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Things Are Looking Up: Joan’s Mid-August Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Our Financial Journey, Pay Off Your Debt

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Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Yes! Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes!

After a few really rough months, we’re back to our more traditional progress against our debt, which was down $678.01 this month, leaving us with $56,107.47 to go and $33,579.76 paid off. We’re now 37.44% debt-free!

It hasn’t been easy, but it feels great to see numbers like that again. Things are looking up!!

Our Very Next Steps

We hit two of our “V.N.S.” or very next step goals this month.

  • Chris Citi Mastercard: Our goal had been to get this under $16,000, and this month, its balance dropped to $15,967.89. Next, we’ll aim for under $15,500!
  • Susquehanna Line of Credit: We’d been aiming to get this down below $7,500, and it’s at $7,495.67. Next up? Under $7,000!
  • Not a debt goal: I mentioned last month that I was about to test for my first-degree black belt in tae kwon do. I did it! I’m now a black belt, working toward my second degree.

Don’t forget that we keep track of all of these debts in summary (complete with V.N.S.) on my “Joan’s Finances” page – so you can see how we’re doing at a glance. Here, I just hit the updates each month.

Decisions ahead

Financially speaking, we’ve spent the last few months creating an updated plan for our future. We’ve made some big changes, and have been consulting with people like our accountant and some trusted relatives and friends about where to go next.

Our biggest goal is to be in solid shape tax-wise at the end of this year. We know how we’re going to accomplish that, but it means the debt-payoff progress will probably not get turbocharged beyond the level we were able to hit this month. In the past, we were sometimes dropping our balances by $1,500 to $2,000 in a month, but that’s got to take a back seat to being in good shape with the IRS. We have a plan in place to make this happen, it’s just a matter of carrying it out between now and January!

We’ve also decided that I will continue my martial-arts training. That was up in the air until recently, simply for financial reasons. It is such a huge part of my life, though, that after talking with my family, we’re all willing to make it work, and again, we have a plan in place to pay for the rest of my training (a flat fee at our school, once you reach your black belt) without incurring any debt to do so.

We’ve got some other changes coming as well. As soon as everything shakes out, I’ll be able to give some more interesting financial updates, but in the meantime, keep us in your prayers and/or send kind thoughts and good wishes our way for smooth sailing as we go into the last part of the year!

We’re excited to be on solid footing with a good plan in place. We couldn’t do it without the support of everyone here in the Man Vs. Debt community. I don’t know if it sounds sappy, but I get energized in a way I can barely describe when I read the comments from everyone here. You guys are awesome.

How can I cheer YOU on this month?

Comment below and let me know!

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Taynia @ The Fiscal Flamingo August 15, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Congratulations on your black belt. That is absolutely awesome. Bravo.

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Thanks!

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linda August 15, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Save your money and drop martial arts. Watch Penn and Teller ‘bullshit’ on martial arts.

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:21 PM

No way! :)

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Dana August 15, 2013 at 7:57 PM

I’m a little bored with the skeptic culture in this country. I have caught them, from time to time, being wrong or partially wrong about some of the “facts” they dig up. (I don’t mean Penn and Teller here, only because I’ve never watched their show.) I’m sure it makes for wonderful TV viewing but we should remember that skeptics have OPINIONS just like anyone else, and unfortunately sometimes, as with the rest of us, they present those opinions as facts.

If Joan’s getting something valuable out of martial arts then that is enough reason to continue them.

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Joan Otto August 16, 2013 at 12:52 PM

And, to be fair, there are some CRAPPY martial arts “schools” around that want to take your money for very little. But that’s true of gyms, hobby shops, clubs and so many other things. I’m really blessed to be part of the school I am!

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donna August 15, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Thanks for sharing your progress. I am new to the “Man vs. Debt” community, so this was my first time reading your progress. Just keep writing !!!

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Donna, we’re glad you’re here! Thanks for the kind words. Can’t wait to share more of our story with you.

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Renita August 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Good job Joan!!. You got to have at least one fun thing while paying off debt. We refinance our house and therefore we have two months of no mortgages, we are put all on our debt. The plan is to pay off both motorcycles and have one credit card paid off by October. By the end of the year we will have paid off 3 credit cards and 2 motorcycles which will give us a grand total of $11,000 debt paid off in 2013. Since we refinance, we are able to use the snowball method and work on getting the other two credit cards paid off in 2014. We are working on getting in shape for our youngest child college tution in 2015 and increasing our contributions to our retirement accounts. We are looking forward to getting our of debt.

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Renita, that rocks!! I am so glad to hear your plan and to see where you are going (and that you have a plan in place for that bonus of the no-payments months from the refinance; so many times, that money would just “evaporate” in the budget!)

You rock!

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Gina August 15, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Keep up with your training; it sounds like it’s what you’re passionate about, which is great! HIYYA! Thanks for sharing your story and continuing to motivate the rest of us:-)

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:29 PM

LOL!! I’m breakin’ boards AND debt, right Gina? :) Thanks for the kind words!

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Jake @ Common Cents Wealth August 15, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Congrats on a great month! It sounds like you guys are doing very well and have a plan in place to become debt free. Good luck over the next month or so.

