Tag Archives: Debt

The Scream Got Loud When The Volume Went Down

So if you know me,  you know that on November 18th, I paid off the last of my debt.. the humped back, hairy aunt called the Sally Mae student loan. Which also means that if you know me you’ve  looked for an exit door if you’ve seen me coming cause you know I’m gonna have to say like  fifty eleven kajillion times that “I’m Debt Free!!!”

Today was finally the official debt free scream day at Financial Peace Plaza.  I was so excited I might have maybe pushed the speed limit just a teensy little bit to get there. Think of Christmas morning with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy handing out gifts.  Big Day and an amazing experience. I highly recommend just hanging out in the lobby during the show if you need a little inspiration.

First, the staff were walking sparklers of awesomeness.   There is a supersonic energy in the air when you are around people who are doing work they love.  And these folks are doing what they love.  Ms. Martha gave us our scream time (1:45) And then we had to wait. Patiently.  The Nice Lady Handing Out The Cookies Whose Name I Never Caught was armed with chocolate chip cookies to increase the patience threshold. Not only were there cookies but peanut butter brownies – homemade peanut butter brownies made by the aforementioned Ms. Martha.

In fact I think that if Dave gave his book a new title:  “Total Money Makeover…pay off your debt and you can have the best peanut butter brownie evah” everyone would want to be on the debt free band wagon.  You did just read the part where I said the best peanut butter brownie evah? Really folks, where else can you go where they will let you scream like a lunatic in the lobby and give you free food…. and no one gets arrested. And they encourage this behaviour!

We got to hear a couple make their debt free scream and clap, cheer, hoot and holler with them.And then 1:45 finally came. We got to call in to the Dave Ramsey Radio show for Debt Free Friday.  We got to share our story. I tried not to cry but got a little veklempft.  We screamed our mightiest scream. We shook, we shimmied, we jumped up and down.  Dave (yup, I totally feel like I can call him that) was gracious enough to let us take a picture with him. And he signed my very well read original Financial Peace book. Seriously, he came out at every break… and shook hands and smiled and let people take pictures.   Can you imagine? His show is 3 hours long.  That”s a bunch of commercial breaks. A bunch of smiling and photo snapping.   I don’t think even the most determined to be cheerful bride could outlast Dave in the “Smile and Say Cheese” department.

Our Bubba Tater truck finally got his Debt Free bumper sticker. Maggie has informed me that now he can never ever ever be sold. Which is a shame because he only has about 10 working parts left. We called the parental units to share the love. We ate chinese food. We had to stop by our Publix  to shout “We’re Debt Free” to our two favourite banker ladies. Once a month every month for a long long time I approach the counter with my list of envelope money and the post it that says exactly how to break it out so each envelope will get just what the budget says its supposed to get. They have stocked me with free bank envelopes as needed. They have watched Maggie grow taller and taller.  They don’t even bother making the latest credit card extravaganza offer to me.  Instead, they tell everyone:  “She’s on the Dave Ramsey plan”. Which I think is another way of saying “muy loco” but that’s okay.  We played our new board game, Act Your Wage!, which was given to all the screamers today (tons of fun by the way). We sipped tea with honey. There was a lot of screaming today. We screamed on our short walk back to the truck. We screamed out the truck window.  We  screamed at stop lights…. you get the drift.

And now, the Girl Wonder is tucked in bed. Sound asleep.the Dog is asleep. I’m curled on the couching typing away. I’ve read what I’ve written a couple times now and its not the best. It’s disjointed. There is so much I’m leaving out.  I’m sure there are typos multiplying like rabbits.  I just can’t think. The house is totally quiet but in my head we’re still jumping up and down and screaming.  It’s echoing.  I can feel the tears coming. Big fat crocodile ones.  Relief. Joy. Gratitude.  Tiredness. Overwhelmedness (I’m tired.. I can make up my own words).  So I’m going to get the Kleenex box now.  I’m gonna let the tears go, a liquid deep breath.  I’m gonna say another prayer of thanks for this action filled adventure that is our life. I’m gonna go to bed.  Tomorrow, it’s time to start paying it forward.

 

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I Know, I know, Shuttup About It Already… but I can’t I’m just all giddy

About 9 years ago….  Girl Wonder and I were living with my parents; I was going through a divorce and broke broke broke. With $45,000 in debt. Most of which was student loans used to finance some college (look how far that Ag degree has taken me), and a lot of irresponsible craziness and that’s just the parts I do remember.  On the plus side, I had a rockin’ blond and spiky haircut, an unbelievably resilient child, oooohhhh soooo fantabulous parents and a genetic predisposition for stubbornness.

Despite it’s “please invite me on Dr. Phil cause obviously my life is a little messed up and oh while you’re at it book me in for  nervous breakdown” feeling….. living with my parents was one of the greatest gifts they have ever given me (even more so than Renaldo the Kitchen Aide mixer).  They gave me room and board. Unconditional love. Parenting Support (and occasionally advice); and lots and lots of room to think.  And I realized I had a life to rebuild  financially to rebuild spiritually. Things were off track. I was tired. I was angry (have you ever seen a pissed off Italian/ Polish/ Irish girl?). I was absolutely scared.  I had a child.  I had collectors calling on the phone. I was about to turn 30 (I was a mere child myself). I was toooo independent for my own good. I had had enough. And holy crap, did I mention I WAS LIVING WITH MY PARENTS!

