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More Than $35K Paid Off: Joan’s Mid-November Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Our Financial Journey

thousands-down

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

Since last July, we’ve dropped our debt by $10,000 more… 

And this month, we hit a milestone. We’ve now paid off $35,201.89 of our original $89,687.23 balance.

We crossed the $35K threshold, and by the end of the year, we should reach 40 percent debt-free!!!

Yeah, that deserves some exclamation points.

Our Very Next Steps

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

  • Hated BoA Mastercard: Our goal had been to get this under $16,000, and this month, its balance dropped to $15,933.42. Next, we’ll aim for under $15,000! When we started tackling our debt in early 2011, this card had a balance of more than $36,000, and when I think back and see that number dropping by more than half… well, wow. It feels good.
  • Citi Mastercard: We’d been aiming to get this down below $15,500, and it’s at $15,428.32. Next up? Under $15,000, like its BoA friend!

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.

Our goals for this month

These aren’t exactly “Very Next Steps,” but they’re important, and I want to be accountable in sharing them!

Our Budget: We have been operating with a pretty consistent family budget for almost four years now. We review it and tweak it occasionally, but both income and expenses have either been steady or better than projected for a LONG time. In light of some big changes on our horizon, we want to make sure we understand where every dollar is going – and what we really need vs. what we’re just accustomed to!

So our goal for this month is to do a budget from scratch. As we finalize our plans for the coming year, we’ll use this to inform our decisions and to see where we have flexibility to adjust!

Our House: Until last week, we had long-term houseguests. Now that they’ve moved, we’re re-evaluating our space and how we use it. One thing that may happen in the coming year is a move, but even if it doesn’t, we want to be intentional about having only what we need, and making the best use of the space we have.

This month, we’re going to figure out what’s going where… get rid of a lot… and do some inexpensive fix-ups that have been lingering for a while! Most of them are things that won’t take much more than our time, but we haven’t committed to doing them. Now, we will!

Our Personal Projects: Both Chris and I (and Sarah!) have some projects we’ve been working on. In my case, I’ve redone one of my personal websites and have a much bigger redo for a larger one, complete with rebranding and some other work, that I hope to complete before the end of the year. This is a HUGE goal, but I’ve broken it down step by step and I think that even if I don’t hit my target, I’ll come close!

So that’s what’s going on in our life right now. We’re really focused on looking ahead!

So what’s new in your world this month? Any goals for the month ahead?

Would love to hear your updates in the comments!

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

MITMBlog November 18, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Awesome. Way to go!
We have approximately $116k of debt and although we are budgeting monthly and managing our expenses much better, it’s harder to dig out when the amount is so big to start with and we don’t make a whole lot of income right now to throw at it.

I’ve calculated that it will take about 8 years to pay off. Which seems soooooooooo long. But reading your post gives me a glimmer of hope.

Thanks so much for sharing and keep up the good work!

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Beth November 18, 2013 at 7:01 PM

But if you don’t, it’s going to take ten years or fifteen years or twenty years or even the rest of your life to pay off. Eight years isn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise. I just read something earlier about not letting the fact something will take a long time put you off doing it as that time will pass anyway. It’s true, isn’t it?

Good luck. I hope you can shave a year or two off that :)

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM

It does seem like forever – we originally planned 3 years, then it rose to 4, now it looks like 6 (and in between there, there were points where it was 8 except we made big dents to knock it back down!) I won’t lie – it feels draining to think about it that way for me. That’s why I HAVE to do the Very Next Step thing. I can’t look that far ahead or I want to give up!

I am so so so happy you’re doing your budget and managing your expenses. I just want to encourage you to pick one thing and start attacking it. We used to do silly challenges where we would send extra payments to our BoA card with EVERY extra dollar we found, and we kept a thermometer graph we made on construction paper to mark ‘em. My husband and I would compete – like one month we were making payments of $14 and $18 from selling our stuff but I was proud because I “beat” him. WHATEVER motivates you! :)

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Mariana November 18, 2013 at 9:51 AM

That’s a wonderful milestone Joan! Congratulations! We have sold a lot of crap lately and I am going through the same thoughts about the need of a big house. Thanks for sharing your journey!

