Debt-Avoidance Strategy: Start Off Poor

DD1 = Dear First Daughter
DH = Dear Husband

When DD1 was in her teens, DH and I were going through our horrible years of his career shift. Job loss, financial stress, my unhappy return to full-time work, uncertain future . . . Not a great scene. DD1 was keen about her sport and looking forward to post-secondary studies. She did not have an easy time of it. She financed her athletics by coaching younger athletes in exchange for her own training, and through the air-mile points and financial generosity offered by a small group of sponsors. She would nap in change rooms, write essays in airports, and constantly arrange financial, travel, athletic, and academic logistics.

As a parent, I felt badly that DH and I couldn’t support her more. I felt rather sheepish about the huge efforts she had to put into forging her path as we stressed and cut back and worked and wondered uncertainly about how we would forge ours. DD1 did not get life handed to her on a silver platter, but she managed to thrive in her sport, competing in fifteen different countries in three different continents. And she managed to achieve her undergraduate degree at a local university – only half financed by her parents – so well that she earned scholarships to work towards her masters degree on the west coast. She lived like a poor student, rooming with other students, always working part-time, and she managed to graduate without debt.

Have I boasted enough? Not quite. Last year, when I visited her just as she started her first full-time job, I took it upon myself to offer financial advice. “Stay out of debt,” I said, “and try to save 15% of your gross income.” It was advice straight out of Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover – advice that I had certainly not followed at her age. DD1 has launched into her career and has faced the brutal learning curve that is classic for the newbie. Her work is punishing for long periods of time through the year, requiring relentless travel and sixteen-hour days. She earns a fairly typical, fairly low starting salary, and she’s living in a very expensive city.  But in her eyes, that salary is a jackpot. Accustomed to living on very little while paying tuition fees as a student, she sees abundance in her modest income.

Her company flies her to two conventions each year, and so far, three of them have been held within a few hours’ drive of our home. DD1 has arranged to take at least a few days to visit us each time – without either of us having to foot the bill for the flight. Perfect! She’s home now – even more perfect since it has been the first week of my two-weeks’ summer holiday, and I’ve been able to spoil her a bit. Just a bit mind you. Maternal gushes have to be held in check by the debt-reduction budget. But on Wednesday, I treated her to lunch downtown at the market. It was lovely – complete with good weather, a long walk (I opted for free parking at quite a distance from our destination), fabulous food eaten outdoors, live entertainment from a busker doing her Irish dances right in front of us as we ate dessert, and a bit of a shopping excursion. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get better than that.

We talked and talked and talked about everything, and at one point I had to ask the question: “Did you manage to put by any savings in your first year of work?” DD1 isn’t sold on our recent frugality kick. She reads my posts and listens to our talk with amused tolerance, but she’s not committed. So I ask these questions with delicacy, and with no expectation of a ready answer. But she did answer. She has saved. 15% of her gross income. I’m so proud! “But I didn’t deprive myself of anything,” she said. “I ate a lot of take-out. I traveled to Seattle with some friends to watch a baseball game. I traveled to Yellowknife with my cousins. I’ve joined a beach volley-ball club. I’ve bought clothes . . .”

We couldn’t offer DD1 the kind of support I wanted to give her through her teens and early twenties, and I wish we could have. But in the end, I believe it has served her well. Would she be as content with her lifestyle now if she hadn’t learned to live under the poverty line for so long? Would she have been able to handle the crazy busy times at work if she hadn’t spent years working hard to pursue her sport and her studies? I don’t know. But I do know that she’s happy. I do know that although she has no idea what the future holds, she’s hopeful. And I do know that there is nothing like seeing my child live her life with a wisdom I didn’t gain until I was much older. When the landscape has been difficult, it’s wonderful to see something beautiful blossom.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Debt-Freedom = Freedom to do What You Love: Learning from my Co-op Students

              “Would you have worked at your placement this summer if you knew you would get nothing in return?” That was the question I asked of my students on their last day of summer school co-op. Each one had successfully completed the seven-week effort and earned two credits towards a high school diploma. Each one had had, at the very least, a positive experience on the job. But it was the sheer joy demonstrated by some students at their placements that prompted me to ask the question.

Euphoric Drama Boys

Two of the boys, who worked together at a drama camp, were nothing short of euphoric every time I visited them. With astonishing enthusiasm, they would tell me about an activity they had led, a storage room they had organized, a challenging child they’d dealt with, costumes and props they had prepared, or a spontaneous outburst of quirky silliness on the part of the staff – who were, they said, like family. It didn’t matter how mundane the task, how physically demanding the effort, how difficult the challenge, or how small the incident – energy shot out of their every pore as detail spilled out after detail. They LOVED it! I was rather awestruck. How lucky they are, I thought.I hope that somehow, they can make drama a permanent part of their lives. These two answered my question in the affirmative as I knew they would. They were, in fact, going back to their placement right after that final class.

A Natural Teacher of Dance

                Another student who said she would have spent her summer at her placement for nothing in return was also involved in drama. She assisted at a musical theatre camp that she had attended as a child and young teen. The camp was small, and it drew a very talented clientele. My student worked closely with the camp leader, whom she had known for years, and again, there was a sense of family in the group. This girl loves dance, and she took on her teaching role naturally, and with an authority that surprised her. Contained within her strong self-possession was a passionate excitement as she led her group and described the production that was to be the culmination of their work. This student knows that she wants to teach dance or musical theatre, and she’s moving forward with that vision.

Early Childhood Educators

                One of my students had a placement at a daycare centre, and it was so obvious that he was a favourite among the children. During one of my visits, when he was to demonstrate the tasks he performed at work, I had hardly had a chance to talk with him when a preschool girl approached us, shovel in hand, to ask him to bury her feet. Off to the large sand box we went, and my student was essentially swarmed by three-year-olds eager to have their feet buried too. He worked with a steady calm, encouraging patience and cooperative behaviour among his young charges. “He’s always reading to them or building things with them,” his supervisor told me. “He doesn’t really take his breaks. He is so good. He should definitely pursue early childhood education as a career.” That is exactly what he plans to do. Before he left the final class, he told me that he would be returning to his placement the next day because one of the boys had begged him to come back for his birthday.
                Another student worked with slightly older children at a camp designed to help families of lower-income neighbourhoods – most of them recent immigrants. This student had attended the camp himself shortly after he and his family had moved to Canada from the Congo, and he adapted very naturally to his work there. Whether he was helping a child to read or playing basket-ball with a group in the gym, his gentle manner and strong sense of what was proper made him such an asset to leaders and children alike. “Give him all 10s,” said his supervisor, fiercely dedicated to her mission to help her community. “I would give him more if I could.” She has made it clear that she wants him back again next summer. And he has made it clear that he will be there. As this student shyly gave his final presentation before his classmates, he said, “There is nothing like seeing a child learn something.”

