When It Rains, It Pours: Joan’s Mid-June Financial Update



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

Not gonna lie, you guys.

This month? It basically sucked.

Last month’s slow-and-steady progress report quickly devolved into more like a “just barely hanging onto the edge of the cliff” scenario.

We’re still fighting the battle, but we took some pretty significant damage this month.

So what’s the status, and where do we go from here?

The damage

Sooo… this month.

  • The car had to be towed to the shop to have a new starter put in, after ours died. Total cost: $422
  • The cat needed some more vet work. Total cost: $276
  • The lawn tractor died. Total cost: TBD, repair estimate is about $100

We also had our first full month with a major cut in one of my streams of income, and coming up this month is our quarterly estimated tax payment (planned, but still something that would make us run a little tighter even without the rest of these things!)

All in all, we did something we haven’t done in a long time: We ended the month in MORE debt than we started it. The grand total increase in debt?


I don’t like it on principle, but if I had to do it, I guess the amount is right? (That also, by the way, just about matches our bank balance until we’re paid again tomorrow. Talk about cutting it down to the wire!)

You can check out all the brutal details on my Joan’s Finances page, but the short version is, it’s holding steady.

How we’re getting by

We are skimping on a LOT right now. There are some pretty-much-necessary purchases we’re holding off on, and we’ve cut the grocery budget drastically.

We’re expecting to rent out our finished lower level to some friends for a few months, starting soon. While we’re not “high rent,” we’ll at least be able to offset the cost of some extra people and maybe a little more.

We’ve cleaned out the garage and sold a couple hundred dollars in crap, with a little bit more to come.

I’ve also picked up some new side hustles that are helping us at least maintain our progress. I mentioned some one-time gigs that raised about $1,000 for us in the past six weeks; without them, it’s fair to say we would have been that thousand dollars in the hole.

I love side hustling. It’s saved our bacon many times, but it’s hard to budget with and hard to maintain at the rate I do it when we’re really strapped. (Projects like the ones above usually have me working 7 days a week, with most of those days 10 to 12 hours.)

As much as possible, I try to fit in gigs like that around steadier long-term contracts. I just picked up another of these doing customer service/virtual support, and it will be both a huge help financially and NOT the huge drain on my time that short-term projects often can be.

That’s the balance we’re working on: Good for our budget, AND sustainable for more than a couple weeks at a time. We can go bare-minimum on grocery purchases for a couple months, but eventually, yes, you DO need to buy more cat litter, or razors, or flour.

I can work long days for a while, but eventually, my health and my family need to come first.

We keep trying, though, and we’re committed to MAKING it work.

Speaking of side hustles, our friend Jen Gresham of Everyday Bright is launching a new group called The Bright Entrepreneurs Club that is designed to help you start a new business, either full time or on the side. While we’re not affiliated with Jen’s program at all (except that we think Jen is coooooool), this is a HUGE resource for anyone interested in building the type of side hustle I keep talking about, and I wanted to be sure to share it. Jen’s program is different in that it’s community-led, not a “guru” system – and it taps into a ton of collective knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. You can check out more about it here.


No matter what, I fully believe that we can at least hold steady. And if you’re the type to pray, or cross your fingers, or send good vibes, or anything like that, we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to some positive thoughts coming our way as we keep fighting for another month!


How has your month been?

Any suggestions for dealing with those REALLY BAD patches?

Comment and let me know!

59 thoughts on “When It Rains, It Pours: Joan’s Mid-June Financial Update”

  1. Make the debt something you can’t stand. Keep paying it off even when you hit a set-back or two or three. I got inspired by a college graduate who had $12,000 in college loans and with her parents encouragement, moved back home and while working full-time remained a “broke” college student for a year and paid off her debt. Her message was she just couldn’t stand the debt!

    1. We are DEFINITELY doing that, Ginger! We hate it – and we are committed to staying “broke” to pay it down. The problem is, we were staying broke and putting the extra money toward debt every month, to the tune of $1,000 to $2,500, and now we’re staying broke and just paying the minimums, which I hate! So we keep hustling… and throwing every extra cent we have at the debts!

