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

, ,

$76K Can't Relax

I keep going back and forth on whether to shut down this blog. When I started it back in 2017, it had such a clear, succinct focus: debt payoff. Both Fortysomething and I had jobs that paid well enough, and as a result, we were eliminating our credit card and student loan debt relatively quickly. Our progress was gratifying for us and also, I think, for the people following along. 

Then I quit my editing gig, which launched my already-fragile career off the side of a cliff and brought our progress to a crawl. Moreover, we started to realize that although getting rid of debt is great, it doesn't really do much for you when you need some cold hard cash to get by (like, say, when you suddenly find yourself trying to keep up with rent during a deadly global pandemic). So we started redirecting more of our funds to savings and retirement. 

Our financial journey evolved. It became more about financial wellness in general and less about debt, specifically.

So things have changed, but I don't think I'm ready to let the blog go, especially because a few people seem to find it helpful or maybe just entertaining. However, I do think I need to commit to posting more regularly, even if it's  a quick update once a week.

So here we go.

I'm Fucking Sick Of This Pandemic

I mean, we all are, right? Especially those of us living in the most incompetent country on the planet, where our cases continue to rise... and rise... and rise... The $76K household has been largely housebound since the beginning of March. Because we reside in a state with a 24% test positivity rate, we've been super careful. We're still getting grocery delivery. We don't go into stores unless we have to. We haven't gotten together with friends, we haven't eaten a meal out, and we haven't traveled anywhere beyond the outer edges of town. It isn't safe yet.

But also, it seems as though our state and national government are not interested in making it any safer. 

It's endless.

I'm hoping that with more testing we'll eventually get to the point (for our family, that point = 5% or lower test positivity) where we feel okay doing more normal things. The first normal thing I want to do is rent a place in Colorado for a few days and chill in the mountains. I don't know if that'll happen by the end of 2020, but that is the carrot that keeps me going.

In the meantime, my family and I are trying to put together some semblance of a new normal life, one that doesn't revolve around screaming at the television during the governor's press conferences or obsessing over the daily data reports. We take walks, we sit on the porch, we read, we get takeout sometimes. The guys go fishing. Last week, I even took a petsitting gig, which was a big step for this hypochondriac. 

It still isn't normal and it feels awfully small in a lot of ways, but maybe we're doing better than we were a few weeks ago? I don't know. I just need to be able to figure out how to relax in this constantly stressful situation.

Jobs, Teaching, Etc.

Some good news on the job front: 

(1) Fortysomething and his school will be teaching/learning online until at least early September. In the interest of everyone's safety, we're hoping the district will choose a concrete, objective metric for returning to the classroom rather than picking random dates out of a hat. As I wrote about in my last post, if school re-opens while our numbers are still high and before appropriate measures - e.g., testing, contact tracing, mandatory mask-wearing - are in place, he'll have to walk away

(2) Fortysomething was offered a substantial-ish contract by a company he works for every summer. This is a huge deal for us because it means that we will be financially okay through the fall if his full-time job falls apart. He's worked for this company on and off for a long time and knows the higher-ups pretty well. I get the impression that this contract is no accident and that his supervisor is trying to look out for him.

(3) I finally - FINALLY - heard back about one of the many applications I've submitted over the past 4-5 months. I was asked to respond to a series of follow-up questions via email. We'll see if the employer decides to move forward once reviewing my answers (or if I even want the job - I don't know how much it pays). If not, I'm still very happy to know that at least my application was considered.

(Sidenote: As I typed this, I received a rejection notice for a job that I was COMPLETELY qualified for, but whatever.)


I don't know what happened here. After years of being super devoted to running and super consistent about training, I basically stopped. At first it was because we didn't know that much about COVID transmission and I felt uncomfortable being around other people on the trails. Now, though, it seems like hiking, walking, and running outside are pretty safe as long as you're not bunched up in an unmasked group. 

And yet I still just... don't want to run. I think part of it has to do with the running community itself. Pre-pandemic, I had this idea in my head of what the running community stands for, and that's why I loved it so much. Runners love the environment! Runners can see the big picture! Runners care about other people! I'm sure that's still mostly true. But I've been discouraged by the bad trail etiquette during the pandemic: people running in groups, people spitting or blowing their nose (!) without checking to see who might be behind them, people traveling with friends to run in places with high COVID numbers, people dumping their gel packets and water bottles instead of disposing of them properly, etc. I was also unimpressed by the community's tepid response to Black Lives Matter. 