Trusted at the Workplace

                Two of my students were trusted with remarkable responsibilities at their placements. One worked in a physiotherapy clinic as an assistant. There was cleaning and laundry involved in her duties, but also more advanced handling of the physio equipment and significant interaction with the patients. “Some of them think I’m a real worker,” she said to me, wide-eyed, during one of my visits. “They don’t realize how young I am – that I’m a student.” This girl had a good rapport with the staff at her placement, but what made the experience rich for her was the connection with patients. “It made me want to go into some kind of therapy – where you’re working with patients one-on-one. Maybe physiotherapy, but maybe speech therapy or occupational therapy.” She’s caught a glimpse of something she loves, and she’ll refine that vision in the years ahead.
The other student whose work involved surprising levels of responsibility had a placement as a book-keeper and marketing assistant at an indoor family fun park. Most of her work was done at a computer in a very ugly office that was being painted and undergoing minor renovations throughout her stay. But it didn’t matter to her. She would have done the work in that dingy office for nothing in return “because I loved working with the people there. They let me do so much.” The establishment’s book-keeper caught up on months’ worth of work thanks to my student’s help. The marketing manager said that whenever he gave her a task to do, she just ran with it. “It was a blessing to have her here,” he said. On occasion, she was free to help out at the facility’s restaurant or games room. Employees at every post welcomed her and expressed appreciation for her work. This student left her placement with a job offer. She’ll be working there part-time through the school year.

The Pizzeria

                Perhaps my favourite workplace visit occurred the day I went to the pizzeria where a student demonstrated “skills learned on the job” by making me a pizza of my choice. The establishment was small and run almost exclusively by the owner, with whom my student worked closely. “He works late,” the owner told me, somewhat baffled. “I tell him he can go home, but he says he wants to stay. So I say, ‘OK, but you don’t have to.’” Somehow, this student burst into life at the pizzeria. He was so grateful to be there, and whether he was doing the grunt work of cleaning or the creative work of pizza preparation, he did it with gusto. He worked far more hours than needed to meet the course requirements. “Do you think you’d like to run a pizza place some day?” I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders, saying he didn’t know. All he knows for now is that he found something of great value. “I’m going to do another co-op placement there during the school year,” he told me during our last class.

Boring Work But Great People

                The student who surprised me most was one who had worked at a drug store for her placement. She had stocked shelves, scanned labels, cleaned cosmetic displays, and shelved returned items. “I don’t want to do this for a living,” she had decided. But she said she would have done the placement for nothing in return. That made no sense to me, and I asked her why. “It was the people,” she explained. “They didn’t treat me like a teenager. They treated me like one of the team. On my last day, I was called into shipping and receiving, and they were all there. They had cards and presents . . . It was so nice!” She had brought in the cards, signed by her co-workers, to show me. It meant the world to her.

Freedom to Do What You Love

                Almost half of my co-op students loved their work so much that they would have done it for nothing in return – no pay, no high school credits. As I chronicle our journey out of debt and read other bloggers’ posts about debt-reduction and financial freedom, the question often arises, “What will you do when you don’t need to work for an income?” I think my students already have their answers. Some combination of expressing personal potential, experiencing sheer enjoyment, and being a valued part of a fabulous team – more like a family – seems to be the magic formula. I hope that as the years pass, these students won’t compromise their potential to do what they love. I hope that as life’s hardships arise, they won’t find refuge in denial, or in self-medication with harmful substances, toxic relationships, or false materialism – all of which can lead to the trap of debt and the erosion of freedom. I hope that they’ll navigate their paths wisely, with eyes wide open, so that they remain free to gravitate towards the people and efforts that combine to offer abundance in life.
I’ll leave the last word to one of the euphoric drama boys, who tried to encapsulate his work experience in a thank you letter to his supervisor. “I don’t know how to describe it otherwise than it fills the soul.”

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Two Debt Bloggers at Tim Hortons: My Meeting with Debt Debs

(I still have changes planned for my blog. It’s just taking longer than I thought it would : )
DH = Dear Husband

Debt Debs

                A couple of weeks ago, Debt Debs left a comment for me.   “Saw you were Canadian and had to drop by,” she had written. “. . . I think we might even be from the same city.” After messaging back and forth a bit, we discovered that we were practically neighbours. Our children had even attended the same schools. Small world! We arranged to meet at a local Tim Hortons after the August long week-end and talk about all things debt.
 
                I arrived first and ordered my tea and muffin, scanning the other customers as I did. I saw a woman who fit the description Debt Debs had given me. “Are you Deb?” I asked uncertainly. “Pardon?” I repeated the question. “No,” she smiled. “Sorry,” I said. Rather sheepishly, I sat down and checked my phone. There was a text message. Debt Debs was on her way – a little late from an extended stay at her father’s cottage.

