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What Really Matters Most: Joan’s Mid-September 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.

This month has been rough. Oh, not so much financially – in fact, our debt went down again this month by more than $500, which is pretty much our recent average.

Rather, it’s been a rough month personally. You might have noticed I’ve been short on updates. My mother had been feeling unwell and undergoing some tests. While thankfully she’s doing a bit better now, it’s always tough to deal with the illness of a loved one!

Meanwhile, the largest freelance contract I have kicked into super-high gear, requiring about 60 hours on-site each of the last two weeks. That’s a huge financial change for us. The team working on this project is amazing – and I’ve actually developed some crazy close friendships among the group – but I’m eating lunches out, grabbing takeout for dinner and generally doing different things than I might with my money.

And combined with that, it’s incredibly hard to find time to spend with my daughter and husband, who are both busy with activities and projects of their own!

All of this together has made me realize (or rather, reaffirmed) what’s most important to me. I’m not getting out of debt to get out of debt, or because it’s bad to be in debt, or … whatever.

I’m getting out of debt for PEOPLE. I’m getting out of debt to allow myself the freedom and flexibility to truly put my family first. I’m getting out of debt to give my husband career options.

And you know what? I could have spent my money differently these past few weeks. I could’ve skipped the ice cream I brought home as a treat a few nights. I could’ve skipped the team lunches.  I might have decided not to take Sarah out with friends to the local fair. (We had an amazing night… and I rode a mechanical bull. That was something!)

Money doesn’t buy happiness. But sometimes, money buys things that make people you care about happy. And that’s cool too. (Moderation, right?!)

A quick look at the finances

Our total debt went down $529.81 this month, to $55,577.66. That’s down a total of $34,109.57, making us 38.03% debt-free! We’re slowly approaching 40%, and it feels great.

We didn’t hit any of our Very Next Steps this month, but we’re still trucking! You can see those steps  listed in detail on my Joan’s Finances page. 

Now what?

I don’t expect things to slow down much in my life before my next update. I expect it’ll be much like this one – short on time, steady on progress.

But I’m keeping an eye on what’s most important. I’m not letting the events overshadow the people, and I’m working hard to make the best financial decisions for the situation (whether they’re the “perfect” decisions or not!)

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the Man Vs. Debt community for sticking with me through all these updates. The progress each month might not be earth-shattering, but it’s been life-changing already for us.

I appreciate you!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ree Klein September 13, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Hi Joan,

First, I hope your mom is feeling much better. My mother is 78 with a lot of health problems; I come from a place of empathy. I also just came off a two-month contract that took up a lot of my time and while I made money, I too spent money I would not have spent because of the drive, a few new clothes to look presentable, no lunches out but I did eat out more with my man.

While I was grateful for the contract I learned something about myself…here’s what became crystal clear to me through the process.

- No matter how great the group of people I get to work with, I don’t belong in Corporate America any more.

- The ability to create my own schedule is critical. It allows me to drop what I’m doing and go help my mother if she needs it. She lost her dearest friend yesterday and I’m leaving shortly to go be with her. When you have a JOB, you can’t do that.

- Money is necessary, even important, but there’s a tipping point where more money does not add the kind of value you think it does. If the money comes easily, great! If not, then extra might not be worth the cost.

I admire you, Joan, you are a hard-working, caring, dedicated wife, daughter and mother…thanks for being an inspiration to so many.

Ree

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Joan Otto September 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Ree, those are EXACTLY the things I’ve realized and am realizing! I can do projects like this because they’re occasional – but hours and hours of meetings are not the place for me. It’s bad for my mental health, for my family, for everything!

My mother is also 78. And I SO hear you about wanting to be there for her. Go moms and daughters! :)

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cj September 13, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Progress is Progress and slow progress is better than no progress.

For us some months are better than others and we always try to do something special because I don’t want a life of regret or I wish I’d of….Life is short and sure, we’ve cut out a lot of extra’s to pay off the debt, sometimes a little bit of fun gives you months of OMG, that was so much fun. We’ll have to do that again next year or remember when we did!

Great job Joan! Can’t wait till your next post!

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Joan Otto September 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM

CJ. thanks!! I appreciate all the kind words and the support!

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Lisa September 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I hope your mom is doing better!

I love this post. We have days/weeks/months like this sometimes, too, and I always feel really guilty spending money beyond what we have in our cash envelopes, but sometimes things come up: the kids outgrow their clothes at the same time, a relative is in town and wants to go out to dinner, I get sick and can’t cook for several days, etc.

