Our New Blog Home

We are excited to share that our new blog home is up and running.  We moved from the free site of wordpress to a hosted site in order to have a little bit more creative control.  Plus Jack is all about the widgets right now!  So check it out at http://www.marriageindebt.com

What is coming up? For the month of January we will be starting our six part savings series.  Should our first goal be $$ toward debt or $$ toward a savings account, especially when ours got wiped out in November?

Also, a kids blog from a kids perspective.  Our daughter is joining the blogging community with her unique pink sparkly viewpoint.   Looks like our financial journey is going to become a family affair.

And, finally, we will start introducing our debt.  How did we get up to $78K?  And more importantly – how are we going to get out of it??

Thank you everyone for peeking in on this blog.  We truly do appreciate friends who have been there since the very beginning!

May creative blessings rain upon you!

Jack & Diane

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Our Christmas Miracle: How Consignment Shopping Saved Us Almost $500.00

She Said: 

I am one of those people who ponder about the perfect gift for others and Christmas is my time to shine!  But once the kids came along, I discovered that quality and the thought of the gift were not appreciated as much as the empty box.

Retail price is what I paid for most of my life.  Shortly after our first child was born, another new mom introduced me to Black Friday shopping.  Wow!  Who knew you could save money on Christmas?  I was hooked on the savings.

But then another mom upped the ante and introduced me to consignment sales.  It was love at first sight when I walked into the Just Between Friends sale (JBF) (www.jbfsale.com) at their Overland Park, Kansas site.  Originally expecting a giant garage sale or swamp meet, I found it to be impeccably organized with everything kid-related under the sun sitting there – and at bargain prices too!!  The owner, Tami, (JBF is technically a franchise) has an energy level that puts you to shame and she truly cares about you not just as a shopper, consignor, volunteer, but as another mom!

But I still purchased new items at retail or Black Friday prices with a few JBF items to go under the Christmas tree.  I feared that the kids would know instinctually that Santa didn’t go to the mall.  However, I think the truth is that I didn’t want to admit defeat by the debt-mountain nor be reminded of it. But this year timing proved to be the enema necessary for me to learn a valuable budget conscious lesson. 

I am fortunate to live in a city with four major JBF sales within a short drive.  They were all held in September, October, and November.  At each one I purchased a few items here and there but bulk of my shopping still came from my original sale in Overland Park simply for its gigantesque state (over 700 consignors and 50,000 square feet of bargains!!) and the genuine care from Tami and her family members who are also there.   At home I quickly hide the bags from the kids but they also became out of sight/out of mind to me.

In late-November we were struck with five major and costly emergencies.  They involved a deer, a fried oil pan that locked an engine, a dying fridge that killed the Thanksgiving dinner, a furnace on sick leave, and a medical emergency which also meant a major medical bill.  All within the same week!  It certainly did kill the Christmas shopping spirit and cash flow.

Three weeks later Christmas time was here and I kept reminding myself to be thankful for what I did have as there are those with so much less.  But I couldn’t help remembering the past years of the back closet being stuffed with gifts.  And previously I had a Christmas cash fund while the three plastic amigos known as Visa, Master Card, and American Express were always very helpful.  Of course we always promised to pay them back by February (but they rarely were).

I was incredibly sad and didn’t even want to decorate for Christmas.  So one week before Santa was supposed to come, Jack reminded me of the hidden bag of JBF items.  We decided to go through them before hitting the stores with the meager remaining credit on our cards.    But as we began to pull the items out, my spirit rose up a notch with one.  For each child there were board game, books, movies, electronic games, a full outfit, a set of pajamas, a pair of shoes, and several toys or activity kits.  TheChristmas JBF All items were either new-with-tags or lightly used.

Whew!  So we don’t have to hit the stores yet I was still nervous for Christmas morning.  But when the time came, the gifts were unwrapped to the same level of shrieks of excitement and exclamations of wonder.  The kids were happy, they were busy, and Santa is still #1 in their book.

You must be wondering, how much did I really save by shopping at the JBF sales?  I researched each item and looked for the lowest retail price online and here are the numbers:

Grand total of retail price:             $621.48

Actually Spent:                                   $135.50

Grant Total of Money Savings:    $485.78

In so many ways this was a Christmas miracle I needed.  Instead of feeling down the kids were not unwrapping items from the mall, I was on an euphoric high with the knowledge that I saved over 75 percent.  Instead of being wary of the credit card statements coming to my inbox (i.e. electronic statements), I opened them with physical arm waving celebration of the evidence that they were never used.  When I looked at Jack that morning, I knew that he was basking in the same thoughts ….or having too much fun with the Lego Batman Wii game (purchased for $3.50 baby!).

