Thursday, January 1, 2015
I am where I want to be in about 99% of my life. I am very much a goal oriented person which means that instead of focusing on the 99% of my life where I am content, I focus on the 1% where I would like to see change. I thrive when I am working towards a goal, and I think this has been a great benefit to my life- I am very driven and I get what I want 99.9% of the time if I work hard enough. There have been some instances in the last few years though that have highlighted the danger of this way of being. If you really want to check yourself on this, go into sales for a bit.
Being goal oriented means that you are busting your butt to the best of your ability to make something happen. Unfortunately, the timing of when the thing will happen is never in my control- and sometimes when my lack of control in timing becomes highlighted, it can break me down.
The most recent illustration of my lack of control is with our financial situation. We have been chipping away at our debt. We incurred a larger than average amount of credit card debt during the great recession, and when you couple that with our lingering student loans (that is good debt right?), car payments, mortgage and HELOC it is down-right frightening. Hey- we are living the American Dream;). The credit card debt accrual was very gradual and mostly due to a decrease in Erik's income during the recession. We needed stuff, or kids needed to play soccer, sign up for boy scouts, etc. we would just put it on a credit card and deal with it later- unfortunately the "later" was not coming. It all happened in steps and was gradual and in the mean time nothing was changing in our lifestyle (which by the way is not extravagant- we lived with one shower in our house for years!!). I do look back and think my ignorance was a blessing because I think if I had been aware of our financial situation back then, I would have been TERRIFIED!!
January of last year, I realized we needed to get back on track. We made an attempt to pay off our debt before and had paid Erik's car off before having Anna, but having her (which was NOT the best financial plan but certainly the best LIFE plan), put our financial aspirations on hold. We did manage to avoid going further into debt during that time, but we didn't get rid of much of it. January 2014 came and we went hard core first paying off a small credit card, then paying off our van and now focusing on our larger credit card. We paid a total of [$XXXXX- ask me if you want the real number- I am happy to share if you are on your own debt free journey] toward our debt in 2014!!! I find it INSANE that we make enough money to pay that much toward debt, that we have that much debt, and that this amount is a large proportion of my salary!
In 2015 after we pay off the large credit card we have 2 student loans and our new car to pay off. Then on to our emergency fund. If you are curious what we are doing, we are following the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. By the way, we are not even talking about our house in this equation- it is currently underwater and a lost cause for now- we are just making our regular mortgage and HELOC payments.
We have been aided in our quest to become debt free by the grace of God, Erik got a new job with CSX in 2013 which greatly assisted us from an income stance. In January of last year, I also decided to start picking up some extra nursing shifts at night to add to our income.
The problem with deciding to throw all your extra income and your energy into your debt is that life continues to happen in between. During 2014, our paid off car (Erik's 2006 VW Jetta) started to give us trouble. First it was a transmission issue totalling over $2700, followed by 4 other issues in the next 5 months.We paid almost $4200 all together in car repairs from March to August. Now, this was just getting silly. Here I am working extra NIGHT SHIFTS- becoming exhausted and missing nights with my family, all to end up putting that money into car repairs for the car that is supposed to NOT have car payments. The final straw was the morning the car broke before I needed to go to work. We were all officially over it. We ended up going against Dave's recommendation and getting a loan for a new Honda Civic. Let me tell you, it is normally a fun and joy filled event to buy a new car. Not this time- a car payment is the LAST thing to help you on your journey to becoming debt free. We did lots of research and attempted to look for used cars, but in the end a new car was the best deal and felt the most reliable. We also got a great interest rate. Still, I was a bit depressed. The kicker was also that this happened the SAME month we paid off my van. Grrr...
We also decided to enroll Anna in school so I could work more shifts and not inconvenience my family, so this added a monthly expense.
In October, my father in law passed away. We felt strongly that we should take the boys to Kansas for the funeral, but this was also a large and unexpected expense. We are so very grateful that we were able to be there and have that special and yet sad time with our family.
And then, Christmas- not unexpected, but still a joyful and EXPENSIVE time.
So back to my main point. Being goal oriented requires a certain degree of inflexibility, but being inflexible causes you to forget how far you have come and only focus on how far you have yet to go. I spent a lot of time ignoring how much we have accomplished and focusing on what I was unable to accomplish and allowing it to ruin my mood.
So what did we accomplish in 2014? As mentioned before we paid over [$XXX, I am happy to share if you are on your own debt-free journey] towards the debt we have which included 2 accounts. We managed to pay over $4000 in car repairs in cash, and paid for an unexpected flight/trip, while not accruing anymore credit card debt. Plus Christmas for the second year in a row will be paid for in cash. This is not to mention the kids activities we were able to provide for them, healthy (most of the time) food, clean water, air conditioned air, heat in the winter, shelter, some fun trips with family, a safe home, safe vehicles, family time together, new friendships, and just a really blessed life. My perspectacles are on and I am so grateful for what we have been able to accomplish in 2014.
I am so excited for 2015 when we can chip away even more!! In the mean time though, my intention for the year is to focus on gratitude and relationships with my friends and family. I intend to focus on being flexible with life, and not having a temper tantrum when what I want doesn't happen and my goals are not met in the manner in which I have deemed appropriate. God has always provided for us and it hasn't always been in the way I would have chosen. So I guess this year, instead of listing all of the things I want to happen, I will be quiet and follow my heart doing what is mine to do, I will resist the urge to trust in my own power, but trust that what is meant for me will come in the right time as it always does. Amen:)