Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing...Because it is Cheaper Than Therapy...




We have reached the point in the summer where mom has had enough! I expect most moms anticipate summer with longing. They get to spend more time with their sweet kids, the days are longer, the weather is warmer, we can play outside, we can go to the pool, we can camp, we can go on fun vacations.

At first, it was fun and I am still loving the warmer weather (winter stay away forever) but my household has disintegrated into utter chaos. Orion is newly 5 and will start kindergarten in August. He is my most challenging child by far. He was a high needs baby who needed his mama all the time and never slept. His intensity has continued on. I love him so and he is so fun and cute but he thrives in routine.

This summer I have 3 high school age kids and 2 of which who drive. In my head that meant I could pay them to watch Orion. He could sleep in, play with friends, the oldest two could drive him to the park, to the pool, to the zoo. He would be happy and having fun and my youngest teen would be happy because she was earning money.

The reality has been starkly different. The oldest 2 are working 32-40 hours each week. Staying up late and sleeping in. Mostly they have been unavailable to drive the 14 year old and 5 year old anywhere. The 14 year old has been uninterested in much besides her phone. She has taken to staying up very late and sleeping in which doesn't work well when you are babysitting your brother. She has kept him alive and usually fed but engaging activities aren't happening and often Orion has dissolved to tears because one of the 3 big kids has upset him. So much for summer fun!

Then we have my job... super flexible, I can make my own schedule except for a few set meetings and events during the week. I can even bring Orion to work with me occasion and can do a lot of my work from home. Working for a non-profit you don't make the big bucks, you do it because you love what you do and you are passionate about the mission. Both of my jobs at the church offered me more flexibility to balance work and home life than typical corporate jobs. Trying to squeeze my work hours in around the demands of 4 kids who are home all summer and still trying to manage my household isn't working out well. Working from home is okay but then I feel guilty that I am not in the office more. Bringing Orion to work with me hasn't worked out well. I should have learned by now. At my last job I brought him every Wednesday morning, which worked fine when he went to his class at church. As much as he should do fine with helping me clean, put stuff away, just play, he doesn't and bringing him to work with me is never a good idea and should only be used as a last resort.

I am feeling exhausted, fed up, and like life is just out of balance. I feel bad I can't provide Orion better routine and structure and that his behavior is suffering. When I am at work I feel guilty that the kids are at home and I am not spending time with them. When I am at home spending time with the kids I feel guilty that I haven't got more work done that week. Mom guilt, it's real!

Only 30 more days until school starts...send wine, send coffee, send cupcakes, and most importantly pray for me. I hope we all make it...



Michelle

Friday, May 5, 2017

Run For Your Life


Want to win a 5 pack class pass to be used at any participating Fit4Mom location (Greater Denver, North Metro Denver, and Northern Colorado franchises)? Head to Facebook to enter! Giveaway ends 5/12!

Fit4Mom is an organization near and dear to my heart! I have never been athletic or much into working out but in 2010, when we lived in Maryland I heard about a Couch to 5K at our local running store and I signed up. Something in me changed! I set goals and beat them! I loved socializing with the other participants and successfully ran my 1st 5K race that summer.

The next fall I signed up for their 10K training and ran my 1st 10K race and just kept on running! In 2011 when I got pregnant with our 4th child, I knew I didn't want to lose this fitness I had built up. I was determined to run as far along in my pregnancy as I could manage. I ran until about 24 weeks when a cold snap hit Colorado and I was starting to really show.

The problem with stopping running is it is hard to get back into it! During our 2011 move from Maryland to Colorado and my subsequent pregnancy, I never did find a training group that was my speed. Then came a baby who never slept and was very high needs and running and exercising did not happen for this mama!

Two of my friends, who didn't know each other both opened Fit4Mom franchises in the area. I checked out their openings but I wasn't sure it was my thing. One of the owners, Darcy Peters, persistently encouraged me to sign up for the Fit4Mom marathon and half marathon training. If she didn't persist I would have never said, "yes"! A marathon seemed beyond my reach but with some time, a lot of hard work, and some encouragement, maybe, just maybe I could run a half marathon. 

