Every New Year’s Day, Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I spend time budgeting, dreaming and planning our year. We do an entire annual budget and figure out what we can accomplish in a year and get fired up. As we finish up 2018, I am struck by an intense feeling of WE MUST GET IT DONE NOW!
PoniesandFIREjr starts kindergarten in 2019 and I am feeling like the years are slipping through my fingers. I want more time as a family, more time together, more memories. In order to accomplish that, we have to work less. In order to do that, we need financial freedom. We need our house to be paid off.
So I dream. On January 1st, we will be sitting on $127,650 in mortgage debt and $17,996 on our truck. In 2018, we reduced our debt by around $19,000. A quick look at our budget projections show that we can pay off maybe $40,000 in 2019 with good focus. That is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it’s not enough. I want to hit more like $75,000 gone in 2019 and finish it off in full before PoniesandFIREjr finishes his kindergarten year in June 2020.
Is that possible? Not without some huge changes and big strokes of good luck.
Realistically, there isn’t much to cut from our budget. We could get rid of Dish ($75/month) when our contract is up in the spring and keep working to reduce our electric and grocery bills, but honestly, that’s going to be very small potatoes.
I think our better game plan will be to focus on increasing income and here are the ways I am thinking about implementing in 2019.
1. Mr. PoniesandFIRE taking extra jobs. He occasionally gets called for extra jobs, which he has no requirement to take and we have mostly turned them down for the sake of family time, but one a month could be another $150-$200/month. ($2,400)
2. Increase my prices in my business. I haven’t raised my rates in at least 3 years and a 12% increase could bring in another $160-$200/month ($2,400)
3. Increase poshmark and FB marketplace sales. I made around $600 in 2018 reselling things around the house, mostly outgrown or unwanted clothing. I think I could triple this (or more) in 2019 with a little more focus. ($1,200)
4. Work for a banner year in horse sale commissions. I charge a 10% commission on horse sales and if I hustle, the sky is the limit in 2019. ($15,000)
5. Fence painting. My main job pays around minimum wage for fence painting outside of work hours, as much as you want. Obviously, this isn’t doable until late spring and is weather dependent, but I’m pondering putting in some hours this summer for extra income ($750)
This is obviously not enough to cover the $35k we are short on my goals, but every $1 is a move in the right direction. I will keep brainstorming and analyzing what makes the most sense in terms of time/effort versus payoff.
Here’s a look at our Christmas budget for this year. There is still quite a bit that could be trimmed, but it is an improvement from 2017. I may actually be under budget in a few spots, but I have a few friends I haven’t included either, so I expect a few small gifts to be added to the list.
Décor (including tree and wreath) $120.00 $120.00
Presents for PoniesandFIREjr $210.00 $300.00
Cards $15.00 $40.00
Gifts for teachers $40.00 $75.00
Gifts for nieces and nephew $100.00 $200.00
Gift for parents $50.00 $50.00
Gift for MIL $90.00 $90.00
Holiday party costs $100.00 $100.00
Baking supplies $30.00 NEW for 2018
Christmas Eve dinner/Christmas morning brunch $75.00 $75.00
Gifts for each other $150.00 $300.00
TOTAL $980.00 $1,350.00
I added a new category for baking supplies this year. I want to do some serious cookie making with PoniesandFIREjr, since he loves to bake lately. I am trying to focus on activities and memories over things, so this is our Christmas activity to do list:
1. Christmas movie marathon with hot cocoa and snuggles with the puppies
2. Walk around the property. We take a lot of walks in the warm weather, but skip out in the winter. I think a family walk in the cold weather will be good for us.
3. Drive around and look at the lights
4. Get our tree. There is a local farm about 5 minutes from our house where you can cut your own and they have free hot cider and donuts. It’s a super fun day.
5. Tree decorating and listening to Christmas music. Maybe with a little wine. ;)
6. Make cookies together and decorate.
7. Make treats for the horses and bring them to the barn.
8. Read all our Christmas books together.
9. Write a letter to Santa.
10. Put together a bag of donations for our local center that distributes clothes, toys and household items to those in need for free.
