September Report: 6-Figure-Debt Now 5!


I now write one post per month about our debt-repayment progress here at Prudence Debtfree. Thanks for reading our report for September ’16! I write a weekly post at Fruclassity. Here is what I have written so far in October:

I was also very honoured to have a guest post at Frugal Rules:

One risk of self-publishing? Boxes and boxes of books.

  • DH = Dear husband
  • DD3 = Dear 3rd daughter

Milestone: $100,000 barrier broken!

Our $257,400 debt from 2012 is now under $100,000. Consumer debt? GONE. Business debt? GONE. Mortgage debt? Down to $98,100. We have broken the 6-figure barrier! The finish line is still 3 years ahead of us. But I can see it.

Writing Goal #2

Last month, I wrote about my trial run at financial freedom in the summer, and the opportunity I had to write more. “I had three writing goals. And I’ve met each one. They’ll all take a bit of time to come to fruition, but I’ll share one for this month’s post.” The goal I wrote about last month had to do with my venture into public speaking about debt reduction. Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch, November 7 from 6:30-8:00. There will be plenty of nervous energy going into that event!

Goal #2 has nothing to do with debt reduction. Here it is:

Two children’s books

I wrote and self-published two children’s books way back around the turn of the millennium. The first, published in ’98, I dedicated to our eldest. The second, published in ’02, I dedicated to our second child. For each book, there is a personal connection to the daughter for whom I wrote it. From ’98-’02, I was either working part-time or I was home on extended maternity leave (I actually resigned in ’01), and it was such a privilege for me to be able to devote some time, energy, and money to these projects. For a few years, I marketed books. I sold about 5,000 of them (not bad for the Canadian market) and even went to local schools as a visiting author.  I can’t tell you how much I loved that.

An abrupt halt

In 2002, it was clear that I had to return to work, and that part-time would not be an option. DH had become a casualty of the NORTEL ship sinking, and his high-tech career – which  provided our family’s bread and butter – was spinning. We didn’t know it then, but there would be years of uncertainty and financial stress ahead of us. All I knew then was that I had to go back to work full-time.

Marketing the hundreds of books that I still had in boxes at home? Not even a remote chance. I hoped that our situation would be short-lived, but as the years passed, those books became a burden. I ended up giving away a few thousand of them to different school boards earlier this year.

DD3’s book?

If you have 3 daughters, and you write a children’s book for each of the first 2, there is no way that you are NOT going to write one for the 3rd. Since 2002, I have known that I had to write a story to dedicate to DD3. I trusted that the right time would come, but my time was swallowed up. And money was so, so tight for so long. The cost of self-publishing a children’s book with illustrations is significant, and we weren’t even close to being able to justify such an expense. Furthermore, with boxes of unsold books hanging around the house, there was some dread at the thought.

But the book had to be written.

DD3 never said anything about it, and I was grateful for her patience. Last year, though, she asked me frankly, “Mom, are you going to write a book for me before I’m dead?” OK! I felt an urgency to get going. It was DD3’s question that made me decide to stay home for the summer of ’16 instead of teach summer school in the name of debt reduction. As Laurie wrote in a recent post at Fruclassity, “Every person/family has things that cost money that are important to them; more important than dumping debt.” DD3’s book was more important.

Time and money: DH’s negotiation

Once I had decided to take the summer off, I got an idea for a story, and I was excited about it. It would be about a girl named Ella and how she learned to deal with a school bully. July came and my test drive of financial freedom began. I liked it! Rest, exercise, socializing, family visits, blog writing, preparations for my talk at the library . . . I just couldn’t focus on writing the book. July became August, and as the first and second weeks of the month passed, I became worried. What was my problem? Why couldn’t I just sit down and write the story? Why was it locked in my head?

Mid-August, I was sitting by the bar-b-q with DH, and he started to talk about the guitar he was saving up to buy with his discretionary money. “I don’t think I can wait until next year,” he said. He wondered if we could do a planned splurge with our common money – which would mean holding off on aggressive debt-repayment for  a while. The last time we had agreed upon such a splurge, it had been at DH’s request too. He wanted to go to Whistler for snow boarding a couple of years ago, and I had automatically been in support of it. We planned a few months in advance, and gave ourselves each a “bonus” for our discretionary allowance the month before his trip.

