Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.
It's hard to sacrifice. We're a full year into our projected five-year Debt Management Plan to get out of debt, and after all the budget cutting, downsizing, and life-simplification projects, I'm finding that I'm not yet done cutting the excess fat out of my life in order to effectively live within my means.
Six and a half years ago, my wife and I built a new house. Within a year, we added a large concrete patio with a hot tub. It was delivered on Valentine's Day, 2005. Can you imagine?
I got my wife a hot tub for a Valentine's Day present. I thought I was being creative. It took some creative financing, that's for sure.
Those were very different economic times. The mailbox was full of credit card offers with low introductory rates. If you wanted to make a large purchase, there was always zero percent financing available, with low monthly payments. It was almost as if businesses were willing to accommodate anyone, making it easy to say, "yes" to purchase anything, no matter the long-term consequences.
The salesman said that it would have a nominal effect on my utility bill. Of course I took his word for it. We had it delivered during the winter of our first year in the new house, so I never really got a feel for the baseline of what our utility bill could be. Only within the month did I compare utility bills with my neighbor.
I was shocked to find out our electricity bill was over $100 more than my neighbor's, who has almost an identical sized house. This is during the summer when daytime temps are in the 80s. I can only imagine how much I was paying to heat 500 gallons of water when it was below zero outside in the dead of winter.
Then came the repair bills. We had things go wrong with it before, but it had been under a five-year warranty. That warranty has now expired, and we just found out that the electronics panel needs to be replaced to the tune of $750. Between the utility bill, the maintenance chemicals, and now a repair bill I can't afford, I just cannot justify keeping it. So, we are investigating selling it back to the store we bought it from, or having them sell it on consignment.
In the overall grand scheme of things, it's not a life changing event. A hot tub is a luxury item that we can certainly live without. The thing that makes it hard is that the hot tub was one of the very few large items that we had purchased with creative financing that we actually had followed through with a plan and paid off.
Here we are, having to get rid of it because of all the other poor choices that we've made. It is a reminder, twelve payments into our Debt Management Plan, that we have to constantly re-evaluate our financial situation and sacrifice when necessary, to continue to live with a budget.
When the hot tub is taken away, I will look at the empty spot it occupied and think about all the good times we've had while sitting in the hot tub with friends and family, as well as the relaxing late night soaks by myself gazing at the stars above. I will also think about the future, when we are out of the grasp of unsecured credit card debt, and will hopefully be able to afford a hot tub and fill that space again.
Do you have things that you've had a hard time giving up since you've joined the Debt Management Plan? Share your experiences with the community!
Running the DMP Marathon
Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Planand in his posts he shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. Compensated CareOne Blogger.
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I find it very difficult to feel sorry for people who have to give up hot tubs when people like myself are losing cars, houses etc. Sorry - no can do.
Thank you for your comment T-Bone17, and I certainly understand what you're saying. I must admit that while I was writing this blog entry I thought to myself that I should prepare myself for comments exactly like this. In fact, I contemplated axing this subject all together - however, the purpose of my blog is to document my personal experiences as I go through debt management, so I decided to continue on.
The material object being discussed is a luxury item, I admit that. However, II ask you (and all readers) to look past what the object is, and identify with the underlying concept. That concept being, while a person is in debt, and in a debt management program, you must constantly be on the look out for things you are able to do without in order to live within your means and get out of debt. You will have to sacrifice in order to get out of debt.
I invite you to read my initial blog - which you can get to by following the "Communication" tab under the "Related Posts" header above. If not for CareOne, I absolutely would have lost my home as I had lived beyond my means for my entire adult life. Had I not done something, my credit card payments were going to be so high that I couldn't afford to make my Credit card bill payments along with the normal mortgage, care payments, etc. I would have been selling my house and cars, or most likely declaring bankrupcy.
Even by sacrificing, and cutting back, I have had to fight tooth and nail to keep my head above water. Extra jobs to earn extra money for both my wife and I. Cutting back in virtually every aspect of our lives just to keep what we have.
I would argue that if you look at things in this aspect, you will see that you and I are not all that different in our current situations.
Thank you again for reading my blog, and I hope that you will continue to read not only mine, but the others that post their life experiences here as well.
I agree it is difficult having to give up anything that we enjoyed having. Whether it is a home, car, hot tub, cable, possessions etc... It is about each and everyone of us re-evaluating our situation and finding out what we can live without to make this work for us. I believe you will in time be able to purchase another one, but via cash next time :-). I have read so many of your blogs and understand the struggles you and your family have had to go through. To get creative to make a vacation work out. Every time I read one of your blogs you make me think about my situation and what I might be able to do to better my situation. Thank you for that. I truly enjoy reading your blogs, as it makes me realize that all of us are truly in the same situation just at different levels. But the struggles are the same. I truly hope the next 4 years are easier for you and your family.
