Still Rolling Despite the Bumpy Road: Joan’s Mid-December Financial Update


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

So last month wasn’t pretty. The transmission. The washer. The line of credit. For the first time in essentially two years, we had MORE debt at the end of the month than the beginning. And we don’t take that lightly.

Our commitment, though, was to view this as a setback – and not as a failure. We were – and are – committed to the road ahead, even when it’s bumpy.

Updating our Very Next Steps

Before the addition of the line of credit, we had seven debts we were paying off. We CERTAINLY didn’t want to have eight! Our goal was to consolidate two of the smallest debts we had into the line of credit.

We did so, giving us, now, six debts to pay off. Net result of minus one bill sounds pretty good to me.

In amazing news, NOT related to that whole mess, we hit one of the best V.N.S., or Very Next Step, goals so far this month.

  • Hated BoA MasterCard: Our goal had been to get this under $20,000, and it’s at $19,809.70. Our goal was to hit this mark by the end of 2012, and we did it!!! (Pause for huge celebration.) This is great. Our next “big goal” is to get it to four figures, then TOTALLY paid off by the end of 2013, but the “Very Next Step” part will be to get under $17,000, which SHOULD make it no longer our biggest debt!
  • Springleaf loan: Well, this was at $1,900, and our goal for the month was simply to get it consolidated onto the line of credit, which we accomplished. I got a pleasant surprise over the weekend, too. Despite the interest for this loan being included in the balance (as is often the case for personal loans, especially, uh, less-than-ideal ones), the company refunded us for the “interest overage” to the tune of $163 and change!! That will immediately go toward paying debt down!
  • Tires Plus: This was the other account to be consolidated into the personal loan, our credit card we’d had through our mechanic. This balance is now zero!
  • Bank line of credit: Now that we have this account, we plan to treat it like our others – by setting Very Next Step goals for it! With the transmission work and the consolidation, the balance is currently $7,403.14. Our first goal will be to get this down below $5,000 and then go from there!

Don’t forget that we keep track of all of these debts in summary (complete with V.N.S.) on my “Joan’s Finances” page – so you can see how we’re doing at a glance. Here, I’ll just hit the updates.

 Finishing the year strong

As of today, our current total debt is $61,366.50. We’ve paid off $28,320.73 since January 2011, making us 31.58% debt-free. While we’re not quite at our all-time low from back in October, we’re down from last month’s update, which was key, and we’re still farther ahead than we were in September!

This week marks the fifth in our current six-week session of the You Vs. Debt class that I facilitate, and I admit, I’m pretty thankful to be going through the course right now. It would have been easy for me to say, “Oh, well, we ended up OK,” and leave it at that. But I can’t rest on my laurels with a class of 100 students seeing my results daily, not to mention the thousands who read these updates here on MvD!

So we’ve decided to focus even more on ending 2012 with a bang and kicking off 2013 in solid debt-payoff mode. We’ve already updated the chart that shows our payments for each month and our projected debt-free date, and, of course, we’re aiming to not just meet but beat that!

Even if all we do is maintain our current momentum, we’ll be more than 55% debt-free at the end of 2013. If we really hustle, we could get that up to about 66% – with a total remaining debt of about $30,000!

I can get pretty excited about that – and it makes it REALLY seem like the end is in sight. If we can get debt-free in 2014, then it really does mean that we’re more than halfway done at this point. That… feels good. Amazing. Indescribable.

A leap of faith

Longtime MvD readers know that one of our biggest tenets is that taking action matters the most. It’s awesome to have spreadsheets and projections and budgets and plans, but as we’ve been talking about in You Vs. Debt, none of those matter unless you DO something.

That’s why Chris and I brainstormed a way to take a leap of faith. We know that we’re doing great – sometimes dropping as much as $1,000 above the minimum against our Hated BoA Mastercard in a month. But we also know that we’re still losing money in slow leaks elsewhere that could be going toward debt.

