MONEY TALK: JANUARY DEBT DIARY

MONEY TALK: JANUARY DEBT DIARY - This Wild Home

January has been a crazy month. We moved, somewhat unexpectedly, which added a lot of expenses we wouldn’t normally have. But even in the craziness, I was able to get a good idea of where the bulk of our money is going on an average week which was my big financial goal for this month.

We wound up spending close to $1000 on extra expenses from the move. I wish I could say every single purchase was 100% necessary. I can at least say that every purchase was at least 60% necessary. In the name of comfort and ease, there were a few changes we knew we would need to make in our new place and we figured tacking all of our home purchases on at the beginning made the most sense.

Our main home purchases included:

  1. WASHER + DRYER | This was one of those things you don’t really expect to have to buy when you’re renting, especially for an apartment so I’m sad to say we had to charge this one to the credit card. We got the cheapest we could but we also looked at it as an investment since we can now take these bad boys anywhere. We looked into apartments that had washers and dryers that came with the unit, but that doesn’t seem to be the trend here in Amarillo. Of course, there’s always a laundromat or finding a place with a laundry facility. But I’ll be honest, with two little kids, I know I’ll never do laundry unless I can walk to it within my own home. Plus, when you think about the long term cost, it’s definitely better just having our own.

  2. DESK | We didn’t go all out and get something extravagant, but we definitely learned we needed a designated work space for Ian. Our last apartment was our first experience having all of us home all of the time. Ian got a position that is a work from home position. We thought we could get away with having him work at the dining table but very quickly learned we would need a desk because the dining table is used too often through the day and it’s not quite big enough for all of us to fit while Ian is working. So there you have it, a desk was purchased.

  3. RUG | For under the dining table. We moved from a full on laminate apartment to a full on carpet apartment. Given that we have a toddler and a baby on the way who will both eat very messily for the unforeseeable future, we decided it would be best to get a small rug for under the table because, in the long run, having a rug to cover the carpet in the dining space would save us from having to pay to replace the whole carpet if any stains or spills occur in our time here.

  4. VACUUM | We wound up getting a robot vacuum. It wasn’t a super fancy one. I found one that was about the same price as a regular vacuum and thought, “Hey, I need a vacuum anyway. Why not get one that does the work for me?” We only had a broom before which was fine to sweep a rug and laminate floors with, but for a whole apartment of carpet I knew I needed a little help.

  5. HUMIDIFIERS | The climate we moved to is much more dry than anywhere we’ve ever lived. That, along with the colder weather and a need for a heater 24/7 left us all with dry skin and bloody noses. So we got some little humidifiers to run at night in each of our rooms.

  6. EXTRAS | You know, move in fees, storage solutions, command strips and hooks, a plant or two because we had the room and I found a fiddle leaf fig tree for $16. There weren’t too many extra things we needed but I’m sure they added up more than I really know. There were definitely many trips to Target.

All in all, I don’t think we went crazy on home purchases. I tried to be as resourceful as possible and turn to what we already had before buying something new, but with a new home comes new necessities.

Other one-time expenses:

The second thing that added to our one time purchases was my birthday. I kept the budget low. My actual birthday was 4 days after our move so I just wanted to sit at home and hang out with my boys. My husband had a small budget for some decorations (because decorating the dining room for each other is a tradition) and I got Chinese food and watched movie. I was gifted some birthday money and I used that for a sweater and shirt from Target along with my official tea set up to get started on one of my new year intentions. I’m happy to say my tea pot and the tea I bought is getting used daily!

Otherwise, a lot of money was spent on fast-food, gas to get here, and restocking our fridge.

JANUARY FINANCIAL OVERVIEW

CHECKING

Made - 4612.21

Spent - 4346.1

  • one-time expenses (not including washer + dryer) - 968.5

  • rent - 999

  • groceries - 710.83

  • restaurants/coffee/fast food - 247.23

  • debt - 906.44

  • bills - 361.34

  • hobbies - 35.4

So this month my only real focus was simply getting a good look at what’s coming in and what’s going out. I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of wiggle room for adding more to debt this month, but a big part of being able to pay off debt is knowing how much you really have and where you can make cuts.

