Debt Free by 50

I’ll be 50 in the year 2020.

I currently owe over $100,000 to various places with the biggest debt in the house that I own. It’s a nice house and I enjoy it, but owing banks is a yoke that I don’t want to have.

Today is May 29, 2017.

$77,118.58 – Mortgage
$21,176.91 – Credit Card
$11,449.85 – Car

$109,745.34 – Total

Holy gerbils! That’s a lot of cash! And, while I’d like to think of myself as being different and unique, in this case… I’m pretty average. There are a whole lot of people who owe a whole lot of money to folks.

My goal is to be debt free by September 2020.

In this blog, I’ll be talking about the strategies, concepts, and wiggly bits that I used to get to the debt free mark. You’ll find some ideas and thoughts from other folks in here, too.

Some of the subjects that I’ll cover:

The one thing that saved my bacon more times than I can count
Debt-busting strategies and experiments
The psychology of money and getting to 0
Side hustles to get debt-free

The Conversation Continues

We are a consumer-based society. That much is clear. At some point, there were some statistics about how we’re exposed to at least 5,000 brands in a day. The question is, are we paying attention to them?. But that’s not my point.

The point is, we’re surrounded by all types of marketers who are screaming at us to buy buy buy. And these messages add up – to the point where I don’t really even know what I want, but I know that I want to buy something. Today, I recognized that we needed some meat and spent $65 at Ingles on meat, potatoes, and other groceries.

May 20 – May 26
$63 – Aldi
$20 – Whole Foods
$13 – Mediterranean restaurant
$65 – Ingles
$161 – Total

I’m worried about the food, primarily because that’s the most controllable expense, but there are others that I need to be worried about. The debt is going to eat me if I let it, but I’m not planning on letting it. So, remember that $692 that was in the business account?

Yeah. Nope.

$270 went to car payment + replenishing $20 in house account
$300 went to the newly replenished emergency fund.
$50 went to his account
$72 went to the credit card to hopefully bash it down a little bit.

Everything that’s normally due is still on the table with the exception of the car payment which isn’t due until I think the beginning of August. I have the feeling that billing is going to be kind of light for the 1st of the month but really sweet on the 15th.

I’m doing my best to turn these big debts into small.

All the Best Made Plans

My parents didn’t talk to me about money. We’re taught that it’s a taboo subject around the dinner table, though many kids had the experience of getting to hear their parents fight about it. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been a kid, and I’ve been managing my own money for a long time, but there are times when I forget that it’s a completely psychological thing.

We wrap our value up in the money that we earn. We ‘invest’ in ourselves when we take a course or spend time doing whatever we do. So, those who are not earning money or feel that they’ve been getting the short end of the stick are considered ‘worthless’ – entirely a money term. While our net worth is literally wrapped up in the money we make, our self-worth is something different.

Our self worth is wrapped up in what we’ve done, where we’re doing, the ideas that we’ve had, and a whole manner of things. It’s not just how much money we made. Compared to Warren Buffett, for example, I’m lower than a dimple on a ladybug… but I still consider myself to be pretty darned important in my world.

I did what I said I’d do yesterday by paying for the car payment and replenishing the money used for medication. I got an invoice out to the client who will pay by the end of the week, so now this week is generally cleared. There may be another $40 coming in, but that won’t hit til next week. With freelancers a lot more than 9-5ers, it’s usually just a whole lot of little things adding up to the main cash flow.

I paid $80 to a doctor’s appointment, and instead of going to a grocery store, I spent $13 on eating at a decent Mediterranean restaurant which had cruddy service. I think that it’s because I’m female that I got bad service, but the food was good. I won’t be going back, but I won’t disparage the food. Babaganoush and lentil soup. Pretty darned tasty.

Oh! I also spent a total of $6 on getting two pictures done on Fiverr. I should be getting those by the beginning of next week – I want to get a few more (for a total of 5) done before I spend around $50 to get a few decks of cards made. I think I have a reasonable idea of what I want, and I think that 5 picture cards will make a great MVP. It’s perfectly okay to spend only around $100 on a project, right? I hope so.