So rather than trying to “find” a way to save $50 or $100 a month, then putting that money toward the debts, we’re working backward. We’ve decided to calculate what our average payment per month to Bank of America was for the past year – and then add $100 to that amount every month. We’ll make the payment – and then let our discretionary spending adjust accordingly.

We will be paying Bank of America at least $1,550 every month for 2013, up from our average 2012 payment of $1,454.98! We fully expect to surpass that some months, but considering the minimum payment is just about $600 right now, and the interest is about $400 a month, that means we’ll be taking about $1,150 at MINIMUM off the principal each month. That feels pretty great!


It’s scary to announce a commitment like that. It’s scary even to make the plan privately with my husband! But I truly believe that taking this leap of faith – and then selling crap, using side hustles and tracking our spending to go above and beyond – will get us over that finish line even sooner than we had once hoped!

What scary-awesome commitment can you make? Is it something related to paying off debt, or to building your savings, or to starting your business?

I’d love you to take a leap of faith with me!

Share your commitment in the comments!

42 thoughts on “Still Rolling Despite the Bumpy Road: Joan’s Mid-December Financial Update”

  1. Hello Joan. I will be happy to give any moral support to help you dump the Hated Bank of America debt. My whole motivation for posting here, or any place for debt reduction is to symbolically know that hated institution has forever lost a source of revenue (us in debt to them). I think you hit a great idea, pay the first and throw out of the house. I will go without restaurants, clothes, sell my hobby collections, etc. I can replace them. I want that 19,800 lb gorilla off of my back and evicted. NEVER TO RETURN or another penny. Maybe the 1350 goal, I hope you keep finding more to kick off even quicker.

    We could argue who hates them worse. I figure it is even. Actually you more, I finally got them thrown out last year after 4 horrible years with them.

  2. Hot dang, Joan! Way to step up after a crap month knock ’em dead! Congrats on achieving your big goal, especially with the card that is #1 on the hate list. 😀 I’m looking forward to seeing those numbers drop in your monthly updates!

      1. Thanks, Liz!! (And is that a new profile pic? I like it!)

        It feels amazing to know we’re still hitting goals. Maybe it’s only a mind game, but it really makes a difference!

  3. I agree, that’s a great way to step it up. I enjoy reading this newsletter and realized I need to be more committed to get out of debt. I have decided to get a part time instructor position to help pay down my debt and to save more. My goal in 2013 is to get three accounts out of 6 accounts paid off before the end of the year(2013), set up seperate savings accounts for known expenses that come up during the year (quarterly and yearly) and have more funds in my emergency fund.

  4. Hi
    You have made a very strong commitments….at times we usually get overwhelmed by these.
    I made commitment of starting a blog and I have done that……now next will to get acknowledgment….looks scary, let’s see how it goes.


  5. Hi Joan,
    You must be so incredibly proud of your progress! I have enjoyed watching you pay that debt down all year. What a huge accomplishment!!! I’m sorry if you’ve already mentioned this but are you putting money into retirement as well during your debt repayment? I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!
    Cat Alford

    1. Hi Cat!! Right now, we have a certain amount in two 401(k) funds (which I wish we didn’t have, actually!) and some money in a 529 for our daughter’s potential future education expenses.

      We are NOT adding to the 401(k)s because they’re not matched, but we have different plans for our future savings after we’re debt-free. We aren’t traditional retirement types – the goal is for both of us to be self-employed at a moderate number of hours per week, so we actually want savings in general more than “retirement” savings, if that makes sense. (Which is why we plan to ditch the more hemmed-in 401(k) vehicle as soon as possible!)

  6. Way to go, Joan. While scary, I think putting it out there helps keep us on point when we are having crappy days. I really like your new way to tackle the BoA card. Mike and I paid off 3 out of 4 of our cards last week – it’s freaking scary seeing all that money go out the door at once!

    I look forward to your progress 🙂

    1. Sarah, that’s AWESOME!!!! It’s definitely scary to make those big payments, but I am so glad to hear you did it anyway. Keep rocking it!

  7. How does it make you feel to see the banks you are paying all of your hard earned money constantly getting caught laundering money and committing fraud?

