Changes

I sense changes are coming. I can’t say anything specific because nothing is confirmed. Doors seem to be opening and I’m hoping that we can step through each of them in faith that this is the best course of action. The biggest impact these changes will have is financially.

In the last few days, I’ve begun to voice aloud the hope that our family will be able to pay off all of our debts before my 40th birthday. (It seems so monumental to be using the word forty in the context of my life. I just graduated from high school!). My 37th birthday is on Sunday and I’ve been in a goal mindset lately. Is it reasonable to think we might have some financial freedom within the next three years?

We used to be consumer debt free with only student loans to our name. However, adoption is expensive and we had to rely on credit cards to get us to China. Then our car broke down and we financed a used, reliable vehicle. All of that debt adds up and now we are saddled with extra payments that we don’t want.

We currently owe $38,500 to several different creditors. We pay over $700 per month in minimums to these creditors. I know what life is like without consumer debt. I dream of a fresh slate to build wealth instead of pay off debt. I have plans to make a difference through child sponsorship. We sponsor families now but we could make so much more of an impact without the monthly burden of debt.

I am going to be bold and set a goal to reach debt free status by my 40th birthday. There. I’ve proclaimed it to the world. Debt free by 40.

One small financial step at a time

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted about our financial journey. In the past two years, we’ve been focusing on adoption. Let’s face it – adoption is expensive. But we haven’t given up on finding financial freedom!

A quick back story – my husband and I both made some really stupid financial decisions after turning 18. We both attended private college and paid for our tuition and living expenses with student loans. We both racked up credit card debt. I bought a brand new car. Both of us spent money with no regard to the future.

After we got married, we realized just how buried we were in debt and monthly payments. When we combined our finances, we discovered that we owed a whopping total of $95,856.02. I don’t know exactly how much we were paying every month, but I know it was at least $1,300. That was just to cover the minimum payments.

We were so frustrated, completely broke, and had no idea what to do in order to climb out of the hole we’d buried ourselves in. Thankfully, and I believe it’s a God thing, a coworker introduced us to Dave Ramsey’s financial principles. That was seven years ago. We put together a budget, cut all unnecessary expenses, and starting sending every extra penny to our debt.

We are not completely out of debt but we are so much closer. We have an emergency fund in place, no car payments, and no credit card debt. We’ve paid cash for one and a half adoptions, moved to Washington, and ended up with me as a full time homemaker after a job layoff. I’m not saying any of this to brag, just showing how we changed our financial lives.

Today we reached another small milestone. I love celebrating the milestones because it encourages me to keep making forward progress. After paying our student loans, we finally dropped below $30,000 owed. We are finally in the twenties instead of being in the thirties. I’m so excited! This month’s payment dropped my husband’s student loan below $10,000 so his debt is now four digit debt instead of five. And my biggest student loan is now under $15,000. We still have a long way to go but we’re climbing out one step at a time. I cannot wait until the day we can finally yell, “we’re free!!!!”

Once we get back from Taiwan, we get to make the next big financial decision. Do we attack the rest of the student loans so that we can get out of debt completely? Do we save up a down payment so that we can buy a house instead of wasting our money renting? Or do we see about starting another adoption so that we can bring home a second daughter? We are praying about it! I can’t wait to see which direction God points us.

Equipping the Called

I have a pride problem. There. I admitted it.

When I realized a week ago that we need a miracle, I started struggling.

I can do it on my own.
We are self sufficient.
Why do I have to come up with the money now?
I can’t admit to the whole world that I need financial help.

Prideful.

Even though I’m aware that it’s there, I’m still struggling with it. It’s hard to admit that we need help. But then I went to church on Sabbath and heard a message.

The sermon title was “Formed for God’s Family.” The speaker talked about four levels of fellowship. One of the levels is friendship, learning to share. He read Acts 2:44-45, which says “now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” He also talked about how we are to share each other’s problems and quoted Galatians 6:2. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I felt convicted. We are not to live life on our own, relying on ourselves. We are to first rely on God. Then, we lean on each other. We’re not in this alone.

So I ask for your help. If you are a believer in God, can you pray for us? Pray that God’s will be done in our adoption. Pray that we will find peace in His decision, no matter what it is. And pray for that dear girl in Taiwan who is still waiting for a baba and mama. If you feel led, will you consider helping us fund our adoption?

A friend reminded me yesterday that God does not call the equipped. He equips the called. God has called us to adoption. Now we need to rely on Him to equip us to do His will.

A God of miracles

We need a miracle.

This morning we had a phone conference with the Taiwan coordinator. The agency in Taiwan has expressed some concern over our negative net worth. While they want to approve our adoption, they are afraid that the judge will reject our application. The agency is asking if there is any way that we can bring our net worth up to a positive number.