From Online to In-Person

                This was certainly a unique situation. What exactly would we say? What were the boundaries when debt bloggers got together to chat about personal finances? How would it feel to talk face-to-face about things we had only written about? These were untested waters. A woman came through the door, her head on a bit of a swivel as she looked for someone. That’s got to be her, I thought. I smiled and waved, and we introduced ourselves. “Go ahead and make your order,” I said. Debt Debs splurged on a breakfast. “I never do this,” she said as she returned to the table with her meal. I understood completely. “Enjoy it.”
                We launched right in. “What was your ‘Ah-ha!’ moment?” “How did you get into debt?” “What changes have you and your husband made?” “How are your kids responding?” The boundaries were pretty well non-existent, and the questions, answers, insights, and theories flowed freely. There was so much we had in common. We had each made the mistake of leaving the finances completely to our husbands and putting our own financial heads in the sand. As a result we had each experienced communication disconnects in our marriages, resulting in significant stress. Each of our husbands had experienced job loss. Both of us expressed regret at how long we had allowed our respective finances to sicken, and both of us started our journeys out of debt in the spring of 2012.
There were differences too. Debt Debs doesn’t share my bias against credit cards. Her “guru” is Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Mine is Dave Ramsey. DH and I are simply paying our debts off one by one – smallest to largest. Debt Debs and her husband are doing more fancy footwork – like moving money around strategically to pay down higher interest debts first – all with fierce discipline. It became clear that Deb and her husband started out with a larger total debt than we did. It was equally clear that their household income is higher than ours and that they have managed to pay off greater amounts of debt than we have. Deb thinks that she and her husband will be completely debt-free in 2018. I think we’ll be there a year later.
But whether we were discussing the similarities or the differences between our respective situations – whether we were expressing agreement or disagreement on a point of view – it was all carried out in genuine interest and complete respect. “It doesn’t work if people with debt troubles just get financial advice and then go on their way,” I said at one point. “They need to revisit it regularly – like AA meetings.” I noticed two young men look up at us wide-eyed. I’ve got to lower my voice, I realized. As we discussed, with total engagement, the impact of job loss on men, I heard a woman behind us say to her husband, “Well this is interesting.” Ooops! Got to talk more quietly, I thought again. Of all the conversations happening in Tim Hortons at that time, I would have to say that ours was the most animated. I had planned to stay for about an hour, but we easily passed the two-and-a-half hour mark.

Cultural Shame in Matters of Personal Finance vs. Open Discussion

An anonymous comment in response to my post last week included these words: “I would die before I would reveal to anyone IRL (in real life) that I have a debt problem.” While I was glad that this person was sharing frustration in an online forum, I was saddened by this reminder of the climate of our culture – one in which struggles in personal finance are shameful, causing so many to carry them in silence. “I like talking to you about finances,” a friend told me recently. “I don’t usually talk with anyone about that sort of thing. I just go about my business feeling stupid.”
I think that what Debt Debs and I experienced at Tim Hortons is a sample of what is possible. Disclosing troubles with debt or personal finances in general does not have to be a matter of hyper-sensitivity or deep mortification. Sharing strategies that have worked to lower debt, describing setbacks that have been discouraging, and discussing possible solutions to baffling financial problems – this kind of openness on its own can relieve so much stress. It has the potential to divert a flow of energy away from the vicious cycle of angst and towards a hope of resolution.
I never would have guessed that one of the debt bloggers I’ve noticed online would turn out to be a neighbour. And if I had seen Debt Debs apart from this context, I would not have thought that this woman was struggling with debt. How many of the people we see on a day-to-day basis are silently holding in their financial stresses? Feeling ashamed, stupid, powerless? And how many of us would open up if only we knew the power of a frank talk at Tim Hortons?

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Debt And Personality Type: Type A vs. Type B ( & our 11th slice out of Debt #3)

DFF = Debt-Free Friend
CF = Church Friend
DH = Dear Husband

Type A and Type B: a brief explanation and history

                I have noticed over the past couple of weeks that most people who write about debt and personal finances have a Type A personality. Of all personality designations, Type A and Type B are the most widely recognized. Type A is the hard-working, time-efficient, task-oriented individual who gets things done with a no-nonsense urgency. Type B is steady but relaxed, reflective, creative, and less stressed when goals are not achieved on time.
                Doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman formulated the Type A and B personality theory in the 1950s in an effort to establish links between character traits and heart disease. They concluded, not surprisingly, that Type A was more likely to develop cardiac problems. Their studies were later deemed to be flawed in terms of the heart disease connection, but the Type A / Type B personality concept has endured.

What personality type are you?

                A quick Google search results in an abundance of personality tests. If you are interested in seeing how you score in terms of being Type A or Type B, here is a test I tried from the University of North Carolina.  I came out, as I would have guessed, Type B – but not in the extreme. There is a continuum between the two major personality types, and while I’m solidly Team B, I’m a little more than half way between extreme B and mild A.

How is personality type related to debt and personal finances?

DFF

                I have referred to DFF before. She is my Debt-Free Friend who nudged us towards the journey out of debt that we’ve been on for over two years now. She is quite simply a marvel of financial management – completely debt-free by mid-thirties on one income and with four children. Most remarkably, despite a marital break-up, she has been able to continue living in the family home as a debt-free, stay-at-home mom. And she still puts by impressive savings. In terms of personality type, I would say that Type A doesn’t quite capture it. Type A++? Type Triple-A? DFF talks about the minutiae of money at roughly the speed and intensity of a machine gun. Here is a sampling involving grocery shopping:
“I went to the bargain bin at Food Basics and bought $50 worth of stuff for $10.”
“I buy them in bulk, put them in the freezer, pop them into the kids’ lunches, and there you go.”
“I always check the receipt for mistakes. If I’ve been charged too much, I tell the cashier and get a refund. The grocery stores have a code of ethics, and if they overcharge you, they have to give you a refund up to $10. I’d say I catch mistakes two or three times every month. Add that up over a year and you’re talking a couple of hundred bucks.”
                My Type B brain suffers information overload at times when I’m talking with DFF, but we know each other well enough that I can ask her to cease and desist, and she’ll oblige with a loud laugh. She is a shining example of the positive impact a Type A personality can have on personal finance.

Type A and Type B obstacles to tackling debt

Type A pride

                Debtors come in both personality types, and I have noticed a defensive anger in the resistance of Type A debtors when challenged about their financial practices. (I’m not the one challenging them. Believe me.) “I have ALWAYS provided for my family. Don’t tell ME what to do!” It’s difficult to get through the defenses of these debtors, but once that hurdle has been overcome, there’s no stopping them. They’re paying off debt with the full force of their hard-wired urgency.

Type B complacency

Type B debtors are way more likely to acknowledge they have a problem. “I know. I’m so bad with money! It’s just a thousand little bad habits I guess.” They don’t have a pride issue; they just lack the sense of urgency that is so fundamental to their Type A counterparts. It can take an in-your-face crisis to get the Type B debtor moving. That is certainly true of me. I knew I had no concept of financial management, but I didn’t do anything about it until after we’d experienced the financial distress of DH’s prolonged period of underemployment/unemployment. CF (Church Friend) is one of the most likable Type B people you can find. Completely friendly, accepting, disarming, and safe, she has humbly acknowledged her weaknesses in money management for years. Despite the occasional resolve to address the issue, she remains comfortably in significant debt. I wish I could impart a sense of urgency to CF. I really hope she won’t need her own crisis to get going.