    Just for giggles wouldn’t it be useful to compare your results to what would happen if you just walked away from the debt and wrote it off as bad like banks do all the time?

  8. I love reading your updates. You are making excellent progress. It would be great if more people could be so self-aware of their money situation. So many people just ignore it, hoping it goes away, and then finding out that it doesn’t unless you have a major plan. Keep sharing. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I only hope, like you do, that it encourages at least one person reading to face up to things and say, “OK, I KNOW it’s ugly, but I have to face up to it if I want to make a change!”

      Here’s hoping!

  9. Congrats Joan!!! Standing “O” from me! Especially after a pretty sucky month. I do like the backtrack method- increase the monthly payment, and spend less on the backend. I started that way at the beginning and have backed off a little for the holidays. I think part due to the gifts, extra expenses last month, and part due to having to be “on budget” for months.

    I think I’m starting Dec. with a lot more fire like when I first started the debt pay down. I took a quick breather, and now back on!

    Love this site!

    1. Cheryl, thank you so much! I am like you – my “fire” waxes and wanes – and I think we’re both getting fired up again now; here’s to good things as a result! 🙂

  10. I plan on paying down or hopefully off one of my student loans either by the end of next year or the following year. Will pay off new balance to credit card next year (yeah I kinda splurged a bit for the holidays). If possible pay $100 more to student loan and get it finally paid off hopefully by this next year or at the very latest 2014 cant wait to be debt free so I can breathe a bit easier.

    Congrats on your debt and yeah I know it sucks to take on a bit more but, hey everyone needs wheels of some sort and a washer especially if a laundry mat is no where near.

  11. My 2013 goal (again) is to get rid of approximately $16,000 in credit card debt. My salary’s not enough to pay over $1,000 per month like you guys can. Congrats on your progress!!

    Your posts have been so inspirational and i hope that my debt journey resembles yours.

    1. Thank you so much – and it is NOT a matter of how much, but how dedicated! If you are committed to it, even $50 extra a month will get you there! In our case, we are very blessed at the moment, but we’ve had times where $10 above the minimum meant serious sacrifices. I figure I better make the most of it while it lasts, you know?

      I can’t wait to watch you kick your own debt to the curb too! 🙂

      1. Thank you for the kind words, Joan.

        I am going to see if i can increase the minimum payment of the card with the highest interest rate by $50 per month. After all, the interest charge/month on that card is $48! I need to be paying down more per month.

        Thank you for the inspiration!

  12. Thanks, Joan! I love reading your posts, and even though I know last month was rough for you guys (as this month will be rough for me and my husband!), seeing the way you handle issues that might derail you not only inspires me, but gives me ideas about what to do when I’m faced with similar problems 🙂

    1. Shelley, THANK YOU so much for saying so! It’s scary sometimes to put those “bad” months out there, but that is definitely my hope and goal. Keep on truckin’ this month – and we’ll BOTH be back on our feet in January!! 🙂

  13. Joan,

    YOU CAN DO IT!!! Keep up the great work. I am behind you all the way-out of debt. You and your hubby have set the goal, made a plan, shared it with us and now on to paying off your debt.

  14. Hi Joan,

    I am new here here, but plan to follow regularly. In June I am starting a 5 year program toward obtaining my medical degree and you can guarantee I will be taking on an obsene amount of debt along the way. In preparation I have started researching ways that I can limit the amount of debt I will incur doing med school and how to pay it down as quickly as possible. I’m expecting at least $250k in student loans, and if I take the normal 15 year path to pay it down I’ll end up around $500k by the end of it including interest. NOT COOL! Although I’m debt free now, I think early planning will give me a head start when this all starts happening. I love the content here and look forward to staying up with it in the future.


    1. Gordon, GOOD LUCK – I think even the fact that you’re aware of what the normal amount and payoff will be puts you way ahead of a lot of people – and that consciousness is what can help you focus on reducing the total debt incurred and paying it off ASAP!

  15. Hi Gordon. For now, congratulations on debt free. Before taking on an obscene amount of debt, try any way around before that. Listen to Dave Ramsey show. Call and ask his opinion to see both sides. Good luck. I wish you well.