He Said:

I think my better half is understating how much her consignment shopping saved us this year from the kids having a very small Christmas.  In the bigger picture, is that the most important thing?  For the kids to have a Christmas morning where their eyes bulge at the sight of their wrapped bounty?  That they are opening presents for hours and hours and then completely overwhelmed with the decision on what to play with first?  Not so much.  But, there is no bigger feeling of failure when you cannot provide the most basic thing, like Christmas morning, for your kids.

So, yeah, we had a plethora of financial crises (yes, that’s the plural of the word crisis…I looked it up!) in November.  Usually, we stock pile savings the last six months of the year for my wife’s Black Friday extravaganza and she pours thru ads upon ads to figure out how to get the biggest bang for our saved $500-700 earmarked for Christmas presents for the family.  So, when the fridge stopped working ($450) and the furnace wouldn’t kick on ($250) and the scary medical emergency bill arrived ($1,083) and one car broke down on the interstate ($1,000) and the other had a slight disagreement with the deer ($1,000)…the Christmas stockpile was plundered like a bag of donuts by a group of 4 year olds.  So, by the beginning of December, our cars were running again, the fridge was keeping things cool, everyone was healthy, and we were warm in the house, but we had exactly $0 for Christmas for the kids.

When we started to pull the JBF bags that Diane had put away for safe keeping, it felt like this was going to be a friggin’ Christmas miracle.  The packages just kept coming.  Games, puzzles, toys, toys, clothes, and more toys were pulled from their hiding place and placed into piles.  No, nothing was state of the art or high dollar.  But, everything looks great when it’s unwrapped from the Christmas wrapping paper.  While most of our daughter’s friends were getting ipads, the newest Brave DVD and the latest Taylor Swift CD, our daughter was getting the Best of Garfield DVD set, several games like Jenga and Clue Jr, and other things.  To her, these were new things and fun to watch and play with.  She was ecstatic with her ipad-less Christmas.  (Not that she was getting an ipad anyway, but it helped make my point.  A 10 year Christmas JBF Leapsterold does not need an ipad).

In all, it was a pretty good Christmas for the kids.  We spent about $130 for $600 worth of stuff, and the kids were none the wiser.  It helps that our kids are pretty humble and not asking for the latest in electronics or games or toys.  They are pretty happy with whatever they get, and we were able to provide that.

Did Diane or I get anything for Christmas for each other?  Nah, this is where we cut in our Christmas spending.  Our Christmas gift to each other will be this blog and this adventure to get out to debt.

 You say:

Would you consider consignment shopping as your primo spot for Christmas, birthday, baby shower, and christening gifts?  If you have in the past, what was your biggest savings?

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16 Practical (and Impractical) Ways To Sell On Craigslist

selling_items_on_craigslist_s1He Said:

This is nothing new, but when times get tough and you need the extra cash, it is time to start selling stuff.  The All-and-Powerful Dave Ramsey says to “..sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next!”  (Okay, I won’t quote him again…promise!)  But, we’ve done it all from garage sales to online auctions.  Some are more successful than others, but they can all be used at different times.  There will be different blogs on the topics of garage sales and consignment sales.  It’s not that those are not important…I am just not the expert in those areas…my wife is…and its my turn on a topic…so stop poking me!  (Not you.  My wife.)  What I actually meant was:  patience is a virtue so allow me to carry on.

There are many ways to unload your stuff, one item at a time.  We have found that the easiest, and cheapest mean for online selling is Craigslist (www.craigslist.org).  1)  It’s free to list any item on there,  2) you have total control over the description, price, etc and 3) its hugely popular.

Now, back in the early day of online auctions (i.e. eBay mainly), it was costly to list an item and shipping was always a hassle.  Plus, because the item was rarely sold locally and had to be shipped, there were limitations on what you could sell.  And, what really killed it for me, I got tired of competing with the collectors, stores, and sellers with dedicated stockpiles.

We then decided to give Craigslist a try for buying and selling items.  Items we’ve bought and sold range from dining room tables to computer equipment like wireless routers.  Some things are easier to unload than others, but it all generally goes once the price is right.

