Thursday, January 31, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: january summary

well, it's the last day of January.  so, without further ado....cue "Dora" music:

{dun dun dun dun dun dun dun}
we did it, we did it, we did it,
yeah, yeah, we did it,
we did it, lo hicimos, HOORAY!

we lasted through January with our $300 grocery budget, and actually, I still have $18 in my envelope. woot!  I think I'll go spend it at Chipotle.  :)  just kidding, I'm a gazelle...

in all seriousness, it sucked.  but sorta like the fun type of sucked.  I must have been going over my budget and using some "other" money in the last few months, but I wasn't paying that much attention, ya know? I was just using whatever cash I had, and if steve had to grab something from the store, he would use his card here and there.  and my mother in law had stocked our fridge a couple times. :)

but this month was serious.  no more cards.  no more sharing envelopes.  nothing.

which means the kids complain that there's nothing to eat for snacks, and we eat meals that we would never invite anyone over for, and we eat oatmeal for breakfast when we run out of milk, and..., and..., and..., that's the way it is.  we're all looking forward to February when I can buy some "good food" again. :)  which basically means fresh fruit.  but trust me, my kids get plenty.  They just LOVE it so they think it's not enough.  They want to eat 3 oranges a day instead of 1. that type of thing. nobody's being deprived too much.

and guess what else, we lasted the whole month without having to spend any of our "other" money.  so Steve finally went to the store this week and bought hair gel for him and CREAM for my poor dry skin.  and batteries.  and he bought me a candy bar because he loves me. :)  I was so proud of us for waiting until the END of the month just in case anything came up that we would need the money for, but it didn't!

so, we only used about $25 of our $100 by the end of the month.  There's a part of me that wants to keep that money in the envelope, because surely we'll need it sometime soon (but I guarantee we wont' "need" it if it's not there!).  and there's another part of me that wants to put it in our "summer fund" so that if pinkadink sales are lower this summer like they usually are, we have a little bit built up. and there's part of me that wants to use it to call a freaking dishwasher repair man bc I'm SICK of washing dishes by hand.  and there's another part of me that wants to use it to pay off debt, even if it's only $75.  and there's another part of me that wants to use some of it to get my boys haircuts.  and that part will probably win.  because have you seen them?  and no, I will not be cutting their hair myself.  I would rather make other sacrifices and have my boys look good (and I'm pretty sure neither would look good with a buzz cut after I mess up the haircut).  call me shallow, go ahead. :)

so last night we sat down for our February budget meeting.  Thankfully I have a husband who is a major spreadsheet kind of guy (what HAPPENED to my artist???) so it was much easier this month. :)  insert income, insert budget, insert bills, see if we come out even.  but my job is to do the running total, starting with what's in the bank account RIGHT NOW, and when we'll be depositing transferring pinkadink money and paying bills and stuff.  after like a year of not getting the money in QUITE soon enough, that's my biggest fear.  like, yeah, we WILL have the money we need this month, but will we have it IN TIME?

but let me tell you a little bit about what I learned in our budget meeting last night.

My nose is all tingly and I'm trying to see through my tears right now because GOD PROVIDES.  I just kept saying the whole time, "how is this even working??"  I know I can brag about how we rocked our grocery budget in January, and we rocked our "other" budget.  and I'll go ahead and brag, because it was the power of God that allowed us to do that anyway.

But what about our numbers for February?  how is it all working out???

We need to come up with $1000 of extra income each month in order to pay our bills and have our 400 in cash (grocery and other).  that's not even budgeting for anything that we should be budgeting for, like clothes (Josiah has ZERO pairs of jeans without holes in the knees) and our car registrations and our water filter and stuff like that.  We're hoping to work that in when we pay off a little debt, and for now, we might have to use emergency money for that (not the clothes, though, we just wear holey clothes) :) if we don't have enough when we need it.

