Monday, May 30, 2016

Destination Debt Free: In It for the Long Haul

Getting out of debt can be such a huge challenge! It is not something that can be done overnight or in just a few weeks (unless you only have a little bit of debt)! But, for most people, especially those of us who are dealing with student loans, you're talking tens of thousands of dollars of debt. And it can take years to pay those off. Right now, we are looking at at least 6-8 years before we can be debt free. Hopefully as we advance in our careers, we can lessen that timeline as our incomes increase. But, for now, that's the time frame we are looking at. 

Six or eight years sounds like a really long time. But, research shows that despite the intention for student loans to be repaid within ten years, it often takes people closer to 20 years (or more!) to pay off their loans!!! Twenty years of debt for four - maybe six - years of college! That is silly! That's like buying a car, driving it for four years, but paying on it for twenty! I don't know about you, but I'd like to get rid of student loan debt as fast as possible so that we can enjoy the present and our future! And can you imagine continuing to pay on your own student loans while paying for your child to go to college? Even harder to imagine! So, yes, six to eight years sounds, feels, and is a long time. But it is nothing compared to the estimated 19.7-23 years it takes many people to pay of the debt.

Part of why we have waited this long to start getting "gazelle intense" is simply our current situation. Blake's in grad school, which means he gets a humble stipend and I am the sugar-mama, working full-time. Blake also works a part-time job as a tutor that pays really well, but it varies from month to month how much he works. This has made it difficult to budget and while we've been paying on my loans (his aren't due just yet), we are barely able to make a drop in the bucket. So for the past couple of years, my mentality has just been that we would do what we could now and really deal with it later - when he is done and we are both working full-time jobs.

But, y'all, "later" is expensive! Even though interest rates on student loans are fairly reasonable, it accumulates quicker than you realize! My student loans have been sitting around, growing interest while we've been postponing our aggressive plan. 

Despite our mistakes with these loans, we are looking to the future with hope and excitement, even. We know we mean business and we are going to tackle these loans once and for all and, eventually, be debt free! 

Destination Debt Free: Big Picture

Today starts a new chapter in the financial life of Blake & Katie! We are excited about tackling our budget and taking down our debt. We've been ignoring the debt cloud hanging over us for pretty much our whole marriage (5 years this June!) - aware that it was there, but assuming we could just deal with it "later". Well, "later" is too far away, so we want to handle it N-O-W!

I am going to be posting a lot (maybe not on my blog necessarily because - newsflash: I have two kids and a full time job! - but definitely on my Instagram & Facebook accounts) about our journey towards a debt free life. This is not meant to be a brag-fest or anything like that, but I've just learned over the years that we aren't the only ones in this situation! Just in the few days that I've been posting on budget topics, I've had a handful of people tell me they're in the same boat and working towards the same goal! So, this is meant to be an encouragement, of sorts, for those of you out there who are also working to get out of debt or just to have a healthy family budget. And it's a tool for me to hold myself accountable throughout this process. 

I'm certainly no expert when it comes to money - which is kinda how we got into this mess we're in! But I've learned a lot over the years and I feel like we are taking the right steps to live without debt. Speaking of steps...

I guess this inaugural post should somewhat explain what we're dealing with in "big picture" terms and how we are going to deal with it.

The Debt: 
Our largest debt is student loans. I took out loans to pay for my undergrad and we have taken out some loans for Blake over the past three years. We currently also have a few hundred dollars on two different credit cards. I'm really not ready to share the total sum of our loans because... well... it's a hard pill for me to swallow right now. But I will eventually be sharing that number because I believe being fairly transparent in this process can be a big encouragement to other people who are in the same situation.

The Plan:
We are going to follow Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. If you've never read Dave Ramsey's plan, stop what you're doing and read it NOW! It's so simple and makes so much sense. Suze Orman also has a pretty solid plan, but she "allows" you to use credit cards. I have learned in my thirty years that I cannot be trusted with a credit card! So, I feel more comfortable sticking with Dave's plan, in which he highly discourages use of credit cards. Plus, I really like Dave Ramsey's daughter, Rachel Cruze, who works alongside her dad in helping people eliminate debt! 

The Team:
I feel like I should mention that Blake and I are both very involved in this process, but I am the more budget-minded/planner in our family. Blake and I are a team and I won't be sharing any information we haven't agreed to share. 

