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1.01.2021

FINANCIAL PEACE: 2020 Debt Paid & 2021 Goals

Oh, boy. Where to start? 2020 was a year. I'll spare you the platitudes that include phrases such as "pandemic," "unprecendented," and "dumpster fire." You've heard them. We all collectively experienced 2020 and I imagine we all collectively did not meet the goals we planned for ourselves.

That being said, if 2020 had a silver lining at all for my family, it was that not doing anything or going anywhere lent itself well to our debt-free journey. Before I share what we accomplished in the last year, I thought I'd recap the goals I shared eons ago in January 2020:


Recap of my 2020 financial goals


In January, we celebrated paying a total of $37,250 toward debt in 2019 (a 22% increase from the year before). This total included wiping out medical debt, as well as our credit card debt. We were elated with the progress we made and ready to maintain our financial discipline and set our sights on new hurdles:

GOAL #1: Payoff my auto loan- COMPLETE! | In February, we knocked out the auto loan on my 2012 Kia Forte. We then got to enjoy the remainder of the year with just one car payment which felt pretty amazing.

GOAL #2: Purchase a new car- INCOMPLETE! | Technically, this is an "incomplete," but for a very good reason- I didn't purchase a new vehicle, because I didn't need to! Starting the new year, we assumed we'd have to replace my little Kia that's been with me since before we were married. What we weren't anticipating was the fact that my weekly mileage would go from 400+ miles per week to probably less than 20 miles per week when I began working remotely from home due to the pandemic. The only thing I used my car for in the last 9 months was school drop-off and pick-up. And did I mention how much I loved not having a car payment?

GOAL #3: Payoff a student loan- COMPLETED! | I am so excited to share that not only did I payoff a student loan...I paid off THREE! That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, the CARES Act stimulus check and forbearance of Federal loans allowed me to put a lot more money toward my high-interest private loans than I would have been able to in a "typical" year.

GOAL #4: Payoff personal debt- COMPLETED! | We had a couple small miscellaneous debts that we carried over from 2019 and were able to knock out by February. However, we did add debt to this category when I financed my Peloton in August. It's 0% APR so I think of it less as a debt than a payment plan, but still keep track of my payments along with my other debts.

GOAL #5: Cash flow our family trip- COMPLETED! | One of my best friends was supposed to get married in May and we were going to tack on a family trip to Washington DC. Obviously, that was cancelled and she postponed her wedding until September. Since the school year had started by that point, our family trip became a solo weekend. My trip expenses were significantly less traveling by myself, but I'm still proud to have saved up and had plenty on hand to pay for unexpected expenses that popped up.

So, how'd we do in 2020?


Last year, we paid a total of $43,308.17 (a 16% increase from 2019) toward debt! Here's how it broke down:





It's hard for me to believe that we were able to put so much toward my student loan debt this year. The last few years, our focus has been on our "Debt Snowball" and getting rid of all of our smaller debts so that we'd have more income freed up to apply toward our biggest debt- student loans! We began 2020 with SIX FIGURES worth of student loan debt- it was literally more than our mortgage because of the egregiously high interest rates. This was the year we made actual progress in reducing the principal amount rather than just paying interest in the form of minimum payments. 

2020 was the year that we shifted tactics from debt snowballing to debt "avalanching." One of the three student loans that we paid in full had an 11.25% interest rate (which had actually decreased from over 13% in 2019). It felt so good to kick that one to the curb!

In looking forward to the year ahead, 2020 has taught me to keep my expectations low. I know that we're nowhere near the end of this pandemic and anything can happen. However, I also know that in the midst of life's uncertainties focusing my energy on goal-setting genuinely brings me joy when the world feels entirely out of my control. 

I have reason to believe that we won't exceed our 2020 debt payoff total in 2021 for a few reasons: 1) Presumably, I will be returning to the office (and my 45+ minute commute) at some point and will actually need a new vehicle, 2) Due to the way health insurance is structured through my employer my income has exceeded a certain tier and my healthcare costs will triple next year (not excited), 3) I don't expect any more COVID-related supplemental income, but it will be interesting to see if President-elect Biden and/or Congress make any movement toward student loan relief.