      We have a silly challenge that I think we’ve mentioned before – we pay at least two payments above the minimums on our cards each month. Even if it’s $5! And even with everything going on this month, we did it – $10 over minimum on one, and $5 over on another. It’s not the dollars so much as the principle of it – and we are sticking to it!

  2. Here is something the wife and I did this year that has great potential to help with the bills. Got rid of the lawn and started some square foot gardens. We are growing all kinds of veggies in it and have some small fruit trees that are already starting to bear fruits on them. We have an avocado tree and are looking to add another one to it. We purchased trees that have been grafted so we get one pear tree with 4 types of pears on it. One plum tree with 3 varieties as well. You get the point. Here is a link to our humble beginnings. Some of our friends have also asked us to build boxes for them and paid us for them!


    1. That’s a great point, and actually, we are planning for a BUMPER crop of many things that will help us out in that way – tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and more. We also do pick-your-own produce at a local farm, which is much cheaper than buying it and certainly a better experience too! Great reminder!

  3. Joan, It sounds to me like you are doing ALL you can to get that hated debt off your shoulders! Keep doing what you are doing, but keep in mind, you do need to “plan” for ME time and FAMILY time too. Like a picnic in a local park. something basically FREE to do. Murphy just loves to rear his ugly head when things fall apart. So, you and your hubby have a plan to derail that Murphy. Keep up the GREAT work you are doing!!!!
    We are praying for you and your lovely family. Have a wonderful day and a better rest of June.

    1. Thank you so much, Cay! ALL prayers are appreciated, and I am thankful every day for you and your support! 🙂

  4. Hi Joan! Keep up the good work! As someone who is on the other side of a similarly sized debt snowball, I can tell you that all this toil and hard work is totally worth it.

    Have you considered scaling back the pet deployment in the house? I say that as a former cat owner who has now *twice* experienced the relief of letting the furry guys go on to happier pastures (once at our house, once at my in-laws). The initial emotions are tough missing them, but seriously, they take a toll on the budget, house, and other areas of your life. You may find relief beyond the budget if you can find new homes for them, like we did.

    Like you said in September, we could debate the benefits of pets for days, I just want to share some perspective of someone who has been where you are and is now past it.

    1. Greg, that’s definitely a decision that has to be made person by person, case by case! In our case, we’re not there yet – not the least part of which is that these guy are pretty un-rehome-able, a word I made up in another comment, but we would consider it IF we weren’t able to care for them! (And, we’re definitely not taking on any more.)

      That said, we wouldn’t personally do it for budgetary reasons other than not being able to care for them properly. Our financial issues are a relatively short-term situation. These are living things that we love, and we’re not willing to sacrifice many years with them for short-term gain!

  5. Okay, I’m going to say something that will make me very unpopular and potentially hated…what about finding the cat a new home?

    Pet’s are very, very expensive. When I was a kid we had a dog and I don’t think he ever went to the vet. That was normal back then. Dogs and cats getting their teeth cleaned was unheard of. People bought dog food from the grocery store…no designer pet food. Outside cats did their business outside…no litter or box.

    Animal care is a huge industry these days and guilt is a very useful tool to get us to buy products and services we (meaning our animals) don’t need. Don’t get me wrong. I really love animals and had my Pomeranian for 18 years (that’s why costs and the guilt trip are so fresh in my mind). I spent thousands over his lifetime and it will make me think twice before ever bringing a new pet into my home.

    Hope I’m not banned from commenting here in the future 🙂

    1. That is definitely a personal choice that everyone has to make for themselves, Ree! I would say that we are well-informed, we made the choices we did, and while we’re not interested in adding any NEW pets, we’re not choosing to part with the ones we have for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their complete inadoptability due to exactly these kind of health issues. This wasn’t a routine service; the cat was seriously ill and in severe pain, and we didn’t think twice. I’d do it again, too.

      That said, I’ll say the same thing I said to Greg above – IF we couldn’t provide care for these guys, we’d do our best to find someone who could. We’re not at the point where we can’t take good care of them, but I am realistic: If we were facing eviction or something drastic like that, or going without eating ourselves, we’d have to see what the situation was. We’re just blessed that it’s not an issue at this point!

