176

Joan’s Financial Journey

I’m Joan Otto, community manager and writer for Man Vs. Debt, and I’m in the trenches of a war against almost $90,000 in consumer debt.

I started reading Man Vs. Debt in early 2010 and followed along with my husband, Chris, as Baker and Courtney paid off all their non-student-loan debt, took down their college loan balances, grew their assets and built Man Vs. Debt as a business … all while living the life they chose.

And I had a crazy thought: If they could do it, so could we.

In early 2011, we got serious about getting out of credit-card debt for good, in large part so we could gain the freedom to homeschool our daughter, Sarah, who’s now 14. Once I joined the MvD team in late 2011, I realized that publicly sharing the details of our fight against debt – or, as the Bakers call it, radical financial transparency – could both motivate our family to keep going AND maybe motivate other members of the community as well.

So I put it all out there in my introductory post from early March 2012: “Are You Sick and Tired of Being Broke and Tired? Meet Joan Otto. When we started sharing our updates, we’d already paid down about $20,000 from our highest balance. But we’d come almost that far before, only to face setbacks.

This time, we’re in it ’til they’re all zero.

By The Numbers

AccountStarting Debt
(As of April 14, 2011)
Current Balance
(As of June 9, 2014)
Very Next Step
Hated BoA Mastercard$36,013.71$14,099.41under $14,000
Citi Mastercard$21,718.53$14,271.95under $14,000
Bank line of credit$9,994.03under $7,000
Union Plus Mastercard$8,860.23$6,428.18under $6,000
Citi Visa$7,386.89$4,366.45under $4,000
Discover$3,143.29$4,210.91under $4,000
Springleaf loan$4,998.13PAID OFF
Tires Plus$628.13PAID OFF
Joan 401(k) loan$1,639.59PAID OFF
Chris 401(k) loan$1,216.32PAID OFF
TOTAL WORST-EVER CREDIT CARD DEBT$89,687.23
(as of Jan. 1, 2011, four months before I figured out the numbers above)
TOTAL CURRENT DEBT$53,370.93
AMOUNT PAID OFF$36,315.30
PERCENTAGE DEBT-FREE40.49%

Detailed Updates

Track With Us

Debt-Payoff Tracking Spreadsheet
Part of our six-item Man Vs. Debt free resource kit available exclusively for email subscribers

  • Stay motivated while you’re paying off debt
  • Learn the secret to setting goals that keep you going
  • Use the system I credit with helping us pay off more than $30K in less than 2 years

Our Goals

We had hoped to be debt-free except for our mortgage as of March 2015 when we started tracking our progress here on Man Vs. Debt. Thanks to some changes in our income, we’ve had to adjust that target, and our newest goal would have us done with consumer debt in April 2016.

That has us paying $2,000 total per month on our debts (minimums plus extras), which at our current income levels is heartily ambitious and maybe not even quite doable – but we’re committed to trying!

That said, that seems ages away, and as we’ve said before, we truly believe that by hustling, we can cut a significant time off of that. The hard part is deciding just how ambitious to be, so I decided to set a “range” of goals.

  • Marathon finisher award medal: Paid off “on time,” or by April 30, 2016
  • Bronze medal: Paid off by December 31, 2015 (4 months early, about $7,850 “extra” required, give or take)
  • Silver medal: Paid off by August 31, 2015 (8 months early, about $15,450 “extra” required)
  • Race-winning, Olympic-qualifying, crazy-awesome gold medal: Paid off by April 30, 2015 (a full year early, about $22,740 “extra” required)

So Where Do I Go From Here?

I really appreciate all the support I’ve received so far from the Man Vs. Debt and You Vs. Debt communities. It’s not easy owning up to these numbers, but I’m confident I’ll be able to get them down to zero.

I look at this as my chance to come full circle. I watched Baker and Courtney do this, and I was inspired. I hope that by sharing our story, maybe it will inspire you to tackle your own debt – or to STAY debt-free!

I’d love to hear your comments, both on our journey and your own struggles and successes. Feel free to share those below!

{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie May 25, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Hi Joan,

Just wanted to send you an email saying thank you (to you and Baker) so much for your complete financial transparency. Since I began following ManvsDebt 2 years ago (and read Dave Ramsey’s book), my husband and I have paid back $86,600 of our whopping $162,000 in debt (primarily student loans). We began paying off our debt in January 2010, and we are on track to finish paying off our debt in September 2013! For our complete financial journey with exact debt payments and how we did it, you can check out my blog HealLoveBe!

Thanks again!
Jamie Falahee

Reply

Joan May 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Jamie, good for you!! You’re more than halfway there… and I can’t wait to hear you celebrate when you get to 100%, just like I know we will! :) Keep it up!

Reply

Laura Moorhead June 7, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Joan,

My question is related to budgeting for groceries. I have read and read about watching sales, couponing, buying in bulk but I still cannot seem to get a handle on our grocery budget. I pay cash for everything. I cash my paycheck every Friday which is exclusively for groceries and handouts to my two teenagers if they need extra money through the week. Each Friday I make $400.00. It seems like every week my cash is gone by Monday or Tuesday! It’s ridiculous and most of it is spent at the grocery store! Do you have any advice on how to set a grocery budget for four people (2 parents and 2 teen-monsters)? I really want to get this under control but have no idea what an adequate budget would be for us. BTW I live in Alabama if that makes any difference. Thank so much and I LOVE reading your posts.

Laura Moorhead

Reply

Joan June 7, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Laura, that’s a great question – and definitely a good subject for a full future post! (I appreciate the kind words, too, by the way. You made my day!)

I think the short answer is to shop with a list, and to shop as INFREQUENTLY as possible. We go every two weeks and we try our hardest never to go between trips. We get the sale flyers, plan our dinners, and we make sure to have staples on hand for breakfasts and lunches, and then we stick to that for those two weeks. And of course we use coupons when we can.

Ours is a family of four – me, my husband, my mother (who lives with us) and my 12-year-old daughter – so I appreciate it! Our grocery budget for food and everything else used to be $240 every two weeks here in PA for all of us, but due to a variety of factors we’ve decided to move that up to $340 – in cash.

One suggestion I have is TAKE YOUR FAMILY TO THE STORE WITH YOU and do a big trip. Show them how much stuff costs. We shop as a group, all four of us, and you’d be surprised how much even my daughter has become amenable to things like store-brand cookies (unless Oreos are on sale, LOL), when she sees how much more we can get for the same money!

I hope that helps – and like I said, keep an eye out, because this is definitely a subject I plan to tackle in a future post!

Reply

Laura Moorhead June 7, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Good suggestion, Joan, about having the family come with me. I am the primary, really only, shopper and I dread it each week! Having them along would hopefully educate them and keep me company. I had stopped clipping coupons and I think I’ll go back to it – not just so hard core. And from what your budget for groceries is mine could definitely use some trimming. Keep up the good work and thanks for your helpful reply!

Reply

Joan June 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM

You’re very welcome – and keep us posted on how it turns out! :)

Reply

Matt July 4, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Good job Joan!

Keep up the good work. My wife Rachel and I have paid off a total of $116,593.54 to date and are hoping to be debt free by the end of March 2013.

I can’t wait for that day.

Reply

Joan July 6, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Matt, that is AMAZING!! Good for you guys – and boy, I am with you; I can’t wait for that day either! :) Cheering for you.

Reply

daz July 6, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Hi Joan – I know exactly where you are coming from and also where you are going as I now have no outstanding credit whatsoever and it is a good place to be.

It would be great if your figures could somehow show how much of your repayments is eaten up by charges, unfair interest and all the other completely unethical mechanisms these companies will use to try and stop you clearing the principal.

Rooting for you from Europe!

Reply

Joan July 6, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Daz, I think we’d need all our readers to have dual computer monitors set up to read THAT! ;-) I was thinking about putting APRs on, but it’s so complicated as sometimes one card has portions of its balance at 3 different rates and stuff like that! Basically, just as a short summary, our APRs range from a general low of 9.99% to a high of 23.99% to a couple that currently have no interest. And our loan already had the “interest” calculated in – so I have a total number to pay off, and instead of it compounding each month, whatever I pay just drops that total. It’s painful in some ways – it’s a way for them to charge you much MORE interest than they can by compounding – but it’s also nice in its simplicity; what I pay off is what’s paid off, you know?

Anyway, all that aside, your kind words made my day. I can’t wait to be credit-free for life!

Reply

Julie July 9, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Hi Joan,

Totally get where you are coming from! Check out my blog! This is how we saved 15k a year! Good luck! Julie

http://julesmeyers.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-save-15k-year.html

Reply

Joan July 11, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Good job, Julie – keep up the good work!

Reply

Stephanie July 17, 2012 at 8:24 PM

Hi Joan,
I have a question that may seem silly, but I just can’t figure it out. I desperately want to pay off my debt, but a layoff last year put me so far behind on bills as a single mom with limited income anyway – that I just can’t catch up. So how do you catch up on bills first? I feel like if I could catch up I could start on debt removal. I currently have about 30,000 in debt, and make about 30,000 per year. I’m about 1,300/month behind on my monthly bills. (And I’m obviously not very good at finances). Thanks – I love reading about your journey!

Reply

Jamie July 17, 2012 at 9:22 PM

Hi Stephanie,

I just saw your post and thought I would respond. Have you heard of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace course with book and cd? Both are fantastic for helping you figure out where and how to get started. Hope this helps!

Jamie

Reply

Joan July 26, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Stephanie, don’t tell yourself you’re not good at finances – that’s step number one!!

You CAN make it work – things like setting up a budget, cutting costs where you can, working with companies you’re behind on, hustling in some extra money… it can happen. When I started the first session of our You Vs. Debt course in spring 2011, I was behind on “regular stuff” at times, but within that first session, I got back on track, then when I did the next session, I figured out how to get some additional income in play to actually start getting ahead, and once I did that, it started building on itself. Crazy, I know, but it REALLY did work.