Type A angst

                I have recently been surprised at certain comments posted in blogs that indicate an undue level of stress among people who are doing very well financially. One young woman, for instance, expresses a problem with constantly second-guessing herself about money even though she and her husband are debt-free and saving 60% of their income. Another woman confesses her angst when she finds out someone else has purchased something in a more frugally clever way than she has. Some debt bloggers can barely face their shame when they’ve made a mistake of some sort. According to Simply Psychology, “Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.”

Type B peace

                As a Type B debtor who is making progress against debt, I have the benefit of feeling very pleased with myself for adopting relatively common practices of frugal wisdom. When I went Christmas shopping in March, for instance, and bought winter clothes on sale, I felt remarkably clever. Furthermore, when I hear or read of someone being way more frugal than I am, I don’t suffer self-doubt. I am often inspired to give it a try. But at least as often, I’m happy to think, Wow! That’s impressive. Good for them! – and leave it at that.

11th slice out of Debt #3

                I haven’t had complete Type B peace on this journey out of debt. I have felt the frustration of unexpected expenses and worry over times of slow business for DH. I have experienced impatience with the time it’s taking to pay it off, and regret at the fact that we got ourselves in so much debt in the first place. But overall, I can honestly say I’m encouraged and hopeful. We took our 11th slice out of Debt #3 at the end of July. We’ve been taking our debts on one at a time, and Debt #3, our business debt, was at $80,800 in December 2012. It’s gone down more slowly than I would have hoped, due to the unexpected expenses mentioned above, but July was a good month, especially because of my extra income from teaching summer school. Debt #3 was at $39,500 at the end of June, but take off $5,000, and it’s down to $34,500. That’s what I’m talking about!
                So are you Type A or Type B? Are you too proud to admit you’ve got a debt problem? Or are you too comfortable in your debts? Does a sense of competition deprive you of the satisfaction you should feel for the wise steps you’ve taken? Or can you soak in the encouragement of effective change? Are you aware of your own particular stumbling blocks? What can you do to navigate them?

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

MMM’s Subculture of “Badassity”: Is It For Me?

MMM=Mr. Money Mustache
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
DH = Dear Husband
                If you haven’t already heard about him, Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) is a phenomenon. Born and raised in a frugal Canadian household, he worked a professional career after graduating debt-free from a local university, got married, lived without excess, saved hand-over-fist for nine years, and then retired at age thirty. He and his wife now live in the U.S. along with their young son, and are spearheading a subculture of what he calls “Badassity”. It’s a stick-it-to-the-man way of living that involves hyper-frugality, a hard-working do-it-yourself ethic, a preference for bicycles over cars, and a general disdain of all things decadent. People who follow his formula attain financial freedom at an extremely young age. In this subculture of Badassity, wealth accumulates steadily, but since it is not spent, it is available to be given in support of worthy causes. The “badass” ultimately has complete freedom to devote time to friends and family, to develop talents, to pursue interests. I can’t find anything not to admire about MMM’s mandate. He does swear a lot, but if you can get past that, it’s all rather amazing.
                 In a recent post entitled “Necessity is the Mother of Badassity”, he writes about his recent experience putting a new roof on his mother’s house – a fine thing for a son to do. The effort entailed:
  •   a 500 km road trip in a borrowed vehicle devoid of sound and air conditioning (37 C / 100 F)
  •   frustrating and ultimately failed service from a big box store
  •   the discovery of a major obstacle in the form of a disintegrated roof deck
  •   four fifteen-hour days of hard labour under the hot sun
Besides the satisfaction of a job well done, MMM claims that he received the side-benefits of:         
  • the confidence gained from getting in over his head, figuring it out, and making it through
  • a new expertise in purchasing materials in Ontario (where his mom lives)
  • physical fitness through hard labour
  • doing something for his mom and saving her a whole lot of money
  •  improved heat tolerance

My badass lunch habits

                I’m teaching summer school co-op through July and August in keeping with our efforts to become debt-free. A big part of my job is to visit students at their work placements, which involves driving all over the city. Last year, I spent far too much money on restaurant food during these visitation days, but this year, my resolve has been to pack my lunch, drinks, snacks, and ice pack, and not spend a cent. This past Tuesday, my first visit was with a student working at a bakery, and our meeting was scheduled for 7:00 am. It was clear across town, and my next appointment wouldn’t be until 9:00. Planning ahead, I packed a breakfast as well as a lunch. After a very productive visit (my student is doing such a great job that she will likely be hired after her co-op placement has ended), I walked to my car in the big box store parking lot outside the bakery, got in, and ate my breakfast.
                It was a humid, overcast, sweaty morning,a 70% chance of thunderstorms in the forecast. I kept my car door open to allow some movement of air, peeled my hard-boiled eggs, and ate. I don’t think there are too many fifty-one year old women who would do this, I thought to myself – possibly with a touch of smugness. I’m pretty sure this is Badassity in action. I drove to my next placement, a daycare centre in a quiet neighbourhood nearby, and realized I still had a lot of time to kill before I was scheduled to meet with the student who worked there. I had passed by a Tim Horton’s on my way. Would I go back and have a coffee? And muffin? No way! I used the time to take a stroll. There was an eerie calm-before-the-storm sort of atmosphere as I walked the unfamiliar suburban streets, but the forecasted downpour held off. Definitely badass.
                A couple of hours later found me in a park, outside another placement at a theatre arts centre, eating my packed lunch and drinking the wonderfully cool water from my melted ice container. Wasn’t I getting the side benefits of a walk and a relaxing time at a wholesome park? And improved heat tolerance? Full-on Badassity!

