My Journey out of Debt

Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.

Sacrificing to Become Debt Free

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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. 

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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! 

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Life Simplification

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Travis Pizel

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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  • Spending 750$ to repair a 5 year old hot tub? What is its value? Spend 0$ ditch the tub and move on. Its not hard to imagine why you have money problems.  Or maybe repair it yourself, the internet has information on everything.

  • Thanks for your comment, Pete, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I would respectfully ask you to re-read the post, as I think you may have missed that  the subject of the post was indeed selling the hot tub (which was still worth $1000's even after 5 years) instead of reparing it.  I do wish that someone would have suggested looking at the internet for info on potentially fixing it myself....I'm normally a "let's see what the internet says" kind of guy about everything.  I'm not sure why I didn't do it here.  Maybe I was just looking for the "last straw" to sell the thing.

  • To curb impulsive spending, I printed out the message below.  I tacked one on my computer to limit online shopping -- and one in my wallet, to remind me when I am out!  I've cut WAY down on unplanned spending.  

    "I believe Americans have no idea how we are debauched by the incessant clatter to buy.  Many of us succumb to those pressures, spending money we don't have, to buy things we don't need, to impress people we don't even like.   We spend our leisure time taking care of all those things we didn't want or need in the first place."                   Rev. Dale Turner

    I have no credit cards ... paid off the only one I had, and now use my Debit card for hotel/flight/car rental reservations.  Thank God I started this cost-cutting before the whole economic fiasco!  After losing my job, I barely held on to my home!  It's been excruciatingly difficult, but rewarding.  My car is almost paid up, so I make sure to do preventive maintenance, so it lasts.  I eliminated the landline phone & keep only a cellphone.  No cable, but use internet for video/news/etc.  No health insurance, so I take better care of myself.  It's quite a juggle to keep things balanced!

  • Great quote, lysel3, and so very true.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  • I've enjoyed all these comments. I live a very frugal lifestyle but still have trouble making ends meet because I earn very little. I work in the arts at a non-profit and our sector is grossly underfunded. It's hard for me to figure out where to cut: I ride a bicycle to work to save money, I don't have cable, I got rid of my landline, rent a cheap studio apartment, rarely eat out or buy new clothes.  It's pretty tough because the times that I do go out to eat - it's for social reasons - not going at out all would be miserable. So I try to balance my funds with also doing some social stuff. It's rough out there.

  • Hi Rbez, I agree, it can definitely be rough out there when you work in an underfunded occupation.  I assume either you are greatly fulfilled by your occupation by staying there, or other employment opportunities are not available to you.  In either case, it sounds like you're doing the right things by balancing and prioritizing your spending.  I wish I would have done that, instead of just thinking I **should and could** have it all, and ending up deeply in debt.

  • During the big run-up in real estate we took out mortgages against our primary home and bought other properties essentially building a pyramid of properties. It all worked well and good until the real estate crash that started in late 2006 and continues today. We then ran up credit cards trying to keep the mess going until things turned around. We also were fortunate in that at the peak of the market we sold our primary home in California and moved to Colorado, avoiding some of the bust. However our credit card debt was crushing us.

    Finally last year we decided to see if there was any of our properties we could actually make money on if we sold. We hated to do it, but a duplex near downtown in a Nebraska city (they weren't hit with the boom/bust in real estate) could be sold for a profit. It was a good income generator but we needed cash now and sold it. We took the $40,000 we made in profit and paid off most of our credit cards. That reduced our monthly bills to credit cards by over $1000 a month. I had a spa at my California home and sometimes wish I had one in Colorado, but like you I know what it costs to run and repair, I feel it's not worth it.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, revloc.  I'm glad to hear you were able to pay off much of your credit card debt by liquidating some of your assets.  It's unfortunate you had to sell, something that could have given you income for years to come, but sometimes you have to make it through the short term, and it sounds like you had reached your breaking point.  Good luck to you in the future!

  • sorry but you should have put it inside your house.....Im giving up Direct tv because its just too much money 80.00 a month ,,,but I would kill for a hot tub and would cut corners any were else to have aching body would scream THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU !!!as would my wifes.....

    some things are a luxury item to some people (50 ,000 dollar cars,1 million dollars house, 72 in flat screen ) and some things like a hot tub spa would be a health aid and a relief to others.....dont want yours  give it to us.........

  • I appreciate your thoughts, Joe, and I'm sorry that you are having what seems like some health problems.    We actually did cut a lot of costs to try to keep the hot tub in order to afford the monthly utility cost.  If it had not required a repair that was almost $1000 (labor and parts) we may still have it today.  Just  as food for thought in case someday you find yourself in the market to buy a hot tub to help with your health, putting a hot tub inside your home has it's own implications:  1.) you put chemicals into the thing every week - so there is always a smell to it - do you really want that inside your home?  2.) The need to increased ventilation:  a home with a hot tub in it becomes very humid.  Therefore you have to ensure your have proper ventilation otherwise your home (built of wood) could become infested with mold, and/or your wood could begin to rot.  3.)  hot tubs are not small.  You need a pretty large place to put it.  If you didn't build your home to accomodate a hot tub,  you may have difficulty finding a place to put it ...... or even getting it in the door.

  • Hot tubs are a scam, and have always been. They almost always break down under NORMAL usage, plus the cost of upkeep. I once spent $75 to pick up an old hot tub from an office mate (because a jerk offered to install it for me in payment of a debt owed, and of course no such thing happened). Anyway, eventually I paid again to have the damned thing hauled to a landfill. The hauler told me that hot tubs were at a huge portion of his business. Wish I'd known about that sooner! Everyone I know with hot tubs has tales of woe about breakage and notorious unrelability.

  • I've found that living within my means rather than trying to keep up with the Jonses has kept my debt more than manageable, it may sound simplistic, but not spending myself into financial oblivion has been very successful for me.

  • I agree Claire - had I known the amount of maintenance and upkeep a hot tub required, it would have definitely been a factor in whether we bought it or not.  I can't even imagine how much a landfill would charge dispose of one of those beasts either.

  • Kevin1, your comment makes perfect sense.  Keeping up with the Joneses is a budget killer, and leads to nothing but accumulating material possessions you don't need, and eventually will just forget you had leaving them to collect dust in a corner somewhere.  Buy things that you need, or that you really really want for YOU, not because someone else has one.  Thanks for your awesome comment!

  • Instead of dinner we go out to lunch. Many times this is less expensive. Also we take home any left overs and eat that with a salad to get a second meal out of it.

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