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Mortgage-Free…But Keeping Sandals On

Mortgage-free, but keeping my sandals on.

DH = dear husband

Mortgage-free …

“Let’s take a look at our mortgage,” DH said after the first week of September. We had made our very last payment of $1400, and I think we were hoping to see a lovely $0. DH scrolled down the page of our online account … and then back up again. “It’s gone,” he said.

I looked too, and there was no indication of a mortgage or its pay-off to be seen. There was a new line of text that said, “Take out a mortgage with us!” My guess is that it’s a promotion that the bank automatically inserts onto the pages of customers who don’t have a mortgage with them.

Wouldn’t you think that the bank would send out a little “Congratulations!” – or at least provide the satisfying visual of “$0.00”? According the Cheese_Baron, the bank doesn’t find mortgage pay-off a cause for celebration:

… but not debt-free

Our $0 mortgage was SUPPOSED to be the big “Woooo-hoo!” But we blew it. We never used debt in the 6 years and 2 months – 74 months – of our journey out of debt between June 2012 and July 2018. But in August – month #75 of a total 76 – we got ahead of ourselves and ended up with a $3,800 line of credit 🙁

Moral of the story? If you’re trying to reverse decades-long habits of poor financial management, don’t let go of your vigilance once you’ve hit debt-freedom. You’re going to need the awareness and accountability that got you this far to stay out of debt and to build on the positive side of $0.

So although the grass in our backyard beckons, we’re keeping our sandals on. We’ll take our barefoot walk once that annoying line of credit is gone. As of now, it’s down to $2,500.

The impact of healthy finances when life sucks

Although transparency is a real blog-value of mine, there are limits to what I can disclose. All I’ll say is that something really crappy has happened, and for me it has involved the fog of shock, an incredulous outrage, and a frustrated powerlessness. It has nothing to do with finances.

Great things happen whether or not you’ve got your financial act together – and so do awful things. Does financial health make a difference when life takes a nose-dive?

I think it does. It offers a buffer to absorb some of the mess that – for me at least – comes with crisis. I get less competent and more wasteful at times like this. I get drawn to band-aid comforts – like take-out – and I want to provide them for anyone else who is impacted. Poor financial health just makes tough times colder and more stressful.

There. That’s it for this week. I believe that all will be well soon.


Was there a tough time when you noticed that financial health either helped or hindered you? If you ran a bank, what would you communicate to customers who had paid off their mortgage?


 

My Old Post Is Published: A Timely Reminder

Remarkable timing

In November of 2013, I wrote a post about debt, faith, and freedom. I was surprised this past February – of 2018 – to receive an email message from the Christian magazine Activated, requesting permission to publish the article.  When told that it would be published in September, I was struck by the incredible timing involved. 

“We’re still a long way from paying off our debt …” I wrote nearly 5 years ago. “Time will tell if we maintain the discipline necessary to keep things going in a positive direction once we’re out of the red. Time will tell if we use our growing financial freedom well and generously or if we squander it foolishly.” A bit of a haunting question to be asked now – in September of 2018 – our month of complete debt-freedom.

Activated edited my original post and gave it a more succinct title:

Debt Reduction and Wealthbuilding

Reading the blogs of other people fighting debt helps me keep my resolve in focused debt reduction. As I browse articles that relate to where we’re at in our journey out of debt, I often sift out those to do with investments and savings. There is an overlap between writings on the subject of debt reduction and those on the subject of wealth building, and while I’m 100% in when it comes to eliminating debt, I struggle with the concept of building wealth. Where I associate debt reduction with becoming responsible, exercising discipline, and cleaning up my act, I have tended to associate wealth building exclusively with greed and selfishness.

A few years ago, I wrote a post explaining how faulty interpretations of certain Bible passages had taken root in me long ago, leading me to associate money and rich people with all that is bad.1

It can be touchy to quote the Bible when sharing a personal issue—like personal debt—because it can alienate the listener or the reader. But debt reduction is many-layered, and leaving out the spiritual side of it gives an incomplete picture of the experience. A colleague of mine who reads my blog and who is not Christian told me last year, after reading the post mentioned above, “You’re one of the few people who can quote the Bible without leaving me angry.” That gives me

Click to continue reading


Don’t you think it’s cool this particular post, which I wrote almost 5 years ago, was published this particular month? Have you had to deal with a negative attitude towards building wealth? Your comments are welcome.


