For all the financial strides I’ve been making in 2015, it definitely has not been a good year. I keep hoping that things are going to turn around any moment, and everything will start getting better. After all, what else could possibly go wrong?

Last Thursday my younger sister was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

It’s shocking enough when a 33-year-old is diagnosed with cancer. Especially something like breast cancer, which typically affects women over 50. But when you throw in the fact that she just lost her fiancée in April, and she’s pregnant with her third child (which was not at all planned), you start to wonder how much more one person can take. Abigail’s “Why You? Why Not?” post definitely resonated with me this week. The reality is that life isn’t fair, and people rarely get what they deserve, good or bad.

The best my sister can take away from all of this is that they found the cancer very early, and her prognosis is very good. She has a very rare painful lump: Most doctors will assure you that cancerous breast lumps are not painful, and not to worry about one that is. Luckily for her, being pregnant and wanting to breastfeed, her doctors decided to look into whether the lump could/should be removed, only to be surprised to discover it was in fact cancer. Things are moving very quickly now. She’ll have a mastectomy next week, but if all goes well, she shouldn’t need radiation or chemotherapy, and should be able to carry the baby to term.

Of course, that isn’t to downplay anything. Cancer is a terrifying thing. She’s losing a breast at a young age. Depending on what further testing reveals, she may eventually lose the other breast. She’ll face years of daily medications to reduce the risk of recurrence, along with a lifetime of follow-up testing and worry. Not to mention the pain of surgery and recovery.

2015 is definitely not going the way I expected. Yes, I expected some struggles as I sold my house, and Bryan figured out his career. But I also expected to celebrate both of my sisters’ weddings, and for everyone to make strides towards a better future. Things are definitely not going as planned. In the midst of everything, we’re learning to appreciate what we do have, celebrate the good, and support each other in healthier ways.

Life isn’t fair. We just see it more clearly in bad times than in good.

– Cindy W.

The Spring and Summer of 2015 have been relentlessly wet here. It seems like every day brings showers or storms. The ground is soggy. The streets are flooded. Our tomato plants look pitiful. The jalapenos are another story.

You know what doesn’t happen when it rains? Construction. My job has been a little slower, which doesn’t bother me in the least. There’s still enough work to keep me busy, and I’m a salaried team member. But Bryan’s now working out in the field. Or, more often than not, not working. After all, you can’t dig in the rain. And, even if it isn’t raining, most job sights are under water. What should have been the busiest time of the season is turning into a 2-3 day work week, if that.

He has enough seniority in the union that he can easily switch employers. But that’s zero help when the weather is keeping everyone from working. So, he’s sticking with a large company that has plenty of work, and waiting out the storms. In the mean time, he keeps himself busy painting around the apartment, running errands, and cleaning. Gotta love a man who can’t keep still!

Obviously though, not working is not a good thing when you’re an hourly employee. We try to split our living expenses equally: We each pay half the rent, I pay for the groceries each week, and a few other bills, while he covers the electric and internet. But he still has a house payment every month, while mine went away in May. It isn’t like I’m living high on the hog now that I have fewer expenses; I’ve been keeping to a budget, and throwing all my extra cash towards my car loan. After all, paying off that loan opens up a lot of options for our future. But, it seems ridiculous that I’m working to create a better future, while he’s struggling to afford the present.

For months I’ve been pushing him to let me take over more of our bills. At least until he’s working more, or he can get rid of the house payment. He’s been very reluctant to let me “support him”, as he refers to it. But, as time goes by and the rain keeps coming, he’s started getting a little resentful of my position. I’ve finally had to put my foot down; After all, we’re a team, and this is our life. There will always be times when one of us is pulling in more money than the other. Does it really matter? So, for the next 3-6 months, I’ll be paying the rent, and possibly taking over some of the other bills.

