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Are You Sick and Tired of Being Broke and Tired? (Meet Joan Otto)

in Do What You Love, Joan's Posts, Pay Off Your Debt, Rants

Baker’s note: This post is by Joan Otto. Joan’s been a full-time member of the MvD team for over three months now. This is her story in her own words. :)

*****

Joan and Chris were doing all right.

And they were TIRED of it. Tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Tired of having a six-figure household income and never having quite “enough” to do more than pay the minimums.

Tired of going to jobs that demanded too much of their time, working part-time jobs that sapped their energy and took time away from their amazing 11-year-old daughter, and tired of being broke and tired.

They knew they could do better, but it seemed that every time they tried to make a change, “something” came up. The house needed a new roof. Then a new heat pump. There were car repairs. Braces. It seemed endless, and the treadmill was exhausting.

Oddly, it was almost as if they weren’t doing “bad enough” to make a change.

They didn’t qualify for lowered interest rates or special programs. They could feed their family and put gas in their (shared) car. But there was no wiggle room. They were just comfortable enough to stay stagnant.

When their daughter, Sarah, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in early 2011, everything changed. Chris and Joan had always wanted to “be there” more in her life, but now, that became an absolute necessity.

They know that if the whole family is going to make it through Sarah’s high-school years, at least one if not both of them will need a work-at-home, flexible-schedule career. And more immediately, they were committed to being able to homeschool their daughter, which brought with it some great possibilities but some unexpected expenses.

When the “why” got big enough, their motivation grew. They started by knocking down $10,000 of their $89K credit-card debt. But they knew they couldn’t stop there…

*****

See how I’m not QUITE smiling in the photo above? That was taken on one of our lowest days, late in 2010. We went to an expensive amusement park with our best friends – even though I knew we had a negative checking-account balance – and only had enough room on our credit card to buy a few snacks. My best friend’s husband took pity on us and bought Sarah and me sweatshirts when the evening got too cold for our T-shirts. Not too long after that was when things finally hit rock bottom.

I’m Joan, and at its worst, my family’s consumer debt was almost $90,000 – and that was BEFORE our $209,000 mortgage.

Now that we have that out of the way… Hi. Nice to officially “meet” you.

I’m part of the team here at Man Vs. Debt, serving as project manager/community leader/Joan of all trades. And in some ways, I’m kind of the “anti-Baker.”

World travel? Not so much.

I’ve lived in the same county in southcentral Pennsylvania my entire life. In a huge move, after getting married in 2005, my husband and I moved one town over from the one in which I grew up.

Flexible living arrangements? Well, note the previously-mentioned $209,000 mortgage.

Also, by way of introduction, besides my husband and daughter that I talked about earlier, our household includes my mom, Joan, who lives with us, a hundred-pound dog and five cats.

Joan's family

That's me at left, with Chris, Sarah and my mom. Oh, and Huggles, the three-legged cat.

Entrepreneurship and career flexibility? Not so much.

I started working at my hometown newspaper when I was 16, and worked there full-time until December 2011. That’s 13 years – I’m now 29. Oh, and I still work there on a part-time basis. My husband has worked for the same newspaper for about 12 years.

The thing is, I’m NOT that different from Baker. Or at least the Baker who wrote this declaration of war on debt in 2009. Chris and I are at war with our own debt, and what you read above is the start of our “success story.”

In AMAZING news, we’ve paid down $20,000 in the past 15 months, dropping our consumer-debt total (not including the mortgage) by 20%.

Here’s the scary part though: We’ve gotten almost this far before – and then racked it all back up. We’ll come back to that in a few minutes – because I want to talk about where this debt came from, and why I think this time will be different!

Before that, though…

Here’s where we stand.

(Note for radical clarity: Chris and I have talked together about disclosing this info and we’re both in agreement with Baker’s policy of radical financial transparency. But, you know, don’t judge. Please.)

PNC Mortgage:  $204,717.84  (5.5% effective APR)
Bank of America credit card:  $27,071.45  (25.24% APR) WE HATE THIS DEBT!
Citi credit card #1:  $19,007.78  (11.15% APR)
Household Finance credit card:  $8,732.82  (9.99% APR)
Citi credit card #2:  $6,414.73  (12.74% APR)
Personal loan:  $3,221.98  (don’t even ask about the APR – the interest is already calculated in, and it’s ridiculous)
Discover credit card:  $4,044.50  (0% APR for 9 months, then 15.24% APR)
Tires Plus (our mechanic) credit card:  $1,564.70  (14.04% APR)

Total debt without the mortgage:  $70,858.26

And don’t forget, that’s the “we’ve made a ton of progress” view.

As I mentioned before, that’s the scary part. We’ve come almost this far before, early in our marriage – and then racked it all back up when our 30-year-old house needed a roof, our basement flooded and our heat pump died.

Legitimate expenses? Well, sure. Or at least that’s what we told ourselves. I mean, everybody owns a house, right? Everybody pays for stuff like that on credit.

And that’s when I found Baker.

That’s when I – when we – started to think differently. Following along with his family’s journey helped to shape our own. It was a wake-up call; it was our “free your mind” phase.

For about two years, from 2009 to early 2011, we started working at our finances. We tried all sorts of things – from the radical “don’t spend a stray dime” mindset, to spending only in cash, to making two extra credit-card payments every single month (even if it was $5), to selling crap on Craigslist, to expanding our online bookstore, a fairly lucrative side business for our family.

It was kind of a shotgun approach. We were making progress, for sure, but then we’d just have those months where we might as well have owned stock in our local convenience store for the money we spent there.

Well, like I said, I’d been following along with Baker’s journey (read that as:  I was a rabid Baker fan) through all this. (I was the crazy lady who made his family drive an hour north of Baltimore to meet my husband and me in person during his RV tour.)

I participated in the Pioneer You Vs. Debt class last spring… and then the Fall 2011 class… And I have to tell you, that’s when I figured it out.

This time is different because we’re different.

Before, we were making things too complicated. And with individual credit cards with debt totals like $40,000 on them at worst, the old mantras of “pay a little more than the minimums” and “snowball by paying off your small card” just weren’t cutting it.

We didn’t feel like we were making progress, and quite frankly, it was just too easy to slide back into old habits when it didn’t seem like we were making a dent. I won’t even say those were bad habits – just careless ones.

But careless doesn’t kick $89,687.23 in consumer debt to the curb.

That’s where I’ve got to hand it to Baker. His radically simple ideas have really made the difference for us:

  • Track your spending, every day, with a pencil and paper in your purse or pocket.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
  • Sell crap that doesn’t enrich your life, and use the money to put yourself in a better position.

And it worked.

Not because Baker is brilliant or because those ideas will magically double your money. But this system worked because we worked.

The start of this post is my Day 1 You Vs Debt challenge, in which our assignment was to create the beginning of our success story.

And I did. I don’t mean I created it in writing. I mean I started creating the life I want for my family.

I quit a steady full-time job with a major national news corporation to work from home with Baker full-time. I used the negotiating skills I learned in You Vs Debt to essentially create a part-time job for myself at my former company, which still provides a lot of value for them and allows me to continue doing some things that I love, like running my own blog about life in our town.