Decisions and Mindfulness

On the 20th, we made the decision that all of the food that we eat shall be from the grocery store or from the garden. It’s a challenge, I believe it’s called the no restaurant challenge. We spent about $62 on groceries at Aldi that day and around $20 on groceries at Whole Foods on Tuesday. The Whole Foods food was somewhat cheating because we got meals from there which were fairly fast – I got sushi and he got hot food from their buffet table.

The real challenge is going to be tomorrow. Tomorrow, I have an appointment in Roswell where I’ll be away from the home for an extended period. I’ll have all kinds of fast food choices available to me, and have even kind of made up my mind that I want to spend $20 on a meal at the Indian restaurant that I found last week. There’s another part which says that it’s too easy and that I should resist.

The biggest factor that plays into my spending is convenience. Going to the Indian restaurant would be all about convenience. It wouldn’t be because I’m craving Indian food, nor would going to the Japanese buffet be all about the sushi. I have to convince myself that I have higher goals than that and when I do decide that it’s time to eat out that I should make the most of the experience by going out with those I care about.

In other money happenings, I have $692 coming in tomorrow and $240 most likely coming in on Friday or Monday (she said that she would be taking care of it this week). Next week, I bill out around $900 for the regular clients, and might pick up another $100 or so from another client. Next month is going to be a lot more fun on the money front because I’m expecting one client to come through bigly on June 22.

Assuming that the $240 comes in, I’m going to take that and the $692 and put in a mortgage payment ($650) and a car payment ($250) to clear the slate for next month.

I spent $20 today on medication. That stuff is non-negotiable. I spent $46 last week on it, and about $20 at Whole Foods picking up some arnica and some Tiger Balm.

The point of all this is that I need to be accountable for my own money situation. $20 here and $20 there have added up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars… and it’s money which could have been spent paying off the financial obligations that we have. Right now, I’m looking at the car with the hope that we can get it paid off early.

The Only 9 Tips You Need to Save Money on Everything

Ramit Sethi said that there’s only so much you can save, but you have an unlimited earnings potential.

Dave Ramsey is all about using what you have to save and become debt free. Make the most out of your future.

The Minimalists talk about minimalism and essentially treating your real world like an editor is supposed to treat an unruly manuscript: take out everything unnecessary so you can appreciate what’s important.

What happens when you take it all and smoosh it together?

The beginning of a game plan.

This blog has gone through some changes. In the beginning, I wanted to list every way you could save money on whatever thing that you wanted to save money on. Want to save money on games? Here’s a post. Want to save money on washers and dryers? Here’s another post. Want to save money on video games? Yeah, that too.

I realized that the solutions were pretty pedestrian and repetitive.

1. If it’s a *thing* that you won’t need more than once, check with your friends.
For instance, we need to clean our gutters and to do that we need an extension ladder. Instead of running to Home Depot to pick up a $200 extension ladder, we’re hitting up a friend who will most likely loan one to us. The same works for video games, appliances, and other things. A whole LOT of saving money relies on groups getting together and pooling their resources.

2. In most cases, food stuff is always going to be cheaper if you shop at the grocery store.
Restaurants are cool. Restaurants are neat. Fast food is cool and neat as well. And, you can get baby hamburgers and tacos and stuff for $1.50 per, but you’re going to win out with volume if you go to the store and spend the cash. You can spend $20 at the grocery store and get a whole lot of tasty, tasty tacos.

2a. If it’s not cheaper, you’ll have a better idea of what’s in it from the grocery store.
You have a magical trade-off when you buy all of the ingredients and make your own food. You know what’s in a dish, which means that you can add things and erase them at your leisure. With that kind of control, you can make them healthy or not healthy. Making it at home is going to be the most cost effective option in most cases.