That was December 2013 and I am currently training for my 4th half marathon! Running is my outlet. It keeps my mind clear when my world is chaos. It keeps me exercising. It keeps me connecting with other moms. It keeps me setting goals and working towards them. It keeps me doing something for me and me alone.

Fit4Mom was the group I needed. It was structure, it was accountability it was experienced coaches, it was friendship, and it was encouragement. I would have never crossed those finish lines without those ladies who logged all those miles along side with me. We have laughed and shared way too many TMI moments. There is something about running together, where you just bond. Running friends are the best friends!

May 2014 Colorado Half Marathon Fit4Mom Team

In May, 2014 I successfully completed my 1st half marathon, the Colorado half marathon. I started my race with all my teammates but one teammate stayed with me the entire race. She likely could have finished several minutes ahead of me but she never left my side. We finished together and it was an awesome feeling to have accomplished something that many people will never come close to!

My 2nd oldest and my youngest cheering Ginger and I on the race course


Happy Finisher!

I took a short break from training but started back in July to train for the Denver Rock n Roll half marathon in October. Fit4Mom was there again, along with my awesome teammates and friends. Training for a half marathon, you log a fair amount of miles over about 4 months. Not only did these ladies faithfully show up each week for our long runs, we often met up once or twice during the week to get in our shorter, midweek training runs. 

The Denver Rock n Roll half I was on pace with a great friend of mine, LeAnn. When she struggled, I encouraged her along, when I struggled she encouraged me. I beat my 1st half marathon time by several minutes and came in about 2 minutes under my goal. I was a happy runner!

Fit4Mom Northern Colorado Denver Rock n Roll Team!


LeAnn and I proudly holding those medals we earned!

After almost 10 months of training I was getting mentally fatigued and needed a break. A lot of my team mates went on to train for the 2015 Colorado Half Marathon but I needed a break. Darcy Peters, the Northern Colorado Fit4Mom franchise owner encouraged me to try a BodyBack class. I was hesitant to say the least. I had come to love running but don't love exercising otherwise. I had never dieted but becoming healthier and losing weight was appealing. Plus I loved these ladies and two set dates each week to see my mom friends sounded like a bonus!

From the end of 2014, all of 2015, and the beginning of 2016 I took 3 sessions of BodyBack and I came to love the HITT style workouts. The diet part was hard for me but I saw results! My family loved the dinner recipes and some are still in our regular rotation. It was awesome to do assessments at the beginning of BodyBack and measure how fast you could run a mile, how long you could hold a plank, etc. and then at the end of the session seeing how much you had improved. Then there is the before and after photos and inches and pounds lost. I always saw great results and it was awesome to do it in a supported, fun atmosphere, with women who had become my friends.

Then these crazy friends of mine, talked me into a race I thought I'd never do. Horsetooth Half Marathon. Those of you not from Fort Collins may not realize but this is a tough, tough race! You run up a mountain, partially down, then back up another mountain. I am social person and once several of my friends who I had made through Fit4Mom committed to Horsetooth Half I signed up. The training was great. Yes, lots of cold days in January and February but we were ready to race. The day of the race it was snowing like crazy, blowing sideways, not the type of weather you want for a big race you've been preparing for 3.5 months for. With my Fit4Mom teammates and friends, Joni and Dara by my side, the 3 of us crossed the finish line of the Horsetooth Half Marathon. I am still so proud that despite that weather, all 3 of us finished! It wasn't our fastest half marathon but we ran a half marathon, up a mountain, in a snow storm. There was nothing we couldn't accomplish!

Still smiling after a snowy and hilly Horsetooth Half

Fit4Mom isn't just running training or BodyBack, it is friendship and support, and healthy lifestyles and healthy families. Their flagship class, Stroller Strides allows you to workout while you bring your baby in the stroller with you. They also offer Fit4Baby, pregnancy fitness and StrollerBarre, classes for moms with baby. I have so many great memories with these ladies. Not only of running and exercising together but of ladies night out and fun times together.


