A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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Winning, August 2017 Edition

So far, our August has been all about going back to school and work (or in Fortysomething's case, starting his new job), hanging out at the lake and skipping rocks, and striving to stay within our tight budget. We knew going into this month that we were going to have to hunker down a bit, and that's exactly what we've been doing. We've become true pennypinchers.

Although I'm proud of us for sticking with our financial goals, I'm going to keep it real and admit that I also feel bored, frustrated, and even a little sad: bored and frustrated that I can't always do the things I want to do (like go out to eat or participate with friends in activities that cost money... and so many of them do indeed come with a pricetag), and sad that the summer is coming to an end. I love summertime and the possibilities and freedom it offers, and I just wish it'd last a few more months.

I'm trying to see this mid-August tedium as a prime opportunity to step back and reflect on what's going well so that we can stay motivated for the rest of the month. I need that motivation right now. So here it is - three ways we're winning this August:

(1) We made a budget for back-to-school clothes, and we stuck with it. The Kiddo sorely needed new clothes this school year, thanks to a growth spurt that left him with a closet full of too-short pants. (Him: "I don't want new pants! I like these pants! They still fit - see?!" Me: "You're wearing capris! Those were not designed as capris!" Does anyone else argue with their children about clothing? It's super fun.) I set a budget of $80 for a new wardrobe, and through a combination of thrifting and Target deals, we landed a variety of shirts, shorts, pants, and shoes for a grand total of $73. (Okay, fine, full disclosure: more like $78, as I used some of the leftover money to bribe him with ice cream.)

(2) We experienced the benefits of renting. It's been a warm summer in an apartment with no air conditioning, and our ancient ceiling fan - I think it's been here since this complex was built in the 1980s - has been running nonstop. Last weekend, it stopped working. The maintenance guy came over, fiddled with the motor for a few minutes, pronounced it dead, and ordered an entirely new fan. He installed it on Monday while we were at work.

I appreciated this mildly-inconvenient incident because I've been enduring a recent bout of housing envy. Sometimes I feel like everyone else is buying houses and settling down within their own, unshared walls. I'm a bit jealous. The fan situation was a welcome reminder that although renting can be a real PITA, it also has its benefits. Had we owned said ceiling fan, the time and money to fix it would have been entirely on us. Instead, the landlord took care of all of it, and we didn't spend a dime.

(3) We haven't dipped into savings this month. Not even a little! We knew August's finances would be tight because we're adjusting to Fortysomething's new pay schedule and salary. I was fully expecting to hit up the emergency fund in the first half of the month. Thanks to careful planning, though, we didn't need to. In fact, we still had $400 in the checking account before Fortysomething's first paycheck came through. It feels immensely gratifying to see that our fiscal attentiveness is paying off.

What about you? What are some of your wins this month, financial or otherwise? And is anyone else struggling with the end of summer?



  1. I love renting and for that reason. I don't have to pay for, or hire some or do any repairs. WE have lived in this 2/2 house with a yard and garage since January. And not only is the lawn cutting done for me, I have had a patio door replaced, glass in another patio door and 2 windows replaced, a new microwave installed, a small set of deck stairs rebuilt, the A/C wiring redone and we just got all new maintenance free 6' tall fencing put in around the whole yard. Also since its a house in a complex, most apt rules don't apply to us and we can upgrade or modify pretty much anything we choose to as long as its an improvement. Currently I am pondering a deeper kitchen sink and a new faucet (sorry but a 5.5" deep sink doesn't even hold a strainer). We have owned in the past and what a money drain.....

    1. This is awesome! Yet another reminder that renting can be pretty darn awesome. We've owned in the past and were nowhere near prepared for dealing with surprises like leaky toilets and mold in the walls.

      I will say that come next June, when our current lease is up, I hope we can find a house to rent. That would be ideal. We need a little more space than what we've got now.

  2. I've commonly been given the advice that boring is good--sometimes exciting is riveting in a not so great way! The boredom can stink, but way to go on sticking with your goals. And thank you for the reminder on why we should be grateful we rent--housing envy is real!

    1. Housing envy is SO real! I really need to keep a list of all the expensive, unexpected things that happened when we last owned our own home. Now that we're renting, I find myself looking at homeownership through rose-colored glasses.

  3. I'm loving reading your blog, thanks for sharing your story. I've just recently started my own journey of paying down 50k and using blogging to document and provide accountability.
    I'm finding reading other other people's journeys and success stories very motivating and it gives me hope that I haven't set my sights too high

    As a fello vego family we'd love to read more about your meal plans and food budget tips :)

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Mr. Better! I'll add your blog to the blogroll! I love following other people's journeys.

      I'm working on a post about budget-friendly vegan meals. As for food budget tips... I kind of suck in this area. We set a $150/week food budget and just try really hard to stick to it. We do a little couponing, a little shopping around, but not much.