Here’s my personal challenge to you. Take a step back from the money for a minute (I know, weird, right?) and shoot me an email to joan at manvsdebt dot com with WHY you want to get your finances under control. Not the “because it’s the right thing to do” line, but for real, deep and personal, what motivates you to want to get this figured out once and for all!! I won’t share it, of course, I just want to see you take THAT step and see how good it feels to know your reason!

You game??

Reply

Clare September 8, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Joan – brilliant response – and Stephanie – I hear ya and feel your pain. I moved back in with my parents to get my debt under control – and that was a BIG decision, there’s pluses and minuses, the biggest plus that I knew about was that I am so lucky both my parents are still alive and supportive – but now I am here, we are having some amazing bonding times and not to be morbid, in 20 years or however long’s time, I will be glad I was here even though the circumstances were less than ideal –

Either way – life is full of curveballs and awesome times and opportunities and shocks and all sorts – its how we handle it that defines us – every day is a gift and an opportuntiy – so i wish you ALL and anyone reading this, the very best!

Clare xx

Reply

Cal July 18, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Hi,

I stumbled upon this site and I applaud you for your efforts!

My mother died with about 90,000 dollars in credit card debt… Luckily we were not legally obligated to pay that, although the creditors DID try to harrass us for a few years. (the calls have gone down a bit ). The creditors even had the audacity to track down a cousin of mine (from my dad’s side of the family ) and harrass HER for the $$.. ridiculous.

Anyway,

I have been on a journey for self sufficiency. I have paid down credit cards in the past.. The first time I went through consumer credit counseling to pay off an 11,000 dollar credit card debt… that was about 10 years ago.. then of course it went back up. I transferred a balance to an interest free card.. paid that card off last year (I still use it cause I get “points” but I do pay off the balance each month). and then my only other credit card.. I paid off about 1/2 of a 13,000 dollar card.. with some IRA money my mother left me and I luckily ended up getting a very unexpected Life insurance settlement from my dad who died several years ago.. so the remaining 7,000 will go off with that.. and then all I will have is my mortgage.

I am trying diligently to live simply. I bought a forclosed house outright (very cheap) but it is harder than you can imagine. LIfe and circumstances have a way of keeping you on that treadmill no matter what your PLANS are or how noble they are… It is ridiculous!

Car troubles, medical bills, on and on.. No matter how well you plan or how well intentioned.. our society really makes it difficult to be self sufficient, especially when you are in the process of transitioning and downshifting.

I look forward to getting some tips and inspiration from this site…

I am so sick of the burden of stuff. I inherited a ton of stuff too (my mother never through anything away).

Reply

Joan July 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Cal, I hear you – and I have been there, on that treadmill!! We really hit rock bottom late in 2010 before things started going “up” for us.

The biggest mistake I personally made was trying to pay off debt before I had an emergency fund in place. Then, I’d just run the credit cards back up – or open new cards – when something went wrong. To some people it sounds counterintuitive – why have $1,000 sitting around when you could pay off $1,000 in debt – but for us, that was life-changing. I’m curious to know your thoughts on that – because I definitely hear my own past in your story!!

Reply

J.J. August 16, 2012 at 4:30 PM

The emergency fund is a concept that some creditors seem to reject. My husband and I have paid off nearly all of $20K in debt (we’re projected to be in the black in spring of 2013), and finally have two months’ worth of living expenses in a high-yield savings account.

The savings account is with a new bank (an FCU) that is linked to another local FCU chain where he previously had checking, savings, and a Visa account. When we both lost our jobs and house three years ago, we were unable to pay on the Visa card, so the old FCU kept reducing his privileges until all he had left was a basic savings account. Due to the need for a debit card, he opened a new account with a different FCU, where he has perfectly maintaining his checking and savings accounts. Unfortunately, because the old FCU is linked to his new bank, whenever we go in to make our monthly payment on his old Visa, they guilt trip us for having cash in the new savings account at the other bank. It’s very frustrating, especially when we point out that it is ALL the money we have, and we have zero assets to liquidate in case of an emergency. It seems very unprofessional for one bank chain to keep tabs on a member’s account with another chain, even if they ARE affiliated FCUs, especially when we were only late with one Visa payment in 36 months.

Ironically, other creditors seem relieved that we are able to maintain a “rainy day” fund, even though they know I won’t give them a dime of it. I guess to them, it’s a signal that we’re getting back on our feet financially and will indeed be able to pay them back eventually if we have any cash to scrape into a modest savings account.

Reply

Mike Greig July 21, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Hi Joan,

Thanks for being willing to put this all out there. It really is motivating for us readers! Keep running the race and get that gold medal!

Reply

Joan July 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Thanks, Mike!! :)

Reply

Cheryl August 1, 2012 at 5:56 PM

I just ran across your blog. good luck in getting your debt down. I’m doing the same with credit card debt- the best thing I started was my budget in excel. That was eye opening.

Also, just as a quick response to the coupon clipping. I saw the extreme couponing show awhile back, if you use it on a normal scale for your household it really works. There are some items that you can really stock up on that don’t take up a lot of space and can come off your grocery list for awhile (toothpaste, soap, etc.). It can also be a fun group activity- I give the diaper ones to my sister and she’ll give me the dog food ones. I’ve saved close to 50% of my grocery bill doing it and since I live on the Gulf Coast- I’ve got my hurricane preparedness box ready to go.

hope that helps!
cheryl

Reply

Joan August 5, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Cheryl, especially glad to hear about your preparedness kit – those are good for ANYONE but I can only imagine more so based on your location!

We realized this year that we’ve saved more than $1,000 using coupons. (Our primary grocery store tracks it on your receipt.) We’re not “get it just because you can” people, but we definitely are strategic and I liked seeing that on the receipt today!

Reply

Jody August 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Joan, I am a single woman of a “certain age” who is trying my best to get finances under control because while I am close to retirement, I do not intend on retiring until I am debt free, have a house paid for or nearly paid for with payments less than $300 a month. I agree that the one thing most of us need to learn is to “pay ourselves first”. I have heard that all my life but never really understood why until I went cash/debit card only. I currently have little in my savings, but have started my etsy store to make extra $ and also sell real estate in addition to my full time night job. My real estate commissions after expenses are going to my debt reduction and savings. I also have a room-mate who pays me $400 a month rent. That and what I make at night covers (just barely) my month to month bills. Its hard to budget due to the inconsistency of my commission checks, but going cash only with very little debit card use has helped! Keep up the good work!!!

Reply

Joan August 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM

You keep it up too, Jody! Here’s a quick trick: If you have irregular income, budget THIS month based on what you made LAST month, and keep doing that each month. It’s hard to get started, but once you do – you’ll realize quickly that LAST month’s money coming in never changes, only how you use it can! :)

Mostly – just keep trying. Covering the bills is the first step and you are asking yourself the right questions!! Keep us posted on how it goes!

Reply

Alan and family August 16, 2012 at 9:21 PM

Hi Joan. I just stumbled across your site. I have walked in those shoes. Debt is crushing. Good for you to follow Dave and may it be speedy out. Tomorrow, our short sale with Double Hated and Despised B of America should be done. Many years ago, I used to calculate debt like you are doing. With house gone, we can finally shout We are debt free. I will look to see yours go too. It will feel like a ton off your shoulders.

Reply

Joan August 19, 2012 at 9:19 PM

Alan, I’m so glad you’re done with The Hated and Depised Ones!! :) I am so glad you’re here – and so glad you’re out of the woods yourself. Can’t wait to join you there!

Reply

Alan August 20, 2012 at 12:17 AM

I will look forward to hearing everyone’s debt free scream on The Dave Ramsey Show”. I really love when he does a ” Bank of America is the worst run organization on the entire friggin planet and why anyone would do business with them and the employees are Dufus’ and don’t have two brain cells” rant as he did a few weeks ago. It was AWESOME. I was thinking, tell us what you really think Dave.

I think I am also senior to you a few years (50) Keep going. Having people to be partners to keep motivated will make all the difference. It can seems forever. I spent far too long in it.

Reply

Cara August 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM

We’re committed to pay down our consumer debt. We’ve been good about making on-time payments over the past year, but now are ready to attack it. We called Bank of America (DEVIL) and asked them to reduce our interest rate. They told us there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t possibly reduce our rate. The only thing they could offer was credit counseling or debt consolidation. (Again, Devil!) We called Discover. They said, “No problem!” We’ll drop it six percent for you! The plan is to pay off Discover, transfer B of A to it, and not give B of A another cent of interest as soon as we can put that plan in place.

Reply

Joan August 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Cara, I have to say, for as much as I really hate dealing with BoA, Discover has been good to us too. We’re still 100% opting out of credit for the future, but IF I were the type to want a card, they’d be the one I’d keep. (As it is, the reason the Discover balance is higher now than when the spreadsheet started is that we transferred what we could from BoA to it!)

Reply

Alan August 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Comparing Bank of America to the devil is not fair. The devil has much higher standards, and much more consistent. At least we know where he stands.

Reply

Alan September 4, 2012 at 8:27 PM

I highly recommend everyone go and listen to Dave Ramsey’s rant about Bank of America on Monday, Sept 3, last 15 minutes of his program. One can go to http://www.daveramsey.com and go to the archived programs. You can scroll to the end. It is a pure classic Dave. I lost count of how many times and ways he referred to them as “Dufus’, septic tank, swiming in sewage, cartoon description of their employees buried behind piled to the ceiling files, etc. ENJOY. “You are dealing with dufus’” “Dufus’ on parade

Reply

Alan September 8, 2012 at 10:14 PM

I am happy to announce my short sale with Bank of America (dufus’ on parade) is now recorded. I am free of those wretched dufus’. It is so free feeling. Debt gone forever. And to note, I have walked in most all of the shoes mentioned. I have been 6 figure cc debt, gone bankrupt, got sick and on disability, 6 years of hell with the Dufus’, 20 months on the short sale, reduced income, and such. I love to hear stories of people beating back the debt. I hope I can provide any inspiration it can be done and feeling is a weight of an elephant off the shoulders. Dave Ramsey baby steps best method in my opinion. We learn from anyone. If anyone wants to ask me any question, will be happy to oblige. Man can beat the debt monster.