We need $11,000 in order to do that. We need a miracle. I am praying for a miracle.

If we are not able to improve our net worth, we will probably have to postpone the adoption. The option of submitting our application with a negative net worth was never presented, which makes me believe that we have two options. Either we fix the negative net worth or we wait to adopt until our net worth has improved.

I am trying so hard not to be discouraged. God has already worked miracles in our lives over the past eight years. Both my husband and I made bad financial decisions right out of high school. Both of us ran up credit card debt. Both of us borrowed money to attend college. Neither of us have a bachelors degree. Between the college loans and the credit cards and financing a car, we had a combined total of $96,000 of debt.

Then we found Dave Ramsey. We put together a budget. We saved a small emergency fund. We started prioritizing our debt payments. We made progress. We paid off a very large chunk of debt.

Then we both lost our jobs due to layoffs. God worked a miracle during that six month period. Even though the budget made no sense, even though the spreadsheet shows we should have missed payments, God provided. When Jeff was hired at his current job, his salary was enough to cover what both of us had made before. Despite six months of small unemployment checks, we met all of our financial obligations. And when Jeff started his new job, we had an even greater understanding of the need to be debt free.

After several years, we had made enough progress that we started praying for God’s leading to move to the northwest. Jeff asked his employer if he could be allowed to move and work 100% remotely. The employer said yes! We packed up our car, shipped a few boxes, and moved to Washington.

We spent several months saving up money, sleeping on an air mattress, so that we could pay cash for some furniture. God provided. Then we decided it was time to start eliminating the student loans. We sent several large payments but God started impressing my husband that it was time to step out in faith and adopt a child. We’ve seen God’s hand in our adoption so far.

Now we’re getting ready to submit our dossier to court and have hit a road bump. Taiwan’s culture is such that people pay cash for college. It is a lot cheaper to attend college in Taiwan than in the US. Student loans are unheard of.

At this point in time, our adoption is 2/3 paid for. Part of the money has already been submitted to various agencies and fees. Part of the money is sitting in our savings account, waiting for the next step in the process. A process that has been halted. When you put our financial situation on paper, we make a good income. But we own very few “things” and thus have a very low number in the Asset column. We still owe $30,000 in student loans and thus have a big number in the Liabilities column. When you add them together, we have a negative net worth.

I truly believe God told us to step out in faith and apply to adopt a beautiful girl in Taiwan who needs a family. I’ve seen His hand at work in the past six months. Now we need $11,000 to continue the adoption proceedings. We need a miracle. I am praying for a miracle.

Slowly but surely!

On September 24, we bought a bed. Since then, we’ve been saving our money and waiting.

Finally…

Today…

At 11:30am…

Our very empty living room

At noon…

Bruno wonders what has changed

“Is that for me?”

Our Aries cat claims it for his very own

We are very blessed! We finally have a couch and it was paid for with cash. I have to admit, it is hard to not be tempted to finance our furniture purchases. So far we’ve been able to purchase a bed, a folding table, folding chairs, an executive office chair for my husband’s work at home job, and a couch. Not bad for six month of saving and shopping around. We’re slowly furnishing our house and are avoiding debt.

God is so good!

Organization and frugality – groceries

Today has been a fairly productive day. I ran out of yarn on my kitty blanket so I’m again without a knitting project! If hubby is able to get off work at five, we’ll be visiting Joann’s to buy more yarn and some knitting needles for a baby hat.

Kitty blanket – in progress

This morning, I went grocery shopping at Safeway and picked up most of our groceries for the week. We literally eat week to week at our house, running out of groceries at the end of each week. It’s crazy!

I’ve been collecting receipts for the past six weeks and today I started my spreadsheet. We shop at Whole Foods, Safeway, the Asian market, the farmer’s market, and occasionally, at Target and Trader Joe’s. I’m compiling a list of all the staples – things like refried beans, pasta, jarred tomatoes for our pizza sauce, coconut milk, etc. Most of these stores carry the same products, so I’m recording which store has the lowest regular price for each item.

My plan is to take this list with me each week. When I see that something is on sale, I’m going to stock up. It’s frustrating writing down the same basic shopping list. Since most of our meals are the same from week to week, I’d like to have two months of pantry ingredients on hand. And I’d much rather pay sale prices!

A hallmark day!

Our bedroom at 11:25am

Our bedroom at 11:55am

Praise the Lord! We have a bed!

It’s a queen sized organic EcoMemory Foam mattress, covered in bamboo fabric, made in California, and is produced with zero emissions.

Best of all?