I got real about committing time to my daughter’s education, and now we’re a homeschooling family. I devoted more time to my tae kwon do practice and started working out regularly outside of martial arts, trying to build a habit of fitness.

Your life can change. YOU can change.

I remember a close friend of mine who was in the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program telling me that it all boils down to one thing – “you gotta wanna.” And, much like in my friend’s program, success for me means surrounding myself with people who will encourage me when I’m doing well, support me when I’m struggling, and hold me accountable to my own personal goals when I’m wavering.

And the cool thing is, my job here with Baker is, in large part, to create exactly that.

My biggest goal as part of the Man Vs. Debt team is to help grow and pull together this awesome community of people who want to sell their crap, pay off their debt and do what they love.

Now that we’ve met, I would be honored to have you walk beside me to create the life YOU want while my family and I keep working on ours. You’ll be seeing me pop up a little more around here, helping Baker out with odds and ends, and I hope you’ll say hi and help me out along the way!

Leave me a comment and say hi! It’ll take me a while, but I’d love to start getting to know everyone!

Baker’s Note: Joan has been a life-saver for me. Her passion for this community rivals my own – and her dedication to making it even better will mean big things in the near future. Welcome, Joan!

{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan March 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Where did you go to sell stuff you do not need to get cash?
Craigslist? Garage sale?

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Hi from “another Joan!” Most of what I’ve sold has been through Craigslist, Amazon, and a local email group for our town called the “yard sale.” I’m not a big fan of regular garage sales, though I’ve had a couple; too much work for too little return!

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Sarah March 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Your story sounds scarily like mine! But I’m just starting out on making things better. Look forward to your posts. Thanks

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Thanks, Sarah! If I can do it… I know you SURE can. :) Nice to meet you.

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Michelle K March 26, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Yay Joan! This is wonderful! Kudos on your progress and new position. It sounds like you are really making it work (on all levels). I agree, Baker’s approach makes sense… I was one of the skeptical ones, but now I strive to live the lessons everyday!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:06 PM

YAY!! I appreciate your support. We sure are trying to make it work. It’s amazing what a difference it’s made for me to just say, “OK, what I was doing wasn’t working, and here’s someone who was successful, so let’s just try what he suggests!”

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Teresa March 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Hi Joan! Nice to meet you. I am in the midst of creating those changes myself. I’ve been reading Adams emails for a little while now but I’ve mostly just been lurking about, picking up ideas here and there. I really want to get fully on board with this! Can you please help me?? I’m kind-of lost as to where to start? I feel like I’ve always got waaaaay tooooo much going on and I’m being pulled in toooo many different directions all at once to make any real change possible – kind of the like the shotgun results you mentioned with your own finances. I feel like I have so much potential to contribute something valuable to my own family and community if I could only get off the ground…
Anyhow, thanks for becoming part of the team. I feel like I can relate to you.
Thanks again,
Teresa

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Teresa, it’s so nice to meet you. I TOTALLY know how you feel. I think for us, the biggest “place to start” was with tracking our spending and using cash for a lot of our purchases. We had done all the shotgun stuff, but nothing seemed to make much of a dent until we saw how much was going out and to what. Once we got a couple of spending categories under control – groceries, for instance, and convenience stores – then it made more of a difference when we would sell old crap, which would then motivate us to sell more, etc. But until then, we were just selling crap to make ends meet, and that wasn’t real fulfilling or motivating!

I don’t know if that helps, but it’s what worked for us. I am really looking forward to hearing YOUR success story… sounds like you are on the verge of a breakthrough!

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Monja March 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Hi Joan, Glad to meet you! It’s great to hear about your success, very Motivating!

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Joan March 27, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Thanks, Monja! Nice to meet you too!

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Diane March 26, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Hey, Joan! Glad to hear from you. I find Baker and MvD very inspirational and look forward to more from you too. I feel your pain on that Bank of America debt because I have $19K+ with them and it hurts to even think about it. I spent many years spending recklessly, racking up credit card debt to frightening extremes. One day I calculated what I owed and just sat there in sick amazement. I couldn’t believe the number. It took a while to get past the blank desperation phase, but I’m now three years into my “get out of debt” crusade and I’ve had a good bit of success. I researched online and found some good advice in different blogs and decided it was time to take care of the problem. I am a teacher and I got a second teaching job and then added a Saturday position as well when I committed to taking control of the landslide of debt I was wallowing under. I’ve paid off a bank loan and five credit cards and will pay off #6 in 4 days!!! That will leave 5 to go. I can’t wait for the day I pay off the last one!!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:10 PM

ME EITHER!! Tentatively for us, it’s in 2015… and we are counting the months! Nice to meet you – and congrats on getting serious about kicking debt’s butt!

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Sue January 30, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Diane, can you share some of your other blogs as well?

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Nikki March 26, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Hi Joan! So very excited to meet you! I have been following MvD for approx. 1 year now. About 1.5 yrs ago our youngest son started having seizures and we have been battling uncontrolled Epilepsy ever since. And that’s where my real all out war against debt & my lifestyle came to a head. We went from two kick ass careers to one overnight. And with my haitus and possibly having to leave my very loved career I also had to admit to my spouse my true consumer debt. To add that stress to the overwhelming stress of a scarily ill child has almost been too much for us to bear. I am thankful that you have joined the MvD team and so very look forward to learning and growing more in order to lessen this debt stress and get my family life back on track…..with a good solid plan for the future.;)

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:39 PM

Nikki, I know it’s hard – but I am so glad you are doing what you need to do for your family. Very glad to “meet” you, and I’ll be thinking of you guys as you build your future!

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Barbara March 26, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Hi Joan! Thank you for loving your family — and yourself! — enough to face the brutal honesty that it’s not just the Emperor walking around with no clothes, financially speaking. Enjoy the journey… Barbara in Reno

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Thanks, Barbara! Yeah, we were “naked” for a long time. Embarrassing, but at least we’ve moved past that! Nice ot meet you!

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KevinR March 26, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Hi all !
My wife and I have ‘woken up’ to our debt situation, as of Jan 1 2012 and are implementing the following…
a. Track your spending, every day, with a pencil and paper in your purse or pocket.
b. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
c. Sell crap that doesn’t enrich your life, and use the money to put yourself in a better position.

Will be very interesting to see how we fare, but we are putting everything into it !

Thanks for your encouragement and your great site !

Regards,
Kevin in Toronto, On Canada

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:42 PM

Kevin, I think the biggest difference comes when you do what you just said – put EVERYTHING into it. If you’re “all in,” that really makes a huge difference. Nice to meet you!

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Matt Horwitz March 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM

WOW Joan, what an outstanding post. You write so well! Thank you for sharing your story and your links (checking them out now). You will make a large difference and you will have an impact on so many. Thanks for stepping up and posting your finances and all the other details of your life. I believe that transparency and honesty are key, and will ultimately be what leads to where you want to go. Not just being honest with those who cross your paths, but being honest with yourself and your family. Not always the easiest thing to do, but that does not make it any less of goal worth reaching. Keep shining. I’m cheering you guys on in spirit !!!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Matt, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support and your kind words! I’m so thrilled to have everyone cheering me on, and to be able to turn around and hopefully be a cheerleader for this community at the same time. Now that’s “doing what you love.” :)

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Jim March 26, 2012 at 1:59 PM

We have about $50,000 in credit card debt and are living paycheck-to-paycheck–but the paycheck doesn’t cover everything. So, I can totally relate to Joan and to all of you. I am like other people who have commented–we feel like we are lost in the Himalayas and don’t know where to start chipping away at our Everest of debt.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Jim, I know exactly how that feels. For us, tracking our spending (which showed us where we had even a little room to cut expenses) and setting a “next step” were the big game-changers. It was way too overwhelming to look at the big numbers we owed, but I could say, “OK, next step is to get $500 in savings,” or “Next step is to get this credit card’s balance under the next thousand,” or whatever.

