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

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Winning!: October 2018 Edition

It's another edition of WINNING, a semi-monthly series in which I focus on the things that are going well on this long, slow, and sometimes painful debt repayment journey.

Welcome back! Here - grab a slice of cake!

As those of you who follow this blog are well aware, I've been in the weeds lately. Part of it is probably seasonal depression, something I've struggled with every autumn for as long as I can remember (and yet somehow I'm caught off guard every. single. year... Who's with me?) 

Part of it is my job. It's hard to show up every day for something that generally makes me unhappy. 

Part of it is this current spot in our financial journey. Progress demands sacrifice. Sacrifice is hard. It's especially hard when you have to do it for a long time. Makes me cranky.

Part of it is turning 40, which was a surprisingly tough pill to swallow. I wouldn't have expected that - I've always believed age is just a number - but as the day approached, I couldn't stop thinking about where I thought I'd be right now versus where I'm at. It was a bit of a mindfuck.

But dare I say it? I'm feeling a bit better, and I think things are looking up. I hope it sticks. C'mon, brain! I believe in you!

So for today anyway, let's focus on the positive, shall we?

(1) The personal finance community is awesome, and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

Not only have I learned oodles and oodles from you (I mean, thanks to PF Twitter, I'm at the point where I can explain the pros and cons of Roth vs. Traditional 401ks... WHO AM I), I've benefited enormously from your support. So thank you. Thank you for being so kind in response to my last few posts. Thanks for not telling me I'm a narcissistic, self-indulgent, navel-gazing whiner. Thanks for giving me the space to let me feel my feelings about my job, debt, goals, and the future. Thanks for empathizing. Thanks for your encouragement. Thanks for not judging. Thanks for accepting me even when I'm a mess.

I'm here for you whenever I can return the favor. Need a boost? Need someone to tell you how awesome you are? Need someone to commiserate about budgeting, debt, or the state of the world? You can email me (the76kproject@gmail.com), message me on Twitter (@The76KProject), or comment on the blog. I will warn you that I am TERRIBLE at giving advice, but if you're looking for compassion and empathy, I can do that.

(2) I turned 40. I TURNED 40!

Hence the invitation to share some virtual cake with me.

As my incredibly supportive and extraordinarily talented friend Penny at Picks Up Pennies often points out, getting older is a privilege. And she's so right. 

I turned 40! And yes, it did force me to reflect on my life so far. I'm human, so I can identify several things that I regret doing (credit card debt, I'm looking at you) and not doing (should have had way more fun in college). But damn, I've also packed some pretty amazing things into the first 40 years:

  • I gave birth to a beautiful kid who's smart, funny, and more emotionally savvy than most adults I know.
  • My partner and I have made our relationship work for the past 20 years. Whaaaaat?! (We credit our marital longevity to our love of dumb jokes, our shared coffee addiction, and the fact that neither of us ever remembers our anniversary.)
  • I've earned graduate degrees in a field I truly enjoyed for a long time, and I was able to make some meaningful contributions to that field.
  • I've hiked the Alps, sailed from England to Spain (yes! I did that!), been sort-of kidnapped in Jamaica (a misunderstanding, as it happens, but I was 15 years old so it was quite a disconcerting and memorable experience), and had all sorts of other travel adventures and misadventures.
  • Thanks to therapy and time, I've come to terms and mostly made peace with some difficult circumstances in my past.

Not everything has worked out the way I wanted it to, but SO MUCH HAS WORKED OUT. Even as I gripe about my current situation, I know I've got it good. And I'm realizing that as much as the last 10 years were about grappling with my past, the next 10 years are wide open. It's all about the future now!

(3) I've got some goals and a mission for this year!

Back in August, I shared that I was developing some goals for my 40th year. And let me tell you, it took FOREVER to draft these goals. Just last week, I was telling some other badass babes in the PF community that I was having a hard time coming up with goals that are feasible and affordable and that I truly want to pursue. It forced me to accept - or at least try to accept - that some of the things I used to care about, some of the things I used to want very badly, are simply not in the picture any longer.

Once I allowed myself to let go a little, I discovered that there are a whole bunch of nascent goals that are just waiting to be cultivated. Not all of them will come to fruition, but some might will, and I'm excited about that.

I also put some thought into what I want my personal mission to be this year:

Take more risks and be more transparent.

I've already taken a leap of faith that I hope will give me an opportunity to be more transparent about my mental health issues. I really care about this topic and want to talk more about because I know how isolating mental health challenges can be. It doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way. I'll be writing more about this soon!

(4) We paid down almost $2000 in student loan debt in October!

I'm not sure whether we'll be saving next month or continuing to focus on obliterating my student loan, but for this month, anyway, the student loan balance took a big hit, and in a good way! 

Note: in order to screenshot this graph, I had to log into my Personal Capital account and scroll past the Investments section. I tried to avert my eyes, but it didn't work. Talk about a Halloween horror show. IT ISN'T PRETTY, GUYS. 

But this is: 

As someone on Twitter pointed out, "Those are some nice cliffs you've got there." 

Why, thank you!

What about you? What are your wins for October? And what are you super excited about as you head into the end of the year?



  1. What a great blog! I started at the beginning and am working my way through but I am enjoying reading your thoughts so far!

    1. Thank you so much. This is my favorite kind of comment to receive. :-) It's rewarding to know that the content is relatable.

  2. Happy Birthday!!! Welcome to the 40-something club! I think you have a LOT to celebrate! And I love your goals too. I love it when bloggers can be real, for better or for worse! It's something we ALL can relate to!

    1. Woot woot! Thank you, Tonya! That's one of many things I love about your content: you're transparent and real.

  3. Oh girl. I turned 40 this year too. I was bummed as well but I think it was more circumstantial than anything else. I was sick that week with a terrible cold and we didn't really have money to do something big to commemorate it, as my husband had recently lost his job.

    A few months in now though and 40 is good! Happy birthday!

    1. Being 40 became easier once I got over the hump of the big day. :-)

      Happy belated birthday to you!

  4. I am also turning 40 next week, and the lead-up to it has me a little depressed and also struggling to establish some goals for this next decade! We are taking a bit of a savings break to spend some hard earned cash and travel! Which is exciting but also scary to spend so much so easily. Also coming to grips with not having a kid. By choice but it's also weird and a little isolating to be turning 40 and not have something that some many others our age do. Anyway thanks for the blog and your Twitter. I enjoy reading your thoughts!