But then when I  – at the last minute mind you  – and because of my poor management of my discretionary money – wanted a mini-splurge of $200 to go away for a week-end with friends this past spring, DH had not supported the idea. “If you managed your money better, you’d easily be able to save up that amount and go.” He was right of course, but still . . .

“No,” I said. “You’ll just have to save up and wait for your guitar.” That felt good. I had the power. No more automatic agreement from me! “Isn’t there something you really, really want?” DH asked me. “There is nothing that I want more than debt-freedom,” I said in a burst of self-righteousness. But before the words were out of my mouth, I knew they weren’t true. So we struck a deal.

Knowing that I had the money to self-publish DD3’s book made all the difference. Within 4 days, I had written the story. DD3 loves it! I have sent the text and a proposed layout to the publisher. A former student is preparing the illustrations. It feels SO satisfying to be at this stage. After a wait of 14 years, DD3 will have her book.

Debt repayment opens doors

I said that goal #2 had nothing to do with debt reduction, but that’s not quite true. Our debt repayment has allowed money stress to evaporate. And all of the good things that had been stifled by that stress now have their chance to breathe. Among them are DH’s guitar playing. And my children’s book for DD3. Passing the $100,000 mark is worthy of celebration, and I think we’ve chosen the best possible way to celebrate our growing freedom – by using it.

Do you celebrate financial milestones? Your comments are welcome.


August Report: Trial Run at Financial Freedom = WONDERFUL



I now write one post per month about our debt-repayment progress here at Prudence Debtfree. Thanks for reading our report for August ’16! I post weekly at Fruclassity. Here are my September posts:


Photo: The view (including my feet) while camping 

DH = Dear Husband


Mr. SSC (Slowly Sipping Coffee) recently wrote the post, “Will your retirement have an ikigai?” Ikigai (pronounced icky-guy) is a Japanese term meaning “the reason to wake up in the morning”, and in his post, Mr. SSC explores the idea of life purpose during retirement. (He and his wife are very close to achieving early financial freedom.)

My decadent summer of ’16

For the past two months, I’ve had the great privilege of test driving financial freedom. I’m a teacher, and for the first time in seven years, I chose to take July and August completely off. No additional qualifications courses (summers ’09, ’10, ’11). No teaching English through July (summer of ’12). No teaching co-op through July and August (summers ’13, ’14, ’15). Next summer? We’ll see.

The summer of ’16 has been the most decadent of my career. For every other summer that I’ve taken off to be home, I was on full-time mommy duty. It was wonderful for me to be able to spend all of those summer months with our 3 daughters, but it wasn’t “decadent” – it was super busy. This summer, we’ve only had our youngest at home, and as a seventeen-year-old, she has not required me to be on full-time mommy duty. Not even close. She has her part-time job and her social life. We’ve enjoyed some great times together over the past two months, but they’ve been more laid-back than “super busy”.

So no job to go to + no course to study + laid-back family life = My trial run at financial freedom.

Increased fitness in retirement forecast

If the summer of ’16 is any indication of what retirement will be like, I’m going to be a very fit retiree. Most weeks involved 6 workouts: 3 early morning bike rides with a neighbour – 30-40 km (18-25 miles), and 3 visits to the gym with DH for cardio kickboxing and weights. The benefits of regular workouts are so worth pursuing! Better sleep. Clearer head. More productive. Happier. What’s not to like?

Writing project #1: Debt-reduction talk at the library

More writing is also in the retirement forecast. As my summer of ’16 began, I had three writing goals. And I’ve met each one. They’ll all take a bit of time to come to fruition, but I’ll share one for this month’s post.

I was very impressed when Brian at Debt Discipline wrote about his talk on debt reduction at the local public library. Brian and his wife paid off $109,000 in credit card debt and then went on to save an emergency fund that saw them through a tough year of unemployment for Brian. “What a gutsy move!” I thought of his initiative to speak at the library. It’s one thing to share your struggles with debt online, and a very different thing to speak about them in a room full of strangers. I admired the combination of humility and confidence that Brian showed, and I had no doubt that his talk had been effective. Who better to motivate than someone who has been through the ups and downs of turning his own finances around?

Then I started to wonder if I could do the same thing. I had spoken at church about our journey out of debt. Why not follow Brian’s lead and speak at a local library?