I was sure there was NO WAY we'd be able to come up with that money in January (to be used in February).  I didn't start babysitting again til halfway through the month, and January is usually pretty slow for the pinadink, after finally surviving the holidays.  Plus, I try to come up with new products each year for the pinkadink to come out with in February, which means I spend a LOT of extra money on new fabrics and notions and all that to get my products looking like I want.  It costs a lot to come out with new stuff, but if people end up buying it, then of course it helps us out in the end.  So anyway, I just kind of wondered what we would cut in Feb in order to make up for it.

But as it turns out, I had so many pinkadink orders in January!  and I was even able to keep up with them!  PLUS have the time to work on my new stuff!  PLUS...Steve had an improv show in January, so he's bringing in extra money toward our $1000 this month, which means that we actually have the ability to pay about $300 toward our next debt!

This is God at work, people.  This should not be happening.

Also, after a few conversations with super awesome people, we have also decided to put our tithing up to a full 10%.  of course that was always our goal, but we could NOT see how that could acutally happen when we first worked our budget last month.  we were close, but we couldn't really make it work without cutting it just a smidge.  But we decided that it doesn't really matter what our spreadsheet says.  God provides and he continues to prove that to us.  so we're going to trust that when we give 10% it will turn up somewhere.  and extra order here or an extra improv show there.  we aren't sure.  but we're trusting.

It sounds so easy to just "trust God," doesn't it?  I've actually always had a really easy time with trusting God because I usually feel like 'what else can we do?  nothing!  so we just trust!"  But this year I"m trying to be more active in my trust.  It's been so passive for me all my life.  Just this quiet gentle trust.  But now, this year, I'm trusting BIG. I'm trusting actively.

I'm spending each dollar with SUPER-awareness that God gave it to me in the first place, and it needs to honor Him.  I open my cupboards a bazillion times a day, knowing that it LOOKS like there's nothing in there, but God helps me figure out each day what to prepare for my family and what to put on my grocery list and meal plan.  I've never felt like He's as present in our life and family as I do now.

and y'all (I wanna live in the south so bad)'s triggered something huge.  This whole "teamwork" with God and family thing has brought out something in the Hydeen household that needs some major recognition.  it's ORGANIZATION!  it's like something flipped a switch in our heads.  Our home has never been this organized.  ever.  it's like we just feel more in control of our lives in general, and it's spreading into our house!  now, I have to warn you that if you show up here, you won't THINK that it's any more organized than it ever has been.  but just trust me.  it is.  and if you don't believe the money thing is a miracle, you'll certainly believe that ME being ORGANIZED is a miracle.  :)

I don't even know how to close this January summary.  Last night I sat wondering with Steve about what position we would have been in if I hadn't had so much business over the holidays for the pinkadink.  and if we hadn't been able to take that chunk of money and get caught up with our bills.  and if we were still just a LITTLE BIT short of getting our money BEFORE the bills were due.

It's hard for me to feel like I can encourage other people when we would likely still be stuck without that boost.  But as Dave Ramsey always says (I listen to his radio show every day now that we dont' have netflix!), find a way to MAKE MORE MONEY.  even if it's just temporary.  figure out what you can do.  it might not be a JOB somewhere if that wouldn't work for you.  but sell stuff, work from home, find someone to babysit like I do, something!  try something to get you over the hump.  thankfully I already had a business built that I could just work extra hard at, but I know it's not that way for everyone.  But I bet you have stuff in your life that (even if it would sting a little) you could get rid of.  sell it and buy something cheaper or don't replace it at all.

I can't promise anything about what it will do for you life, but I can tell you about mine.  This life of sacrifice (which is SO MINOR compared to most of the world) has changed me, even in just a month.  It's made me more thankful, more positive, brought me closer to God, closer to my husband.  It sounds so lovely doesn't it?  it's actually REALLY HARD.  but the benefits are so sweet.

