1 year debt free anniversary – was it worth it

It’s been 1 year since we clicked the mouse and paid off our last chuck on consumer debt. (we’re now just working on our mortgage). You can read all about our debt free journey here.

So what has this year brought?

Has it been as amazing as we’d hoped?

Yes.  Yes it has.

 

In the weeks after we paid that last bill off, Bruce and I headed down for a couples only long weekend in Waco, Texas.  We went to the Magnolia Silobration (Fixer Upper peeps unite!) and listened to live music, shopped, visited antique shops and just hung out. It was so much fun to share another side of Texas with Bruce too. I lived there in my early 20’s and have wished I could share more of it with Bruce and help him fall in love with it as I have.  This was a much needed little getaway after having our noses to the grindstone for so long.  We paid cash and savored every second of it!

 

Black friday we were all laying around the house watching the old classic, Titanic. So what did that make us want to do? It made us want to look into taking a cruise of course.  Go figure.  So as luck would have it, we found a black Friday sale and managed to get the 4 of us booked on a nearly week long cruise for under $1500 (included taxes)!  Again, paid in full.  It’s amazing how life can be when you’re not paying out so much towards interest and debt.  We had a modest Christmas, continuing to save as much as possible and while we’ve padded our budget a bit we haven’t gone too crazy.  Travel is our love though so we tend to all be in agreement to live a bit tighter and then splurge on seeing our beautiful country and the world.

We saved up, bought our airfare to Florida and took our cruise to Belize in February. It was so nice to get to have that experience together. Afterwards we rented a car and spent the day driving down to the Florida keys, seeing a state park beach and then seeing the everglades before our flight back to winter.  (I’m praying this beach was spared during the recent hurricanes.)

 

So one thing that we do differently than most people we know is that we don’t do all the extras when we travel. We aren’t big drinkers, and we consciously chose not to do any excursions from the cruise. This was for 2 reasons. The first was that we had a hard time finding things that we all found interesting and “worth it” for a 6 year old, a teenager and both of us. Second, we priced it out and decided instead of spending a 1/2 day at the mayan ruins we could use that same amount of money and do a 2 week camping road trip during the summer.  We don’t feel like we are sacrificing at all though. We make sure to enjoy everything we can do and savor it all.  Instead of the excursion we drank from coconuts in belize and ate fresh salsa on the pier while taking it all in.

We have made a decision that we’ll treat “vacation money” like “real life money”.  That means we don’t just surrender $1400-1600 for a few hours excursion just because we’re on vacation, for good or bad I can’t forget that that is the amount of a house payment back in “real life”.  Plus, knowing that is nearly the exact amount of what we later paid for 2 weeks full of memories always keeps us accountable. The more memories and time together the better.

 

So one of the biggest benefits we’ve had since paying off all those pesky bills was a huge peace of mind and the ability to FINALLY make some decisions where money wasn’t the first factor in the decision process.  For years Bruce has been wanting to switch careers. He worked long, unpredictable hours and could never count on being home in the evening. One of his big goals during our whole debt paying process was to be able to switch jobs and be able to see the kids play sports and be involved with their activities. Especially to have our little guy join cub scouts and for Bruce to get to be there to experience it with him.

In May Bruce accepted a different job and while it came with a bit of a pay cut, it also came with predictable hours and the guarantee of being home every evening. It was an answer to prayer.  It’s amazing how things worked out in terms of timing, he was able to put in his notice so he’d finish in time for the vacation dates we had set up months before.  He set up his start date at his new job for a couple days after we got back.  It was as if it was all perfectly planned out. 😉

So in June we started off our road trip fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine and seeing some of the Little house on the Prairie books’ sites. We camped on the actual land that the Ingalls family lived on in DeSmet years ago. The kids slept in this awesome covered wagon and Bruce and I slept under the stars in our sleeping bags. It was magical.

 

We then headed to Colorado Springs to visit with family before we made our way over to Durango to visit more family. Along the way we saw Garden of the Gods, Cave of the winds, St. Elmo ghost town, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Silverton, Ouray, then Durango. It was so great.  Afterwards we headed back and stopped in Iowa to see more family/friends. It was such an amazing time.  We camped for the first 9 nights and then stayed with people and in hotels. I love everything about a road trip. Long talks, good music, seeing the outskirts of areas and how quickly the landscapes can change. I savor it all.


A couple weeks ago I was able to go with a cousin out to see my aunt and uncle in New York City. It was amazing.  My favorite moments were when I got a chocolate croissant from an amazing little french bakery and an iced coffee and we sat in Rockefeller plaza taking it all in and catching up with each other.  We got to see so many amazing sites but my favorite moments were drinking wine, staying up way too late and finding out how hilarious my relatives are. It was so great to get to have basically a 5 day slumber party and laugh and play. I loved it.  My aunt and uncle spoiled us rotten so it didn’t cost me as much as it sounds like it did but it still was something that I felt really proud to pay for up front and then use cash throughout.

 

 

So it’s not that suddenly we paid things off and then life got easy, but I will say that an incredible amount of pressure and stress has been relieved in our lives and I am so grateful to get to have these experiences and say yes more.  We’re working to beef up a savings account, have started a college savings account FINALLY and are working to make sure all the details are handled.  Mostly though I can look back at the years we spent, first getting to where we weren’t building more debt, then breaking even, then finally paying extra towards bills. It was hard and there were so many months where we felt like we were running in place. I keep meticulous spreadsheets, track where we spend each cent and work really hard to make sure that we spend with intention instead of just flowing through without consciously deciding.  I’ve taken all those lessons I’ve learned and teamed them up with encouragement and fun and created a course I’m offering for free starting in October. It’s all been a lesson of perseverance, communication and teamwork.  I’m here to offer encouragement to anyone else out there who feels overwhelmed by bills, payments or is just exhausted of the game of trying to keep up with everything society says you should do or have.

I know that many people have no desire to travel, nor do I share these photos because I think you should (well maybe a little bit, traveling is amazing).  Mostly though I know that there is something inside of us all that lights us up and makes us feel alive and in tune with why we are alive. Travel does that for me, what does that for you?   Whether money is a factor or not, I offer you so much encouragement to add more of whatever that thing is for you into your life. Fill in all the gaps and cracks with experiences, people, and lastly things that bring you joy.

So in true full circle spirit, last night Bruce and our son went to their first Cub scouts meeting. Together they signed up and Bruce is going to be volunteering with the troop. Aspen came running in the door last night when they got home and could hardly get all the words out he was so excited to share how much fun he had.  It makes me think back to any random day 2, 3, or even 6 years ago that we had to make a decision to save money here or there, pay off something.. it was all those tiny steps that helped us to that moment last night and a million other small moments just like it. We couldn’t see how it was all going to work out while we were in the thick of it, but I’m so grateful we dreamed and had faith.

I’ve figured out how to LOVE going in my laundry room

I’ve got the typical basement, unfinished laundry room. I love it and I’m so grateful to have it. After years at our last house of having only a closet off the kitchen with our washer and dryer in it, I’m grateful to have a room that is larger and offers more storage as well.

However, walking into the concrete room was rather uninspiring. Not to mention that most of the time when I’d walk in there it was to wash or fold or grab cleaning products.  blah…

Recently we were finally able to give it a moderate makeover.  There is tons of wiring, pipes, tubes and other goodies all over that were going to be exposed so we just did the best we could. We aren’t ready to sheetrock and insulate yet so we compromised and did the cheapest yet biggest impact thing we could do… paint.