 Like, I said, that is VERY BIG PICTURE of our overall plan! In future posts, I'll be more specific about all the  many little ways we are working to get out of debt! Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Seven months!

I really haven't blogged a whole lot about Macey... #secondkidprobs!!! I have been doing a weekly photo to make her a chatbooks for her first birthday. I try to capture a cute picture along with something that has happened that week. I don't really have time to do a baby book, so this is my 21st century version of one! But I do want to write a little bit about Macey today!

So, she's seven months old now! Crazy how slowly seven months of pregnancy creeps by and how fast seven months of baby life flies by! Macey's first months of life have been quite hectic, but *hopefully* we're getting into a groove. Honestly, I really was looking forward to the six month mark because I remember that's when I really started to feel more "at ease" with Maleah. But, poor Macey got sick all over again right at six months, so... it wasn't quite the milestone I was hoping for!

Anyway, now she's over the crud and feeling much better and we're trying to carve out some sort of new family structure. Of course with a little baby, things change all the time... but, in my opinion and experience, by 6 months, you can really start to have more of a predictable routine and the baby can also be a little more flexible than before. So my "goal" is to create a routine Macey can be familiar with, but not be so rigid that she can't be flexible from time to time.

Her day: 
5:45-6:15 ~ wake up, take 5-6 oz bottle
6:30/6:45 ~ solids (oatmeal + fruit)
8:30-10:30 ~ 45 min to 1 hr nap somewhere in there
10:15/10:30 ~ 5-6 oz bottle
12:30-2:30 ~ 45 min to 1 hr nap somewhere in there
2:15/2:30 ~ 5-6 oz bottle
4-5:30 ~ cat nap somewhere in there
5:30/6 ~ solids (1.5-2 containers veggie)
6:30/6:45 ~ bath
7:00 ~ bottle and bedtime
9:30/10 ~ dream feed

It has taken us nearly a month to get this routine figured out. We still don't have it totally down pat, but we're working on it! I'd ideally like to have her sleeping until 6:30, but I'm confident she'll get there as she's able to sleep longer without a bottle. Some mornings she goes back to sleep for a bit after the bottle which I'm okay with for now.

Sleep Training
So, in the beginning, Macey was a really good sleeper. She "slept through the night" (meaning going 6 hrs) sooner than Maleah. But, the good sleep was thanks, in part, to the Rock & Play. I don't really want to recount the drama that took place while trying to "wean" her from the Rock & Play. I still kinda have PTSD. Haha. We went from a soundly snoozing baby to a little monster when we tried to transition her out of it! But, we eventually got her sleeping in the pack & play and we just use the R&P for sickness & Sunday naps! She was sleeping soundly once we got her used to laying flat, but then she got RSV... then sleep regression... then the crud... then a growth spurt! So, basically we were struggling for about 2 months. During the struggle, we also did some "spoiling" - meaning, we created some habits that we are now having to break. 

First habit we have to break - the paci. I am fine with her having a pacifier. But we simply cannot go in every hour and give her the paci when it falls out of her mouth. She has to either learn to get it herself (she uses a Wubbanub so it's always close to her) or she has to learn to sleep without it. For now we are giving her more time to help herself before rushing to her side when she starts to fuss. Amazingly, after just a couple nights, she's already self-soothing! If she starts to really cry or fusses for more than, say, five minutes, we to the "shush-pat" technique (see the third habit). 

Second habit we have to break - rocking to sleep. I always rocked Maleah for a little while and then put her to sleep drowsy but awake. That's been my goal with Macey, but she falls asleep really fast! So I have just learned that once she's asleep, I need to savor the moment... and then go ahead and put her down in the crib. I've noticed lately she kinda opens her eyes some when I lay her down, and then she falls back asleep. So, I count that as "drowsy but awake". 

Third habit we have to break - picking her up during the night. I was picking Macey up and rocking or swaying her back to sleep while she was sick. That's obviously fine while she's sick, but I can't do that multiple times each night. Instead of picking her up, now we are doing the "shush-pat" technique. Macey will NOT sleep on her stomach, so I just rub her chest/shoulder/tummy while quietly making the "shhh" sound.

It's only been two nights and we're already seeing the benefits of these techniques. One thing I will say about sleep training is that you can't just start suddenly. We have been doing "sleep training" techniques for her whole life. But now we are having to implement some actual "rules" (for lack of a better term) to help her get back to sleeping better. I know she's gonna be a happier baby because of it!