Wednesday, December 11, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: holy smokes we did it for a year

so, our Belize trip happened in July, and then on Aug 1st our world was rocked by the death of our sweet friend Katie, and after that I never got back into blogging about money.  There are a variety of reasons for that I guess, but now that we're coming up on ONE YEAR of rice and beans, I thought I'd give a quick little update.

First of all, I never mentioned the money miracles that happened in connection to our Belize trip.  We raised our 1/3 of the trip cost very easily thanks to many of you, and were able to put more than our share in the group fund!  We praise God for that!  We also had so many people give us money to use for personal expenses, which was a HUGE part of the financial stress we had for the trip!  It was incredible to watch God at work in His people and all the random (well, I guess they weren't really random, now, were they...) things that happened to make this trip work for us.  We had WAAAAY more trip expenses than we ever thought we would.  It turned out that we were going to have to pay about $200 of our own money (no, we didn't know where it was going to come from yet...) to make sure we had what we needed to go, even though people were crazy generous with what they gave us.  We just had no idea that passports, travel stuff, and SHOTS were going to add up to be so crazy much.  So anyway, there we were, a few days from leaving, and not knowing what to do, when a neighbor lady stopped over with some money for us, and then we got more from Steve's aunt who had always meant to send it earlier and never did.  and in the end, we had $16 more than what we needed for our personal expenses.  I realize that I just wrote that whole paragraph with so much emotion in my heart that you can't READ, but I was just amazed at how God met every need we had concerning that trip.

Another little blessing was that a family that I babysat for during most of my life in OC also decided to send some money, even though they knew we had what we needed.  They knew that me taking a week off of work being self-employed would be a kicker, and wanted their money to help with that.  and i was like WHAT!?!?!  I probably never even thought of the extra work I'd have to be doing with the pinkadink for taking a week off, but God had.  and they had.  and so even the KIDS (who are older now but still TEENAGERS) gave out of their own money for us to be able to cover some of that burden.

and I just felt SO BLESSED to have grown up in such a loving family and community to see all that money pour in to support us on that journey. Our hearts are forever changed because of it.

So anyway, the rest of the summer and the fall were full of financial surprises.  Here are a few of the ones I can remember. :)

We had to get a new water heater.  The guy who came to take a look said we were so lucky to have gotten 34 years out of that thing, but we decided that all the previous owners were the lucky ones, and not us! :)  anyway, long story short, we had an extra paycheck from Steve's work because he gets paid bi-weekly so twice a year there's an extra paycheck.  and even though I certainly didn't have "new hot water heater" on the top of my list of things to spend that check on, it was the winner!  But it felt so good to have the money on hand and write the check instead of waiting to see how we'd figure this one out! It gave us some serious perspective of how our future could be when we're done paying this debt and saving up for things like that.  This time still felt like a miracle, but in the future I hope to be in the same boat because of good planning and stewardship of our money!

another odd thing...I'm convinced that someone payed our medical bills.  I had an appointment this summer for just my regular check up and mammogram.  and when I went to pay the bill, I realized it was actually two bills and we couldn't pay both that month, so I was going to wait til the next month and pay it then.  Well then when I went to pay it the next month it was gone from the system.  I was so confused but in a hurry so I couldn't look into it at that time.  And then later I got mail from the clinic and thought surely it was my bill and instead found an overpayment check of like $30 or soemthing.  So I was SO confused and went back to my bank records and searched and searched for my payment and couldn't find it anywhere.  SO, my only conclusion is that somebody must have paid it.  I feel like I remember asking one time about my OWN bills over the phone and they some weird thing about how they can't tell you the amount over the phone.  so if someone did that and didn't get an exact answer, and then just paid what they thought and over paid by $30 or something, that's the ONLY thing that could possibly make sense in my head!!!  So if it was YOU who did that, I don't even know how to say thanks except for on here, and just pray that you know how much we appreciate it!

ok but here's the weirdest thing about that situation.  I was feeling a little sick about this whole blog and the idea that I was writing what was hard for us during this journey and then all these awesome people would step up and help to make it easier for us, with food, or money, or whatever.  And I just had this thing in my heart bugging me about if I was really trusting God, and what would happen if I didn't even tell anyone what was hard, and THEN what would happen?  was it really a trust in God to provide or was it a trust in my blog readers?  (that's one of the reasons I quit blogging these last few months.  I didn't feel like I could be honest about it all because the people are too awesome and want to help!  so I guess I needed to feel like I could do it without the blog.)  so anyway, I had only told ONE very close friend that I couldn't pay the bill.  and she swore she didn't pay it.  so, I don't know.  somebody was listening to God I guess.  oh my gosh, I just have to figure out what I can do for someone else after a story like that.