  6. Abandoning an animal companion for the sake of a big financial plan is selfish and misguided. Welcoming into your home a new animal when you’re on an extremely tight budget and actively eliminating debt and building a savings account is something to think about.

    There’s a difference. You don’t just abandon a family pet in the name of money, unless you’re truly destitute and left with no other option. It’s inhuman and makes this a greedy money-based journey than one that really ought to be spiritual, uplifting and enlightening.

    1. I’m in full agreement, Carla, and I appreciate you weighing in on that! While we’re not adding to the pet population in our home, we’re not abandoning them either… especially these guys, who all have special needs, and are older and VERY un-rehome-able. We would make hard choices if we were all in danger of being out on the street, or starving, but that’s not the case, and I’m not willing to abandon a very real part of our family for a short-term situation, as we KNOW things will continue to get better as we work through all of this.

      Yeah for pets! 🙂

    2. I second Carla’s post, she said it more gently than I can. Abandoning a pet is irresponsible and cruel. Domesticated animals cannot fend for themselves. If you are destitute, take them to a shelter, preferably no-kill. I understand financial hardship, but you can made a commitment to the pet and you can still take care of the pet by not dumping them out.

      Joan – Thank you for being a good mentor through your debt posts and through your very kind replies regarding the pet issue.

      1. You’re very welcome, Johanna!! And you are so right – in NO case would I be OK with abandoning an animal. Rehoming and no-kill shelters are a decision that I think is fair to make if your family decides to (though as I said, it’s not our choice), but I cannot ever condone leaving a pet outside. In fact, this cat, Floyd, as well as our Mitts (a different kitty), were rescued from just that situation.

        1. I didn’t literally mean abandoning a pet, nor did Ree. I should have just said rehoming. 🙂

          Joan, I don’t see a way to contact you privately, so I’m going to wander off topic a bit. Like your daughter, I have Aspergers, and like you I have five cats. They’re black rescues with special needs.

          Anyway, as of right now my husband and I have a whopping $6 in our savings account. My inability to keep a stable job has presented a ton of problems for me and due to work-related stress I’m on state disability, which ends soon.

          Sometime next month I’m starting a website, where I will be openly sharing about Aspergers as an older adult and also our financial journey and dream of owning a home. There’s a ton I need to figure out, but the one thing that has me on a big rock is student loans.

          Are there any links you can share to help me better understand student loan repayment, what huge loans mean to a married couple, how can this debt affect the ability to purchase and keep a home, etc.?

          Feel free to remove this comment and respond via my email address. Thanks!

  7. A tip for car repairs – my husband does most of our repairs, but when there is something he needs help with, he puts an ad for a mechanic on craigslist. We usually get a reply from a working mechanic who wants to pick up some extra cash, and we’ve developed a relationship with one person that has saved us a ton of money.

    1. Stefanie, we actually used that tip regarding our lawn tractor repairs! It’s definitely worth considering for cars, too; in our case, our mechanic is a friend of ours who works at a private shop nearby, so we count it as almost the same thing. Thank goodness, too; without Steve the Awesome Car Guy, this car would be EVEN worse than it is by far! 🙂

      1. I just saw this Craigslist tip. That’s such a great idea. We need to learn how to do some basic repairs and maintenance ourselves, like changing the oil and pulling out small dents. But for something more involved, I’ll browse Craigslist and see if I can find an experienced mechanic. My landlord does something similar when she needs things done on her property. It saves her a lot of money, but for the people doing the work, it’s a Godsend and they’re very grateful.

  8. Joan,
    Sorry to hear about your rough patch this last month 🙁
    I said it before and I’m going to say it again…you need to part ways with your car. In another year or so you will have spent so much money on repairs and gas (I had a 99 Sable, so I know how much of a gas guzzler your car is) that you could have purchased a newer vehicle with all that money. I really think you are being Penny wise, dollar foolish on this one. Just my two cents. It’s your family though, so I respect any choice you make because only you know what is going to be best for your family.

