3 Years in the Debt Management Plan, Still Learning...

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.

3 Years in the Debt Management Plan, Still Learning...

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3 Years in the Debt Management Plan, Still Learning...It almost went by without me noticing. Something jogged a little piece of information loose in my brain as I was sitting down to work on this post. 

July 1st was the three year anniversary of when Vonnie and I first enrolled in our debt management plan

It seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened; so much has changed.

We have eliminated about $63,000 of credit card debt, and according to the MyCareOne online tracker, we have one year and 11 months left until we complete the plan. Seeing the number '1' for the number of years left is a HUGE psychological lift, even if in reality it's closer to '2.'  The end is in sight, and I feel like we are rolling downhill towards the finish line.

And yet, everything in our financial life is not where it should be.

I wish that I could say we have completely learned our lesson. I would love to say that everything is going so perfectly that financial struggles are nothing but a bad memory. I ache to be able to tell you we are a well-oiled financial machine.

But we're not.

We continue to struggle with consistency in budgeting. We'll do very well for awhile, but then we'll be less diligent with tracking our spending. We'll skip our regularly scheduled budget discussions. One of us (or both) will make an impulsive purchase without discussing it because we now have a little breathing room in our budget. Then an unplanned required expenditure pops up and we have to scramble to ensure we have funds to cover everything.

Such an event will then shock us back to reality and kick our budgeting machine back into high gear. This concerns me. No, it scares me. Why do we insist on having to re-learn this lesson over and over again?

We need to track every single dollar of our spending. We need to have a rigid budget plan.

Over the last year our financial planning style has evolved such that we: 

  • Pay bills electronically online
  • Incorporated the envelope method to pay cash for our planned expenditures
  • Track all our spending on the whiteboard so we can visualize where our money is going

But until we execute our budgeting methods with consistency, we are doomed to continue to relearn our lesson through financial emergencies. So, readers, I'm asking for your advice, and your help.

How do you force yourself to stay disciplined and consistently stay on track with budgeting?  

Related Links:

Taking Control....The Whiteboard Budget

It is Debt Confession Time...

Budget Technique #99: The Envelope Method

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan Customer with CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis very candidly 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. You can also follow along with Travis on his personal blog, Our Journey to Zero. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • Travis, could it be it's that little four letter word that's the problem?  LIFE!  You have accomplished a tremendous feat by paying off $63,000 in debt in 3 years!  I'd say focus on this, and continue doing exactly what you're doing.  We all have those weeks/months in which we slip up, blow the budget, and wonder if we will ever learn!  

    Would you be happier if your budget were more rigid?  With what you've done on a consistent basis over three years, I'd say you're already extremely disciplined.  You've mentioned in past posts of the fear of getting off track.  I wonder if you beat yourself up for being human!  You are a team, you and Vonnie.  Does she feel the same?  Have you talked about this together?  Maybe there lies your answer...finding the balance between your spending habits.  You both are obviously doing something right...only 1 year and 11 months to go to complete your debt free journey.  

    Celebrate the months as you cross them off.  Focus on the positive.  Remember we are all still learning, for that is what life is all about.

  • Hi Travis!  You know that I'm retired and living on a fixed income (with some supplemental help from our fun ideas and schemes).  Here's my suggestion:  Pretend you are living on a fixed income.  You only have a certain amount of money coming in so you have to be very careful about spending that money.  Pick an amount - any amount you feel comfortable with for one month and that's what you have to live on and pay your bills.  The rest of your money (the breathing room money) can't be touched for one month.  I think you are disciplined about your finances; you just have small moments of back sliding.  If you can successfully live on a fixed income for one month, it should give you an idea of what you can do if you really put your mind to it.  You might also find a new way of saving. :-)

  • Wow, Susan, thank you very much for your support and encouragement!  I do tend to be my own worst critic, and you're right in that we couldn't accomplished what we have over the last three years without doing something right.  That being said, there is always room for improvement.  :)  We have talked about this, and we both tire of the "financial fire drills" when we get off track.  I hope and pray that as we continue forward, that we learn to get better at preventing them.....or at least be better prepared to handle them.  :)  

    Thanks again for your comment!

  • Tiquie, I love your idea!  I wrote a post once about some things that I committed to for 30 days, and after that 30 they had became habits.  Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Travis my dear friend we all backslide.  Like you I have beaten myself up over the months that I know I could have paid more against my debt.  I agree with Susan that we do need to be able to celebrate the different milestones.  If we don't then there is a chance we will never learn to stay on track!!  I don't know about you, but there are times it gets so hard to keep saying no to everything and everyone.  I personally have learned to allow myself to slide once in awhile.  Not to the point it is going to hurt me financially or to the point that I won't reach my goal of being paid off with my September 26th payment.

    Becoming debt free is not easy!!  I had to learn to balance things a little.  I was so strict on myself that I ended up sick (it is very rare for me to be sick).  I had to step back and really re-evaluate my situation!!  Yes, create a budget and try to stick to it.  If you fall off the budget and it hasn't hurt you to where you couldn't pay all of your bills etc... OK no big deal.  If we aren't putting ourselves further in debt we deserve a pat on the back!!  At least we know we will be done with this credit card debt in time.  

