budgeting

New Year’s Revolution

December 30, 2014

This is the year. We’ve drawn our line in the sand and steeled our wills and made an impressive list of bullet points that we spit shook over; this is the year we’re getting out of debt for good.

I wrote a little bit about our budgeting process a couple weeks ago, and it kind of whetted my appetite to want to dig deeper into our process and see what was working, and what could work better.

Our Advent resolve to stop eating out was a huge revelation, both in terms of the kind of money we were spending on that luxury and convenience, and how empowering it felt to be able to say “no” to ourselves, and to the kids, over and over again, for almost a solid month.

We did it. And we can do it for longer.

We sat down with our budget and figured out that if we cut back in a dramatic, nuclear fashion, we can be completely debt free in a little over 14 months. That means this time next year, we’ll be 8 weeks from financial freedom.

That blows my mind.

We’ve been budgeting for the past 5.5 years and we’ve paid off a TON of debt in that time. But here’s the thing, we had a TON to start with. So we’re left with about half of our total debt to plow through.

We crunched some numbers and talked late into the night and came away with a list of tangible changes we can make in 2015 that we think will set us up to be completely debt free by March of 2016. 

To think that we could pay off in 14 months the same amount that took us more than 5 years to retire is…insane. Humbling. Crazy exciting.

I think we’d be in an even better position, financially, had we not cash flowed an international move and three babies, but…I don’t regret a single decision we’ve made, in that regard.

Now that we’re locked solidly into our jobs, our incomes are stable (and higher than they were before babies, btw – God works in mysterious ways!) and our immediate needs are met, we think that we can get crazy, gazelle-intense aggressive in 2015.

Here are some examples of how crazy I’m talking:

  • No more shopping at Target. Like, ever. Not while there are zeros on the wrong side of our bank account. I’m not knocking their prices, and I’m already mourning the loss of my beloved Up and Up diapers, but I know myself, and I cannot NOT walk out those doors without a minimum of $40 worth of random crap I didn’t need and shouldn’t have bought. 
  • All our grocery shopping will be preplanned, done in cash, and done on a weekly basis. When I run to the store every day or two, I over spend. Every time. No more wandering into the store at 4:52 pm after the gym, roving aimlessly with hungry toddlers through the produce aisle and walking away with a disappointing rotisserie chicken and a $36 hole in the checking account.
  • We’re canceling Amazon Prime. Sob.
  • Dropping my mother’s helper down to once per week. I don’t have the stomach to cut her loose entirely, but 50% is a good savings.
  • No eating out. Like, at all. Unless it’s from either of our $25 monthly “blow” allotments.
  • Asking “Do we need it? Did we plan for it? Can we live without it?” about every single purchase. And using cash for EVERYTHING not on auto bill pay. 
  • No travel, outside of work trips, period. (Might be a no brainer for most families but we have this persistent habit of globe trotting that sorely needs to be retired for a year or ten.)
I think we can do this. I believe that it’s 100% within our reach to get out of debt in the next year and some change, and that it has 99% to do with our behavior and the choices we make in that time period. Disasters and illnesses notwithstanding, we can be free.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to get to work meal planning, thinking up 101 ways to plan a date night using Grandma and Grandpa’s Netflix password, and pondering where in the world my cheap diapers and pull ups are going to come from now.

Any New Year’s resolutions at your house? Do tell.

29 Comments

  • Reply Sully December 30, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    I just started a blog about budgeting! I cannot wait to hear how you guys tackle your goal. you can do it! Also, I have a post for next week that goes into lots of detail about diapers and wipes. Utterly thrilling stuff.

  • Reply Lisa December 30, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Jenny, we stopped shopping at Target a couple of years ago; I’ve been in a few times since because of gift cards we’ve been given and it is bittersweetly freeing to go in there and use only the giftcard because I want to buy all the things, and it’s so easy for me to justify a million extra purchases! I really admire you guys for implementing these goals and love hearing about the process!

  • Reply Amelia Bentrup December 30, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    We’ve eaten out “never” (well except a few times when family takes us out) for a few years now and it gets easier once you get out of the habit. The more you cook, the easier it is to learn how to cook things that are nutritious and easy ona super quick basis. It really is something that takes practice but I honestly don’t miss eating out at all, because I know I can make something just as good at home. It does take some planing to deal with being oujt of the house but even that gets easier as you practice.

  • Reply Micaela Darr December 31, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Good for you, Jenny. This time last year we were hurting after an international move, a medical insurance blunder, and years of bad financial habits. Last January we began FPU and this has been the best year of our marriage by far. If we don’t have any major issues this year (like a car that goes kaput) we might be out of debt about the same time as you. Keep up the amazing work.