Reply

G Smithwick September 17, 2012 at 4:36 PM

BTW a recent in depth research group and Dave Ramsey say you should pay off your smallest to largest loans in that order. The boost you get from paying off a debt completely will keep you going.

Reply

Joan September 17, 2012 at 4:59 PM

That’s definitely a method that many people favor – just not our choice! We’ve done that – and NOT kept going – and this way, we are! To each their own, you know? :)

Reply

Krat's May 3, 2013 at 12:47 PM

I love this page!! I have been thinking for a while why can’t I do this?? I am totally obsessed with our finances and every day since taking FPU, I look to learn something new ang go over our numbers multiple times a day!!! Our family has been working on the debt snowball (as taught by Dave Ramsey) for 12 months now and we expect another 12 months to go, we even have the house up for sale. After realizing that we are really good at this discipline, we decided to reorganize our debts by highest interest to lowest interest rate and then a second reorganization of largest to smallest within the first filter. Our budget updated for every single transaction is kept on Google Drive as well as out debt snowball sheet as well. The other thing that we don’t ‘technically’ follow…. Both of our employers match 6% so we went back and signed up for it again, it just didn’t make sense to get 6% taxed in our paychecks. We realized that getting another couple hundred bucks while we were paying off thousands every month wasn’t a deal.

The one thing I would LOVE to learn more of is couponing. Its not as easy as I thought. I get a few coupons but I leave them at home when I go to the store. Or I collect a few and by the time I remember to use them, they expired. I really want to save in this category of our budget. We already live way below our means and pay debt and like I said my obsession has led me to analyze our budget to the point, I believe that groceries is the next category that needs downsizing.

Krat’s
Pittsburgh, PA

Reply

Alan September 17, 2012 at 8:23 PM

There are several routes to the top of Mt Fuji. It doesn’t matter which one you take. Just get to the top.

Tomorrow I am going to copy Dave Ramsey’s rant on the big banks and short sales. It is a classic. Bank of America is “Doofus’ on Parade”. I will post the YouTube link. Highly entertaining.

Reply

Alan September 18, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Here is the best summation of Bank of America from the Master himself. Way to go, Mr. Ramsey. Last call of his broadcast on Labor Day, Sept 3, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bcmtJfI9Zk

Reply

frank October 10, 2012 at 3:39 PM

I must say when I first saw your debt. My first impression was… How in the world does someone have debt like this just on credit cards? It only meant she is buying stuff that she can’t afford to begin with. This is one of the reason why our nation is in such financial trouble. is because of people like you…

But I respect you for trying very hard to correct your habit and paying off what you owe. I sincerely hope you reach your goal. and be debt free.

Reply

Joan October 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Frank, I hope you’ll stick around and read some of my previous posts!

I sure wish I had cool stuff to show for it, but unfortunately, instead, I have a non-leaking roof, a fully-paid-for set of surgeries related to the birth of my daughter, and my husband has a college degree! The power of compound interest – the MOST RECENT charges there were about seven or eight years ago, and my husband graduated from college in 1993. Sigh!

Reply

c October 11, 2012 at 3:07 AM

Frank
People are in major credit card debt because that was the culture that was pushed on everyone.

Sure, folks need to take “personal responsibility” but Blame DOES still lie at the feet of the advertisers and marketers and other places that encourage folks to spend spend spend. If you believe that paying off your credit cards is manageable you may not realize how bad it is until it is too late!.

I was taken aback at your judgmental tone

“This is one of the reason why our nation is in such financial trouble. is because of people like you…”

THis country’s financial woes are far more complicated than blaming an individual person with credit card debt. Yes, our country has spend on credit for decades. Ironically, there was a time in the not so distant past when our country had a surplus but then we ran up the debt on war. Sorry to get political but it is true and that debt wasn’t paid down responsibly either!

When kids get into student loan debt that is because they are told THEY MUST have a college degree in order to do well in life. So they believe that once they get that job they can pay off the debt!…

I think that awareness has to occur regarding our consumerism culture that encouraged folks to just put their dreams on that credit card and worry about it tomorrow. Of course there are people who used cards when times were tough, and in emergencies and that helped to rack up their debt.

Many people use credit cards to pay medical bills….. because our healthcare system is so unaffordable for many !

I don’t know what your financial situation is… but I hope you perhaps never have to deal with money problems…

Thanks

Reply

frank October 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM

the reason for my judgment tone… is because I will never put my self in that situation no matter what the circumstances are. For 38 years of my life, the only debt I have is my house. Which can be paid off in cash right now, but decided to leave it for credit score reasons. Student loan was paid off 24 months after graduation… again, for credit reasons. I have never met anyone who used credit card to pay medical bills… perhaps I should meet more people. There is no one else to blame but yourself. I live in the heart of Los Angeles, the high cost of living makes savings and investments more crucial.

a public school student loan expensive as it may be, you will end up the most 30g in debt after you graduated. If you find a 45-58k a year job, you can easily pay that back if you live a frugal life for 12 months.

I agree, the culture should be changed. More cation signs should be put up to warn people from getting too deep into financial crisis. But blaming others is never the answer. Blaming the government, the educational system, the medical system.. will not get you anywhere until you know the problem is yourself. You have got to adapt base on the system provided for you.

Hence why I applaud her for realizing her past actions and started to adapt and live base on the system. Without judgment, there will never be change. Success is how one understands and adapt the judgment to a positive change thing in one’s life. My tone was never meant to put one into a negative corner, but to applaud one for doing something positive with it.

Reply

Christinevt October 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Frank, I hear what you’re saying, but everyone has his or her personal situations, so general judgements aren’t helpful. The important thing is that people focus on being debt-free. Good for you for keeping debt at bay, but there are people who would have issue with you having a mortgage, yet criticizing others for their debt. I commend Joan and others on this string for focusing on reducing their debt as quickly as they can.

Reply

Jasmin October 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM

“I have never met anyone who used credit card to pay medical bills… perhaps I should meet more people.”

Frank, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 20. I have no family. I am an only child, my mother died when I was 17, and my father committed suicide when I was 18. I had zero help or resources available to me when I was working my hard-earned $45K/year job at 20 and was suddenly stricken with what the doctors thought was a terminal illness. I ended up having three battles with the disease in eight years. I’m now tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and have never in my life had a penny of regular consumer debt (no credit card, no car loan, no mortgage, no line of credit at the furniture and appliance store).

“Blaming the government, the educational system, the medical system.. will not get you anywhere until you know the problem is yourself.”

The medical system refuses my money. The hospital will only accept payment plans for 10% per month of the total balance. That’s over $5K per month. Frank, do you make more than $5K per month, after taxes and living expenses? I highly doubt that you do, given your attitude problem that undoubtedly makes it difficult for you to work with others.

You’re right. The problem is indeed myself. I CHOSE to receiving life-giving treatment for a obscure, genetic cancer. It’s my FAULT that I recognize that, ya know, LIVING is necessary to life. Is your mortgage necessary for you to live, Frank? Or is it really just a luxury? (If you don’t know the correct answer to that, then you’re either a teenaged internet troll, or have an even more messed-up perspective than I realize.)

Everyone has taken the high road with you, and I applaud their classiness. I, however, don’t think you’re quite deserving of such civility. I have noticed your inconsistent spelling errors and question your level of education. You’ve implied that perhaps you need to meet more people (and also seem to avoid watching the news since your views of employment opportunities for college graduates are about 15 years behind), so I’m wondering if you’re implying a hint of agoraphobia. It’s blatantly obvious you’ve never encountered a challenge or crisis in your narrow-minded little life, because the majority of people who HAVE are capable of a little empathy and sympathy for their fellow man.

Reply

Christinevt October 15, 2012 at 9:33 PM

I think it’s not just the motivation. If you then take that small amount and put it toward the next debt, you are that much closer to paying more off, but you’re not spending any more. The snowball effect.

Reply

Alan October 16, 2012 at 9:58 AM

Let me make a brief comment about Frank and Joan.

First, all of our goal is deft free and we are here to help each other. Once someone in debt, it doesn’t matter what is it was, why, or kind, Debt is debt, still needs to be paid back. Anybody that has a plan and working on it is awesome and a big high five to them. Once out, treat it like the poison it is.
About myself, I lived in Los Angeles. I know high cost, I met wrong friend. 6 years and everything I earned at a pretty high paying job, he conned me and I was 100k or so bankrupt. I personally had nothing to show for it. A few years ago, after getting married and kids, caught in real estate downturn and forced a short sale. That was 5 years of hell with Bank of America. At least completed sept 1. Now, no debt. I consider it a cancer. If I can do something small to help someone get out I will. I won’t make any harsh judgements about the why. My only motivation is to help deprive debt peddlers (B of A) of additional customers. I will recommend following Dave Ramsey for specifics on how to get out and registered to host a Financial Peace Class. It is a great feeling, debt free. I highly recommend it. I have walked in the shoes of hopeless feeling debt a couple of times. No more. Not a chance. As for the country, it is a big problem. Government is not showing responsibly and marketers convincing debt is ok for all of your wants. I hope I don’t witness any potential day of reckoning. I hope it gets fixed, but I have my doubts.

Reply

Cal October 16, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Thanks

I think it is awful to judge others on how they got into their debt. “Who is free of “sin” cast the first stone” is a wise saying.

Everyone has their own story.

I think that we are put on this planet , for whatever reason, to probably learn deep life lessons. We are all on a different journey and at a different level of consciousness regarding money and personal responsibility and other things.

I think it is to positively support others rather than looking your nose down at people and say “what is your problem? I would NEVER do anything like that… and you are a loser” etc.. I can only say that I really hope that those people never get into some sort of crisis (or maybe I do…..?) don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.

Peace

Reply

Alan October 16, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Jasmin. I am sorry for your problems. Heaven knows I have had my share of challenges, with no intention other than to take care of whatever. You have our sympathies and wish for your recoveries first, then financial secondary. If you are not able to pay (and probably not), BK may be needed. If you are judgment proof, ie -any disability income is not touchable for debt then just ignore them. I would again recommend Dave Ramsey sources for specific guidance. There is no room for anyone to be judging someone without facts. Only the higher power can do such.