I’ve also noticed lately that my spending each week is going up. At first I panicked, thinking I was letting lifestyle inflation creep in. Then I realized we were buying more on our weekly grocery trip, and Bryan was making fewer small runs throughout the week. In all honestly, it’s probably a good thing: Overall we’re spending less, and getting better at eating what we have on hand. We’re also wasting less food.

All of this means that “my” expenses will be going up. I’m adjusting my budget accordingly. I’m also watching to make sure I don’t get careless as my spending increases. Just because I’m spending more doesn’t mean I should waste money. My progress on paying off the car loan will be much less than I was originally planning. With the tax refund I typically get in February or March, it should only slow things down by a few months. I’m okay with that. Like I said, paying off the car loan is working towards the future; Right now we need to get the present under control.

When it rains, you have to adjust your plans!

– Cindy

Since I sold my house, there’s one question that keeps coming to mind: What now?

Over the past couple of years, it seems like Bryan and I have talked over hundreds of different options. Maybe we’ll move somewhere warm, like Florida, or Arizona, or New Mexico. Maybe we’ll save up and buy a little house on a big piece of land, and have a big garden, with chickens, and mini goats, and yaks (Bryan says no to the chickens, and mini goats, and is completely confused on why I want a yak. Who wouldn’t want a yak?!? They look like a cross between a buffalo and a muppet! ). Maybe we’ll get a little place on a lake, where he can spend his retirement fishing, and I can work on my tan (Note: I really don’t tan. Pretty much at all). Maybe we’ll become snowbirds, and do some combination of those things.

But for now? We’re staying right where we are. Honestly, we might end up staying here forever. We rent the two-story unit of a triplex. Bryan is good buddies with the owner. We’re in the city, but on a huge plot of land. Across the street from a state park. Within walking distance of a great Mexican restaurant, along with a variety of other small shops and restaurants. We have a great little patio out back, with plenty of room for a big vegetable garden every year, and bonfires and fish fries with friends. The neighbor in the one bedroom unit is a good friend, and joins us on the patio from time to time for drinks or dinner. And the third neighbor? She’s a nice older woman, who leaves for months at a time. The rent is cheap, the location is perfect, and it suites our needs. We’ve even talked to the owner about buying the place some day.

Slowly but surely, Bryan and I are changing our financial picture. We’re paying off debt. We’re decreasing our expenses. We’re making better choices with the money we bring in, and looking for ways to increase our cash flow. The better our finances become, the more opportunities we have. When your expenses are low, you have more freedom in life. Freedom to live wherever you choose. Freedom to work how and as much as you want. Until we have a better picture of what our future looks like, it would be silly to tie ourselves to another home. I proved with my last home purchase that you can lose just as much owning a home over the short-term as you can renting. Real Estate is not always the winning investment people think it will be.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds. But we certainly aren’t short on possibilities!

– Cindy W.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how, in order to set achievable goals, you need to understand the “why” behind them. Which really hits close to home for me. I’ve had the goal of getting out of debt for a long time now. But that was as far as the goal went, to be debt free. I never figured out why I wanted to be debt free. So I’d have more money? Security?

I love the idea of reaching Financial Independence. But, for someone like me, starting from zero in their mid-thirties, FI is a long ways off. How long? Thirteen to fifteen years at my current earning/spending rate. And that assumes a market return of 6-8%. I’ve always heard the market averages about 8%, but that’s over the long-term, and I’m not sure a time span of less than twenty years really qualifies as “long-term”. So, if I don’t change my spending or earnings, I’ll reach FI sometime in my fifties. Don’t get me wrong, fifties isn’t old. Most people don’t even think about retiring until they’re in their sixties. Many people can’t even think about retiring at all. But, if I’m in my fifties, then Bryan will be in his seventies. How much of his golden years am I willing to spend stuck in the daily grind?

And then there’s this little detail: I hate my job. So change jobs, right? Well, as I really started examining my past work history, looking for a clue as to what kind of job would make me happy, I’ve come to a realization: I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. True, some of my jobs have been at truly horrific companies. But, at a certain point, you have to start looking for the common denominator. What do all the jobs I’ve hated had in common? Me.