  • Reply Kris December 31, 2014 at 1:20 am

    When I had to slash our budget, I limited myself to Target only once a month, and only what was on my list. And no cart. Not getting the cart is huge. We still needed boring things like underwear and that was the cheapest place to get it. Amazing when I had to keep a list of things we needed and limit myself to once a month, how much I didn’t buy. You could also order diapers online and have them shipped to the house – that might allow you to still get the Target brand. Good for you for setting this goal – 14 months is a short period of time to be austere, and think of all the financial freedom you will have once the debt is paid off. Do you guys have Aldi in Denver? HUGE grocery savings. I have a spreadsheet if you’re interested…!

  • Reply Jodi Boyle December 31, 2014 at 1:21 am

    we are doing the get out of debt plan too. Praying we can be debt free by Feb. 2016

  • Reply Becky December 31, 2014 at 1:51 am

    I laughed at the Target comment! Target is new here (only recently came to Canada) and I’ve already fallen into it’s grips! It’s crazy how I can’t leave there without buying way more than I went there for. Our finances also need a major overhaul, and cutting out Target is part of that.

  • Reply Kaitlin @ More Like Mary December 31, 2014 at 2:53 am

    (Sorry if this is a double comment…) Way to go! You can totally do it! But my heart hurts for you at the thought of not having Up and Up diapers. Do you have a red card? It’s NOT a credit card, it links directly to your debit account. And you can use to get free shipping (no minimum) and 5% Target.com. What if only Dave knew the Target password and card pin number and ordered diapers offline? Because if you’re like me, then the website is almost as alluring as the actual store!

  • Reply Ruth Almeter December 31, 2014 at 2:58 am

    let freeeeeeedom ring!! go you guys! so awesome. i’m excited for you. i quit target like a while ago and until i read this?? didn’t miss it. honestly. i cant NOT overspend. sooo no beuno. i did gasp at groceries “in cash” because that is my open wound. i cant get my grocery bill down for the life of me. i blow 300 bucks. need more groceries like MINUTES later. kills me. then i starve my family and refuse to grocery and make them eat everything in the pantry – oh! you didnt want tilapia. applesauce. mac n cheese and little debbies for saturday night dinner?? well. sorry. because we are cleaning out the pantry!! Its awful. anxious to see how this goes for you. go go go go team. as for this household – NY reso – i get up at 5 AM 90% of the time and stick with my 15 minutes of prayer probably 75% of the time. so the goal is 5 AM. coffee and prayer time, 100% of the time. and get a PR in a 5k. definitely shooting high there! ugh. my buns burn already.

  • Reply Christina December 31, 2014 at 4:10 am

    It has NEVER crossed my mind to abstain from Target for a year. You are brilliant. I bet I could save So. Much. Money. if I refrained from crossing their threshold. Gah. That might be my New Years resolution.

  • Reply Michele Chronister December 31, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Aldi = cheap diapers 😉 In my opinion, Dollar Tree baby wipes are amazing, too!

  • Reply EW December 31, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Cloth diapers were game-changers for us. They’re gross. Hosing poop off them makes me grumpy. But we’ve used them on four kids by this point and have saved thousands of dollars. Win!

  • Reply Diana December 31, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I just finished reading a Dave Ramsey book so I totally support the “making tough decisions for a big result” plan. And wow! No Target?? I don’t think I could ever completely give that up since I buy pretty much all our toiletries there as well as diapers, wipes, and other actual necessities. Even though we cloth diaper and don’t go through many of those. I did ban myself from the Dollar Spot…and I was pretty proud of that. Very impressed. Good luck!

  • Reply Stephanie Weinert December 31, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Jenny, awesome! Question though, what things did you and Dave put in place to be a source of joy, fun, “need a break”, de-stress or decompress, need to get out, etc. I know you and your personality (we are similar) and things like a date night out or the occasional swing thru Target are MUCH more to us than buying things…a year is long and the stresses will come…I think a second list of what you’re going to do ir where you’re going to go when things get stressful, when your marriage needs attention, when the kids are driving you crazy (etc etc) is important for staying the course that long.

  • Reply Tia January 1, 2015 at 1:57 am

    We never go into Target, Costco or the like. But Amazon Prime and Google Shopping Express are our Achilles Heel — we can get all that stuff but don’t even have to leave the house. Our New Year’s resolution for this year is no online purchases for the month of January, and for me it’s no eating out. We don’t have debt but Iv’e been trying to economize and mainly get rid of clutter. To me the main problem with buying so much stuff is the amount of work it takes to maintain it.

  • Reply Jenny January 1, 2015 at 5:01 am

    Awesome! Five years ago when we purchased our home, our intention was to pay it off in 5 years. We had already cleared all of our debt and had a couple months saved up in an emergency fund. And then this year…we just lost our intensity. Our five year mark is up this Spring…our goal now is to pay the house off in 2015 period…but that’s going to take some SERIOUS financial intensity. We’ve done it before, we can do it again and your post just added to my excitement and intensity…as in–I may need to cut Target out completely…COMPLETELY. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement.

