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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  • i am 34 and never in my life, not a single time, have i been in debt. i have never been able to "have what i like or enjoy" *at will* because i ALWAYS looked at affordability, return on investment (either money or pleasure), and reasonable decision, as well as resale value first. i have always wanted a porsche. i have a good salary and almost no bills beyond rent and food. i test drove a porsche two separate times but could never get myself to buy it. i felt it just wasn't a value-based purchase. i thought about insurance rates, constant repairs, risk of theft (well it happens to any car), parking tickets, moving violations, weather problems making me unable to drive like rain, traffic congestion, the list goes on. also, i don't have a cellphone. i use magicjack. i basically pay $20 a year. there is no phone bill. and it works perfectly off my computer. and i use internet to sell on ebay on the side so that bill pays for itself. point is, i willingly sacrifice pleasure in return for freedom as well as always look at value-based purchases. no one calls me asking me to pay a bill and i am not tied down to anything. being debt-free is being free. it's not about mere financial responsibility. it is about living free. and that pleasure is infinitely more lasting than me driving a porsche or you, i would say, spending time in that hot tub.

  • I'm with T-Bone17, but thank GOD for your health, strength, and mental ability at this point.  Screw a hot tub, atleast your family has shelter and food.

  • Great insights, scir91onYouTube.   I wish that I had that sort of perspective a long time ago.  I agree that being debt free (which is accomplished, and maintained through financial responsibility) is infinitely more lasting than having a hot tub and I paid for with credit that just put me deeper into debt.  Now, if I had the cash on hand to buy one (or a porsche, or any other  item), maybe at some point the answer would come back that yes, I want to purchase one, and it's worth it to me.

  • Thanks for your comment Butta - I definitely agree that we should be very thankful for our health, strength and countless other things - including having shelter, food, and clothing.  However, I will point out again that the point is NOT the fact that I had to give up a luxury item (hot tub).  The point is that if you're in debt, and you want to get out of debt, you have to sacrifice.  You have to cut costs (whatever they may be) get rid of stuff (the particular objects are not the point), scrimp, save, and do what it takes to get back on your feet.

  • To Jerrie Bracken: A debit card with cash behind it seem to work well for me. If the rent-a-car company or hotel do not want to honor my debit card, I look for other solutions.

  • Wow.  I give you alot of credit for having so much patience with us commenters, especially the negative ones.

    Anyway, its really helpful to hear about other people trying to live within their means.  I personally am happiest when I compromise, meaning I don't get everything I want but I don't live like a miser either.   My feeling is that every dollar should be well spent, and the things that are worth it to me might not be worth it to others and vice versa.  For example, I am a huge sports nut (specific sports) so it was worth it to me to buy a nice TV.  And since I've got that TV I haven't spent money going to the movies in over a year.  Plus my boyfriend gets cable and internet from work so it is extremely cheap for us to have all the channels we want.  

    I chose to cut down in other ways.  I used to buy single-serve beverages almost every day, and now I save $ by making coffee at home and bringing it in a travel mug.  I have no intention of giving up coffee though lol, its my only real health vice.  Another example, by taking public transport to work I double my commute but save $250 a month.  I'm taking a dual approach of paying down debt (mostly from school) and trying to save up for a mortgage down payment.

    Point is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and I REALLY try not to judge others on the things they buy.  I would say however, make sure what you buy is worth it to you and isn't money carelessly thrown away.

  • One of the things that I noticed I spend a lot of money on is buying coffee out... while at work and even on weekends.. .sometimes 4 a day.. which can definitely add up. I now limit myself to one coffee in the morning as I was spending 9-11.00 a day on just coffee. I make the rest at home or drink the office coffee now. I think it was more of getting out of the office for a couple of minutes versus the actual coffee but it has helped. I also called all cable companies in the area and locked into a much better package for less money, a savings of 50.00 a month.

  • Humphrey G, that's a great point - there are logs of rental car companies and hotels that do indeed take debit cards.  I've used my debit card for both - which is what I plan on continuing to do.