3. MOST things are just as functional used as new.
For realz. Video games. Tires. Computers. Appliances. Cars. Clothes. If you need these things to survive, you’re probably going to be better off getting them used. If you’re hard core, you can make your own clothes (which sometimes costs a LOT more than simply buying at Goodwill), but it usually doesn’t come to that. If you want something which will get you by, used is the way to go.

4. If you have to have new, save up for quality.
Darn Tough socks cost between $15-20 a pair. You can get 6-packs of socks for a LOT cheaper, they’re not going to feel as good or be as effective as regular socks. they are darn tough and they are incredibly comfortable. Their guarantee says that if they are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you should return them for another pair. Forever. There are things in every imaginable category that represent long-lasting quality.

5. If you’re not using it, minimize its impact. If you are, maximize its use.
We live in 2 rooms of the house. Only one room of those two have air conditioning. The rest is a sauna in the summer and an ice box in the winter. If you have 2 cars and use only one car, If you’re running the dishwasher, washer, dryer, or other random appliance … try not to use it for less than a full load or run. That way, you’ll get the most out of it.

6. For goods and services, always do your research.
Research it. Look around. Comparison shop. See who offers the best value and go with that one. If you’re unsure about it, ask your friends. This works for anything – the universal truth of saving money and making the most of what you’ve got. If you need insurance, check around and find the best one for you. If you need phone service? Same thing. Different strokes for different folks, and remember to shop on value, not price.

7. If you’re not using it, get rid of it or profit from it (or both).
Remember that profiting from it doesn’t necessarily mean making money from it – you could give it to friends who need it, get the warm fuzzy of giving it to Goodwill, etc. If you’ve got a spare bedroom in your house, get a porch troll. If you’ve got lots of books you don’t need, turn them in for credit. If you’ve got video games you don’t want, get store credit or sell them off. Get rid of it, profit from it, or both.

8. Make sure you need it
I have a bad habit. When I get an idea for a business, I want to buy the domain, start creating tons of content, come up with a marketing plan, and go full steam ahead. Two weeks later, my drive for the site has evaporated and I’m stuck with this domain that I own that I don’t know what to use it for. Something always happened and the drive went away. Fast forward to now… and I’ve got a lot of domains that are collecting dust.

It’s called a two-week obsession. I’d spend upwards of $200 on something and do all the things, then have it peter out just as quickly as it came on, leaving me out $200 with a ton of product on my hands. Some things I come back to (canvases and paint don’t go bad, for instance). Some things I don’t. But I’ll spend the money for it in the blink of an eye and the urge vanishes.

So, if you want to try something out but you don’t know if it’s the thing, find someone you know who does the thing and see if you can borrow their old stuff. That way, you can find out if it’s the thing for you. Use your current resources to do the thing – like, if you have a website laying around and gathering dust, use that to work your new idea. It doesn’t really matter what the domain name is right NOW. And, stuff’s easy to transfer over. If you want to try mixing teas, see if your circle of friends has any spare herbs that you can play with. It will save you a ton of money in the long run.

9. If you need it, have the space for it, and it doesn’t go bad, buy it in bulk.
Bulk will almost always get you a better deal than buying it individually in the grocery store. If you spend $20 at Costco on the super mega jumbo toilet paper hoard that will last you 6 months as opposed to the once in a while thing that costs $20 for infinitely less rolls, go for the mountain of TP. You know you use it. It might not be NOW, but you know you do.

Don’t go crazy with this, though. If the space that it takes up interferes with your daily life, then don’t get it. Yes, you might consider yourself cool having a Kinko’s worth of paper in your closet, but if you’re NOT going to use it and it’s taking up too much of your space, then don’t get it.

Buying toiletries in bulk will most likely save you a lot of money in the long run.

When I discovered these ideas, I realized that the rest of the blog became a moot point. Each of the posts that I made was just piling on and piling on, so it became boring to me. Boring and predictable. And while boring and predictable is great in some cases, I wanted a little more.