  16. Hi Joan,

    I’m so impressed with how you’ve handled these challenges.
    I have a question – do you allow for any splurges (planned or otherwise) for yourself or your family while paying down these debts?

    1. We are HUGE believes in what I call splurges – but I’ve come to realize that different people mean different things by that. Examples in our life include things like overnight getaways for my husband and I about every 6 months (usually total spent under $200), a family mini-vacation once a year (usually 2-3 nights away, and often tied to our homeschooling, such as this summer when we went to the Smithsonian museums; these are usually under about $800), buying SOME Christmas gifts, eating occasional restaurant dinners, etc. I still get my hair done at a salon about every six weeks. My daughter gets highlights. We aren’t big “shoppers,” but we happened to be out and my daughter saw a shirt she wanted and it was on sale, so we got it. You can definitely say we’re not on the “needs only” plan.

      That said, that stuff only happens when we can pay cash for it and not fall short on the bills. In most cases, we even still pay more than the minimums on our debt, though maybe not “as much more” as we sometimes do.

      For us, that helps us focus. That is an approach that is hard for some people, though; I hear stories all the time from readers who “splurge” to the tune of $50-$100 a week, sometimes a DAY, and to me that’s not a treat, that’s a habit, you know?

      1. That’s great that you can pay your vacations and gifts in cash!

        I want to buy christmas gifts this year but I would have to use my credit cards. Unless, I use money from a very small emergency fund.

        I am assuming that you have a built-up emergency fund already. What do you recommend the minimum on the emergency fund amount? I feel vulnerable if i don’t have any liquid money available at all.

        1. Our emergency fund is equal to one month’s mortgage payment for us – not a fully built up one. That said, we do have some “cushion” in our checking account too, so that we’re not truly living paycheck to paycheck (that was huge!)

          We are big fans of having $1,000 in emergency fund that you can use for things like unexpected car repairs, appliances, medical bills, whatever. Then there is the idea of savings, which to me is separate. (Savings is for things like gift-giving, expenses you KNOW you’re going to incur such as routine medical care, quarterly bills, whatever.) The big difference there is mindset – you have it right on; charging gifts is not the way to go – but I have to quote Dave Ramsey on this, “Christmas is not an emergency!”

          You might have to make a tough choice this year – fewer gifts, or use that fund – but the idea is not to get into a mindset where every year in December, you’re scrambling for funds, you know? So my challenge is, do whatever you can to make this the last year where you’re struggling in December with where the Christmas money is coming from! And I know you can do it – it’s amazing the difference a year can make! 🙂

  17. Joan,

    Love the commitment. Paying it down almost seems down right addictive. The best part is yet to come for you two. Every month that interest payment gets smaller.

    We met nearly all of our goals this year (minus adding a car loan which still pains me). We have actually backed off paying down the debt as quickly. The extra money is being sent towards investments. The goal is to have the investment income cover the debt. Once the debt is paid off, we still have the investment capital. So far we can cover two of our largest non mortgage debts with investment income. The goal this year is to double that investment income.


    1. Wow, Jason, that’s pretty cool!! I admit, we’ve talked about that plan – AFTER debt freedom, in our case – but in your case I really see the wisdom in what you’re doing, especially since you’re not starting from zero, since you’re already bringing in enough to cover those large bills.

      And you’re right about the interest – I have a chart (I know, you’re shocked) and it shows how much it goes down every month… we are DEFINITELY on a downhill slide already, and in a good way. In this next year, we estimate the principal will go down more than it did in the previous two combined, all thanks to that!

      1. Fantastic to hear. I’m glad your progress is further motivating you. Its obvious in your posts. I encourage you to start looking at that After Debt life, its not as far away as it seems. Especially with your drive.


    1. Apollo, not sure where those figures came from – were you commenting on someone else’s comment? Neither of us paid nearly that much for college, even combined, and we’ve shared before that our combined income is in the low six figures. Sorry for any confusion!

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