    1. We have a plan about that, which is coming up in a new post! Suffice it to say we’re about 90% of the way to a plan that will avoid any future costs for this car! (See, now you’re going to check back for the big reveal, right?) 🙂

  9. Sounds like you’re just weathering the storm right now and that’s exactly what you should be doing. Just hang on for dear life and you’ll come out a better (and much more motivated) person. Keep up the good work and let’s all hope next month is a better one!

  10. I respect your honesty regarding your finances. Everyone hits a tough month. You have a plan and that’s important to stick to. Keeping your entire family intact is a motivator in itself. I would never and could never take any of my furry companions out of my life because of some money woes. On the balance scale, you are doing a great job keeping this all together.

    1. Maryanne, I agree! Thank you so much for the kind words and the support. It means a ton… and we will weather this as we do any other storms that come our way!

  11. I’m with everyone else — holding steady is way better than where you could be. Everyone does have a difficult month every once in a while and lately it seems to not want to leave you. But with your persistance, it will leave and you will feel better. You’ve motivated me, so hopefully everyone will motivate you.

    1. You guys are doing a GREAT job of that. In fact, I worked a little harder the last week of this month knowing I’d be checking in and showing everyone, and wanting to be sure I could honestly say “I did everything possible and I’m still doing it!”

      More stuff listed for sale today… keepin’ on keepin’ on!

  12. Hi Joan,

    Thanks for another post. I will definitely keep you in my prayers that the pouring rain stops soon for you.
    I am happy to report that I have no personal credit card debt on any of my 3 cards. One of the cards has a balance of $2000 which I loaned to couple of family members and they’re paying it off steadily. I have little over $500 in my rainy day fund (my first one ever!). I will def be checking out your link about the side hustles. Overall, I am pretty proud of myself, it’s been a good month, and as of May I am cancer free. Keep up your fight and thanks for your inspirational posts, you had a huge hand in getting me on the straight and narrow.


    1. Kate, that is a big set of AMAZING good news! I am so happy for your awesome month – especially the cancer-free news. And the financial goodness? YOU ROCK! 🙂

  13. Why don’t you learn a side-hustle of fixing cars? Even if it’s just your own that you work on it sounds like you’ll be “making” hundreds each month. Starters are easy 🙂

    1. You know, I joked about that. IF this weren’t our only car, and IF I had a solid tool collection, there are many things I’d have given a go. I will say that I’m quite well informed mechanically (I can change my own oil, though I don’t currently for lack of a place to do it, and I basically know what everything is and does under the hood). I like to think that does help me make sure I’m getting the best prices – there’s very little I can’t look at and say, “Well, are you sure we can’t do XYZ instead?”

      The funny thing was, the mechanic, when he called about the starter (to confirm what I told him on my tow note, that I thought it was the starter), said, “Well, c’mon over and roll up your sleeves and we’ll save you some labor.” Should’ve taken him up on it!

  14. I’m sorry things are tough now but I know that you’ll have better days. I’ve been in a funk the last few weeks, worrying about having to give up the cheap housing we’ve become accustomed to and freaked out about finding something else we can “afford”. (I think we can’t really afford anything in our area {Seattle} but my husband doesn’t want to move anywhere else and he’s the one with a job so yeah, deferring to him on that. 😉 ) Housing in our area has just gone up to crazy levels since the beginning of the year. I’ll send you some hippie-peace-loving happy vibes from the Pacific Northwest! I love your posts, I look forward to reading about your triumph over these setbacks…

    1. Hippie-peace-loving happy vibes are GREAT!! Can’t wait to share the good news too – and I am very much crossing my fingers that you’ll find a good place to stay!

  15. Have you thought about switching snowballing your debt payments? Then when you have a bad month the disappointment is targeted at the one debt you’re tackling as opposed to your whole effort. At least this is how it’s working out for us after a string of many not so great months. In my mind I am still focused on that one student loan. I am not attacking it now but mark my words, its days are limited!

    1. BC, we “snowball” using the debt tsunami method – you can read more about that at https://manvsdebt.com/debt-tsunami/! You are so right – it feels great to see something in particular going down, which in our case is our BoA card!

      Can’t wait to hear you vanquish that student loan once and for all!