I also host a holiday party each year for clients. It's basically a potluck dinner/drinks/hang out at our house for a few hours. The $100 budget covers some of the food, drinks and party supplies. We always end up with leftovers that we eat for days.
What free or inexpensive activities do you have planned for the holidays? Leave me a comment! :)
Our vacation is over and we are back at the grind. I have not taken 12 days off from work AND my business (with the exception of my maternity leave) EVER. It was a strange and amazing feeling. I definitely feel more refreshed, but at the same time, it’s making me strongly motivated to get to FIRE faster. If I’m this refreshed after 12 days off, how amazing will I feel with months off to recharge and focus on health and family?
Yesterday I found out I am getting a 2% raise January 1st. I was hoping for more, the company’s finances are not there. Everyone is getting 2% this year. Still, a raise is a raise and I am debating whether to up the 401k contributions 2% or use the money towards the big goals – paying off the truck and then slaughtering the mortgage.
We are finalizing the Christmas budget this week too. I struggle with not going overkill on presents. When we decided to do a vacation this year, it was with the agreement that it would mean a simpler Christmas, but now that it’s the time to live that I’m a little anxious. I want PoniesandFIREjr to have a great Christmas morning.
I know intellectually, what he really cares about as a five year old, is time with his family and doing things together. I still want presents under the tree for him though.
So I am deal shopping, trying to sell stuff on Poshmark and making a list of a few things that are affordable and I know he will be delighted with. Last Christmas we got some things used (Thomas and Brios) which he LOVED. I may try to do a few used toys again.
Hi y’all. It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving and I am feeling fabulous. The check is in the mail to pay off our insurance in full, which was one of our goals for this month and next week we will put $500 into savings, which is 50% of our second goal for the month.
Our mortgage also comes out today, which will be the final payment in our first year with a 10 year mortgage. Last time this year, we owed $142,000 on our house and as of the end of today, we will owe $128,695. It just blows my mind how much faster this is going than when it was a 30 year mortgage. If only we’d done a 10 or 15 year from the beginning!
Other positives – Mr. PoniesandFIRE has been getting mad hours at work lately. His next two checks should be way above what we budgeted for, which is fabulous going into vacation and the holiday season.
We got a bunch of snow last night and PoniesandFIREjr is psyched to play in the snow this weekend. I have a ton of lessons lined up to teach tomorrow and then it’s family time the next 36 hours. We work next week Monday through Wednesday and then it’s Thanksgiving and family vaca for the next 12 days straight!!!!
But I'm psyched for Christmas!
I love this time of year. Well, I love the holidays. I hate the cold, but Thanksgiving through Christmas is my JAM. Last year, Christmas with a four year old was awesome. I have a feeling, Christmas with a five year old this year is going to be even better.
Wanting to maximize all the holiday fun, without breaking the budget, I'm working on a list of Family Holiday Experiences to go all out this year. Here's what I have so far:
1. Write a letter to Santa. PoniesandFIREjr just discovered the fun of mail and we will be writing a letter to Santa together.
2. Go for a winter walk. We love family hiking, but as soon as it's cold, we tend to stop. I'm thinking we will do a winter walk and maybe hang up some homemade bird feed around our property.
3. Drive around and look at the lights. We have some neighborhoods reasonably close by that decorate, so this is a fun family evening. We'll bring some hot cocoa for the ride.
4. Bake cookies for our neighbor. We live in the country, so not a lot of close neighbors, but we do have one widowed neighbor whom I'm sure would love a delivery of cookies from PoniesandFIREjr.
5. Cut our own tree. Annual tradition. We then spend the evening decorating and listening to Christmas music.
6. Family movie night to watch all the classics - Rudolph, Frosty, etc.
7. Make homemade horse treats and bring them to all the horses at the barn. This one is a little specific to our family, but is a fun tradition for us!
8. Have a "no electronics night" in our new family Christmas PJs and read all our Christmas books and play board games.
9. Put together a bag of donations for our local organization that helps families in need. Mostly outgrown clothes and toys.