One year Fit4Mom had a team at the Color Vibe 5K

Being part of the Fit4Mom family the past 3 years changed me and my approach to fitness. It has grown my love of running and it has shown me that I can dream big and accomplish those dreams. There is nothing I cannot do if I put my mind to it and work hard towards my goals. 


Another bucket list item, hubby and I climbed not one but two 14ers


Want to learn more about upcoming Fit4Mom events?

Greater Denver event- Anniversary Class for all mamas at all locations to attend 

North Metro - Stroller Strides Lafayette Grand Opening at Waneka Lake Park

Northern Colorado - Mother's Day 5K


All opinions are my own and based on my own experience participating in Fit4Mom programs. I was compensated for my time to prepare this post and share it via social media.








Michelle

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2017 Goals


It's still the first month of the year so I want to post my goals. It has been a few years but I posted my goals here on my blog in 2013, 2012, and 2011. I like accountability so here you go, 2017 goals:

Health/Fitness/Running

-Do not purchase junk food for the home. Limit treats to special occasions. Eat Whole 30 85% of the time (eat healthy except occasional, purposeful deviation).

-3 non running workouts per week (CourtsPlus or West Fargo Moms on the Run).

-Run the Fargo Half Marathon on May 20, 2017. Run 200 or more miles in 2017. Run 3 times per week.

Marriage

-12 dates per year, 1 overnight trip.

Kids

- 3 one-on-one dates per kid this year.

Social

-Attend one social event where I can meet new people or get to know acquaintances better.

Spiritual

-Join a small group and attend weekly or bi-weekly for at least 3 months.

Financial

-Refill emergency fund.

-Pay cash for vacations.

-Buy a camper.

Personal

-Get Orion to school before 8:15am everyday. Being on time or early makes for a great start to my day.

-Get Orion to bed each night by 8:30pm. Getting Orion to bed earlier will give me some free time each night but still allow me to fall asleep around 10pm each night.

Home Projects

-Finishing staining trim, doors, and cabinets upstairs.

Travel

-Disney cruise.

-1 trip to Colorado.

-1 trip to North Carolina.


Those are my goals for 2017. What are your goals? What do you think about what I am trying to achieve this year?




Michelle

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year In Review


2016 was a year of many changes and many adventures for our family. I thought it would be fun to do a year in review post to highlight some of the big changes or adventures we took in 2016. 


Grand Canyon


During spring break in March we took our beat up 20 year old pop-up camper on a big adventure! We spent one week visiting The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.We encountered white out conditions in southern Utah and decided to get a hotel and finish our drive in the morning. The National Park campgrounds were all full so we had to stay at a RV Park just outside the park. It got down to 29 degrees overnight and our heater wouldn't work at first but thankfully Nate was able to fix it. It was quite the adventure! It was just as beautiful as I had remembered it though it had probably been 25 years since my last visit. We enjoyed ranger led activities, seeing wildlife, hiking the rim, and hiking several miles down into the canyon. Orion was a rock star this trip and hiked miles each day on his own!


Hiking into the canyon


The canyon rim


Zion National Park

Zion National Park did not disappoint! It was gorgeous! Once again all the first come, first served campsites were full so we had to stay at an RV park. Apparently spontaneous trips aren't allowed anymore. Someday we'd love to go back and hike the river bed. The dripping overhangs, river, wildlife, and scenery were all beautiful.We wrapped up the trip visiting friends in Grand Junction, exploring Colorado National Monument, and spent a full day swimming and soaking in the hot springs. Awesome spring break trip!


Colorado National Monument


Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

In April, Nate accepted a promotion opportunity with his company in Fargo, North Dakota. We were moving over 800 miles away and Nate would be headed there in 4 weeks. We furiously got our house ready to sell. Thankfully it went under contract right away. The first weekend our house was for sale we took a trip to Colorado Springs and visited the Garden of Gods among other sites. 


Downtown Fargo

Debt Free!

With our big move and house sale we were able to pay off the rest of our student loans. We were officially debt free (except our house) 6/28/16. We purchased our 2nd home 6/29/16 and were able to get a 20 year low fixed rate mortgage and put 25% down. Home sweet home in Fargo!