I know it's the honeymoon phase.  It might be something that wears off and just makes me crabby in a few months.  I'll get sick of eating the same foods.  I'll get sick of the kids complaining.  I'll get sick of sewing every night after a whole day of playing Barbies and cleaning and making food.

but for now, I'm gonna brag that my GOD PROVIDES.  and he blesses our work and our sacrifices.  and it feels good. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: meals.

are you wondering how on earth we'll survive on $300 a month for groceries?  I wonder it every month. :)

right now we have $69 left in our grocery envelope, and I have groceries (except for some avocados and a couple pizzas and maybe milk if we run out) for this week and next.  but then there's that last week in January that wasn't a part of my first 2 weeks of meal planning, or these 2 weeks of meal planning.  So I'll have like $50 or so for that last week.

I get aksed a lot about what we eat, either because of our budget or because we eat plant based.  so, since you might be curious (but prepare yourself for some serious boredom), our weekly plan looks like this (for suppers):

Monday: beans of some sort.  usually actual beans (like lentils) or sometimes bean soups or something
Tuesdays: whatever I want to make/find on pinterest/learn about from my sisters
Wednesdays: spaghetti (it's quick and easy and we need that on "church night")
Thursdays: rice and beans
Fridays: aldi pizza (we buy the $5 cheese pizza and load it up with veggies (which we almost always have on hand) or pineapple)  I realize it's not very healthy, but seriously, really good pizza for five bucks?  I can't afford not to! ;)
Saturdays: pancakes for breakfast!  and then usually pasta w veggies, or leftovers if they survived the week, or whatever we can find for lunch and supper.
Sundays: we have lunch with our life group, so I bring whatever I want to that, and then we have toast for supper. yep, toast.

So, for example, next week monday we'll be having honey baked lentils.  And Tuesday will be these quinoa burrito things.  and then wed, thrurs, and fri are already set.  and we scrounge on weekends.

yes, we get sick of eating the same foods.  But mondays and Tuesdays usually give us some leftovers to carry over into lunches or saturdays, so it's not THAT bad.  and we use chips to scoop up the rice and beans on Thursdays, and everyone knows that chips are awesome, so there ya go.  it's the spaghetti that gets me the most.  I just get sick of it.  but we manage.  we all love pizza night because PIZZA.  and it's the rare occasion that we eat cheese. (am I allowed to call every single friday a rare occasion???)  :)

can I jump on a soap box here???  please don't go grab your calculator and add up how many grams of protein we're eating, because we probably have different ideas about protein.  (and nobody seemed to care about that until we went "vegan-ish!!!!")  The protein we eat is plant based, so our bodies can use it much more easily than they could use animal based protein, so we don't need AS MUCH protein as you think we do.  and no, not every single meal is going to have a main source of protein.  but when we used to eat blue box mac and cheese that never seemed to cross anybody's mind.  and honestly, we're probably getting more protein than we ever were before because we just pay waaaayyyy more attention to what we're eating.  We try to make good food choices.  We eat whole wheat and whole grain everything, we eat a variety of vegetables (yes, even the kids), and TONS of beans, and nuts (except Lillian).  so, don't worry about us. :)  and don't ask me how we get our protein. :)  actually, you can, but don't expect me to leave the conversation thinking that we should eat meat and eggs.  deal?

ok and if you've ever read any post on this blog ever, it has probably mentioned that I hate cooking.  I do it because I have to.  I don't enjoy any part of it. and no, I'm not lying.  and no, I'm not exaggerating either.  It brings me NO PLEASURE.  So this whole plan thing is also a stress reducer because I only have to come up with TWO ideas every week.  Mondays and Tuesdays.  so that works out nicely.

ok and what I didn't mention is that we usually add vegetables to whatever we're eating.  like, on wednesdays, we have spaghetti, broccoli (usually), and biscuits (which I get at Aldi for .49 for the whole pack of 10.  no, I don't look at the nutrition label for those....). :)  it's not like I just put out spaghetti and that's our only thing.  well....usually. :)

ok, so anyway, since I know there are lots of people out there in similar financial situations, so if you THINK you can't cut down your grocery budget at all, try doing what I do.  If you know me in real life you know that PLANS of any sort are not my specialty.  But this is a time of sacrifice for us, and I will sacrifice my "go with the flow" tendencies to make a plan and stick to it.  yes, it sucks.  really bad.  especially because 'Chipotle' is not allowed to be in the plan.  :)  but it actually makes meal planning and shopping much easier.  and there will probably come a day when I change up what our "usuals" are, but for now it works.