Obviously, there’s a big chunk from this past month that was just extra expenses that we won’t normally have now that we’re settled in which is a good feeling.

WHERE WE’RE OVER SPENDING:

Our food expenses. They may look a little worse simply because of all the eating out we did while transitioning from one home to another, but about half way through this month our spending regulated and I got a good look at what it looks like on an average week.

Just to give a little insight on an average two weeks:

  • groceries - 402.11

  • fast food/restaurants/coffee - 97.5

  • bills - 227.32 (power/internet/spotify)

  • loans/debt - 394.43

  • hobbies - 35.4

  • kids - 

  • home goods - 156.23

You guys. That’s an average of $500 every two weeks on food alone which is way too much for 2 adults and 1 baby.

So I did some digging. The nice thing about some of these order online places is that you get an electronic receipt, and since I never take paper receipts, this made it so I could go back and get a good look at what I was actually buying.

I think the kicker was our meal plan subscription. We signed up a few months ago to help with meal planning and found a fairly inexpensive service that we really love using, but at $40 a week for only 3 of our meals, we found that it’s just not practical right now. Besides that, there are definitely places in our groceries that we can cut back on. Namely fancy beer and those snacks that you buy on a whim because you really need to eat a whole birthday cake right now.

DEBT

While we did pay our minimums on everything, we weren’t able to make too many strides this month. After purchasing a few baby things in February I’m hoping to start putting more into the credit card!

GOING INTO FEBRUARY

Our plan for this month is pretty simple. The main focus is to cut our spending a little bit. We do need to buy a few little things to get ready for our son who will be born early March and we have some things to prepare for guests coming in town.

Otherwise, I’m going to keep doing my weekly reports for our bills. But I’m also going to start doing weekly reports on food and groceries specifically to really get a good idea of what we’re buying and what we may be able to cut back on.

BOOK CLUB: NO BAD KIDS BY JANET LANSBURY

BOOK CLUB: NO BAD KIDS BY JANET LANSBURY - This Wild Home

This book was my introduction to Janet Lansbury and the world of respectful parenting. I’ve seen blogs and articles on respectful parenting, but the flow of this book really helped me to understand how to implement this way of parenting into my own life.

I’m excited to share this because, while it totally changed the mood of my home and family, I’ve found that the practices I’ve learned have helped me to take on the whole world with a new perspective. Yes, I truly believe it’s helped me to be a better mom, but also a better wife, friend, and all around person. The patience and intention you need to effectively handle a toddler are amazing tools for treating everyone around you with more respect and a calmer demeanor to make anyone you meet feel more understood.

ABOUT THE BOOK

So, what is this book all about anyway?

It’s about handling toddlers. It’s the idea that the negative reactions and emotions our toddlers feel are not the result of a bad kid. It’s helping you to realize that toddlerhood is not your sweet baby suddenly turning into a demon child. That bad behaviors are not a sign that you’re doing everything wrong.

In No Bad Kids, Lansbury takes real life situations and guides you through a respectful solution with encouraging words to help you navigate the intense world and emotions that your toddler experiences. With letters that have been sent to her from parents in need along side Landbury’s experiences in her many years of being a parent and coaching parents, you get to not only see the practices played out in everyday moments, but you also see that you are not alone in the struggles of being a parent.

This book is not about creating perfect children or eliminating tantrums and limit-pushing. It’s about understanding our children so we can better guide them to reaching their full potential.

MY KEY TAKEAWAYS

Basically, I have taken every word of this book to heart. I didn’t find a single aspect that I didn’t agree with. I learned so much and will forever be grateful for the impact Lansbury’s lessons will have on me and my family.

So, for the sake of not giving too much away or making this post a book in and of itself, here are my top five take aways from the wonderful words of No Bad Kids:

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY

There are a few reasons why this may be the most important thing I learned. Even in the book it states that this is rule #1. It’s a dangerous road to go down, believing your child’s actions are intentional schemes against you. Even if they are subconsciously acting out because we aren’t giving them something they need, they still have no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

“When a toddler feels understood, he senses the empathy behind our limits and corrections. He still resists, cries, and complains, but at the end of the day, he knows we are with him, always in his corner.”