  • Reply Cajuntexasmom January 1, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Ok, so if you’re cancelling Prime and not going to Target…how do you plan to buy stuff? #confused #proudofyourselfcontrol #inspired

  • Reply MCH January 1, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Wow. I will pray for your resolve and I will pray for it to rub off on me! Though I am also wondering where the diapers will come from…King Soopers is my guess? Wherever it may be, go team!!!

  • Reply emy January 2, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Yay you!!! We were thisclose to being debt free a few years ago, before an international move and a baby… but the good news is, we’re also on track to be back in the clear a year from now! Switching to a cash system was HUGE for me. Purging our house of clutter (…starting with my closet…) has been another surprisingly good way to reduce our spending — feeling the freedom of clearing out a bunch of stuff we didn’t need has made me a lot more reluctant to invite new stuff into our space! Finally, the number one question I ask myself when considering a purchase is: Who made this? Followed by: Where did it come from? May seem odd, but picturing the human cost/investment really changed my attitudes about, say, impulse buys at Target. In any case, three cheers for Dave Ramsey! And three cheers for you, too 🙂

  • Reply Jamie Gewand January 3, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I love that you are writing about this!! I’m sure writing about it will help with the sticking to it part…maybe I should blog about this…maybe we should start an online support group… 🙂 Best of luck this year!!

  • Reply mary January 4, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Do you guys have Aldi? I know there’s a sunflower market in Arvada that is apparently similar, but better, but don’t know what part of the mile high meca you’re in.

    when we had to drastically reduce our budget a couple years ago, I had to do the target ban as well. Considering I dropped $100 there last night on bananas… 😉 not quite-it was a planned and controlled burn, but I’m still eyeing that stocking cap I intentionally left the tags on and evaluating it’s need. Keep us posted on your progress/withdrawals.

  • Reply Lauren @ Here We Geaux January 8, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    I gave up Target months ago whenever their system compromised personal information. When I go back in there (once every six months, maybe), I remind myself of their #fail, which helps to restrain myself from buying anything more than what is absolutely necessary. Like others mentioned, you might be able to order your diapers online and still get the good deal, especially if there is away around paying for shipping. Maybe the Cartwheel app or even Retail Me Not can help too. Best wishes for your budgeting – it sounds like you have some really stellar plans laid out.

  • Reply Becky January 8, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    You can do this! It seems like if you can pull off NFP, you can totally do a budget. And, it really does feel wonderful. The thing I found was that it became a tangible connection to faith. We committed to setting aside 10% of our income to charitable giving which was scary. The budget seemed so tight! It was not uncommon for me to pray in the car before I went to the grocery store. Now, we had wiggle room. We didn’t actually cut up our credit cards. I was quite willing to pull from the clothing envelope if the cupboards were bare. But, I was amazed at how often I found just what I really needed to make that week’s meals work out on manager’s special. I couldn’t believe how just when things were getting a little grim, my husband would suddenly be offered some consulting work that would bridge the gap. I don’t think it’s solid theology to assume that there is some sort of tit for tat thing where if you tithe, God blesses or anything like that. But, I will say that I think sticking to a budget is easier if you invite God into the effort in the same way you might invite him into your procreative choices. It also helps veer your thinking so that instead of leaping to “once we pay off this debt, we can afford All The Things” to “once we pay off this debt, just think of all the good this money can be doing for others!”

    • Reply Suzette January 19, 2015 at 2:19 am

      LOVE THIS!

    • Reply Michelle M February 4, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Wow, great insights. For a while now, my prayer has been, “Purify my intentions, oh Lord. Help me to pay off my debts and relieve the poor.”

  • Reply Chris and Rachel January 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    You can order diapers from target online! Free shipping over $50 that way you won’t be tempted

  • Reply Suzette January 19, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Or maybe your husband could go for diapers and pull-ups? My husband is lightning fast in stores. Like, by the time I would just be finishing produce shopping (the area I usually begin) he is already in the check-out line.

    I really like this post.

  • Reply Amanda Teixeira September 28, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Can’t believe I didn’t see this post when it went up! 🙂 How’s your progress coming along? I am very excited for you all!!!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing October 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

      We’re chugging along. So close to being done but our rent went up significantly in August, so guess who we met with a couple weeks ago? I’ll give you a hint: she brought a tray of cinnamon rolls and told us she’d be our real estate mom 😉 so we’re tapping the breaks on the last student loan and piling up everything in savings for a down payment. I hope Dave doesn’t disown us, but it’s our last debt and the Denver real estate market is scaring the crap out of us, so we’re hoping to buy something early this spring.

      (And this month we’re on a total spending freeze. No Target, no wine, no Starbucks, no happiness…haha)

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