So, with those variables in mind and with the mentality that all of these could wind up being irrelevant and/or replaced with other priorities, here are my financial goals for 2021:

5 Financial Goals for 2021


GOAL #1: Payoff my next highest-interest (10.25%) student loan. 

GOAL #2: Finally purchase my minivan. 

GOAL #3: Save and cash flow our family trip to Walt Disney World!

GOAL #4: Increase my monthly tithe by 25%.

GOAL #5: Increase our Emergency Fund savings to $10,000.

Ideally, I would love to pay off all my remaining private student loans, but between the car purchase and the family trip we have some bigger expenses to save for so I think our priorities are going to shift in that regard. And yes, one could argue that student loan repayment should come before Disney World- but my children are only going to be this age once and honestly, I want us to enjoy a little reward for the hard work we've put in to dramatically reduce our debt. We are not entitled to a family vacation, but for the first time in our 8-year marriage we are in a position to do so. The trade-off feels more than worth it. 

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What are your financial goals for the next year?!

11.27.2020

Unwrap the Gift of Water Safety

 This post is sponsored by Goldfish Swim School-Dayton.



Announcing 2020 Holiday Packages

Most of you know by now that I've been thrilled to partner with Goldfish Swim School- Dayton for the last few years. They have the absolute best staff and their program is dedicated to not only teaching kids the fundamentals of swim safety, but just plain having fun in the water!

That's why I'm so excited to help announce the release of their 2020 Holiday Packages! If you know me, you know I could do without the clutter and consumerism of the holidays. I'm all about skipping the plastic toys and giving my boys experiences. This Christmas, you can give a gift that will create fun experiences and lasting memories for the entire family. A gift that will bring out their full potential and build confidence in and out of the water.

 

Make a Big Splash: 
Two-Month Holiday Package ON SALE now! 

This is perfect for new Goldfish members or those not currently enrolled. In addition to swimming every week for 2 months they also are waiving your annual Membership fees, giving you a super cute book featuring Bubbles the Fish, a bookmark with stickers, a holiday ornament, Goldfish Tote, and a swim diaper or member t-shirt!
**Only 50 of these packages are available so get yours before they swim away!!

Swim and Save: Build your own Package!

When you purchase $500 in family credit Goldfish will gift you $50 more!  Or purchase $1000 and get $100. Then the rest is up for you to decide.  Your child or children can swim once or twice a week. Or buy new towels, goggles, or suits!  This option is perfect and flexible for whatever your family wants!  

Think this gift is just for parents to give? Think again!

The best part is that Goldfish has a brand new online store where these packages can be purchased at your convenience. Simply create your account and purchase the package perfect for your fish. This has been a top seller for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents each year and this year is no different! If you would like assistance with your purchase you can always call the amazing Goldfish staff at 937-972-0177, email at swimdayton@goldfishss.com, or stop by their front desk!

Special Offer for friends of (Bee)autiful Blessings! 

Have you been thinking about signing up your kiddos for swim lessons, but not sure if you're ready to take the plunge? I have amazing news! Use my referral code to get your first lesson absolutely FREE! No strings attached.



9.21.2020

Finding our New Normal



As if parenting during a pandemic wasn't eventful enough with hybrid school and remote learning, the past few weeks have seen so much happen in our life. Chuck and I shared our 8th wedding anniversary, I've lost count of the number of family members' birthdays we've celebrated, and I just got back from standing in as a bridesmaid for one of my my college besties. Life isn't slowing down for us anytime soon, so it feels nice that Saturdays have become the one day a week where life feels somewhat reminiscent of normal. With no alarms set, we enjoy our slow mornings followed by our weekly family outing to Goldfish Swim School- Dayton



We took an extended break from swimming lessons when I started back to work full-time. It wasn't manageable with trying to study for my licensing exams. Now that we're back, it feels even more special to watch how far my boys are coming in their swim skills. They were basically still babies (in my mind, anyway) when we stopped going and while they were on the cusp of being able to climb out of the pool independently, they were essentially just flopping around in the water.