We purchased special white paint that is made to also help block moisture and specifically made for these cinder blocks then we started painting.  We also ripped out a couple temporary walls and shelves that had been left in there from the last owner, part of the ceiling was covered by a piece of plywood so I painted that also.  I even crawled back in behind the sink and cleaned and painted.  Pictures don’t always do it justice but it’s amazing what some bright paint can do for a room. I also scrubbed the plastic sink on the outside and then taped it off and primed it with paint for plastic, then painted it a taupe/green color.

We drilled some larger inset circles on the stair supports and placed some tubing under the stairs as another option to hang laundry on during the winter.  I use an outside line during the summer but hanging inside during the winter also really helps add moisture into the dry air as well.

 

Now the fun part.  I had our son’s room decorated in a cabin and nature theme and he wasn’t feeling it.  (He’s preferring legos and minecraft these days) so I took all those pieces along with some of our travel postcards and pictures and magnets and I covered the electrical boxes, added a world map and a few pieces of decor.  One of my favorite pieces over the small folding table is a United States map. On it we’ve dotted and highlighted all of our road trips.  It’s so fun to be folding laundry now and looking at that map and those photos and remembering so many great adventures. It also gets me dreaming about our next road trip or vacation each time I see it.

 

So that my friends is how I turned the most boring room in the house into one of dreams and joy. I light up every single time I walk in there and smile to myself now.  Mission accomplished!

 

 

 

Is there is a spot in your home or office that is drab right now that you could makeover with something simple?  A new light fixture, a picture, or a new pillow?  That’s my challenge to you, find a way to take your least favorite place and make it into one of your favorites. Message me a picture if you would like my ideas and I’d be happy to give you some ideas. 🙂

Wishing you inspiration and joy!

Rewire your thinking! Shine your light brighter in the world!

Sunset glowing

Caribbean Sunset – 2017

 

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago.  She was sharing how she had quit smoking earlier this year, slowly she’s started to reward herself with pampering and self care. She’s been putting the money that previously went towards cigarettes, instead towards massages, clothing and fabulous hair.  I was so proud of her and loved hearing about her doing that for herself.

Then she shared how she had been talking to another woman about this and that person had said something like this to her, “oh, are you going to become all high maintenance now?”.   A seemingly simple comment, probably meant to be funny….. yet completely loaded with judgment.   It left me wondering, why are we so quick to bring each other back down to whatever level we think they should be at to keep us comfortable?   It’s not like my friend has dropped everything and developed an all consuming clubbing habit at age 50 and was putting her family at jeopardy…  she was doing things within her budget and available time that made her feel good.   She was grasping onto a hope that she could keep on keeping on by making herself see how good it feels to treat her body good; to never want to crave a cigarette again, to honor herself for doing something that is so amazing.   We should have a parade in her honor! NOT tear her down.  Have you been in her position?

From the outside perspective it’s so much easier to see how a person can start to dim their own light.  We speak up, we feel good and if we don’t have a strong enough support system or our internal knowing isn’t strong enough yet in that area then once we face resistance we question ourselves.

I know I’ve experienced this so often.  There are many ways in which I’ve always been just a bit on the outside of what seemed like “everyone else”.  From day one, left handed.  Then an artist that loves art but never quite felt like I fit in with the artists…  I was a mixture of the smart kid, the athlete, the artist… yet not really completely any of them.  As an adult I married early and became a mom while everyone else was single and having fun. Then just as everyone around me was getting married and starting to have babies… I was a divorced and then a single mom…   Then a vegetarian for over a decade, then not, then the mom who cloth diapered, and then home schooled while also the mom to the social butterfly, daughter who loves everything about public school.  A stay at home mom who also works from home.  In virtually every area of my life I have to face feeling like I don’t fit in completely… and yet I’ve learned to see that this is where I find my superpowers… my uniqueness and what gloriously separates me from the masses.  A uniquely, perfect perspective that there isn’t an “us” and “them” or success or failure; there are are layers between.

 

What has helped me to find peace in this area?  Mentors, seeing people who are so different and wildly successful and happy.  Seeing my friends who stay home and raise their children and are so amazing at it.  Seeing other friends who run successful businesses and are so tapped into their callings while also raising awesome kiddos.  Seeing retired women who have so much fire in their bellies and are so full of dreams and life.  Seeing the friends who go to work each day and are unapologetic about their passion for living life on their terms.   There is no right answer, only what is right for us, our families, our purpose, our knowing.

Back to my friend who I started this post about, for her it is so perfectly fabulous that she is embracing this time for her and honoring what she knows she needs.  That is not to take anything away from the other amazing women who have no desire to have a massage or new clothes and yet are perfectly content.  For one person it may be taking time to simply indulge is music and solitude, for another it may be a weekend retreat or business conference, for me I light up from my soul on out when I see new places and get to take in beautiful scenery and share those experiences with people I love.  Pay attention to the moments you feel the most peaceful or the experiences you find yourself craving. Those things that can help you to access your own knowing.

What does it mean to shine your light?  To me it means to to honor yourself and trust yourself enough to speak up when you see a wrong, to speak up in support of what is right no matter how unpopular.  It means embracing and celebrating your gifts, your talents, the fruits of your hard work.  It means being a beacon of hope for others, being the truest version of you.  Cutting away the distractions, the stresses that hold you back. It means being so true to your deepest, wisest knowing that you can’t help but inspire others to be more true to themselves.

I have a free bonus gift I’d love to share with you, 3 steps you can take right now to drastically reduce stress in your life so you can shine your own light brighter!  Easy things you can do TODAY to change your life. You can click the image or click here to receive it.

For me, when I’m shining my light it means I’m honoring my optimism, my belief in the good in people, it means I’m a warrior for love and good in the world.  It means I’m taking time to get quiet and tune in, I’m creating artwork or writing. I’m at peace with my desire for me time and honoring my inner introvert that needs rejuvenating time.

What inspires you when you see it modeled in others?  What have you witnessed other women or men do that you thought was so badass that you wished you had the guts to do it?  How about simple gifts they have given themselves that you admire? Make a note of those things.  You don’t have to do them, but they are clues.  Start collecting clues. Start honoring when you feel in the flow.   Don’t forget to download my free gift to you here to take the next steps in stripping away stresses to help reveal the real you and help you shine your light brighter in this world that so needs your light!

Sending you so much love!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget you can get this free gift from me to you! Just click the image below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when a mural is painted over… your gift erased

I came across these photos yesterday of these murals that I painted about 15 years ago in my parents house.  My mom had been wanting something with this Tuscan feel and when Skylar was a baby there was a time that we lived with them so I painted these murals kind of as my rent and a thank you to her and my dad.  I was about 25 years old or so.

This piece was on a large wall that went up the middle of the house in the main living area.

italian countryside mural  

Over in the hallway both sides were lined with similar styled, soft glowing italian countryside inspired art.

So these murals stayed up for about 5-6  years I believe.  My mom told me many times how much she loved them and the feel it gave their home.  My mom passed away in early 2009, her passing was unexpected and shook my world as you can imagine.

Fast forward a few years later and my dad and his girlfriend are living in this house and getting it ready to sell.  My dad’s girlfriend expressed a desire to paint over all these murals with a soft gray color.    I was completely okay with this.   What I didn’t expect was the number of relatives and family members who heard that these murals would be painted over and came to me with complete disapproval.  They couldn’t believe that they’d choose to paint over these.  Over and over for years I heard this from people

I want to share why I felt so at peace with giving my permission.  I think it translates to so many other areas of life.   Even though I had spent dozens of hours painting these pieces, I knew that that was as a gift of love to my mom.  As much as my dad was also there and appreciated them, it was really for her.  I knew that I was okay with keeping those pieces sacred with her, when she was no longer there to appreciate them and enjoy them, then I was okay with understanding that the purpose they fulfilled was complete.   They were no longer needed.

