• DH = dear husband
  • DD2 = dear second daughter

Overall progress from June 2012 to September 2017

DH and I have been on a journey out of all debt since June of 2012. We started off with:

  • $21,000 in consumer debt
  • $81,000 in business debt
  • $155,000 in mortgage debt
  • A grand total debt of $257,000

Since that time, we have:

  • paid off all consumer debt
  • paid off all business debt
  • paid $87,000 off of our mortgage
  • Remaining debt – $68,000

Mistake = lower payment in September

For the first 3 years of our trek to debt-freedom, we kept our mortgage payments low and steady as we tackled our smaller debts first. Now that we have no other debt besides the mortgage, we put as much as we can against it each month. DH runs a home business, and so our monthly income varies. To accommodate this reality, our strategy in attacking the mortgage has been to give ourselves some flexibility.

The terms of our mortgage allow us to pay off extra each month to a maximum of doubling our regular payment. We can also make one lump sum payment off of the principal each year.

Every month, we try to double our mortgage payment – which for us means putting down $3,000. If we can’t manage a double payment, we put down as much extra as we can. That means that each month a few days before the payment is made, DH communicates to the bank how much our extra payment will be.

Only for September, he forgot about the long weekend. So he missed the deadline to make the extra payment. For the first time since June of 2015, when we became debt-free except for the mortgage, we paid our basic amount of $1,500.

But that’s OK …

I always like to see our debt numbers go down as much as possible each month, so while it was disappointing, DH’s mistake was OK on three different fronts:

  1. The closer we get to ZERO, the more confidence we have in our overall finances. The great thing about confidence is that it allows us to take mistakes in stride with a not-a-big-deal attitude …
  2. … because it’s not a big deal. We will be making a lump sum payment for the year in December, and any money we put aside in September that didn’t go towards that monthly payment will go towards the big payment …
  3. … only we didn’t end up having any extra for September because of over $1,500 worth of van repairs.

So it actually worked out very well.

My discretionary account: hard to release judgment

The other subplot developing in these monthly reports is about progress in my discretionary debt payoff. DH and I give ourselves a generous discretionary allowance each month, and he is way better at managing his than I am at managing mine. While he has saved and even invested from his, I have gone into debt with mine. Ugh!

Willpower hasn’t been the answer, so in the last couple of months, I’ve been trying what I call no-judgment-trackingย of my discretionary spending. I just deleted the mark of C that I originally included in the subtitle for this section. I’m SO programmed to evaluate! Releasing judgment is not as easy as it sounds. My goal here is simply to track – NOT to evaluate or come up with better strategies or to seek advice. None of the above works. I know! (This is a very stubborn issue.) My hope is that a heightened awareness of my discretionary spending will lead to my successful management of it – in the black instead of the red.

No-judgment-tracking for September

First item of awareness: I really have a hard time keeping a steady log of my discretionary expenditures. It’s not from forgetting or not having time for it. It’s from shame. But what does shame come from? Judgment! I’ll do my best to stare down that shame – AND the judgment behind it – through October. For now, despite my digging around to fill in the blanks, I can only work with an incomplete record of my September spending.

Some day, I’ll be brave enough to include actual dollar amounts, but for now, here is where the money went:

  • pizza party at a mini high school reunion (We all chipped in.)
  • birthday celebration for DD2
  • birthday gift for DD2
  • tip for hairdresser
  • tip for restaurant server (The meal itself was covered by a gift card given to us.)
  • wedding shower expenses (3 aunts chipped in – and DH & I split my portion. Thank you Kalie and Kay. Your comments led to my discussion with DH about this!)
  • wedding shower gift (Some of us chipped in. DH and I split my portion.)
  • 2 breakfasts bought because I woke up too late to eat before work
  • 2 lunches bought because I woke up too late to prepare a lunch before work
  • took a friend out for dinner to celebrate her birthday
  • baby shower gift
  • charitable giving
  • airport parking
  • several (I’m going to guess 7 ) snacks

For extra detail, you might remember that we give ourselves our allowance when my first pay comes through each month. For October, that won’t be until the 13th, so I had to make sure my September money held out. It didn’t. But the good news is that I was owed some money for a boost that we gave ourselves in the summer (which allowed me to take a trip to Washington DC). So I was still able to move forward.

I put another $200 against my discretionary debt. After 2 months, from an original $1,669, it’s down to $1,286.

More on shame & judgment

You know, when I look at that list of expenditures from September, I find myself thinking there’s not much for me to be ashamed of. I have noticed before that there’s a shame spiral. You make a mistake (like wake up late), submit to the consequences (like pay for breakfast and lunch), go into some denial (don’t track that spending). And since you’re now functioning less mindfully, it’s easier to add to the denial (like buy snacks – and don’t track that spending either).ย  In its hidden state, all that you’re in denial about becomes more dreadful. It takes some bracing to shine a light on it … but when you do, it becomes smaller – less powerful.

I’m hoping to gain more confidence in my discretionary money management so that when I make mistakes, I can have the same not-a-big-deal attitude that we had with DH’s mortgage mistake. Shame and judgment won’t be part of that confidence building.

