Sunday, December 15, 2019

Debt Mountain Update Month 1

This first month has been HUGE!

Our current balance is 80.4% of the original balance! 

The scholarship turned loan turned PAID IN FULL was a huge help with this. 

I also ran a Small Business Saturday through Cyber Monday sale for Hire A Housewife and put all
Finding one of these would help, but I'm guessing I should
stick to my current plan in the meantime.
the proceeds towards paying off a credit card, which will save me hundreds of dollars of interest every month.

One of debts I owe involves the IRS. When I first started running my own business I paid dutifully whatever the program said I was supposed to pay. Then, I started getting notices from the IRS saying "We don't know why you are sending us money." So, I stopped sending it until I could get it figured it out. Only, I didn't get it figured out until last year. Now I'm working on catching up those payments as well. I paid two months of pack taxes in addition to what was due this month. 

Thankfully, I'm not "in trouble" with them yet. I'm relatively small potatoes compared to others, I'm sure. I will be fully caught up and on track before we ever have an issue. Although I acknowledge there will likely be some interest on some of this that I'm not yet aware of. 

While I don't expect to know everything in advance, one of the ways I anticipate God helping us with this debt journey is through prospering Hire A Housewife.  It is doing better now than it has in awhile, thanks in large part to our newest customer service specialist who is doing a great job. 

I do not expect to make a dent this big every month.
.. I mean, 20% a month means it would be paid off in five months. But seeing the difference in this first month has helped encourage me to be mindful of my purchases, especially as Christmas comes closer. 

There have also been some other developments that won't likely have an effect on the overall balance for a couple of months, but that have been set off by what I started this month. That credit card that I paid off? They don't want to lose me as a customer, so they sent me an offer to transfer balances from my other cards at a 0% interest rate for 14 months... I'll only need 12, but I'll take it. :-)

With this post I'm over halfway through my "8 posts in one month" challenge from Toastmasters and I have a week to get in four more to pass this challenge.  

Friday, December 13, 2019

Intentionality in depression

"You're not on anti-depressants?" the doctor asked.

"Nope. It's been five or six years. My depression was mostly situational and once I learned how to get my mindset in the right place, I didn't need them anymore."

He looked at me skeptically. My previous doctor had left town and I had to see this guy before I could get a prescription refill for my Adderall back in September.

I continued...

"I'd actually like to stop the ADHD meds too at some point, but not yet. I'm getting ready to leave for a big trip, then my wedding, and the holidays... there are a lot of things going on right now and I don't want to deal with withdrawals and learning to rebalance myself in the middle of all of that."

He agreed about it not making changes now, but seemed annoyed that I wanted off medication altogether. "Adderall is perfectly safe for adults. You could be on it another 20 years before I'd start talking about whether it would cause heart problems if you continued taking it."

(Imagining going through all the hassles I have to go through to get this for 20 more years was enough to make me want to quit right there. It's a fight every month to get the prescription filled!)

Then he suggested that there were things that would replace Adderall that had different side effects, and he started naming anti-depressants with built in stimulants.

"No. I don't need anti-depressants." He just nodded and let me go.

I understand some people need anti-depressants. I did, when I took them before. My emotions were stuck in a cycle of bad choices resulting in bad feelings which led to more bad choices. I couldn't get myself out. I couldn't choose to walk towards the light because I couldn't see it.

Taken from cruise ship as we approached Spain.
It's still hard to believe we were actually there!
That's not my life anymore, and I'm proud of that. Some of my early blog posts are clear evidence of the hard work it took to get where I am today!

Last week though, as I sat on the couch, trying to get paperwork done and staring into space doing nothing, it dawned on me that the heaviness that had settled on me was recognizable.

In the last three months, I've planned and executed a move, taken my family on an amazing trip through Make-A-Wish, had a wedding and a reception... there has been something going on all the time. I was always under a deadline.  Life is starting to calm down. Post-wedding and post-vacation blues are a real thing... add that in to just regular life stuff and it makes sense that everything seems so difficult right now.

I've been burning the candle at both ends for awhile, and in the process quit exercising, eating well, or really even trying to do those things. I'm tired.

Writing this post has been difficult because there is a difference between recognizing depression and actually sitting in it, analyzing it, and reconciling it with who I am now.

God is good. My life is good. Good things are happening! It felt almost wrong for me to admit I was depressed... like I must be doing something wrong. As much as this blog thrives on my authenticity, my brain said, "If you know you are depressed and don't have an answer, then you must be doing something wrong. This is your fault. You can't write about that."