Image courtesy of synergy-cmc.com

Prudence Debtfree Stumbles at Finish Line (Ugh!)

  • DH = dear husband
  • DD3 = dear third daughter
  • DD2 = dear second daughter
  • DD1 = dear first daughter

“You’re worried about what you’ll write on your blog.”

Last week, I wrote rather cryptically: “Ironically, with our total debt-freedom only weeks away, DH and I were off our game.” I then vaguely stated that “we faced our current mess. What would we do to deal with it? A mortifying thing, but we got it figured out.”

All week I’ve had a nagging stress about this “mess” in the back of my mind. “I don’t think it’s so much that you’re worried about the state of our finances,” DH said to me when I talked about it yet again. “You’re worried about what you’ll write on your blog.”

Not quite true – but partly true.

The income-tax-return-effect

One of the bad money patterns from our past that DH and I have come to recognize through the 6+ years of our journey out of debt has been what we call the income-tax-return-effect. When our children were younger, DH and I received significant income tax refunds each year. We’d do our taxes, and it would be all about the refund. “We’re going to get $1,380!” And we’d start fantasizing about what we’d buy with it. (Already this is painful to write about!)

Since we knew the money was coming, we’d go ahead and buy the things we had settled upon ahead of time – and put it on credit. And then when the money came, guess what we did. We spent it again!

A bad old pattern seeps in

DH and I allowed the income-tax-return-effect to seep back into our finances this summer. Since the beginning of 2018, I have made reference to our projected debt-freedom date of September 2018. This summer, without being aware of it, DH and I gravitated back to that “We’re going to get a tax refund!” disconnect.

I believe (though DH doesn’t) that this disconnect was compounded by the fact that I received the second – and bigger – part of my inheritance in July. It falls in the range of an average inheritance, but it is by far the most substantial amount of money we have ever dealt with. We’ve been very intentional about using it to speed up our mortgage pay-off (by 8 months) and to invest. However, I’m convinced that good intentions and even good execution have not stopped our brains from becoming a bit addled by it.

So my theory is that we unintentionally allowed the promise of debt-freedom + the knowledge that an inheritance had increased our wealth = seeping in of income-tax-return-effect. “You just got excited a little too early,” DD3 very kindly said after I’d explained it all to her.

The anatomy of our mess

What did we do this summer?

  • We rented a cottage in the Bruce Peninsula with 2 other couples for 5 days.

We hadn’t had this sort of trip for over 6 years – “this sort” meaning that we paid for our accommodation instead of staying at people’s houses. It wasn’t crazy expensive, and it was such a beautiful part of the world! I’m glad we went, and I hope we go back again. It’s just an indication that we were exiting debt-payoff mode a few months early.

  • We went camping for 10 days with DD3, DD2, and our puppy Kobe in August.

The last time we camped for any amount of time was 5 years ago – and I was racing between the park and my summer school job in the city the whole time. It was l-o-v-e-l-y to sink into the relaxation that comes with camping. And we had a great time introducing Kobe to swimming, camp fires, and tents. DH and I upgraded to cots instead of air mattresses – again, a purchase we wouldn’t have made in full-on debt-repayment mode.

  • DH doesn’t get vacation pay.

We did not take into account that DH’s income for August would be reduced by half – because he was away for half of the month.

  • We bought 2 bicycles.

DH and I had been riding bikes that were old (about 25 years), heavy, and worn. We decided that the one treat we would would give ourselves from the inheritance was the purchase new bikes. We bought them, and they’re great! But as DH pointed out last night, we spent more than the amount we gave ourselves. With lights, fenders, bells, carriers, water bottles and their holders, not to mention taxes – we ate into our budget.

  • I did a celebratory debt-free spa day with our 3 daughters.