Allow me to offer a few words of wisdom:

  1. If you are worried about spam or unwanted solicitations in your email, it helps to set up a separate  email account (like yahoo, hotmail or gmail) just for your Craigslist postings.  It helps to keep your Craigslist emails separated from your personal accounts.  It is important to check it constantly or risk missing out on a sale.
  2. Always include pictures of the item.  Sellers know they are buying used, but they still want to see it.  Take your own pictures using different lightning and flashes to get the best and most realistic representation.  Include links from online stores to provide more detailed descriptions and FAQ or online manuals for future questions.
  3. Be descriptive, but not oversell the item.  There is no reason making it sound better than it is…the seller could just walk away when they see the real item and end up wasting your time and, possibly, missing other potential buyers.
  4. Pricing is the most important thing.  Do some pricing research on Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and other places to put your item at a competitive price.  Negotiations are expected on all items, so be prepared for it.  Agree with your spouse or partner the lowest amount you are willing to go on an item.  Honestly, it helps bouncing ideas like that off of others you trust.  In the past, I’ve held on to an item over $5 and also given something else away for practically free.  Having an agreed upon plan helps avoid those situations.
  5. When people are saying they are interested in your listing, give them a deadline of when to respond or buy.  It’s a rookie mistake to put all of your eggs in with a single buyer, blow off others, and end up with no sale at all.  State that its first-come, first-served, but that is only within reason.
  6. If you are traveling to the seller’s location, especially with larger items, state if you want to increase the price to include a delivery charge.  It’s a common practice, and for those without trucks or other means, they are willing to pay more to have the item delivered.  Plus, its hard for them to say ‘no’ to the item if its being delivered.  I have sold a cheap table and chairs in the past where the gas of getting the items to the buyer’s house took a great deal of my profit.  But it was an older woman on a fixed income that could really use some company…so I didn’t feel too bad about making so little on the deal.
  7. I always try to meet in a neutral area, ideally a public parking lot (grocery store, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc).  I’ve never had a bad experience buying or selling, but there is no reason to bring them to your house unless absolutely necessary.  If possible, bring someone else along with you.  At the very least, let someone know where you are going and who you are meeting.  If you end up on a milk carton, an email of phone number could be a key piece of information for the investigators… I may have watched too many episodes of CSI.  “It’s a deal he paid with his life” <puts sunglasses on dramatically>  Just a joke…most deals last less than 2 minutes without threat of physical harm.
  8. Only accept cash.  Everything else is a headache and not worth the trouble.  Checks can be stopped and cashier’s checks can be forged.  Cold, hard cash for an item.  I’ve heard stories of those that grab and run, so make sure you see the cash before handing the item over.

Over the years, I have sold a like-new fridge for $400, a dining room table and chairs for $200, iPods for $150, front storm doors for $20, and broken computer monitors and outdated electronics as low as $10.  Some of those covered moving costs while others were used for gas in the cars to get us to the next paycheck.  All of these were items that were taking up space in the house or garage and we successfully turned them into much-needed cash.  

It’s easy to overlook the treasure you already own while there are many people out there just looking for a deal to save some cash.  In all honestly, most of these transactions are win-win for both the buyer and seller. 

She Said:

Craigslist is way too nerve-racking for me!  It might residual feelings leftover from bad experiences on our earlier online auctions.  So I mostly leave Craigslist to Jack but have handled a few transactions and emails myself.  So in addition to his great eight tips above, below are my eight impractical tips to help you too!!

  1. Real life photos are great but don’t ask your neighborhood bikini girl to pose with the item.  Otherwise buyers will be disappointed upon meeting you.
  2. Do not post a video of you utilizing the item.  Nobody looks that good exercising on a rowing machine except Chuck Norris.
  3. Meet in a public place but do not wear a trench coat   And even if it saves you precious pocket room, do not fasten item for sale to the inside lining of said trench coat.
  4. Do not use Scary Movie voice synthesizer to answer the phone.  It will not end well.
  5. Change your car horn to “shave and haircut…two bits” to blast when you arrive at their home.  Everyone will smile upon your arrival!
  6. If confused if the potential buyer has a heavy accent or is heavily inebriated, the time of the day or night of the call might be a good indication.
  7. Monopoly MoneyMonopoly money is not that funny to most people.
  8. Before riding off to exchange the item for cash, be sure to alert your partner or spouse first.  Sure there is this safety issue.  But never underestimate the feelings attached to the item.  I still wish I had a chance to say “good-bye” to my college car.  Sure it was getting up there in the mileage and had met more deer than Santa’s sleigh, but it also carried great memories of many “firsts.”  First move to big city, first day of graduate school being lost in said city, first trip as husband and wife, etc….  Of course Jack’s response was “(small laugh)…. oh, you are serious” and then silently hand over the cash to me.

