASAP. I need to have our taxes filed as early as possible this year so we can get any returns added into the maternity savings planning as well  as to get them done before I have a newborn to care for!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Renewing my commitment

To kick start my renewed commitment to debt reduction, I've read back through all my archives this month. It was kind of amazing to read, there were so many things that I had forgotten about over the years. And it reminded me that this blog has not only recorded a journey to reduce debt and live a more fiscally responsible life but also a journey from a single person to a family of (almost) five , from a dual income no kids life to a single income with a start up business life, and that we've undergone so many changes, moves, and adjustments along the way. 

I saw our debt number fluctuate quite a bit. It dropped down fairly quickly in the beginning but in the past years has stayed steady or risen a little which has been a major disappointment to me. I saw plenty of mistakes made along the way but I also saw a lot of major bumps we have hit and overcome. Today's debt number is not where I though we would be after so many years and while the hard numbers don't reflect the huge change I had hoped for, the blog itself is a great reminder of the major transformations we have gone through.

There were also plenty of little debt reducing tips that I was reminded of reading back through the blog that I need to start implementing again. My health insurance has an awards program for doing and tracking healthy things which is as easy as remembering to wear my fitbit and log in every once in a while. It allows me to cash in my awards for gift cards, fitness gear, even movie tickets. There's also a healthy food discount program in which I get 5% or more off healthy food items. Probably the biggest item is making a better commitment to bulk meal prep and making sure I've packed food for the workday everyday. 

In all I'm feeling good about getting going again and I'm very glad I have spent the time over the years recording my journey here. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Time to start anew

It’s the beginning of the year which is when I would normally set some goals for the year. This year in particular is in need of some focus on goal setting after stepping away from the blog for the past year and because of the loss of focus and hope we’ve been feeling. It’s time for us to start anew on our journey, learn what we can from the past and find a way to move forward to the ultimate goal of being debt free.

One of the nice things about having documented my journey on this blog is that I can go back and retrace where I’ve been. With the goal of rebooting my blog and reinvigorating my hope that we can and will get out of debt, one of my first goals of 2017 is to re-read all of my own posts. I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time dwelling on what we could have done differently but I do think it’s important to revisit what worked and what didn’t. I also need to start actively reading other debt reduction blogs again, the lapse in my own writing was coupled by a lapse in reading/ being inspired by other peoples’ debt reduction journeys.

Another immediate goal is to re-work our budget. We ended the year with a balanced budget by moving to a much cheaper housing option and cutting full-time daycare to offset the increases we faced by adding S to my health insurance and by taking on debt for S’ business. However, I just received the estimate for 2017 health insurance and it’s going up again plus our balanced budget only included minimum payments to debt. We need to figure out how to free up some money and bring in more money to get back on debt reduction track and cover the increased health insurance. To that end, I’ve already cut my IRA contributions to get us back to balanced. Over the next month I will be looking at alternative health insurance plans for S and the boys to see if we can get something more affordable, S is looking into part-time jobs particularly ones that may offer health benefits, and I’m applying for Income Based Repayment on my student loan, which may or may not lower my loan payment.

I have not given much thought to the year at large yet, mostly trying to focus on what I can accomplish immediately to get us moving in the right direction again. Once we get through the above mentioned goals in the next week or so and can get a better understanding of what we’ll have to work with in the coming year, I’ll look at what I think we can accomplish in 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

End of 2016 Report

Starting point (Oct 2011):

Student Loan 1 (My fed loan): $38,339
Student Loan 2 (S' state loan): $21,719
Student Loan 3 (S' fed loan): $5,454
Car Loan: $11,684
Credit Card 1: $10,577
Credit Card 2: $3,635
Credit Card 3: $0
Misc. small debts (S' small debts in collections): $5,443
Medical expenses: $3,672
Parents: $600

Total: $101,123

Here's where we are at the end of 2016:

Student Loan 1: $33,579
Student Loan 2: $18,186
Student Loan 3: $0
Car Loan: $0
Credit Card 1: $1,698
Credit Card 2: $5,856
Credit Card 3: $6,930
Misc. small debts: $4,284
Medical expenses: $0
Parents: $1,856
Consolidation Loan: $5,354

Total: $77,740

Paid off to date: $23,381 paid off + $3,543 in savings