Ever since we started our journey out of debt, I planned to treat our girls to a spa day once we were out of the red. DD1 studies out west, and we see her only 2 or 3 times a year. She came home at the end of August – so close to our debt-freedom date of September – and we decided that this would be the time to do our spa day. It was f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s, exceeding even the high expectations each of us had for the day. But it was also e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e. And while I don’t want to take away from the great experience that it was, we should have waited for DD1’s first visit after we were truly debt-free.

Debt-freedom in September?

The line graph of our debt-repayment isn’t smooth. Its bumps reflect the differences in progress that we’ve achieved over the months and years. But it goes in one direction: down. We never went back into debt once we started our journey out of debt in June of 2012. Until August of 2018. (Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!)

In September, we will pay off the last of our mortgage: $1,400. But will we be debt-free? Because of our summer self-sabotage – even after a mad scramble to throw all available reserve money  at our bills – our line of credit sits at $3,800. (U-G-H-!)

DH and I had our budget date last night. We plugged our numbers into the new and improved spreadsheet he designed last week … and it looks like we’ll be able to cover it! The dream of debt-freedom in September is still alive! I wasn’t expecting that, and we certainly don’t deserve it. 3 things are working for us:

  1. August was a 3-pay month for me, so we’ve got the money to cover the remaining mortgage without dipping into September’s income.
  2. We have been maxing out our monthly mortgage payments at $3,000, so the lower payment this month is significant.
  3. We don’t need to keep any income from this month in reserve for October’s mortgage payment – because we won’t have one!

If DH has a good business month, we might pay off the line of credit before the end of September. Otherwise, my 2nd pay of the month – the last Friday of September – will do the trick.

Transparency

“You don’t need to write about it,” DH said to me last night – knowing how mortified I am by the whole thing.

I considered that option, but decided against it. Could I really let out a virtual debt-free scream when we’d paid off the mortgage – even though we’d dug into our line of credit? No. When I started this blog, I committed to honesty – to giving a genuine account of the good, the bad, and the ugly of debt-reduction for us.

I would never have guessed that we would make such a colossal mistake so close to the finish line! But we have. And I think there’s value in knowing that the forces that kept us in chronic debt for so long are still waiting in the wings – ready to attack once we think we’ve arrived. DH and I were dumbfounded. “We can’t take our eyes off our money,” he said.  “It so easily gets out of control. We have to stay vigilant.” Amen to that.


Can you believe this?! Have you ever sabotaged yourself in reaching a goal SO close to the finish line? Your comments are welcome.


*Image courtesy of flickr

Debt-Freedom & Back to Basics: Budget Dates

DH = dear husband

It was 3:12 am one early morning last week, and I’d woken up. By 3:40, it was clear that sleep just wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I reached over in the dark to pick up the novel I had almost finished reading, and I walked out of the room as quietly as possible – not wanting to disturb DH’s sound slumber.

When I turned on the lamp by the guest room bed, I realized I’d brought the wrong book. Instead of The High Mountains of Portugal by Jann Martel, I had Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover in my hands. It’s the book that gave us the wake-up call, the inspiration, and the steps that DH and I needed to get ourselves out of chronic debt. We had both listened to the CD version and read the print version in May of 2012, and now that we were approaching total debt-freedom in September of 2018, I had taken the book out again – a sort of “This is how it all started” looking back thing – and clearly left it beside my novel.

Would I go back and get the right book? I decided not to. I continued re-reading Ramsey’s book from where I’d left off.

Budget basics

“Most people concentrate on the urgent in our culture,” I read in chapter 4. “We worry about our health and focus on our money only after they’re gone … John Maxwell has the best quote on budgeting I have ever heard … ‘A budget is people telling their money where to go instead of wondering where it went.’ You have to make your money behave, and a written plan is the whip and chair for the money tamer.”

And then from one of the featured testimonials towards the end of the chapter, “We have made budgeting and planning our future together enjoyable and fun. It’s like dating again!”