I know what it’s like to not be able to make ends meet, and I can’t say those are magic answers. But it definitely at least helped for us. Looking forward to seeing you “beat Everest!”

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Deborah Watson-Novacek March 26, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story.

Some years ago my husband and I found ourselves in a very similar debt situation. I thought we were the only ones with debt that high! Then, to add insult to injury, I lost my high-paying job and also had to apply for disability. The disability took two years to come through, and we found ourselves having to file for bankruptcy.

If only I’d had the guidance of MvD (and you) earlier in my life! But, I’ve learned what can happen to a family who lives beyond their means, and MvD helps me keep our family debt in check for the most part. Unfortunately, several months ago my husband’s company shut down, and even though he’s been looking for other employment for over a year, there’s nothing to be found.

So here we are – living on disability and unemployment – but still better off as far as quality of life issues go. I’m still trying to pay down some debt and hospital bills, but with the help of you and MvD I’m confident that we’ll get there!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Deborah, it’s so nice to meet you – and thank YOU for sharing your story. I also wish we’d found MvD earlier, but I know that just like you said, we’re better off now, even with less income than before. We’ve teetered on the edge of bankruptcy many times, and I feel like we’re still closer than I’d like sometimes, but I’m trying to keep moving farther and farther from that!

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Mitchell Roth March 26, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Great story Joan! Thank you for sharing. I’m sure there are lots of others out there in the same situation as your family, and will benefit so much just by knowing they’re not alone.

Best of luck getting out of debt! It took me about 3 years to pay off $20-$25K (I never had the courage like you to add up the exact figure!) But it will be amazing once you get there. Just take it one day at a time now. :)

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Thanks, Mitchell! Boy, I hope it helps… it was SCARY to put that out there!

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Yolany March 26, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Great, u r young n time is on ur side. Remember we r all in this together, n it is one day at s time. We must continue supporting eachother n teaching our kids to b financially savvy. Love this website!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:53 PM

Thanks, Yolany! That’s an important point – a lot of the reason I do this is to teach my daughter how to make the best choices!

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Laura P March 26, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Hi Joan,
We all have been there. My husband and I ended up bankrupt after I lost my job, then we lost the house too. Now we are in a different place and even though I have not found a new job (its been 4 years now). We spend time planning what is important and trying to expand our savings which is about $1600.00 now. My husbands parents live with us along with our 15 year old daughter. She also home schools. Our big worries are college for her, and finding a house to rent with a grannie unit….

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Laura, that’s awesome that you have that savings cushion built up… and awesome that you guys are a homeschooling and multigenerational family too. I know you’ll make it work!

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Jason March 26, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Thanks for sharing your story with us. Reading other peoples stories is always an inspiration, and helps keep my wife and I on track.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Jason, thank you so much! I’m glad you and your wife are on a good path already!

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Jackie March 26, 2012 at 2:35 PM

THanks for sharing and help!!! We need a make over, do over or what ever you want to describe as well!.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Jackie, good luck on creating your “do-over!” It can happen… not easily, but it’s possible!

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Jan Dick March 26, 2012 at 3:18 PM

Hi Joan,

I sent you and email through facebook about three or 4 weeks ago and never saw any reply. I also sell on eBay and Craigslist. What I wanted to ask was, I am a florist and sell wreaths but also household items etc. I never have a smuch luck as you say you do. I would like to know what I am doing wrong. I try to explain the item to a T, but nothing seems to work. Do you just sell designer labels as in Tupperware, revereware, Coach bags, or other name brand things?
I just would like your input on all of this.
Thank you so much and have a blessed day.

Jan

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Jan, I’m so sorry – I can’t find a Facebook message anywhere, but I’m sure I just am missing it! I sell ALL sorts of things, mostly because I don’t own much brand-name stuff. I definitely include photos, and I think the biggest thing for us is, we do a lot in our local network as much as possible to avoid having to deal with shipping. The other thing I’ll do is put together a huge lot of stuff – kitchen items, for example – on Craigslist; and then I’ll mention that it might be good for someone moving out on their own, or whatever. In other words – any one of those items might not go, but the “idea” of the set, a good starter collection of extra dishes and cookware, sometimes does.

Baker’s definitely a bigger expert than I am – and has sold a lot more “big-ticket” items – but that’s what’s worked for me!

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Eric Tyler March 26, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Joan – great post! Excellent efforts on your part. This consumer culture needs more examples like you. Keep it up!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Eric, thank you so much! It’s funny – I’ve NEVER thought of myself as an example to anyone, but it feels good to know that I might be becoming one :)

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David Neff March 26, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Nice to meet you Joan and super congrats on all of the progress you are making with your consumer debt. Your story is very inspiring and I wish you the best in achieving your financial goals. I am originally from Allentown, PA, but we now live in sunny southwest Florida. It is funny how people look at you funny here when you ask for things like Shoefly Pie or Scrapple :-)
Your story really hits close to home. We moved to FL in Oct. of 2006 after selling our house right before the real estate market took a turn for the worse. We were able to pay off all but $5,000 of our consumer debt from the sale of our house and we decided to start a new life for ourselves in FL. Things were going just as planned until in June of 2007 our son, Donovan, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just a week shy of his first birthday :-( In the blink of an eye we went from a two income household back to one as my wife was now a stay at home mom again as Donovan needs us to take care of his medical needs 24/7 until he is old enough to do it himself. So, a long story short…we have now managed to rack up almost $45,000 in consumer debt as we had to use credit cards to fill in the financial “gaps” each month. We are at a point where we are trying to do many of the things your family is doing as well. We are trying to figure out how to get out of debt, but more importantly how to free our time to be with our son more. We have been looking into home schooling Donovan as his health is the most important thing to us and at public school he is just another kid with what we like to call “the invisible disease”, since by looking at him you would not think that anything is wrong with him. Our goal is to be free of debt and working from home on our Internet business’s within the next 5 years.
I look forward to following your progress and hope to pick up some pointers and more inspiration along the way. I wish you the best in meeting your goals and congratulations on your new position with MvD.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:23 PM

David, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad your family is putting “first things first” – Donovan’s health and your family time! I know it’s not going to be easy – but your goals are good ones and I truly believe you’ll make it happen because you have that real, deep-down motivation. I hope you’ll keep us posted – thinking of you guys! PS – Pennsylvania Dutch food rocks!! Dippy eggs, “filling” and shoo-fly pie for the win!