Now that they're 4 and 5, I can literally watch week-by-week as their skills improve. We returned in June and in that short amount of time, Charlie has started floating without assistance, he's working on his front-stroke and is comfortable going underwater for diving rings. He has seriously amazed me with how much he has picked up just in his half hour lessons! Crosby is obviously younger and has always been the more timid and trepedatious one of the two. And though he's still working on his skills, just his attitude change toward swim lessons has been monumental. There was a point when the thought of getting into the pool would turn both my boys' mood instantly sour. We made it through tears and uncooperative tantrums to genuine excitement each and every week. 



It's a testament to their emotional development, but it also speaks to the model that Goldfish uses. Their "The Science of Swimplay" philosophy creates a safe space for kids to learn swim skills, but genuinely have fun doing it. Their instructors are wonderful and my kids are learning life-saving skills while just playing and being kids. I'm a big believer in teaching through play and I can see it paying off in my own boys.

As we approach winter and COVID doesn't appear to be leaving us anytime soon, I'm grateful to have an outlet for the boys to get out their physical energy and in a safe and sanitary venue. If you want to read more of my thought's on Goldfish's COVID response you can check it out here!

9.04.2020

What I Want to Tell my Best Friend on her Wedding Day

I'm writing this from a Best Western hotel room on the Eastern shore of Maryland. I didn't know I would be here until a few months ago, but as we now know, 2020 has become the year of loss, change, and rolling with the punches. And today, I'm sitting here having some much-needed introvert time as I prepare to help one of my best friends marry the love of her life tomorrow.

I've been wanting to come back to this space for so long. There is so much I want to catch up on and so much life and many blessings to be documented. But being a full-time working parent during the pandemic has been harder than I know how to articulate. It has required every ounce of my physical, emotional and mental energy just to survive this time, so blogging has once again...fallen by the wayside.

However, after a day or two spent child-free and left alone to my own devices, I've felt that creative buzz creep its way back into the recesses of my mind. I had ideas for things I wanted to do during my solo weekend- perhaps a drive along the bay, or some time with my nose in a book, but mostly I've just been listening to my body. So far, she's directed me to an early morning run, all the seafood I can consume, and of course, the first love of my life- writing.



I've had a lot of time to think about love and marriage. Before I departed on my 8 hour drive east, Chuck and I enjoyed a quick breakfast date at our favorite hometown coffee shop (if you ever find yourself in little podunk Wilmington, Ohio please be sure to stop into Kava Haus!) to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary (obligatory link to our throwback wedding photos). Every anniversary date, we try to be intentional about reflecting on what we learned in the last year of marriage. We talk about where we failed each other, how we can serve each other better in the coming year, and what our favorite moments of the last year were. Some people measure time beginning January 1. For us, time is measured year by year beginning September 2- the day we became a family. 

In our eighth year together, I can genuinely say this is the best love I've known. There was no way for 24-year old me to know how she and her partner would evolve and how they would grow together, but I wish I could tell her how little she truly knew what love was on that day. Not in a condescending way, but in an optimistic way that would leave her with the hope of better days to come in that sixth year after the birth of her second child- oof, it was a doozy. 

In our eighth year together, selfishness hasn't been completely abolished, but we do a really good job taking care of each other. Our life rambles on with a certain rhythm and cadence and we are constantly attuned to our partner's wants and needs. 

"Did you have a stressful day at work? Why don't I take the kids to the park so you can have a couple hours of down time?" 

"Are you missing your spiritual community? I'll make breakfast Sunday morning so you can relax in bed with your Zoom worship."

"Are you feeling grief over the memory of your lost parent? May I comfort you or do you want to cry alone?"