It isn’t that I’m lazy, or ungrateful, or not a team player. I enjoy feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and overall have a good work ethic. It’s just, at some point in almost every job, I start to have issues with how the organization is being managed. Sometimes I feel like my contributions are being overlooked, or that my work isn’t valued enough. Eventually, I start to hate everything about the company, and loathe coming in every day.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandpa owned a little grocery store. My grandma drifted between being a stay at home mom, and dabbling in her own little side hustles. My mom ran a home day care for many years. My dad built up his little business over the years until it eventually became his full-time job, with a small staff. Something my dad has said many times about owning a business has always stood out to me: “If I’m going to have to follow someone’s stupid rules, they’re gonna be my stupid rules!” His point really resonates with me; One of my biggest issues with most companies has been the way things are managed. If you run your own business, you manage it the way you want. If you aren’t making the money you think you should, well, that’s on you.

The more times I calculated how soon I could pay off my car loan, the more I began to realize how much money would be freed up in my budget once I was debt free. How much does my current lifestyle cost (sans car payment)? Well, accounting for just my fixed expenses and weekly spending, under $13,000. True, that doesn’t account for vacation money, or any unplanned expenses, or taxes. But taxes would be minimal on that amount. And everything else could be worked around.

The idea that I could live a similar lifestyle once I’m debt free on only $15,000-20,000 per year has really opened up a world of opportunities for me. What does that look like? A less stressful job somewhere else? Freelancing? A combination of self employment and part-time work? Would my life be better with more flexibility? Would I be happier?

I could continue on my current path to FI, doing the same thing, or something similar, for the next 15-20 years. Or, I could embrace a life of less, and experience freedom sooner. Slowly but surely, freedom is becoming my “why”. Once my car payment is gone, a whole world of opportunity will be opened up to me. There’s still a lot of unknowns, and a lot of things I need to figure out. But maybe in 2016, I’ll be ready to take a leap of faith, and try something different with my life. Maybe I’ll figure out how to “follow my own stupid rules”.

I’ve never been more motivated to be debt free!

– Cindy W.

My financial goals have been front and center in my mind the last couple of weeks. It’s taking some time, and a lot of missteps, but I finally feel like I’m starting to get this money thing down! The more I understand my money, the more opportunities I see for improving Bryan and my life. The reality is, the life we live doesn’t have to be expensive. We just have to make better choices, and use our money as the tool it should be, instead of letting it control us.

Which brings me back to goals. I did a mini check-in after selling my house, when I realized I’d achieved many of my goals. If I’m going to create a better life, becoming lazy isn’t an option! So, I added a new goal, and re-evaluated where I was on everything else. So where am I now, at the end of 2015 Quarter 2?

These are the goals I’ve already crossed off my list this year:

1) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($21,696 total net worth). Done!
2) List the house. Done!
3) Pay off the student loan. Done!
5) Earn $500 in “Side Income”. Done!

You can read more about those goals here and here. My goal of earning $500 in “Side Income” was achieved in June, after we had a yard sale. I’m still looking for a more sustainable way to earn a side income, but that isn’t my main focus right now.

So, which goals am I still working on?

4) Invest $3,000 in a retirement account. At this point I’ve invested $872.76 in my company’s 401k plan. This only includes my contributions, not any employer match or market gains (or losses). Unless something crazy unexpected happens between now and the end of the year, this goal isn’t going to happen. Not that it couldn’t happen; If I made this goal my next priority, I could wipe it out in the next few months. But I’ve decided that becoming debt free is a higher priority at this point in my life.

6) Pay off the car loan. I started 2015 with $18,724 owed on my car loan. As of June 30th, it’s down to $14,033. Obviously I still have a long ways to go on this one. But, since it just became a priority for me, I’m just really starting to make progress. This is definitely my stretch goal this year. Even if I don’t get the loan 100% paid off, I’ll still be in a much better position financially than I am now.

7) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($31,696 total net worth). I ended June with a net worth of $23,110. I’m 14% to this new goal, which means I have $8,586 left to go. If I stay on track, and the markets don’t do too bad, I think this goal is doable.

My main focus for the rest of 2015 is to pay off my car loan. Doing so will help me reach the goal of growing my net worth by an additional $10,000 and will also set me up nicely for some major changes I’m looking forward to in 2016. As time goes on, my goals are becoming less arbitrary, and more of a means to an end. Sure, growing my net worth is great. But I’m finally starting to figure out why that’s important to me, and what direction I’m wanting my life to take.

I’m excited about what the future holds. And honestly, a little scared too. But, now that I’m gaining some clarity on what is truly important to me, I’m really starting to make some progress. I’m really excited about the possibilities!

– Cindy W.

Remember in my June net worth update how I said I was becoming obsessive about charts? I don’t know why, but I’m suddenly wanting to see as much information as possible, and the more visual, the better!

A lot of PF blogs break down their monthly budget/spending. I haven’t done that, simply because my budget is so simple. You see, I don’t really break things down and track them like other people. It isn’t that I don’t budget, it’s just my budget is very, very static.

Each Thursday I get paid ~$643*. I have direct deposit that puts that money into 3 different accounts. In my “Expenses” account goes $250 every week. This is the amount I’ve calculated that I need every week to cover all of my monthly and periodic expenses. This includes everything from the rent and insurance(s), to Netflix and the cell phone. $270  is then put into a temporary savings account. This money will go towards an extra payment on my car loan at least once during the month. The remaining $123? That goes into my Spending account, and covers everything from groceries and gas, to restaurants and clothing.

I don’t really track where my spending money goes; It’s mine to spend on whatever. But as I see other people breaking out their budgets, I’ve kind of started wondering where that money does go. Am I really spending most of it on gas and groceries, like I assume? Would I be surprised if I saw what I was blowing each month?

Since most of my spending is done via debit card or online banking, it was pretty easy to break things out. So, with my newfound obsession with charts, I decided to see where my money went last month. And what better way than a pie chart?

A breakdown of where my money went in June, 2015.

A breakdown of where my money went in June, 2015.

Okay, first let me say that the chart is a little deceiving: All said and done I spent $4,813.62 in June. In a 4 week month, I only take home $2,568.94. Where did the rest of the money come from? Well, around $1,500 came from refunds when I sold my house. The rest? Some of it was savings from previous months that were spent this month, like the premiums for my car and renter’s insurance, and part of my extra car payment. We also spent some of the money from the garage sale on shelf liners and organizers for the kitchen cabinets, and dinner out one night. I had cash in my wallet, which I used towards part of my gift expenses (two graduation gifts, and a Father’s Day gift). Honestly, I don’t remember why I had cash, but I’ve had it for several months. Like I said, it was a spendy month! I’m not expecting anything crazy in July, so my expenses should line up much more with my earnings next month.

Since Bryan and I still keep separate finances, this doesn’t include any of his spending. I pay half of our monthly rent, and also pay for most of our groceries every week. He will stop at the store in the evening a few times a week to grab something for dinner, but we try to cover most things in our weekly trip. Our only utility is our electric bill, which Bryan pays. This month I’m showing $120 towards utilities that was paid by mistake to the gas bill at my house; I shut off the utilities in mid May, but didn’t correctly stop my monthly auto-pay. I’m hoping to get a refund on that money. The $37 for Internet should be going away as well. We now have home WiFi, which Bryan pays for, so I’ve cancelled my hotspot. I will have a cancellation fee next month, but after that, I won’t have that expense any more.

