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It’s Amazing What You Can Do When You Hustle: Joan’s Mid-March Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Pay Off Your Debt

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

Remember how I said last month that we needed to come up with $7,104 for the IRS before April 15?

And remember how I said I wasn’t going to take on new debt to do it – and, in fact, that I expected to make it AND have our credit-card balance total go down?

We’re on target to not only meet, but EXCEED that goal. I can’t even put into words how excited I am – and how this situation has really changed my view of our family’s financial picture.

Where we are: The tax part

We’ve been moving the “tax bill money” into our savings account in order to easily track how much we have. Our “requirement” is to have $7,104 in there by April 1, so that we can move it to our checking account and pay the IRS before the 15th.

Grand total, as of today? $6,506.32.

That’s right – only $597.68 to go – and we expect to have that money in there by this Friday. That’s half a month early!

This money came from a few sources – as I mentioned, we cashed out about $2,500 from a 529 plan we had, closing that account, and we had an existing savings of about $1,750 that we were willing to use. The rest has come from some hustling, some scrimping and some crap-selling

I’ll be the first to admit that it hasn’t been pretty. There have been SEVERAL times I’ve had to convince myself not to go shopping. Thanks to our somewhat minimalist wardrobe approach, we don’t have a lot of clothes on hand, so I generally only have about two pairs of jeans that fit at a time. Some of us have “grown out” of our pants (yes, Joan, lay off the potato chips)… and now, I’m wearing the same jeans day in and day out, and lounging in pajamas on laundry day.

Ditto with my sneakers. They’re on their very last legs. (I can no longer wear them in a puddle, let’s just say.) But they’ll do – and it’s not like I don’t have a spare pair of shoes in a pinch. 

First-world problem? Absolutely. But it’s a good example of the place we’re in now, where I normally take for granted the ability to go buy a $15 pair of jeans, or even a $50 or $75 pair of shoes, and I’m having to say to myself, “Is that what I really want to do?”

But that’s changed for now. For just a couple months, the answer to things like that – what I would normally consider “needs,” but needs that can be put off – is: “Nope, that’s going to the taxes.

And it’s worth it. Those “little sacrifices” add up – in a BIG way!

Where we are: The debt part

Oh, by the way, we hit two of our Very Next Steps against our various debts this month. And we dropped our total debt balance – it’s now $58,552.74 – down $567.74 this month and $31,134.49 from the start.

I’m pretty pleased to be down more than $550 in a month where we didn’t “pay much extra.” That’s cool. Even when we’re not making FAST progress, I’m proud to say we’re making progress.

In fact, as I mentioned, I’ve got two specific successes.

  • Citi Mastercard: Our goal had been to get this under $17,000, and we succeeded this month, coming in at $16,829.68. Next, we’ll aim for under $16,000!
  •  Citi Visa: Citi took a beating this month! We had been aiming to get this under $5,500, and now, at $5,475.47, we’ll next shoot for under $5,000.

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.

What’s next?

What we REALLY want to do is have $8,804 in our savings account when we go to make the tax payment. If we can do that, it will essentially mean our emergency fund of $1,700 is untouched.

By this time next month, I want to be as close to that as possible – IRS paid off (will HAVE to happen by this time in April!) and $1,700 in savings, or as close to it as we can get.

I’m excited.

And I’m not just excited at reaching this goal while taking on no new debt AND dropping our existing debt – though that’s awesome.

I’m excited because this has proven to me that our financial situation is VERY different than it was three years ago. We couldn’t have done it then. I know that’s true. But I also firmly believe that we’re now in a position to tackle almost any financial situation that arises.

Let’s hope that doesn’t get put to the test –  but by the same token, I’m kind of sitting here yelling, “Bring it on, world, the Ottos are getting their finances TOGETHER, and you can’t stop us!!” 

I’m thrilled to be celebrating that attitude today – the “I’ve got this” feeling that I’ve been working toward. We have a couple hard years ahead of us until debt freedom, but I think our mindset is where it needs to be to get us there.

Thanks for being along for the ride.

What “mental win” are you celebrating today?

Comment and tell us!

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Dee March 11, 2013 at 9:01 AM

This rocks Joan! Way to go! I am really impressed at your determination and drive! Keep on keeping on. I am enjoying your journey!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Thanks, Dee! I appreciate the support!

