Well, It’s Been A While…

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And a lot has happened since we last posted here.

For one, we are no longer in the northeast, but are in warmer environs in North Carolina! I (Stacey) have been in graduate school since 2013, which has been great for developing my academic and writing muscles. I have to be honest, though… It has wreaked havoc on our finances and plans to be debt free.

As in, thousands of dollars more in graduate student debt havoc.

Ugh.

(Did I mention that our paid-off car experienced an engine failure and transmission failure only after moving down to NC as well?) Talk about financial setbacks.

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Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to have a safe, reliable car. It’s important to have an education, and we think that an education is absolutely worth the cost. However, we’re ready to give SallieMae her eviction notice, as Dave Ramsey says. We are ready for our Total Money Makeover. This time it is us that have changed.

This past weekend hubby and I took a relaxing trip to Charlotte and not only discussed our personal finances but made a PLAN for them. In fact, the whole way down there we were listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts and getting PUMPED together about getting out of debt. And we’re ready to get “gazelle intense” as Dave puts it. We already have our emergency fund in place, and we’re ready to attack that debt. This means:

• Getting on a budget and staying on one!

• Creating a checking account specifically for debt reduction – everything in that account goes toward our debt reduction!

• Selling off our extra crap – we don’t need stuff as much as we need to be out of debt! • Looking for creative ways to increase our income (extra jobs, side businesses, etc.)!

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This is where we need you, our readers’ help. What have you done to increase your income and pay off your debt faster? What sorts of tips might you have for us? Where have you stumbled and fallen? We’re excited to be going on this journey with you, and we’re PUMPED about getting out of debt! Thanks for joining us on our trek toward debt freedom.

~S&S

Here’s to Busted New Year’s Resolutions…

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            It was a well-intentioned, really, it was – in fact, it was right up there with losing weight, keeping a clean house, and eating healthier:  write a blog post on a regular basis. Yeah, we see how well we did on that one… *sheepish look*

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            That New Year’s resolution got busted real quickly when life got crazy in January. Let me explain: Seth and I both had some significant negative changes in income in January, and life started to become more about survival than thriving and letting you, our blog audience, into the picture and being consistent writers.

            And while we’re on the subject of personal failures, I must confess that we did pay off one of our credit cards…only to add two plane tickets back on to it and thus, increase our total debt. And tonight as we sat in our March “Garrepy, LLC” meeting, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to pay off those tickets in one lump sum, as we had originally planned. *disappointed sigh*

            But here, my faithful readers, is the silver lining to those black clouds of debt: in our LLC meeting tonight, we began to both plan and dream. And hope began to build in my heart as we worked together to tackle these challenges. We structured our meeting as such:

1. Expenses and cash flow for the upcoming month.

2. Goals for 6-8 months down the line (trips, debt reduction, etc.)

3. Discuss longer-term goals for debt-reduction and dreams for the future.

4. Prayer and agreement together over the finances.

            (Like I said in an earlier post, some of you may absolutely cringe at the idea of having a sort of “business meeting” within the context of a marriage. But let me tell you, it helps set expectations–which is key to avoiding discord and frustration–and helps to depersonalize discussion of the finances.)

            Once we had our cash flow figured out for the month of April, and discussed upcoming trips and bills, we lined up our debts from easiest (and smallest) to most difficult, and drew them in a pyramid, with the top being the easiest to tackle, and the bottom being potentially the most difficult. Our goal is to “snowball” our debt, so that when one is paid off, the money that would have gone to that debt goes to pay off another, and so on. Our pyramid ended up looking something like this:

1. Immediate medical bills incurred.

2. Consumer debt.

3. Car loan.

4. Personal loans.

5. Private student loans.

6. Federal student loans.

            Just talking about obliterating these debts and a potential timetable for it brought a sense of peace. And I am so excited to see what God’s going to do next in our family.

            Well, as I wrap up this post, let me just say: I may not be great at consistently writing or keeping New Year’s resolutions, but I am glad I serve a God who is consistent in His promises to care for His children and their financial needs when they honor Him and honor each other. Now clear some space off the messy kitchen table, and pass me the ice cream!

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Returning From Our Temporary Writing Hiatus…

It has been a REALLY long time since we have written here, and for that…we apologize. As academics at heart, we understand how important the discipline of writing is to not only for maintaining one’s sense of sanity, but also for the purpose of documenting personal growth. So here is what is new with the Garrepys…

We bought a new car!

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(This is not a photo of our actual car, but it is a silver ’03 Corolla, just like we bought…thank you, Google Images! :))

A 2003 Toyota Corolla, to be exact. We bought the car for well under Kelly Blue Book value, and the dealership we went with will warrantee the entire power train for 3 years or 36k miles, whichever comes first…I’m betting the latter will come first for us, knowing our propensity for travel! Here’s the downside: we had to take out a car loan for the first time in our lives. More debt = BOO! However, there are several upsides to this situation, none the least being that, if we are going to go into debt on any vehicle, at least it is with a Toyota, whose resale values continue to be notoriously high due to their dependability. In addition, the car gets killer gas mileage, so that’s another win for the Garrepys!

There are a few other changes coming soon down the pike, but posts on those will be forthcoming. Until then, faithful blog-readers and friends, we once again apologize for our long lapse in writing and thank you for reading about our journey thus far. Be blessed!

~S&S

Some Very Exciting (and Encouraging) Financial News…

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Well, faithful blog-readers, we hope you and your family are enjoying a most blessed Advent season. I have GREAT news to report:

WE PAYED OFF OUR FIRST STORE CARD!