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Thanks, Jake!

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Kate August 15, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Hey! Great to hear you’re getting in good shape for the IRS stuff – that can definitely weigh on you. Do you have any advice (step by step would be awesome!) for figuring out NOW if my husband and I are going to be in a good place, come tax day 2014? I’d love to increase our debt payments if it looks like we’ll be getting a good sized refund.

Specifically, we’ve changed withholdings a couple of times this year (trying to guesstimate our tax liability), we’ve purchased our first home this year, and we’re making slightly more money this year than last year. Those factors in mind, how can we figure out what we’ll be getting back – so I can adjust a bit now to pay off our debt more quickly?

Thanks!! And good luck to you in your studies!!

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:28 PM

I would REALLY consider consulting an accountant. It was something like $55 for an hour consultation mid-year with ours, and worth that 50 times over! There’s just no way to benchmark accurately in my opinion (I’ve tried, and even knowing the tax law pretty well I don’t get it right!)

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Maureen August 15, 2013 at 12:35 PM

VICTORY!!!! For both you and me Joan!

Just got back from a hearing which was between the town and myself to reduce the assessment of my property in order to reduce my taxes. I’ve been grieving my assessment for 3 years now. Well this year I had enough substantial proof that the houses in my neighborhood were over-assessed. The town did not agree with my proof and did not reduce the assessment. I paid $30. for a hearing so someone else could review my assessment. I was praised for all the work that I did and the proof that I had. The town and I came to a compromised and reduced the assessed value to the tune of $10,000. which equates out to almost $500. a year and about $23. a month. That’s $23. more than I previously had and will be applying it to the principle now. Considering that I was asking for a $20,000 reduction, I think the compromise went pretty well.

To me, that is the sound of VICTORY!!! I won against the Town!

Next steps are to try and get a raise (yeah I know, that’s a toughy) and pay off the Visa bill by the end of the year.

And Joan, all things are possible! Keep up the great job you are doing and I will continue down my trail. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Maureen, that’s AWESOME!!! I am so glad your assessment was able to come down like that. We struggle in that area too and we are working on some of the same issues… it’s so great to hear it can be tackled.

You rock. Keep up the awesome work on the Visa bill, keep us posted on the raise progress and most of all, keep at it!

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Christina August 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Good to read your update Joan. (I so look forward to these)! I think you are making the right decision to keep up with the martial arts training. I’ve gone through periods where I cut my yoga classes to trim our budget, and it ended up costing me more in the long run in lost productivity at work, and efficiency in other areas.
Also good news that you are continuing in the right direction with your debt reduction efforts.
In recent weeks, we’ve been looking at selling our house and moving further out of the city. On paper, it looks great; we would be 100% completely debt free including the mortgage. However, a closer look reveals that in the long term, we are better off staying put, and persevering with our debt/ mortgage reduction. A real estate broker explained that because of the prime location of our current house, no matter what is going on with the economy, there will always be buyers, whereas, if we needed to sell another house outside the city, we could wait a very long time. In five years, this house will likely to increase much more in value too.
We are taking a 5 day vacation to Niagara Falls this month, so our debt balance won’t change. The good news is that we absolutely won’t borrow money to take this vacation. I think it will put us in good shape to come back with renewed vigor to continue hammering away at the remaining debt in the months to come.
I am also trying to come up with a way to earn extra money as a side business, to replace a recent small reduction of our monthly income.

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Christina, you nailed it – the “cost” of not participating in martial arts, for me, would not outweigh the “cost” of participating! I am actually adding in yoga practice, too, and finding it incredibly beneficial to me in many ways.

I love how forward-thinking you guys are about the house, too. We are in something of a similar situation – we could break even now, selling, and buy something smaller. However, a new hospital is being built literally backing up onto our small neighborhood, and the property values are already going up quickly. We expect that if we WERE to want to sell, a few years from now would be an even better time with continual appreciation in our neighborhood!

Enjoy Niagara Falls – and especially doing it debt free!

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OC Budget August 15, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Good job, jane.

Don’t drop the black belt class because there’s got to be something that you like pursuing in life that doesn’t involve work or money that you get pleasure out of. That’s at least a fun goal to reach.

You’re close to your goal, you can do it!

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:27 PM

I just keep setting new goals… it’s great! :)

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Debty Swan August 15, 2013 at 5:09 PM

These updates keep me so motivated!! You guys are doing a great job!

I especially like not sacrificing all of your hobbies/passions when in debt repayment. It’s nice to have something to look forward to at the end of the day

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Joan Otto August 15, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Isn’t that the truth?? And the opportunities it’s brought me (directly and indirectly) have more than paid for it many times over… which is a story for a future post!

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Lilypad August 15, 2013 at 7:53 PM

I’m happy that you’re back on track, congrats on the black belt (look out bad guys, don’t mess with Joan!!) and I have to say, that kitty in the picture looks so much like our kitty it made me smile!

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Joan Otto August 16, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Hahaha, thanks!! I loved that photo. Any chance I get to insert gratuitous cats on MvD, I’ll take it. Be warned. :-)

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Martha August 15, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Hey – don’t stop the martial arts, no matter what anybody says!! You need your outlet, and if you love it you NEED it.