I made another realization, too. Spending money… the choice to use the money you earn whether as an investment in futureYou (savings) or nowYou (giving your money to others) is made in the blink of an eye. It’s like a light switch: it takes no time or effort to spend money. There may be mental gymnastics to justify what you’re spending it on, but the actual act should be painless.

Sometimes, the decision is actually made on autopilot.

Your brain chunks events together really easily. If you do something at a specific time and place for more than a few times in a row, it becomes easier and easier to do it. So, if you stop at BoJangles on the way to work every time for a big ol’ picnic size order of Borounds and a large tea for four days in a row, that fifth day you’ll have to truly think about it to NOT do it.

The same works if you stop by QT to pick up coffee, or always go to the grocery store on Wednesdays, or what have you. This is where mindfulness comes in. It takes *effort* to break the habits that you have because the brain is super lazy. If you’re mindful, you’re aware of what’s going on and aware of the patterns that you’ve created at any given point in time.

Breaking of those patterns, breaking of those cycles… that’s actually more fascinating to me than the ways to save, because psychological stuff and cycle breaking is generally more fascinating. Break the cycle with money, and you can break the cycle with a whole LOT of things. You can literally develop a personal system of bad habit and bad cycle breaking.

Money management programs are nice for the aftermath, but what’s there when you’re in the trenches and fighting your own brain?

Lessons from Cinnamon Hard Candy

The lime hard candy had a mediocre result. I didn’t want to let it just lie there, so I decided that I’d make some cinnamon hard candy. We had the oil and the equipment available – might as well, right?

If the lime candy experiment produced mediocre results, then the cinnamon hard candy experiment was an abject failure. I wanted to perfect the technique but didn’t – though I (re)learned some valuable things in the process. I know what I did wrong, and don’t plan on doing it again even though this taught me several things.

Patience. It’s not just for doctors anymore

You remember those folks who will tell you that patience is a virtue? It’s a virtue because stuff tends to turn out a LOT better if you exercise it. My cinnamon hard candy recipe had ts flavorings and oils added too quickly, and as a result turned out poorly.

Experience is the best way to learn science

I had no idea. Really. I had no idea that the sugar that was dissolved in the water would go back into its granulated form after a while. I thought that it would be a goopy sort of sugar syrupy mess, but that’s not what happened at all. When in doubt, try it out! You’ve not got much to lose, and who knows, it may work!

Research makes things better

If I’d done my research, I would have found out that adding spicing and flavoring to hard candy before its time was probably not a good idea, and I would have found out what the results were going to be. I’m of two minds on this one, of course – because the story of this particular ‘failure’ is fun.

More is not always better

I would have found this out through the research. Using 2 tsp of cinnamon oil to the mixture was way too much. The house smells good as a result. Even the day after, there’s still some pretty awesome smells, but the candy is completely and totally shot. It’s kinda neat and crumbly looking, but it’s definitely not hard candy. (Man, I wish I had pictures!)

Here’s the recipe for how NOT to make cinnamon hard candies.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tsp cinnamon oil
3/4 tsp ground pepper

Dissolve sugar in the water and wait for it to boil. This forms a simple sugar syrup, and what you’re waiting for is some of the water to be boiled off so that the temperature rises. Wait until the temperature rises to 230 or so, put in both the oil and the pepper.

Watch as the heat rises, and something else happens. Where the sugar was in a liquid form, the stuff will boil and gradually turn its way back to sugar. Apparently, there’s something with the oil and pepper that makes it boil more and not like it.

Realize that your experiment isn’t going to make hard candy, remove from heat at around 270, pour it into the lightly sugared pyrex, and start writing about it because you don’t have hard candy. You’ve got this … well, it looks like a landscape for a Warhammer game.

Write about it.

No matter you’re involved in, the best thing to do is experiment. I think that I’m like a lot of people who don’t actually do enough research before pressing the ‘go’ button. You know what? There’s sometimes a thrill in not knowing absolutely for sure how something will turn out.