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Mariana, it’s so weird to look around your house with less stuff and think, WAIT, do I need this room? Isn’t it crazy? :)

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Macattack November 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Joan, girl you and your family are doing great! November I made our savings goal for this year, and though we’ve been busting away at debt we may come up a little short on our annual goal, but we have paid off 63%, so were getting there. Since we are retirement age, but are still working, we are also considering a smaller house, one less car, less stuff, etc. I think it will be invigorating to eventually have more control and less stress in our lives. Thank you so much for all your posts, I follow you and Baker religiously and find it really helps!

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM

It’s invigorating to ME to hear how far you’ve come and I am especially impressed with your savings goal – WHOA!! A month early!

Good for you – and keep it up. You are so right about how great it already feels – and I can only join with you in imagining it’ll feel even better later!

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Marc Allred November 18, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Love seeing other peoples financial goals and successes. It’s motivating when you see other people who are in drastically more debt than yourself and humbling when you see people doing much better than yourself. Either way, I think it’s really helpful.

Hope you continue to reach those goals and kill that debt!
-Marc @ marcallred.com

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:12 PM

Marc, thanks for the kind words – and I don’t know, I feel like our progress is CERTAINLY not fast or “better” than anyone else’s, but we’re trying, and that’s what counts, right? :)

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Michelle @fitisthenewpoor November 18, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Wow! How awesome! 40% off of your debt is nothing to shake a stick at.

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:09 PM

Michelle, thanks!! :) I can’t wait to make it 45 – 50 – 55 – all the way!!

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Claire McRae November 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

Hey Joan,
That’s so impressive and well done for sticking at it through both rough and smooth times! I’m now edging up to the 40% mark very soon, and when I reflect on the last couple years journey, it hasn’t really been so bad. There have been backwards times with unexpected bills, but it’s always been a transitional thing, where the next month, I’ve got back on track. I used to dread anything financial (because I was in denial about my debt) but after looking at it in total, those numbers on the page no longer have a hold over me. I actually enjoy my monthly totals, and target setting! The next plan is to get my loan under $9,000 which I will do end Dec. :)

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM

AWESOME job, Claire! It feels great to be nearing that spot, doesn’t it? I’m gonna cheer you on as we both go to 40 and beyond! :)

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Jason B November 18, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Way to go. You are helping me stay motivated as I work on my debt reduction.

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Jason, thank you so much for saying so. Keep rockin’!

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Beth November 18, 2013 at 7:02 PM

That’s fab Joan :)

Do you use You Need A Budget? I don’t yet but I keep hearing awesome things about it. Maybe worth a look if you’re starting your budget over from scratch. The four rules they use are worth looking at (although you probably do them) even if you don’t buy the software :)

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Joan Otto November 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Beth, thanks for the kind words! I’m familiar with YNAB but I’ve been doing well with the system we use (which is straight out of You Vs. Debt) and we’re sticking to it because it’s done so well for us. I just need to take a fresh look at the numbers in it and make sure I’m not “creeping” in ways I don’t realize!

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Leah November 19, 2013 at 2:49 AM

So awesome Joan!!! Nice work!!!

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Joan Otto November 19, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Thanks, Leah!

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Sandy November 19, 2013 at 3:18 AM

We’ll done! Luckily I’ve never had a credit card,so theoretically my debt is my mortgage and bills, however, I have a spending issue on a certain shopping channel here in UK so that is what I am working hard to stop at the moment. I have paid off some of my mortgage but would like to move to a place with a garden and to enable me to have a dog, can’t here in my flat. However, being on my own saving takes forever and I loose motivation quite quickly and it sometimes takes me a whileto get myself back on track. After watching Adam’s TED video something clicked and I have started getting rid of my ‘crap’ (and believe me I have loads!) and boy do I feel better. It’s slow going but I keep plugging away and I have given myself until 31 March 2014 to get rid of all things I don’t use within a month, and now I’ve told you there’s no going back :) Thank you for the inspiration and keeping those of us on our own motivated :)

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Joan Otto November 19, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Sandy, YEAH to getting rid of stuff!! You are so awesome – and you’re right, it’s out there in public now, so you gotta do it! ;-)

Keep us posted – and remember exactly what you said here when you lose motivation, that you’re not just doing this “to do it,” you’re doing it to get that new place with a garden, a dog, better feelings… THAT is what will keep you motivated!