I would say there are two top reasons why it’s important to never take our children’s actions personally.

  1. Our feelings are not our kid’s responsibility. | They should not be able to control our happiness. They shouldn’t ever be given the idea that they are the keepers of our emotions. It’s a big responsibility to be in charge of, not only your own happiness, but also the happiness of others. While we as the parents should be aware of our effects on our child’s happiness and well being, they should never be given the responsibility of ours. When they feel responsible for such a major thing, it may actually encourage them to act out more just to push us to take that responsibility away from them (subconsciously, of course).

  2. It makes it difficult to stay “unruffled.” | This is a word Lansbury uses a lot: unruffled. It’s basically frazzled, out of control, frustrated, etc. It is the state we can find ourselves in when we haven’t set proper boundaries. The thing about taking things personally is, it ignites an instinctive response to protect yourself. It will prevent you from being as patient as you could be if you realized your child is just attempting to express something they may not fully understand. When you take their extreme behavior personally, you’re limiting your ability to be the rational adult they need you to be.

NO, KIDS ARE NOT IN CHARGE

I’d say one of the biggest misconceptions about respectful parenting is who is truly in charge. If I’m being honest, in the beginning of the book, I was a little weary because at times I felt like I had to let my toddler walk all over me in order to show that he is in a safe, respectful environment.

As I kept reading, I realized that is not the case.

Respectful parenting is not about letting your kids do whatever they want. It’s about learning to respond in an appropriate and respectful manner. It’s about understanding their abilities and making sure they know they are heard, even if it won’t change your mind.

“Children do not feel hurt when the adults they desperately need establish behavioral boundaries. It is easier for a parent to indulge a child than it is to be firm and consistent, and children know that. A child may cry, complain or even throw a tantrum when limits are set. In their hearts, however, children sense when a parent is working ardently to provide a safe nest and real love.”

And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about saying, “it’s okay to misbehave.” In fact, a big part of respectful parenting is making sure you set clear boundaries, especially ones that will keep you from getting unruffled, and correcting behavior before you feel an unruffled feeling coming on. It is saying that it’s okay to be upset when you correct them, but that you are still there to correct them when needed. They’re not in charge, but they have a right to feel. They have a right to tell you when they don’t like your rules.

BOUDARIES ARE CRUCIAL

Boundaries are everything for kids. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine about boundaries and she shared a story about kids on a playground. It stated that when kids we on a playground with no fence, the stayed close to the play structure, never venturing too far beyond. Where as the kids who had a fence around their play area were more likely to venture all the way to the fence, exploring freely within their clearly defined boundaries.

The world is a scary and exciting place, especially when you’re brand new to it all. As much as kids want to explore, they also want to be sure they have someone looking out for them, keeping them safe from harm.

That’s where boundaries come in. Whether they are able to understand the boundary outright or try to fight you on it, in the end we know and they know that it’s for the best. They’ll fight you on it because that’s their job. But boundaries are our way of saying we care and that we want to help them. It’s our way of letting them know they have security and something they can rely on as they discover the wide world of unknowns.

“Imagine driving over a bridge in the dark. If the bridge has no railings, we will drive across it slowly and tentatively. But if we see railings on either side of us, we can drive over the bridge with ease and confidence. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits in his environment.”

LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT

I would say this is something I needed a wake up call on: The way that I talk to my son.

I’ve heard the bits about talking to kids normally without a baby voice. But being direct is something I definitely needed to work on. The “mommy says” and “we can’t” etc. just doesn’t cut it for kids. It gives them an out. It creates a disconnect where you’re no longer having a conversation between the two of you, but instead you’re telling a story about two characters.

“Babies are whole people – sentient, aware, intuitive and communicative. They are natural learners, explorers, and scientists able to test hypotheses, solve problems, and understand language and abstract ideas.”

I think the motivation behind “baby talk” is the idea that are kids only understand as much as they can express. After practicing some of the lessons I learned in this book, I’ve found that my 1.5 year old understands so much more than I thought. He knows what more things are than he can say, he understand more abstract concepts than I have given him credit for. He gets it and now that I talk to him like he gets it, he wants to listen more. By no means does he do everything I say, he definitely still gives push back. But I’ve found that talking to him the same way I’d talk to any other human has not only helped us in understanding each other, but has helped him develop his communication skills as well.