Reply

Dee October 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Hi Joan,

I’m really impressed with how you are attacking your debt, you have really knocked it down in a short time! I haven’t read through everything so I expect the answer is already on the site, but I am wondering if you have considered consolidating your debts to get a lower interest rate? Or are you putting min. amounts on lower interest debts to maximize paying off the highest interest debts? Of course, it feels so nice/motivating to knock a few smaller ones off the list…

Keep up the good work!

Dee

Reply

Joan November 6, 2012 at 10:20 PM

Dee, I hope you’ll read through some of the posts linked above – I get into those issues in detail, and in my next update (coming in another week or so, here in mid-November) I’m going to talk a little more about our strategy and some changes we’ve had to make in the past few weeks!

The short answer is – we’re most focused on our highest-interest debt, even at the expense of knocking smaller ones out altogether, except when we’re not! ;-)

Reply

Alan October 31, 2012 at 5:59 PM

15k down on the Hated B of America. Keep the snowball going. Get them to 0 as fast as possible

Reply

Dan Williams November 5, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Hi Joan;
Your story sounds like it was taken from a page of our own. We sold absolutely everything (except the kids) in 2007. We still owed $57,000 of consumer debt. What seemed like an eternity to reach the goal of debt freedom, actually took only two and half years. All this while paying cash for a newer car, cash for our daughters wedding and going on a mission trip to Guatemala. Stay the course! Stick to it! Hope this helps. Check some freebies on our site or for less than $3 we wrote a book of our story. “7 Steps to Eliminate Your Debt”. You can do it!
Dan

Reply

Catherine Jennings November 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM

Hi Joan ~

Great post! Where are you from in South Central PA? I grew up in Littlestown and East Berlin (both outside of Gettysburg) … do you know them?

Catherine ~

Reply

Joan November 27, 2012 at 7:37 PM

I know them well, Catherine!! We live in central/western York County – and we have family and friends in East Berlin, only about a 20-minute drive from us! Too funny. :)

Reply

Christina November 30, 2012 at 12:49 AM

Hi Joan,
I’ve been visiting your site and reading your wonderful posts for awhile. My husband and I are battling are own debt – had $60,000 in June 2012, down to just below $54 000 as of today. I need some inspiration to keep on track, so will be keen to keep up with your posts.

Reply

Joan December 1, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Christina, thanks! I can’t wait to celebrate with you too when you get all the way to zero!!

Reply

Alan November 30, 2012 at 1:25 AM

Thank you Adam. We will miss you. Best of luck in new ventures. Joan, I wish you much success in taking over. I am happy to share whatever I can

Christina. I know the feeling of being deep in the hole. Keep your eye on the debt free prize. It is doable, necessary, and a feeling of peace and contentment. Check Dave Ramsey for additional motivation beyond here. If I can provide any bit of help, happy to share. Good luck. To debt free living for all. My new motto. “Pay thy debt thou contracted … Release thyself from bondage” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:35. At lds.org).

Reply

ED December 6, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Hi Joan,
We too are climbing out of $90,000 of unsecured debt (credit cards and student loans). We ended up using a Consumer Credit Counseling Agency that we were referred to by Chase. This is because half our debt was with Chase and they offered 0% interest on that debt. We wouldn’t have been able to keep making the payments on everything if we hadn’t gotten the relief on interest. We have just completed 3 of 5 years on this program. It’s been rough the whole time and sometimes I have felt like we were suckers because we were the only ones we know to have racked up this much debt and be paying for everything we purchased instead of just declaring bankruptcy, so I’m glad to have found this site and your story. It has certainly not been an easy road for us. There have been a few times where we’ve had to take some help from family and our church to make it. But we are making it! Anyway, I haven’t taken the Man v. Debt course or anything but I’m wondering why you don’t seem to recommend using a CC service if you really are planning to pay it all back anyway. In your case, it seems like it would make sense to have the lower the interest rates. Also, our highest interest card on the plan is Discover – with 6.99% – the same as you are paying – but this definitely one of the cards I’ll be dropping when we are finally done. So it’s ironic that we have the same rate but view Discover very differently.

Reply

Joan December 7, 2012 at 2:03 PM

In our case, ED, we don’t qualify for some of the services (too much discretionary income), but we don’t prefer them personally. We know people who have been thrilled with their experiences with them – and some who have been burned. In my case, the biggest point for me is control, because I want to be the person making the payments to my creditors. (It’s the same reason I’m against automated payments, which I’ve talked about in some past posts.) The mindset benefits of that for us are huge – we are directly in control of how much we pay and when and we get the personal satisfaction of making that huge payment when we do it!

I’m not saying that’s the right solution for everybody – but for us, it just doesn’t have enough of a benefit, especially because we’re not willing to settle against the cards. Our full payback amount on the current balances only changes by something like 2 months if we consolidate (I ran those numbers today as part of a post I’m working on!) I’ll just challenge myself to come in two months ahead of schedule on my own, and keep my system in my hands!

Mostly, I’m just glad you found something that works for you – THAT is the key, and I applaud you for it!!

Reply

ED December 13, 2012 at 4:11 AM

Thanks for the reply. With me now working to help pay down the debt, I definitely am short on time and rely on automated payments but I still track every card every month. I can definitely understand wanting to maintain control though. Not having the option to take on more debt did leave us vulnerable – when our car died, that’s when we had to get help from my parents because we couldn’t get a loan. If we hadn’t been in the Consumer Credit Counseling program, we would have been able to take care of it ourselves, so there are definitely drawbacks to being in a Debt Management Program. Anyway, I think it is very interesting that CCC companies are all over the map. Some are reliable. Some don’t make your payments on time and rip you off. We were lucky to have found a decent one. But I also find it strange that the CCC companies have different relationships with different cards – since we went with the company Chase referred us to, they gave us the 0% interest on our Chase cards. But I know the deal the credit card companies offer changes every day. It seems crazy to me that the deals they offer vary so much. They also wouldn’t work with me at all and were raising our rates to 18%, which just wasn’t sustainable. So going on the program was the right choice for us. If anyone else was considering debt management programs, I’d recommend they call their card with the highest balance and ask for a referral so they could get the best interest rate and pay their debt down faster. Finding the fastest road to freedom from debt is what it’s all about!

Reply

Alan December 6, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Hi ED. If the CCC agency was of help to you, that is great. I had spoke with them many years ago when I was deep in cc debt. I agree it is preferable to BK. keep working on your journey. Every dollar sent to principle is much better than going to interest. Good luck. If I can be of help, let me know.

Reply

ED December 6, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Thanks Alan. We are on track with the credit cards but don’t know what to do about the house. We are in California and stuck in a way-too-small space (less than 1,000 square feet) that is now worth $200,000 less than we paid and my husband was laid off and then got a job an hour away. So we’d love to move but can’t. We don’t qualify for any government programs because we used CalHFA (the California version of Fannie Mae but because they aren’t, we don’t qualify for HOPE or HOPE II). CalHFA makes decisions based on procedure, not what makes sense. Basically, I feel about CalHFA like you feel about B of A. So I would consider a short sale (knowing that there is definitely a chance it won’t go through and we’d end up in foreclosure) but there are two problems: our mortgage payments are actually cheaper than rent here and I’ve worked this hard to maintain a good credit score that I really don’t want to shot. And of course I want to do the right thing. So – if you have any recommendations on that situation, I’d be glad to take them.

Reply

Alan December 6, 2012 at 9:09 PM

Hi ED. I feel for you. I lived in CA for most of adult life and very familiar both North and South CA. Email me. Housingbubblesobstory@yahoo.com. Self explanatory name. Where in CA are you living and driving to. In email, give me the highlights and I can give what I would do. That is just completing a successful short sale after 4 years of hell and detailed knowledge of CA. I was calling the CA bubble in 2003. Nobody believed me then, expect one friend who sold a million dollar LA area home at the top.

Reply

Adam December 9, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Wow, I just got to this website, and I stumbled on this post. Your chart of debt reminds me strikingly to that of my wife and I. Just to see that other people are really in the same boat is already helpful for me, thanks for being vulnerable. I think I’m gonna stick around (=

Reply

Joan December 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Awesome, Adam, welcome to the “crew!” :)

Reply

Ingrid Burling December 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Hi there,

I read Laura Moorehead’s comment about how to save money on groceries shopping and all other emails after it. The debate you have been having has really struck a chord with me because my husband and I managed to clear £52 000 worth of c/card debit a few years ago. We have completely changed our outlook about money and how we handle it, and I wanted to share this with you all, in case it helps.

What we used to do
Get depressed about where we were living and go out and spend money on nice days out to cheer ourselves up – we did not add up what we were spending or economise when we did so.
Decide what we wanted, find a place to buy and then just buy it there – we did not decide what we wanted, decide what we wanted to spend and then go out and try to find it for that price.
We used to accept the prices on goods – we did not negotiate anything.
We just spent money and did not record what we spent during the month to see exactly what we were spending our money on.
We bought things on credit – we did not save up to buy things, so they did not have the meaning for us that they do now.
We did not have high esteem about our value as purchasers – now we do. If someone calls us now and offers us something, they have to prove to us that their goods are worth us parting with our money!
We had no life plan in place – speaking as a coach, the moment you have a lifeplan that you are both committed to, you won’t entertain spending any money on anything that does not get you there.