The thing is, God didn't say we would always feel happy. He never promised that we would always
I took this photo from our cruise ship one morning
have the energy to get up off the couch and do our work. He didn't even insinuate that it would be my fault if that happiness and energy were missing.

He did tell me to choose joy. He did tell me to rest in Him. He did tell me that He gives me everything I need to deal with the ups and downs of life.

My responsibility in this is to live with intentionality. I have to make sure that I am choosing joy when I'd rather sit in misery. When I am feeling too weighed down to move, I have to close my eyes and choose to ask Him for help... strength, energy, whatever it is I need to get through the next moment.

I don't need to get through the whole day, or the whole week, or the whole month in that moment. There likely will not be a complete emotional turn-around

or the sudden rush energy, but He gives us what we need to take one more step towards joy, knowing that it will get better.

When I started typing this, I didn't know where it was going. It seemed like a long complaint about how I'm feeling. But I know I am supposed to write. So, I intentionally choose to do it, asking God for wisdom along the way. Not for a whole book, not for a whole month of posts, but for the next paragraph... and then the next.

And while you're reading the end result and (possibly) thinking these were words you needed to read... know that these were words I needed to read today too.

God is cool like that.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Recognizing the bad habits

James 1:5-6
I'm partially through a one month writing challenge for Toastmasters, so I'll have a few more posts than usual this month.

Figuring out how grace plays a role in getting out of debt is tricky. In the big picture I understand it, but I don't want to twist scripture into something that looks good on paper.

As I go through the steps to get where I need to be, I know everything will come full circle and make sense in the end. It's another part of this journey I'm looking forward to.

I've purposely taken stock of my bad habits over the last couple of weeks, thinking a bit about how I built my own debt mountain.

Of course there are student loans and a car loan and lots of charged business expenses for my main business on top of the debt from two businesses that haven't brought income. (One no longer operating.) But there are also a lot of little things that have added up over time.

Fear of over-drafting.
I can pull into a gas station, knowing I have $20 to get gas in my checking account, but still use my credit card, "just in case" I need that $20 for something else. Do that three times for the same $20 and even if you haven't used the $20 and can make a payment, you've got $60 on the card to pay off. I will do anything to avoid a $32 overdraft fee from the bank... even pay 27% interest on the charge, apparently.

Bad planning. I would have called it exhaustion before. It is easy to spend $40 on pizza or $30 on Chick-Fil-A when the kids are hungry and I'm just too tired. But the fact of the matter is, dinner happens every day of the week. There are few instances where kids are hungry and I didn't know that I had to feed anyone at some point that day.

Subscriptions. A few weeks ago I spent 2 hours turning off every subscription I had... most of them not even being used., Audible (I use it, but not fast enough... I had to use 6 paid book credits before I could shut it off!), Spokeo (used for a search for a family member and forgot to shut down), Amazon music, etc... I turned off $75/month of recurring charges for things I didn't even need and rarely used.

Giving. I know. This one will be difficult. I have a hard time not justifying giving to others with the knowledge that God wants us to be generous and will make up for whatever I give. I may still continue to give as much as I have been, I don't know. This is something I have to consider, at least questioning myself each time.

I don't doubt other bad habits that will come to light too eventually. I'm taking it one step at a time.

Some will tell me that I have to work hard to pay off these debts. I got myself into this mess, I should get myself out. Do the work. Make the sacrifices. Many will hear me talk about grace being what gets us out of this mess, and assume that means I am not planning to do anything different.

Really, it's a little bit of both.

It would be easy for me to ask God for a miracle and expect one through grace, all while continuing
my bad habits, or to rely on my husband's income to get me through while I continue paying down debt. But I know that doing those things does not help me learn how to handle money better and won't keep me from making similar mistakes in the future.

For me, a huge part of my thankfulness to God for helping me get out from under this debt mountain is making sure that I learn from my mistakes so that I don't end up in the same place again. Do I think I could turn things around and then make big mistakes and God would help again? Yes. But I don't want that to be the cycle my life follows. I believe He has better plans for me (and my money!) than that!

And by taking responsibility for my debt issues and asking for grace each day to help me not use the same bad habits over and over, I'm stretching my faith and bringing myself a step closer to those better plans.

In the same way, instead of relying on a huge miracle of a windfall to pay everything off, I need to make smart choices that open up the streams of income God uses to take care of and bless my family. I mean, I have two businesses for goodness sake. I definitely have the capacity for an increase in income that will help pay off these debts and give us future stability.

But, I'll save that to write about for next time.