Our dinner out

                Wednesday evening, DH and I decided to use the e-gift card that DD1 had given us as a combined birthdays/mother’s day/father’s day present. (She lives on the west coast, so this e-gift idea works very well.) It was for a high-end restaurant in a trendy part of town, and it was in the amount of $100. Since we started our journey out of debt, DH and I have cut way back on meals out,  and we’ve been funding them from our respective discretionary money. Rarely do we spend more than $15 per meal. We knew that it would be very easy to spend more than the $100 on our gift card at this fine restaurant of DD1’s choosing, and we went with the idea that we’d supplement it with our discretionary money if we found we wanted to do so. These nit-picky sorts of financial strategics have become second nature to us. We never used to have mini-financial planning discussions on the fly. So we arrived at our reservation, plan in place.
                There are times when you know you are in the presence of greatness, and I knew that DH and I were there when I took the first bite of our shared appetizer. It was wonderful! I ordered duck for the main course – something I have never cooked on my own – which, combined with a medley of sauces and vegetables, was artfully arranged in the centre of a large plate placed before me. Every portion melted in my mouth, a sensory thrill of sight, smell, taste, and texture that made time stand still. There was an initial period of silence at our table as all I could do was close my eyes, soak it in, and be very, very glad to be alive. This was decadence. This was lovely.
                We had exceeded the $100 gift card, so dessert at the restaurant was out of the question. DH texted DD1 while we were there to let her know we were enjoying her present. She asked what we had ordered, and he let her know. “Their duck is the best!” she responded. But what about the subculture of Badassity? That I had so recently been pleased to consider myself a part of? Hmmm . . . I have a high respect for MMM’s values, and I’m properly humbled by his integrity in living them out. I will continue to read his posts and apply nuggets of his wisdom to our situation. But ultimately, I have to conclude that I’m a mere visitor in the land of Badassity.
                I am glad that I can tough it out and live frugally as we make our way out of debt. I am keen on the ultimate goal of financial freedom. Along the way, DH and I really are learning lessons about what is of false value and what is of genuine value, and I believe we will live by these lessons even when we have the money to ignore them. But I’ll say it now: That meal was genuinely worth every cent it took to eat it. Would we ever go to that restaurant without a gift card? Not while we’re on this journey out of debt. But afterwards? Absolutely! And with dessert too please.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Confronting the Terrors of Monetizing Debt Blog

WC = Wise Colleague
DD2 = Dear Second Daughter

A Brief History of my Blog

                “You have to write with the understanding that it’s possible nobody will read it but you. If you think you can do that and still feel it’s worthwhile, then go for it.” That was the advice a wise colleague (I’ll call her WC) gave to me back in May 2012 when I was thinking about starting a blog. I loved writing, and I was psyched about my newly formed resolve to become debt-free, so I took her advice and went with it. Tech-phobia was my only obstacle, but WC graciously walked me through the steps of setting up and maintaining a blog site.
                I remember being thrilled in those first couple of months, to see from my stats that I’d had pageviews on a given day. For May 2012, I had a total of 68 pageviews. The next month, I had 128. When I got my first comment, I didn’t know what to do with it. It took me a while to figure out how to reply.

CBC & Twitter

                My pageviews spiked significantly after I was first interviewed by Robyn Bresnahan of CBC radio’s Ottawa Morning in October of 2012. It was Robyn who, after our interview had been taped, encouraged me to start using Twitter. Tech-phobia reared its terrifying head again and delayed my initiation into tweeting by several months, but another gracious colleague patiently accompanied me through my first steps into the Twittersphere, and more spikes in pageviews followed.

Other Debt-Bloggers

                Twitter gave me quick, easy access to other debt-bloggers, and I found remarkable encouragement for our journey out of debt as I read the insights and experiences of others. I found a post by Club Thrifty about cooking with beans just at the time we were trying to reduce our grocery budget. Within hours of saying “no” to DD2 after she asked if we’d help with her unpaid tuition bill, I read a post by the Broke Millennial who reflected with gratitude upon the tough financial love with which her parents had raised her. (By the way, DD2 has paid off her bill! More on that later.) I cried when Travis paid off his $109,000 credit card debt.

Side-Hustle

                “Side hustle” is a term I learned as I read through tweets and posts over the months. (Most debt bloggers are young and hip.) What can you do on the side to earn more income? It was a concept I had embraced already. The month after we started our journey out of debt, I taught summer school – something I hadn’t done for fifteen years – and I’ve done it ever since. Wasn’t that side-hustle enough? Monetize your blog. The idea kept presenting itself – through tweets, blogs, and even my sister. “I told a friend of mine about your blog, and she really likes it. She says you could make money from it. Have you ever thought of that?”

Terrors

                It makes sense. I’m writing my posts anyway, and some people are finding them helpful. So why not earn an income while I’m at it and put every cent against our debt? All kinds of terrors loom in the face of that one. Tech-phobia once again. Money-guilt. And a sense that something good will be lost. “Your blog is pure,” WC said to me recently. “That’s one of its biggest appeals.”
                I’ve found help with the tech-phobia part of things. And I’m facing down that nasty, lying money-guilt. But can I keep my blog “pure” if I monetize it? That’s certainly my intention.

Changes Ahead

                So in at some point soon, you might see some changes around here. A new web address. A new format. A more user-friendly comments section. But it will be the same blog, the same Prudence, and the same journey out of debt – the good, bad, and ugly of it. I hope you’ll continue to join me!

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Debt and Food

DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
DH = Dear Husband

Hanger and road rage

                On my way home from work one afternoon in late June, I made a detour to pick up DD2 from her summer job training. “What’s wrong?” she asked, noting my effort to keep an emerging crankiness under control. “I’m hungry,” I said. Traffic was bad, and our trip home involved another detour. As my hunger grew, irritation started to spill over. There’s the green arrow to turn left. Turn left already! Why aren’t you moving? HONK! HONNNNNK!
 
 “She gave you the finger you know,” DD2 informed me as we finally started to move.
“Who gave me the finger?”
“The woman in that car you honked at.”
SHE gave ME the finger when SHE was the one keeping us stuck at that light? Crankiness morphed into road rage and took on a life of its own. My eyes narrowed, glaring straight into the review mirror of the offending driver as an assortment of suppressed expletives came charging out of my mouth, and up went my middle finger. ‘Flipping the bird’ as it’s called.
“Mom!” This was a low point. Not a proud moment. DD2 was enjoying the spectacle, but her eyes were wide with surprise. It had literally been decades since I’d stuck up my middle finger in this kind of adolescent fury. DD2 had never witnessed her mother doing such a thing. “You really do get hangry,” she said emphatically and with a trace of wonder. Mistaking my silent shame for a lack of comprehension, she explained the term. “It means you get angry when you’re hungry.”