My next reason was more practical, I understood that these murals were not everyone’s taste and neutral colors sell better.

So, I consciously said goodbye to them, thanked them for bringing my mom joy and also felt gratitude that I was able to do something to have brought joy.

I don’t have a clear picture of that wall after it was painted but you can get a feel for the space after:

I share this because it’s not just about the murals.  This could be any heartfelt, handmade gift that is no longer needed.  Giving both the giver and receiver permission to release it knowing it’s purpose was served, love and gratitude were felt and it’s okay to let it go on to provide those to another.  Or in the case like the mural, it won’t be re-gifted… it’s just done. No longer there.   This could be a piece of decor that has brought great joy, like a bowl, dish, etc that gets broken.  Instead of focusing on the breaking part, focus on the joy it brought. Say thank you for that joy or usefulness.

Everything has a cycle, a time.  Sometimes we hold things past when they are meant to be there for us.  I think as a society we have a lot of work to do in giving ourselves permission to release things that no longer light us up.  Or to simply say thank you and let things, people, experiences go on their way. Hold gratitude for the role they played.  This can also be a friendship or job… not all are meant to be forever.  Things will sometimes end, don’t let the ending cloud the lesson and rewards of the experience.

My sister and Skylar in front of the mural one Christmas.

Me, Skylar and my mom

The question I’ll leave you with this this, is there something you’ve been holding on to that you need to let go?  Or a way you can re-frame an experience to find appreciation for it instead of focusing on the loss?

Sending you all love.

 

It doesn’t have to be so hard, does it?

My whole life I’ve been taught (or just assumed) that we must force things, head down, grinding it out to make things happen. While that is true at times, what if things don’t have to be hard to mean they are worthwhile? I’ve always had an underlying feeling like fun had to be earned. Especially working on my own business there is always work to be done and it can feel like there is never time or validation for frivolous fun. The last few years though I’ve started to notice that it’s the times when I’m allowing myself to be swallowed up by fun and life’s simple enjoyments that inspiration hits, I’ll see an order come through or finally get clarity on something I’ve been thinking about. hmm It got me thinking and researching and turns out that nudge and subtle noticing is right on. Swimming against the current doesn’t mean it’s smarter or better. I’m sharing this image as much for me as anyone else. In the flow of inspiration and joy

 

 

do you have a friend or loved one who has lost a parent or a child? Here is something you can do.

NEW – Introducing my newest Sacred Hellos remembrance greeting cards 

There are those days that come up; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, perhaps a wedding, birth of a child or a deceased loved one’s birthday.

These are days where it would be so nice to have a card to send to the family member or friend who is desperately aching for a parent or child that they miss.

These cards are the perfect fit for those occasions.  Letting that person know you are holding them in love, for that specific day and all days. Letting them know you know and see them and their love, their pain. Acknowledging what they are going through without having to come up with the words yourself.

Do you know someone who has recently lost someone close to them?  Get this card, then set a reminder for 51 weeks from now, or for the anniversary of the passing to give that card to them. You’ll be prepared and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Click on the picture for more information or to see closeups.

For the parent missing a child who has passed:

   

For the person missing a Mother –

   

For the person missing a Father –

   

You can click on the pictures above or go to my etsy site to see all the cards. These cards to not mention a specific holiday so they are perfect for any day that you know your friend or loved one could use a little extra love.

I love living in a world, were even when we go through loss and hard times we can be surrounded by friends, co-workers and loved ones who take a moment to let us know they’ve got our backs, are holding us in prayer and surrounding us with love through those especially hard days.

Please share this post or a card link with anyone you know that would love to have this share with a person in their life.  Thanks,

could this be contentment?

 

I have a confession to make.

I have been experiencing something. It’s snuck up slowly.

I’ve tried to deny it, rename it, question it.

But friends, I believe it’s called Contentment.

Sunset 30 miles north off the coast of Cuba, taken this February.

After years of believing that I always have to be moving forward, growing, taking on more and more.  I’ve reached a place where I finally trust that no, right now for me;  I want to sit and bask in this time.  I don’t want to expand the time I put into my business, I don’t want to be involved in large numbers of art shows and networking and online classes.  I don’t want to join a bunch of mom groups.  I love my life right now.

After years of diligently looking at all my commitments and areas of stress, many which I wrote about in my ebook Finding myself in the Moonlight, I have added in breathing room and space into all areas of my life.  I’ve learned to trust myself more than ever before.  We’ve busted our asses for years and finally gotten to a financially free place where the only debt we have in the world isour home.  It’s truly freeing.  After years of having my head down and checking off an endless list of to-do’s I finally feel like I am in that place I prayed for so many times.

 

I’ll never stop learning (in fact I’m listening to a TED talk right now while typing this) but what I am getting better at is looking at classes and programs and knowing that now is not the time for most of them.  I’m still growing and learning and in fact my faith and spirituality is deeper than ever. Prayers and meditations and time in nature have all helped me to feel a contentment that I’ve never felt before. 

I share this to offer hope.  This may surprise you but I’m rebellous to my core.  I’m a rule following rebel I suppose.  I love to do good, I love to find good in others… but… the  minute society or people tell me that something should be done a certain way.. I question it.   It works though; I’m the happiest person I know.  I don’t feel like I need to do things the way everyone does them.   We all have areas we feel that pressure from. Here are some of the choices I’ve made that work for me (us) that have lead me more towards contentment:

  • moving 40 miles from the cities to a property where we can grow food, embrace nature, have a workshop to build and create in.  We are tucked into the trees and have privacy and also the rejunating energy of nature.  We get a whole floor to ourselves and the kids have their own bathroom, all in our cozy little 1500 sq. foot house.
  • getting out of debt.  We paid off $48k in just under 2 years (you can read about that here).  What that has done to our lives and the peace it has brought since though has blown my mind. We recently were able to take our kids on a week long cruise to Belize and also do a small road trip after we got off the ship and see the Everglades and visit a state park in the Florida keys.  The best part; we paid cash for the trip. It is so freeing to be able to plan and save and pay for a trip like that and come home and still have money in a savings account.  We worked so hard for so many years saving every penny, selling things and praying that I share that to say all that sacrifice was worth it.  
  • Homeschooling our youngest. Our oldest is in public high school and she thrives and loves it, I was faced last year with a decision to homeschool our youngest.  While I admit I wouldn’t prefer to have homeschooled my oldest, each kid is different and it has been the right decision to homeschool our little guy. And we LOVE it.  Just this morning in fact, sitting with him and watching him learn to read.  It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve gotten to do in my life. Teaching him about living from the heart, music and the arts, endless time for science and real life experiences.  I am so incredibly grateful for this time, piecing together a curriculum and resources so I can connect him with learning opportunities that help him become the best whole health and knowledgeable person he can be.
  • Our 16 year old just got her driving permit and I’ve had a similar feeling teaching her to drive. It’s so special to get to witness and be a part of that growth. In a world where everyone’s first reaction is to go to the fearful side of this time, and yes of course that part is there too; I’m choosing to really honor the blessings that this stage of life is bringing for her and us.
  • This past holiday season I did something that I had never done before.  After years of doing holiday art and craft shows and in person shows, hauling all my work from place to place, getting sitters and paying entrance fees I turned them all down and trusted this little voice inside that knew I could do it my own way. (At least for now, with kids at home I have found myself losing interest in shows. There is only 1 that I love where the people and atmoshpere and crowd are so amazing that I may keep doing it, we’ll see – lookup 4Angels boutiques if you’re curious)   Instead I offered very specific items online including remembrance ornaments and sold hundreds of them. I also got a chance to connect with small groups of people in online artwork parties. During these parties I was able to show videos where I got to explain the deeper meaning behind my artwork pieces and really hear people’s stories and what exactly what people around them were going through and connect them with the perfect gift they could get for those they love.  It was such a rewarding and special set of parties and I got to meet so many beautiful women. Plus I got to do all of those from my home on my own schedule. 
  • January 1st, I deactivated my personal Facebook. I was finding myself having underlying levels of guilt, after cutting my friend list from over 600 to around 250 that helped a lot. Ultimately though I had to get really real that me being at home and having endless access to “check in” was costing me many minutes once I added it all up.  Now after 2 months after being away I can see that the part I was really reluctant to admit to myself was that there was a continuous feeling of static in the back of my mind. Anywere I was, anything I was doing; I always felt like there was something else I was supposed to be doing.  I don’t know if everyone feels that, but for me stepping away has allowed me to feel so present in my day to day life.  At some point I’m sure I’ll get back on but for now it feels like the right choice for me.
  • I don’t do networking groups.  Or mommy groups.  Here is what I know about me. My go to emotion is guilt. I really want to honor and connect with people once I let them into my world.  What can seem like a fun one time, meet new people networking experience for most people leaves me feeling flaky and unreliable after the fact.  I connect with people and then within my daily life I have no room for follow up.  I am not available to do follow up coffee meetups, business meetings in person or mommy activities.  So instead I’ve chosen to honor this time and know that someday I may want to dive back in and network and meet more people and really give it my all then I will do so with joy. For right now though I feel fulfilled with those in my life and the simplicity of our day to day.
  • I don’t do phone calls or in person meetings if at all possible.  Artwork is visual and for me sharing information via email or online works best.  I am choosing right now not to do a ton of in person events.  What I have found also is on my deeper, more intuitive based artwork projects I attain better results if I don’t have phone conversations with my clients.  That my sound strange but I hate the phone. I don’t like talking to new people on the phone and it drains my energy.  So knowing that I choose to keep my internal energy high and my intuitive energy at it’s deepest level by honoring them.  This will change at some point, but for me right now with a kiddo in tow and a routine we stick to it is what works best for me.
  • Choosing to drive used cars.  We don’t do car payments and all our cars (4) are paid for in full.  I was especially glad the other night (when I hit a deer a few hundred yards from our driveway) that I don’t worry about scratches or other life things that seem to happen out here. For the record the deer jumped back up and was fine and so was my car.  Someday we’ll get some nicer cars but for now, this works great for us.  I’m grateful that Bruce knows how to fix cars and keeps them all running.  I think the biggest thing has been to disconnect our feelings of self worth from the cards we drive. Yes, of course it is fun to drive a super new, decked out car and we had fun last year when we rented a car for a weekend and chose a new BMW suv. It was really fun.  But I don’t feel like less of a person because our cars are from both the 90’s and early 2000’s.  I actually feel great pride and think of the other things we have been able to do with that time instead of having to spend it making money to pay for upgraded cars. Right now, I prefer more family time.
  • Minimalism – we have gotten rid of so much extra stuff over the last few years.  6 months after getting married and combining our lives (stuff) my mom passed and over the next couple years our garage filled up with furniture, decor, clothes and candles that were hers.  It’s taken almost a decade but we finally feel like we have just a few really special things that help me remember her but don’t need to have our whole house stuffed with things.  We spend less time organizing, cleaning and moving things which has freed up not only time but also energy for the things we really want to spend it on.
  • We don’t have cable. We have a roku with netflix and amazon and a couple other channels.  We don’t dvr things.  So yes, we miss things that are on tv quite often.  Years ago I spent so much time watching tv and scheduling out what things would be recorded and learning about new shows but now it has faded.  But somehow I’m still okay.  This past year I’ve bingewatched; Heartland, Hart of Dixie, Hallmark’s Home is where the heart it and a few other shows that everyone else enjoyed years ago.  I’m okay with that.  They are coming into my life at the perfect time for me to really savor them and enjoy them.
  • Diminishing toxic relationships.  We can’t always completely avoid people who bring negativity into our lives but I strive to eliminate unnecesary drama or people I don’t trust.  Today I don’t have to spend much time or energy on this but years ago I had a list of people in my life who I knew I needed to move on from. I send them love and I chose to limit or cut them out out completely and it’s been life changing.
  • We talk in the language of love.  If you where a fly on the wall in our home you would hear my 6 year old talk about how his heart is exploding with love. How he happy cried in the car yesterday while looking at the sunset and again last night when we all sat on the floor working on legos with him.  We talk about our love, what eachother mean to us and share gratitude fr
    eely. Even while having a 16 year old daughter I love that we can talk so openly and validate feelings, our intuition and have worked so hard to make our home a peaceful respite in contrast to a sometimes crazy and stressful world. 

I share some of these things because I know so many people do fill so much of their day’s doing things they “should” do instead of really allowing themselves to schedule in breathing room, space and peacefulness.  We want to make the people around us happy and sometimes we let the rule over that little feeling in our gut that knows something doesn’t feel like it fits anymore.  Give yourself permission to honor peacefulness as much as success and knowledge in other subjects.  It will make every area of your life better.  I’ve experienced the death’s of loved ones, a divorce, multiple moves, and defining and developing my business. Then later marrying a wonderful man and making choices that move me closer year after year towards a life I really connect with (including working really hard to un-learn so much I’ve been tought growing up.) That journey has led me to now has given me this gift of a chapter of contentment.  I feel so grateful, even grateful for the really tough times that make me even more grateful each day for good times.  I know life will be full of ups and downs and times where I can’t wait to be around people and others where I again crave solitude and quiet, but for now in this moment…  it feels so right.

Sending you all love!

a whole heart

 

Personal wholeness.  Time and love poured into emotional, physical and spiritual wellness.   Then we can truly love and be loved.  Valentine’s Day (week) writings.

 

True Freedom! How we cleaned up over 48k in debt in just 21 months

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I was in conversation a few weeks ago with a close friend and we were talking about bills. I mentioned how hard we were focusing on paying bills because we were close to getting out of debt and only having our home left to pay.  “Wow, you’re lucky.  Must be nice.” That was her reply.  That stuck with me… we must be lucky.. it just didn’t sit right.

Over the last few weeks that’s been stirring around in my mind between errands and other thoughts and I finally am able to articulate why I don’t think luck had much to do with it and I certainly wouldn’t call the experience “nice”.  It was hard.  Really hard.  It is was raw and real and I feel like we’ve been paying off debt FOREVER!

Fair warning; this post is really honest and really long.

I believe in going after dreams, in living a big life and in living in true authenticity and joy.  I want a life that is full of love and experiences that make me grow and expand my life and relationships.