 We look forward to meeting you Craigslist in the near future!

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The Saga of the Black Pants: Frugal Shopping

She Said:

Sometimes you find frugal shopping and other times it finds you.  Typically in the past I would simply quickly shop for anything that we needed at the closet store handy.  And if I happen to have a coupon or catch something on sale, I gave myself a little self-punch on the shoulder a la Breakfast Club nerd style.

This week with funds being tight, I set out to find costumes for our kids Christmas pageant on the cheap.  What I learned along the way was a few ideas and lessons.

Our daughter’s costumes were easy as I called a few friends whose own daughter’s were a year older.  Yep, they still had the dresses from last year hanging in the same bags they were put in after the pageant last year.  A little light steaming, fluffing, and one safety pin, and she was good to go.

Our son, on the other hand, like himself, proved to be a bit more work.  It seems that in any theater-related activity or group, there is always a shortage of boys compared to girls.  I needed two special shirts and one pair of black dress pants.  The pants should be easy, right?  They are simple, nothing special, and should be everywhere with the holiday season coming up.  I could not have been more wrong.

The shirts were easy to find as I once again called another mom whose son performed last year and she was more than happy to dig them out of her closet and get rid of them.  The pants….now that took me on a bit of a trip.

Plain, simple, black dress pants – easier than ordering a coffee at Starbucks.  But every store I went to either had pants a) not in his size, b) were cords, c) wrong color, d) had designs on them to match their outfit, e) were part of ensemble that was outrageously priced, or f) the pants themselves were outrageously priced.  Finally after trooping through six stores, I came across a pair of black, simple dress pants at H&M for $24.95.

But I felt guilty.  Instead of feeling this euphoric high of finally finding this apparently rare artifact, I felt like I had destroyed the weekly family budget with a single “ding” of the cash register.  And if you had read the previous post, you know my husband’s true feelings for dress clothes and can imagine his reaction.

I had one more thought but knew that the chances of finding what I needed and in the specific size was slim to none.  Digging through my purse, I brought my red wallet up for air.  Buried in one of the many pockets were two red cards labeled “Children’s Orchard.”  Years ago I tried to sell my children’s slightly used clothes and shoes.  I was so sure that I was going to come away with a tall stack of currency after they have seen the wonderful and cute stuff I had.  But on that fateful day I had to suffer the embarrassment of a teen girl cracking gum while pointing out to me every stain, small rip, and worn leather on the clothes and shoes and declare loudly the outfits as “out of date.”  I don’t remember what she actually did take or how much credit, if any at all, were on the card.  Or maybe there was credit on the card but too much time had gone by for it to still be valid.

After work I made a special trip across town in the car rattling with obvious deer damage (that story is coming soon) to arrive at front door of a consignment store.  The same store that a few years ago wounded my pride a bit as a laundress and mother of clean children wearing the latest fashions.  The store was lit up with holiday outfits, shoes, and toys so I felt a bit of hope and quickly strolled about to find the correct size rack.  Nope, nope, nope, nada, zip, ewww, nope, sigh.  The few pants that were hanging up were once again wrong size, color, or material.  As I was about to relive the memory of the last time I walked out of those doors, I felt a surge of energy to not let this trip be in vain!  My eyes went up the wall and it hit me, almost all of the cutest holiday outfits were on display, not on the racks!  A quick stroll around the store had me studying each boy outfit to determine the type of pants and size.  And finally, there it was – a pair of quite possibly plain, black dress pants in size 4T.  The sales clerk climbed a small ladder to bring down the stick figurine dressed in black pants and purple sweater with a train chugging on its midriff.  Yes, they were black and they were plain and they were dress pants so then the million dollar question is what size are they?  I am pretty sure I hugged the pants to myself and did a poor attempt of a pirouette in the aisle.  And the price tag – $3.99 – was never going to escape my clutching hands of happiness.