Club Thrifty’s rant on food and the American dream

                I regularly read other debt-bloggers, and this week I got some good chuckles out of a Club Thrifty post – a rant against the itemized annual budget for a family of four as presented in USA Todays analysis of the high cost of attaining the American dream these days. “And food.  Don’t get me started on food. Why does this family need $12,659 for groceries and an additional $3,662 for restaurant dining each year?  . . . [T]hat’s a total of $16,321 per year and $1,360 per month for this family of four to stuff their faces.  I have to ask, what in the hell are these people eating?  Filet mignon every night?  Try meatless Monday, folks.  It works great!  I feed my family of four for $500-$600 per month and no, we are not starving or eating Ramen for every meal.”
                I actually have some sympathetic understanding for this overeating family living in pursuit of the American dream. While we all need to eat to survive, there is a wide range in the human capacity for self-control when it comes to appetite. “I’ll just skip lunch,” I’ve heard people say. Or, “Supper won’t be for another hour, so just eat a little snack to tide you over.” I could no more skip a meal than fly. And if I’m ready to eat, a “snack” is just not going to do the trick. There’s always been an urgency to my hunger that sets me apart from others, and I if I don’t play it right, I end up overspending or overeating – or hangry.

Food and summer school

                I’m teaching a summer school co-op class this July and August, as I did last year, and the job involves a lot of driving to visit students and their supervisors at different work placements throughout the city. During the regular school year, I put my lunch and snacks in a fridge at work, and I have access to a microwave, kettle, coffee-maker, and toaster oven. When I teach summer school co-op, any food I bring with me stays in the car. Last summer, I would so often stare blankly at the contents of our fridge and cupboards as I prepared for a day on the road. I’d pack insufficient lunches and almost always end up in desperate need of sustenance part way through my travels. DH and I budget a monthly discretionary fund for each of us, and last summer, my personal July and August money just emptied right out to all the restaurants in town.
                This summer, my goal is not to spend a cent on food as I make my co-op rounds. I’m prepared with a serious lunch bag. It’s big, padded, and divided into compartments. It can accommodate sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and an ice pack to keep it all from going bad as it waits in the sweltering heat of my parked car. I’m filled with purpose when I open the fridge to prepare for a day on the road, and so far, I’m succeeding.
                There is no magic recipe for frugality with food. Each one of us operates with a different metabolism, a different set of preferences, and different health needs. But each one of us is capable of avoiding the pitfalls of the ‘American dream’ diet – one that involves unnecessary spending at grocery stores and restaurants alike. With an awareness and acknowledgement of my needs for food, and with an intentional determination not to waste money, I’m keeping my tummy happy as I drive. And my fingers around the steering wheel.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

High Debt and Volatile Income: Challenges of Self-Employment

DH = Dear Husband
                “The stories we hear about business owners and entrepreneurship are the ones that mythologize individuals who started with little, risked it all, and are now leaders of thriving corporations” (Porter, p. 101). In her book Broke: How Debt Bankrupts the Middle Class, Katherine Porter includes the work of Robert Lawless in Chapter 6: “Striking Out on Their Own: The Self-Employed in Bankruptcy”.

Founders of Google: A narrative of epic success

Lawless provides an example of this mythologized story of self-employment success in the experience of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google. “As so many of these tales go, the story emphasizes modest beginnings in a shared campus laboratory before moves to garages, apartments, and eventually a small office space. Early startup financing was nonexistent. Instead . . . Brin and Page had to put their own credit on the line. As Page described it, ‘we had to use all of our credit cards and our friends’ credit cards and our parents’ credit cards.’ Google, of course, has become one of the world’s most successful corporations, and Brin and Page are among the wealthiest individuals on the planet” (Porter, p. 101).

DH’s home business: A humbler self-employment story

                “The typical startup occurs in ordinary, everyday industries and often begins because the owner is unemployed . . .” (Porter, p. 102). A careful man prone to worry, DH was not someone who naturally gravitated to self-employment. In fact, after he had become a casualty of the hi-tech bust at the turn of the millennium, he was specifically advised, in a series of workshops designed to assist the masses of newly unemployed, that his personality type was least suited to self-employment. It took what I have called our “wilderness years” – six years of uncertain direction and extremely low income – for DH to invest in a small, home-based business.

Debt-to-income ratio and the ability to pay off debt

                “Starting a small business can lead to job creation for some people but to overwhelming debt for others . . .” (Porter, p. 102). Already feeling financially choked, we took on a huge business debt in 2009.  It was a sink-or-swim move, but after six years of going nowhere, we were ready for it. “The acid test for the ability to service debts,” Lawless states, “is the ratio of debt to income” (Porter, p. 111). Included in Lawless’ chapter is a table showing, among other things, the debt-to-income ratio of Americans who filed for bankruptcy in 2007.
                To find out your debt-to-income ratio, take the total of all of your debts (including your mortgage) and divide it by your household’s take-home pay. The average debt-to-income ratio in Canada these days is a record breaking 1.65 – meaning that for each take-home dollar, $1.65 is owed. According to Lawless’ table, the average debt-to-income ratio of American filers for bankruptcy in 2007 was 3.22. And among those who were self-employed, it was 4.85 (Porter, p. 110). The numbers seemed extreme to me.
                I knew that when DH and I started our jouney out of debt in June 2012, our debt-to-income ratio was over 2.5 – way over the Canadian average – but nowhere close to the numbers in Lawless’ table. But we weren’t at our worst when we took on the challenge to become debt-free. I did some digging with DH’s help. What was our debt-to-income ratio before we took on the business debt? And what was it afterwards? Going through old income tax files and bank statements, I found out that in 2008, the year before DH took out the business loan, our debt-to-income ratio had been 3.15. Ugh! The business debt reached its peak early in 2010, and for that year, our debt-to-income ratio was 3.5. Yikes! We were in SUCH a precarious position! (Why didn’t we just sell the house? I’ll save that for later.)