Time to go back to the basics

I don’t know what time it was when I turned off the lamp and sleep finally came to me, but I do know that before drifting off, I recognized that I hadn’t reached for the “wrong book” after all. Ironically, with our total debt-freedom only weeks away, DH and I were off our game. Was it a case of summer vacation sending our money-smarts on vacation too? Or were we getting sloppy and complacent because the finish line was just around the corner? We needed to get back to basics.

Sure enough, in the days to come, DH made reference to the abysmal state of our finances.  Ugh! This was all too familiar – the speechless incredulity at how much money was leaving our account and how little was left. As if we were bystanders to it all and not the ones in control of it! Hadn’t we been dealing with this very issue for the past 6+ years? Why the resurgence of what we absolutely didn’t want? “A budget is people telling money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” What were we doing “wondering where it went”?

Our history of “budget date” fails

I think that at some unspoken level, DH and I figured we had “graduated” out of the need to budget. But clearly we hadn’t. Clearly, we still needed the “whip and chair” of a written plan – a “money tamer” vigilance.

“I want us to meet tonight,” I said to DH Thursday afternoon. “We need a budget date. What time works for you?” DH accepted, and 8:30 was to be our time. A bit of a stiff interaction, but “budget date” was probably a trigger for us both – because we’d never managed to make the “date” part happen.

In 2015, 3 years into our journey out of debt, I wrote a post about my frustration with our “budget dates”: “We knew this was going to be a ‘clean up the mess’ budget meeting. And it ended up being – well – messy. I won’t go into details, but at a particularly low point, I said, ‘Now you’re just being an a**hole.’  As soon as we had finished with the budget, I marched upstairs in stony silence to get ready for church (the irony does not escape me), and when DH came up to do the same, we just looked at each other and laughed. When will we get this budget meeting thing right?!”

Getting it right

Thursday evening, I wanted things to be different. Budget dates of the past had always involved us huddling over a computer spreadsheet in DH’s office space. This time, there would be no computer, and we would meet in our living room. I poured two drinks. I dimmed the lights and lit a candle. DH chuckled when he saw it all, but he sat down like a good sport … and we stared at each other awkwardly.

With a pointed effort to reach that essential balance between civility and transparency, I said that I first wanted to discuss the long-term. We’d been following a plan, and we were close to enjoying the culminating success of it – with our September mortgage payoff only weeks away –  and we needed a new plan for the next chapter. We laid out our priorities:

  •  continued investment for retirement
  • filling up our emergency fund (depleted from the recent demise of our ’99 Dodge Caravan and subsequent purchase of a new-to-us vehicle)
  • a full-on sale-prep-reno plan for our home over the next few years
  • more generous giving
  • more discretionary money for us

We decided upon the basics of our budget moving forward on all counts. It was good to give dollar-amount definition to everything!

Next, we faced our current mess. What would we do to deal with it? A mortifying thing, but we got it figured out. Throughout our discussions, I remained on the look-out for rising tensions, and when they surfaced, I very intentionally avoided reaction – instead choosing to respond with both respect and strength. DH must have done the same – because neither of us gave way to irritation, and we capped it all off with a toast to our future.

That’s verging on romantic, isn’t it? Is it possible that we’ve finally got it right? And that included in the future we toasted will be bona fide budget dates?


Do you keep a written budget? Have you ever thought you had “graduated” from the need to keep a budget? Have you ever tried a budget date? Your comments are welcome.


Image courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery

Prudence Debtfree’s Debt-Reduction Graph

  • DH = Dear Husband
  • DD2 = Dear Second Daughter

Producing my graph

“If you had kept a spreadsheet of our debts month-by-month, you could have produced a graph in a few seconds,” DH told me earlier today. But I have not keep a spreadsheet. Instead, I’ve written dozens of updates on our debt-reduction progress. And these are interspersed through 277 posts that I’ve written for this blog over the last 6 years and 3 months. So it took a lot longer than mere seconds to produce my graph.

For several days, I’ve been digging deep into the archives of Prudence Debt-Free: One Couple’s Journey out of Debt. In my efforts to pin down an account of our debt totals for the 76 months of our trek to debt-freedom, I spent hours filling up 10 pages with dates and numbers. After that, it was a matter of bribing DH (with food) to take my data and make the graph.