PUNISHMENTS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

I love this. I love it so much. I am definitely an anti-punishment parent. And I think this is the part where people want to ask, “Then doesn’t that put the kids in charge?”

I feel like I have even more to learn on this before I could give any real insight on why this is amazing, but I’ll just share a few lessons from Janet because, if I haven’t already mentioned, she’s my queen now.

This may seem a little too new-agey on the outside, but when seeing the thought process for the argument against punishments, it all makes a lot of sense. In No Bad Kids, Lansbury mentions the correlation between the concepts of punishments and discipline. She then offers another perspective given by her queen, Magda Gerber. Gerber redefines the modern idea of discipline by pulling from the latin root, disciplina, meaning “instruction, knowledge.” So with this in mind, discipline goes from, “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience” to, “educating our children to understand appropriate behavior, values, and how to control their impulses.”

With this mindset shift on our role in our children’s lives, things like spanking and timeout become unproductive. It is a parent-given consequence that you wouldn’t, and really shouldn’t, see in the real world. These actions aren’t seizing a teaching moment, they are hindering your ability to not only become closer to your child by showing them you understand them, but to teach them through example; which is really where they’re learning everything in the long run.

“So the question is never ‘Are the learning?’ It’s ‘What are they learning?”

In all of my actions around my son, I wonder what he is learning. Is he learning to be respectful of other people and their feelings? Is he learning to be respectful of his own feelings?

The scary thing about punishments is that they can instill fear in our children. They can make them afraid of us and themselves. Punishments teach our kids that their feelings, something they have no control over, are wrong. When you hurt, belittle, or shame your kids for simply being kids, for going against us or acting out (things they are SUPPOSED to be doing), you’re not teaching them that their actions are inappropriate. Instead, you’re teaching them that they are bad. And some kids may carry that label with them throughout their days, always choosing the path the “bad kid” would take simply because they were taught that that is who they are.

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Parenting is a big deal. We all know this. We’re all at least somewhat aware of the impact we have on our children. That is why books like this are important. It’s important to have a reminder of what we’re really teaching our kids. It’s important to get a new perspective from someone who has studied and practiced all the things they preach.

Books like No Bad Kids help us to remember that, not only are our kids inherently good, but that we were born good too. We all grew up with certain standards and were taught lessons that may have not been fair to us. No matter what we learned growing up, no matter what labels were put on us or standards shown to us, we have the ability to be good and to teach goodness to our kids.

Also, for a chance to receive your own Book Club book in the future, keep up with my instagram stories where I giveaway a book to one lucky follower!

MONEY TALK: A FINANCIAL OVERVIEW + OUR PLAN FOR PAYING OFF DEBT

MONEY TALK: A FINANCIAL OVERVIEW + OUR PLAN FOR PAYING OFF DEBT - This Wild Home

I don’t want to begin a story of deprivation. In fact, most of what I do in life is anti-deprivation. Sure, I compromise here and there, but ultimately I try to do everything I can to give us all what we truly need and want.

So if you’re here to get inspired by a family that scrimps and saves, this may not be the story for you. I’m not here to talk about how we paid off large sums of debt on a small income because, you know, that’s just not relatable. I personally don’t believe that the only way to have a good debt story is to put yourself through misery for a few years.

What I am here to say is, we’ve taken small steps overtime to get ourselves to a place where we’re ready to pay off our debt. We’ve been active minimalists for the past year and I’ve finally got a handle on my shopping addiction, which helps a lot. But we’ve also gotten ourselves to a financial position where we actually have extra money to put into debt.

I’ve learned that the road to financial freedom doesn’t always start with money.

Really, it starts with you. It start with getting your head on straight and getting yourself to a place where you feel confident taking control of your finances. If you’re not used to keeping your house in order, making intentional purchases, or making your own food, finding extra income to pay down your debt will be much harder than it needs to be.

Our financial history and why it’s taken us until now to start tackling debt had a lot to do with how much we were bringing in each month, but it also had a lot to do with our habits. How we viewed money and how we handled it went hand in hand and now, we’ve finally got a hold on both.