Let me rewind to 2011, our life was busy and full of joy. We had a small modest home in the suburbs of Minneapolis, 2 used cars we drove, a few acres of land a couple hours away with a camper, atv, an extra truck that ran and an extra truck that didn’t.  We’d spend the week working our tails off then pack up and go up to the “cabin” for the weekends.  As Sky got older and had more sports tournaments over the weekends we noticed that our attention, time and money were being pulled in more directions.  It was getting harder for us to really enjoy each thing we were doing because we were always racing to the next thing.  With a preteen and an infant we knew it was going to be many more years before we re-gained full chilled out weekends.  At the same time we were getting by financially, we didn’t think about all our payments since we were able to pay them all each month.  We didn’t consider ourselves paycheck to paycheck…  looking back we had about an extra 2-3 paycheck buffer that kept us feeling falsely safe.

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During a vacation to Colorado and out West in 2011, one of my dearest friends introduced me to Dave Ramsey and we talked about debt, and dared to dream what it would be like to have no payments.   It was after we got home that we had some serious conversations about money, goals and life.  We made a choice to stop reacting to life and instead make some hard decisions that would help us in the long run.  We knew that someday we wanted the best of both worlds, not the home and a cabin but instead a home where we could live like we were at the cabin. We set the intention and we got to work; that first year we sold the land, the camper, the atv, the trucks, extra furniture and everything we could think of.  Doing all of that also allowed me to continue to work part time and be home more to help raise the kids. It was a win-win.

Years before, after I was going through my divorce I remember feeling so hopeless financially.  I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with my dad and I was crying my eyes out. I had just gotten a notice that my credit card with an $11k balance was raising my interest rate to 33%.  As a single mom at the time I was panicked.  I couldn’t see out of the 10’s of thousands of dollars of consumer debt I was left with after that world came crashing down on me.  From that hopelessness I filed for bankruptcy.   I justified it in my mind and at interest rates of greater than 30% at the time on all my credit cards I had paid my original balances plus some but because of all the interest I couldn’t seem to gain ground.  I filed and felt like I got a new start. The ironic thing.. even the day after filing bankruptcy I still was never debt free. There were still student loans and other things I was still paying on.

Fast forward back now to 2012 and the hubby and I were in the midst of working to pay things off then our main car broke down.  Note – this is was a defining moment for us looking back –  We chose to let that car sit for a bit while we figured out how to fix it and we went out and we finance a newer one.  Eventually we fixed up the first and sold it for a loss. This cycle went on for the next couple years.  2 steps forward one step back.

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At the end of 2014 is when we officially had it.  I was fresh back from a life changing European trip working with women and had a glimpse of how big life could be!  I knew that life was so much more than work, bills and being tight on time.  We were done playing this game, especially with money.

We bought a used car for cash and put our financed suv up for sale.  It finally sold in the spring of 2015, we owed more than it sold for and we had to pay the different and take a loss but we wouldn’t change it.  That same time we were down to just around $1500 of debt.  Free of car payments and only a small minimum payment on 1 card left we felt our world start to open up again.  We’d been dreaming of moving out of the house we were in but were upside down in it and couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.  You can read all about that miraculous story here.  From paying down all that debt we were finally almost debt free but we were cash poor.  We knew we had to make that move happen.  In the meantime it built back up over 20k in debt again fixing up the old and new house and all the extras that come with a move. Add in a school trip for Sky to Europe at over $5k and other life that was turned to payments our world turned back into one of frugalness and very strategic spending.  Thank goodness for all the joy and how much we love it here, I admit it made it all worthwhile!

From January of 2015 through Sept of 2016 (21 months) – yes we managed to clear $48,986 in debt.  HOLY MOTHER!!!  I see that and it gives me hope.  We are a family that loves the simple things in life and living out here really made that easier to pull off but it has been anything but easy to make that happen.   We’ve had to say “no” hundreds of times a day to spending.   I’ve laid out all the details of how we saved money and what we did to bring in extra in this blog post for those that want to read all the nitty gritty details.

  1. We set a budget every month.  I can tell you what we spent in each area of our life for any month going back years.  I had to know exactly where all our money was going and then from there decide what to cut and what to allow.  I keep really detailed spreadsheets and I LOVE it, it must balance out my artsy side but I get a complete natural high from doing our finances and calculating all the numbers.
  2. We worked as a team.  The hubby and sat down at least a few times a month and laid out what our goals where we wanted our money to go, saw what was actually being spent, and made adjustments to get the two areas to match.  We stopped reacting to things and became very intentional.  We decided what to keep and what to cut, where to spend and tried to minimize unexpected things anywhere we could by predicting needs and planning ahead.
  3. Our entertainment budget averaged only $20 a month. FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!  That is pretty much a few redbox rentals and then add up the extra over a few months and it’s a cheap night out.  We saw 1 movie at the theatre as a family and went to 1 county fair as a family in 22 months.  We had tons of bonfires, game nights, movie nights at home and work nights.  Plus we knew that we wanted to pour money towards debt and a couple strategic vacations. (this was not counting our family vacation – where we flew then stayed with a family member)
  4. Our restaurant budget averaged $30/month.  That meant a few drive through trips a month and we saved them for when we really were short on time or energy and savored them, or we’d stock up so we could go out to dinner with family or friends.
  5. We swallowed our pride and embraced a more minimalistic lifestyle.  This was actually the most enjoyable part.  After my mom passed away, it took years of going through her things and sorting through the layers of guilt, grief and the reality of physical space that “stuff” takes up.  Year after year I was able to let go of more of it.  What happens is it becomes a bit addictive when you start to feel empty space around the house.  It’s freeing.  Craiglist, ebay and FB groups became our selling machines.  We sold and donated a TON of stuff.  I let the kids re-sell their clothing they didn’t use anymore and they could keep that money as well.  It became a family mission to live with less stuff and instead enjoy eachother more and free up more time for life.
  6. My husband packed a lunch EVERY DAY for work.  For years he ate these garbage burritos.  Super cheap and filling.
  7. I learned to make my own laundry detergent, toothpaste, from scratch recipes, cleaning supplies and more.  I did this both for cost savings and also for the health aspect of knowing what was in our products.
  8. We cut our cable and only late last year got a Roku.  We got cheap cell phone plans and have scraped by with cheap phones.  (one of my next goals is to get a phone that actually has enough memory where I can have more than 6 pictures and also have instagram, FB, gmail, yahoo and etsy apps all installed at the same time… seriously)
  9. We sold the financed car mentioned above and knocked out $12k in debt!
  10. A better interest rate on our house meant that we were paying down $400 more a month off principal than we were in the old house. We switched to a 15 year loan and had the same payment we did in our old house where we had a higher interest rate and a 30 year loan.
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To get the kids involved we filled a jar with beans. We used 1 bean for every $10 in debt on our last card to pay off. Here is Aspen counting beans to add to the other jar so he could see that one jar was getting almost empty and that mean we were close to being debt free!

 

Those are just a small sample of all the behind the scenes things we did while no one was looking so that we could be so “lucky”.  We had to consciously decide to not keep up with those around us who were able to go out and eat dinner out multiple times a week or month, drive fancy cars with payments or even get to buy new wardrobes each year.  Whether it was true or not we had to decide 100% that we didn’t EVER want to feel so stressed out about money again.    It’s funny, I can honestly say that over the years the times I had to make decisions based around money and feel the most consumed by thoughts of money are the years where it was the leanest.   This summer was a perfect testament to that.  In contrast to 2012 when our van broke down, we were in a panic we had no money to fix it right then nor did we have money to replace it.  So out we went that weekend and financed a $20k used SUV.   In contrast this summer our car went out, we were able to calmly share a car for a week as we assessed what to do; then we stuck to a $2,000 budget for a new car knowing that we wanted to pay cash for this car and stay out of debt. It was our true test again, our do-over to see if we’ve FINALLY learned our lesson.  2 months later and we are so happy with our decision and have zero buyers remorse.