The final pièce de résistance was the gift card.  Would it work?  Was there any credit on it?  A slip of the card through the machine revealed that $13.68 was waiting to be spent.  The pants were mine, safely tucked away in a bag and I began a happy walk out the door.

Wait a minute!!  Out of the corner of my eye I spied a section of dance clothes with pairs of tiny black ballet slippers lined up on a rack.  There in the middle was a pair, the perfect size and the perfect low price that is half of what I was prepared to pay for.  Once again the gift card was swiped and the ballet slippers joined the pants in the shopping bag now securely wrapped around my wrist.

Bclub

I was able to leave the store with my head held high while silently thanking that one day when I spent hours folding clothes and collecting shoes into a large laundry basket, only to have all of my flaws pointed out.  Everything happens for a reason and I so needed this moment to happen!

The H&M pants went back to the store and the $24.95 was refunded.  And that night I dug through the rest of my purse to see what other archaeological treasures would be found.  In the end there was a quarter cup of loose change, random expired coupons, a small stack of restaurant lunch cards with points toward free lunches and one card even had the points needed to let me have the next lunch for free.  Not exactly the lottery but definitely worthy of the ten minutes it took me to clean and organize my purse. At least now I can answer the TV every time it asks me, “what’s in your wallet?”

He Said:

open wallet

Well, in my wallet is a couple of maxed out credit cards, the debit card that gets used way too much, some grocery store rewards things and our insurance cards.  That type of excitement can hardly be contained within a simple leather-bound wallet.  Please notice the lack of cash.

Here lies the big difference here between me and my better-looking half.  I have no patience for this kind of shopping.  I would have gone into Target, Wal-Mart, and the local TJ Maxx and whatever I could find within a quick look-around in each store would be my treasure.  The security cameras would have caught me walking with determination straight to the little boy’s section, aimlessly wondering around for about four minutes, and then walking out empty-handed.  The first pair I would find, probably at Wal-Mart for $12.95 would have been the winner and I had spent a whole half-hour.  Considering they were half the price of the H&M, it would have been S-C-O-R-E.

But, as you have read, Diane did a much better job.  She found the pants, shoes I did not even realize he needed, and a few other things that didn’t cost us a cent.  Yes, it took a little more time, more digging, and a few extra trips.  But, when the bank account is starting to dip into the single digits, our time and efforts are free by comparison.  Given what she found, our bank account went down by exactly by $0 dollars.

So, let me expand on this topic a little bit more.  Ever come home toward the end of the pay period and try to figure what the family of four is going to have for dinner?  We will hit the pantry, freezer, fridge and anything else and can always come up with a meal that will work.  Yes, it might be pancakes for supper, or three different combinations of soup, or, our son’s favorite, peanut butter and jelly on hamburger buns.  It’s basically the same thing…a need, a solution, and $0 from our checking account.  And, we are one step closer to payday and eating again like a normal family.  But, the S-C-O-R-E is that we didn’t dip into the credit cards, savings account, or anything else and used whatever we had on hand.  Was it pheasant under glass or thick-cut steaks?  No, but that isn’t the solution that our solution calls for.

Would you have been a Diane or a Jack in this situation?  :-) 

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The Bah Humbug of this time of year

He Said:

Ebeneezer

Ebeneezer

Well, its that time of the year again where, no matter how much you plan ahead for the holiday season, there are expenses that come up.  I put money into the budget starting in September for Christmas gifts, which covers what we need for our family and friends.  What I never think about are all of the other things that come around this time of year.  And I doubt we are the only ones that feel like everyone has their hands out at this time of year.  A few examples…read as though this comes in one breath…

Teachers need gifts, adopted families who are down on their luck have needs, charities need more during this challenging time of year, bosses need gifts, as do employees if you are a boss yourself, schools and team sports need new uniforms and are selling holiday related items, Holiday concert clothes need bought, pictures need to be taken, dogs need to be groomed (for same said picture), and, of course, gallons upon gallons of hot chocolate need to be bought, made, and enjoyed as we drive around looking at the Christmas lights on houses and businesses.

So, everyone has their hand out and so many expenses that you might as well throw the budget out the door by the second week.  And most of these are $10 here, $15 there, but they do add up.  But, I’m not sure its the cost as much as the surprise element of it.  One of my peers bought our boss a gift, without asking, and just informed me the other day that my share was $15.  Nice to know when its two days before payday and my budget balanced perfectly and an extra $15 did not exist. The question becomes, when the ends do not meet, where do you decide to become the Scrooge.  A little creativity can go a long way.

