Debt Repayment & Impatience: Time for Big Girl Panties

My toilet training days – camping and on the potty

MT = Math Teacher

DH = Dear Husband

Wise when it comes to other people’s impatience . . .

For the first half of the year, my monthly take-home income goes down because of automatic deductions for the Canada Pension Plan. It’s a good thing that will serve us well in the future, but nobody looks at that first pay of the year and thinks, Great! I’m paying into my CPP! It’s more like Ugh! 

I was talking with a colleague – a math teacher (MT from a previous post) – who is trying to pay off his debts (“because of you,” he told me), and he expressed real frustration about that lower take-home pay. “I was on a roll,” he said. “I just feel derailed.” I had all kinds of words of wisdom for him: Debt repayment isn’t a steady thing. There are high expense months and windfall months even with a regular income. We need to expect the lower pay and accommodate for it, and then use the extra income in the last half of the year to full advantage.

“Yeah,” he said, looking at the floor. “I know.”

This guy is a bright light in our school. A professional engineer, he left a higher-paying career to work with teens, and we’re all so glad he did. Yet he feels caught off guard by a drop in income that comes every year. Finds himself fighting off that “I give up!” frustration.

. . . but not so wise with my own impatience

I don’t know about you, but I can relate. I say it without disrespect: There is something childish about a debtor’s impatience. Especially when we’re on board, making efforts to do the right thing, we find it SO frustrating when STILL we run into roadblocks that keep us indebted. I had perspective on MT’s discouragement. But I don’t have much on mine.

Great expectations for December

Through December, as DH took in more business than he ever has, I found myself looking forward to writing that post at the end of the month in which I’d announce how much we had paid off the business debt. Maybe it will be $10,000, I thought. Or pretty close. Maybe $8,000 or $9,000. Or more! Maybe $11,000 – our highest repayment in a single month. I set  my sights high, with DH’s gross revenue warranting my hope. But in December, DH was finalizing his corporate taxes for 2014, and he paid up according to what his accountant had advised in the mad panic end-of-year rush. And that left a little over $5,000 to put against the debt.

“What are you complaining about?” you might ask. “I know,” I might answer, looking at the floor. $5,000 is a great amount, and it brought us below the $20,000 mark in our business debt repayment. That beast was at $80,800 when we started our journey out of debt, and look at it now: $18,000. But my expectations – backed up by reason – had been so much higher. Taxes!

High hopes for January

“I overpaid my taxes,” DH told me at the end of December. “My accountant found a way to lower them, but I’d already paid. I’ll get reimbursed.” Ha! Good news! I’d hold off on my post about our December payment. I’d wait until that reimbursement came in and we had a solid January payment to make. I imagined what I’d write at the end of January: “Two Big Slices out of Debt #3” / “We’re down to $13,000!” But that’s not what I’m writing. Despite the tax reimbursement, there are business expenses to cover, including travel next month. And extra household expenses to fund. (More on that later). “I’ll try to put something down. Maybe $500,” DH told me yesterday.

Inner-toddler

My inner-toddler is kicking. I’m not proud of my impatient frustration. It’s childish. I know the words of wise perspective that I would give to someone like me: You have an irregular income and irregular business expenses. Best not to put too much energy into big expectations. There will be high expense months along with windfall months. Take ownership of what you can control and leave the rest. Besides, you’re doing well in your debt-repayment. Just keep on keeping on.

Yeah, I know.

“It’s time to put on your big girl panties!”

I have a colleague who is starting her teaching career after years of amazing work experience – including acting and scuba diving instruction. She is unfailingly funny, in a straight-faced deadpan kind of way, and I can just hear her voice telling me, “It’s time to put on your big girl panties!” And I will. Aren’t I supposed to be a grown-up?

So with big girl panties on, I hereby give my end-of-January report: In December, thanks to DH’s high business volume over the Christmas rush, we took a big slice out of Debt #3 – $5,000. January has turned out to be a month of both high business and household expenses, so our repayment was much smaller – at $500. Our business debt – $80,800 in December of 2012 – is now down to $17,500. It’s lower than Debt #1 and Debt #2 – our now paid-off consumer debts – combined. We’re on our way.