and even if you don't eat how we eat (plant based, except for pizza) :) you can still do this!  You probably think that because we don't buy milk and cheese and yogurt and meat and all that we can get buy on less!  The truth is that we do still buy milk and butter, just plant based versions, which actually cost MORE, and of course we buy other things to eat while you're eating meat and yogurt. :)  so try not to use that as an excuse.  of if you do, then just eat plant based!!!! ;)

alright, so to leave you with a little inspiration, let me give you one of my favorite recipes right now.  I'm eating it right now for lunch as leftovers, and it's seriously so good I could eat it every day for a week.  and it's cheap.  I get all the canned stuff for like $2.14 if I remember correctly (I added it up once but lost the paper, like I always do. I see you rolling your eyes Steve Hydeen.....) and then you just add whatever veggies you have in the house and the herbs(?) spices (?) (is there a difference???) which are usually on hand as well!  and it's made in a crock pot, which makes it super easy.  it's called "Jenny's 3 bean soup and/or rice topper" because we had it at my friend Jenny's house and soemtimes we eat it as soup and sometimes we put it on rice, and...wait for's made with 3 kinds of beans. :)

1 can each of kindney beans, great northern beans, and black beans, rinsed and drained
1 chopped onion (I always use sweet onions but use what you have)
3 cups water or more for soup, or 2 cups water for rice topper
2 cans (8 oz ea) tomato sauce
4 celery stalks, which I never do
a few handfulls of baby carrots (or like 2 cups chopped carrots)
1 chopped zucchini (Jenny's addition)
whatever other veggies need to get eaten before they go bad :)
3 t. chicken bullion granules (now, obviously, I don't do this, but I found this veggie concentrate stuff at Hyvee that I squeeze into it, or you could also use veggie broth instead of the water)
4 t. minced garlic -or more :)
2 bay leaves
1 t. pepper, unless of course you're feeding Lillian, who thinks that pepper BURNS her mouth
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme

put it all in the crock pot, stir it up, and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 4, but your carrots won't be soft yet).  discard the bay leaves, add a little sea salt, and enjoy.  oh, and put it on rice if you want.  that's good too and it makes it last a little longer.  but sometimes I just like soup.

let me know if you try it and how you like it!  I've learned from my sisters to never expect anyone to love things quite as much as I do, but I think you'll like it, even if you don't LOVE it like me. :)

keep pinching pennies people!  it'll be worth it! (right????  that was more for me than for you I think...)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: blah blah budget :P

So, a lot of people read my previous post.  It's one of my most read posts, ever, actually.  and what's more?  a lot of people commented on my fb post or wrote me an email or message of some sort, saying that they are in our SAME SHOES.  and I happen to know that most of them are also good, hard working people who are stuck just like us.  and while part of me was like WOO HOO, we aren't alone!!!  there's another part of me that's like WHAT IS GOING ON HERE????  I also happen to know that a lot of them went to a private Christian college like I did, and for many, it was the exact same one.  I'm not saying we shouldn't have gone to college there.  I'm saying someone should have taught us BEFORE college about what we were getting ourselves into!!!

This is very awkward for me to be writing all this, by the way.  It's really embarrassing, first of all, but I"m trying to get over that part.  It's just really humbling for you all to know that we struggle.  That's not really something most people talk about, ya know?  ESPECIALLY financial struggles.  we just all act like we can afford whatever we want, and don't want to say no to our friends, and so we don't.  But now that I know that there are so many more people that feel like I do, and srtuggle like we do, I'm even more committed to sharing my journey here, embarrassing or not.

ok, and this is NOT a pity party.  I'll probably do a lot of complaining this series. :)  but it's not because I want you to feel bad for me.  or send me money.  or order pinakdink stuff.  it's because I'm trying to be real here.  and if you dont' like real then don't read it.  deal?