ok, um...another sweet deal...we had a hail storm in March or soemthing.  April maybe?  and just a few weeks ago got all the work on the house done!  so YAY, we now have a new roof, the house is painted, the deck is re-done, and we didn't spend a penny (well, except for our deductible I guess, but we didn't have to write the check)!  We actually knew we'd have extra money from the claim so we used a little to buy a new (the very cheapest, but way better than what we had) sliding door for our back deck.  It was a MUCH needed investment for this little home, but now we are getting all the final numbers figured out with the insurance company and the contractor and all that, and we're nervous that we may have spend prematurely.  The problem was that winter was coming and our neighborhood had seen a spike in home break-ins through the back doors, and ours was falling apart so bad that you  just had to lift it a little and slide it open, even when it was locked.  So that made us nervous enough to make the investment at the time, but now we're wondering how it'll all turn out.  prayers appreciated as we wrap up that process!  (we DO have money in our "van fund" from that hail damage if we need it, but we're also getting nervous that our little Honda is gonna bite the dust soon, so we'd rather not use it.)

so yeah, our house has just been totally freaking out these last few months.  We also had a bathtub spazz out and insist on staying ON unless we jimmy-rigged this huge pole thing to put pressure on the knob to not pop out.  anyway, we eventually got it fixed, but of course it wasn't as easy as it seemed and ended up being a huge project!  ugh...

our van battery was also giving us many problems, and I had about ten dead batteries in the course of a couple months.  But my daddio came to the rescue and bought us a new one, so that's one more thing off the list of "things to replace around here."  thanks Dad. :)

Then we had a leak under our sink that made the bottom of the cupboard so soggy that our water filter system crashed through the floor of it.  So Larry was back again (our handy-man-hero) this week to fix another Hydeen House problem.

so, like I said, it's been a few months full of surprises.  some good, some bad, but in general, we feel really grateful to God that we started this journey in January so that things like this aren't totally major stressors in our life.  When we have something come up, we just pay for it and take it out of the next month's debt snowball.  and that really sucks but it's what we have to do.

and speaking of debt snowball, we officially paid off $10,000 of debt this year.  About $6000 was the minimum payment due on all our freaking loans, but that also means that we put $4000 extra toward it this year, which is so exciting!  When I think of all the money we had to put toward the house, and all the money we tithed this year (it was our first official year of really truly tithing), I'm just AMAZED at how God has met all our needs!  Last year at this time, it seemed impossible to even be able to tithe, but we stepped out in trust and not only did we tithe, but we have done much more than that!  Yes, it was a lot of hard work, and we still feel like we're in the same boat as when we started: tons of student loan debt and no grocery money. :)  BUT it's totally worth it to know we won't be in this boat forever.

it's been incredible to have our monthly budget meetings, and spend that whole month's money in one shot, and then just trust that it'll all work out for the rest of the month.  We've used some extra pinkadink money to make up for the snowball when we've had home repairs and such, and then I just have to PRAY that for whatever reason, lots of people will order stuff that month, and then I sit back and watch it happen.  It feels like I've got a front row seat for watching God go to work.  It's probably been this way all along, but I'm just so much more aware of it really being God and not me.

We're so thankful for all our random sources of income.  the pinkadink (I made a profit for the first time this year!), 88improv, my photography, daycare.  all these little amounts that, put together, allow me to be home while we tackle this debt.

and so.... we carry on. :)

I'll be adding a baby to my daycare situation next year, just a few days a week.  because who doesn't love to get paid for snuggling babies??? :)  and my very first plan for that money is to up our grocery budget!  wooooo hooooo!!!!

but besides that, we plan on just trucking along the way we have been!  I'm planning on being done with daycare for next year when Brielle goes to kindergarten, so that'll change things up agian for us, and we'll see what happens with our income at that point!  eek!

as we finish out this year, it's been fun to explain to the kids that because of all the choices we've made with our money this year (yes, the same ones they've complained about), we have a little money to choose how we want to spend it, and for the first time we're getting them a Christmas gift!  I'm not sure if they've ever realized it or not, but they've never gotten a "real" gift from us.  so this year we have a real christmas budget and if I thought it was fun to buy Christmas gifts for people before, well, it's a million times more fun when you're financially prepared!  We also did Christmas cards instead of just printing a picture, which was really fun for me too.  I did the photography, the designing, and ordered them as business postcards and used a coupon to get them for only 40 cents each, and I love how they turned out! plus it's a postcard so I save a little on postage to.

so all in all, I'd say it was a very successful year for our family with our debt reduction.  I'm sure Dave Ramsey and his hardcore fans would find many areas we could have done better, but we're focusing on US and what WE want to do with God's money that he's given us to use.

It's been a ride, folks, and I"m mighty sick of rice and beans.  Thanks for the encouragement along the way. (can you believe it's been a year already?)  I know I checked out of the blogging part of the journey, not that you even noticed, but it was good.  So many of you have said that you're in the same boat, so if nothing else, I just want to encourage you to make little changes that seem insignificant til you add them all up.  every little bit counts.

so, I'm not sure if this is officially the end of "the debt reduction diaries:" series, but it's been fun.

thanks for reading. :)