I started taking private classes with a Pilates coach last year… every time I think about saving money and going to regular group classes, or stopping entirely – my mine and body scream NOOOOOOO!!! I get more out of one private class than I would from 3 or 4 group classes – and I truly feel the Pilates is what is keeping me strong, grounded and healthy. I’ll give up anything, but NOT my Pilates!!

Oh, and I got good news this month too… I own a home that was severely under water. It was rented out, but it still cost me about $500 a month. I lost my tenant in June, and was finally going to throw in the towel and try for a short sale. But when I went to speak to a well-recommended realtor, he told me that he thought that he could sell it for me in a regular sale – not a short sale!! And after 2 weeks on the market, it sold for enough to cover both of my mortgages, plus all the closing costs! $38K more Zillow said it would bring — YIPPEE!! I am so thrilled!!

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Joan Otto August 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Win win win!!! Martha, that rocks!! :)

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Dawn G August 15, 2013 at 9:54 PM

I’m glad to hear you’re keeping up with your blackbelt training. Getting out of debt is important, but other things are important as well, things that are meaningful and important to you. Keep it up!

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Joan Otto August 16, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Thanks, Dawn!! :)

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Lindsey @ Sense & Sensibility August 16, 2013 at 3:58 AM

Congrats on becoming a black belt! I wouldn’t want to try and pick your pocket in a dark alley – that’s just all kinds of bad idea. :)
Congrats on the debt payment progress! I’m glad you guys are over your rough patch. Good luck with the IRS, it sounds like you guys are prepared!

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Joan Otto August 16, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Thanks, Lindsey! I figure if these credit cards get rough with me, I’ll break kneecaps… ;-)

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Cay August 16, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Congratulations again Joan on working toward and receiving your black belt!
I also congratulate you on forming a plan and sticking to it to be prepared for tax season in Jan. 2014. Planning NOW will make financial things easier for you and your hubby come tax time.
Planning your VNS is putting an awesome take on your future goals! Love it!! It gives us hope for you because it gives you hope and accountability to yourself as well as to us, your friends and readers.
A small amount towards debt is better than no amount towards your debt!! Keep up the good work. Our thoughts and prayers are with you!!

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Sophie W. August 16, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Joan – Brava! Brava! Brava! I know these last few months have been tough ones, but you’ve stayed the course and stayed on track. I am so glad that you’ve decided to continue with your martial arts training – it’s excellent discipline, wonderful exercise, and fantastic stress-busting. You deserve all that as you and your family continue on your journey. It’s very important that you don’t neglect yourself physically or emotionally. Your goal of debt freedom is getting closer every day! You continue to serve as an incredible example and I am sending good thoughts and prayers your way. Thanks to you, I am finally starting to see my emergency fund grow to a decent level; last year at this time, I was still in debt with next to nothing in savings. Things have changed for the better thanks to your example and I am doing my best to continue on this course. Keep up the fantastic work! You and your family will be debt free!

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Shelley August 17, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Hi Joan! I read your updates on MvD every month, and I have to say, my family’s finances lately have been mirroring what you describe from month to month! My husband and I have had a nasty run over most of the summer, with some very large unexpected expenses that knocked us down for awhile, but we seem to be (knock on wood!) back on track now and making some real progress against debt. I’m glad to see that you are, too. Best of luck to us both in the latter half of the year! :) PS: GREAT JOB on earning your black belt – that’s awesome!

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Lori August 20, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Good for you, Joan, for keeping some fun in your life as you work on freeing yourself from debt. For the past year, I tried locking everything down tighter than a drum as far as any entertainment spending goes and now we’re feeling pretty burned out and miserable. Time to go camping and hiking! :-D That’s our fun stress relief.

Good for you for factoring in Uncle Sam now. He gets very grumpy if he doesn’t get his share well before tax day. No sense paying penalties next April.

I’m keeping fingers crossed for you the roughest patches are behind you. I got a surprise expense this month I’m cursing over, but there’s no sense stressing over it. Get it paid and move on!

My biggest win so far is paying off my student loan debt earlier this year. Now I’m working on my little credit card. $3000 limit now paid down to $2000. I hope to have it gone by January’s payment. Then I’m snowballing onto my car payment.

I turned paying off my credit card debt into a game. I created a spreadsheet that shows how much I charged each month since March of 2012, which is the furthest back my current balances reach. I’m tackling each month from smallest to largest in terms of what I charged that month. Whenever my principal payments accumulate high enough to pay off a month, I cheer.

I’m down to five debts; mortgage, heloc, car, visa, and mastercard. Playing this game helps me to feel like I’m accomplishing more and keeps me motivated.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Joan!

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debtfreeoneday August 21, 2013 at 4:50 PM

It’s so nice to read about your great progress! Really inspiring. :) I’m having a good month in terms of debt repayment I think – mostly from selling stuff that I don’t need anymore. I’m slightly concerned about how I can keep up the progress when I run out of stuff though!

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Lucy August 30, 2013 at 8:34 AM

Good decision!

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