ok so we had our first official budget meeting.

now, here's the thing about our budget...we've been using cash budgeting for a while now.  like a year?  our budget looked something like this:

grocery: $300
other: $100
everything else: prayer. and hope that there's money in the pinkadink account.  otherwise, use the card, and rack up debt.

so our grocery AND "other" money was used for like food and shampoo and pullups and toilet paper, etc.  I actually have no idea how much of it was being used for food and how much was being used for other, it was just all in one pocket and I hoped that it didn't run out.  but it did.  and then we also had gas to pay for, which we used our cards for, which is why we ended up in trouble when it came time to pay the bills sometimes and had to wait for the next paycheck.  and let me just say it's a darn good thing we have overdraft protection.

so the whole using cash thing isn't new to us at all.  But I guess for some reason I thought that using the pinkadink excess from the holidays and getting all squared up, and paying off our first debt (medical bills), and creating our very first emergency fund, after all that I thought maybe we'd actually be able to budget for things like oil for our cars and haircuts and stuff.  We knew we wouldn't actually even be able to start a snowball and apply that payment to another debt YET, because our monthly budget was just  impossible.  but I had in my head that with the really great baby steps we took, we'd have a little more to work with.

so last night we sat down at like 8:30 to crunch numbers.  and we figured out what we'd actually have to budget each month for things like our car registrations and oil changes and our reverse osmosis water filter, and other things that happen EVERY YEAR that we don't want to have to dip into our emergency fund for.  nothing excessive.  no shopping even, no gifts, just a bare bones budget.

and, didn't go very well.

now, you have to understand that my dear husband gets REALLY stressed out talking about money issues.  that's why I'm the one who handles it all. I pay the bills, I keep track, I shop, I go to the bank. But starting NOW I need him in on this with me, 100%.  So the poor guy starts stressing big time when we realize that we're still quite FAR from being able to budget anything more than the method we've been using, which, somehow, I guess by small miracles, has gotten us this far.  oh, and the fact that we basically haven't tithed regularly EVER.  We have, on occasion, and felt like the lady who gives her last 2 coins, but it was a good exercise in trust.  but we want to actually give 10% EVERY MONTH now.  really bad.

so Steve is getting all stressed out and I totally felt like a wrestling cheerleader.  ya know, like, you stay peppy and sing-songy and positive, when everything going on all around you just really seems WRONG.  (no offense to wrestlers out there, I just don't get it.)  There was no way to make our numbers work, unless we could bring in more money, but once again, it's not guaranteed.  and we're trying to be realistic.  So I'm like, "it's OKAY!!  we just have to figure it out!!!  we have to see what we can cut, and what we can add for income!  we can do it!!!"  when it's basically impossible. :(

Our future income HAS changed slightly in the last few days though, and here's why.  on Monday when i was done writing the blog post, I started getting really frantic about how in the heck I was going to bring in my dollar amount that I need now that the holidays are over.  So I'm researching spring craft shows, and adding all my inventory to etsy, and internally freaking out, when I got a message from my friend that I used to do daycare for.  and get this: her daycare lady is no longer able to watch her little girl!  So my friend was asking if I'd be willing to watch Maddie again for like a week while they get things figured out.  and like a dream come true (or a prayer that's answered), I now get to have her until the end of the year!!!!  if only that could work out every year, where in the fall I work the pinkadink and after christmas I do daycare.  not sure too many parents would jump on board for that one, but it works for now!!!

