Blogging Away Debt is all about authors Journey to a Debt-Free Life. Ashley is an early-30s, married, mother of twin girls. Her husband is a flooring contractor and she works as a lecturer at a major university.
It’s official, school is over for the school year…well, at least for Princess. The twins are back up and running for the summer semester.
Princess ended her semester not only with a full load of high school classes completed, but also two college classes. And her lowest final grade…96! She took 150% of the credits of most high school students and aced them all!
But she did have some setbacks here at the end, not tied to her grades. And frankly we are both relieved that the stress and schedule of the school year is over. I am so glad that I decided we needed a Staycation to celebrate.
Here’s our plan…
Booked a hotel with a pool using points for two nights.
Went to the library and checked out a large stack of books (Princess and I both have a large stack.)
Packed pjs and swimsuits.
Packed some snacks and sandwich makings.
We are not going to the beach, but we have a beautiful pool!
And we are off. Leaving the twins home because they have work and school. Sea Cadet is dropping us off at the hotel and then picking us up in two days…
I am over the top excited about this down time, some quality reading time and some one on one quality time with my girl. She’s got some big decisions to make for next year, and while there is no rush at this point, I do want to be available to talk things over as she rolls them around in her head.
So I’m signing off work, my daily life and my hustle for a couple of days to recoup and spend some quality and free time with my girl. I’m sure I will return with a variety of new creative ideas for work and renewed energy to take on the slower summer schedule! How are you kicking your summer off?
We had a slight setback this past week with History Buff’s schooling. Due to the small print regarding his dual enrollment eligibility, we were notified one day before summer classes started that his funding would be pulled. Eeek!
I certainly hadn’t budgeted a couple extra thousand for this semester AND next. Ugh! Thankfully, the college helped us find a work around, alternative funding and gave us some grace as far as financial due dates.
Downsides to the New Plan
But there are some downsides…
He will be locked into a the program I chose for him (meaning he can’t take classes outside of those that apply to this particular diploma.)
And while that wouldn’t be terrible in and of itself, because this is such a small class, many of the classes, pre-requisites for others, are only offered certain semesters.
We got him settled into summer classes. But it will take almost 2 years to finish this diploma track based on when classes are offered. And he is anxious to get on with his life…so we are looking for alternative ideas and tracks down the road.
I think the biggest frustration for him is that he doesn’t know what he wants to do. And since his funds for continued education are limited and we are trying to get him through debt free, we kind of need to find his direction so we don’t just flush money down the road as he finishes high school and picks a direction.
The Cost of this Semester
This semester ended up costing me $460 for tuition and $150 for books. And I imagine the fall semester will be about the same. I took the money out of my car savings, that was going to be my credit card pay off fund. It was really nice to have it on hand when needed without touching my EF.
But…how have parents of grown children helped them find their direction as far as studies or specialty training goes? We have spoke ad nauseam…but he’s not any more clear on his direction. Any pointers on this from experienced parents would be great!
Sea Cadet built me a raised bed garden this spring. And I have been having a blast planting in it and watching things sprout over the last few weeks. Every morning when I take the dogs out, I weed the containers and review what has changed over night. It’s especially fun to see the seeds pop through the dirt…and I was smart enough this year to make a chart of what I planted where.
I’ve got two tomato plants, 1 pepper plant, cantaloupe vines, cilantro, green onions, summer squash. loose leaf lettuce and fall gourds coming up. And, of course, a variety of flowers! It is beautiful and I am so proud every time I pull into the driveway. (I’ve also got a pecan tree and fig bush, but neither has produced anything in the two years we have lived in this house.)
It’s been really great of our landlord to give me free reign over the yard. While I know the food we are growing won’t save us a ton of money over the summer, it will be a nice supplement. And there is just something magical about growing your own food.
I’m looking forward to spending a few hours outside this weekend, literally tending to my garden. There’s just something calming about getting my hands dirty.
Do you have a summer garden? What are your favorite and easiest vegetables to grow?
School is out in one week. My crazy life schedule will come to a grinding halt. The lack of car will no longer be an issue for a while. And I can’t be more excited.
I’m looking forward to sleeping in a bit later, not rushing out the door every morning to get Princess to school and afternoons free of car pool duty and rushing from one thing to another.