4 of the 10 pages of notes I took

If this graph could tell its story …

2012

After a very encouraging start in June of 2012, we had to put our debt-repayment on hold for September and October. DH had been to a conference in the U.S. and he had suffered a gall bladder attack. He’d had to give a deposit of $2,500 for his few hours in a hospital, with another $3,000+ owing. It took weeks to sort out the insurance coverage.

Everything settled in our favour with the insurance, and our financial stars aligned to allow us to pay off a lot all at once. November brought us to the end of our consumer debt ($21,400). DH’s over-the-top business in December allowed us to pay $10,000 off of our business debt ($80,800).

2013

Our debt-payoff rate decreased through most of 2013.  We had to save for a new roof, and in the spring, DH’s business slowed down. I had to learn patience on both fronts, and the big victory of the year was that for the first time in our lives, we paid for a big purchase – the roof – with money on hand.

2014

After having paid for the roof, we were eager to speed up payments against our huge business debt. Our rate of repayment increased overall, but there was nothing smooth about it. A month of great income and low expenses would be followed by a month of slow business and vet bills. One month, we paid a whopping $5,000 off the business debt. For two months, we couldn’t pay off anything. It was a bumpy ride through 2014, and as our attitudes did some re-shaping, we began to recognize in ourselves a draw towards greater simplicity and minimalism.

2015

The bumps of 2014 continued into the first half of 2015, but then … we paid off the business debt! We were debt-free except for the mortgage! From June of 2015, our debt-repayment pace became smoother and slower. Why slower? 3 reasons:

  1. We saved up for renovations that DH did near the end of the year.
  2. We supported DD2 financially in moving out of the house and closer to her university and track facilities. We did this for 2 years – from July of 2015-June of 2017.
  3. In following Dave Ramsey’s steps, we started to save for our big emergency fund. (Just 2 months ago, our e-fund allowed us to buy a new-to-us car with money on hand when our ’99 Dodge Caravan bit the dust.)

2016

I found it difficult to get excited about the slower progress we were making now that we were dividing our financial focus between savings and debt-repayment. I had been more motivated when it had all been about taking down the debt. As 2016 started, my resolution was to hold steady – like a plank – and to keep strong in all aspects of our financial efforts.

Our big mile-stone for the year was in going from a 6-figure debt to a 5-figure debt. From our original total debt of $257,000, we had less than $100,000 to pay off! I could see the finish line on the horizon!

2017

Our debt-repayment continued steadily in 2017, but DH and I found ourselves shifting towards a greater appreciation for investing. Now that our big emergency fund had been saved, we were investing 15% of our gross income (as per Ramsey’s plan).

My mother’s health started to decline in the spring of 2017. She passed away in November after living a long and full life. Her final illness was mercifully brief, and she was surrounded by all 5 of her children at the end.

2018

The inheritance that I received has sped up the last leg of our journey to debt-freedom. We were aiming for a debt-free date of June 2019, but that date moved up to September of 2018. We were able to make 2 lump sum payments against our mortgage to bring it down sharply – without incurring a penalty.

In 3 short weeks, our mortgage – and the last of our debt – will be down to $0. Our journey out of debt is almost over.


If you are paying off debt, how do you keep track of your progress? Are you aiming for a specific debt-free date? Your comments are welcome.


 

Our First “Aha!” to STAY out of Debt

  • DH = dear husband
  • DD1 = dear first daughter
  • DD2 = dear second daughter

“write about what you’re doing stay out of debt”

2 months ago, I hit a writer’s block for the first time in 6 years of blogging. Why? Our narrative had changed dramatically because we’d received an inheritance, and it no longer felt genuine for me to be writing about our “struggle” to become debt-free – since it was no longer a struggle. I shared my concern with a colleague who reads this blog, and she said, “Why don’t you write about what you’re doing to stay out of debt? It’s a real issue, and it’s not a topic that many people write about.”