    You have accomplished 3 years and $63,000 paid off!! That is awesome!!  Congratulations as that is quite the accomplishment.  Life happens and sometimes we just have to be able to live.  

    My daughter came to me the other day and told me that she just realized that she is a lot like me.  We set our minds to something and we get tunnel vision.  Our family, friends, and enjoyment will all be set aside.  Don't get that tunnel vision!!  It isn't any fun,nor do you want to lose the people you cherish in life!!  For the past almost 32 months that I have been on the program, I have not allowed myself too much of an entertainment budget.  Let me say that after I heard my daughter tell me this, that I have planned a white river rafting trip this month (groupon $88 for 2) as well as I purchased a  go-cart ticket that has to be used within a year.  Was it in my budget?  NO!!  Did I feel guilty afterwards?  Yes and no!!  Yes because it wasn't in my budget.  But no because I deserve it.  It didn't go on a credit card and what is life without any fun?  I also have a planned dinner with a couple of my friends this month.  It also was not in the budget.  But hey I worked the overtime, why shouldn't I be able to treat myself?  I work almost every holiday (double time and a half), why shouldn't I be able to put aside some fun money?  

    So my suggestion is to quit beating yourself up.  It isn't worth punishing yourself over!!  Find the balance and you may find it is easier to stay on track.  Make sure you celebrate the accomplishments.  That way there is always something to look forward to.  You are one of the people on CareOne that I have a lot of respect for!!  I am not saying to allow  yourself to slide constantly, but give yourself a break!!  $63,000 paid off YAY!!  Heck I will celebrate for you!!!  Only 1 year 11 months left? Awesome!!  Keep paying your debt off, keep putting money into the emergency fund and quite beating  yourself up!!  You and Vonnie are doing an awesome job so take time to give yourselves the credit you deserve!!  Congrats to both of you!!  Holy cow you made me write a book!!  LOL!!!

  • Haha, Monica - you did write a book - have you ever thought about blogging?  :)  Truthfully, I have no problem budgeting some entertainment funds to have a little fun.  What makes me come down on myself is the thought process of "eh, we have some extra funds, so I can buy this even though it's not in the budget - it'll be ok."   Do that once, twice.......its a slippery slope and I do not want to end up back where we started.  

    That being said....three years.  I think back to three years ago and how uncertain everything was - it makes me shudder.  I'll take where I'm sitting now over that any day.

  • I do understand what you are saying.  I know I never want to go back either.  However, I honestly don't believe I will.  It did take me awhile and some encouragement from others to get me to that place where I think I truly am ready to be credit card debt free!!  I hope you will get to that point as well!!

    Funny thing  you mentioned about me blogging.  The first time I was asked I didn't want to go through the hassle at my current employer to ask for permission.  They consider it off duty employment and want to make sure it isn't something the agency would frown upon.  But now that I am almost done and have been thinking about where I can increase my retirement fund.....I am considering blogging and just sent in the paperwork lol.

  • It's amazing to be out of debt-it's also scary to be out of debt. There is SO MUCH seduction out there. You and Vonnie have accomplished something so HUGE, you need to be commended, and yeah...maybe treat yourselves to a present. Best of luck!

  • I hope I get there too, mdavis1964!  I hope you seriously consider blogging - your passion and helpfulness always shine through in your comments on blog posts as well as on forum threads - I think you would be a huge inspiration to your readers!

  • You're sooo right, LBee - there's so many opportunities to spend, spend, spend.  I just have to believe that the memory of what that day felt like when we realized we were facing a financial nightmare will help keep us from sliding back into debt.  We are indeed planning on doing something special once we make that final payment.  We have a couple of ideas but obviously nothing is set in stone yet.  :)  Thanks for stopping by!

  • I'm sure you're already doing this, but since it's not mentioned in this post, it merits mentioning -- I find it helpful to take my savings "off the top," almost like it's a payroll deduction that comes out of your paycheck before you receive it. Then budget/spend with whatever is left over. (If I were paying off debt, I'd probably remove both savings and debt servicing "off the top"). Then, if I make an impulsive buy, or if I'm not consistent with tracking -- I'm not as worried about the consequences because I know I've already paid into my emergency fund, retirement, etc.

  • That's great advice, Paula!  We do just that with our emergency fund, debt repayment (not much in the way of savings until this debt is gone) and some other monthly bills.  The problem is, I think we need to do the same for things like groceries, weekly gas needs, etc.....Thanks for the advice!

  • Not many companies can say that their customers were so passionate about being customers that they would take two days out of their lives, vacation time from work, and time away from their families to speak to what they believe has been their financial

  • I was on my way to India for a two-week business trip. Prior to leaving, we had done our budget and spending plan for the duration of my trip. Still recovering from July's overspending, we were on a strict budget.

  • Learning never ends but quite astonished to see that management skill of yours clearing $63,000 credit card debt and still looking ahead for more budget plans. According to me you should be sharing your management skills and how you work on your budgets so we may also work graciously to eliminate our debts.

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