About 9 years ago I decided…. never again. The debt had to go. As usual once I make up my mind, the course was set (enter predisposition for stubbornness). Because it wasn’t just about debt. It was about making choices to build the life I was put here to live.  I believe we all have a purpose. There are things we are meant to do;  lives we are supposed to touch, pockets of love, joy and brilliance we are supposed to carve out to shore this world up closer to the sun.

Please feel free to sing Kumbaya if you feel so inclined….

All that debt was in my way. I couldn’t see my way around it, over it or under it.

Eventually, Girl Wonder and I found our way back home to Tennessee. I changed the way I lived. Completely.  Now I can’t write this without saying the two words that make some of my friends  roll their eyes and run cause they know it means it will be a while before I shut up…. Dave Ramsey. I listened to him every day. It become my motivation to pay off the debt. I lived for “debt free” Friday. Listening to callers scream “I’m debt free”.

If you’ve listened before you know what I mean:  Billy, Jane and their little baby Edward all just hootin’ and hollerin’ like mad people cause they paid off like a kajillion dollars in 7 weeks and they sold half of what they owned and ate only day old doughnuts they got for free for those 7 weeks and it was the best 7 weeks of their life. Okay, there may be a slight exaggeration in my example.  You hear these amazing people doing these amazing things and finding such excitement in it and it makes you want to do it too. Maggie and I have  talked about our own debt free scream on a monthly basis.

Every month for 9 years I’ve done a budget. There has been little vacation time. Luck for me, I have family who likes me, live in fun places and let me stay for free. Goodwill become a second home. I got a library card.  Dinners out became rare. I’ve had yard sales. I learned to ask myself “Does this bring value to my life?” “Can I live without this?” And occasionally… “Can I put this on my Christmas Wish List?” The answers often were no, yes and yes.  Who knew you could continue to live and breath without all those cute shoes at Target.

It’s not like we lived lives of quiet desperation. We did not wear hair shirts. We did not have to turn junk mail into toilet paper or mend our clothes with duct tape. It was all about simplifying.  About quantifying: What is (insert “gimme” of choice) worth to me?” Often it was not worth enough to move backwards from the goal… pay off the freaking debt! I had weak moments… fabric binges, a sale at REI, the alluring smell of new books in a bookstore. But behold the power of a budget…. I adjusted for my spending. Oh the joy of Excel… I played with numbers for the next month until I’d made up for unbudgeted ways. Yes, I’m a total geek with a multicoloured, formula dense spreadsheet budget.  How I heart the budget. It’s all about telling yo’ money where to go instead of wondering where yo’ money went.

Income certainly speeds the adventure up. I went from about $23.000 to almost $50,000 in those 9 years.  Little debts paid off first.  The big ugly one picked at like a hangnail. Slowly. A little bit at a time. A little bit more at a time. A whole chunka debt at a time as the income went up. And then, in the distance, a glimmer of light. Just a twinkle.  Like smelling fried dough at the fair but not being able to find it.

Fast forward to last year.  January 2009. $29,000 left to go. Only that damned student loan hanging on like a tic. April 2010. $3,300 to go.  The fried dough is just around the corner! Then I lost my job. Slam on the brakes. The train derails. Elvis has left the building.  Talk about a mood killer.  Some tears. Some tantrums. A few months of hand wringing worrying. The budget helped us through. A first step into self employment… something I’ve wanted for a long long time but sorta hard to achieve when you can see what you want to be, you can feel what you want to be but you can’t name it.

Since August life has been full. Full-time employment with self employment on the side (more updates on this adventure to come) and on and on with the student loan payment. Until Tuesday of this week that is.  On Tuesday, I sent off my last student loan payment EVAH!. Done. Gone. Over. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out Sally Mae.  Tonight my online account reads PAID IN FULL!!!!  I’M DEBT FREE!!!.  It’s still sinking in and I say it over and over. I apologize in advance to my family cause I know I’ll still be saying it at Thanksgiving and my brother will probably attack me with a drumstick.

We’ve been talking about this day for almost 9 years. Dreaming. Planning. A daily motivation: “Just think about what it’s gonna be like to be able to scream I’m debt free”. And now we can.  We really really can. We will be one of the screamers on the Dave Ramsey Show. Dave, we’re telling you now; we will not take no for an answer. We are coming to Financial Peace Plaza to make our debt free scream. Do not thwart our mission.

And in my own rambling way this is a Thank You to my parents, my Girl Wonder, The Q, my brother and his lovely wife, my friends, the Gentleman To Whom I Solemnly Swear I Will Never Make Potato Salad Again. They cheered. They held my hand. They took me to Sonic at midnight.

And for me the best part, the absolute best part with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top…

By changing my life, I have changed my daughter’s.

Oh and Sally Mae, this one’s for you

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Sally Mae You’re Starting To Smell

Sallie Mae, you’re starting to smell. About time you packed your bags and moved on down the road.  After 8 long years, it’s almost done. $1,988.36 left to go on the student loan. The last of my debt (except for my little green house).  So we’re gonna hang out here in the No Spend Zone a little bit longer. We readying for our Debt Free Scream. We’re readying for the Debt Free party. Readying for a full blown career change. Ready, ready, ready.

And in the realms of motherhood where the countdown ranges from “I can’t bear to count the years fly by as you grow up” to “how many more years before you leave for college?”. I drove home a very sleepy girl. Who informed me that of course she was tired. She had been in school all day. All I had to do all day was work and then cook dinner. And that was sooooooooooo much easier than having to think all day.

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