(Well, all but $0.43 of it…I just looked online, and apparently, that’s how much I still owe. I’m pretty sure I won’t have a problem paying it.) :)

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Here’s the scoop…

We have a charge card with a very well-known retailer, and I (Stacey) had been keeping a running tally in my head of what I owe said retailer…I say “I” because I am the one who racks up most of the spending on that card. I estimated that I owed them nearly $40. And after making a killing in tips at my restaurant job this weekend, I had a decent amount of cash on me (this is one of the many benefits of working in the restaurant biz). So rather than waiting to make my payment online, where I would be tempted to just pay the minimum, I went into the store, marched myself up to the customer service desk, and happily handed the clerk two fresh $20 bills. I went home and looked at my account and found that my precise balance was indeed, $40.43. Okay, so I owe the store a whopping $0.43…but I think that rounds down to being paid off! :)

So after I pay the store $0.43, I’m done with that card. Finished. However, I’m not ready to cut up the card yet. I know it flies in the face of the debt-free experts today, but let me explain: the reason I keep this store card is because the retailer offers such deep discounts for card-holders. I don’t want to lose money by having to pay retail price for an item. So here’s my strategy: since I want to save money when I go shopping, I will use my store card only if I have the money in my account (preferably in cash in my wallet). I will check out in one of the lanes, and then march myself back to the customer service desk and pay off the balance as if I used cash. In that way, I don’t lose money by paying full price, but I also don’t lose money by having to pay interest. I trust you, my faithful readers, to help keep me accountable in this.

One last, related note: even in the midst of the craziness of the holidays, Seth and I feel SO energized to tackle these debts. We’re currently considering two things — one practical, and the other philosophical. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

1) Adam Baker (author of the Man vs. Debt blog) challenged his audience in a recent TED Talk to consider what their definition of “freedom” is, not just philosophically but practically. Seth and I are earnestly pondering that question, and when we can put it into words, a blog post on this topic will be forthcoming.

2) We are considering putting one of our federal debts into forebearance so that we can “snowball” one of our smaller balances on our other student debts. Perhaps we will also write more on the “snowball” debt strategy as well. For more information, you can also check out Dave Ramsey’s website at www.daveramsey.com.

So that’s it, faithful readers. Have a very merry Christmas and a blessed new year. Once we get out of our food coma from all our holiday treats, we shall regail you with more of our story as we journey toward debt freedom! :)

~Stacey 

FTR (Financial Transparency Report): December 2011

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I am encouraged by the progress made last night in our ‘company meeting’, as my wife described in her previous post.  Another occasional post that I would like to make part of our repertoire would be the FTR or Financial Transparency Report.  Every month, I would like to publish the status of our debts, projected income, and analysis of our previous month for you to see.  (Adam Baker: thanks man, you’ve emboldened us!)  More on our finances after the break!  Continue reading

Treating Your Family Finances Like A Company’s: An Introduction to Garrepy, LLC

Last night my husband and I did something that few couples are able to do: we sat down for two whole hours and worked on our finances together without killing one another. Not only was it a highly productive time, we walked away feeling like we were united in our efforts to keep our spending under control and wipe out our debt. I want to share some insight with you on our method for approaching financial discussions, because I think we’re on to something here. More on our approach to personal finances after the jump! Continue reading

A Devotional Detour…

As I (Stacey) was making my way through the Psalms today in my personal study, I stumbled upon verse 7 in chapter 32:

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Now normally I would be tempted to just gloss over that and move on. But the phrase “surround me with songs of deliverance” stuck out in my head. I thought, Who is the one singing the songs of deliverance? Then I realized: God is!!! He is even more interested in our deliverance from debt than we are! It made me jump on the inside to think about the fact that my Jesus is even more interested in helping is conquer $150k in debt than we are — and he is already singing songs of deliverance over us! I know I am probably abusing my use of exclamation points in this blog post, but I wanted to convey my HUGE excitement at that little revelation the Lord gave me. So be encouraged, all my currently-indebted readers, whether it’s $5 or $5 million:

God is EVEN more interested in your deliverance from debt than you are!

Be blessed, all!

Debt Freedom: Our Prayer

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Father God,

I know that you are wholly able to loose us from these chains of debt, and I thank you for being our Provider in all realms of life. Today, as I sit here, I feel the weight of this yoke bearing down on me, but I release it to you in this moment by faith. $160k is nothing in your eyes, and we were obedient in going to school to earn degrees so that we might glorify your name in the collegiate realm. Father, I declare my full faith and credit in you, not in this corrupt Babylonian financial system. Jesus, I take your light yoke, exchanging mine for yours. Gladly I go into this day with my eyes focused on you. Have your way in our lives this day.

Amen.

Our first post-storm er, post…

As many of you non-East-Coast dwellers will remember, the East Coast was hit with a freak snowstorm during the last week of October that wiped out power to a great deal of homes (including ours). Our power was out for a whole week. Now the positive side to this is that power outage = lower utility bills…YAY! However, it also cost us in productivity, as I (Stacey) had no school to go to, and as an hourly employee, no school = no $. We ended up holing up with a lady from our church who did have power and graciously let us stay with her for the week. It was a blessing — trust me! You don’t realize how much hot meals and warm showers mean to you until you’re faced with the prospect of not having any for a week!
So now that we have power, we are now chipping away at the enormous prospect of getting our debt under control, our regular work schedule back, and our financial house in order. Mail (particularly bills and other important things) tends to slip into Narnia when one is not living at one’s primary place of residence. We thank God for His grace in the middle of this storm, and for the grace to finish this race toward debt freedom.