the hard part is that it still doesn't cover what I need to make, (but at least that part is guaranteed!) and my days will be filled.  so that means nights and weekends will be spent sewing, which is fine because without the daycare income I would have had to be doing that anyway in order to make the money I need to.  but now I get to spend my days playing instead of sewing. :)

ok, back to the budget that wasn't working...we did everything we could.  we cancelled our netflix streaming, hoping that $8 a month will go farther than we think. I think our phones will be a different post entirely because it was a recent change that we're kind of regretting now but we did take the insurance off them to help save a little.  and Steve is going to walk to work every day to save on gas.  and we're going to eat peanut butter sandwiches every day for lunch (when Lillian's at school.  not on the weekends when she's here.  she's allergic if you don't know that.)  But there are things like our reverse osmosis that I'm not willing to give up...yet...because I happen to care (a lot) about what goes into my body.  and we both have to go to the chiropractor on a regular basis.  steve has always had issues, and if I don't go, then my back locks up and I can't sew for like a week.  so that's not an option to cut for now. I about started crying wondering if I should pull Brielle out of  preschool to save $105 a month, but I just can't do it.  not yet.

and blah blah blah, decision after decision, we're back where we started, mostly.  which means $300 for groceries, and a little "other" money.  $300 on groceries for a family of five. :)  we eat a lot of rice and beans and spaghetti. :)  and we'll just keep eating that and hoping that nothing else comes up.  no new tires. no copays, nothing.  and if it does, well, then it better come out of our "other" category or our emergency fund.  I think everything is going to have to be an emergency right now.

but here's the good news.  We are 100% aware of our situation and where our money is going.  and pretty soon, just from making our regular payments and one big payment with the rest of the pinkadink holiday money, we'll have another debt paid off and our snowball will start.  so we feel good.

we worked until MIDNIGHT on that stupid budget.  8:30 to midnight!!!  it was not fun.  but it was good.  we're on the same page.  we're aware.  and we know how badly we need to work our butts off.

one more thing that I didn't mention is the "summer" fund we are going to start.  On occasion I'll get big pinkadink orders for stores, or have a sale or promotion or somehting, and get a bunch of extra money for the month.  instead of using that money to put toward our debt, we think we need to save it for summer.  Summer is a really busy time for me with sewing, to get ready for the fall season, but it's NOT a big sales season for me.  so we think we'll need to plan for that and have a reserve fund.  and if I end up with lots of sales this summer, then we'll put our "summer" fund toward our debt and that will ROCK!!!!!!!!!

so for now, I'm making a few business changes for the pinkadink.  consider yourself an insider now for reading my blog. :)  I'm no longer going to do the hair accessory part of the business, except for what I make to match my clothing.  It's really hard to keep everything stocked, and it's an easy way for me to just blow money because I love buying flowers. :)  I'll still make a variety of things to go with my stuff (or not) but I won't be buying wholesale flowers anymore, which means there will be a HUUUUUUUGE sale on flowers in the very near future.  make sure you watch my facebook page if you want to know when and where.  :)  and that should provide a little cash flow to help us get to the point where we can make a real budget. :)  because everybody loves a sale. :)

alright, I'm sick of writing about budgeting.  blech.  it's so hard, but so important.  so do you think we can actually make it on $300 a month for groceries?  we'll see.  time will tell and I'll let you know.  but today, the VERY DAY AFTER our first budget meeting, Steve found a verse posted by one of his friends from a "verse of the day" type of thing:

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8.

coincidence?  I think not. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: rollin' rollin' rollin'

remember when I started the diet coke diaries????  it was so helpful for me to have a little outlet like a blog to document my "recovery" from a diet coke addiction.  so I'm starting a new series this year called the debt reduction diaries.  It'll be really personal.  so if you don't want to know about our spending and financial issues, go ahead and pass on by. :)  I don't blame ya.  these posts won't be funny, they won't have pictures.  Just my thoughts on trying to get ahead in this paycheck to paycheck life.  so without further ado....the debt reduction diaries:

I have a love-hate relationship with my college degrees.