I have been very confident throughout this journey out of debt that DH and I would never use debt to buy anything ever again. We had indulged in yo-yo debting in the past, but we were now aware of our old bad patterns and were steering clear of them.

My susceptibility to marketing “seduction”

In these last 6 years, although we have saved for every purchase and avoided debt, there have been a few times when I’ve come face-to-face with my own susceptibility to what I can only call the seduction of marketing. In a post I wrote in December of 2013, “Debt and Battlefield of the Brain at Christmas Time”, I recognized the power of the season over my wallet.

“I got a little lost as I looked through all that was available,” I wrote of my shopping experience. “A subtle seduction was working its power on me as I imagined DD1’s delight and DD2’s surprise as each opened her gifts Christmas morning. The colours, the fabrics, the variety of styles . . . They wobbled my mental math, making me round down, making me subtract rather than add tax – or so it must have been, because I was way off and genuinely shocked by that $299 total.”

In 2015, after we’d paid off all non-mortgage debt, we decided to reward ourselves with some new furniture to go hand-in-hand with the home-office renovations DH was doing. Again, that seduction worked its power. In a post from the spring before our renovations began, I wrote “We would have to start looking out for new furniture – a sectional sofa for the old office space; a small love seat and two chairs for the combined family room/dining room . . . It was SO LOVELY to be able to think, talk, and plan in this way! I was high on visions of tile, hardwood, and leather furniture. I don’t even care how shallow that sounds!” How embarrassing is that?

Our condo plans

A few days ago, DH sat down at the kitchen table with me as I finished up my breakfast. His body language told me that he wanted to broach a difficult topic. “Let’s talk some sense and sensibility,” he said. (Sense and Sensibility is the title of one of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m a big fan. It was strategic diplomacy on DH’s part to use those words.) He was holding floor plans of the different condo units from the close-to-downtown development we’d planned to move into. 

A quick recap – I have always wanted to live downtown, and recently, DH and I discovered a new development in a great area close to the the downtown core. Condos are being built, and 2 months ago we decided that this fall we would put money down on one scheduled to be ready in 2022. We were both very excited about this plan, and we’ve visited the development several times over the summer. The timing seemed perfect. In 2022, we will both be retired empty-nesters. And although the condos are expensive, we were confident that we’d be able to cover the cost completely with the sale of our home.

Sober second thoughts

As DH started to talk at the kitchen table that morning, I knew where he was going. “It’s OK,” I said. “I woke up today thinking the same thing.” Our individual mental gymnastics had brought us to a shared conclusion based on many points.

  • The 10% we would put towards the condo in October would mean a significant amount of investment money not gaining any interest for 4 years.
  • We can only say that the price of the condo is more or less what we could reasonably expect to get for our house once it’s fixed up. There is no guarantee though. Who knows what will happen with housing prices in the next few years?
  • Condo fees will be significant, and again, there’s no telling what will happen to them over time. Usually, condo fees go up.
  • To get the house sale ready within 2 to 3 years, I would have to work an extra year. I might choose to work an extra year anyway, but this would make it a “have to” thing – not a choice.
  • There would be an ever-present stress between the time we put the 10% down and the time we put the house up for sale. “Will the sale price cover the cost of the condo?”

Bottom line: it’s too risky. It’s too close to the line. When we move to a smaller space – as we probably will in the next 5 years or so – it should be a move that ends up giving us a slush fund.  It should not be a move that might give us a new mortgage – as well as condo fees – when we’re on our lower retirement income.

Our decision

So we’re not going to put 10% down in October. More than likely, that means we won’t move into that development. Worst case scenario? Our house sells at a more-than-adequate price but the condo also goes up in price and stays out of our reach. And we say, “If only we’d put that 10% down in October of 2018!” Could I live with that? Of course.

“You never know,” DH said. “Maybe in 4 years we’ll be saying how relieved we are that we didn’t go for this because of something else that comes up – something better.”

“That’s a nice thought,” I said. “But I can’t see it. I can’t even imagine something better.” DH winced. “But I’m OK with that,” I added.

