Chippin Away

My financial journey to freedom is going to take a while. Not as long as some, but a lot longer than it should. It’s been a struggle for a while, and a paycheck-to-paycheck struggle probably for 2 years now.

This new job brings a lot of financial hope, especially if I can get my financial habits straightened up, and especially now that the initial 6 months have passed. There were a few-expensive!-things that had to happen, financially, when I was first hired that could not be avoided, from paying for COBRA to the “damage control” of paying off other credit cards, among other (sometimes irresponsible) things, and then towards the fall I was suddenly feeling ready to attack with gusto.

Except…I couldn’t. Some of those aforementioned expenses caused roadblocks… You can’t exactly skip paying the car insurance when you need a car to get to work. So I developed a system that worked for me.

When I was first preparing for the journey to financial freedom, before I was ready to speak the words aloud, I would journal about it. And one thing I would consistently do would journal about “Chipping Away” at my debt, an image of Chip from Beauty and the Beast grinning at me in my head. It’s a great image to have, really. He’s a happy little teacup, a little grin on his face, encouraging you to keep on going!

I used to sell planner pages on Etsy and when I did, I would occasionally get small amounts of money deposited into my bank account if someone used Etsy Checkout. When that happened I would turn around and take that couple of dollars and apply it as an extra payment towards my credit card that had a balance but I wasn’t using (I have another card automatic payments go on, such as my trainer, mail order prescriptions, etc.). I would “Chip Away” at my debt. It didn’t matter how little it was, what mattered was the card total was going down.

So I decided that Chip is going to my little mascot during this journey. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me, it doesn’t matter how rough it’s going to be. As long as I keep chippin’ away at it, I’m going to consider it progress! I just kind of use the mantra “Keep Chippin’ Away!” A little bit adds up over the long haul and I’m going to rely on that little bit to help propel me forward during the difficult times when I feel like the momentum has to stall temporarily. So I can’t put a bit chunk down on my debt? Here’s $25. Here’s $10. Here’s something to keep it going, to keep the amount going down and to keep chippin’ away!

What do you tell yourself to keep going?

Save

My first download is available for you! In honor of starting Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step One, I’m making the Savings Jar planner pages I created available! Just click the link under the image to go directly to the PDF to save and print for your own personal use. Use it to track your savings and fill your “jar” and if you have to dip into it, use the second page to track refilling it.

I have it available in three sizes: A5 (also for use in mini binders, such as what Target sells at their Dollar Spot), personal size and Full Size (8-1/2 by 11″), just click the link below each photo below.

I have a lot more downloads to come, but I haven’t quite worked out how to release them. I used to sell on Etsy (I’m still in the process of transitioning out of that) and I’m going to release them all for download for free! I can’t wait to release them out into the world and share them with everyone, plus some new ideas I have, so I hope you’re excited to look out for those.

Thousand Dollar Jar PersonalThousand Dollar Jar – Personal Size

Thousand Dollar Jar A5Thousand Dollar Jar – A5

Thousand Dollar Jar FullThousand Dollar Jar – Full Size

Baby Step OneDave Ramsey has 7 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom. If you do a quick Google search you’ll come across three different opinions on Dave Ramsey: people who think he is awesome, people who think he is too rigid, and people who think he is not rigid enough. In the end, I don’t think it matters what other people think. I think it matters what you think. Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there is a lot of financial advice and options out there and you need to do what best suits you and right now, this best suits me.

I need some guidance, and I need little milestones along the way. (Dave Ramsey even addresses this issue, but I’ll probably discuss it in a later post when I start talking about knocking out the next credit card.) And so starts my journey to Baby Step One: $1,000 in savings.

I read an article saying a car emergency could easily wipe out $1,000 in savings, which is true, but if you end up in the hospital you could easily end up with a $5,000 hospital bill you don’t have cash for, too. You can’t plan for every emergency, but you can plan for some of the smaller emergencies, and this is a great start.

Baby Step OneSo where am I now? I currently have $250 in my “jar.” Yes, I even have an actually jar in my planner so I know where I stand! It’s satisfying to watch it fill up and helped me with a bit of my frustrations to see that every little bit adds up.

I’m blessed at this point in my life to have things fall into place. I have some back pay coming in from a second job that will help me unexpectedly fill it up a bit faster and I am hoping it will be full by the end of January. I’m really tightening my belt to meet this goal and get started on credit card #3.