I’m not much of an initiator, and so it took a real step out of my comfort zone to contact the Ottawa Public Library. When I did, things went remarkably quickly. I’d need to fill in a proposal form. Provide references. Indicate dates of availability. Summarize my topic of presentation. Within days, I was fulfilling a request to provide PowerPoint slides.

“A presentation from a personal point of view,” I was informed early in the process, “is a new approach for the area of financial literacy programs at the Ottawa Public Library.” So this was new territory for the library too – not just for me. There were a few weeks’ worth of back-and-forth emails about detailed edits . . . And then it was a “Yes.” As it stands now, I’ll be speaking at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (120 Metcalfe St. for any Ottawa readers who might be interested in attending) the evening of Monday November 7 from 6:30-8:00.

This opportunity means a great deal to me for many reasons:

  • From the start, I’ve hoped that my writings about our debt-reduction would encourage others who had the desire to turn their finances around – especially those who, like us, felt powerless or incompetent to make it happen. I know from experience that speaking about personal debt can be very powerful in breaking down walls that keep people isolated in their financial struggles. There can be a huge relief in witnessing someone else being open about a topic you’ve always experienced as oppressively taboo.
  • I feel a “cutting edge” excitement about being the first speaker in this venue to present from “a personal point of view.” An old friend – who has no problem speaking her mind – recently asked me, “What makes you think you have the authority to write about debt-reduction?” I got a chuckle out of the question, but I appreciated it and answered her. “I write as someone who is going through it,” I explained to her. “We have a history of financial mistakes, but we’re learning, and we ARE strengthening our financial reality.” I compared our situation to people in AA who had been sober for 4 years. “People who have never struggled with debt don’t have the same insight into everything that’s involved in dealing with it,” I said. My friend nodded her head. She got it.
  • Even more personally, I feel an “I can do it!” growth in confidence. That may seem a bit premature since the presentation is still 2 months away, but I really have overcome an anxious hurdle just in going through with my proposal of the talk. There will be plenty more anxiety in the coming weeks as I practice, refine, practice, refine . . . Mr. Money Mustache’s latest post deals with his preparation for a recent public speaking event, and it brought home to me the work that still lies ahead. Very different type of event! But the point is, there’s a lot of effort that goes into a good presentation. So here we go!

Debt-reduction milestone

The summer of ’16 leaves me with no doubt that there will be plenty of “ikigai” in my retirement.

August brought our mortgage down another $2,000. So of our original grand total debt (consumer, business, and mortgage debts) of $257,400, we have paid off $156,600. If you’re good at math, you’ll quickly calculate that we’re on the verge of a very significant milestone. Our 6-figure debt is about to become a 5-figure debt.

That kind of milestone is worthy of celebration, and DH and I have been wondering how to mark it. But that ties into Writing Goal #2. And you’ll have to wait for next month’s post to find out about it : )

Do you ever wonder what the “ikigai” (reason to wake up in the morning) of your retirement will be? Have you ever had a practice run at financial freedom? Your comments are welcome.




Financial Goals And Tolerance for Ugly Stuff


DH = Dear Husband

Last week, Laurie wrote about how tough it can be to get out of a financial rut. Through her summer of high expenses, when just keeping her head above water has been enough of a challenge, Laurie has had to face down this temptation: “And wouldn’t you know it, the furniture set we fell in love with last month just went on super sale. Our ugly, ragged twenty year old couches have been an eyesore to me for about four years now and are begging to be replaced. But even on super sale, I cannot justify a new furniture purchase as it would have to go on credit.”

Have you been there? I have! My stamina for old, stained, ripped, scratched, rusting, mismatching, or otherwise ugly stuff has increased dramatically since DH and I started our journey out of debt 4 years ago, but there are still times when the temptation to buy shiny and new is just cruel.

Allow me to introduce you to a collection of our ugly stuff:

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Move Over Maslow: Prudence Debtfree’s Hierarchy of Conditions for Debt Reduction


(Just so you know, that’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs up there.)