And I am. I LOVED the idea of moving into that condo. It looked p-e-r-f-e-c-t. But I l know that if it compromised the financial freedom we’ve been gaining, it would be a huge regret. It’s never a good idea to want something too much. That kind of longing is at least in part the product of marketing, and for me, it’s been the cause of many debts. I’m sure that DD2 and DD1 can’t even remember the Christmas gifts we gave to them in 2013. And that furniture I was so excited about in 2015? It’s just our furniture now. Presents and sofas don’t make life full. Neither do condos.


Have you ever wanted something “too much”? Your comments are welcome.


Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Prudence Debtfree at Women Who Money

This image was chosen by the people at Women Who Money. Pretty dramatic! But it’s true that debt is a freedom-killing set of chains for too many people.

Last week, our story was featured at Women Who Money. If you missed it, here it is:

Hi, I’m Ruth (aka Prudence Debtfree), and I live in a suburb of Ottawa, Canada’s national capital city. I’m 55 years old, and my husband David is 59. Of our 3 daughters, two are in their 20s and have flown the nest, and the youngest, 19, continues to live with us.

David and I earn a household income that is above average, but it’s not as high as the income we used to receive before the high tech bust of the early millennium sent us reeling.

Before the tough times set in, we had a bad habit of maxing out, and our debt-to-income ratio (total debt divided by total take-home income) just kept increasing. We carried our debts comfortably, and we thought we were doing fine.

Click here to continue reading.

Would You Nominate Me for A Plutus Award (by July 31)?

In 6+ years of blogging, this is a first: I’m asking if you would nominate me for a Plutus Award. The Plutus Awards are given out each year at FinCon, a conference for people, including bloggers, involved in the personal finance community. I have never attended FinCon – largely because the travel involved would go against the debt-freedom I’ve been trying to achieve – but I believe in its vision:

“Our vision: we see a future where the world is changed for the better because our thousands of community members and attendees expose hundreds of millions of people to the life-changing ideas of financial freedom and independence.”

As many of you know, I started this blog in May of 2012 to chronicle what I hoped would be a journey to debt-freedom. That journey is about to come to an end. In September of 2018 – just over a month away – my husband and I will be putting the last payment against our mortgage! One of the reasons I chose to blog about this journey is stated in my article featured this week in Women Who Money: “I believed that what we were doing was important – not just for us, but for others who needed and wanted to do the same.

Smack dab in the middle of middle-age, and in the thick of raising a family, we realized how much debt was compromising our lives. Aged 49 and 53, we wanted out! I have written about our efforts to become debt-free not as an “expert”, but as a debtor. And it’s been a great, great satisfaction to me to know that  others  have been challenged and encouraged by our story. “Thank you for making debt a socially acceptable topic,” a reader once messaged me. I’m very happy to have helped in the breaking of that taboo. 

So would you be willing to nominate me? If so, here’s how:

  1. Click here to get to the nomination page.
  2. Give your name and email address.
  3. Scroll down until you see “Best Debt Freedom Blog” (or, since there are so many categories, you might find it easier to find it by hitting “Ctrl” and “f” and typing in “debt”).
  4. If my information is not already filled in, under “Best Debt Freedom Blog 1”, type in (or copy & paste) my URL:  http://prudencedebtfree.com/
  5. Scroll to the bottom and click “Submit”.

Thanks for considering my request. Nominations have to be in by July 31!

 

Emergency With An Emergency Fund = An Adventure

Our new-to-us vehicle became our emergency when the lug nuts fell out.

  • DH = Dear husband

Emergency & stress

The 2nd most stressful part of our emergency last week was the decision to pull off the highway. 5 hours into our road trip, we were behind schedule, but the noise the car had started to make earlier was just getting louder. We were in the middle of Toronto, the part of our drive we’d hoped to be able to get through without facing too much traffic, and with a heavy sigh (and possibly some expletives), DH pulled off of the highway. He parked on the nearest residential street to see if he could figure out what was wrong – and to call CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) for a free tow if necessary.