What we do now
We have a ten year life plan, and this streamlines our thinking and spending. We have goal;s every two years that we want to have achieved and for this , our first year, we have several goals. You can review your plan – indeed you must – to ensure it is congruent with what you want and any new learning that you may get as it comes up.
We have a meeting once a week in private and go through it all. We amend it and adjust our behaviour. We drop behaviours that are not bringing about positive results. Don’t repeat ones that are not working. It means you are not getting any learning.
We save money into a separate bank account for clothes and the car. We have worked out what we spent last year on average and put aside 1/12th of this every month. It goes out of our current account as a direct debit to the savings account and that way we know we have enough for buying clothes and any incidentals regarding car repairs and servicing etc.
We are with a bank that has no affiliation with any credit cards and so no bank can extract money from our account without our permission. We have no overdraft limit – we did not want one – and would rather the bank bounced a check and told us off than that it allowed us to go overdrawn as we have to take responsibility that way and get more learning out of it.
We save for things we want and I am prepared to shop for things for up to two years to get the price I want, if I have to. That way the big things that we buy have terrific meaning for us and we really appreciate their value.
We have taken advantage of an energy monitor in the house and so our bills have been dropping. It has made us more aware of how much energy the d/washer and so on uses. if you can get one in the USA, do so. I highly recommend it, but get your family onboard.
Internet-banking checks together – we look at this month’s money flow into and out of the bank, and have organised all our out payments into monthly standing orders or direct debits as in the UK you get discounts for letting them take the money automatically. I asked for all of them to go out in the first 10 days of the month and they all agreed. That way by the middle of the month we know we don’t have to deduct anything from the balance for any more STOs and DDs and can’t fall into the trap of forgetting that something still has to go through.
We plan each month’s outgoings: we look at what is coming in, and what is going out, and any incidental expenses (a repair for instance), and plan how we will pay for it. We look at what is left, and budget our food shops and petrol accordingly. This month we can only afford to have one tank of petrol and so we are going for local walks, not drives, on the weekends accordingly. We write down our plan for each month and leave it on the computer so we can each check it without relying on us having to know it by heart and getting it wrong, as we used to.
We write down everything we spend and where we buy it from (which shop) have agreed that neither of us can buy clothes or gifts without asking the other first so that we each know what is going in and out of the account. If you have a tight budget, then if each of you buys a pair of jeans for $40, this can put you into debt in the bank, so communicate about everything.
We keep this record of what we are spending in the kitchen – it’s just a school notebook, but it is sufficient for our purposes. Each day has its own page, and if we are over £100 for food and incidentals, we have to address it so we stay within our limit.
We do a mealplan, starting off by writing down what we have in our cupboards and planning the meals to use up these things first. Include some reasonable treats. This eliminates waste and overspending. My husband likes to have some cake in the evenings, so we do buy this. We have save 20% off our grocery bill this way.
Get a loyalty card, not a credit card, but only the free ones. Check out what they offer and see if you can plan your meals to take advantage of special offers, BUT take your calculator with you. A special offer asking you to buy 5 of something you don’t need in order to get one free is not a special offer as it will still take you over budget. Work out what the cost of 1ml, 1 gram or 1 ounce of every item is before you buy. if veg is listed as 40p or cents per item, weigh and average one and work out the cost per gram. This homework will really make you see what the reality of some offers actually is doing to your budget. Some specials are so misleading that the basic normal price is actually better.
Join a cash and carry, and buy your staple goods there like cleaning agents and toilet roll. I buy my herbs in catering sized jars, usually about 8 of these which last me 6 months. They each contain several ounces of herbs (oregano etc) and I save myself about £20 that way every six months. If I bought the ones in little glass jars from Schwartau at my local supermarket, I would pay £1.99 for a tiny amount!!! It’s staggering the savings you can make.
Hot tips for saving money at Xmas: http://www.jacquilawson.com. She creates online gift cards which are digitised and interactive. You pay £9 for a two year membership and can send as many as you like. This will be a massive saving for anyone who has lots of friends and family. They send you reminders so you can be sure the cards arrive on time. I have only had this a few months and it has already for itself. I plan to use it for all of my 72 business contacts on my Xmas card list.
Forget about buying christmas paper for your presents. Instead buy brown parcel paper, and then buy some gold, red, green or purple wired ribbon from a florist suppliers. They sell in bulk, so you can buy several reels at once, the ranges are better and you can get lovely gifts there too – vases,, birdcages, candles, beads, raffia, wreaths and so on. They sell the ribbon in long reels of 10m so more then enough for lots of presents. Each year I have to get 20 presents for several families of 4, 6, 4, 2 and 3 respectively, so I have to budget. I bought all this years gifts for £230 all in, a saving of £170 over last year. I am cutting up cardboard for the gift tags and using string to tie them on with. Though i say so myself i have the reputation for being the best gift-wrapper in the family. I have been doing brown paper parcels each year and they always look different. This year I am accessorising with burgundy ribbon and little Xmas nativity charms. Last year was moss green with dried lime slices as charms. I got the limes from a supermarket and dried the slices in the oven. I went online and found free gift tags – you just enter ‘free xmas gift tags’ on Google Images, click on some of the images until you find one you like, do a screenshot of it, drop it into a word document and print it off. If you email me care of my ingrid.burling@mac.com I will send you the ones I have collected for next year.
Buy from catalogues – I get them sent to me in Sept and make up a list then. I review it with my husband in Oct and place my orders then. This way the cost does not come off the end of nov paycheck and so our Xmas is easier. End of Nov all I have to fund is the wrapping paper. I found some catalogues that give you free gifts (which you can also give to people) if I spend a certain amount. My favorites are Lakeland and The Original Gift Company, although you have to watch the latter as their dispatchers sometimes damage things, so it’s just as well I ordered in oct! I am sure you will have the same in the USA.
Save your Xmas cards and cut out the motifs to use for Xmas tags. You punch a hole in them, use some string or cotton to tie them on with, and you are done. This saves me several pounds every year!
Other things that we do to save money: buy a bottle of liquid handsoap with a pump, but make sure you can unscrew the top before you buy it. When it is used up, keep the container. Then buy the cheapest value bathfoam (in our local supermarket in the UK it costs about 42p, so about a dollar for a litre), and refill it with this. We get to fill the handsoap dispenser twice with this, and in that the handsoap dispenser full of liquid handsoap cost us £1.99 a kick and only lasted two weeks, we are saving about £4 per month, so £48 per year.
Other things that we do: start mending your clothes in small ways before going to the tailors and learn to buy things that you can wash, rather than having to dry clean everything. Tights and socks can be mended, as can trouser hems and shirts. I have mended all sorts of things. I preferred to invest in jewellery pliers than a jeweller, and so have not had to have any repairs done for years. I can punch holes in belts and so on too. In Winter i wear bodies as they don’t need ironing which saves bills and time ( I can’t stand ironing) and I use knitwear and linen that wash and drip dry. I have stretch pants in simple black and some beautiful blouses in designer stretch fabrics, which did not cost much at all.
Order your bed linen from hotel suppliers – be prepared to buy plain white if necessary – as this is so much cheaper. It’s all good quality as it has to be in order to take the thrashing that i gets from frequent use and the manifold washes they have to do each week. The same applies to beds, duvets, pillows, bathrobes, table cloths, serviettes. I get it all from hotel suppliers now. Most of them will sell to the public if you just ask and some even give me a little discount for putting people their way.
Holidays: do home swaps with people to save accommodation costs. Only use sites that let you see all the entries in full for free and which only ask you to pay an annual fee once you want to contact someone. We holidayed in France for free that way and I heard of one couple who had a small house and garden here who got to stay in a palazzo in Venice because the owners there have no gardens and wanted to sit in a garden. She only had a small house in the UK and yet all the Italians did was spend their entire holiday sitting in the garden, reading. There are lots of home exchange websites so just enter a few search terms around ‘holiday home swaps’ and off you go. Just clean your house, lock up valuables and you are ready to go.
Food shopping: don’t overspend on meat. Most people eat far too much of it and it is pricey. You only need three ounces of beef in a meal to stay perfectly healthy. This is just about 7 ouces or half a pound for two people. If you are using more than that in your spaghetti meat sauce, then start to put some vegetables in there. They are cheaper than meat, better for your gut and you will feel better eating them. Similarly, buy a pizza, split it between two people and fill up the rest of your plate with healthy veg. You can halve your pizza order this way – let your wallet get fatter, not your waistline! If you want to have a party can’t afford to do all the food: d a puddings and punch party, where everyone eats their main course at home and just comes to your house ready for their dessert and some mulled wine. We are doing one of these on Friday 20th Dec. As a student I used to do ‘Spud and Bottle’ parties where everyone who wanted a baked potato and cheese would bring their potato with them and a bottle of wine. The spud went in the oven and all I had to do was put some cheese on it! We all got to eat and drink and have fun, without it costing any of us an arm and a leg.
Do clothing swaps with friends.

Finally, if you asked me to say which were the best things, the things that made the most impact, it would be this: to (a) writing down what we spent for a month and (b) doing mealplans.
Start by writing down what you spend, with everyone in your family doing it. Do this for a month and then look at where the money is going. You will be surprised. Some of it will be stuff you bought that you just don’t need, so you can change that. And some of it will be stuff that was bought in shops that charge more – again you can vote with your feet. This exercise, more than any other, will really tell you something about your spending habits. It will make your outgoings more transparent., show up areas that can be reviewed. We were spending rather too much on magazines at one point! It all adds up. Meal-planning makes sense, keeps the shopping bill low and organises you for your cooking tasks. That way you wont’ have to continually be thinking what we we going to eat this evening?

So what of our plans now that we are debt free? We have a new 10-year plan which is this: we are going to Indonesia for two years to travel and work teaching EFL. Then we will go to Saudi for some tax free earning and to pay off our mortgage. And after that we will come back to set up an off-grid roundhouse retreat for writers and artists, somewhere in France or even in the tropics. At that point I shall just ease my way out of the rat race and play the piano all day!
So the message is, that no matter how bad things may seem right now, it is never too late to change. I am 52 now – and if I can do it, anyone can.

I hope my contribution has helped some of you in some way. Write me if you have any questions. I shall be happy to help as best I can.

Best wishes and have a cool yule!
Ingrid.

Reply

Lena January 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Only in America could people rack up more than $50k of debt due to education and medical bills. You guys are being sucked dry by your own system. It doesn’t have to be like that – look at the rest of the western world! Two of the most important commodities shouldn’t have to be so extortionate.

Signed, someone who graduated with a BS and a Master’s and $9k of debt (paid off within 6 months of graduation), and who has never paid a cent for medical in her life.