Some things were a pleasant surprise: I’m shocked to see that I only spent $68 on gas last month. I’m spending about half what I used to on gas each month, so I consider that a huge win. But then I had to double-check my Restaurant spending for last month: How did I spend $72? We also had two weeks where our grocery bill was almost double the norm. One week was expected: We took appetizers to my parents’ house on Father’s Day. The other week? Apparently we were hungry!

More than anything else, this chart excited me for the future. All that money going towards the car loan? Some day soon, that’ll be gone! And yes, I am counting that money as spending. Yes, paying it off sooner saves me a ton on interest. But the money was used to buy something in advance, so I’m not going to pretend I’m putting money into savings by paying it back.

Maybe I’ll do this again next month. What do you think? Helpful? Interesting? No?

– Cindy W.

*My life insurance at work is paid every third paycheck of the month, so once a month I have a paycheck that is a few dollars less.

Can I just say how super excited I am that it’s a Holiday weekend? Our office is closed on Friday, and then I decided to take Monday off as well. Just because I can. Some days I feel like I’m living for the weekends! Can I retire yet?!?

No. Definitely No. But things are continuing to improve every month:

Net Worth Update as of June 30, 2015

Net Worth Update as of June 30, 2015

Obviously, I didn’t see nearly the growth in June as I did in May. But, alas, I’m out of homes to sell. And thank goodness for that! June was also a little bit more of a spendy month, since I bought a year’s worth of renter’s insurance ($277), and six month’s of car insurance ($211). That’s a big chunk of change, but still a huge savings over my previous car insurance rate, which I got notice in June had gone up to over $500*! That’s over twice as much! Yikes!

My net worth grew by $851 in June. I’m pretty happy with that. I also paid off $2,938 on my car loan. I’m really, really happy with that! I was able to pay off so much this month mainly due to the refunds on the house. Most months, I’ll be looking at more like $1,500. Which is still a pretty decent amount! Especially considering that is 58% of my take home pay!

June has had me feeling a little obsessive about charts. I keep scrolling through my net worth updates to see how much progress I’ve been making. Wouldn’t it be nice to see everything all together?

Chart of net worth growth

Chart of net worth growth since the start of time (or the start of this blog)

Honestly, it’s pretty much as I thought: The first year and a half were a real struggle for me as I figured out where my priorities were and how to go about tackling my debt. I had several “false starts”, where I really started making progress, only to lose most of what I’d gained. After all, there were house renovations to be made, and vacations to be taken. Sigh. I think it goes along with the advice of figuring out your “why”. Sure, having a goal to get out of debt is great. But unless you know why you’re doing it, the motivation will be lacking.

I’m not saying that I won’t be taking any more vacations. Or that Bryan and I won’t be doing things around the house. It’s just that now I have a better picture of the impact of my decisions on my goals. Hopefully that will help me make better choices.

– Cindy W.

*This increase was due to losing my homeowner’s insurance bundle. I would have gotten some discount for adding renter’s insurance, but not nearly enough!

2015 has been a crazy year for me. Some things have been really positive: I paid off the last of my student loans. I sold my house. I’m making huge progress on paying off my car loan. Bryan and I are really starting to dream about the future we plan on creating together.

But it hasn’t all been dreams and accomplishments; There’s been a lot of drama in my family over the past several months. Sometimes it feels like the past is repeating itself. And just as I’m finally starting to have big dreams, and the confidence to pursue them, I feel like I’m expected to give it all up. As women, we’re often taught that we should be selfless and giving. Only a bitch would put her own needs first, especially when she could find the time and resources to do otherwise.

I touched on some of what has been going on lately in The Flowers That Sent Me Over The Edge. I’ve felt a confusing mix of emotions the last few months in regards to everything that is going on: Everything from sympathy and grief, to anger, fear and apprehension. With a nice side of judgement and disappointment!