  16. Joan:
    First up, your website is fantastic – when I was paying off two hated credit cards, your site gave (and gives) me inspiration. It was hard, it was brutal, it was crazy – and I paid those two cards off. And, having done so, despite my best intentions, one thing after another happened to keep me from amassing any sizable emergency fund. However . . .I no longer had to pay credit card payments every month. Repeat: thanks to your website and sensible advice, I NO LONGER HAVE TO PAY CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS EVERY MONTH! Like you and your family, I am experiencing some totally crazy financial demands right now, but please always remember this: you are on the right track. No matter what, you are tackling this head-on and you will win. You are obviously determined to pay off your debts and you will. Two quotes by Goethe that have always sustained me: “Difficulties increase the nearer we get to the goal” and “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” Joan, I honestly believe that better things and better luck are coming your way; I am praying hard for you and your family and I firmly believe that all the help, encouragement, humor and good advice you have given others will return to you threefold and get you through this rough patch. One year from now, you will look back and be so proud of how you persevered and moved forward. Courage, mon brave!

    1. Sophie, we are SO proud of you!!! I appreciate the prayers, the kind words, the super-cool quotes and your encouragement as I try to join you in that NO CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS stage of this journey!! 🙂

      You rock. Thank you so much for making my day a good one. 🙂

  17. You’re such an inspiration Joan, I know that you will get through this though I can see it’s damn tough if all you have is about $10 net gain to show for the struggle. I’ve had a bad month too and it’s times like this we have to dig deep and recommit to the goal.

    I think that $9.66 is a badge of honour though, a symbol of your commitment!

    Wishing you a much better end of June and July!

  18. I was at a fair the last month and there was a guy there selling chickens. He said that one chicken will lay 6 eggs per week and will live for aound 3 years. the cost of one chicken is about $17.00. As far as food goes they eat most of you veg scraps, so they have almost a $ 0.00 keep. At the moment 6 eggs cost around $2.00 and best of all these are free range. They really do taste different and you save some money. i am skimping at the moment just like you Joan and I know it’s tough when you get a set back , but just keep plodding on.

    1. We will both keep at it, Daniel!! I wish our township would let me keep chickens… we get our eggs from the alpaca farm where my daughter has 4-H, and they are goooooood!

  19. Hi Joan,
    I just wanted to say how much I admire you and your family’s journey to financial freedom (freedom from debt)… Thank you for your openness and willingness to share with your readers your day to day/month to month challenges. I think this month has been a “tied the battle but winning the war”… I don’t think you lost the battle this month… As challenging as the past few months have been, you’ve been incredibly resilient with your debt reduction pursuit… Progress is still being made on a daily basis… My husband and I have 2 student loans and 1 big credit card that we’re paying down… ($72,693.76 in total… Yikes, I just admitted that…) It’s slow and frustrating but we’re making some gains! Like you, we are just staying focused on it and doing our best each and every day!
    Thanks for all you do! Keep those knees pumpin’!!

    1. Like many previous commenters, I also really look forward to and appreciate your monthly updates. It’s one thing when things are going well, it is easy to stay motivated. It’s another when challenges arise, to maintain optimism and determination. To see how you are coping with this difficult month is very inspiring for me to stay to course when I feel momentarily discouraged.
      Years ago, when our kids were younger, I took in a puppy, which everyone in the family quickly bonded with. This border mix collie, did about $4000 in damage to our house in no time with constant chewing – antique furniture, carpeting, books, shoes, it was driving me crazy. After one particularly bad day, I picked up my phone, to place an ad in a local paper, to try to find a new home. At that moment, I suddenly had a thought enter my mind; if I found another home for the puppy, the children would likely never forgive me, and I had this humorous vision of them all in costly therapy sessions as adults, still dealing with this childhood trauma.
      I hung up the phone : )

      1. Christina, your story made me smile. You’re so right!! I figure having my favorite cat to squeeze has easily saved me $500 this year in Xanax… 😉

    2. Meghan, we’re all running together, and I’m so proud of you for facing YOUR total and keeping on with tackling it!

      Thank you so much for the encouragement and the kidn words. We’re all going to get there, right?!