Thanks for your comment mdavis1964! I've come to embrace our debt as a tool to not only get out of debt, and not only to teach my wife and I how to live within our means, but also to teach our children the road to success - so that they will not repeat our mistakes.
I am just getting started with debt management. I know that now I will have to make every effort to reduce expenses and SAVE for unexpected expenses like car repair. I won't have a credit card to use. So in some ways this process is forcing me to simplify my life. I just know I can only have the necessities.
Thank you for your comment, esampson! You're absolutely right - being on a debt management program, and having no credit cards avaiilable, forces you to live within your means. You don't have that credit card tofall back on if you have unplanned expenses, or you overspend. When I'm done with my program, not only will I be debt free, but I believe I will have developed the habits to stay that way.
im thinking about cutting my cable to save a whopping 84.00 a month. and im having a hard time sacrificing the dinners out and everything. any advice
Almost all the times I eat dinner or lunch out is more of a social need than just eating. Because I enjoy my friendships so much, it is hard to refuse the plans to be together. I am still working, too, so I 'need' the break from the office. However, when I figure out how much I spend, I get more determined to begin cutting back. One of my strategies is tied to reducing how much I spend on gasoline, too. I choose one day that I will not drive. My friends know I have this commitment. I also, don't do a lot of extra driving on my driving days to make up for the non-driving day. So in the future, I plan to get to the point that I am taking my lunch 4 out of 5 days.
Thanks for your comment rxtech932002. I've gone through my monthly bills several times trying to reduce costs. Cable was one of the things I reduced as well. Just remember that everything adds up. If you save a little on many things, the sum of all your savings is significant. Other things I have looked at are getting rid of my home phone (and just using my mobile phone), reducing energy costs by turning down my water heater and thermostat, seeing if i really need to use my chest freezer and if not, unplugging it, Changing eating habits -ie, not going out to eat as often, and looking for cheaper alternatives when grocery shopping. Raising the deductible on my car insurance. All of those things, plus some others I am probably missing resulted in a significant monthly savings. Hope that helps, and keep reading the blogs for more money saving tips!
esampson, I like your idea of not cutting out the activity all together, but rewarding yourself for 4 days of bringing your lunch with 1 day of going out with your friends! My problem was I usually ended up going out to eat when hectic morning life seemed to let time get away from me and i didn't have time to put a lunch together. So, I started making my lunches during the evening to ensure I got it done. Thanks for your comment!
thank you for this editorial. I think many of us are revaluating our financial situation, but i think its more than that. many of us are stuck in jobs that we hate because of the pressure and stress, for example banking. if we had no debts and learned to save the money and pay for it in cash, then it would be much easier to tell your boss to shove it. we are all slaves to our jobs until we learn to do what our grandparents, did. in addition, mortgages need to go back to 15 year loans. housing has increased tremendously because of 30-40 yr loans with extremely low interest rates. imagine, that you have to be financial ly stable for 30-40 years, no deaths, no divorce and no change in income in order to keep that home. its insane and these economic conditions have forced us to re-examine the future of our finances. I do plan to find a job I like while making decent money, but for now my focus is paying off debt, enjoying my husband, children and family because in the end all you have is the love around you not the material stuff. Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt response, Patricia. I agree with you 100% with respect to enjoying family, and that the love around you is the most important thing you have. That is one of the wonderful lessons that my journey out of debt has impressed upon me. I may not be buying all the material things I used to, and being in this much debt introduces a different kind of day to day stress - but I would say that over all I am actually **happier** (YES, believe it!) now than than I've ever been!
If you believe what a salesman tells you, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in.
Agree with njot using credit cards, for reasons stated by many. However, tell me how you rent a car, make hotel reservations, etc. without a credit card?
My husband & I share 1 vehicle. So I worked it out with my job to work evenings, and to have the same days off as him, so we don't over use the gas or car. We managed to save $30. a week on gas doing this. Also, we both take lunches, this has also saved us a whopping $40. So now with an additional $70. a week saved, we have been paying off debt little by little. But most importantly is our family time. Ever other week, we have Friday Family Night, where someone gets to choose which pizza joint / fast food to eat, and a movie rental. This has brought our family closer, and we usually only spend 'bout $25. altogether. OH and we use coupons on just about everything, including eating out!
And for those of you considering dropping your cable...my local comcast is offering the triple play plan for $99. a month with a 2yr contract!
We just "adjusted" our plan as we were recently paying $170. a month for landphone, internet & cable!!! This saved us an additional $70. a month!!