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 sotp 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 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 consicously 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.

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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 expecially 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 – their 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 miniblinds 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 expences 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 expences 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 amound 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 wierd.  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 entreprenuer; 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 activiites.   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 eachother anything.  After that marriage fell apart, I knew there were several things I wanted to do different during my 2nd marrage. 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 eachother 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 eachother 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.  I don’t eat meat, grains, rice, potatoes, corn, wheat, milk.  So it was lots of veggies, seafood or fish, nuts, some dairy, good oils and fats.  We have a few others that also don’t eat wheat so we try to buy good quality foods.  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 home made 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 expences 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 tranplant 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.

Noelle_Signature

Thrifty Thursday – pallet side table

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Fun side table – from pallets

My hubby is lucky enough to get these great fee pallets every once and awhile from work, we love making fun projects from them.  I was using two tv trays in front of a window to hold our plants, it was time to make something more permanent.  We found some table legs that had been in our garage for years, we never knew what to do with them.  I drew up some plans and had my hubbs help me make this.

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Bruce assembling the top and bracing onto the legs.

Aspen helping out too:

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All finished!  Here it is before I paint it:

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I love the painting part, lots of water mixed with paint to “age” the wood.  Then fun pops of reds, teals, greens, browns, whites.  Partially just colors I enjoy and partially to match our decor.   The legs were a blackish/green when we pulled them out of the wood pile. Originally I planned on painting the whole table white but once it was together I loved the contrast.  I instead added some touches of color to the legs, a bit of copper, browns, and reds. I love the final result:

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This setup means so much to me.  The legs came from my dad years ago.  Aspen helped me paint the flower pots.  The plants are from my ex-father-in-laws funeral. The metal cage used to be my moms along with the lamp on the bottom shelf.  Skylar painted the frame on the bottom left and it has her picture in it.  The silhoette on the bottom is of my mom, the painting behind it is one by Aspen.  And the cardinals on the top shelf were a gift from me to Bruce, they are two cardinals snuggled up together.   Whew, a table build by me and my love and full of meaningful things from people around me present and past.  Love love love.

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words for the friend who just announced she’s getting divorced

I remember a time almost 10 years ago where I felt like the sound went out around me, everything was caving in on me and I was trying not to black out. I was just informed by my then husband of 5 years that he didn’t want to be married anymore.  I remember thinking of our 3 year old, thinking how did I not see this coming, feeling like I had just failed on the biggest stage of my life.  A spent a few hours in denial, then a few days in shock then months in tears and more denial.  Then something took over me that told me I’d be okay, life would go on. On some deeper level I knew that I would come out of that situation stronger and wiser then I had gone into it.  But it was a hard, yucky time. I was annoyed with the world, annoyed with people around me and mostly annoyed with myself.

I moved back to Minnesota (from Dallas) and while sharing a bedroom with my daughter in my parent’s house, I began to put my life back together.  I made lists of all the things I had given up on that I wanted to add back into my life.  I made lists of career options.  I made graphs and charts of all the areas of my life; career, health, finances, hobbies, goals, travel, living, relationships. I noted where I was, where I wanted to be.  What I needed to add into my life, who and what needed to go.  It was hard but thankfully this energy took over and helped me go through it.  I never expected those few years following to be the beginning of the greatest years of my life.

I was lucky to have a few level headed friends and family members around me to help keep me moving forward.  I’ll never forget my dearest soul sister telling me, “You can handle this like they would on Springer or Oprah” . Wow, there were some pop culture words of wisdom that I have never forgotten.

I wanted to give back and help others so I’ve created a Divorce Manifesto.  This is a FREE printable guide that is perfect for women going through a divorce. You can pass it along to anyone you know who could use this tool in their life right now.  Print it, put it by your desk, on your bathroom mirror, in your car or wherever you find yourself needing a boost and reminder of how to not only survive the divorce experience but turn it into a time where you get to know yourself, honor yourself and reset your life path. You can can find a free download here or you can right click the image below:

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Are you going through this journey of a divorce?  You may be interested in these blog posts:

http://noellerollinsart.com/i-give-you-permission-to-say-no-2/

http://noellerollinsart.com/sophistication/

If you’ve used this Divorce Manifesto and it’s helped you, I would love to hear about it. Email me and tell me all about it. Thanks!

On the 12th day of Christmas!! Final Day

UPDATE:  I’m going to extend this last giveaway through Monday at midnight.

Well the giveaway fun is coming to an end.  After this I only have one more giveaway this year.  That giveaway if for a colorful, art calendar full of my artwork, that will be given away to one of the new “likers” of my facebook art page.   If you haven’t been over to my art facebook page there is no better time.  Make sure to like the page before Christmas to be entered to win.

 

So on this 12th day of Christmas I am giving away a fabulous repurposed pallet artwork piece!!  This winner will get to choose 1 of 5 designs.  See your options here:

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These are pallets that have been repurposed, painted and have all hardware for hanging attached.  Print is mounted to wood, size is approx 9″x12″.