Our summer plans are set…Princess will go to camp for two weeks in June (already paid for) and then we will leave for a 10 day trip to Texas (just she and I this time.) I have already paid for our airplane tickets so now just have a small amount budgeted for this trip. We will return with my mom and Gymnast in tow for the remainder of the summer until school starts back August 1st.
At this point, Gymnast is going to remain in IL with his dad for the next school year. As hard as it has been to let him go, the relief to my time has been ginormous…going from 2 hours a day in the car and 4 hours sitting at Starbucks while he practiced to nothing, well, it’s been nice.
Finances for the Summer
But the reality is, my summer will most likely be the cheapest it has ever been. The twins are both working, paying some of their own bills and all of their own entertainment…and work is pretty steady for me.
Without a car, I have gotten in the habit of walking 3-4 miles a day…mostly to my Grandmother’s to visit or when I need to borrow her car for one reason or another. And I pass the community pool on that walk. I asked Princess if she would be interested in joining the pool this summer, and she declined.
With the increase in work, lower cost of summer and just general stillness of this summer, I am hopeful that my financial security will grow. What are your summer plans? Any activities that you are budgeting for?
I’ve mentioned before that I do my forecasting out a quarter at a time. (It’s just a simple Excel spreadsheet.) I include all my regularly budgeted items, any extras I know about (birthdays, holidays, travel, etc.) and my income based on current contracts with clients.
As I continue to go full speed ahead with debt payoff, I spent some time this weekend creating my forecast through the end of the year. And you will never guess what…
I am finally at a place of stability again…by that I mean, if I maintain all my current on-going contracts, I will make enough to cover all my currently budgeted for expenses for the rest of this year!
That is such a weight off my shoulders, especially as we have been living paycheck to paycheck for so long. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but right now, my financial situation is stable, my income streams are varied and I am very hopeful for the long term.
There are a few caveats to this and one is glaringly obvious, at least to me:
I do not have a car, car payment, fuel costs or car insurance in my budget. (Well, I do have car insurance but it is minimal since Sea Cadet and I are both insured on his car.) That will have to change in the next couple of months somehow.
But for now…I can breathe. And I don’t have to count every single penny, although I am.
Switching to a cash only budget has made a big difference to me. There’s something about seeing the dollars in my purse dwindle that keeps me from spending on things that are wants rather than needs.
There is definitely something about seeing positive numbers in my forecasting and money in the bank that is very motivating. What keeps you motivated?
Princess turned 15 this past weekend. And we managed to have a party with no “extra” money spent! Proud mama moment here!
I used our weekly “allowance” to cover the costs of snacks and decorations…
I also purchased various personal hygiene items over the past couple of months with our regularly budget monies. And wrapped them as presents…razors, shaving gel, lotion, face mask, etc. By doing it a little at a time and purchasing items that I would typically purchase for her anyways, it didn’t come as a big shock and she had something to unwrap.
We invited her 3 ‘bestest’ friends over for the night…and instead of pizza, they chose to hit up McDonalds for dinner…$26.
Saturday we drove an hour to the closest mall, and they spent an hour wandering around and ‘shopping.’ They each had their own money for this portion of the ‘party.’
And then a final stop at my favorite park there, where you can purchase duck food for a quarter and feed the ducks. I think we spent $2-3 there.
Finally, that night, as is our family tradition…Princess and I went out to eat at the local Cracker Barrel, her choice, where she opened the gifts from family. We spent $24 there. (The twins are out of town for their school break or they would have been with us.)
We had a fantastic time. She was thrilled with her ‘party’ and her gifts. And all of it was done for less then our $200 weekly cash allowance that covers food, entertainment, etc. Lesson learned…one child is definitely cheaper than 4!
And in two days…I will have another driver in the house…YIKES! Permit here comes Princess!
Due to my weight loss over this past year..and continued weight loss goal, I have to purchase some new summer clothes. I mentioned this is my last budget update. My shorts from last summer are literally falling off…so this is definitely a need and not a want at this point. Especially with the weather hitting the upper 80s this week.
So I thought I would be smart and frugal and make my own shorts…
Thrift store jeans for $3.50
Princess and I visited a local thrift store where I picked up two pairs of jeans for $3.50 each. I tried them on there to make sure they fit properly.
Then I cut them off at home….
Cut off jean shorts for the summer.