The best thing we've learned together is the simplest and hardest of things- to put each other's needs first. Because strangely and perhaps even counter-intuitively, we are at our best and our marriage is at its best when we stop thinking about what we need and begin thinking about what our partner needs. And when you trust that your partner is taking care of you, you can stop obsessing over taking care of yourself. There is peace to be found in that ebbing and flowing, and picking up, and putting down. It is the result of so many missteps, so much patience, so much humility, so much time, energy and intentionality. And it is one of the most beeautiful things in the world.

So as I think about my sweet college roomie marrying the man she has waited so long for. And as I think about the young couples in my life embarking upon this winding, trial-filled, and miraculous journey, the best advice I can give them is this- the only secret to a happy marriage is to take care of each other.


8.10.2020

A (Non-Conspiracy) Theory for Putting Out 2020's Epic Dumpster Fire

I wrote this post a few weeks ago and sat on it before hitting "publish." I didn't want to sound naive and tone deaf. However, reading it back, I think it's still worth sharing what's been weighing on my heart these last few months as the world seems to burn around us. 



Every Saturday morning, Chuck and I drive the boys to their swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School in Dayton. We live in a fairly rural area so it's a solid 40 minute drive. Because we both work full-time Monday-Friday, it often feels like we barely see each other during the work week. We hustle at our 9-to-5's, I scramble to make dinner before he gets home, and then he will either take the boys to the park so I can get things accomplished around the house, or we try to have some semblance of decompression while our maniacs run rampant until it's time to initiate bath and bedtime.

Those 40-minute drives on Saturday mornings are our opportunity to catch up from the chaos of the week and check-in with each other. Those 40-minute drives are when our best conversations happen.

This past weekend, like most couples are these days I'm sure, we were discussing current events. We both expressed how surreal it is to be living through a time that will be written about in history books. Just as people who lived through WWII and The Great Depression did, this is real life. It is just such a strange time to be in this world.

My range of emotions about living in the time of Coronavirus has run the gamut. Some days I'm doing okay and appreciate that I work for a responsible organization who is working tirelessly to keep its employees safe. I appreciate the fact that I have the capability to work remotely from home- mere minutes from my children and their schools. But most days, my highly-sensitive, empathetic nature proves to be as much a curse as it is a blessing. Some days I am just depressed and tired of feeling, and hurting, and watching helplessly as the world seemingly burns to the ground. 

I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way, but with everyone in isolation the loneliness and separation from my community can mess with my head. It's also unfortunate that during a time when we need to be in solidarity more than ever, our politics only continue to divide us. Here's the thing I've been thinking about, though. It's not unique for their to be political contention in an election year, but I'm exhausted of the fight being marketed as being between Democrats vs. Republicans, Right vs. Left, Liberals vs. Conservatives. 

The fight is not Americans vs. Other Americans. The fight should be Americans vs. Coronavirus. The fight should be Americans vs. Political Corruption. The fight should be Americans vs. Racism, Xenophobia, and other types of bigotry that are hurting us collectively. The talking heads, the media, and the institutions that yield their power over us may have us distracted and believing the fight is amongst ourselves, but it's not. 

It's deeply upsetting to me that freedom, liberty, and patriotism- the values that we pledge our allegiance to- have become synonyms for selfishness and narcissism. I was young when 9/11 happened, but it was the first event to awaken my political consciousness. And while I may not have fully understood the gravity of what had happened, nor what terrorism even was, I witnessed Americans coming together- unifying- against a common enemy. We stood together and both physically and metaphorically had each other's backs. We had a leader who grieved alongside us and inspired us. 

What happened to America circa 2001? I have my theories. However, I don't think this country needs another conspiracy theorist with a blog. What this country is in dire need of is KINDNESS and EMPATHY. I am not suggesting that issues like systemic racism and voter suppression can be done away with some random acts of kindness. But I am suggesting that perhaps, kindness and empathy could cure a lot more smaller pains and evils. And maybe if we're not so all-consumed by the smaller issues, we'll each have more capacity to confront the larger, scarier and more complex ones. 

Perhaps, I'm way off base and I'm taking a naive and simplistic approach. But I'm willing to be wrong if it means that people in my immediate community feel more heard, more loved, more encouraged, more inspired, and more understood. 
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