  20. Thank you for posting this, Joan. Getting rid of debt is hard and it’s nice to read about your journey (instead of someone who makes six figures and simply had to sell their extra car and boat and move into a smaller house to pay off their debt in six months).

    I started in November 2010 with $65,000 in debt ($52K in student loans and $13K in credit card debt). Thirty-one months later and I’m down to $21,000 ($18K in student loans and $3K in credit card debt). This year alone I’ve paid off $9K and I’m working on paying off another $8K by 2014. However, it is tough. I don’t make anywhere near six figures, I live with my bf in a first floor apartment that’s $1K under market value (SF rental properties are insane right now), and I don’t have a car or cable (my bf and I only pay for internet and electricity/heat). My only “extras” are my once a month man/pedi, my cell phone, and my gym membership.

    My goal is to get down to my final two student loans ($13K) by the end of the year and then ease up a little on paying down my debt (I’m going to switch a 2 year plan instead of a 1 year plan). When I’m having a bad day I find it helps to look how far I’ve come and focus on all the things I’m going to do once that debt is gone. I can’t wait to travel again, bulk up my savings/emergency fund, and buy a few new work clothes. It will get better.

    1. You made me literally LOL, Katie. Only boat I’ve come close to having was that time my basement flooded… 😉

      You rock – and I am so thrilled with how far you have come!! Can’t wait til we both get it all gone!

  21. Wow Joan, thanks for sharing. I was worried that you always had it easy with your finances that there were never any emergencies in your life and that my life was just chaos.
    As for me things are (where) headed in the right direction, out of debt. Well I got sick and it’s not the kind of sick any one plans for. So next week I will find out what this sickness will cost me. Not looking forward to it because I don’t have much saved up but I do have an empty credit card and if I have to use it I will be back on page 1. Not sure if that is good or bad. But I guess being alive and breathing is always good.
    Here are some couponing tips for groceries 1. learn to use them. 2. start small, you mention razors, that a place to start. 2. Start with $20 a week/a trip to use for couponing, and whatever you choose to buy think long term 3+ month’s supply. Hope that helps.
    Good Luck with your car!

    1. Alive and breathing comes first… I’ll be thinking of you!!

      We are huge couponers – I regularly save $60+ a week, more than half our budget, using htem!

  22. I look forward to reading your posts on here Joan! Keeps me going when things sometimes get a bit tougher!
    I’ve been reading Man vs Debt since around the end of 2011, and my own journey with paying my debt began January 2011. At that time, my total debt stood at $50,942, and before that point, I was even scared to know exactly how much I owed because I couldn’t imagine how I could pay it back. I had a series of jobs in a few years due to redundancy, and each time, my wage went lower than the last. I worried about everything – losing my home, losing my job or becoming ill – until, finally, I got a grip on my finances.

    Finding out what I owed was the first step, (and not as shocking as I expected it to be) then making a data spreadsheet to see it in black and white and have some kind of order to my repayments.
    I made some sacrifices to keep up my payments, which to be honest, were worth every cent, because it meant at some point in the future, I would no longer be a slave to the much hated credit companies. The thought of that alone has kept me focused for the last 2.5 years.
    So now, I’m 31 months into my repayments, and my total debt stands at $35,240, and the best recent achievement, is…

    This morning, I paid off the remaining balance on one of my cards!!! 🙂

    It was a small amount, but it brought my repayment total to 31% GONE!!! I can’t even tell you how I feel this morning! It just fires me up to keep on going!!
    Much gratitude to you for motivating me and so many others to get a grip on our finances. I’m finding myself looking forward to getting these payments down, because I KNOW I CAN DO IT!
    And so can everyone 🙂

    1. Claire, YOU ROCK!!!!! Your comment came in just as I was writing our financial update for July, which I’ll be sharing tomorrow, and it pepped me up significantly! You can do it, and so can I, and so can all of us… if we stick together and stick to it!

      I am cheering hugely for you right now!!

  23. Thank you Joan! Sometimes it feels like a mountain to climb, but baby steps all the way!
    I’m getting a little obsessed with spread sheets these days! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see your July update. Yay! Go July!

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