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Mike March 11, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Fold up some newspapers and put them in those shoes! Embrace the suck and keep pushing forward!

Your positive attitude is infectious! We’re getting ready to do another big sale of our own to get rid of some stuff and apply the proceeds to something positive.

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Awesome, Mike!! Keep us posted on the big sale – and I’m totally putting an “embrace the suck” Post-It on my computer :)

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Renee March 11, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Can anyone recommend a hustle for me. Single Mom, just relocated to TX from CA. I am in need of a hustle, I need an extra $4,000-$5,000. I don’t have any crap to sell :-) since I just moved. I have applied for some WFH opportunities, but have not heard anything back. Any recommendations. Oh and yes, I have been job searching as well.

Thanks in advance

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Renee, my general advice is to find what you’re good at and offer it as a service, whether that’s selling other people’s crap, pet-sitting, shopping, organizing, website designing, resume-writing, whatever!

There are certainly other options, but for a short-term project, I feel like offering a service is a quick way to get where you want to go!

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Michelle March 11, 2013 at 9:53 AM

That’s awesome that you are on track to exceed your goal! Good job.

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Thanks, Michelle!! I can’t wait to be able to report that we made it! :)

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Katie March 11, 2013 at 10:49 AM

We had to tackle a big bill this month (before we started to get charged interest) and it really kind of hurt…especially to use some of the money we got for our wedding to pay it. But we already started paying ourselves back (plus the interest we would have had to pay) so I am excited about that!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Katie, good for you for attacking it with the money you had – even though it hurt – and for starting to pay yourselves back!! You rock :)

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Den March 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Joan – awesome!!!!

When our family started our debt repayment journey in 2008 the biggest mind-set change we made was “debt is not an option”. In the past, if we had a car repair, we just put it on the VISA or if we needed clothes or a vacation or whatever we just put it on the VISA…..now that we have removed using credit as an option it’s opened a whole new way of thinking. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re slowly paying down our debt PLUS helping our three kids through college debt free.

I can hear in your voice/typing how great it feels to accomplish such an awesome task! And I love that you want to keep your EF intact. Great job!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Den, thanks! We are definitely in the same boat – it’s just not an option. Ever. And I love it. It’s scary at times, but it’s also very freeing.

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Darnell Jackson March 11, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Thanks for sharing this Joan,

Congrats on your success hustling up this tax money.

I’d love to hear your take on taxes increasing.

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Darnell, I’m not a fan of the taxes I’ve got to pay, but I’m also NOT someone who’s got a big opinion on the system. I’m probably the most apolitical person I know. My take is something like this: “I hate paying a third of my income to the government – no matter who’s running the government – but I take enough government services for granted not to want to mess with them too much.”

It’s not a well-informed opinion. But in my simplistic way, it sums up what I believe. The short version is, I want to live in the U.S., and I’m willing to be a part of the tax system in order to do so. Does that mean I like increases? Nope. But am I actively doing anything about it? Also nope. (I vote, and I hope, and I do the best I can with what’s left.)

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Martha March 11, 2013 at 1:45 PM

What’d we tell you Joan? Didn’t we all say that we knew you could do it? Proved us right, you did!! Congratulations!!

I talk to alot of people about setting goals and dreaming. And you can tell the two types. There are the ones who have an excuse for everything…. and the ones that will do what it takes to get to where they want to go! I believe that it’s possible to do just about anything you set your mind to… you just have to be willing to think outside of that box.

I’m working on my goal of feeling comfortable enough financially that on August 1st I can kiss that cubicle (and that dreaded Big Company we both hate) goodbye! This past month, I found a great ‘hustle’ that has already brought me in over $500 this month. And it was so obvious… it was staring me right there in the face!! I’m a dog lover who, for assorted reasons can’t get a new dog right now after I lost my sweet Black Lab last year. I’ve been dogsitting and dog-walking various friends’ dogs, because I miss some canine companionship. And it suddenly hit me — why not do it for others who would pay me for it? So I’ve begun to actually Board dogs @ my home. I reap the benefit of having a doggie to play with and take my walks with – and the owners are willing to pay to have their pets stay in my home, rather then in a cage at a kennel! Win-win and I’m making extra money doing it. Now why didn’t I think of that before???