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Eileen March 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Thanks for your story Joan. It sounds much like mine. Hope I can do as well as you.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Eileen, thank you so much! I can’t wait to hear your “success story” as you go. :)

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Leah E-H March 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Joan–you are awesome! Thank you for the post! And just like in the YVD lessons, I find you inspiring here too! :)

I’ve been selling stuff every weekend and putting in all in savings. It’s been a revelation to have that cushion. Once we build up a month’s salary, I’m going to start tackling our debt. :)

Also—your switch from M-F traditional office work to working from home, I love it! That’s another one of my goals.

Keep on keepin’ on! It’s awesome to see your progress, b/c it means that I can do it too. :)

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM

AWW! Thanks, Leah. :) I’m so glad you’re on the “month buildup.” It’s crazy to think that can happen, isn’t it? We’re close – a couple more months should get us there. Amazing. Good luck on the hopeful transition to working from home, it’s not always easy but it’s DEFINITELY worth it!

YOU CAN DO IT. :)

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Tracey March 26, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Well, you already know who I am, and have joked that I am not the MvD/YvD target audience. Who knows, maybe after I graduate I’ll check it out. The important thing is that I see the changes you’ve made positively reflected in you and your family (and being one of your besties makes me your extended family by default) and I am SO proud of you. Love you!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM

Love you too, pretty lady. Internet support is great, but having in-person friends and family supporting us means TONS on those days when Rutter’s is calling!

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Kara March 26, 2012 at 6:22 PM

Just wanted to say thanks for having the courage to put the real numbers out there and tell the beginning of your story! I completely relate and am in the same scenario, so I am really looking forward to your posts and inspiration! Big kudos to you for how much you have already accomplished!! :)

Thanks Again!
Kara

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM

Thanks, Kara! Will be excited to see you making progress too! Scary to face the true numbers, but it’s only going to get better from here.

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Stephanie March 26, 2012 at 7:20 PM

Hi Joan, nice to meet you ! I found your story very inspiring !!!
My husband and I are about to start a major debt replayment plan. We are going to rent our home to our oldest daughter and her hubby and kids , they will basicly pay the mortgage and we are going to rent an apartment close to my husbands work. He currently drives close to 50 miles each way and the time away from home and gasaline is just terrible. THe apartment we decided on is a 12 minute drive from work instead of an hour . We will pay about the same in rent for the apartment as the morgage, but our utilities will be much less than we pay for our 1700 square foot 87 year old frame house. The money we save on gasaline, utilities and car insurance we will put toward our debt. Our total debt including our used truck payment is around 15 grand, so we hope to have it all gone within 18 months to 2 years by applying the extra money and all overtime toward the debts. THe truck and another loan are due to be paid off in less than two years anyway, so we feel we can do this. We have gotten into bad habits with eating out and spending too much money at the grocery store and plan to tackle those issues too. Once our debt is paid, we will build an emergency fund and then save to buy a house closer to work.
I would also love to work, I was a stay at home mom for close to 30 years, just got to get back out there and see what I can find once we move.
Thanks for sharing your story, it is exciting seeing other people working on thier goals and gives me so much inspiration !!

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Stephanie, nice to meet you too! I love hearing your idea about renting your home out and then renting an apartment. That’s definitely thinking outside the box – and I know it’ll be a great move in the long run. One thing I will encourage you to do is save a small emergency fund BEFORE you tackle all the debt; that has made a big difference to us, because otherwise, we’d pay off debt, have an emergency, and then run debt back up again – hamster wheel with no end in sight! Now, we have about $1000 in an extra account so that if something fairly minor goes wrong, we don’t take on debt to get it resolved.

Can’t wait to hear how your job search goes and how things are changing for you. Good luck!

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Toni March 26, 2012 at 8:59 PM

Hi Joan – I am a 67 year old Australian woman. I am very inspired by Adam’s website story and blog, and now by Joan’s story. I made some unfortunate choices 7 years ago, when I sold my house in a southern state of Australia and moved up to a sunny state, without really thinking it all through. When I returned to the original place, I had very little, except for some credit card debt, which is now about $16,000, plus my car repayments which will be completed in September. I live in a very small cottage in a nice rural place about 50 km return from the nearest small city which I know well. I have some supply teaching work, but not a lot. I don’t have much else to sell, as I sold a lot of furniture and effects about 7 years ago. However, I do have some great friends and inexpensive social groups and volunteer for an organisation that teaches kids how to group vegies and then cook meals with them. It is very inspiring. I would really love to get the confidence to start doing a business online and create some income. I learned last night that one of my younger friend’s husband has created a Spanish teaching online business and is doing well. My friend is a Spanish speaker and they met in her home country where he was teaching English! She is very inspiring as she is a make up artist and very outgoing and does a lot of giving of her skills and talents, while she is making her way here in this country with her husband and two children. Best wishes to all the wonderful people who are mastering their debt. In the mid-2000′s when I had more money I visited the USA a few times and really loved the people.

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Joan March 26, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Toni, your life sounds amazing – nice to meet you! I’m so glad you’re living a life in a place you enjoy, and I truly believe you could build an amazing business if you want to. Confidence is a funny thing – you never have it until AFTER you do the thing that requires it, it seems. I sure wasn’t confident about writing today’s post… but now I’m confident in my ability to be a “contributing writer” here, now that I’ve done it! :)

I’m glad you enjoyed visiting the USA – we’d love to come see Australia; our daughter is fascinated and that’s on our “travel list” for after this debt goes away.

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Victoralexon March 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Hi Joan,

Please do not take this the wrong way, but I found this article quite motivating, albeit maybe for the wrong reasons.
You see, I am 22 years old and I am not a single dime in debt. Because of posts like these, I plan to keep it that way (at least the part about not being in debt, I am not so sure that I have found the cure to ageing yet). Reading this gives me a lot of motivation to work hard and thus make sure that I never end up in a financial position like this myself.

Anyway, again, I hope you are not offended or hurt by this. I am not in any way trying to be condescending towards you, your financial decisions or the financial situation that you are finding yourself in, but I think we both can agree on that being in debt is never a good thing?
I guess that I am just writing this comment to let you know that you sharing the story of your financial struggles really gave me a kick in the rear so to speak.
I hope that by me telling you this, you will perhaps find some meaning in the struggles that you are going through. Continue to do what you are doing and I am sure that more people will find inspiration and courage thanks to you sharing your story with us.

So for that I thank you and I wish both you and your family the best of luck.

Best regards,

Victor

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Joan March 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Victor, that makes perfect sense! I wish my husband and I had been in a position to make that decision a little earlier in life! Best of luck in your efforts to stay debt free!

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Financial Samurai March 26, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Nice job reducing your debt!

May I ask how you were able to borrow $90,000 worth of CC debt in the first place? Doesn’t it usually mean you guys make a lot of money, otherwise that line of credit wouldn’t be offered?

I know if I asked for a $50,000 increase on my CC limit, Citibank would laugh in my face! :)
Best,
Sam

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Joan March 27, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Sam, that’s a good and fair question! We didn’t start out with those limits. In fact, some of these cards have been open for more than 20 years, through all sorts of economic climates. At one point in the early ’90s, there was a BETTER interest rate on that Bank of America credit card than on my husband’s student loans, for example, though of course when the economy changed, so did that situation. Then we started paying only the minimums… and with an interest rate in the 25% range, that’ll drive up a balance FAST! But since we’d never missed a payment, we were considered “good” creditors, and the limits rose to match the overwhelming interest being added on.