We paid cash!!

It was a very long eleven week fight with multiple air mattresses but worth the sacrifice to avoid debt. We finally saved up enough money to order the bed on Friday. Thankfully, the mattress store had one in stock and could deliver this morning.

I am in desperate need of a good night of sleep. Thank you, Lord, for a new bed!!

DEBT FREE!!!!!

Image: Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This morning, we submitted our final payment to the credit card company. We are credit card and car loan debt free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am absolutely ecstatic. We have been working toward this day for six years and finally reached our goal. We refuse to ever again pay interest on another credit card or car loan. Never again will we throw our money down the toilet.

We paid off $42,389.02. That is insane! Out of that, $28,064 was credit card debt. Twenty eight thousand dollars!! We could have bought an amazing car for that amount of money or a huge chunk of a house. We could have toured Europe!

What do we have to show for it? Not much. We financed most of our wedding costs on a credit card. Food. Books. CDs. A very rare cash advance to pay another credit card bill. All of it was a waste of money. I have no idea how much money it took to pay off that $28,000. I didn’t keep track of how much money we paid in interest, just the initial balances. Knowing how much money we paid in interest over the life of the credit cards would be depressing. I just don’t want to know. I’ve learned my lesson.

We used Dave Ramsey’s principles to guide our journey. First we saved up a $1,000 emergency fund to cover any real emergencies. We used it several times and were always grateful it was there. Then we started paying off our smallest balance debt, throwing as much money at it as possible. When that was paid off, we took the minimum payment from the first debt and rolled it into the second debt, plus threw as much money at the debt as possible. Rinse and repeat until we finally paid off the last credit card company.

Now we can finally start saving up for our move! We’re leaving Arizona in 93 days. Once we arrive in Seattle, we’ll split our money between building up a bigger savings account and buying new furniture. After saving up six month’s of living expenses, we’ll start paying off our student loans ($41,596.16 left to go).

We are so excited! Our lifestyle does not change much because our credit cards are gone. We will still be living very simply, paying off the rest of the money we borrowed during college. The one thing we do want to change is to institute a date night and some (just a little bit) of fun money. We rarely spend any money other than groceries and bills. It would be nice to buy a new book or some nice quilting fabric once in awhile, of course fully paid in cash.

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leave of Absence

This morning my laptop’s network card died. Sadly, it was a very sudden and unexpected death. The timing of things is very interesting.

Last week – my husband’s desktop died (4 years old)
This week – my laptop’s network card died (5 years old)
Ongoing – my cell phone is freezing up and I expect it to die at any time (3 years old)
Ongoing – our tv display is slowly dying, pixel by pixel (20 years old)

We still have a number of computers around the house, since my husband is an IT guy and seems to collect these things. I have a Dell Mini and an HP Tablet, but neither of them are my primary workhorse. My husband still has his work laptop, which is good because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to work from home anymore.

We really, really want to replace some of the dying electronics. We shopped around for a television and blu-ray player at Christmas but decided to wait until we paid off our last credit card. Then the computers started dying. We wavered a bit on replacing them but decided that we are going to remain faithful to our financial plan of paying off the last credit card. Lord willing, provided the dentist appointment next week is routine, we should send in our last credit card payment in six weeks.

I am very excited that we are so close to being out of credit card debt! I am also mourning the loss of my primary laptop. The two emotions are conflicting but the desire to be out of debt is stronger.

However… I will be posting very little until I am able to replace my laptop. I love the Dell Mini’s size, but it is a pain to type on. I have lost access to my RSS feeds and thus will not be able to keep up with everyone’s posts. Productivity around the house should be very high without ready internet access and without the distraction of fiction books!

I’ll be back as soon as I can. Until then, stay safe and have a wonderful January!
~Cassandra

Done! Complete! Finished!

I interrupt this normally scheduled Nano time to bring the following important announcement:

We have paid off our lowest balance credit card!!!

I sent the final payment this morning.

We have paid $1,589.25 since August 30th. Our goal was to pay off this card before November 30th and we are 4 weeks early. Wahoo!!!!

If we had paid only the minimums, it would have taken 60 months to pay off this card. Under our current interest rate, we would have paid $403 in interest over the next 60 months. The $403 doesn’t even include the hike in interest that our credit card recently informed us about. Instead, we paid $21.23, for a savings of $381.77.

Hubby and I both need to visit the dentist ($95 each just for an exam and x-rays!) and we’re also planning on diverting some of our snowball into savings. We are very gun shy about employment as we’ve suffered several layoffs in the past 18 months and would like to build up a bigger emergency fund. So we’ll be taking a few days to discuss our next financial goal and then I’ll post about what’s next.