So, to get to the point: We are ready to start paying off our debt. Here’s how much we have and how we plan to pay it off.

A FINANCIAL OVERVIEW

The bulk of our debt is from student loans. Years of college attempts have left us in a bit of a hole. That, along with a small mountain of credit card debt (partly from all the moving we’ve done and partly because we had a few moments of weakness and irresponsibility) and we’ve got a total of $64,189.85 that we owe. It’s a lot of weight to carry and we’ve had it on our shoulders for years. I’m not saying we don’t deserve it or that we don’t have control over the fact that we are here. I am simply saying that we needed to get to where we are today before we could really get a chance to start making that number shrink.

As much as I’m really nervous to dig into the details of our finances, I know that transparency is going to be the most helpful thing for anyone who is hoping to start their journey to a debt free life.

So, here’s a breakdown of our debt:

  • Credit: $7,537.82 (monthly min - $150 | interest - 17.90%)

  • Student Loan 1: $12,767.00 (monthly min - $265 | interest - 14.4%)

  • Student Loan 2: $15,234.58 (monthly min - $98.80 | interest - 7.9%)

  • Student Loan 3: $11,635.76 (monthly min - $138.43 | interest - 6.8%)

  • Student Loan 4: $16,552.51 (monthly min - $145.21 | interest - 6.41%)

Overall Total: $63,727.67 | Monthly Total: $797.44

It’s pretty hefty all on paper and honestly, this is the first time I’ve really sat down and gotten a good idea of what our debt looks like as a whole which has made me feel terrified, but in control.

The next thing is our income and expenses. It’s a very important aspect in a debt-free journey because, well, we all need a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and other modern-day necessities that all cost money.

INCOME + EXPENSES

While there are a few variables that will change, for the most part, this is what the money coming in and going out looks like on a monthly bases.

These numbers are starting this month. Our finances have looked much different than this all throughout previous years together which is why it has taken so long to start tackling debt. In 2014 - 2018, our debt to income was about half (as in our income was half our total debt amount) and our monthly expenses to income ratio was about 1 to 1.

That being said, here is our projected monthly income + expenses for 2019 (rounded to the dollar):

Income: $4,000

Expenses:

  • Rent: $999

  • Bills (internet/electric/cellphone/TV): $256

  • Debt Minimums: $692

  • Car (insurance/gas): $120

  • Food: $500

  • Family Activities: $70

Total Spent: $2637

Total Left Over: $1353 - give or take

This is what we’ve been waiting for. That left over amount is usually $0. Maybe $100 tops every once in a while, but nothing nearly big enough or consistent enough to really tackle our debt.

OUR PLAN

Our plan is simple: pay off debt while still maintaining a certain standard of living.

I believe that paying your debts does require sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean deprivation.

We’re not saving for a house or other large purchases. We’re not indulging in fancy vacations. We’re not upgrading our furniture or indulging in fancy wardrobes. We’re not spending money we don’t truly need to spend.

In all honestly, despite our recent pay raise, we are going to live within our previous means and attempt to use all extra income just for debt.

We are, however, maintaining quality meals. We’re indulging in outings as a family throughout the month. When we do need things, we’re going to get the version we truly like in order to prevent future spending and waste.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few ways we plan to pay down this debt.

BIG PICTURE

We’ve decided the best order to tackle our debt is highest interest rate to lowest. We’ve looked into consolidating all of our debt to just pay off one big loan, but the way our loans are structured doesn’t allow for that. So for us, this is the next best plan for paying off our debt.

In our big picture of this whole adventure, assuming our income and expenses stay relatively the same, we have a best case and worst case scenario:

BEST CASE: 3 Years

Year One (2019):

  • Create an emergency savings (about $3,000), invest ($1000).

  • Pay off credit debt.

  • Begin paying off Student Loan 1.

Year Two (2020):

  • Finish paying Student Loan 1.

  • Pay off Student Loan 2.

Year Three (2021):

  • Pay off Student Loan 3.

  • Pay off Student Loan 4.



Worste Case: 5 years

Year One (2019):

  • Create an emergency savings (about $3,000), invest ($1000).

  • Pay off credit card.