I knew that I needed help sorting through my emotions. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. So, 3 weeks ago, I started seeing a therapist.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me to be told I have a serious issue with setting boundaries when it came to my family. I even wrote about it not long after I started this blog. I’m not going to lie, therapy has been a tough, heartbreaking process so far. I’m finally having to focus on where my emotions are coming from, and what built our family dynamic. I’m also learning to see and accept what my relationships with the people (especially women) in my life actually are, versus what I want to believe them to be (i.e., Sometimes family members are just members of your family, no matter how much you want them to be a friend).

My biggest concern lately has been surrounding my younger sister, and the news of another nephew (It’s a boy!). Don’t get me wrong, I love babies! But there’s a lot of history and hurt there*, and good reason to be concerned. I’d love to be able to say the past is the past, and people change. But my sister is proving otherwise. And, even though the baby’s birth is many months off, I’m already being questioned as to what my financial and time commitments will be.

Bryan and my plans for the future don’t include a child. That wasn’t originally my plan in life, but I’m adjusting to the reality of our situation. Yes, I want to be involved in my nephews’ lives. But I have to be cautious about the extent of my involvement; I can’t use this baby to fill a void in my life. And I know my sister well enough that becoming too involved will only lead to heartbreak. She has a strong support network that, if she doesn’t abuse it, will help her through the hardships of single parenting. She doesn’t need me to “save” her.

Through therapy, I’m learning that my sister’s story is her story. I can sympathize, and even feel sorry for her. But she’s making choices according to what she wants in life. I don’t have to agree with those choices. I’m also not responsible for the outcome**. And likewise, my story is my story. I’m responsible for my own choices, and my own outcome. And I have every right to want big things in my life, and chase after those dreams.

I’m not abandoning my family; I’ll obviously still be involved in everyone’s lives, hopefully in a more “normal” way. I just need to learn to make the life Bryan and I are building together my #1 priority, without feeling guilty about it. Otherwise, I’ll end up back where I was 5 years ago: Alone, broke, and with no hopes for the future. I’m too old for that!

– Cindy W.

*I’ve talked about my financial past with my sisters before. After all, this is a financial blog. But there’s a lot of other history there in regards to my nephews. I was going to go into more detail, but I really don’t feel like it’s necessary to the story. After all, this post is about the changes I’m trying to make, not about my sister’s past mistakes.

**Obviously, the safety and well being of the baby will always be first and foremost; If there are ever concerns in that regard,  I’ll work with my Mom (and Bryan, of course) to make whatever adjustments are necessary.

I remember many years ago, sitting in my little one bedroom house, after a long shift at a job I hated (but had gone back to, due to my new financial downfall), searching the internet for some small nugget of information that would help me get my life back together. The world of personal finance wasn’t what it is today; There weren’t endless blogs touting the world of frugality, or how to increase your income. Sure, I found books by Suze Orman, and came across Dave Ramsey. I enjoyed Liz Pulliam Weston, but her articles always seemed more geared towards people who had their life together. That certainly wasn’t where I was financially. Eventually, I stumbled across MP Dunleavey. And I was hooked.

You see, MP Dunleavey didn’t come across as a financial expert who’d always made all the right choices, sharing her lists of advice on how to follow in her footsteps. She sometimes struggled, and was often lambasted for the decisions she made. But she approached personal finance as a “normal person”. She had wit, and humor, and spirit. And eventually, she had The Women In Red.

The Women in Red was a pet project of Dunleavey’s. She followed the stories of multiple women trying to improve their financial lives. Each woman’s situation was different, from young to older, married to single, high earners and low earners, in debt or finding financial freedom. They each had goals that they were working towards achieving. They succeeded, and failed, and found all kinds of detours along the way.

Eventually, MP Dunleavey moved on. I followed her for a while, through careers with different publications and organizations. But as her path veered more towards editorial, her writing lost something for me. Gone were the humorous personal trials and tribulations, replaced with the standard “10 Ways To…” articles that are so popular on the web.