College for me didn't quite seem as great as it did for everyone else in the world.  I didn't have a roommate my freshman year which was sad.  I did actually love my sophomore year.  It was the year my cousin was my RA, I had a roommate who did dorky stuff with me, and a couple other great friendships that really just made me who I am today.  and by the end of that year I was engaged, and that was good, bc I love that man. :)  my junior year was weird bc I was supposed to be studying abroad before I got married, but my mom was diagnosed with cancer so I just didn't want to leave her to plan my whole wedding while getting chemo and radiation and all that.  so I stayed and lived at home for a semester.

and then I got married, so it didn't really seem like college anymore, which was fine by me. :)  But because I was married and still hadn't done my study abroad semester, I had to find somewhere that allowed Steve to come with me.  i found Spain. :) While in Spain, I finished my Spanish degree, found out we were pregnant (!!!!!), and missed my college graduation.  weird.

we moved back from Spain with no home, no jobs, a semester of student teaching left for me, and a baby on the way.

NIIIIIICE "planning," Hydeens. :)

now, I had tons of opportunities that I never would have had without college.  And I know lots of stuff about kids and learning which is important for a parent, and I love that.  and I met some wonderful people during my years at NWC, for which I am grateful.  but there should really be a course in high school that teaches you about money, and debt, and real life.  because there's a chance I would have done things a little differently if I had just THOUGHT about my future a little more.  like, realistically.

but this is how it all started:  When I was in high school, I decided to go to Northwestern College.  It was a good college, in my hometown, and I wanted to be a teacher.  so that's what I did!  made sense to me!  My parents had finally gotten to the place where they both had good jobs, so my financial aid package sucked, but I had good scholarships, and got loans for the rest, because I'd be working as a teacher for the next "many" years anyway, so I could just pay it off then, right?  (anyone else think it's really weird that your parents' income determines your financial aid?  what about those of us who pay for our own college?  did you look at MY income??) anyway, I basically just did what I thought everyone had to do, and went to college on loans.  LOTS of them.  and extra for Steve to come to Spain with me.

so now here I am about ten years later, having worked a whoppin' NINE MONTHS of my life where I needed my degrees.  Yep, taught for a year, and hated it (it was the year that my husband was home with my baby, my mom was dying of cancer, and I was neither of the two places I wanted to be most.  so I'm sure if I ever taught again, I might just love it, but I didn't love that year, that's for sure).  but for those 9 months of employment I'll be paying for like 30 years.  makes me sick.

Steve's been working his butt off for the last many years, doing things very much NOT theater related, because it's hard to provide for a family in the "arts world." But it's also hard to get a high paying job when you're not working in your area of expertise, so he's always just had decently paying jobs that he works ridiculously hard for.  I've done daycare in our home for the last 4 years, and also started the pinkadink, but it sure takes a long time to get a decent profit when you start a business yourself.  so our income has always been on the low to medium side of things.

we got kicked off all the government assistance programs we were on like WIC and Mediciad, so now we probably bring in LESS money than we did with those benefits because we have to pay for all our insurance and food and medical bills and all that.  it's sort of a screwy system when you're right on the cutoff line like we are.  but that's beside the point.  I do think that it's important for those programs to be temporary, but when you finally earn enough to get kicked off and end up bringing home less money, it really sucks.  but that's another story...

After the last school year, I decided to quit doing daycare in my home so that I could focus more on my business.  and I LOVE having that opportunity, but let me just say that it's WAY more work and stress to earn that money without daycare.  With no guaranteed income for me anymore, it's made our financial situation a bit more hectic. But I do have the ability to make more money with the pinkadink than I did with daycare, but it will probably take some time.  But we really felt like that was the path God was leading us down and we still feel like we did the right thing, even though I have to work my butt off all day every day now. :)

But now even with busting my butt, it's just so hard because the money is not guaranteed!  I can make as much stuff as I want to, but if it doesn't sell then it doesn't bring in any money!  so this past year I just got really SICK OF IT!  I'm sick of stressing out about the pinkadink because if I don't sell my stuff then we can't pay our bills!  I'm sick of paying late fees because we had to wait til the next paycheck to pay the bill.

now, don't get me wrong.  We're doing okay.  we're just a typical paycheck to paycheck family, trying to figure out how to just get a step ahead of the bills.  But God has met our every need and then some.  We have people (aka grandparents) in our life that make sure our kids are dressed with cute clothes that fit them and healthy food to eat.  We have friends that we can trade babysitting with so we don't have that extra expense when we have to get something done or go somewhere without the kids.  We have people in our lives (some who we know about, and some who we still have no idea) who have followed the Holy Spirit's nudging, and sent us money in the mail, or in our church mailbox, or paid our rent, or who knows what else, when there's NO WAY they wouldn't have known what our needs were.  People do that, they listen to God.  and our needs are always met.  God is so so so good to us.