I would say neither my husband nor I make a lot of money by most standards – we have a combined six-figure income, but neither of us is even close to six figures alone. In large part, our debt-to-income ratio, especially my husband’s, was REALLY low before we were married. He rented a reasonable apartment, had a tiny car payment, never had a mortgage, and made between $55,000 and $60,000. Creditor’s dream!

So that’s the long answer – but the short one is, we never borrowed $90,000; mostly, we just paid minimums before the laws were changed to require minimums to actually pay down the balance, sometimes causing our balance to go UP by $100 to $200 a month even with the payment. Then the card company would raise the limit so that it wasn’t “over,” and the cycle would continue.

I think I figured out about a year and a half ago that we’ve already paid off more than twice any amount actually charged… but that’s a rant for another day!

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Financial Samurai March 28, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Gotcha, makes sense Joan! You guys are a creditors dream, and I can totally see why credit cards is big business, and getting people out of debt is big business as well!

Keep up the good finances and stop by some time!

Best, Sam

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Kevin September 11, 2013 at 11:36 PM

I’m confused. In your article you state that you are 29 years old. Yet you mention that some of your CC’s have been open for 20 years and then make a reference to the early 90′s – which is 20 years ago.

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Lucille March 27, 2012 at 5:12 AM

Joan….great to meet an inspirational lady…after my own heart! I wanna be like you.
I have cc debt, mortgage and a little savings that I want to use to change my life – haven’t figured out quite how yet but Baker & Co (with you on board too) may give me the push I need. I’m in London, UK and I want to see the rest of the world- please!

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Joan March 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Lucille, I know you can do it!! If you get to Pennsylvania in the USA, you’ll have to let me know :) Very nice to meet you!

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Marc March 27, 2012 at 11:45 PM

:) Hi Joan you sound lovely and enthusiastic. Very glad to hear your inspiring story, just wanted to say hi. I’m a young graphic designer from Australia hoping to develop my studies into web design and interactive design. I think the hardest thing for me is finding people to hold me accountable, finding those people that will push me when I slack off. Any tips on finding a good set of people to help in those times? Friends? Family? My everyday role models?

Thanks again Joan for the great story and wise words,

Marc

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Joan March 28, 2012 at 12:43 AM

Marc, you’re asking the right question – because for me, identifying the RIGHT influences was key. I would say this: First, weed out anyone who’s actively leading you in the wrong direction (or, I should say, a direction other than the one you want to go.) Baker will tell you it doesn’t mean you never talk to those people again, just that you don’t try to cast them in a major “supporting” role if that’s not a good fit. Then, look at people who have already done what you want to do, and reach out to them; and look at people who are doing the same thing along with you, and reach out to them. So you end up with people who are mentors – in my case, Baker, when I started my journey; people who are peers – my husband, but maybe fellow students in your case, or someone else trying to build a business. And then you find people who you can lift up, maybe who aren’t quite as far along as you, and you see if you can support them as well.

Obviously, your in-person network is going to be a huge day-to-day help, but I think most people also seek out online support too! (As evidenced by the comments on this post!)

I don’t know if that helps or not, but I wish you all the best – and I can’t wait to hear more as you progress!

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Marc March 28, 2012 at 1:48 AM

Yay! Thank you so much for the advice and a really quick response. :) I know I will have to put in more focus towards finding that solid foundation of people/influences to keep me from running away from my fears and ultimately success. I always thought I could tackle life’s events on my own and learn everything my own way and keep it separate from the people around me, but it feels a lot better knowing that ill have the support and strength of others.

:) Thanks again for highlighting that to me today.

Many regards,

Marc.

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 12:10 AM

Not a problem at all – and keep in touch! I have some ideas to further highlight the support system we have as a community here at Man Vs. Debt, so I am hopeful that will be a resource as well!

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Leigh March 28, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Joan – it’s so lovely to learn more of your story! I’m here cheerleading you! We can do this, one day at a time (to borrow another mantra from the NA/AA programs). It’s so heartwarming to hear about the positive changes you’ve made to live the life you want. Big love to you & your family.

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM

Hi Leigh!!! Love to you and yours too. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and can’t wait to keep celebrating with you as well :)

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J Marie March 28, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Joan, thanks for a great, inspiring story. If is wonderful that you do not beat yourself up! Most people are so ashamed of their debt, that they never face it. You are doing a great job by taking responsibility for your situation and making positive changes. It’s true, every little bit helps!

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Thank you so much for saying that, J Marie. We certainly went through plenty of beating up of ourselves, but that wasn’t getting us anywhere. Plus, I think the very fact that we ARE making an effort is something that I can personally be proud of, which helps. Thank you again for your kind words. Very nice to meet you!

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sarah March 28, 2012 at 5:35 PM

great post Joan. I visit MvD often. what an inspiring story. I feel trapped by debt and just want to be a good mom to my kids and not HAVE to work.
looking forward to your journey.

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 12:08 AM

Sarah, you hit my absolute number-one motivation right on the head – I want to be a good mom. Right now, that means doing what I do, working from home, paying this debt down, but who knows what my life might look like in the future? Someone I know told me once that money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy choices and freedom – and THOSE are what gets you to happy. So, i need to use money to put myself in a position to make the best choices for my daughter!

Your kids are lucky to have a mom who cares about being a good parent :)

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Liz March 28, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Thanks for sharing your story, Joan! I have been quietly following MvD for a few years and have been inspired by his family’s journey. I make my husband watch all the video posts and we even talk about “Baker” as if we know him, lol! When I first discovered the blog, we were in debt (credit cards and medical bills from an ER visit without health insurance) and at one point lived off of just my husband’s unemployment and deposit returns from cans we would collect out of dumpsters. Then, we got serious and stopped living a lie. We sold our crap (well, actually all our furniture, and in fact, still sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor!); We’ve paid off all our debt (and saved $43K in 1.5 years!); We are still working on the “do what you love” part of things. I am excited to read more of your story as your family goes to war on your debt.

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 12:09 AM

Liz, WOW!!! Your story really inspired me today. Even when I think things are “bad,” I know we have not touched the level of hardships (and hard floors!) that so many people have. I am so thrilled to hear about your successes so far – and I know without a shadow of a doubt that if you’ve made it this far, you’ll make it the rest of the way. Please stay in touch – I’d LOVE to hear how your story continues!

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Marianne March 29, 2012 at 9:36 PM

Congrats on the progress you’ve made! I can’t wait to hear about all the progress you will be making in the future! I love that you’re finding ways to improve all aspects of your life and not only the financial ones.

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Joan March 29, 2012 at 11:30 PM

Thank you so much for saying that, Marianne! I think that’s so important – everything really does work together, and I feel like moving everything in a good direction at once has really helped us so much more than trying to JUST fix one part or another, to the detriment of the rest!