  • Holiday clothes – second-hand thrift stores – the kids are on stage for 2 minutes and no one will notice
  • Employee gifts – cards of appreciation along with a breakfast one morning of donuts
  • Boss gifts – card of appreciation also with the offer to take him/her out of lunch one day but after the crazy holiday schedule
  • Holiday pictures – there is an argument that every other year is enough, but I think I lost that one.  Go to a decent place and pick out one or two.  You can always copy them later, if you are interested in breaking copyright law.
  • Dogs needs groomed – its getting cold, they need their fur when he goes outside to raise a leg so wait for January
  • Hot chocolate – a must, but less while driving around a shorter distance.  And this means less bathroom breaks too.

I don’t believe taking any of these short-cuts will land you with Jacob Marley wrapped in chains for all eternity.  There is nothing wrong with taking the cheaper path in these instances and putting your family and the family finances first.   But, there must always be a place for charities.  While writing this I am reminded of the people that do not have a home or food to feed themselves or gifts to give.  We are lucky because we are employed, have a roof over our head, and gifts and love to give.  But, there are no shortcuts when it comes to charitable giving.  I remember a saying from a pulpit years ago…”Give until it hurts”.  That struck me at the time and really resonates with me today because giving should not be about pain.  Giving should be about being joyful and pleasurable.  Even if it is only a little that can be spared this time of year, it all helps.  And, if it is a little, then your time can be valuable as well.  And, not just at the end of the year, but each month as well.  I’ve served at food kitchens before where people with so many challenges come in for a break and some warm food.  Just having them sit down so they can be waited on can be so rewarding.  There is more to come on this topic of charitable giving. But I urge that you can be a Scrooge to your family and to your co-workers, just not to those less fortunate than you.

She Said:

Grinchsmall heart

What we just saw folks was a reality version of the Grinch’s heart getting bigger while he wrote this piece above!

Perhaps the mindset of giving during the holiday season needs to be changed.  Not in regards to the act of giving but rather to the timing!  Gifts of appreciation to those above and below us on the corporate ladder should be sporadically given throughout the year.  Why save them for year end only?!    Perhaps that gift will be even more meaningful to the employee / employer if it is given outside of the holiday season, when it may feel expected and regarded as less thoughtful than intended.

But maybe with careful planning you can satisfy everyone?  For example, a local animal rescue group we support sells bottles of wines with a special label graced by a recent rescue as a fundraiser.  Our daughter’s team sells economical “green” bags every fall and wine bags is one of the size choices.  And we know that each of our managers love a great wine and some even have a secret stash in their office desk at this very moment.  So here we can a) give our bosses a gift that is unique, b) support a charity, and c) buy from our daughter who gets a small prize while 50% of everything she sells goes back into her account to pay for competition fees.  So win / win / win !!!   Now I just need to remember this for next year!

And the dog needs to be groomed!  It does nothing for his self-confidence when the K-9 dog down the street laughs his bobbed tail off every time he sees our poor overgrown shaggy (frequently mistaken for the mop) poodle.

Happy holiday season of giving to everyone!

Posted in Community Giving, Monthly Budget | Leave a comment

The Five Stages of Grief Over Debt

She Said:

As we had posted earlier, when we added up our traditional consumer type debt two years ago, it came to just over $102,000.  I remember that night – mainly because while trying to write things out by hand, I somehow wrote another zero onto the end.  Now there’s one way to check your heart condition!!  Of course it took my beloved Jack three days to figure out the reasoning of my fetal position.  “We owe over a million dollars!” I shrieked.  To which he responded, “Ummm….Noooo…we don’t.”

Granted a thousand dollar figure is way better than a million dollar figure, the final debt figure is still B-A-D!!  What does the knowledge of your debt do to you as a person and your mental state?  At first I essentially plunged into a dark hole and feeling as it was the end of everything I had known.  I was grieving for the end of feeling financial free.