I don’t share this to brag and I don’t share this because I don’t think people should have nice things.  I share this to offer hope to anyone out there who is feeling hopeless, feeling how I was years back facing 10’s of thousand in debt and feeling like I had no options and full of shame.   I share this to show it is possible to pay off debt and not have car payments.  It is possible to give yourself breathing room instead of living from crisis to crisis.

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I believe life should be about surrounding ourselves with things, experiences and people that genuinely make us feel good.  Living authentically and truthfully.  Living within our financial means so we have breathing room when life hands us a curveball or a friend goes through a hard time and we then have some money to help them with.

When we aren’t paying hundreds (or thousands) in interest and debt payments each month it frees us up to be more in tune with our creativity, our goals, our truest authentic selves.  It leaves money to get select things that truly make us feel good (like art, ahem 🙂 ).  It lets us come out of survival mode and into a part of our being that we didn’t even know was there.  It takes guts and courage to get so honest and real with a spouse about every cent.  Things we think are necessities or secret spending.  It’s taken incredible amounts of self discipline. Mostly though I think it’s taken patience.  Once we decided we were done wanting to live the way we were it wasn’t like we could snap our fingers and actually be done.  No, instead that was just the beginning of years of sacrifice and years of being patient and trusting the process.  Years of feeling like some months there was only a hundred left over to pay towards debt and knowing that better months were to come.  Patience and not giving up.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

Another lesson, other people will spend your money for you unless you learn to consciously control it.  People shamed us, people judged us, people laughed at us, people talked behind our back about our choices, people didn’t take time to ask us our goals but instead assumed we were in a downward spiral.  Looking back I can only imagine what it looked like to people close to us.  Suddenly they hear we are selling the land, camper, atv, trucks, furniture… they must have been scared for us.  Wondering if one of us had a secret addiction or gambling problem.  Wondering why we were giving up all the things we loved.  What they must have thought when we sold our nice 2012 suv and got an older ’02 model with some rust.   This is the lesson we learned in humility and believing in ourselves.  The lesson in making a plan that worked best for OUR family, choosing how OUR money would be spent and then learning to not care what anybody thought.  We learned to know  in our hearts that we were doing what we had to do for the best LONG term well being of our family and put that priority over the short term sacrifices.

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I am also partly sharing this just for my own self to fully grasp it and have it documented to share with our kids so they can understand all the times we said no to things.  Also because it gives me hope, after living so lean for years I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see a year of intense saving coming up, making up for lost time and creating a buffer  so the hubby can switch jobs and have more free time.  I see hope of more travel, and lets face it… some new bras.  Truthfully though I hope other things don’t change.  I love the feeling of being a team, knowing we are working towards a goal, choosing time together over things and places.  I loved saying no 900 times so that we could budget in a family vacation that we’d savor and never forget.

I’ll be back in a few days with a write up of many of the things we did to make this happen.  We’ve found inspiration in so many others before us who have paid things off.  It’s funny because in theory it doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal to not have consumer debt. Maybe that’s why we so easily get into debt, we assume we’ll fall back out of it just as easily as we fell into it.   But the truth is it was really freaking hard just to get to the point where we stopped accumulating more debt.  Our incomes both fluctuate so it was easy to live high during the good times then freak out during the slow seasons.  It’s only when we figured out how to live within the earning of the slowest seasons and then consider the busy times as bonus that things started to change.   Even just giving up cable.  It was years ago now and I in my head was remembering it as no big deal.  However, I recently found a journal of mine and I was journaling through the process of giving up cable.  It was hard!  I was going through withdrawl.  I was missing my shows I loved, I missed my ability to watch things when I wanted (thank you dvr).  I felt completely disconnected from the world.  It took a good month or so I noticed reading back through my entries before I started to really unwind and really enjoy the new quiet space in my life.

Last Saturday night, we put all four of our fingers on the computer mouse and as a family we clicked to make our LAST consumer debt payment!!!!! Then we had an epic hour long dance party.  Singing, dancing and feeling thousands of pounds of pressure being lifted.  Especially for the kids I wanted to make that night a big deal. A celebration, an end of a chapter.  A night they can use to bookmark these past few years as well.  We all gathered round and counted down and did our own private scream, yelling, “3…2…1… We’re DEBT FREEEEEEEEEE!!!”.  It was awesomely nerdy and fantastic and felt amazing.   Next up… savings and house.

I thank you for reading our story.   We are sending out love to all of you and we thank you for all your support over these last few years.  We’re saying cheers to each of you on the same journey and saying prayers for all of us; that we may be able to live with a wisdom beyond our immediate knowing that guides us in love, compassion and joy.

Noelle_Signature

The nitty gritty – behind the scenes how to pay $48k in debt off in 2 years

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So hopefully you’ve read my other post here talking about why and the general how we got out of debt.  Let me be clear that when I say out of debt, I am referring to all debt other than our house.  Our house is a little further down the list but we wanted to take a moment and give reverance to this moment.  To paying off $48k in credit cards, principal on the house, school fees, cars and more.

Let me be really clear up front.  We busted our asses, worked a ton, sacrificed in every area we could.  But let me also say, we’ve never been happier, we’ve never felt more proud and we feel aligned with what is important in life.. not stuff but eachother.

For me saving was easiest if I could figure out ways to save behind the scenes or ways that other than a one time activity I wouldn’t have to change my daily behavior too much.  Progress came from places we could save money or places we could make money. Here are a few of those:

