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


Thoughts At The End Of November

Some of these thoughts have nothing to do with personal finance, but hey, at its core, this blog is a holistic record of our lives as we work to get out of debt. It's not always just about money.

1. Winter is here! We got hit with a Thanksgiving Day/Black Friday blizzard that dumped about 10 inches of powder at our house and more than four feet up in the mountains. I get so excited about water in any form now that I live in Arizona: the rain and snow that we receive in the colder months have a direct effect on the severity of our fire season the following spring and summer. The more substantial the snowpack, the less scary fire season is. I used to take precipitation for granted. Now it's like watching gold fall from the sky.

2. I avoided buying anything on Black Friday. One, we were trapped by the blizzard, so we couldn't have hit the sales even if we wanted to. Two, we've wrung our November budget dry; there's not much left to work with. Three, I didn't need anything anyway. That said, if I let myself spend too much time on social media, I start getting hypnotized by all the subtly advertised running gear being peddled by my favorite athletes. I have to check myself: no, famous runner, I do not need to attend your running camp. I do not need that watch, or that treadmill, or that skirt. *forces self to close Instagram*

3. The campground membership is fully paid off, and I'm still on a high about that. It feels good to have one less expense and $100 extra dollars a month to work with.

4. I don't know if I'll continue the Mental Health and Money Mondays series. I like the idea and feel there's value in it, but - and this is very on-brand - I got derailed a couple of weeks ago by a short bout of knock-you-over depression.

This unexpected episode was a reminder that it doesn't take much for me to get in over my head. I mean, the blog wasn't what made me depressed, but committing to one more thing on a regular basis is too overwhelming right now. (But it's just a few blog posts! you might point out. My reply: Yeah, tell me about it... but the message has been delivered loud and clear there's a difference between what I think I should be able to do and what I want to do, and what I can actually do.)

5. I'm feeling more and more ambivalent about Rover. I still love taking care of pets, but between the 20% that Rover takes and the ~30% that the government will take, plus the wear and tear on my car, I'm not sure it's worthwhile. For instance, the owner who hired me for my current gig paid just over $200 for my services. Rover will take $40. That leaves me with $160, and I'll stash about $50 of that into an account I reserve for taxes. I mean, yes, it's nice to have an extra $100, but damn, I did a lot of work and a lot of driving for that $100.

6. I'm facing a new work dilemma, one that's the polar opposite of the one I experienced at the end of last year when I was desperate to leave my shitty and soul-sucking - but well-paying! - full-time job (you know: the one I eagerly departed for a job that turned out to be sleazy, underpaying, and generally awful).

Now I have a highly creative and autonomous part-time job that I truly enjoy. I enjoy it so much that I worked over Thanksgiving and didn't feel resentful in the least.

But here's the problem: it doesn't pay enough. It especially won't pay enough when I go back to working 20 hours a week (from my current 30 hours a week) in January.

Basically, our combined salary will be sufficient to cover our bills and one or two inexpensive family activities per month. Beyond the retirement contributions that are automatically deducted from Fortysomething's paycheck, there will be almost no room for additional saving. Especially if our rent goes up again at the beginning of the summer. *pauses to headdesk*

Although I check the job boards every single day, the opportunities in my field are rather sparse. I know people are always talking about the low unemployment rate and the cornucopia of job openings out there, but... that's not my personal experience, perhaps in part because I live in a small and somewhat isolated town. This isn't Seattle or Phoenix. Job openings here are extremely limited in number and highly competitive.

Plus, I'm terrified of leaving a job I like for the unknown. I'm scared I'll end up in another awful situation. And I'm not entirely confident about my ability to work 40 hours a week (though if my current employer offered me a full-time role, I'd absolutely take it).

This isn't an issue that needs to be fixed right this minute. I have time to figure it out. All I know is that liking a job is great, but job security and being able to save for the future (especially when you're already behind) are also crucial.

Will I ever find that balance? Is it too late for me to find a job that pays well and that I enjoy?


  1. I'm glad you've found a job you like but so sad it doesn't pay more. I hope that you'll figure something out (there's gotta be a unicorn out there, right?)

    As for the Mental Health Mondays...maybe post when you feel like it? I definitely enjoyed the posts, but I totally understand the feeling of things being too much.

    1. Every now and then, there'll be a glut of interesting-looking jobs in my field. I'm sure that'll happen again, and hopefully I'll be in a good space to make the most of that and get some applications out there. Right now, though, there's nada.

      I think you're right about the series. I suck at posting to a schedule. It's better if I just do it when I feel like it!

  2. I think knowing when to walk away from a (side) hustle is so important. I wonder if maybe in the new year, you might be able to snag some word-of-mouth referrals and could bypass Rover's cut. That's part of why I only tutor directly. Too many fees otherwise. Aaaaanndd...if you can't, so be it!

    Plus, I'm super proud of you for not ruining blogging/writing for yourself. I AM SO GOOD AT THAT! LOL I think we will all devour your series, if and when it returns. But I also love everything you write <3

    1. The fact that I've maintained this blog for over two years - given my ever-short attention span - is nothing short of a miracle! I want to quit every other day. LOL. The only way to make it work is to not do what I don't feel like doing.

      Thank you for the Rover suggestion. You're right - maybe the key is to transition my favorite clients away from the app so that I can keep more of my earnings. I can deal with the taxes, but the Rover cut hurts.

  3. I can totally relate to the temptation on anything health and wellness-related. Also on the part time job thing. I have a PT freelance gig I love, but doesn't pay much. :(

    1. Now I wish I'd negotiated for a higher hourly rate when I started, but at the time, the job was supposed to be something like 10 hours a week or less. It's evolved since then. I wish they'd just hire me full time.

  4. "Will I ever find that balance? Is it too late for me to find a job that pays well and that I enjoy?"

    I certainly hope not, but I understand where you're coming from. I've faced similar questions when I left teaching and basically decided to give up on teaching (maybe other positions would have been less damaging on my mental health) and just chase the money. That has led to a lot of good financial outcomes but certainly a lot of what-ifs and regret, too.

    I don't know if it would help with the Monday series but I'd be happy to write something. Just throwing that out there -- no expectation either way, and I have often found that my love of writing is easier to maintain when I take any expectation of schedules out of it.

    1. I just feel like there's no way I'm going to make a lot of money unless I change fields entirely. And if I change fields entirely, I'll have to go back to school (or do some kind of training). Noooooo. I can't really blame anyone but myself for getting a PhD, but I wish someone had said to me, "Look, if you get this degree, here are the three things you can do with it... If you aren't 100 percent sure that you want to do those things, make another choice."

  5. Help, I'm in this post and I don't like it. I too think I can do way more than I actually can. And it's so frustrating. I'm proud of you for recognizing when that is and taking a step back. I'm trying to do the same more, too. I'll be sad that mental health and mondays isn't a regular column, but I hope you do try and write them when you feel inspired to.