There. How’s that? Have you ever found yourself in the humbling position of recognizing a childish impatience in yourself? Does your inner-toddler rage on occasion? Do you need to put on your big girl panties / big boy pants?


Comments are welcome. They’re working again!


 

 

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Trying this again! I wanted to say this morning that I think we all struggle with this, whether we’re paying off debt or saving. I want to have $100,000 in my accounts not four years from now, but NOW! The only thing to do is accept these feelings and then let them go and move on.

    • Thank you for being the first person to comment after a long period of tech troubles! I agree with you – just acknowledge the impatience, but let it go, and stick to the program. I’m hoping these feelings of frustration will diminish in frequency and intensity as time goes by.

  • Comments yay!!
    I am with you on all of this. I’m aiming for savings targets but I wish we were done already, and yes I realize it’s the beginning of February. I have an inkling that our bonuses in march are going to be fairly high but I keep having to talk myself down from assuming they will be large, or I’m going to face the exact same disappointment that you’re talking about. Even though I know all of that intellectually, good golly is it hard to turn off the planning and hoping part.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anne. The thing is, it’s good to plan and hope! It’s just that there is such a fine balance to maintain between plans & hopes on the one hand and reality on the other. And it’s so hard to strike that balance! Who knew?

    • I’m glad this post spoke to you, Laurie. It’s always reassuring to know, as we fight to stay “on the wagon”, that we’re not alone in encountering these humbling discouragements. Wear the big girl panties proudly!

  • I had a major meltdown about a week ago. I don’t know if it was homesickness. I don’t want to go back to where we came from. I just wasn’t so sure I was where I wanted to be either. The area is beautiful, I love the ocean and everything that goes with it, but there are SO many people. So I just sobbed. Really. Seriously. Full out sobbed. Haven’t done that in years. But you know what? I felt better afterwards. Must have just needed to relieve some stress. I got my big girl panties on and have been moving forward ever since. 🙂 Your debt repayment is phenomenal Prudence! I’ve never gone through anything like that. Your story is VERY inspirational! I think I’m about ready to tell my own (not so inspirational) story. I hope you’re ready! 🙂

    • I am very ready to hear any story of yours : ) I think your “meltdown” is understandable. You’ve gone through major changes – and a lot of it was uncertain and stressful at times – and even though it was all for a positive move that you chose to make, it shook your foundations. A move, they say, is one of the top stresses. No wonder you felt it. I don’t know if “big girl panties” are needed in your case. Your attitude is fine. The upset will pass : )

    • There is a fine balance between setting goals and accepting reality. I think it’s good that you had a savings goal to begin with, and I admire your acceptance of the fact that it’s not going to happen as soon as you’d expected it to. One day at a time is the only way. Thanks for commenting, Petrish.

  • I constantly have to remind myself to put my big girl panties on! I have been building a business the last year and a half and I frequently get frustrated by the lack of progress I feel sometimes. I get impatient to reach goals sometimes and then I have to take a deep breath, realize that this is all part of my journey, put my big girl panties on and keep moving forward.

    • This “big girl panties” thing goes for paying off debt, saving up for financial freedom, and creating the life we want. So cool that you’re building a business. My husband is self-employed, and he works nonstop. It doesn’t always result in profitable business though, ans whether times are good or bad, he has to keep up the effort. There’s a real mental game involved in running a business. It sounds like you’ve got it figured out : )

  • Oh, man. I hear you on this. Our income is so variable, and it can be so frustrating. We have a little bit of debt, and I want it gone now. I thought for sure it would be gone in the first two weeks of February, but now I’m crossing my fingers that it will happen by the 28th. And while our debt isn’t massive, our savings goals are. You’re doing amazing, though. That’s a ton of money to have paid off in 14 months. A ton.

    • Thank you, Femme Frugality! You’ve got the right idea with your little bit of debt (and you’ve done a few things right to be in the position of only having a little : ) Set a goal, and when you don’t reach it, hit the reset button. I hope you pay that thing off by the 28th!

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