Freedom in Humility

In previous posts (The Earnings Gap and Social Implications and The Fear of Sharing) I had talked about the difficulties that my husband and I encountered when approaching friends and family to share our financial struggle, and how that made us feel more alone in our journey.

Somewhere along the way, we have turned a corner and have somehow been able to overcome more of this fear of sharing, resulting in some very honest conversations with co-workers and friends. I’m not sure if this is out of loneliness or exhaustion from pretending that we’re in a “normal” season; certainly, our current lifestyle is very far from normal, at least for us.

This manifested itself in a few different ways:

One, I gave this blog address to one of my friends at work. Before that, I’d only shared it with my birth mother and one of my close (non-judgemental) friends. She and I had spoken a little bit about our situations before and we had both shared our disappointment in our selves and our spouses in allowing our family to have to face what feels like and insurmountable task (overcoming debt). Finally, I thought, maybe I should just let her read it all – it would certainly save time :). I haven’t checked in with her, yet, but I plan to soon.

Secondly, I was invited to lunch by some co-workers and I declined, citing that it wasn’t in my budget. When they told me that is wasn’t in their budget either, but that there was a full-sized salad for $6, I thought that maybe it would be good to actually be gracious and accept the invitation and cut back elsewhere. So we went on our merry way, and, to my dismay, they were mistaken and the salad was, in fact, $12. It was also the least expensive thing on the menu, making for an awkward situation. They decided that they would go ahead and order entrees, and I started thinking about asking for a sidedish as a meal and hope that it was less than $7 or so. I was sure that the sidedish and frequent refills of water with lemon would fill me up and I would still be able to experience the company of my co-workers. Thankfully, one of them was sensitive to my plight and offered to order a side salad with her entree and just have me pay the add-on cost ($5). I was really grateful and once we were done ordering, I figured that perhaps I should let them know why I didn’t just decide to order an entree, so I took a big breath and I said, “Thank you for helping me out. We’re in a tremendous amount of debt and we’re on a very tight budget.” I told them what percentage we’ve been able to pay off since the end of February and eventually they asked how much (wow, people amaze me) the original debt was. I took another big breath, looked them in the eyes and said, “more that I make in a year.” And what was I feeling in that moment…

Humility.

and…

Freedom.

Amazingly, I now had two less people with whom I had to hold a pretense of “everything is okay.” Two more people who could potentially cheer me on and while there is also a possibility that this information could make it around the office, I think there comes a point where you just have to quit caring what people think, because they aren’t going to affect your debt one way or the other (meaning, they aren’t going to add to- or subtract from- the debt), so they have no impact on the situation. Yes, it is humiliating. And it should be – it was born out of greed and folly, and it is part of the bondage of debt.

I’m truly looking forward to the day when I can proudly share with anyone that we were able to accept our new “normal” and face what felt like an insurmountable task…and succeed.

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Getting ready for school

This week I registered for my two classes for the fall term. I’m excited to start back, but I’m a little nervous that the rushing from work to school three nights a week and the ensuing exhaustion will make it hard for us to stick to our meal plan. I will have to rely on my husband greatly to help prepare and pack my meals and I’ll need to make sure that I put time aside each week for the planning and shopping (we do the shopping together and the times that I am not able to, my husband is wonderful as long as I give him a good list).

The other thing that tickles the back of my brain is the fact that grad school is so darn expensive. It’s about $3,000 (classes, texts and gas) for me to take two classes for 10 weeks – ouch. What has changed for us from the first 9 classes I took is that I have applied for and accepted financial aid – this is a much better choice than what we were doing before, which was to do a payment plan or to put it on a credit card (I know – bring on the ridicule). After this term, I’ll have 23 more classes to complete to receive my Masters degree. So if we do the math…carry the one…yup, that’s $34,500 to come. My hope is that when we are done paying off our debt in 2 years, 10 months, I’ll be down to 11-13 classes left, and that the extra cash that we will have will be paid for by our additional cash flow. That should work since we’ll have an additional $19,800/year.

It is thinking about these things that help me to pack my lunch, or make wise choices when shopping – the rewards at the end of this journey are worth the hard work…

Trying some new food ideas

We’re always on the look out for low-cost flavorful food so that we can lower this budget category that seems to spiral out of control more months than it doesn’t . I’ve posted before about the “morphing” meals we have done for several months, but we’ve found that we’re looking for a little more variety.

I think we have found it in Melissa d’Arabian’s new show on The Food Network.

My husband and I are fans of the show “The Next Food Network Star” and we were thrilled when the “underdog” won the most recent competition. She is a mother of 4 and she has a lot of great money saving tips, so the Food Network launched her first show asĀ Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian.

This is exciting for us, because we figure that with just two of us, it will really equal a lunch AND dinner for two people for $10. What a great way to keep food costs down while stretching your dollar (especially with flavorful home-cooked food).

Tonight, we are going to try the North African Meatballs and Couscous with Dried Dates (yum!) and are looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Note: each episode comes with money saving tips posted as “web only” content on the site – here’s a peek at the one for the meal we are making tonight.

Considering the economic climate, was this a smart move by The Food Network, or what?

Success :: 8.17.09

Today, I’m proud to report that we have paid off two more of our obligations this month.

First, we paid off one of our personal loans – this should help the relationship with our friends who were waiting for the last payment for the the truck we purchased from them.

Second, we paid our last installment for our state taxes. This will be even more helpful when we file our returns for the next tax year, because we’ll actually be able to get our refund instead of having it go toward our tax liability.

This makes four accounts that we’ve been able to pay off so far this year.

It feels good!

Forgiveness

Today, one of our loans was forgiven.

We had humbly taken the first payment in person and expressed our gratefulness for the leniency in the timeline for repayment.

They wouldn’t take it. We insisted. They said no. We firmly insisted. They got a little angry and said to never bring it up again.

Typically, we would dance a huge gratitude dance and use the extra cash to pay down our debt even quicker. But instead, this act of mercy made us think that we should be using this money for other acts of kindness and mercy, so we are putting it into a fund to help out our family members. We have a few that are in end of life stages and one nephew who has been sent away for two years at a boys ranch. We thought we should save this money for unexpected things that might come up along the way, like needing to go stay with them or purchase needed items that they can’t get themselves (along with replacing lost wages if we need to take FMLA w/o pay to help out).

I ran the numbers, and it would be the difference between us getting out of debt two months earlier…and that would be awesome, but we feel like we should be doing something generous with the money that we weren’t planning on having anyway. At the end of our journey, I’m sure we’ll look back and be glad that we “did our time” and made this choice to wait a little on our debt-free date in exchange for being able to give back to our families.

UPDATE: After more discussion, my husband and I agreed that ~20% of the payment will go to debt reduction, while the remaining amount will go into the family leave account. We think this will help us add a little bump to our debt reduction, while still sticking to our family leave goal.