DH = Dear Husband

Combination of factors that led to success in our journey out of debt

I often reflect upon the fact that it took me SO LONG to adopt the basics of financial wisdom. From chaotic-overdraft-mode in my young adult, single years to hands-off, head-in-the-sand, leave-it-to-the-man denial through most of my married life . . . It took a combination of powerful factors to get me going in the right direction, starting in June 2012:

  1. 6 years of DH’s under/unemployment had made us extremely stressed by our finances from 2003-2009.
  2. DH had launched a home business in 2009, and it was succeeding.
  3. Those financially stressed years had been very tough on our marriage, but we’d stuck it out, and we were feeling a new hope together – for more than just the new business.
  4. In May of 2012, we listened to Dave Ramsey’s CD book, The Total Money Makeover. DH and I shared an “Ah-ha” moment: We were weighed down by our debts, and we had to get rid of them. We were psyched, energized by a new sense of power. We could pay off ALL the debts!
  5. Again thanks to Ramsey, we were inspired by a vision of how life would be once we were debt-free.

(The bold words are building blocks for the hierarchy coming up.)

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The Lottery Fantasy vs. The Lottery Curse


DH = Dear Husband

Have you ever bought lottery tickets?

Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Here’s a true confession: I have been chipping in with a group at work for a long time. Twice a year, about 24 of us fork over $20 for the privilege of membership in the lottery club. So far, we have won enough to buy extra tickets every once in a while. Is it worth it? Sure! It’s fun to “What would you do if . . . ?” with other members of the group. Besides, how would I feel if I suddenly stopped participating – and then our work group won? (Do not tell Dave Ramsey! It’s a big no-no to have anything to do with lottery tickets according to his Total Money Makeover plan – which I am following.)

DH has firmly maintained throughout our marriage that it would be disastrous for us to win the lottery. “We would fight about what to do with the money. We’d be lost. We’d be ruined.” I, on the other hand, have always said that it would be GREAT to win the lottery. How could it not be?

“Lottery curse”

“‘Lottery curse’ can disrupt lives” said a headline in a local newspaper yesterday. In 2006, 24-year-old Daniel Carley, “a small-time weed dealer”, won $5 million. He was given the advice that all winners are given: “Get a financial adviser . . . Then delist your phone and change the locks on your home.” Unfortunately, Carley did not follow this advice – at least not the bit about seeking professional guidance for his sudden wealth. “He blew more than half the money in the first three years, at a rate approaching $20,000 per week.” Yikes! How do you even do that?

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Prudence Debtfree’s July Report: Olympic Inspiration Squashes Mortgage-Payoff Complacency


I’m finding it really hard to pull myself away from the Olympic Games coverage! Ever since my early teens, I’ve manifested symptoms of Olympic Addiction Disorder (not a real thing – at least I don’t think so). So I’ll make this quick!

Here’s a recap of where we are in our journey out of debt since June of 2012:

  • Consumer debts of $21,400
  • Business debt of $80,800
  • Mortgage debt of $155,000
  • Grand total debt of $257,200

Following Dave Ramsey’s strategy as outlined in The Total Money Makeover, we attacked our two smaller consumer debts first, and then moved on to our business debt. It took us just over 3 years to pay off all non-mortgage debt. In July of 2015, we were left with the mortgage to tackle, and the new step of saving up our big emergency fund (to cover 3-6 months of expenses in the case of job loss).

From June 2012 to July 2015, we paid about $27,000 off our mortgage just by our regular monthly payments. Starting in August 2015, we put extra against our mortgage, and in the last year, we have paid off almost another $26,000.

  • The grand total of our debt (just the mortgage) now sits at $102,800

Psychology of debt-reduction: Focus on what has been paid off, not on what’s left

In June, I made the discovery that it is better for the psychology of our debt reduction to focus upon what we have paid off rather than what we still have left to pay. In the first few years of our debt reduction, it was natural to think in terms of how much we had paid off. Once we got past the half way mark of our grand total, it became natural to think in terms of what we had left to pay off. But that had a discouraging impact, so I’m trying to focus again upon how much we have paid off.

In July, we paid $2,000 against our mortgage, bringing our total mortgage reduction since June 2012 to $53,000.

2 significant milestones

  1. Our emergency fund is now full (I should be more excited about this than I am), but we will continue to save at the same rate for big upcoming expenses as well as for retirement.
  2. The mortgage that we have left is roughly equivalent to the total amount of non-mortgage debt that we paid off from 2012-2015.

A wall of exhaustion? Or a wall of complacency?