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Ann April 2, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Hi Joan,

Thanks for being so incredibly brave and transparent and sharing your struggles and the nitty gritty details…I’m sure it was scary but it’s sometimes those details that the rest of us in similar situations find true comfort in. Hearing your story and that your conquering it gives others hope they can do it to. I hope one day I can reach a point where I’d have the courage to be so transparent with our own financial struggles! I still worry about what friends will thing and if they will judge our situation, etc. But I’m working on it. :)

Our story is similar to Deborah’s, Dave’s and others who have commented – my husband became sick with an uncurable degenerative disease about 5 years ago. Our income was cut in half when he was no longer able to work and had to apply for disability. As it took a couple years for that process, we got into financial trouble and have struggled since to keep our home, and live paycheck to paycheck….barely.

It’s only because of blogs like this one (which I’ve followed for a little over a year) and stories like yours, that we’ve found courage to make some scary decisions and openly embrace some choices many people consider much less conventional like ditching the idea that owning a home is the end-all, be-all American dream, or the idea of home schooling and extended travel with children, etc.

I recently quit my pretty good job to work from home and start my own business, something I’ve wanted badly for more than a decade. While I took a serious cut in income and gave up a job I really enjoyed with good pay, and even better benefits, the change has been well worth the loss of income, and even the additional financial struggles it has created. I’ve been working hard on building my business and developing different sources of income via the internet with a plan of having a flexible, location-independent job.

We also plan on short selling our home and then moving across country to a beautiful destination (the first of many hopefully) and living on a much smaller income, so that we can begin to rebuild our finances (thankfully we have little consumer debt, but do have some hefty medical bills), as well as rebuild our credit and savings while enjoying life, exchanging more stuff for more time together as a family, and taking advantage of all the beauty this world has to offer.

We also plan to begin homeschooling our two children next year in preparation for extended travel. It won’t be easy, especially frequent travel to new places with two children AND a spouse who uses a wheelchair, but we’re determined to make it work. Thanks to Man vs. Debt and posts like yours for giving us the courage to make hard choices and confront these struggles head on once and for all!

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Joan April 4, 2012 at 9:49 PM

Ann, I am just floored by your story. That’s AMAZING. And if I hear anyone say, “I can’t do this because I (x, y, z excuse),” I just want to send ‘em your way and say, HEY, they’re doing it!!

Good for you guys. I sure hope you’ll check back in and keep us posted on how things are going. I’m excited to see your family build such an amazing life!

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Mary Ann Clifford April 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Joan, just wanted to say Baker (and now you) continue to inspire me. I started to rethink my debt load in 2008, but it took till 1/2009 to get started. Using an excel spreadsheet, my goal was to pay down debt, while building our retirement savings. In 2009, I started with $49,357 in debt (not including mortgage), I call it “Stupid Debt”, and $20,457 in retirement. So far as of March, my new “Stupid Debt” total is $22,100, and my retirement has grown to $51,166. I had tried for years to get better at my finances, but it wasn’t until I put it in a viewable format that I was able to try to challenge myself to do better each month. Believe me there have been pitfalls, unexpected bills, market dropping, but somehow I have managed to stay focused. I wish you the best of luck as you continue (like I) to pay down your debt. My only sad note is because of the housing market my house value and mortgage are about the same, so even after 15 years of owning my home, no equity at this time. But I’m hopeful housing values will improve before we are ready to retire and sell for a smaller home and smaller mortgage.

I continue to hope for the courage to continue my journey by reducing our household to only that which we most value and selling everything we don’t need. But that is hard for my husband, he is a collector and just won’t let go. But I think he will eventually get it, and be inspired to join me in letting go of all this stuff.

Again, thanks so much for sharing your story. On a side note, our 30 year old son also has Aspergers (though not officially diagnosed) and I am trying hard to teach him to stay out of debt and save his money, so that he will not have slave to pay debt and will have choices as to what he wants to do with his life and future.

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Joan April 5, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Mary Ann, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story! We, too, have no home equity after seven years here (in fact, we’re underwater) but we figure if we can at least get rid of the “stupid debt,” then we can do exactly what you say – keep doing what we can on the house until we’re ready to downsize. We do like our home, that’s the saving grace, and it’s two blocks from my husband’s job (and my part-time job), which is allowing us to stay a one-car family.

I’m so happy, too, that you’re teaching your son these good practices. I talk a lot with my daughter about why we’re trying to get out of debt and how to avoid getting INTO debt… let’s hope that after doing it for many years, it’ll sink in by the time she gets into that position! She is very susceptible to pressure, so if someone “sales pitches” her on a credit card, she would be sunk!

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Jeff April 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Thankyou for sharing your story with us Joan!
It really provoked alot of thoughts about how living life without debt can be achievable, so long as you have discipline. It must be so nice to be able to surround your self with people who are supportive of achieving your goal, and helping you shape your life.
Again, thanks for sharing, and look forward to reading a few more posts from you in the future :)

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Joan April 10, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Jeff, thank you so much! I can’t wait til I get to that point – “living a life without debt.” I am so excited for it. And I hope to be sharing more in the near future too! :)

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Aaron April 15, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Thanks for sharing your story Joan. Many of us have been there to one extent or the other and it can be a slew of emotions. Don’t let it get you down and keep pressing on. There is a light at the end. :)

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Joan April 15, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Aaron, thanks for saying so! I appreciate the support… and I can’t wait til that light gets a lot closer!

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Kate April 26, 2012 at 3:54 PM

Hi Joan, welcome and nice to meet you. Your blog posts are really wonderful, help me on my way to financial “freedom”. I have about $1500 left of my credit card debt to pay off, down from $7000, and I am loving being mortgage-free, got rid of the house, shortened my commute to work (from 40 miles to 7miles one way) and can concentrate more on my 5yr old son and myself.

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Joan April 29, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Kate, that’s awesome – thank you so much for saying that! And CONGRATS on all that work to get your life in line with the things you really love and value – exactly what I’m trying to do too! Keep us posted on how it’s going! :)

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Rob Horton June 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Joan .. wow, I’m pretty blown away here You’re story is so very similar to mine and my wife (Heather’s) story. I’m currently making a little over 6 figures a year and we still feel like we’re in over our heads with no end in sight. Your story is inspiring! My wife and I need to start our War on Debt .. I’ll be hanging out here more to learn from you guys.

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Joan June 23, 2012 at 12:16 AM

Rob, I’m TOTALLY cheering for you guys – I truly didn’t believe at first that we could ever “really” make it, but now that I’m down the path a little, I’m here to say it truly is doable! GO FOR IT!

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Paula June 27, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Dear Joan-
I am so scared about my financial situation. For many reasons I am in debt, kids, graduate school, poor planning, bad habits…and feel so ashamed and embarassed. These feelings are really holding me back. I have achieved most of my goals professionally and personally but financially it just seems like I can’t get away from living paycheck to paycheck even though my income has gone up and up!! It is so crazy! IEvery month something comes up that eliminates all my good intentions. I know I need to forgive myself so I can start to fix this but even doing a budget, setting aside 1000k just is a set up for failure. I need help with this and am desperate. I’ve been reading, planning for about 2 yrs, but it still hasn’t happened. I have a great job that I love, and have been making almost doubled my income in the last year. Now I am serious about making this change and just need some help to get started. Why is this such a huge obstacle?!

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Joan July 2, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Paula, my first comment to you is simply that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I can tell you that from my personal experience – and from the experiences I’ve heard from a whole bunch of other Man Vs. Debt community members!

