- DH = Dear Husband
- DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
Lost on the golf course
About a month ago, I took our dog Rocky for a walk. We live near a golf course, and while we have to stay off of it during the summer months, through the winter, people are free to walk, ski, or toboggan on it. I took Rocky up onto an area of the golf course that was new to us. It was a mild evening, and we walked for a good 20 minutes before turning back to go home.
I became alarmed after about 20 minutes. We should have reached the street, but we hadn’t, and it was nowhere in sight. As I surveyed the landscape beyond the hill we were climbing, all I could see were more trees (as featured above). Had we taken a wrong turn somewhere? I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, sensing the futility of continuing in this direction.
It wasn’t the first time I had become lost (I have a terrible sense of direction), and I accepted my situation stoically. I looked around for a recognizable landmark of some kind, and I saw three tall apartment buildings in the distance. If I could get to those buildings, I’d find my way home. The trek would add an hour to my walk with Rocky, but he certainly didn’t mind.
I have learned to accept that winter comes with its blues. This year, those blues came early and with greater than usual force. I don’t know why. If you’ve experienced it, you know what it’s like: every effort takes more energy than usual; and normal tasks become draining.
I remember reading some personal finance blog posts about New Year’s resolutions early January, and finding them oppressively perky. I read about a couple of no-spend challenges, and while my mind said, “I should join in,” I just didn’t have it in me. I felt as I did when I walked Rocky that evening – sensing a futility in continuing in the direction I was going: budgeting; tracking; blogging; budgeting; tracking; blogging . . .
But I’ve learned not to be led too much by feelings. When DH and I started our journey out of debt, I was high on purpose and determination. June 2nd 2012, I wrote my third post for this blog: “. . . DH and I are taking the proverbial first step on our journey out of debt. Psyched by a vision of debt freedom, we feel a happy adrenaline – a hope-filled, united, optimistic energy. At this point, I can`t even conceive of a time when we`ll hit a wall.”
That kind of new-beginnings-energy can’t last, and I knew it at the time. “At this point, we can allow ourselves to give in to the high of starting and to get as much mileage out of it as possible.” Through the years that have passed since that adrenaline-filled start, there have been “walls”. But perhaps because I have been on the look out for them, I’ve able to move forward in spite of their motivation-sucking force.
This month has been no exception. Our original total debt of $257,400 – a combination of consumer debt, business debt, and a mortgage – is now down to a modest mortgage of $86,900.
A matter of interest
I remember last January, DH wrote on our white board in the kitchen, “$297”. When he asked me what I thought it represented, I couldn’t say. “That’s the amount of monthly interest we’re down to now on our mortgage. We’re under $300.” That was a big deal because when we’d started our debt payoff, we were paying over $600 per month in combined interest payments. This month, DH wrote “$192” on our white board.
An audacious goal
Seven years is the average amount of time it takes a household to become completely debt-free according to Dave Ramsey’s plan. So for a long time, our goal has been to become debt-free by June of 2019 – seven years after our June 2012 start.
This month, DH and I did some calculations. The maximum we can put against the mortgage on a monthly basis is $3,000. But once a year, we can put a lump sum to a maximum of $18,000 against it too. Last year, we made no lump sum payment. This year, we plan to. For the last year and a half, we’ve been paying $750 per month for DD2’s room and board as she studies at a university downtown. We’ll make our last payment in June.
If we continue to set aside the same amount of money on a monthly basis, we could save up for annual lump sums to speed up our progress. Our best case scenario is:
- to pay the maximum $3,000 per month
- to put aside an additional $750 per month, saved for annual lump sum payments, starting July 2017
In this best case scenario, we’ll have the mortgage paid off January of 2019. So many things could happen to prevent this early pay-off date, but it is officially our new audacious goal.
Headed in the right direction
So the winter blues won’t steer me away from the direction we’ve been taking for almost 5 years now. Sure it would be nice to blow a few thousand on a trip south, but we’re staying the course.
Sunday morning, I took Rocky for a walk, and we went to the same section of the golf course that we’d walked on when we got lost. It was going to be a brief excursion, so I I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to take a wrong turn. After walking for about 5 minutes, we turned around. And I saw the same hill with the same trees beyond them that had convinced me I was lost a month earlier.
“I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, sensing the futility of continuing in this direction.” But it wasn’t futile! I wasn’t lost. I was headed in the RIGHT direction. If I has just climbed that hill, I would have seen that the trees beyond it were across the street – the street that would bring me home.
Have you ever hit a “wall” in trying to reach a goal? Do you get the winter blues? Your comments are welcome.