Reply

Matt March 8, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Lena – you have paid through your taxes, but your point is still a valid one. The U.S. needs to fix its budget and work toward universal health care as a goal. It is not the nightmare that we have been told it is, but rather a pretty good system.

Reply

Melissa January 14, 2013 at 7:01 PM

Joan,

I’ve been following your family’s story for awhile now and am so inspired by you! Keep up the great work and keep on inspiring others.

I am 23 years old and just getting started in life, so staying out of debt is one of my biggest concerns right now. However, with rising prices on pretty much everything, and having to pay for school, staying out of debt is hard! I hope that I never end up in a horrible situation and am learning many things from you, Baker, and all of the readers who share their stories and tips! So, I really appreciate this blog and such financial transparency. I believe so many people in America want money, love it in fact, but they don’t know how to use it, how to manage it, or even how to TALK about it. It’s like discussing money is taboo. I’m glad that I come from a family where discussing money is important and actually encouraged.

Thank you again and thanks to the other commenters! You all are an invaluable source. :)

Reply

David January 22, 2013 at 9:30 PM

I’m a recent college graduate fighting through the student loan battle. I felt that going to college was what I had to do – it’s what was expected of me. My parents couldn’t financially help me, and I went to a small private school that cost quite a bit a semester. Not many scholarships were available to me, and I made the grave mistake of taking out student loans…all the way through college. Now, I’m a 25 year old with $100,000 in student loan debt. It sucks to have such a heavy weight on my shoulders this early on in life….and I realize it was my mistake. I’ve owned up to it…..and now, I’m trying to figure this whole mess out. Over the last few years, I’ve payed quite a bit toward my student loans, but hardly anything that I pay is going toward the principle. In a year, paying $500 a month (6,000/year), only about $130 of that went toward my principle balance….That’s super frustrating. I’m determined to do whatever it takes to conquer this “Everest” in my life, but just not sure what to do to maximize what I “could” be doing. Any thoughts, suggestions, advice?

Reply

Joan January 23, 2013 at 9:41 PM

David, $500 a month is GREAT! There are differing opinions on this, but you will absolutely make progress. That’s why I’m such a big fan of tracking debt payoff and setting “next step” goals – because it is easy to feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but you are. The thing is, if you pay $500 every month, right now, not as much goes toward the principal, but every month, more and more will!

Now, if you can make that $550… or $600… or $650…. all the better, and all the quicker it gets down. But don’t knock the power of what you are doing, either. The biggest tips I share are making more money in as many ways as possible (http://manvsdebt.com/make-money-with-side-hustles/) and reducing your spending to free up more money as well.

In our family’s case, we sort of took a “leap of faith” and set a dollar amount that we wanted to pay toward our debts each month – and specifically to that BoA bill. We said we’re sending them $1,500 a month or more, no matter what, and we do that first. Then, we make it work. Now you can’t do that if you’re running a bare-bones budget already, of course, or if you’re already in the red at month-end. But for us, that was only a stretch of about $100, and we KNEW we could make that up through extra income and reduced spending. If that becomes easy in 6 months, we’ll up it to $1,600. And so on!

I hope you’ll keep us posted on your progress. The fact is, if you want to do it – you will – and if it’s not going fast enough to feel good, find ways to trick yourself into celebrating! That’s the point of my Very Next Steps – so I always feel like, “Hey, I accomplished something!” :)

Reply

Alan January 23, 2013 at 5:35 PM

David, listen to Dave Ramsey. Follow his program. Best I have seen. People always calling and say how they paid a big load of debt. Do everything to earn an income. Live on as little as you can. Throw everything to get the monkey off of the back I have been there. No fun. Best of luck

Reply

Alan January 23, 2013 at 6:02 PM

$500 a month isn’t going to cut it if you want it gone. Needs to be multiples of $1000s to start making a decent. Get a higher paying job. Get a second job. Get a third job. Tutor something. Find a paying online gig. Sell the cat or anything not bolted down. Rent out the dog (figuratively). Good luck. Need 33k a year to get rid of in 3 years.

Reply

Adam January 27, 2013 at 7:06 AM

Awesome stuff Joan. Really inspired by this post. Good luck with your goals. I have just filled out the spreadsheet myself and just going to sit down with my wife and set some pay off goals.

Reply

Joan January 27, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Adam, wow, good for you guys!! I can’t wait to see how you do – I hope you’ll keep us posted!

Reply

Benjamin James February 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Hi Joan. Awesome progress, momentum is on your side now!

Reply

Joan March 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Thanks, Benjamin!! I can’t wait to roll even faster through this last couple years!

Reply

Casey February 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Hi Joan!

You guys are doing amazing and it’s so inspiring to watch. I posted a couple months ago that with the help of Man vs. Debt that I was able to pay off 1 of 3 credit cards and planning on paying off the next in Feb. Well I’m doing it! I’m so excited to be free of those 2 payments and am using the snowball method to apply those payments to my last credit card. Your site keeps me motivated and feeling empowered that I can do this! Thank you so much for putting it all out there, it’s helping so many people!!

Reply

Joan March 8, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Wow, Casey, thanks! And MEGA congrats – 2 out of 3, and you’re going to slam that last one, I know it!! :)

Reply

Alan February 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Way to go Casey. Two more bite the dust. Keep up the momentum. Then that money goes into savings to get your emergency and general savings.

Reply

Matt March 4, 2013 at 7:08 PM

I am sure that many are eagerly awaiting the March update. Keeps us motivated and inspired. My tax return issue (failing to account for income) is now resolved thanks to this year’s return. I still got money back. So 1/3 of the remaining debt is paid off. I have almost enough emergency fund ($3500) to pay off the 2nd third of the remaining debt, but will keep paying a little more than the minimum to keep building up the emergency fund. I want it in place so there are no additions to the debt.

Reply

Casey March 5, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Wow Matt that’s great! I think that takes a lot of willpower to keep building up that emergency fund instead of throwing it all at the hated debt. It is a really nice feeling though knowing that if an unexpected expense were to come up, that you wouldn’t have to reach for the credit card :)

Reply

Matt March 7, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Thanks Casey!!! I so want to take the emergency fund and pay off the 2nd third of the remaining debt, so yes that does take some will power. It will happen by end of 2013, so I am okay with that. I just want to see what it is like to be debt free!!!! I see it more as having more choices as opposed to having less problems. It isn’t the end all be all of happiness, it is more like clearing a boulder from the path of life to make passage easier.

Reply

Joan March 8, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Matt, you rock!! March’s update is coming Monday – but the sneak peek is: We are AHEAD of schedule (less than $1,000 to go with more than a month to go) – AND – the credit-card balance went down too. Not by a ton, but it did!

I’m excited. Seeing that I could tackle that really makes me think, “OK, we’re doing this,” you know?

Reply

Matt March 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Joan,

Hey! My computer hard drive crashed about three weeks ago. I had purchased and downloaded the I’m Fine, Thanks! movie, but now don’t have it. Any way you can help me get it downloaded again. You can send reply to my email address.

Thanks,

Matt

Katy March 20, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Hi Joan,
I stumbled on this website by pure accident and I’m SO glad I did! I have almost $80k in debt and I’m only 29 years old!!! ~$56k is student loans, the rest is RIDICULOUS credit card debt that has slowly crept up over the years because of incurring legal fees (unfortunately got myself into trouble with the law over three years ago, learned my lesson), other school expenses and also within the last six months being unemployed!

My question for you is this. I will continue to receive the bare minimum unemployment payments until the end of this year (then it expires and I do NOT rely on the hope that they’ll extend it again), I DONT have taxes coming out of it right now (although I should start so I dont incur a BIG tax bill next year) and I also have about $19k in an old 401k from my old employer.

Taking my age (29), amount in credit card debt (around $23k) and the amount in the 401k ($19k) would it be wise to pull that 401k to pay off the credit cards? Some of them are EXTREMELY high interest and the payments keep slowly moving UP and it’s freaking me out. Take also into account that I graduated this past December so my student loans will kick in soon. My unemployment payments won’t cover all of this (and yes, I should mention I am desperately looking for work anywhere and EVERYWHERE!). Before I even stumbled on this website I was already teaching myself to have “multiple sources of income”. I have a YouTube channel that makes a teeny bit, I am an “expert” on Directly.com which is bringing in $100-200 a month, I have a blog I am going to monetize, I am going to start my own website on healthy eating (currently taking a web design class to help with that) and am also doing part time work as a sort of personal assistant to a lawyer who just needed a helping hand. Eventually I want to have a full time job, and yet still have the youtube, blog and website to have multiple streams. This is my ultimate goal.

Since my student loans will kick in soon I know I’m really going to be struggling if I can’t find a full time job soon. The uncertainty of finding work is what is making this all so stressful. That is why I want to pull the 401k and pay off those high interest credit cards so I’m not worrying about them anymore. I feel as though I can make back the 401k and THEN some now that I have these multiple streams and I’m REALLY learning to hustle (as you guys say on this website). I really just need an outsiders opinion on this…. people are SO sensitive about talking about 401ks and retirement…. but I’m not really scared of not having money for retirement because I believe I’ll keep doing what I love (like I am now) and will be very successful at it and probably won’t retire for a very long time…..

Please help me!

-Katy

Reply

Joan March 21, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Katy, I hear you!! The feeling those loans give you… ugh.

Regarding your question, I feel like there are a few schools of thought on this. I got into some of them in the comments on a recent post – http://manvsdebt.com/saving-and-debt/ – but my short take is this.

First, IF you’re going to cash out, plan to cut a full third off your 401(k) balance up front for taxes. They’ll actually keep some immediately, and you’ll owe the rest next year, so if you’ve got $19K in there, you’ll “really” have $12,600 or so to put toward your debt. If that’s not enough to SIGNIFICANTLY knock it down (for instance, to take out 2-3 cards and their accompanying monthly payments), I would be hesitant.