I could throw a lot of “advice” at you, but I think the biggest thing in your situation is to focus in on your “why.” WHY do you want to change? And why NOW? What’s that motivator? You are living in a lot of fear and a lot of self-doubt, and that won’t go away just like that. But when you view those fears and doubts in the frame of why it’s so important for you to TRY ANYWAY, in my experience that’s when you make progress!

I’ll say this too – pick any one action and take it. Don’t care what. It can be saving $10 this week, it can be selling one thing you don’t use, it can be making a list of each debt you owe. DOES NOT MATTER. Just do one thing this week. Don’t worry about doing it every week. Don’t worry about what you’ll do next. Don’t worry if it’ll make any difference in the long run. Just do one thing, and then email me at joan at manvsdebt dot com and tell me when you do it.

Are you up for that?

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Red Siren Julie September 7, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Hi,
I am just starting my own ‘real’ war on debt. I nearly paid all mine off and then racked it all back up.
I feel SO sick of it. Sometimes it feels hard not to get down with it all, and just like you have said when I feel like this I tend to eat more junk food!
My debt is about £20,000 excluding my mortgage. I’m from the UK.
I have recently decided to sell my share in the property I part own to pay off as much of my debt as I can, because I would rather have a good quality of life than a pile of bricks.
I also have dreams/plans of downscaling my life and travelling.
I already do what I love (I teach dance, health and fitness) and the most challenging thing is generating enough income, although this will be a hell of a lot easier without the debts!
I have started selling mys stuff and addressing my spending habits.
And this time it does feel different. Because I just don’t want to live this way anymore. I would acually rather be frugal and happy.
Sometimes I feel totally deflated, when I try my best and still struggle and get hit with late fees etc… and it feels unconquerable!
But I feel determined!

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Joan September 17, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Julie, I am so glad you’re here – and so glad you’re not tied to your property at the expense of your dreams!

I understand the deflated times too – I have certainly had my share of them. I think for me, the determination is what really keeps me going; it sounds like that’s working for you, too!

And, hey, we’re not perfect – hence the junk food. At least we’re not alone ;-)

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Dee September 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Hi Joan, I am in financial recovery mode as well. I really enjoyed your financial transparency as well. I felt better and motivated at the same time. Last October, we had financial meltdown around here. I found out that my husband was paying the mortgage with those checks you get from the credit card company. I was so shocked…stunned actually. I had, in the past, always avoided dealing with money in any way shape or form and let him deal with it but decided that I better step it up because he could obviously not swing it either. I have immersed myself in learning for the last year and I am proud to say that we have no credit card debt, 30,000 in savings, BUT we still have about 14,000 in a time share that we bought and we love and braces! I am becoming obsessed with getting them down. The problem is that my husband has been largely absent from this plan of attack. I am not sure why. How do you keep the communication going?

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Joan September 17, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Dee, I am so amazed at all you’ve accomplished!! That is incredible – and I am so proud!

As far as communication – I wish I had great advice for you, but the honest truth is, I’ve been blessed with a husband who’s on board with the current plan (it’s as much his as mine, honestly; I just get the privilege of writing about it!)

The one thing I’ll say is that NEITHER us were able to stay committed until we identified the deep reason why we wanted to get out of debt. And that reason had to be something that we both were on board with, you know? We each have our own reasons individually (I had periods of pretty extreme poverty in my past, and so I have some deep-seated reasons to want to avoid any trappings of it, like credit and loans; my husband has his own reasons as well) – but it wasn’t until we hit on a joint reason – centering around the flexibility to homeschool our daughter – that we really got rolling at full speed.

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that your husband doesn’t have a “why” to attack the braces and the time share costs, because he’s probably so happy that those are “all” he has! Maybe that’s not it at all, but I hear that a lot – and you’re not going to change someone’s mind on that score. If there were a REASON to be free of those areas of debt, though, that’s the thing people can get behind!

I have no idea if that helps, and I’m sure I’m rambling, but I just figured I’d share some of my thought process and see if it helps! Keep up the awesome effort – I am totally in awe!

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Dorothy Breininger October 3, 2012 at 12:13 AM

Dear Joan,
I am a professional organizing expert and also appear on the hit tv show, Hoarders on A&E. I would like to reprint your “5 things you learned about losing weight by paying off your debt” in my upcoming book, Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff, (HCI press) due out in book stands in April 2013. I will credit you, your work and the ManvDebt website in exchange. Would you kindly let me know if you are open to this? I would love to promote both you and the website – I like the feel of it and information around it. All the best!
DorothyTheOrganizer Breininger

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Joan October 5, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Dorothy, drop me an email to joan@manvsdebt.com and we’ll chat about this!

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Nick G November 12, 2012 at 5:13 PM

You had a six-figure income? How did you have so much debt? It never ceases to amaze me that people with six-figure incomes can be so terrible with money. Try my salary of less then $40,000 and raising a family.

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Monja November 13, 2012 at 1:39 AM

Guess we all make mistakes – some are worse some are not. If you can raise a family with 40,000 – congratulations. I could not, especially not if I want to save money for vacations, fun, and to show my children the beauty of the country – and I don’t feel bad for it. Guess our standards rise with the money we have but that doesn’t mean that one person is better than the other.

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MM December 11, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Hello Joan and others ,Boy does this sound familiar ! So far I have just skimmed but one thing that came through,Joan,as soon as I read about your home schooling was that your daughter probably had autism/aspbergers. I don;t know why I got that feeling but I just did. And when I finally read it, I felt somehow relieved. You see, we too have a child with the same diagnosis and we also homeschool. We actually run a recovery program for him based on the autsim treatment centre of america – while it is hugely successful -and comes from a base of love ,acceptance and non-judgement – it is time consuming, and has cut into my ability to earn a living. We have also chosen to eschew standard medical care and use natural medicine and wholefood to aid his recovery. Can you see where I’m going here ? No medicare covers this and it costs a fortune. I did fundraise to come to America in 2010 to attend a week at the autism treatment centre but otherwise we cover everything ourselves. My son is not to blame for our debt – we have been undisciplined for a long time. Had money once, when the real estate market went gang busters, took a year off work, travelled, spent $100,000 , my husband quit work to start his own business, I became unexpectedly pregnant at 44, stayed home for 3 years, problems became apparant with my son and here we are. $100,000 of consumer debt, a hefty mortgage (4000 $) a month, 2 teenage girls whom I feel I’m letting down badly on so many levels, and we are 53 and 50 years old, starting again ! For anyone who is interested, I would really encourage you to look at the Options Institue ,the home of the Autism traetment centre, – you don’t have to be autistic to benefit, It is all about attitude…
attitude, attitude and applies to everything in life. Barry has written a book called “happiness is a choice “-doesn’t that just tell you everything about it? I dont want to sound like I’m spruiking here but the two philosophies really meld, and since finding them I have made huge adjustments in thoughts that are holding me back and I can now transfer that to my financial re-build. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this website. At the moment we don’t have a car – it broke down a year ago, not much to sell except the house ( on the market as we speak ), We do rent out our spare room though through air bnb and we will be re-investing in another house. It will be smaller and further out of town but at least we’ll still have an asset. well, that;s our story, MM

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Joan December 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM

MM, of course your story really resonated with me (of course!) After going heavily into all sorts of traditional medical treatments, we had a major turnaround and also opted to go away from that and into a plan based on eating well, reducing stress and, as you said, not coming from a place of judgement or trying to “change” her! And, you hit the nail on the head – these aren’t the things that insurance helps you pay for, but they can be expensive, both in money AND time.