Year Two (2020):

  • Pay off Student Loan 1.

Year Three (2021):

  • Pay off Student Loan 2.

Year Four (2022):

  • Pay off Student Loan 3.

  • Pay down Student Loan 4.

Year Five (2023):

  • Pay off Student Loan 4.

HOW We’re Doing It

So there’s the general idea of how much we think we can do. Personally, I’m routing for best case scenario, but spelled out like this; five years to living debt free really isn’t bad either.

But, in order to make any of this happen, we’re going to need a few tricks up our sleeves to see it through.

Weekly debt Journal

The first thing I needed to do was get to know our finances really well.

I’ve started my debt journal with all of the breakdowns I’ve shown you above and from here until the debt is gone, I’m going to track our expenses weekly and do a monthly overview that I’ll share here.

This report will include our income, expenses, and how much we were able to put into debt.

Every Monday, I’m going to sit down at my computer and track everything. I’m going to put it in a format where I can see exactly what happened with our money that week/month.

The biggest goals with this are to keep our spending in check so I can know if we’re spending too much in one place and not enough in another along with understanding how much we really have left over each week. I don’t want to fall into a situation where I think we have extra money to put into debt, we pay off some debt, and then we don’t have enough to pay for a bill or something.

This journal is the best way I can think to stay on top of everything to make the most of our debt free journey.

Separating our accounts

I have organized our accounts by Main Checking, Secondary Checking, and Savings.

  • Main Checking is linked to a card and will be where we have all of our spending money; coffee dates, gas, groceries, etc.

  • Secondary Checking will be where I set aside money for regular monthly expenses; rent, insurance, bills, etc.

  • Savings will be our personal emergency fund that we only use, well, for emergencies.

This is how I’ll be able to spread out our expenses throughout the month to make sure we have the money we need to pay for the things we need. It’ll also give me a good idea of what is really left over money vs. money that we need that just hasn’t been spent yet.

Paycheck to paycheck

No, I don’t quite mean living paycheck to paycheck. I more mean spending paycheck to paycheck.

Because children and living and having family that lives far away, our monthly expenses will fluctuate. They are mostly predictable, but I want to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck when it comes to putting money into debt. Because of this, I’m going to pay off our debt per paycheck. This means each new paycheck we get, I’m going to take the remainder of the last paycheck (after splitting the necessary funds between all the accounts) and put that into debt.

In my mind, this seems to be the best way to make sure we’re putting as much as we can into our debt each month.

WHy Share?

So now that I’ve gotten real open with you guys, I want to explain why this is something I want to share.

My goal for this project is two-fold.

  1. It will hold me accountable and give me the drive to stay aware of our finances and find creative ways to pay off as much as we can as quickly as we can.

  2. I want for others who are where we’ve been or where we are to have a realistic perspective on what living with debt is like and to be an example that, as long as you can keep yourself stable, there’s no reason to sacrifice years of your life just to pay off debt. It’s all about keeping up and doing what you can when you can.

Like I said before, this is not a story of deprivation. I know all the tricks I could use (maybe even could’ve used) to get out of debt quickly. I understand that you don’t always need to wait until you have more in order to find extra income. We like to eat good food, we enjoy the occasional coffee shop visit, and we like being able to live comfortably. Not large, not extravagantly; comfortably. We’ve shaped our priorities and desires to where we don’t need to buy the newest stuff or the nicest stuff all the time, but we are not willing to sacrifice our quality of life just to pay down debt.

The important thing is, I think there are many different ways to handle your finances. I’ve seen, and even follow, some people who take caution to the wind, live in their parents basements (or live off of a low mortgage), eat beans and rice every meal for years, and don’t buy anything at all until their debt is gone. It’s an inspiration to get perspective on what we really need, but it’s not realistic for all of us.

Some of us don’t have a basement to crash in for years. Some of us like eating good food. Some of us don’t want to put our lives on hold until our debt is gone.

And that is exactly why I want to share this story. I want to diminish the guilt of living happily with debt.

So if you’re like me and you hope to pay off debt without sacrificing quality of life, follow along our journey. It’s going to be one full of realistic expectations, honest numbers, and unwavering priorities.