After that, you have to run the numbers. So you do that. (And the part you need for taxes is set aside so you won’t spend it.) OK, now what? If you’re still operating on low income each month and you haven’t knocked enough off in monthly payments to be “in the black,” what’s going to happen? We see WAY too many people cash out investments, consolidate, or otherwise “reduce” their debt only to run it up again because they’re not able to make ends meet. So again, if that’s what the numbers show you – that you still wouldn’t have positive cashflow each month – again I’d be hesitant.

That said, I’m MUCH more willing to entertain the cashout idea than I think most people are. But my single biggest determiner is, “Do you have a real plan in place for what happens afterward?”

We go into much more detail about that in our You Vs. Debt class – in fact, hopefully if you’ve requested our free resource kit, which has a bunch of budgeting, debt-paying-off and side hustling resources – you’ll have seen a sample of one of our lessons about writing the beginning of your success story. I would REALLY encourage you to try that – because that’s what helps you shape the mindset that’ll get you where you want to go!

Mostly, I hope you’ll keep us posted on how things are going and what you decide to do. I’m joan at manvsdebt dot com – don’t hesitate to drop me an email!

Reply

Matt March 22, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Katy -

Don’t take the money out of the 401k. I know the advice I am giving runs amok with many people on this site, but I will give it nonetheless. Go and see a bankruptcy attorney. You are unemployed and will likely never get ahead on the roughly $30K you have in consumer debt. The student loans are already a lot, but can be deferred. You can’t discharge them in bankruptcy, but discharging the $30k will help you. I am not an advocate of running away from responsibilities, but sometimes the mathematics of the situation necessitate that bankruptcy is the best and sometimes only solution. Just go talk to a bankruptcy attorney. Also, if you do land that dream job making $$$ you can always reaffirm debts (again speak with the attorney) that you were discharging in bankruptcy. Best of luck.

Reply

D. Redman April 16, 2013 at 12:58 PM

this was very helpful….thanks Matt

Reply

Alan March 20, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Hi Katy. I would recommend attending Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey. Check his website for a class near you. That will help you prioritize and pay down your debt, then start investing and saving. He will say to eliminate the debt before worrying about 401K. I am glad you are ready to get it paid off. I have been that far in debt. It is painful. Paid off, many years older and wiser, feels much better. Good luck. I am happy to provide any 2 cents that may help. Just ask here.

Reply

Matt April 3, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Joan -

Looking forward to the next update. I was reviewing your numbers again. I see you and your family at the critical stage. You are getting dangerously close to the 50% mark!!! You have done great!!! Keep up the pace, no backsliding…you can and will get this done and it is so inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

Matt

Reply

Joan April 11, 2013 at 6:03 PM

I’m late saying so, Matt, but thanks! We will definitely keep plugging!

Reply

Brooks April 15, 2013 at 12:16 AM

Kudos for sharing this information. It takes guts to be selfless. Your being open and a light can help others that are feeling the darkness. Thanks for being a light!

Reply

gak April 15, 2013 at 12:20 AM

i have a considerable amount of debt but quite a good % of it is being offset by the rentals generated off of the properties. Even then, i am somehow not comfortable with the debt and the interest paid on it. do you think its better to pay off debt than to invest while still being in debt?

Reply

Alan April 15, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Joan. Great job on keeping going. Get it all paid off. The other side, no debt, is much better. It is worth whatever sacrifice it takes. Same encouragement for all. Dave has it correct. DEBT is DUMB. (that is not saying anyone is dumb, just going in debt is). “Pay the debt, release thyself from bondage.”

Reply

D. Redman April 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Hi Joan, I’m kind of lost right about now…I have just been demoted at my job to avoid a layoff and i am only making half of what i was making….I have 27,000.00 in credit card debt and there’s no way I can pay this off…I was wondering is it smart to take the money from my deferred comp. plan to pay the debt off or should I just go ahead and file for bankruptcy…which I really don’t want to do being that I created the debt and feel it’s not right…just to let you know I now take home 942.00 bi-weekly before taxes, not allowed to work any overtime…lost of around 40,000 in yearly salary…any advice you make have will be greatly appreciated

Reply

Sandra Burkholder April 25, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Have been following sporadically for a year or so and have to congratulate Joan. My husband and I never entered the debt-pit in any great way. We had a small mortgage of $30,000 that we paid off when we sold our property (we are Canadians living in Canada). We never carried credit card debt and only vehicle debt very early on in our marriage. IF I were in Joan’s shoes, I would do EXACTLY as she is doing. Kudos to you! We just moved into an earthship, which we built ourselves, mortgage free for $73,000, while working part time (husband is engineer/IT expert and I’m a freelance writer/bookkeeper) and homeschooling our kids. In the last four years we’ve done some amazing trips, too, by working with our clients remotely. You can have it all. The journey is everything, no matter where on the road you are.

Reply

Joan April 25, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Sandra, thank you so much for the kind words! I have to admit, I’m now caught up in looking at your earthship… how cool!! I was not familiar with the idea before and have lost a big chunk of my day (in a good way) to browsing all your photos and stories! :)

Reply

Christina May 5, 2013 at 7:55 AM

I looked up earthships as well – and am fascinated! My husband is also an engineer
(electronic), and loves reading up on housing with alternative energy. These houses look so cool. I am sending away for more information. Even though we have wonderful neighbours, I would love to get out of our suburban bungalow, into such a uniquely designed, post-modern home, on a semi-rural piece of land a little further out of the city.
What is not to love about these ‘earthships’!!

Reply

Amy May 9, 2013 at 2:56 AM

I don’t mean to judge but, why do you have so many credit cards to begin with?

Reply

Joan Otto May 9, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Amy, that’s a fair question, and one we’ve dug into in several earlier posts. So I’ll just share the short version here – most of these were accounts that were opened before our marriage separately (I had 3, Chris had 2), most of the debt on them is from student loans (my husband) and medical expenses (me), and I believe that except for the Discover card and the bank line of credit, which we’ve used to balance transfer onto, we have not “charged” or accrued a new purchase since we got a new heat pump in the second year of our marriage – more than 6 years ago. All of the accounts except that Discover card are closed, and we prefer not to use debt consolidation for a few reasons that I dug into in this post: http://manvsdebt.com/bankruptcy-debt-settlement-consolidation/.

Really, in our case, the number of accounts matters very little to us – it’s the dollar figure. So while we could consolidate somewhat, and have at times tackled getting a lower number of payments per month, our biggest job has been to start paying more than the minimums and get them gone! Thanks for asking!

Reply

Alan May 9, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Amy, I can answer your question from my past experience. I got my MBA. Thought I knew a lot. Started receiving a lot of offers. Moved from parents house to California. By end of first year out of school, had a good paying job and a big credit card debt. Spent next year paying it off. Kept receiving more offers and cards. Got sucked into a scam artist who sucked me dry. So I tried to get every card I could to fund my ‘investment’. I would have taken any card I could get at that time. 5 years later, $75K(1997 dollars) was broke and bankrupt. Fast forward many years, I would avoid a credit card “offer” like the poison it is. I have the empathy for anyone stuck in it and hope I can give some encouragement get out. I don’t judge any people. Just judge that we all have made some bad decisions, and need to rectify it. I hope this helps.

Reply

Alan May 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Joan. Good answer. I agree that the total amount is the key figure, and to keep paying down as quick as you can

Reply

bea May 15, 2013 at 7:24 AM

I love everything I read this morning. Thank you, thank you. I have 3 credit card all close and I am paying them off. two lower my interest one will not. I call every month maybe I will get a different person that will say ok. One even went from 15. to 5.9. This one is 11.9.I need help.
Bea

Reply

Veronica May 22, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Hi Joan,

I just discovered this website a week ago, and I love it! As a recent college grad (c/o 2012), I managed to graduate with just a little under $10,000 in student loans and about $6,500 in credit card debt. It’s been difficult for me to manage my spending because there’s always something that I just “have” to have for my apartment or clothes for work. It’s been hard for me to motivate myself to use cash or at least my debit card whenever I need to buy something, especially since I haven’t been able to build much of a balance in my savings account. You’ve really shown me that it is possible to pay off debt (even though I don’t have a lot) if you’re dedicated to it just by adjusting your lifestyle a little. In my past year in the work force (celebrating my one year anniversary soon), I’ve managed to pay down quite a bit of my credit card debt and about $2,000 of my student loans. The problem is: I’ve still been using the credit cards. I’ve decided to stop using the cards and if all goes to plan (luckily I rent so I don’t have to worry about costly home repairs eating into my savings), I’ll have both my credit cards and my student loans paid off by December! Just in time to be free on Christmas. I’m glad I found this now before my spending habits got out of control!

Thanks and I look forward to hearing more!

Reply

Jen Clark May 25, 2013 at 8:49 PM

I was so happy to read this! I have been plugging along and struggling with debt reduction. I have been trying various methods. I would read the success stories and they would talk about their large debt-$15k or $20k. I would cry. My credit card debt has soared to near $70k. I would think “of course they are doing it, they have less to tackle.” I am down to $64k and still seems like it isn’t going quickly. I know that I am making progress, but there are times that slowly chipping away is depressing. Why this story makes me happy? You had more credit debt than me and are substantially lower!! Congrats and thank you for the inspiration

Reply

kim June 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM

I wuld lik e to buy the four books listed on man vs debt website. But how do I contact you? My husband accumulated a lot of junk and has since been in the hospital because of an accident at work. The hospital bills are starting to pile up. How can I order your books so I can sell out junk and pay off some ir hopefully all of these bills ? Thanks.

Reply

Joan Otto June 12, 2013 at 8:39 PM

Kim, if you’re interested in the Sell Your Crap e-books (they’re not physical books – just want to be sure that’s clear!), you can simply click “Sell Your Crap” at the top of any page. You’ll see a bunch of our free resources as well, but toward the bottom you’ll see the link to purchase the four guides. That purchase is done entirely online as well. Good luck getting rid of that junk! :)

Reply

Matt July 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Joan,

The Joan’s finances are getting a little later each month. Don’t lose the momentum, even if you know the numbers aren’t great. Put them out there, it helps all of us.

Reply

Bilgefisher July 16, 2013 at 3:17 PM

I am eagerly awaiting results as well. You have a huge cheer leading section.

