Well, well, well… here we are, at the end of another year. The second full one Rachel and I have spent as husband and wife, the first full one this little blog has enjoyed, and hopefully the last one in which I’ll have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. If nothing else, these blog things are great for reflection and seeing where you’ve been over the years. I just read over last year’s year-in-review post, and I talked about setting a budget, getting serious about debt payoff, and kept referring to my wife as a single letter, like she was some kind of James Bond agent or something.
This year, I feel like we’ve put it in second gear. We’re completely free of consumer debt, and we’ve freed up enough income to allow me to come back home. We have successfully avoided adding to our debt pile, which has been great. We both have jobs that fit us better and challenge us more. And probably the most fun part of all of this, I’ve gotten to know a lot of you out there through reading your own stories!
I think it’s good to evaluate yourself every once in a while when you’re on a journey like this, and what better time to do that than the end of the year? So let’s look back at some of the awesome and not so awesome stuff that happened:
- We paid off all our consumer debt! This was a big one, both for the actual progress and the psychological win we felt. Instead of facing down “the debt” every month, we now have one big monster to slay.
- Budgeting is now the norm. We’ve got a growing Excel spreadsheet that we both look over and agree on before every month starts. We don’t have to feel guilty about buying stuff, because if we’re buying it, that means we both think it needs to be bought. And if we mess up, we talk to each other, figure out how to solve the issue, and move on. We’re much more on the same page than we were at the beginning of our marriage, and that’s a great feeling.
- We only work 40 hours a week! I’m not ruling out the possibility of ever moonlighting again, but you guys. Working from 6am-10pm four days a week really gets to you! Rachel and I talked about a month after I quit my evening job, and we both agreed that our relationship was better. I was less tense, she was less lonely, and we were able to communicate again. I felt so bad that the majority of our conversation was over text message, and it looks like that chapter of our lives is over, praise God!
- Speaking of jobs, both of us have switched jobs, and it’s made all the difference. I’m dipping my toes in the water of the IT world, which offers way more room for growth versus where I was at (same position for five years with virtually no raise). Rachel is stretching herself in a ton of different ways as a project manager, which fits her highlighters-and-binder-tabs personality perfectly. We’re both excited to go to work again, which just reinforces the improvements we’ve made in our attitudes at home.
Not So Awesome
- Lost income. It comes with the territory of only working so much, right? As much as I hated having to pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same lunchbox every day, I really did like having so much wiggle room in the budget. Being able to put $1k+ towards debt at a time was almost cathartic, and I’ll miss the downhill path our charts were taking. It’s not worth the time it took away from my wife, though, so it’ll have to stay in the bittersweet memories pile.
- We’re still renting. Don’t get me wrong, I like our little apartment. But… notice I said “little.” We’re getting a little restless here, and I’ll go into this a little more later, but I feel like we’re stuck here, on pause until we can move this debt mountain. And before some of you other renters feel like I’m joining the chorus of people that tell you renting is wasting, I’m not. It’s just that Rachel and I are getting to the point where we’re ready for something different.
So what does 2018 look like for us? I don’t know yet, it’s still 2017! But in the spirit of being a real human being here on the internet, let me bare some of my fears for you all to see. I’m afraid that this debt will carry on for entirely too long. I’m afraid that the effects from the financial decisions we have made are going to stretch out until I’m in my 30s, and Rachel’s almost through her 20s. As I mentioned earlier, I feel like we’re stuck. We can’t move into a house until we have at least a down payment for a mortgage. We can’t save for a down payment with all of the debt bills we have outstanding, so we’re stuck paying off the debt instead. We can’t have a kid in this apartment because there isn’t a bedroom for the baby, so we’re stuck paying off the debt instead. This journey isn’t just something that I felt would be nice to put on a blog. This is about our freedom, and taking back our income so that we can live on it to our fullest potential, instead of wondering how much will be left over after all our creditors take their share away. I’m getting dangerously close to my 30th birthday, and as the months tick by, I’m realizing that they’re not as long as they used to be. These payments and this debt have taken too much of my life already, and I want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
It’s going to be a grind. This is the unglamorous part of wealth-building you don’t read about in the news stories. We don’t expect to have any huge windfalls, so any progress we make is going to have to be made one hour at a time. I’d love to see us get to the halfway point in our debt payoff by the end of 2018, which is $40,000. That’s a little over a thousand dollars every month, which is going to stretch us, but I think we can do it. Scratch that, I think God can do it, and use us as an example. Our income is not fancy, and we don’t have trust funds to serve as a safety net. But God has a history of using the most unlikely people to do seriously awesome things, and my prayer for us and for this site is that He would keep us faithful to Him so that we can show you all how seriously awesome He can be. And speaking of seriously awesome gifts He’s given, my wife Rachel has once again contributed to the year’s wrap-up post. Here’s her point of view on all this:
I don’t really understand how it’s almost January again. I seriously feel like I just wrote a blurb for our 2016 yearly update! This year was incredible in so many different ways. I feel like we got into a normal routine with our budgeting and were able to make some real progress paying down our debt. Our goal for 2017 was to pay off the Discover Loan and my car, then get the Discover card below $1,000. We ended up paying off ALL of our consumer debt and my first student loan! God has provided for us in the most incredible ways this year, and our progress on this debt payoff journey is a constant reminder of His grace.
I think the biggest blessing, however, has been our new jobs. We started 2017 working four jobs between the two of us (maybe four and a half if you count random lettering projects I took on), and we are ending the year with two jobs. Not only did we cut down on our workload, but God has placed us in positions where we are motivated and challenged and have room to grow. I cannot praise Him enough for answering the prayer we had been praying for years. Switching jobs was terrifying, and we knew losing two incomes would cut back our debt payments, but God has shown us just how perfect His plan is. We are able to spend every evening together. We are able to visit family during the holidays. And we have still made steady progress on our debt. While I am incredibly grateful to my husband for working 60+ hour weeks to help us pay our bills, I am even more excited to see him for more than 30 minutes a night.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is to trust God’s plan, even when we don’t understand it. We had many times this year where it felt like we were working ourselves to death for no reason, or times where we felt like we were treading water. Looking back now it is so obvious that He was bringing us to a place of rest, we just had to get through a season of hard work first. Looking forward to the coming year we are setting some pretty big goals, and I’m excited to see how God works in our lives. Being able to look back and see His impeccable plan has allowed me to trust Him even more, and I can’t wait to see where He leads us.
Thanks for sticking with both of us through this year, and I hope you continue to follow our progress into 2018!
Happy New Year!