I’ve had some requests to know where to get some of the items that have been given away. Many of them are available on my etsy site.  I will make a list here for those who didn’t win but would still like to purchase one:

Day 1 – Wine Prints – You can find my wine prints and artwork here.

Day 2 – Ornaments – wide variety available here in my studio.  Some themes on hand: new baby girl, new baby boy, girl, woman, wine, guitar, music, couple, family

Day 3 – Yoga print – You can find the exact print here or browse through the etsy site to find all the other poses.

Day 4 – Music Postcard prints – Here

Day 5 – Horse racing 8×10 print. Here

Day 6 – Hand Painted hammher –  You can find the hammhers I have listed on Etsy here   otherwise I have lots more in my studio that are not listed. Set up a time to stop by.

Day 7 – Greeting Cards – again, I have some listed on Etsy here.  I have more that I haven’t had time to list yet in my shop.  Set up a time to stop by.

Day 8 – Coasters – You can find the identical set of 6 here.

Day 9 – Yoga prints – all yoga prints, cards, pallet artwork, jewelry, posters are here.

Day 10 – Original Crossroads artwork – I’ve got a couple options for you, you can take a class and learn to make your own crossroads artwork.  Or by a print here.

Day 11 – Minnesota Wine Glass Set here.  Or Minnesota Beer Glass Set here.  (You can always request a different state or city)

Day 12 – Today – I have music themed pallets here.  Or the soulful yoga, crossroads and more here.

 

To enter todays drawing just leave a comment on this blog posting by Midnight Monday night (yes 3 days from now).  For those of you who have won and already received your gifts I’d love to hear your feedback  on how you like them, if you plan on giving  them or keeping them for yourself.  I always think it’s fun to hear the story behind things and where they end up, etc.

 

I hope you all have an Incredible Christmas, New years and are able to enjoy some time for yourself also.   Good luck on the giveaway today!!

On the 10th Day of Christmas

On this 10th day of Christmas I offer an original Crossroads Painting for someone to win!

Chaos on one side and calm on the other, she holds her head high. She’s classy, she’s got this.  This artwork is a great reminder to work to handle so many different life situations with such grace.  This artwork is 11″x14″ on canvas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To enter to win, leave a comment on this blog post by midnight tonight.   Make sure to follow this blog and/or join my mailing list to stay in the loop.  Only 2 more days left after today of giveaways, make sure to check back.

Have a great day!     Also, Renee was the winner of the yoga print set from yesterdays drawing.  Congrats Renee!!!  I have a surprise though, not only will Renee be getting the print set plus a bonus,  I’m sending each person who entered yesterdays drawing a free surprise!   Happy 12-12-12!!!

 

 

Noelle

 

On the 9th Day of Christmas (Free Giveaway)

Hello and welcome to day 9. I am having so much getting to gift so many prints and goodies to everyone. It’s been such a busy few months and this has been something that has been just for me and the pure joy of giving things away. I’m loving it. Thank you to each of you who have been participating!

On the 9th Day of Christmas….
Soulful Yoga Art Print Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am giving away this set of 4 Soulful Yoga Postcard Prints Plus a secret extra Soulful Yoga Bonus!! You can find out more about this series right here on my blog or you can click the picture and view more on my Etsy site.

If you haven’t seen it before you’ll love this video I made all about why I felt called to create this series: http://vimeo.com/44127937

To enter simply leave a comment on this blog post. 1 person will be chosen at random to win. Winner will be chosen on Wed from all those who have entered on 12/11/12 by midnight. Good Luck!!

12 days of Christmas Art Giveaway

Hello.  It’s a beautiful snow Saturday morning here in Minnesota and a perfect day for a giveaway.  I’ve decided to switch my 12 days giveaway from my facebook art page over to my blog.  I have more room here to write about each item and it follows more in line with the FB rules.

If you’re new to the 12 days of Christmas Art Giveaway just go to my recent newsletter here and read all about why I wanted to say Thank You.

 

Day 6 – Free Giveaway!   A hand painted floral Hammher!

This hammher is painted with a deep plum/maroon background with trails of soft yellow flowers.  Ladies are you getting ready to tackle some D.I.Y projects around the house this winter? Then we’ve got you covered. I am all about capturing the beauty and energy of life around me. This beauty extends to cover the working woman as well. I believe that beauty, femininity and class should never be sacrificed when a woman needs to get down to the nitty gritty. This collection of high quality wood handled hammers have been delicately painted with uplifting, fun designs. They are intended to remind women of their fabulousness every time they use them. Each piece is hand finished in a protective gloss coating to protect the design.

Ready to give (or keep for yourself).

Congrats to Amy R. who won the horse print from yesterday’s drawing!

To enter all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post.  1 winner will be chosen from all those who enter by Midnight tonight (12/8/12).    Good Luck!  Make sure to check out the new giveaway again tomorrow.   **Noelle