10. Put together a bag of donations for the dog rescue where we adopted our dog.
Any other holiday traditions you and your family do that don't cost much? Leave me a comment!
Mortgage – $1950 (11/16)
Electric - $115
DishTV - $75
Insurance bill - $500 (11/19)
Daycare - $928 (11/1)
Groceries - $450
Gas/Diesel - $400
Trash - $35
Cellphones - $115
Truck payment - $551
Savings - $1,000
Spending money - $152
Clothing - $150 (way above normal, we all needed a few things this month)
Sinking funds - $250
Travel/Thanksgiving - $150
Disney Vacation – PAID ALREADY
Total – $6,721
Our income is an estimate, as Mr. PoniesandFIRE never knows exactly what his hours will be, so we budget based on the prior year weekly average. This income also doesn’t include my side business income, as we don’t want to rely on that, nor does it include anything extra like Poshmark sales.
Basically, we like to budget based on worst case income scenario and then that helps smooth the waters when things pop up that we forgot to plan for.
Anxiously counting down until next summer, when daycare costs will cease. Our plan is for me to work from home/go into the office after Mr. PoniesandFIRE gets home/take some time off in July and August until PoniesandFIREjr starts Kindergarten in September.
We are working on small goals this month, with big things on the horizon for us.
1. Add $1,000 to savings
2. Pay off our insurance bill completely ($500)
3. Enjoy Thanksgiving and our first vacation in over 3 years!
We are headed to Disney at the end of the month and cannot wait to see the Christmas decorations in Disney. PoniesandFIREjr does not know yet, we plan to wake him up the morning we are leaving and surprise him then.
Why are we doing a vacation when we still have debt? Well, for starters, several years ago, we agreed our next Disney vacation would be when the mortgage was under $130k. We hit that last month!
Secondly, it is paid for. We have paid it off already, we have spending money set aside and will bring zero debt home with us.
We certainly could have used the funds we spent on this to pay down our truck, but it only would have changed our pay off date by a few months and we plan to kill the truck loan by spring, either way.
I am trying to embrace a little more balance in our lives, as I tend to get crazy intense on the finances. I’m sure Dave Ramsey and some of the FIRE community would disagree with our choice to do a vacation like this now, but honestly, they don’t live in my house. Personal finance is personal and at the end of the day, my husband and I are the ones that have to live with our choices.
That being said, we have already agreed that our next big vacation won’t be until we are 100% debt free, house included. I expect we will come home from this vacation fired up to get killing our debt, if only for the promise of another guilt free vacation.
Our truck loan is driving me crazy. Despite not owing a payment this month, because they applied previous extra principal payments as regular payments, when I went to our credit union to pay a principal payment, they took the interest out of it. Ugh. I wanted it to be at a nice even number, but I failed on that. This is serving as extra incentive to GET IT GONE.
When the truck is paid off, we will have an extra $551 in our budget. I think with focus, this could be done by February 2019, as we have some extra money coming in over the next few months (holiday bonuses and such).
We also want to buy land in cash this spring, but we currently only have about $6,000 in savings. Our plan is to pay cash for land, pay cash for a used RV and live that way for 6-8 months, while selling our house and using the equity to build a smaller new home. We need like $50-60K in cash to make this all happen.
We can save $2,000 to $3,000 per month with our normal budget (outside the 15% going to retirement). With the best case scenario, at that rate, it will take us 18 months to hit our goal and start moving forward. We want to start this in April 2019, which leaves us 6 months. While we both are expecting small raises in January, neither will be nearly enough to hit a savings rate of $9,000 per month.