Psychology 101 teaches us the Kubler-Ross model, or better known as the “five stages of grief.”  An individual will experience each emotional stage while coming to terms.  In reflection of my behavior since that fateful night, these stages appear:

Denial:  Those numbers are soooooo wrong!  Oh look, the credit card company charged us for this rental twice so I bet there are other mistakes!  I barely shop!  Everybody has this much debt but we just don’t talk about it, right?  Those phrases crossed my mind, crossed my lips, and I made purchases while crossing my fingers behind my back.

Anger:  I internalized this anger and accused myself of being idiotic, stupid, and putting my family at risk to live in a sewer pipe opening.  Hardworking salespeople representing ‘fantastic offers’ to their loyal customers might have learned a few new words in English and a few other languages.  (To whom I am sincerely apologizing to now – you are only trying to pay your bills too!)

Bargaining:  I began a cycle of swearing to myself that in exchange for purchasing this new sweater, I will give enough stuff away to make up for this purchase.  And sometimes I even wound up giving away said sweater.

Depression:  There were moments of being so down that not even a vodka red bull could give me drunken wings feisty enough to lift me out from the rock I was under.  Evenings out with friends were turned down as I could only add up the tab in my head.  Birthdays and holidays came up and I simply shrugged and said ‘don’t spend anything on me’ as I couldn’t handle the guilt of the price tag.

Accpetance:  It was a long journey to eventually to get this point.  Perhaps this blog, more than anything, signifies this stage.  It is here, in black and white, the numbers and what we are going  to do about it!  We owe, we owe, so blogging away we will go.  I am actually looking forward to sharing our adventures in debt reduction.

Did it truly take me two years to get through all five stages?  In my defense, I have always been a late bloomer.

He Said:

I completely understand where Diane is coming from with the 5 stages of grief, though I don’t know if our timelines ever lined up.  She would be in the depression stage, yet I would still be in denial about our financial situation.  This would end up with me spending money and her hyperventilating on how we could no longer afford milk for our 4 year-old son.  Because our timeline of stages didn’t match up, our priorities never exactly matched up.  So, as she went thru these stages, we tried to communicate what we were thinking or planning at the time, but that wasn’t always successful.  Okay, it was rarely successful since we are two individuals trying to make it in this crazy mixed-up world.  “Make it” generally means me in the doghouse for quite a few days.

As for my stages, I’m not really sure I ever left the denial spectrum.  The only times I even saw the other stages is when we were faced with a challenge where our financial limitations left us somewhat…uh…limited.  It’s easy to ignore what you can’t do when you don’t have to do it.  We don’t need to rent a car every day.  Nor have we tried to purchase a vehicle in the past few years.  We already own two homes (yes, that story is coming) and I tend to try NOT to talk to mortgage agents unless absolutely necessary.  I think Anger, Bargaining, and Depression and Acceptance are on my horizon.  It has just been easier to live in the land of denial instead of what is to come.

The question I leave you is this…considering my wife’s hypothesis is correct on relating the 5 stages with financial debt…how many other middle-class Americans living on Main Street USA with 2.5 kids, one pet and a white picket fence are also living in this land of denial on their financial make-up?  I skip back to the commercial where the guy is smiling while riding a mower after listing every toy he owns, but admits he’s “up to my eyeballs in debt”.  So, is the land of denial the new normal for the American lifestyle?  That notion would not make me feel better.  I like being special, you know.

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The Big Reveal: Our Debt Total

He Said:

Drum roll please….like we can afford a drum, a drummer or pay said drummer to do a roll.  But, we knew 2 years ago when we added all of our debt together, we had crossed the six figure mark.  That was a depressing day that was quickly followed up with a in-denial dinner out at Olive Garden and a mini-shopping spree at Target.  <Insert your own are-you-out-of-your-frickin-mind statement here>

The total tonight, after we added everything up, is $78,404.28.  But this does not include the houses nor the student loans.  (Yes, house is plural)  A different blog post or two on those subjects.

Going from $102,000 to $78,000 should probably make me feel good and we should immediately celebrate with an all-you-can-eat soup, salad and breadsticks, right?  Nope.  This has gone from a surreal thing we could ignore to something that unfortunately is even more depressing.  Going back to my first post, we now know, recognize and have published the mountain that is in front of us.  We have to accomplish our goal of paying off half of that as quickly as possible.

No more Olive Garden or Target shopping sprees for this family.

She Said:

Huh!  $78,404.28

I thought for sure we were still in the six figure range.  Good thing I didn’t bet on it otherwise I would owe on that too.

$78,404.28….. I’m going to bed now.

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