  1. We cut the cable.  Over the last 4 years this has saved us over $4,000.
  2. We found the lowest, most reliable internet provider we could.  We signed up for a year to get a promotional rate. Then I’d call back after our bill went up and ask nicely if they could still honor their promotional rate.  They did.
  3. We went cheap on cell phones.  We switched to Virgin Mobile and bought middle of the road phones.  No iphones for us, no phones with payment plans. Our phones could do the basics but nothing fancy, not too many apps. It was hard on me for my business and may have not been the best business move but I had to make a sacrifice here so I just went for it.  Now upgrading to a little nicer phone is on my list.
  4. Cloth diapers.  When our youngest wes little we bought a large batch of cloth diapers. They saved us hundreds of dollars a year.  I loved them. I got into a routine with them and since I worked from home while being there it was pretty easy to stay on top of them and have them not be too big of a deal.
  5. We cut back on eating out.  We cut down to $30 a month total for 4 people.  This is what worked best for our family.  Since I am home both with the kids and working I am able to make dinner each night.  This left eating out for only when we really were strapped for time or energy.   We said no a lot to eating out.  We had to be okay with being left out for a couple years, and after awhile to not be invited much to dinners.
  6. I made homemade toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners and more.  I found a diy version for everything I could.  I loved also that I knew exactly what was going into each product so I trusted their safety more and it saved us money.  Once I spent the time making these projects the time actually spent using them was identical to anyone else. So it was a one time investment of my time and researching and many share the same few products so buying them was justified even more.
  7. I sewed reusable cloths for our household.  We have these everywhere.  It’s helped us to go down to only 1-2 rolls of paper towels a year and we never buy tissues.  I would buy flannel baby blankets and wash them, then cut them apart and sew into rectangles.   dscn3970
  8. We bought a hair cutting clipper set.  I watched some youtube videos and learned how to cut my hubby and son’s hair.  This has saved us about $20/month and the time and energy of going to a salon.  I’ve cut my own hair too for the last 2 years and mostly done Sky’s.  Being a teenager she’s a bit more picky so she used some of her work money to got get some highlights and a cut a couple times a year.
  9. We bought most clothes from consignment stores or garage sales.  With the exception of a couple things for me and a few things the kids and hubby got for gifts, I became a garage sale queen.  This works especially great with a young boy.  I’ve also gotten myself barely worn champion and nike tennis shoes for a couple bucks each. Once I even found really nice Merrill dress shoes for a dollar. Amazing!
  10. Patience – there have been many times we’ve wanted something right away, especially after moving into a difference house.  The best and hardest thing was to be patient where we could. There are so many times that we can’t control what things are needed so anytime non vital things were added to our list we tried to keep our eye out for sales or checked online sites like the FB groups or craigslist.  A perfect example was this summer. The weather was getting hotter and my art studio would have the sun beating in it all morning and almost be unbearable. This would then cause the rest of the house to be hot.  So we knew it was time to get some blinds for that wall of windows and take down the super chic zebra fabric I had nailed over them.  We were actually on our way to the store to buy the blinds when there was a garage sale near our house.  We got out and found a ton of really great stuff I could re-paint and sell and then right there was a buck full of mini blinds still in their boxes.  There were 3 the exact size I needed for my studio and Bruce found 3 that fit his garage workshop windows perfectly too plus they were only 50 cents each!!!  AMAZING.  Thank you universe.
  11. We lowered our insurance costs.  For years I had been with one company, I finally agreed to have a friend who offers insurance give me a quote.  While our auto insurance went up by a couple bucks a month through her, she saved us almost $400/year on our homeowners and offered better coverage. We were stunned!
  12. We lowered our interest rate on our house.  For years we were upside down on our mortgage in our old house and couldn’t refinance. We had a 6.95% rate and it was killing our budget.  When we moved were were able to drop that to a 3.125% and get a 15 year.  This saved us instantly over $100/week in interest that instead is going to principal plus knocked over a decade off our mortgage.
  13. I had to limit my art supplies.  It’s easy to let a hobby or a business get out of control and justify every want.  I would justify endless classes, books, supplies to try new techniques and all sorts of other marketing goodies.  I loved it all.  I had to be very diligent about keep my inventory at a low yet good amount and taking home as much profit as possible these past few years.
  14. Sales – we had garage sales.  We sold clothes to consignment stores.  I sold lots over FB groups and craigslist.  I also donated lots.  It was both about getting more money into our funnel but it also was about mentally and physically clearing clutter from our lives.  I keep a lean household, if we don’t use something it’s gone.  I’ve watched too many people around me be buried by clutter and eventually not have the energy to deal with it.  I prefer thinking of things that we no longer use that our time with them is done and it’s time for someone else to get to enjoy them.
  15. We made simple things fun.  We camped, we rented most of our movies from the library for free. We had picnics and bike rides, we hung out with friends and family doing simple things. I turned down shopping invites and instead met to just hang out or go on a walk together.  I turned dinner invites into coffee dates.  We played games, had bonfires, made forts and had dance parties.  We only went out to 1 movie as a family in the last 22 months. We went to 1 county fair.  We bought a family science museum pass and also visited our local zoo.  We spent less than $240/year on entertainment. (this is separate from sports fees, school activities or vacations)
  16. We had a written budget.  We wrote down all our income.  We wrote down our monthly expenses that we knew we had, we created envelopes for once in a while expenses like toiletries, pets, gifts and we averaged what those took a month and we’d add that amount to those envelopes.  This helped keep our month to month expenses pretty even. It also took away many surprise expenses.
    1. Our envelopes- grocery, restaurant, misc, entertainment, clothing, gifts, g. sale, toiletries, chore $ for kids, each kid had an envelope for what we estimate their expenses to be each month (mostly school activities, friends events, etc), lunch $, pets, household projects, beer.  My husband agreed to only spend $20 a month on beer.  He’d then treat himself to a fun 6 pack a couple times a month of some new local brew or another favorite.
  17. We made furniture and sold it. We bought used furniture and other items and fixed them, painted them or repurposed them and sold them in our booth at a local store in town.  It created some extra income and was a fun bonding experience for us.
  18. We had to abandon our bi-annual 2 week road trip this past year and instead chose to be a bit more budget conscious and flew to where my in laws where staying for the winter.  We crashed with them for 4 days and got enjoy them and the warm weather during this past February. This cost us only 25% of what our normal 2 week road trip budget is, yet we still got to get away and have some great family time.
  19. We had to set some boundaries and say no… A LOT.  We said no a lot to the kids, we also had to say it to ourselves and those around us who would ask us to go out and do things we knew weren’t in our budget.  Sometimes this was even saying no to things that were “free” because we knew that the gas would be an expense over our budgeted amount.
  20. We had to change our thinking and instead of thinking of our available money being everything that was coming in.  Our available money was only that which we had budgeted for the month.  ALL the rest went towards debt.   We followed Dave Ramsey’s philosophy on the order we paid things down.  We started with the smallest debt and paid it off as quickly as possible.  Then we put that amount towards the next largest until that was paid off.  It helped us to see progress and also gain some momentum.
  21. We put $1000 in our savings before we did anything else.  What this savings did was help us sleep better at night, it helped in case something unexpected came up so we weren’t completely in desperation at all times.  We tried not to touch this money. The only time we did use some is when we had to buy a car this past summer.  Then we spend the following weeks building it back up instead of putting that money towards paying debt.
  22. We had to give up a lot of short term fun for the sake of long term security and genuine well being.   This meant camps for the kids were out, we cut back on hotels and some of the traveling sports.  We tried to just buy less in general.  As I mentioned in my other blog post; we sold our atv, land  up north, camper, extra trucks and more.  All with the vision of getting out of debt and preserving our energy so we could put more of both towards our bigger goals.
  23. We stopped trying to keep up with the Jones’.  Sometimes the Jones’ are relatives, best friends or even our kid’s friends.  We had to get real about all the activities we were involved in, we had to stop caring about what anyone thought about the car we drove. We got okay with being considered weird.  We had to constantly balance between being frugal and wise with money while NEVER taking on a poverty or lack mindset.  Being tight with money while also believing in abundance was a balancing act; one that I’m not sure I was able to perfectly reconcile.  Especially being an entrepreneur; there is an underbelly of that world where you dress to impress, you pay others to do things for you so you can focus on your craft and work in your genius. It would be highly frowned upon to become complete DIY’ers.  It’s true sometimes when doing that we were probably spending hours to save a few bucks.  But accumulatively it added up.  It was a lifestyle shift.  It also felt good to use our hands to create, our minds to problem solve and spend more time than ever doing simple family activities.   Some of my favorite times were having all of us outside last winter chopping and gathering wood. I loved it.
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  25. I wore the same black dress to  many events.  I wore it with different necklaces or different jackets to change it up but I wore the same dress to my sister’s wedding, 2 funerals, many fun summer picnics, grad parties, my art studio open houses and more.  I just made do and wore it while I could.  It’s finally worn out now so I probably wouldn’t wear it out again but it sure did serve me well.   Between us, I also wore the same black dress shirt to my 20 year class reunion that I wore to the 15 year reunion… and I’m still alive nor did anyone care or notice….  What was important is I felt great wearing it. I wouldn’t have worn it if it made me feel bad, I instead chose to wear it with pride. It fit me and it carries lots of great memories with it.
  26. Gift giving – we had some big family discussions about gifts.  One thing I do differently now than I did in my 20’s… during my first marriage if money was tight we would not buy each other anything.  After that marriage fell apart, I knew there were several things I wanted to do different during my 2nd marriage. One of those things is honoring my spouse and not being a martyr or so self sacrificing that we don’t get each other gifts. They don’t even have to cost much but it’s the energy behind someone being able to put thought into someone and show they care. I value that so much now. Even if it’s flowers cut from the yard there is a different energy to that than saying lets not get anything. There are times we would also go out to an event for our gift instead of a thing too.  For others I created gifts where I could, got creative with some so we could do them on a budget. I still love to give so we just had to do it carefully.  We started to draw names for our relatives instead of buying for everyone.  Here are a few of the fun things we’ve made over the past few years to give hand made wreaths and coat/jewelry racks:
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  28. We quit the gym.  We moved to 6 acres now so we try to get outside each day.  We were also gifted a treadmill, this has been a life saver especially during the winter months.
  29. We kept each other motivated.  There were many times we were exhausted over the last few years.  Especially when you factor in the couple years of half assing trying to pay things off before that.  We had to keep our eye on the prize.  We talked a lot about dreams we have. What we will do someday when we don’t have a house payment.  We made sure to build each other up and be a great team instead of turning on each other or blaming.   There were times I felt isolated, especially after moving out here further and working from home.  I now homeschool our youngest also. While 95% of the time I absolutely love it all there are moments where I crave being around the hustle and bustle a bit.  So now I try to plan ahead so I don’t get depleted and instead every few weeks plan to run errands in the cities or be out and about and see family or friends.
  30. We’re teaching our kids that things will not buy you long term happiness.  Even the house we bought now is not large. We chose a house that was just big enough for us but also small enough that we can keep up with it and possibly grow old here.  I am always making sure the kids don’t have too much clutter, they re-sell toys or movies and put it towards new things. They are learning about budgeting and have both also done chores to earn money.  We try to create experiences with them and focus on those more than things. They are well loved and live amazing lives, my hubby and I took on most of the sacrifice but I do think it was important to let them feel just enough of the weight of this experience to help them stay out of debt in their adult lives.
  31. We take good care of the things we have.  My computer is 5+ years old.  Our cars, our lawnmower, our clothes.  We try to treat our things well. We wash them, we mend them, we be careful with them in the first place.  This has helped us in many ways being able to extend the lives of some of our biggest expenses.
  32. I hang our laundry.  Outside in the summer, inside in the winter.  Thankfully now we have a laundry room but for years I’d stretch out pieces across our living room to dry.  Now it doesn’t take up the whole house but it’s a win-win. It saves energy and it adds moisture back into the air of our home in the winter when it tends to get very dry.
  33. While we were completely frugal in some ways we also believe in luxuries where we can. For us that mean buying organic food whenever possible, having life insurance and hiring an amazing photographer for family photos every few years.  There were a few times we were able to donate to fundraisers for causes close to our heart.   I read blogs about how people can only spend $100 per person on groceries per month but for us that never seemed doable.  Our monthly grocery budget was $800/month. But as mentioned earlier we only spend $30/month on restaurants so that is the majority of our eating.  I also don’t drink except a couple times a year so there isn’t much spent on drinks and we very rarely have soda in our house.  It’s mostly water, milk or homemade almond milk.   We also made sure we all have life insurance.  We had 2 parents pass away in the last decade. My mom had life insurance and it gave my dad breathing room to take care of things. My hubby’s dad did not and I watched the complete stress his wife felt as she tried to pay for expenses and their day to day life. It left an imprint on me
  34. We bought organic, non gmo seeds and started them inside this spring.  We then grew lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (many are now pickles), and other foods and herbs in our garden ourselves for a fraction of what they cost in the store.  We are hoping to expand this each year as our knowledge base grows and our time is no longer spent on so many house projects we’ll have more to invest in growing our own food.   We saved many food containers to start the seeds in and now this summer I got 2 large stacks of starter pots for free that I’ll use to transplant the sprouts into once they get too big for the small starter containers.  (we use applesauce cups).
  35. We heat our house using a wood boiler.  This was a large cost up front to get a wood burner that then heats the water that runs through our garage floor and our house but we now are able to use our downed trees in this burner to heat our house all winter.  This is more of my hubby’s department since my knowledge on it is limited but that is what I do know. For us, living on 6 wooded acres it’s been a perfect fit.
  36. We transitioned to LED bulbs.  The cost of LED had come down greatly the last few years but for us even back a couple years ago we transitioned each bulb as it burned out. Some we used CFL then transitioned those to LED as we could.
  37. We stayed out of malls and stores as much as possible.  I stopped using store credit cards and praising myself on how much I saved.  Instead we just stopped shopping and found other hobbies.  We literally only shopped to buy what we needed.
  38. We sat and talked a couple times a month about our budget.  We compared notes, we’d do our best to predict any possible expenses for each new month.  We’d go back over past months and see where we over spent or where we did good.  I LOVED these meetings.  I could talk about our budget and lay out spreadsheets and goals and dreams for days.  But I learned that my hubby didn’t share my enthusiasm. For him he liked a bullet points meeting and also needed to hear about what was being paid.  In the years prior to these past 2 hard core ones, I learned he was going to work every day for years but would only ever see that our bank account was just enough to cover bills.  So now communicating better he could see how much debt was being paid off and how great his and our hard work was indeed paying off.
  39. We try to never do anything with payment plans, even zero interest.  We don’t charge things and we aim to pay cash for everything possible.  It helps us to shift our thinking into the big picture cost of something instead of monthly cost.   We also only pay cash for cars now.   Our goal is to get our house paid off early and then only pay cash if we ever buy another.
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Life’s full circle moment. After selling the trucks, the atv, the camper. We have a fun jeep to plow the driveway and do some heavy lifting… and it’s paid for. 🙂