How to come up with $26,000 extra in six months:
1. Mr. PoniesandFIRE takes the road pool job first quarter - $1000/month for $6,000 over six months
2. Sell my horse trailer (replace after resettled) - $7,500
3. Sell Mr. PoniesandFIRE’s motorcycle (replace after resettled) - $6,000
4. Sell excess household good and furniture - $1,000
5. Cut DishTV - $75/month or $450
6. Reduce our 401k contributions (I HATE THIS IDEA) - $250/month for $1,500 over six months
7. Commission from horse sale expected in March - $2,500
All of this gets us close, but still a little short. It may be a creative next six months for our family…
Every year it seems like I dread this time of year. I hate being cold. I hate buying propane and wood pellets. I hate how early it gets dark. I hate the thought of coming snow. I dream of spring.
This year, for the first time, I actually am feeling some joy heading into this time of year. Our wood pellets and propane are already purchased and paid for with cash and while I still hate being cold, I am looking forward to cozy nights at home in front of our pellet stove. I’m looking forward to apple pies, crock pot meals and all the upcoming holidays. I’m looking forward to our paid for in cash vacation.
I still don’t want the cold and snow, but I will try to embrace the positives of the seasons. I assume this is some version of maturity finally hitting me?
It’s a little bit how I am starting to feel about our debt free journey. When we started paying things off, I just wanted to be on the next step. I wanted to be totally debt free and have the freedom that comes with owing no one. I wanted the options that that promised our family. But here we are in 2018 with around $150k in debt between our truck and house and even if we are as intense as possible and chase every raise, bonus, side hustle money and I sell every extra item in our house on Poshmark, we are still looking at a few years to hit freedom.
I desperately want the debt freedom. I want our monthly budget to be small enough that we can live off of one of our salaries. I’m starting to get that I can want that and fervently work for that, while still enjoying the NOW. I can enjoy where we are in the journey, I can take pauses, I can breathe.
Life is a journey, not a destination. I get it, it sounds corny, but I’ve always understood that. It turns out though, that understanding is not the same as embracing. I’ve been hitting this debt journey will blinders on and felt like a failure every month that went by where I didn’t exceed the previous month’s progress.
So, here is my promise to myself for the rest of 2018. I will embrace where we are NOW. I will still look to the future and work to get there, but I will not sacrifice the enjoyment of now. Life isn’t going to happen when we are debt free. Life is happening now.
I love books. I have always loved books. When I was a kid, I would use my allowance every week to pick out a new paperback and I would consume it in hours. I was a voracious reader and by the time I graduated high school, I had multiple bookshelves full of books. I gave away, sold or donated none of them and considered them precious possessions.
Between my sophomore and junior year of college, my parents retired, sold their house and moved to Florida. Some of the books I took with me and then rest I made them cart with them for “someday” when I had my own place. When my parents decided Florida wasn’t for them and bought a house in Ohio, I made them bring all the books back north again. In retrospect, I probably should have let them just donate them years ago, but I was so attached.
Now I am 34. I have a house, I have a child who is learning to love books and I am realizing, slowly, that my collection of books does not bring me joy. I have probably hundreds of books that I doubt I will ever read again and holding onto them just makes my house cluttered and gives me something else to dust. If we do sell and downsize, the thought of moving them all AGAIN feels horrible.
In an attempt to find the joy of my books again, I am reviewing my collection and honing it down to my actual favorites, books I know I will read again, or books I am looking forward to sharing with my son. It is both an exhausting and freeing process. We have a small library in our town that we visit weekly and I am donating my giveaways to them.
I briefly looked at selling them, tried a couple different ways and determined there just is not a market for used paperback books. So I am finding the joy in knowing at the library, someone will get use of these books again.
It is depressing to look at this collection of books and realize how much money spent they represent. I wish my parents had directed me to libraries rather than books stores more or helped me find a balance and encouraged me to just spend a portion of my money on books, rather than everything. Between the library and hoopla (my new fav app), I know now that I can keep myself and poniesandFIREjr reading for years and never spend a penny if I don’t want to.
For a long time I was held by the feeling of “but what if” I decide I want to re-read a book I own but I had given it away? Now, I feel like, “so what?” I can borrow it and return it! Duh. I can still love the book, still enjoy the story, without it being mine.
I think I’m starting to get this minimalism thing. Own the things that bring you joy, but more things do not equal more joy.