There's been a lot that has rubbed me the wrong way over the past few months.

Finally, I'll admit to feeling burned by the amount of money I lost on race fees this year, although I don't blame race directors for not offering refunds. In total, I lost about $1700 between the three-day stage race I was supposed to run next month and our local summer race series. That's... a lot of cashola. Yes, I can defer the long race until next year, but... Part of me is like, why am I spending so much on a sport I'm not even that good at when I can buy some inexpensive equipment, do home workouts, and still be in shape?

For now, I'm working my way through my second round of Beachbody's The Work with Amoila Cesar. It's a functional fitness/strength training program. My pushups have improved, I can see my triceps again, and I've already moved up to heavier dumbbells. It doesn't feel like running, but it's still gratifying.


I keep reminding myself that this is not three years ago. We are not in dire straits anymore. We have an emergency fund that will last us about four months even if both of us lose our jobs. We've diversified our income so that if one job dries up, we'll still be generating income. 

And yet there's a part of me that is still in panic mode, completely convinced that this situation is going to do us in.

At this point, we are basically taking every extra cent and throwing it into savings. I don't know how long we'll keep doing that. Will I ever get back to the point where I feel "safe" putting that money towards the student loan? Or am I turning into my Depression-era grandfather, who hoarded his money so carefully that we all assumed he was completely broke until he passed away?


  1. I'm glad you are keeping your blog. I'm a devoted Twitter follower, and I really appreciate your clear, frank voice on a range of issues that are central to day to day life.

    1. Wow, thank you! I appreciate that.

      I'm usually pretty good at recognizing when I need to let things go... I don't think I'm there yet with the blog.

  2. I am fighting that hoarding feeling, too. With the uncertain future nationwide *flaily hands*, and private extenuating circumstances, it's hard to feel confident enough to act normally with regard to finances.

    We still try to support local businesses the best we can and not deprive ourselves of the little pleasures because we are living through some pretty crappy times right now to force some better balance.

    The disillusionment is strong as we face down the coming school year.

    1. I just want to save it alllll now. I will say that we've spent money on a few quarantine-y things, like weights and takeout and books! And we've been donating more of our resources. But I've really never saved the way we're saving now.

  3. I've fought the hoarding thing all my life and now it's 100% worse. I know I have a job I will continue to have for a minimum of one year (because that's how long the budgets have been approved for) and that I just got a scheduled raise and even if they did have layoffs my contract specifies I have to be paid out all my vacation time and an additional roughly 6 months wages, and I also have savings that would last me a good long while if I had to make them last. But it doesn't matter. We've all been traumatized and we'll all deal with it for the rest of our lives.

    1. "We've all been traumatized and we'll all deal with it for the rest of our lives." Oooof yes. I've been thinking about this A LOT lately - all the trauma this is causing. We've been relatively lucky throughout this whole thing and I still feel like I'm not the person I was even six months ago.

  4. I feel you on the running stuff. I only run races where I can sign up at the last minute. So my 2 planned spring marathons that were cancelled cost me $0! I also lost my running mojo during the pandemic, but I found it again by joining in 2 different virtual challenges that have managed to get me motivated again. (wrote about 1 of them here: https://costaricafire.com/wellness/31-days-of-running/) For me, running is solely about my health and competing against myself. Everything else (ie: the running community) is just noise. Yes I belong to a running group or 2 and attend some group events, but I use those things to string me along to the next goal, rather than relying on it as a community and what the community stands for.

    Also, great update. Definitely keep the blog, even if you only write occasionally. It's a great outlet, and you never know when the inspiration will hit to use it for something more meaningful again.

    1. I generally think the wait-until-the-last-minute approach is the best one when it comes to racing. I signed up for the stage race early because it was so discounted; the local race also came with a steep discount for taking a package deal. Now they've all turned into virtual races which, as I've learned, I really don't enjoy.

  5. I'm glad that you are keeping your blog for now. I appreciate the perspective and realism - and as you have quit your job I have started to contemplate getting out of the rat race. You give me hope I can do it!

    1. Keep me posted! I'm interested to see where your journey takes you. :-)