I thought it was the perfect plan…until I wore this pair for the first time. Within a few minutes, the already distressed fabric ripped all the way up my leg. So this pair was a utter and complete failure.
I’ve got one more pair to try, and it is more of a traditional blue jean fabric and not distressed, so I’m hoping it holds up better. I really do want some casual, cheap shorts to wear this summer!
As you may have noticed, I have been giving myself a different challenge every month towards this debt payoff journey I am on. They help keep me motivated and more importantly focused. We’ve had several no spend months, a decluttering challenge, no eating out and so on.
In some sense, they have all been about saving money, spending less. But this month’s challenge is a bit difference and one that is very important to me as far as getting ahead especially as I age.
Develop a Passive Income Stream
I’m all about the side hustle – I’ve been a personal shopper, substitute teach and other things that don’t seem to last or bring in much money. But as my primary income stream grows…I am a tech Virtual Assistant (my business website is here in case anyone needs a Virtual Assistant,) I find myself butting into the ceiling of my abilities at times.
This is specifically related to time. There is just so much time in the day, in the week, so there is a definitely ceiling on my income potential. (Yes, I know I could outsource, etc. but that is just not my style and I’ve found it to be more a headache the few times I tried it.)
So my goal, this month is to grow a passive income stream. Well, maybe not to grow it yet…but to build it out. I’ve had the concept in my head for about 6 months now. And with May upon us, it’s time to flesh it out a bit.
I’ve shared my idea with a few friends and they get it. But they don’t get how and why a passive income stream. Especially when they see all the “work from your phone, a few hours a day and make millions” ads and Facebook friends post.
And frankly, this would be very new to me as well…so here I am BAD community. Anyone here developed a passive income stream? Care to share any words of wisdom to getting started or resources to look at.
My goal is to do this with little monetary investment and more of a sweat equity type development time. And I am blocking off time daily to put in some work without it taking over. All open ears for guidance and advice…
It’s the last day of the month. April has been a month of enormous wins (business wise,) personal challenges (car wreck) and some fun (Gymnast visited and we went to Texas.) Time is just flying by! I can’t believe summer break officially starts for us in just a few weeks.
But through it all, I am very much laser focused on getting 100% out of debt ASAP! And I did get rid of two debts in their entirety this month…
(as of 10/14/17)
$0 (income based deferment)
Collections 3 (Ex-husband)
Collections 2 (Apartment)
I have begun paying at least $100 per month towards my student loan, which covers the monthly interest.
I mentioned yesterday that my Credit Card debt is what I am targeting hard now. My, maybe lofty, goal is to pay off my credit card debt before we go to Texas at the end of the June. That may mean not saving my car payment money…or maybe I’ll be able to pick up some extra work.
But that would be absolutely amazing!!
What are you personal finance goals for this last month of the school year? Before the schedule change that summer brings for so many families?
The credit card is on ICE…literally. Put up, out of reach…and detached from all online payment methods…for now. We have no travel plans until late June, and our town in tiny. So I’m not worried about not having it.
Cash, cash or not at all. I’ve divided our monthly expenses into weeks. And I’m pulling out that much cash every week.
This weekly amount includes our:
Groceries – $125
Entertainment – $50
Household – $2.50
Gas – $20 (I’ve decided to give each twin $20 every other week for 1) my use of their car and 2) the gas they use when they drive Princess somewhere. I think this is more than far since nothing is more then 3 miles away.)
To make it easier on ATM withdrawals, I’m taking out $200 per week. I’ve let the kids know of this plan…we can use this money however we wish, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. Until the following Monday.
I decided on Mondays so that the kids start planning ahead at least a little bit…ie think about what we want to do this coming weekend, meal plan for the week, etc.
Caveat: This is one caveat to the $200 per week. Princess birthday is in May. I have a little extra budgeted that week for a family meal out and her birthday present, so I will also pull that extra out for that week.
By doing this, my goal is to not overspend at all…
And when we come to the end of each week, I will review income vs outgoing and put any extra toward the credit card debt. My income continues to vary greatly depending on what projects I pick up, etc. so I am hoping that this will expedite the pay off process.
Wish us luck. I haven’t done a cash system in a very long time. And today is the first day! But I think it will be good for us. And there’s something very empowering about pulling cash out…