The truth is, I miss The Women in Red. Not the women themselves, but the stories of real women, their struggles and successes, their choices and situations. Over the years, I’ve found numerous new blogs to follow, voices that I look forward to hearing. But there seems to be a common “arc” for most writers: Struggling/Overcoming=Personal stories. Success=Lists and advice on what you should be doing. It’s as though success is a destination; Once you’ve overcome your debt, or saved $x, there’s nothing left to your financial journey, no more choices to be made, no more struggles to overcome. The only way to carry on is to advise others on how to get there. Numerous blogs have fallen off my reading list. Sometimes I want to scream (or write in all caps): I know I should cut the cable cord (Done, FYI), and that credit card rewards are great (not a great idea for me at the moment)! But what are YOU doing in your financial life?!?

Why am I writing about this? I’ll be honest, my little blog gets very little traffic; A good day for me is 20 visitors, and I’m still a long ways off from topping 100 page views in a day. But, the longer I’m out there on the blogosphere, the more requests I get for guest posts on my site, etc. I’m not at all opposed to having someone else write on this blog; Actually, I’d love to have some variety here. But the ideas are always the same: “20 Reasons You Should…”, “How To…”. Tell me something personal! What are YOU doing financially?!? I’m not looking to advise people. I’m looking to share stories.

I don’t think there are enough women out there, telling their stories of success and failure, the struggles they face every day. I don’t believe that personal finance is a destination. I love following The Single DollarFrugalwoods, The POPs, and Making Sense of Cents. I love having the voices of other women who are owning what they’re doing, struggles, fears and all. I just wish there were more voices out there.

– Cindy W.

I’ve been on the lookout for old articles from MP Dunleavey. The best I could find was this one: You Really Can’t Be Too Rich.

In The Money Keeps Rolling In, I talked about the refunds I was expecting from selling my house. At that time, I expected to get somewhere around $500 back, between credits on my accounts with the gas and electric company, along with refunds from my mortgage escrow and homeowners insurance. I wasn’t 100% sure what to do with this money, so my thought was I would leave it in the bank until the end of this year.

As usual, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ll be honest, I change my mind fairly often about financial decisions. I’m a worrier by nature. Opportunity cost is a huge issue for me; If I spend the money on this, then I won’t have it for that. And, if I decide that I want this more than that, I’ll regret having spent the money. My thought was that if I sat on the money long enough, I’d have a clearer idea of what my biggest priority was.

Once the checks started rolling in, I realized my $500 estimate was going to be closer to $1,500. I way underestimated how much money would be in my mortgage escrow ($1,200!). My mind started racing to all the things I could spend $1,500 on: Furniture! Vacation! Clothes!

And so, I put the money into an extra payment on my car. Usually I’d wait until the end of the month, so I was only making one extra payment. But, obviously, that money was too much of a temptation sitting in my bank account. So I’ll be making 2 extra car payments this month. I’ve become obsessed with running the numbers on how long it will take to pay off my car loan. That $1,500 makes a huge difference on a $16,500 loan! I knew if I left that money in the bank, I’d be constantly finding “needs”, and eventually it would be gone, with nothing much to show for it. I wanted more “bang for my buck”, so to speak.

I have a $5,000 emergency fund. I’m fully insured, with awesome medical insurance. If something tragic were to happen, I have $270 “extra” per week that I could divert. If I lost my job? Well, the emergency fund would help me weather the storm while I looked for another job. With my current cost of living, that’s over 3 months worth of expenses and spending. I could stretch it even further by cutting expenses.

Every time I run the numbers, I realize how much more quickly I can pay off the car loan, if I just stick to the plan. And once I don’t have a car loan? Well, then I’ll be debt free, with pretty low living expenses. That opens up a whole world of possibilities in my life. I’ll have choices that I never even imagined possible. And right now, that freedom is worth more than a vacation, or new furniture, or new clothes.

And so, my car loan is $1,500 less. And I’m one step closer to being debt free!

– Cindy W.