The most stressful part of our emergency was learning what had made the noise. DH checked the wheels, and sure enough, the front wheel on the driver’s side was missing 3 of 5 lug nuts. A 4th lug nut was so loose it was doing nothing to hold the wheel in place. DH had a sinking feeling as he realized what could have happened – on the highway, high speeds, the wheel flying off … “I should have pulled off sooner!” he chastised himself. “I should have recognized that sound!”

Why it happened

Just a few days before we set out on our road trip, DH brought our new-to-us Dodge Journey in for some free recall repair work that hadn’t been done by the original owner. DH didn’t like the service place. There was a sort of unfriendly  indifference on the part of the people he dealt with, and as he reflected upon it from the side of that unfamiliar road in Toronto, he put 2 and 2 together. They had removed the wheels and hadn’t told him – so he hadn’t checked them. A little more self-chastising: “I should have checked!” he said. “I should always check.” DH thought of taking one lug nut from each of the other wheels to make the front one secure, but when he tried to put one on, he couldn’t. The exposed bolt and been sheered – as had the 2 others. Time to call CAA.

A lot to be grateful for

At this point, it was clear we had a lot to be grateful for.

  • The wheel hadn’t flown off. We were safe and sound.
  • We had a CAA membership, and we got help.
  • Although it was late Sunday afternoon, the very helpful CAA man, Abdul, knew of a 24-hour service station, and he brought us to it.
  • The owner of the service station had a straight-forward competence, and he let us know after a quick assessment that he’d have to order the bolts in the morning. So we knew before it got dark that we’d be staying overnight in Toronto.
  • We had a smartphone, so although the area was completely unfamiliar to us, we could find our way to where we needed to go.

Then it got fun!

I have to admit that when I realized we’d be staying overnight, I felt like a bit of a kid. “We get to stay in a hotel?!” I thought gleefully. “Why would that be so exciting?” you might ask. This blog chronicles our 6+ year journey out of all debt, and there hasn’t been much travel going on since I started it. I hadn’t been in a hotel since 2011 – the year before our intensive debt-reduction started.

We sat in our parked car at the 24-hour service station and did some smartphone research. There was a Howard Johnson’s nearby. There was also a hotel that would cost twice as much. And then there was one that was cheaper – suspiciously absent photo and the word “creepy” in a Google review. Ho Jo’s it was! After booking our room online, a message appeared: “Congratulations! You’ve booked the cheapest room in Howard Johnson’s!”

DH downloaded the Uber app, and we took our first Uber ride ever to our home for the night. I could see why it was the cheapest room! Some brilliant work went into the design of the tiny space! It was complete with everything we needed though: bathroom with shower and tub; closet; drawers; bed; air conditioning. Perfect!

A great night out on the town

Now, where to find vegan food? Again, the smartphone came in handy. A 20 minute walk brought us to a really cool vegan restaurant/bar. And during that walk, we realized we were staying in quite a neighbourhood! “I get so mad,” one pan-handler told me. “The crack-users get $20 or $30 bucks!” Ma and Pa Suburbia no doubt stood out like a sore thumb as we walked hand-in-hand towards the slightly trendier block where our restaurant was located. Always good to see another side of life!

The server was friendly; the food was excellent; and the cast of characters in view was colourful. It was a great night! DH and I took a very bad selfie and sent it to our 3 daughters along with news of the car. They shared our moment with us – concerned about the near-miss and interested in the good food. We decided to play it safe and Uber back to Ho Jo’s after our fantastic meal.

The absence of money stress

If this emergency situation had happened only a few years ago, there would have been money stress to add to the equation. But that concern didn’t enter into our experience at all last week. Why not? We have an emergency fund! The Uber rides, restaurant meal, car repair, and overnight stay all brought on expenses that we hadn’t expected – and they were all easily absorbed. That is such a gift! I remember a time when every unplanned expense brought stress levels to ridiculous heights.

But now, what we’ll remember about our emergency – besides the need to check lug nuts after every visit to a service station and before every road trip – is the adventure we had because of it.


Have you experienced the difference between an emergency without an emergency fund and an emergency with one? Your comments are welcome.