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Martha, that’s an AMAZING hustle – great work! And I cannot, cannot, cannot say enough how excited I am for Aug. 1. I truly believe you will do it, for exactly the reason you say – that you don’t make excuses, you make a way!!!!

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Leah March 11, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Way to go Joan!!! Super inspiring, as always!!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Thanks, Leah!

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Dona Collins March 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

I loved (loved, loved, loved) reading this because it proved that you do NOT need a bunch of “stuff” to get by; and that if you work hard and focus you can achieve your goals. Good for you. And thank you for the inspiration. There is no reason for me to have tax debt, or any other debt, hanging over my head this year!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 9:32 PM

Dona, thanks for the kind words – and way to go on the mindset of “no reason to have debt hanging over my head!” Preach it!! :)

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Matt March 11, 2013 at 3:31 PM

An inspiration as always!!!!! There are many things to take from this post, but for me it is the message of ‘no more debt’. Then no matter what you are not going further in the hole even making the minimum payments. No matter what else happens you know you are one month closer to the goal of being debt free. We all want it to come faster, but let me offer this. When I was in law school (I went at night) while working, we used to talk about how nice it would be to be a day student and finish in 3 years instead of 4 doing it at night. One person said, so the difference is you will be a lawyer 29 years instead of 30 years, big deal!! It helped me see that many things are not a big deal when kept in a long term view. Debt free the last 30 years of your life or last 29…not a big difference. The big deal is being debt free!!!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Matt, that’s a GREAT point. We’ve been talking about some family options that would be somewhat of an income change for us, and when we really stopped to look at it, that was essentially what it comes down to – so it might take us 5 years start to finish instead of 4.

Uh… that’s still WAY better than we were doing before, right?!

Excellent reminder. I’m so glad you shared that story about the law school thing. I’m that person who’s always in a rush and you know what, my personality is changing and I’m learning that sometimes it takes what it takes to do it right.

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Katie @ SingleSimpleStudio March 11, 2013 at 5:00 PM

My “mental win” for the month is that I’ve finally gone below $17,000 left to owe on my undergraduate debt. This is a big emotional hurdle, because for the past 5 years I’ve had that debt hovering in the $17,000 area for a few reasons. One, I was in graduate school and this loan was deferred. Two, I was only paying the interest on this account while I was in graduate school. And three, I have been putting all of my money towards eliminating my graduate student loans. When I was working on paying down my graduate debt, my mindset was “ok, you need to get this one out of the way” because I knew I had $17k sitting there untouched for YEARS. It was one of those things that, when asked how much debt I had, I always had to qualify it by saying I have X amount of dollars in graduate and always “around $17,000″ in undergraduate loans. It feels so good to say that I now have “about $16,000″ and that number will now just keep falling!

Glad you were able to have a good month, Joan, despite the tax issues!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 9:35 PM

YEAH!!!! Katie, that’s awesome! And you’re so right – it’ll just keep falling. You rock. Keep it up!

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Tina March 11, 2013 at 6:17 PM

That is so awesome!! Thanks for the update!

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 9:35 PM

Thank you, Tina, for cheering me on! :)

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Kevin Watts @Graduatingfromdebt March 11, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Congrats on setting a goal and succeeding. I recently made a large payment to my student loans and I am now after 3 years only $750 away from being completely debt free.

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Joan March 11, 2013 at 9:39 PM

Kevin, way to go!! Can’t wait to hear when you’re totally debt-free!

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Maureen March 11, 2013 at 10:07 PM

That’s great Joan that you were able to work it out. I would just be so terrified on having to pay that much money to the tax man I would end up deferring it and making payments to Uncle Sam or doing something worse, like borrowing it from a bank! You made me see that there are other ways.

Just this past week our daugher went on her own cell phone plan and hubby went and got a cell phone from work. We’ve disconnected the home cell phone so that freed up some money for me to get an upgrade because my phone was dying. And it still will end of being cheaper every month.

Then the cable got disconnected which forced hubby to hook up the antenna and the Roku box. I have to return the cable box and remote and I will be a happy person that I won’t have that bill hanging over my head every month. Our monthly cable bill was $127!!!!!!!!

This week I plan on refinancing the mortgage — or at least get it in the works.

Again, congrats on figuring out that tax payment and making us see the light!

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Thanks, Maureen – and congrats on those changes! They’re AWESOME… keep it up!