Jason

Reply

Christina July 16, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Yes, I am also anxiously waiting for Joan to post her mid July update. Every week has it’s challenges, and it is tough to stay motivated when your clearing a mountain of debt with a small shovel. Joan’s updates really help me.

Reply

Christina July 17, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Hi Joan,

For some reason, the link to your mid-July update post is not properly linked to the page.

Reply

Jake September 20, 2013 at 12:45 PM

I love the blog and I saw on your ted talk you mentioned flying out of Indianapolis to go to Australia. Do you still live in the Indianapolis area? If not, will you be back soon? I would love to maybe meet up somewhere local (I live just north of the city). Please let me know,

Thanks,
Jake

Reply

Matt October 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM

Joan,

Keep posting it out there. I come back each month to see how you are doing. I do have some good news on my front. Assuming the closing on my old house goes through (I rented it for two years), I will be debt free except for my current home. It has been a long time since I could say those words. It has been probably 8 years or more since that has happened. Now the real challenge comes to work diligently on the current home. I was fortunate that I bought the new home at the bottom of the housing bubble. I owe $150,000. The house would sell today for at least $280,000. I am on a 30 year note (now 29 remaining) at 4%. The real temptation is to sell the house and move to another location in a smaller home and pay cash, but we as a family are really happy with where we live. (Selling is still really tempting) I think I am going to re-fi to a 15 year. Interests rates are dipping down to where I could move it to a 15 year mtg at 3.00-3.5%. Bottom line is that I will probably pay about $200.00 more per month(it would be more, but I will be able to drop PMI of $144/month) to shave off 14 years on the payment schedule. I plan on being in the current home 7 more years, so I am convinced this is the right play for my financial goals. Even if I change my mind and decide to sell in a couple of years, I will have paid down more principal than I would have by staying on the 30 year note. (note to numbers people: I know I could calculate the years to break even considering the re-fi costs, but not as concerned about that. I am slowly realizing that finances are more often than not way more about emotion than actual numbers). Looking forward to Joan’s next update!!! Keep them coming and keep going. I really want to celebrate that half done mark, soon!

Reply

Edward October 28, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Hi Joan,

I was wondering what you think about paying off school loans. I have very little credit card debt, about $700.00, no mortgage, and I do not own a car. Currently I am finishing graduate school which I had been paying out of pocket for the first year and a half. I took out a Stafford loan for about $20,000, which I will have to start paying back in January 2014. The University I attend is very expensive and total it will cost about $65,000, I think. I have the money to pay the $20,000 off right away, but it will leave me with very little savings and I am currently not working. Should I just pay it off entirely, or pay a little each month and pay more with the 6.8% annual rate? BTW, this is a great website.

Reply

Alan October 28, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Keep $1000 as emergency fund. Everything else at debt till it is gone. Then rebuild savings. Live cheap till then

Reply

Samantha November 18, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Seeing you guys take on this kind of debt is very inspiring. I have roughly $3000 in credit card debt that I’m slowly paying loan and 50K in student loans. I also have $3000 in savings. Suze Orman says you have no business putting money in savings when you owe CC debt. I like having the savings as an emergency fund. Should I keep the money in savings or pay off my CC debt and break even? What would you guys do? The card with the most debt is on 0% rate for another 9 months. The card I’ve almost paid off only has an interest of 8% and a balance of under $900 so I’m not getting killed in interest.

Reply

Alan November 18, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Hi Samantha. Identifying you have the debt and want it gone is half the battle. Now time to tackle the debt like the enemy it is. I have been there. I understand. Suze is correct. I would refer to Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. Take out the smallest one first, then snowball them until gone Scorched earth lifestyle until it is gone. So from your post, knock out the $3k cc debt. Then motor into the student loan until you evict the old lady (Sallie Mae) for good. Access Dave’s website (daveramsey.com) for details. I hope that helps.

Joan – good progress. Keep plugging. Kick the evil Bank of America, voted Americas most hated corporation on Yahoo, in the face. When they are $0, I will give you a big cheer. Note, my family closing on our own house this week at the best terms available. Now, goal to pay it off in full. Keep sharing your progress

Reply

Alan November 18, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Samantha, keep $1000 for emergency. Other pay off cc and keep going as I just said

Reply

Joel November 20, 2013 at 12:59 AM

I looked at your list of credit cards and wondered briefly why you didn’t go after the lower credit cards (e.g. Discover). They’re the low hanging fruit – personally I like having only one debt or loan to focus on, rather than having to add them all up.

The BoA is the highest interest rate, so I get that. Almost $4k per year in interest is a huge drag. I’m curious though – have you tried calling them up and threatening to leave them and doing a balance transfer? Right after they say no, tell them that such and such credit card is willing to give you a 2.99% for 6 months (blah blah blah) and see what happens. If they match it, call them back in 6 months and do it again.

Ramit (I will teach you to be rich) has the scripts in his eBook ($4 on amazon I think). Who knows, they might match it. The difference would be staggering. It would put your debt payment on hyperdrive.

Sorry, I haven’t gone through all your posts to see if you’ve tried.

Reply

Joan Otto November 20, 2013 at 1:40 AM

We have – and we’ve actually lowered that Bank of America APR several times that way, which is nice! Every little bit helps!

In our case, we really believe in the power of the debt tsunami – we don’t HATE the other debts the way we do BoA, so attacking it makes the most sense (to us)!

Reply

Ashley January 21, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Hi Joan,
What is your opinion in filing for bankruptcy?

Reply

Joan Otto February 10, 2014 at 12:55 AM

Ashley, I apologize that I just now saw this comment! I have written in detail about bankruptcy and why it wasn’t something we personally were comfortable with at http://manvsdebt.com/bankruptcy-debt-settlement-consolidation/; I hope you’ll check that out!

Reply

Maureen March 30, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Hi – Can you tell me the Excel formula you used to get the % of what you have paid off in debt?

Reply

Nadine April 3, 2014 at 3:11 PM

What is your roth ira investment ratio. Dave suggests 25% in four different funds…is that what you do? Do you stay away from bonds?

Reply

Giles June 26, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Just passing by looking for an illustration for a sermon when i found your debt tracker – seriously good job ! Keep it up!

Reply

tom June 28, 2014 at 3:09 PM

I want to commend you on your Journey! Dedication, Dedication, Dedication!!!! I too know your quest. Keep it up and you will pass a gift on to your Children!

Reply

Carolyn July 21, 2014 at 11:01 PM

Hello,
Your website is very inspiring – it takes a lot of guts to be as transparent as you are… but it serves as an inspiration to others. Like you I made a goal to be debt free. I’ll be turning 30 in exactly 6 months and the thought of carrying my debt into another decade was my final financial tipping point. For 3 years I have struggled to pay down my loans but every month the balance increased until I hit my limit… Last year at this time I was $21,000.00 in consumer debt and really had nothing to show for it… literally (It feels like treading water!) I don’t own a vehicle, most of my furniture is hand-me-downs and my wardrobe is pretty plain.. I truly think my overspending was on things like $5 coffee’s, entertainment, trips, dinners out of excess groceries. In January I had enough, and made a announcement on Facebook that I would tackle this beast once and for all. It’s now been 6 months and I’m down to $12,000.00 and have predicted full debt repayment by May 2015! Although It’s slightly shy of my 30th in January, it is still be best birthday present I could ever give myself! The craziest thing about this journey is after taking some MAJOR stock of my spending and even my earning habits – I’ve managed to find between $900 – $1500 extra dollars per month. I’m still eating well, sometimes gourmet! 3 times a day plus snacks… I’m still renting the same house, still working the same job, still using the same phone and internet… So where did I find the cash? When I started in January, I figured I could go with $200 a week for food, transportation (bus and car2go), entertainment, merchandise and gifts. That didn’t seem like a lot at the time but now 6 months later I’m down to $140 a week for all of the above. My grocery bill alone (for just me) changed from $150/week one year ago to $63/week today. My new rule for buying merchandise is to use cash. So far this year I’ve purchased new running shoes and 1 pair of jeans (my existing wardrobe is perfectly fine and if I take care of it should last a long time!) Every week I scour the internet for local free events and there are plenty in my city. I have lots of airmiles saved up, so I’m planning of visiting relatives in sunnier places this summer and it’s all budgeted for! If I make any extra money (OT, Relief Pay, Garage Sales) it goes in the Pot… and most importantly – I set money aside from each paycheck to create savings so that my Line of Credit and Credit Cards act as only one way streets! When this is all said and done I will have learned amazing habits including resourcefulness and discipline. My dream by August 2015 will be to buy a car in cash. Thank you for your website – it serves as an inspiration for me when I’m feeling myself fall into old habits. Keep up the good work!!!!!!!
C

Reply

Celeste August 8, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Joan,

I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing in your debt pay off.

I hope all is well.

Reply

Maggie September 5, 2014 at 11:16 PM

Hi Joan,
I thought I would ask some advice. I live paycheck to paycheck. I make just enough to pay bills and buy groceries. It seems like what I have left is pennies. I know I can’t get ahead with that. I’m constantly selling and go most days without spending at all. It seems like there is no way to save and no way to make more. What do I do!?

Reply

Alan September 10, 2014 at 8:48 PM

Hi Maggie. I am not Joan. From reading your post, it seems you are just getting by. I think you need a more detailed budget to know what is earned and expenses, as well as what can be thrown at any debt. I would recommend getting a copy of ” The total money makeover” by Dave Ramsey. Use the info in there and you can see where to start making some progress.

Reply

Sarita September 16, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Hi Joan,
That is an amazing feat in just over 3 years! I’ve recently been struggling with my money. Just after returning to work after 9 months maternity I decided to leave the company to find a job closer to home. After just 2 months my contract was terminated – but i will spare you the ‘why’. It took me 3 months to find a new job in the same industry and i had to commute again. for 3 months I lived off credit cards. I’ve been in my current job for 2 months and I’m struggling to pay off the credit cards and pay all my monthly bills. This blog has inspired me to work off my debt!

thank you!!!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 44 trackbacks }