Now, I’m not so starry eyed that I don’t think I’m going to wipe my debt away by the end of the year. It took a while to dig myself into this hole and it’s going to take a while to dig myself out. I can, however, put in the work and get myself turned in the right direction and get some good habits solidly in place by the end of the year.

I also have big charges due throughout the year that I know are going to cause bumps that put a pause the forward momentum. I already know I’ll get frustrated, but I’m determined to try to set aside some savings over and above Baby Step One when I know those things are coming (car insurance, for example). That’s life. But the point is to keep going. I’ve got a motto and a method for what I do when something like that tries to get in my way, so look forward an explanation of that in my next finance post.

How are you doing with your finance goals this year? What areas do you need to work on? Are there any tools you can use to reach your goals? What kind of encouragement can I give you?
Baby Step One

Have you ever seen that old Lending Tree commercial? It’s all about Keeping up with the Jones’. And these days, the Jones’ are in our back pocket. Our smartphones constantly keep us connected to things like Instagram and Facebook showing us what people have that we should have, too, in order to be successful. Well, guess where that landed me? Yup, that’s right, where it landed everyone else–in debt up to my eyeballs!

It started with a new job. I liked my old job–I was there for 10 1/2 years–but I wasn’t make a lot of money. No, let me rephrase that–I made enough. I didn’t let it be enough. It was a slow progression, and not done intentionally at first, but at some point I was in over my head and figured, “Oh, well, I guess this is just life.” I allowed my debts to grow and my spending to grow, and it got to a point where I either needed to find a new job that paid more, or a second job to earn a second income. I could no longer ignore the elephant in the room.

I did a lot of praying about moving on and was blessed with a new job in 2016 that offered me financial stability if I put in the work to straightening out in my finances. You see, I did a bad, bad thing at my last job. I allowed myself to live beyond my means. I didn’t get “paid enough,” but I also didn’t handle what God gave me and I spent more than I had. Yes, that also includes a lot of money in student loans! I now have a big hole to dig out myself out of.

I don’t feel comfortable going into a lot of detail, I’m very ashamed of myself and it’s a big reveal posting about it online, but I want to talk about my struggle because so many people go through this very thing and no one talks about it. It’s embarrassing not to be able to handle your money. So I may reveal more as I go along, it depends on what I’m comfortable with at the time. But I want to talk about it because I want to be able to support others trying to learn to handle their money, to dig themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into, and to learn from it so they don’t do it again. I vow to learn from this so that I am not stuck in a repeat of this cycle for the rest of my life, and I hope you learn from it, too!

As soon as I got my new job I immediately started what I called “damage control.” I paid off 2 small credit cards–and then I immediately slid backwards and put Christmas back on one of those credit cards. And then I paid it right back off. That was my big success of 2016–I made my last payment on that card on December 31st (my paycheck happened to fall on December 30th) so I ended 2016 with two less monkeys on my back.

The last couple of months I also really started to watch a lot of Dave Ramsey on YouTube. I watch a lot of videos that have nothing to do with my financial status, my age, my means, nothing. But the more I take in, the more information I have in my head as future situations arise. AND they’re really motivating. Sometimes you hear someone and you think, “I want to be there! That’s where I want to be in 5 years!” And sometimes it’s a warning to heed and you think, “Oh, no! That’s where I am headed! I can’t keep doing what I’m doing!”

It was a slow progression but this year, 2017, I decided to follow Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. I started thinking about it last year, but I think, regardless, I would have had to do my “damage control” of paying off those two small credit cards because I needed the breathing room. I needed that relief of not having to worry about their minimum payments or balances hanging over my head before jumping head first into his program because, trust me, that was a difficult decision to make in itself!

You see, after paying off those credit cards I was getting ready to start on a third. (There’s that sense of shaming floating up…can you see it?) I was ready to jump full force into busting onto this third goal and…realize I skipped Baby Step One. It was like someone hit me. What? What do you mean I have to stop everything and save money? I felt like the momentum train hit a wall. I was so dejected for a few days–that was money I could apply towards getting rid of that credit card.

Logically, I know why you have a cash emergency fund, but I was just so ready to attack the credit card that I was just thrown off. But I’m ready to get Baby Step One accomplished so I can move on to credit card #3 and see some change start to happen!

Is anyone else following Dave Ramsey or any other financial plans for 2017?