Ramsey talks about people “hitting a wall” when they reach this stage of debt reduction. Consumer and other non-mortgage debts are gone; the emergency fund is saved; and all that’s left is the mortgage. Ramsey compares this wall-hitting stage to a marathon runner reaching mile #18 out of 26. Exhaustion sets in, and every muscle in the body screams, “Enough already!”

I think I might be facing a wall, but it’s not of exhaustion. It’s of complacency. We are at the point now where we’re “normal” – even for people in our age group (in our fifties). No longer do we have a debt-to-income ratio that is way above the record breaking household national average. We’re well below that average. While we felt a sense of urgency about our non-mortgage debts, it’s hard to muster that same urgency for a mortgage – and a pretty modest one at that.


Hold on here! We were never going for “normal” to begin with. We were going for complete freedom from debt. When it comes time for us to retire, we don’t want to fit in with “normal” – which is to retire while still in debt. So time to refocus, to stare down that wall of complacency, and to attack our mortgage debt like champions. The Olympic athletes, whose competitions I’ve been watching, strive for way beyond “normal”, and they certainly don’t give up before they reach the finish line. My finish line still lies ahead. The course has changed, but it still needs to be covered. On to the next stretch of the race!

Do you have a lower sense of urgency about your mortgage debt? Do you have Olympic Addiction Disorder? Do Olympic athletes inspire you – either towards physical fitness or some other pursuit of excellence? Your comments are welcome.


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Frugal Vacation Option: The 24-Hour Camping Get-Away


DH = Dear Husband

There’s our canoe up there. Soon, we’ll be hoisting it down to strap to our van for a camping trip. Of 24 hours.

It’s good to get away.

DH is self-employed and runs a home business. Although there are many great perks to this situation, one complaint I do hear from time to time is, “I find it so hard to relax at home! There’s always a job to do – administrative paperwork to finish – e-mails to answer . . .” When we recently went on a 3-day road trip, DH in particular LOVED it. “Wasn’t that great? We had so much fun! It was a real break,” he said more than once afterwards.

For DH, getting out of the house is important. But the demands of his work make it so that he can’t leave for too long. And our goal to be completely debt-free in another three years makes it so that we can’t spend too much on these get-aways. What to do?

What to do when time and money are limited?

Camping has got to be the most frugal form of vacation out there. All of the paraphernalia of tents, sleeping bags, cooler, camping stove, and canoe cost quite a bit to start with, but we’ve

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No Honour in Secrecy about Personal Debt


DH = Dear Husband

“Honour” killing

I once taught a girl who was later killed by her brother in an “honour killing“. She was in a large grade 10 class of mine for a short period of time before the class was split into two smaller ones. News of the killing a few years later was utterly shocking. Just this past spring, a colleague of mine talked with me about his connection with the girl. “She came and sat in my class after school every day because she said it was the only place where she felt safe. I told her she needed to contact the police about her brother’s threats, but she said she couldn’t ‘dishonour her family’ like that.”

Secrets for family “honour”

Yesterday, I was on the phone with someone for close to 2 hours. I didn’t say much at all. A steady stream of words flowed out of this normally quiet woman whom I’ve known at a polite surface level for almost 2 decades. It was like a cork had been unplugged, and the family secret

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Image courtesy of Rebecca Barray

A Brief Step out of Frugal Mode – Good for the Long Term Goal


Don’t they look happy up there? DD1 and DD3.

  • DD1 = Dear first daughter
  • DD2 = Dear second daughter
  • DD3 = Dear third daughter
  • DH = Dear husband

It’s been a time of relative extravagance around here, and it’s been lovely.

Travel (and dreams . . . )

Shortly after last Christmas, DH and I realized that it would be best to cancel our planned trip to Orlando with our three daughters this year. We were going to piggy-back a family vacation onto DH’s annual business trip in July, but with the plummeting Canadian dollar, it just wasn’t turning out to be a good idea. Consolation prize? We gave each daughter a round-trip flight:

  1. DD2 flew to Alberta to compete in Nationals/Olympic trials for track & field. (Unfortunately, she pulled her hamstring.) While DD2 wasn’t a contender for the Olympics, it was wonderful for her to meet and compete against Olympians and to get a taste of her dream for greater excellence in her sport.
  2. DD3 flew to British Columbia for two weeks to visit with DD1 (who has lived there for 5 years going to school and working). In the photo above, DD1 and DD3 are on a ferry on
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