Mostly, it’s important to know that we had to find what worked for us.  I know that some of our situation is unique, but I encourage you to find what can work for you.  You may be lucky to have much more income to work with than we were, awesome.  Think of it as a bigger shovel to dig yourself out.  I do know this; people are in debt at all income levels.  There are a few that aren’t bothered by it (maybe like us years ago, thinking we had it all handled) other people are going to be with knots in their stomachs trying to figure out what to do.  I’ve spent way too many nights of my life with that feeling and I hope to NEVER have it again.  I can’t control all of life’s circumstances but we have decided to control what we can and get ourselves in a better situation.  Let me tell you… eating peanut butter sandwiches feels better than eating out when you know you’ve got your bills paid.  There is such a peace of mind that happens as things are paid off.  Plus, it’s an amazing journey to go on as a family. It’s hard and you have to get really real and vulnerable but the reward is looking the real you in the mirror and feeling incredibly proud.

I know there are many people who have their house paid for, tons in the bank for retirement and are just fine.  I celebrate you.   But I know for every one of you, there are tons of us here in the trenches where every dollar and five dollar decision can make a big difference in our days and years.

I offer you all the cheerleading and support I can if you see yourself in any of our story.  If you are buried so deep you don’t know how you can dig yourself out.  I offer you hope.  I offer you hope if you are someone who hopes to be home with your babies, or someone who hopes to be able to live in a different area or just feel internal peace.

We’re all on our own journeys and ours is full of hiccups and ways we coulda/shoulda did things different.  Let’s all give each other some grace and love and cheer each other on. I don’t know anyone out there who needs people to judge them or shame them.  I just offer support and encouragement for you and for myself to keep on keeping on and doing the best with what we can control.

Wishing you a life where you can have authentic joy, creative dreams and peaceful sleeps.

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