Do you find it difficult to track your spending? Do shame and denial play a role in that difficulty? Your comments are welcome.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Join the Conversation


  1. I do find it difficult to be consistent in tracking spending. I think just life gets in the way, and I find the more I spend where I “really shouldn’t.” the less I’m in inclined to track, as if I were to be admitting guilt…twice. Although that’s a terrible way to look at it, but I totally get where you’re coming from.

    1. Thanks for making this comment Tonya. That is exactly what I’m talking about. We give up because of that inner judgment. You use the word “guilt”, but if there’s no judgment, there’s no guilt either. I would just like to get to the point where I don’t sabotage my tracking with condemnation. That’s a first step – not the end plan. But I don’t think I’ll get anywhere without it.

  2. We use very little cash. We use debit for almost all purchases. It helps us track everything. We are able (good or bad) to review and see. I do agree if we know we have gone overboard that we are more inclined to skip a review.

    1. Oh, thanks for admitting to that, Brian! More confirmation of this whole self-judging thing. It seems we know in theory that we’ll spend more in some months than others and that we have spending triggers – but when it comes to actually tracking evidence of those expensive months and those triggers, we’re inclined to go into denial mode. My goal now is not to “skip”, but to face it head on – no shame allowed.

  3. Tracking spending seems like it would be easy but it isn’t, especially when there are expenses that one makes that probably in hindsight, they wouldn’t have made. I applaud you for putting it all out there, and knowing that any small changes you make are good changes! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you, Mackenzie, but don’t applaud me yet! I’m aiming for complete, nothing-hidden-tracking in October though. If I follow through, then I’ll accept your applause : )

    1. And you, sister. Thanks for making comments that challenge my way of thinking. You and Kalie had an impact : )

        1. (Look at the 6th item down the list of my expenditures, and read the note I added to it. You and Kalie have both commented on the higher expenses associated with being female, and how that has to be taken into account when couples budget.)

          1. ooooooooooh, okay, I gotcha now. I’ve been trying so hard lately to butt out of your discretionary fund beeswax. I get (some might say) overly opinionated, as it were … :O

  4. You’ve started tracking, you’re working on releasing judgment, you’re paying down your discretionary debt….it was a good month. We are our own worst critics! I used to be a bit lazy about tracking, but my wife got me into the habit of getting every cent in there. Sometimes it’s difficult to face those expenses we shouldn’t have made, but when she prints out our monthly budget report, I’ll see notes like “idiot tax” next to ATM fees, for example. You can’t go back and change the past, so we simply accept responsibility and move forward.

    1. Thanks Gary. You’re right – it was a good month : ) It can be a great benefit of being married – your partner’s strengths making up for your weaknesses (and vice versa). If it doesn’t turn into domineering or enabling, it’s a real bonus. “Idiot tax” is judgmental though, so those notes wouldn’t be helpful for me right now given the whole no-judgement element of my tracking efforts. But if you and your wife can laugh at it, have your “Ugh! No more ATM fees!” moment, and move on, power to you!

  5. Each month, I have some impulse purchases that are usually $10 or less each month. My wife usually rolls her eyes when they arrive in the mail or I come home with them.

    We also make a double payment on our mortgage and we automatically have it scheduled to be deducted each month. I will say, that we have to be conscious about sending the extra money to that bank account each month. So, we usually set a reminder on our phones as we almost forgot once.

    1. I think that you and your wife have steady incomes – am I right? The reason we can’t make the doubled-up mortgage a no-brainer is that while my income is steady, my husband’s isn’t. We have to give ourselves room for lower-income months. $10 or less per month?! You are in another league, Josh. My hat goes off to you!

  6. As I look at that list I don’t see much to be ashamed of either. Not sure if that’s the case every month but it’s certainly the case for Sept. Good for you for getting rid of the guilt and shame – it really doesn’t do any good anyway. Jesus loves you just as you are. You should too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you, Laurie. I would like to eliminate the sabotaging mindless spending that I now realize is a byproduct of shame and judgment. I would like to increase awareness and self-discipline. How much of that list would I change if I could? Just some of the snacks. Even the sleep-in meals I can easily forgive : )

  7. Oh, I get the shame, and while I record my expenses I don’t always review them. I realized I had been avoiding looking at our grocery spending last month, and sure enough, it was about $200 (40%) over budget. Admittedly, August had been about $100 low, so some was probably timing, but I made my share of impulse buys.

    1. But I wonder, Emily, whether if you actually DID review last month’s groceries, you would find, as I did, that there’s not much to be ashamed of. How much of it is what you call your “share of impulse buys” and how much is just making up for the under-budget groceries of August?

  8. We all got hit with Mistake Taxes in September ๐Ÿ™‚ Or earlier. The key is to keep each decision isolated, for me. If I let each incident (spending or tax) bleed into my next decision, it would become a spiral. Let your savings snowball, not your mistakes ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And you’ll get the handle on it soon. It takes some time to go from the red to the black consistently.

    1. I like that concept – letting mistakes bleed into the next decision. That is what I did with those sleep-in meals. They “bled” into a number of impulse treats because I didn’t isolate them. Thanks Revanche. No-judgment-tracking combined with isolation of mistakes. Got it!

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