Slices 9 & 10 out of the business debt

                After paying off two smaller debts in our first six months of debt-reduction, DH and I started in on Debt #3 – the business debt – in December of 2012. It sat at $80,800 at that time. I remember predicting that it would take eighteen months to pay it off. Not so. “For most self-employed people . . . income can be highly volatile” (Porter, 115). There have been months when we couldn’t pay anything off the business debt due to slow business. There have been months when we couldn’t pay anything off because we had to save for out-of-the-ordinary expenses. Over the nineteen months since we took on Debt #3, we have cut 10 slices out of it, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
                This past May, it was looking like we could either put $1,000 against the debt or else finally get the ugly blotches on our two water-damaged ceilings fixed up. We had already decided to live with the blotches when DH had one incredible day of business at the end of month, and we ended up putting $3,250 against Debt #3. June was very slow overall, but remarkably, DH had a single even-more-incredible business day to make it a solid month, and allow us to put $2,500 against the business debt. So now, Debt #3 is less than half of its original size. At $39,500 it’s still big, but we’re making headway.
We earn a lower income now than we did when DH was at the height of his salaried hi-tech days. As Lawless points out, “the reality of small-business ownership varies dramatically from the epic narratives told about entrepreneurial success stories” (Porter, p. 102). Self-employment typically comes with high business debt, a volatile income, and the ever-present risk of failure. We have lived with all of the above since DH started his business five years ago. But we’re staying the course, and we’re so much better with the money we do earn than we ever were before. And last night, I calculated our current debt-to-income ratio. We’re down to 1.5. Below the Canadian average. Far, far removed from the dismal state of our worst years. “Epic narrative of success?” No. But it’s one of encouragement. And it’s giving me hope.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Breaking the Taboo against Money-Talk: Two Teachers’ Different Levels of Retirement Readiness

NRR = Colleague who is not retirement-ready
RR = Colleague who is retirement-ready
DH = Dear Husband
                A teacher at the high school where I work has become remarkably trim over the past year. “How much have you lost?” a colleague and I asked her this week. We got into a discussion about workouts from home vs. workouts at the gym and about different nutritional habits she has adopted to shed twenty-five pounds. It was a high-five kind of conversation. She looks great.

Two teachers. Two financial realities.

                No one has come up to me and said, “You look like you’ve lost some debt this year.” Debt is invisible. Money-talk is frowned upon. As a teacher, I know that even within a group of people who earn similar incomes, financial realities are all over the map. I asked two colleagues who have a lot in common if I could use their personal situations in this post. I am grateful that they both agreed. Each is a man in his fifties. Each came to teaching as a mid-career shift. Each earned more in his previous job. Each has experienced divorce. Each is a father of almost-grown daughters. I’ll call one NRR (for not retirement-ready) and the other RR (for retirement-ready).

NRR

                My ears are attuned as they never were before to hints of people’s money matters. A few months ago, NRR commented upon the fact that he couldn’t say “No” to his daughters when they asked for money, and he said that he’d never be able to retire. I approached him this week as diplomatically as possible to ask if I could interview him about his finances for my blog. I told him that I understood that he was not ready for retirement, and that I would be comparing him to another colleague who was. He seemed a bit surprised to have been pegged in this way, but he had nothing to hide.
                NRR is fifty-five years old, and he plans to teach until he is sixty-five. At that time, he says, he will be eligible to earn a pension of $16,000 annually. The Canadian Pension Plan will boost his retirement income – though he’s not sure by how much – and he has about $14,000 in savings. He doesn’t carry much debt, but Christmas and tax time usually put him in the red for a while. He doesn’t like the idea of having to work until the age of sixty-five, but he doesn’t regret any of the decisions he has made leading up to his present state.
                NRR earns a good income, and he spends all of it. Two of his daughters are university aged, and the youngest is about to start her final year of high school. Although there are two universities in our city, his daughters go out of town. “I think they should be able to go to school where they want,” he said.  They all work over the summer, but when they ask for money, he gives it to them. “They’re not extravagant in any way . . . ” he started. Then he reconsidered. “OK, they could be extravagant in some ways.” What about making them partially responsible to fund their post-secondary education? I asked. “No.” What about putting limits on the amount given? What about saying, ‘I’ll give you a certain amount per month, but if you blow it, you’ll have to do without’? He started to shake his head before I had even finished asking the question. “It’s not an option because I just don’t think that way,” he said. I asked if he thought his daughters had learned a sense of financial responsibility. “I don’t think so,” he said. But he’s talked to them about it. And he has a financially savvy friend who will talk with them some day.
                There were extenuating circumstances to NRR’s situation. An ex-wife, for instance, who offers little support despite her higher income. The divorce set him back financially. So did the years he spent as a stay-at-home dad. I asked again about retirement. “I’m not going to worry about what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “I have a master’s degree in economics, but I’m not a finance guy. Why should I worry about money?”

RR

                RR is a man whose financial health I was able to identify shortly after DH and I started our journey out of debt. Aged fifty-two, he has been in a position to stop working for the past five years. But he enjoys teaching, and he’s waiting for family circumstances to line up with his retirement plans. No rush. When I asked about retirement-readiness, he told me that his teachers’ pension will not be his primary source of income. He has an investment portfolio that will bring in a greater sum of money. He hasn’t lived in extreme frugality over the years, but he has always consciously avoided allowing money to dribble away. He uses cash instead of plastic. And he has always saved.
When RR and his first wife split up fifteen years ago, he was not set back financially. Already mortgage-free at that time, he was able to meet all monetary obligations involved in the divorce without dipping into debt. “I had no argument with the financial arrangements,” he said. “The custody issue was the important one. My only concern was how my daughter would turn out.”
                It was for his daughter that he changed his career. His former job required extensive travel, and he wanted to be around for her. I couldn’t discern to what extent RR has tried to impart financial wisdom to his daughter. “When she was in grade one,” he said, “I took her to the bank and opened up an account for her. I deposited $1,111,” he said. “At the end of grade two, it was $2,222.” And on it went through the years. So she has seen money grow, but does she have a sense of budgeting or of not overspending? I don’t know. I suspect she has absorbed her father’s money sense as much by osmosis as by annual trips to the bank. She attends a local university, but she’ll study overseas as part of her program this coming year. She has worked hard for scholarships. And she has a summer job. At the mint.