  • I appreciate your comment, Lisa.  Sometimes it is hard for a person to identify with the struggles of another.  I agree that there is no certain lifestyle that will please every person.  Everyone has to find their own way, in a manner that works for them and their finances.  Your last statement is especially on point (in my opinion) - "Make sure what you buy is worth it to you, and isn't money carelessly thrown away."  In other words, buy only things that are really meaningful and genuinely improves your quality of life.....and make sure you can afford it.  I've done the opposite too many times, which is how I ended up in this situation.  Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  • Thanks for sharing, kfitzy - reducing (but not eliminating) your coffee and getting the best price you can for cable are great ways to reduce spending.  My wife and I analyzed every expenditure as to whether they could be reduced or eliminated - and such analysis can be done periodically to continue to ensure you're getting the most out of the funds you have.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Great article really. I myself got into the same boat. Being 18 and in the army I had tons of cash and tons of credit. I ended up getting hurt and was medically discharged. The army pinned it back on an old injury from school so I was left without any income and a busted knee so no real job opportunities. I had 20k in credit card on top of a 12k car loan and monthly bills. My wife wasn't as bad off as I was but she did have some expenses. It's taken me 10 ears to pay off all of my debt and come this income tax return next year well be 100% debt free. It's a great feeling but having the years of dealing with debt collectors and credit counselors has been very emotionally exhausting and has put a strain on the family. Now with the giant inflation our country is facing we've had to cut back even more. We eliminated cable and got a roku with netflix and hulu so were saving 100 a month, I gave up golfing, pack lunches, work 5 14 hour days instead of 6 10th hour days as I drive 40 miles round trip. Life is hard and just getting worse for middle and lower class Americans. I'm ashamed of what we are leaving our kids,grand kids, and their kids to pay off. We have been using a buy now pay later program for everythig in our country.

  • Thank you for commenting, Rob - I'm glad to hear that you have been able to find ways to cut costs, sacrifice and get yourself out of debt.  I'm hoping to be able to say the same thing in about 3 years!

  • I understand the ecconomic challenges all of us are faced with. Unfortunately the article mis-represents the cost of operating a quality hot tub. If the consumer had investigated other brands of hot tubs he would have found that quality hot tubs will function at $20.00 to $30.00 dollars a month. Yes, they can be inexpensive top operate if you stay with a quality product like a Sundance Spa. Also, by having this quality hot tub at home the family will tend to stay at home more, the kids will enjoy quality home time and their costs of entertainment  and quality of life enhancements will be reduced, not to mention less stress, sleeping better, etc. Like with any consumer product you get what you pay for, and a quality hot tub will bring you 10 - 25 years of enjoyment with a minimal operation cost of in the $20.00's.

  • Greg - I appreciate your thoughts.  However, I think it would only be fair to point out to the readers of this that you list as your webpage - which sells Sundance Spas.  Therefore, your commentary is coming from someone who is a dealer of Sundance Spas and has some motivation for saying the above statements.  I would also point out that when looking at spas, we actually looked at Sundance Spas, and we chose a different brand name - not because the one we chose was cheaper (because it wasn't), but because, in our opinion, it was better.  I would also challenge you to take one of your 6 seat Sundance Spas that hold 550 gallons of water, put it out on a cement slab in a particularly cold MN winter where the temp dips consistently below zero and tell me that I can heat that water for an entire month for $20.  

    But, I digress and I think you have missed the point of the article.  The point of the article is not the hot tub itself.  It's about people in debt, trying to get out of debt, and recognizing a behavior, or a possession that simply doesn't fit in the budget anymore, and having to change (temporarily or permanently) in order to get out of debt.  Again, I  repeat that it wasn't just the monthly cost of heating the water that comes along with the spa, it is also the chemicals, as well as the repair bills as the spa ages.  All of that combined, just didn't allow it to fit in our budget any longer.

  • I am wondering if humanity as a whole will not get to a point where it will have to sacrifice a few luxury items.

    Some people die of hunger in Africa, and in America we have Facebook friends.

    In my opinion, when oil runs out we will have to decide if we can afford to have billionaires - just to exist as a species.

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