I would hate to miss out on bonding experiences with my family, co-workers, or friends just so we can hit a goal we set for ourselves and can adjust at any time (it would be different if we weren’t covering our basic expenses). And, I would hate to feel like there was never any reward for our hard work (ice cream is totally a valid reward!). There are some things I don’t miss, like having a TV and paying for cable, but there are other things, like taking my kids to a museum, that would make me sad to miss out on. Time isn’t going to stand still while we pay off our debt, and there are trade-offs we have made so that we can spend those little amounts of money when the opportunity arises instead of having to say no to all of them.

It’s reassuring to know that we’re not the only ones who go through periods like this, and maybe I’ll feel a little less guilty about it next time it happens to us. ;)

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Joan Otto September 13, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Lisa, thank you so much for saying that – it really means a lot to me in the same way, to know there are people out there who also believe that life has to continue to be valuable even when money is tight!!

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Lilypad September 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

What a great picture, you all are ADORABLE! My mom is not the slightest bit interested in being a loving grandma or mother, so you are blessed…

Keep up the good work and remember your Interwebz friends are rooting for you!

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Joan Otto September 13, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Aww, thanks!! We are very blessed to have my mom. She’s awesome :) I bet she’d adopt you. We have a LOT of “extra” family members because she has always been willing to open our home and her heart to anyone.

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Bellacat September 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

I try not to spend money for work but occasionally I have to – contributions to farewell gifts, baking for the team, buying treats, once in a while a lunch out or coffee meeting and yes far too much money on presentable clothes.

I look at this money as part of the running costs of the job which brings in the bigger coin that I so desperately need to save and pay off debt!! If I didn’t spend those few dollars here and there, it would actually adversely affect my ability to work as I would get a certain, um, ‘reputation’ with my colleagues :-).

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Joan Otto September 13, 2013 at 7:37 PM

Exactly! :)

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Christina September 14, 2013 at 8:29 PM

Good to hear how things are going! I admire your perspective and flexibility of mind as you continue your mission to clearing debt. So important to see the big view, which you, my dear, are doing so well. Keep going, and we will all be here to cheer you on.
Have a great month!
Our family went to Niagara Falls for vacation. The best part was spending time with family, but I could have done completely without the depressing, Los Vegas atmosphere. It was way too expensive for what it was, and it will take another month for us to make another dent in our debt. Honestly, I would have been happier at a great campground in Cape Cod, being with the same people. A lesson learned about how to choose a vacation destination in the future!

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Martin September 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Hey, it’s not about perfection. It’s about getting a bit better every single day. I treat my finances and my fitness like this.

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Matt September 18, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Good job Joan!!!!….I am inspired by your progress. Isn’t it wonderful that you have almost hit the 40% mark! A little quick math shows that with slightly more than your usual payoff you will be at 40% paid off by the December update. That will easily set you up for working the 50% mark for 2014. I think I will have everything, but my house paid for in October. I am selling a house (under contract and praying that it goes through) that I used to live in and the proceeds from the sale should payoff any outstanding consumer debt that I have. Then I only have the my current home left to go. Still a big debt, but one I look forward to tackling. I really agreed with you and the other poster that spoke of the freedom of being debt free. I have seen how it opens up so many doors for people to do what they love. I have been a corporate employee for 17 years and am grateful. They have treated me well. It could have been a lot worse and I still would have had to keep working there. Being debt free will help me start doing more of the work I want to do, not just what pays well.

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Cay September 18, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Joan,
I hope your mother is doing well now. Being with family is SO very important! By the picture you posted, you have a very beautiful family. Three generations living in one household. Awesome!!! I also take care of my aging mom and father in law. It’s a blessing I can be there for them.
$500.00 is is $500.00. Slow going but moving more and more out of debt!
I enjoy reading your post and keeping up with you.
Blessings.

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Tina H September 24, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Thanks, Joan. You have a way of putting everything in the right place! With my son now off to UCLA! My house seems to be missing something. Life changes fast and we know our choices today will affect us tomorrow. I say that now because I did not plan for college. Really, I went to community college and worked paid for it myself. But times seem to change and children our out doing what we as parents did at their age. Which makes me think he is going to get a great education and I am so proud….BUT…I want him to be happy and come out as debt free as possible. That is why I am paying for it. It’s not easy with 5 other at home. But everytime I worry that I can’t do it or that I bit off more than I can chew. I head on over to MVD and get re-energized. Thank you! Thank You!!

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