But we're ready to be done needing other people's money.  We want to be the ones who get to listen to God and bless people the way we've been blessed.  We want to think about family vacations, or our kids' college, or an anniversary trip.  so we've decided that 2013 is going to be the year of debt reduction.

I read The Total Money Makeover on January 1st.  I read all the way up to the investment part, because, well, we're not quite there yet. :)  and I got really excited.  I had a little extra pinkadink money from my rockin' Christmas season, and we were so excited to figure out how to use it.  so we did it.  we created an emergency fund, got all paid up from our late bills, lined up our debt, and paid our first chunk off.  We're going with the "debt snowball" method, and if you aren't familiar with it, go ahead and google Dave Ramsey.  there will be plenty of info there for ya. :)  but basically, you pay off your lowest debts first, and then when each one is done, you apply that payment toward the next debt, and your "snowball" keeps getting bigger your payments get bigger.  plus you have to commit to putting all your "extra" money toward debt payoff as well. so we paid off one medical bill from my ER trip last year, and now will apply that monthly amount toward our next biggest debt.

but here's the thing...THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD!!!  We are not the type of people who can make very many changes to our lifestyle in order to cut costs.  We already don't fix the broken things in our house, we don't buy our kids or each other gifts, we RARELY go out to eat, we drive used cars, we've gotten almost all our furniture either free or from garage sales or craigslist.  we already eat LOTS of rice and beans.  WE'RE CHEAP.  that's what I'm getting at. :)  so it's not like we even HAVE many areas to "trim" so to speak.  Our debt consists of student loans (major), one vehicle loan (a minivan that I NEED for the pinkadink, but it's a high mile, used van, that was what we need, but had to finance it), a bunch of medical bills, and a little credit card debt from things like car repairs and other emergencies that couldn't be paid off with cash.  it adds up, big time, but it's not like we just go around spending unnecessary money.  so it's going to be hard.

but our plan is to work harder.  sew more.  sell more.  figure out how to get more money.  and just pay off our debt one thing at a time.  It's really scary to do this when my income is so varied.  but we gotta have goals, right?  (I hate goals. I'm a go with the flow type.)  so that's our goal for 2013.  REDUCE OUR DEBT by as much as we possibly can.

now, one more thing.  I've been a bit leery of this Dave Ramsey character for a few years.  I know that when people get on board with him they don't seem to do anything fun, EVER.  and I've got issues with that.  I think it's because my mom died so young.  I have a bit more of the "life is short" mentality than most.  So I think Steve and I are going to make some adjustments to Dave's plan (and don't tell him, please, bc he's kinda cranky when people do things he doesn't approve of). :)

we think we're going to try to put little incentives into our debt reduction plan.  like, after we pay off these two loans, we're allowed to go on an overnight date (something we used to do a couple times a year and I think is sooo good for our marriage).  and after a certain point we're allowed to create a "ten year anniversary trip" fund bc we had to spend ALL the money we had saved to replace our shower which was literally falling apart.  :(  so that's why our goal isn't even to be debt free for RIGHT NOW.  of course that's the long term goal, but for now we just want to bust our butts so that we can sleep better at night, and pay our bills on time, and knock out some of that debt so we can reduce the crazy amount of money we pay toward debt each month.

eek! I'm so excited! and I'm so scared!  and I'm feeling a little obsessed.  so here's to trusting God (still),  working hard(er), and paying off (more)!!!!  Feel free to 1) pray for us, for good communication and teamwork, and for a little project that Steve is hoping to start up, 2) ask us how it's going!  accountability is a good thing!  :)  and 3) tell everyone you know about the pinkadink!!! :)