Harmful taboo against money talk

                If you met RR and NRR, you would probably be struck by all that they have in common. Well respected teachers of about the same age – even about the same physical size – each possesses a quiet confidence and a rather dry air of knowing more than he lets on. You might be struck, as I was, by their value of family and love for their children.  But I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t guess at the contrast between their states of financial health and readiness for retirement.
                I wanted to ask RR more about how he is preparing his daughter to be economically self-sufficient. I wanted to challenge NRR with the idea that making plans of financial provision would not mean making money more important than people. And that putting limits on what he gives to his children would not mean showing them less love. But I had already asked so much in the face of a social taboo on conversations about personal finance. RR and NRR had been gracious in setting it aside. I didn’t want to push it.
                I wish that people could engage in money talk with as much freedom as we discuss physical fitness. We see weight loss and weight gain all around us. We understand the difference between cardio training and weight-bearing exercise. We can identify protein and carbs – good carbs and bad. And it’s common to talk about these things – to disagree, debate, learn, and fine-tune our own attitudes and practice. But we don’t all know the basics of financial fitness. We don’t see each other’s debts or savings, and we don’t discuss incomes or budgets. It’s bad form to debate choices to borrow or spend. So we steer clear of money talk. And I think we deprive ourselves of great sources of wisdom because of it.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Gazelle Intense Debt-Reduction: What Does It Look Like?

DH = Dear Husband
DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
                Last week, I wrote about taking on more work to pay off debt. In my case, it means double duty as I finish off the regular school year while at the same time finding placements for my summer school co-op students. Once July rolls around, I’ll be back to one job, but for a few weeks in June, it means craziness. Definitely not fun. The question is: Is it worth it?

Ramsey & “gazelle intensity”

                DH and I started our journey out of debt after reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover in the spring of 2012. In it, Ramsey writes of “gazelle intensity”- an odd combination of words at first sight, but he provides the needed context. The cheetah, a predator of the gazelle, is much faster and more powerful than its prey. So what do you think are the odds that a delicate creature like the gazelle will win against the cheetah? Pretty good as it turns out. Ramsey writes “because the gazelle will outmaneuver the cheetah instead of outrunning him, the cheetah will tire quickly. As a matter of fact, the cheetah only gets his gazelle burger for lunch in one out of nineteen chases. The gazelle’s primary hunter is the fastest mammal on dry ground, yet the gazelle wins almost every time.” He then goes on to make the application: “Likewise, the way out of debt is to outmaneuver the enemy and run for your life” (Ramsey 121).

Who or what is the “enemy” of the debtor?

·         Debt.
·         Pushers of debt like credit card companies, banks, and sellers of merchandise who seduce you into buying with future income.
·         Social forces that pressure you to fit in / keep up with the Joneses / appear affluent / remain faithful to expensive family traditions / be that generous guy who buys the beer for everyone.
·         Inner sabotage, often stemming from a deep-seated belief that for basic happiness you NEED a trip / sexy car / big house / designer clothes / new furniture / a daily latte.

Reconsidering gazelle intensity

In response to my post last week a concerned colleague, who reads my blog, respectfully asked if
he could challenge my decision to take on summer school – especially given the fact that it meant this period of stressed out double duty. “Your health and happiness are worth something. Aren’t they more important that taking a big chunk out of your debt?” he asked. Likewise, Travis, who commented on my post last week, took issue with what he understood to be Ramsey’s concept of gazelle intensity: “for me it’s a recipe for burnout and resentment . . . there comes a time when you have to take a breath and recharge those batteries too. Remember, even while paying off your debt, you need to enjoy life as well.”
                These comments led me to consider whether or not I’ve got the right idea. I looked back at Ramsey’s words on gazelle intensity and found this little gem leading up to them. “If you take an old-fashioned magnifying glass outside and set it near some crumpled newspapers, nothing will happen. If you point the sun’s rays through the magnifying glass but move it around or wiggle it, nothing will happen. If you hold really still and focus the sun’s rays totally on that crumpled newspaper, things begin to happen. Focused intensity will cause you to smell something burning, and soon you will see an actual fire.” He uses this illustration to encourage the debtor to resolve, “To the exclusion of virtually everything else, I’m getting out of debt!” (Ramsey, 120)
To the exclusion of health, happiness, and relationships? No. Might health, happiness, and relationships be strained with all of this focused intensity? On occasion, yes. But anyone who is serious about getting out of the red already knows that debt is the biggest life-sucker of all.

What have we done to be gazelle intense since we started our journey out of debt June 2012?

·         We keep a budget and spend less on things like groceries and household items. A savings of about $30 per week.
·         I used to accompany DH on his annual summer business get-aways, but not anymore. A savings of about $1,500 per year.
·         We used to take a week-end away for our anniversary, but not anymore. A savings of about $800 per year.
·         We used to hire cleaners for our house, but not anymore. A savings of $200 per month.
·         We have used that monthly $200 to buy large purchases – like a flat-screen TV – outright. We used it once to avoid going back into debt. (Now we’ve got about $1,000 in that account just sitting there, and we’re taking our time deciding what to do with it. Unheard of for us!)
·         We have a very old van (1999 Dodge Caravan) and very worn furniture and carpets. There is no shortage of “stuff” that we could easily rationalize buying. But we aren’t.
·         I have been teaching summer school since 2012 – through both July and August since 2013.  A yearly slice of a few thousand off our debt.
·         We don’t “rescue” our children from their own financial mismanagement. (By the way, DD2 started her summer job over a week ago!)
·         DH has decided not to hire anyone until his business debt has been paid off.
·         We have not once dipped back into debt.

It all adds up.

Gazelle intensity means your intention to become debt-free is fierce, impacting every aspect of life. If
you want that pile of debt to burn, a steady, magnified focus is needed. And sometimes it’s going to be stressful. On occasion, it will cause conflict. Getting out of debt won’t always be a happy ride. But in our case, most negative experiences have proven to be the pain involved in ending bad patterns, and they’ve been of short duration – nowhere near as depleting as the financial distress that comes with a sense of being hopelessly in debt.
We haven’t spent the last two years in a state of unending debt-reduction stress. The gazelle doesn’t spend all of its time in high anxiety escaping the cheetah. But when the threat asserts itself, we’re aware. Whether it’s the constant barrage of ads to buy happiness with debt; whether it’s a social pressure to replace the worn furniture in our family room; or my own strong desire to kick back instead of work – we’re able to outmanoeuvre debt, and I believe we’re going to win. Usually, there is no immediate threat. Usually, life offers its laughs with friends, its love of family, its charms of nature, and its restorative rest. So while I’m feeling the high anxiety now, I know it will settle down again. And I’ll be at peace. Like a grazing gazelle.
        

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)