Monday, December 26, 2011

Livin' Like No One Else: Endgame

Want to start at the beginning of our Journey to Debt Freedom?

After leaving California, newly in debt AGAIN!  We knew we had to make a final change.  We camped our way across the nation to our temporary home in Rotten Groton, CT, where we lived for 6 months.  Then we made the move to our current duty station in Hampton Roads, VA.

We found a reasonable place to rent in New London, CT in a decent part of town, within walking distance to The Broken Yolk (awesome breakfast spot) and Ocean Beach Park (lame beach that costs too much with terrible sand and cold water).  I was not able to find a job for such a short period of time, so I focused on available jobs down in Virginia.

Dave Ramsey always warns about Murphy's Law when you are in debt and that happened to us big time.  We had been going along fine, even after we purchased my Highlander...and then it happened.

Holly got sick. She went into renal failure, in a rare reaction to a medication* she was taking.  Our vet recognized the signs, and worked quickly to get Holly into Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in Rhode Island so that she could get immediate, around the clock care, which would be the only way she had a chance to pull through and, thankfully, she did

Needless to say, five days at a specialist in another state is not an inexpensive venture.  On top of that, Holly now required IV fluids throughout the day, which I was taught to administer.  Although the animal hospital and a local pharmacy worked with us greatly to get Holly's supplies at cost, this was still a huge part of our monthly expenses.

This care for Holly had to continue as we made way for our move to Virginia.  We decided to buy a house this time since we'd be in the region for at least three years and the housing market was finally in the buyer's favor.  I continued, unsuccessfully, to look for a job.

We finally came to the realization that we absolutely had to get on a written budget if we were going to have to live on one income, care for our four-legged responsibilities, pay off my car, and pay off our new mortgage.  This meant moving back to the "envelope system" and using cash to pay for most of our day to day items, at least until we got our spending back under control.

*The makers of the medication reimbursed us for her medical costs directly related to the renal failure.  Due to a confidentiality agreement, I can not disclose the specific medication.

Almost 2 full years later (and with a 4 month old Klaw) on a written budget that helped us pay double on the car payment, it came time for Chris to receive his annual "bonus" from the Navy. We had planned to put the bulk of it down on the car debt.  When the amount was deposited, I realized we could pay off the remaining care note in its entirety, with enough leftover in our account to cover our budgeted expenses.  Chris was away but available by phone, so I called him immediately to make sure my math wasn't wrong.

In one fell swoop, we were able to pay off our final debt (not including the mortgage) and become debt-free for the second time in our marriage.  However, we made a commitment to each other to not put ourselves in debt again.  This has required patience.  A LOT of patience, a lot of waiting, and a lot of saving in order to buy things we would like to have (like a dining room table that we finally purchased this year).

This road was not easy for us and it was incredibly long (far longer than it would have been had we been more focused). We made plenty of stupid choices along the way, especially prior to getting married.  Our story is not to brag, even though we are very proud of this journey, but to show another example of how an "average" family can become debt-free.

Just make sure you like the taste of rice & beans. ;-) 
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