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BWestMom November 19, 2013 at 6:54 AM

Amazing. This definitely motivates me. I have spent the past week or so gathering all my debt info and organizing it. I totaled my credit debt and I’m just over 11k. I had no idea and would have guessed “arround 4 or 5k.” It feels good to get started and I hope to be as happy as you seeing it get lower and lower. I have two kids (5 and 1) and I don’t want to deny college because of debt. GOOD JOB!!!

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Joan Otto November 19, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Good job to YOU!! That is one of the hardest things to do – to get an honest inventory – and now you know it’ll never be worse than that, right? :)

Keep it up!!! And thank you so much for the kind words!

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dojo November 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Really good news. Keep up the good work and keep us posted on the progress ;)

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Joan Otto November 19, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I DEFINITELY will be keeping everyone updated! That’s what keeps me going – the accountability and knowing that I can share with you guys what I’m working toward!

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pt November 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM

so inspiring! i am on day three of giving up a $6 a day coffee habit.

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Joan Otto November 23, 2013 at 11:44 PM

WHOO-HOO! Good job – keep it up!

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William Charles November 21, 2013 at 1:45 AM

Wow, it’s incredibly impressive what you’ve done so far. Goodluck getting the BoA card under $15,000.

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Joan Otto November 23, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Thanks! It’s in our sights!

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Bob November 21, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Congrats, your updates are always inspiring! I’m curious how other people handle paying down credit cards: do you wait until the payment is due to make one larger payment or do you apply a payment as soon as you have the funds to do so every week or so?

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Joan Otto November 23, 2013 at 11:45 PM

We usually make one large payment and then smaller ones up to the limit of the credit-card issuer (for instance, one of our cards allows two online payments per month, etc.) Early on we did more smaller payments, but now, it’s lately been working out lately to just budget for the payment amount we HOPE to make, and then make that all at once.

Great question!

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Kevin November 21, 2013 at 11:37 PM

Hey Joan,

I’m a new reader of the blog, but I definitely have to join my voice to the chorus of support and congratulations! 40% of the way there is awesome, and to have paid off about $45,000 in debt in three years, amazing! I wish more people were as comfortable with opening their financial books as you are and sharing, I’m constantly trying to get my friends to open up more about their money situations to see what I can do to help!

I do have one question, and this may have been discussed in earlier posts, and I just haven’t had a chance to read. Have you given any thought to consolidating some of your credit card debt onto a lower interest rate line of credit?

Keep up the great work!

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Joan Otto November 23, 2013 at 11:48 PM

Kevin, thanks for the kind words! That’s definitely something I’ve explored in depth in other posts – this one comes to mind if you’d like to read more! http://manvsdebt.com/bankruptcy-debt-settlement-consolidation/

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OC Budget November 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Great job, joan!!! we’re also trying to keep positive with our debt pay off but it’s a struggle definitely.

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Joan Otto November 23, 2013 at 11:46 PM

It is – but keep at it! I’m cheering for you guys!

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Cay November 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Hey Joan,
Great post! You and your family are staying on task and getting that debt down, down, down. I am excited for you. The day you pay off that hated BofA card will be a great day for you and all who are cheering you on.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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Joan Otto December 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Cay, I’m late saying it, but THANK YOU :) Your post made me smile, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Hope you and yours did too.

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Ryan @ Digital Photography Hobbyist December 13, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Wow, $35k, that’s a big chunk of change. Way to go, keep it up!

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Joan Otto January 10, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Thanks Ryan!!

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