I hope you will follow along on our journey – I’d love for you to keep us posted on yours, especially as you go through those changes in your housing situation!! It is very nice to “meet” you!

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Miossito January 9, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Well, I guess I’m still in a lost sort of state. I’m a single mom, trying to make ends meet…paycheck to paycheck. I have encouraged my boys to pursue a higher education and now I feel like a complete failure. I have two sons…my 23 year old graduated from college with a b.s. in accounting. He is unemployed and in debt over $50K and I also owe over $10k in parent plus loans towards this and we are both in a position of defaulting… Now, my 17 year old will be graduating highschool in June 2013 and I feel like a complete hypocrte. Because, I have always encouraged them to seek higher education, it has become so astronomically expensive and almost unaffordable for what the government considers as middle income. I gross $43K a year… I have never had child support…. and have financially supported my boys and myself on my own. My net income after paying taxes and health insurance is approximately $2000 a month. My rent, utilites, phone, gas, car insurance, and bare necessities(clothing,food, school)…I am already so much in debt…. that I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t indulge in any extras nor my kids because i just can’t. Anytime, one of us get sick and have to go to doctors it puts me more in debt, between copay and meds., loss of work… I feel like a complete failure and I don’t even know where to begin with my youngest son, who will be graduating highschool this year…and needing some kind of financial assistance from me, With my income which barely makes end meet…and my poor credit and my recent outstanding parent plus loans … I don’t know what to say or do… but to face my biggest fear in letting him down. My gross income sets me over poverty standards… but come on now.. I considered looking for a second job… but I am a supervisor on salary and almost always requires 55 – 60 hours a week…which I am drained afterwards. What if any suggestions do you have for me

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Patti Sheldon January 21, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Hi Joan. I have a Boa question.. I have been paying them extra amt above the min payment each month, thet post whole payment to lowest interest rate. My statement clearly states anythingabove min payment gets applied to highest interest. Any suggestions on how to correct this . I hate them and don”t want to pay any more interest than i have to. My calls to them have been unsucessfull. I want to start a class action lawsuit, i’m sure i’m not the only one

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Joan January 21, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Patti, I don’t know about your statement, but on all my cards with varying interest rates, there is a statement that says “We apply payments to balances at various interest rates at our discretion, including in a manner that is most favorable to us.” In other words – in my case, I KNOW that on cards with multiple rates, I’m not knocking down the highest ones first! If yours clearly says something else, you should probably talk to a lawyer or financial professional!

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Kevin Hellriegel January 22, 2013 at 4:03 AM

Great job on coming clean with your mountain of debt. I really admire your commitment to tackle the debt and pay it down. I plan to read through the whole blog to see how much money you net out (I see you gross six figures) and how you managed to pay down the debt so well. Of course, with six figures I can also see how you ranked it up pretty fast as well!

Keep you the good fight and get that debt down. Then you can start saving for retirement!

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Pam March 31, 2013 at 1:08 AM

Your story is truly inspiring. I am what I call forcefully retired at 60, 61 next week with no means of support other than m daughter who works hard but only part time with a 5 year old son to take care of. There are no full time jobs here in our area of FL and we live in rental home that is being foreclosed and the owner had us stop paying rent a while back because a) she knew we could no longer afford it with me not working and b) she knew that she was not paying the mortgage. So now we have to move, no money to do it and no prospects of work for me. No one here will hire a 60 year old that they can get a 20 something to do. Any advice as to how we can manage a part time income. I homeschool my grandson as well with whatever free curriculum information and my own knowledge because I can’t afford to purchase curriculum and am not sure that I would if I could. I would love to learn how to sell online all the stuff that has piled up in my home over the years.

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Rob April 2, 2013 at 12:49 AM

We have had a rough 6 years. I work for the County and we had no raise for the last 6 years. Our pension is over 804 a month and our medical keep going up. I am barely paying the 15,000 i owe in credit cards and missed a few payments. My 17 year old has Aspbergers but he is doing very well. We have always watched our pennies but its emergencies such as car repairs and braces that screw you up, These are all good tips but they are not going to pay off 15,000 in credit card debt. Our cars are paid for and we have a 2 percent mortgage mod that helps out. I am considering asking the bank to take 1000 and call it even. if not i am going to BK myself like our neighbor did. A year later he had a car with a low interest. I am 3 years from my pension so as soon as i get it i am taking off to a nice, low cost area near a beach. Dont know where that area is. Thanks for all your advice!

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The W April 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM

25 yrs old, 10K on a student loan, 27K owing on a car, and 9K in the bank (I like to have a cushion) and making decent money for now.

Hope to be debt free by new years, will keep you posted! Very inspired!

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JJ789 May 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Your initial debts are a sign that you guys are more comfortable than the average “broke” citizen. I can think of a large number of people in my own community who wouldn’t even have a home to mortgage. And many more who wouldn’t have a credit card debt of 89K. They would be likely to have a high interest credit card with a $300 limit. And its likely they wouldnt be able to make the payments either. That’s how life is in America. Its getting more and more like Mexico…literally. The poor stay poor and the well off get the opportunities.

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Joan May 2, 2013 at 9:38 PM

I definitely don’t consider the ability to charge $89,000 an “opportunity!” The saddest thing is, you’re absolutely right, but the worse part is that I can speak to the debt I brought into my marriage, and I had more than $30,000 mostly in medical bills that was allowed to be charged – on a minimum-wage income! I will be the first to say we are better off as a family now than at many points in the past, but that’s actually why (as you’ll see as you read more posts where I go deeper into our story) we are just now paying this off. Most of this debt was charged 10-15 years ago at this point!

TALK ABOUT SCARY! You are so right – it is a hole that is VERY hard to get out of!

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Nan November 20, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Just wanted to say hi from the UK…I am inspired by your story to crack down and pay off my own debt. I know that it will be hard work but I hope that with determination and inspiration from reading other people’s stories I will get there too :)

Good luck in getting under $15,000!

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Rob November 22, 2013 at 2:12 AM

We ran a equity line and paid off all our cards. I owe 70 bucks on one now. The cards were around 400 and now the equity line payment is 133 a month. Since i missed some CC payments my credit took a hit. I wonder how long before i get out of the 516 deadbeat score to my old 850 score, Our house has risen over 100,000 since i last posted so we are in a much better place but hope to be debt free including mortage some day.

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Doug November 28, 2013 at 2:50 AM

Hello,

Well I have some debt, not a huge amount but I really want to get out from underneath it… We don’t make much and things are tight but I know there has to be a way to do it right without killing off the fun in life :D

My credit score blows and I would really like to know where to “start”

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garryl March 4, 2014 at 2:00 AM

Hi Joan,
I just wanted to say that you’re story is inspiring. You’ll succeed, hang in there. As you can see, once you focus on this, it becomes fun. Paying off debt is exactly the same process as saving money. With your focus, you won’t fail.
garry

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