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Maureen March 13, 2013 at 8:36 PM

Called the bank yesterday and by combining our mortgage and second mortgage together for 10 years, we’ll save $200. per month. And that’s 1 less year of paying a mortgage because we still owe 11 years on our first mortgage. More money to put towards the Visa bill. You’ve inspired me Joan!

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Bilgefisher March 11, 2013 at 10:07 PM

Joan,

Well done. If others can’t see what making plans and attacking them ruthlessly can do, they are either blind or near-sighted.

Jason

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Thanks!! :)

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Meghan March 11, 2013 at 11:37 PM

Hi Joan,

What an incredible couple of months for you! I’ve been following your journey for quite some time now but this is my first time writing a post! I look at the unexpected tax bill that you received as a “test of intestinal fortitude!” Of which you passed with flying colors… It just goes to show that when you were trucking along with month after month of hitting VNS and kicking arses and taking names, you almost forget what it’s like to get caught off guard and to have the scarys like “wtf am I going to do to pay this bill off…?” as you’ve been totally in control of your debt payoff… That shows a couple of things, firstly, in the face of a surprise bill like that, you’ve made more changes than you realize, mindset to checkbook!! Secondly, you are a complete badass!!! Just saying!!

Congratulations! In a few months this will be but a distant memory and you’ll be stronger and more aware for it…

Thanks,
Meghan

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:43 PM

Wow, thanks, Meghan!! I think that’s exactly the best part for me – really using this as a chance to SEE how far we’ve come mentally!

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Kathy March 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM

Joan- That is awesome! I enjoy following your posts towards your freedom from debit. And it is exciting to see the numbers go down. We are 43 months away from having our mortgage paid off and I put that number on my write off board on the fridge and every month it will get changed. It is an awesome reminder on how close we are to really owning our own home. Most of the money from that mortgage payment will be set aside for the taxes and home repairs every month. But I hope to have a little “play money” for all the hard work and scrimping and saving we did to achieve this goal. There always is a little light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to keeping digging to make it brighter. Keep up the hard work!

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:44 PM

Kathy, that is amazing!! I can’t wait to hear when you own the house free and clear – that is SO close, especially compared to how long it usually takes (and how many people NEVER do that!)

You rock!

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Olivia March 12, 2013 at 4:43 PM

That’s pretty awesome! I’m so happy for you and am inspired to hustle a little more to pay off my student loan! Thanks for the encouraging post!

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:44 PM

Thanks, Olivia – and way to go on being inspired to hustle – keep me posted on how the student loan payoffs go!! :)

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Olivia March 13, 2013 at 5:49 PM

I will! Thanks!

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The Broke Girl March 13, 2013 at 8:50 AM

I’ve been following your story for a while and it is inspiring to see how well you are doing! I am so glad that unexpected tax bill didn’t throw you off course, like it would so many others. I have about $200 to go on my VNS – paying off my highest interest CC! I am hoping scrimp and save and hustle to get that paid off by next paycheck 3/28.

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Elle March 14, 2013 at 9:35 AM

I’m so happy for your guys – your are hustlers! Seeing how you are working together to get the tax money ready and paying your debts is inspiring. Please keep it up; I can’t wait to see next month’s review :)

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Evans March 15, 2013 at 6:33 PM

I’ve inherited two large libraries of old book and I’m overwhelmed with the task of getting rid of them to make room for my books. I’m not sure I have the energy to list each one individually. Any suggestions.

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Shelley March 15, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Mental win of the day? Paying down $465 on a credit card over two days! That payment combined with a surprise bonus from work means this month we’ll have paid down over $1,100 on one card, and by the end of next month the card will be paid off…awesometown! Joan, your posts are my favorite because you help me remember to celebrate the “wins,” big and little. Thank you!

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amy March 18, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Congrats on all the hard work! Please forive my words of caution: really really consider a new pair of athletic shoes. I work in Physical Therapy. I hope you are exercising and walking — doing that in broken down shoes is a qick way to develop a problem that will lead to way more $$ than a new pair of shoes. Avoiding movement due to poor shoes is foolish as well. Please reconsider!

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Cay March 25, 2013 at 7:32 PM

YOU ARE INSPIRING AND AMAZING!!! Keep up the great work paying off the IRS and becoming debt-free.
congratulations on all your hard work this year.

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