Bought our 2nd house


One thing our big move left me without was a job! After working for 3 years as a full-time salaried employee in a job I loved, I was a bit lost at first. I wanted to take some time to visit my dad who had been ill, visit my sister, and take time to get the kids settled before I looked for a new job. The summer was a whirlwind as Nate started work in May, the kids and I didn't arrive until July, we were only here 3 weeks then we left for a month on the road, only to get back in time for school to start. So thankful to have had that time with my dad (and my sister) this summer and for all the amazing sites we got to see between Fargo and Orlando.


Anheuser Busch St. Louis Missouri

Clydesdales

Our first stop on our trip was St. Louis, Missouri. This was a last minute addition as Nate needed to travel there for work just two weeks after we got into Fargo so we started out road trip early and met him in St. Louis. It was neat to see a city I had never explored but it was HOT while we were there. 105 on the heat index and extremely humid! We toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery, watched a Cardinals game (where I was sure I was melting from the heat), had local custard and soda, visited the science center, and Wynter met up with a friend she met on last year's cruise. Fun stop on our trip!


St. Louis Cardinals game


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg, TN

Our next stop was Gatlinburg, Tennessee where my dad met up with us for the first part of our visit with him. I had never visited Gatlinburg or the Great Smoky Mountains so this was a real treat for me. Once again, never enough time to truly explore and I would love to go back and do some longer hikes when it isn't so hot and humid.


Skinny Dip Falls Asheville

After 2 nights in Gatlinburg we went back to my dad's for almost two weeks there. We took a day trip to explore Asheville. I asked a friend who lives there and she recommended Skinny Dip Falls. It is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a gorgeous drive by itself but a short hike back and you are rewarded with hidden natural waterfalls, pools, and a deep rock jumping pool. It reminded me of Maui, Hawaii and the road to Hana, gorgeous for sure!


Caribbean Beach Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach was a highlight of our trip. I wish Nate was able to join us for this leg of the trip but he had to work. My dad, his wife, and my niece and nephew joined us at the Caribbean Beach Resort. The resort location and amenities made our time there so special. The property was on the beach so it was easy to go from the beach, to the pool, and to the condo. The only negative was Myrtle Beach experienced record jelly fish the days we were there and both Brennan and Phoenix got stung several times both times they tried to swim. Our ocean time was limited to shallow wading. The pool area was awesome though! Water slide, two lazy rivers, 4 pools, 4 hot tubs, and 2 kids play structures with fountains and spray features for kids. We would love to go back. 


Walt Disney World, Florida

Magic Kingdom

Hubby was able to meet us in Orlando and join us for the rest of our trip. My sister lives in the Orlando area so we got to spend several days with her. We spent one full day inside magic kingdom, another day touring the grounds of the Art of Animation Resort, and another day at Disney Springs. We swam at my sister's neighborhood pool which was awesome and went to Cocoa Beach while the older boys went to Cape Canaveral to tour the NASA facility there. It was a very pleasant temperature our entire time in Orlando. A welcome break from the oppressive heat and humidity we experienced in MO, TN, and NC, the previous few weeks.


Disney World

Disney World

Nashville Parthenon

I tried to plan our trip so we were in the car no more than 7-9 hours each day. I also gave us 2 nights to explore each new city so we had a day without car time in the middle. Our next stop was Nashville where we toured the city and visited the Dave Ramsey show live during his radio broadcast.


Visiting the Dave Ramsey Show

Mammoth Cave National Park

One awesome part about having flexible plans is when we came across Mammoth Cave National Park we were able to stop, do a cave tour, and spend about 3 hours there. Not in our original plan but so awesome. We truly love the National Parks! 



Navy Pier, Chicago

The Cloud Gate, Chicago Bean

Our next stop was Chicago! I was excited because I had never been to Chicago. I was expecting New York, which in some ways it is like but it definitely has a Midwest friendly, slightly slower pace vibe that NYC didn't have. I actually loved Chicago and would love to spend some more time there. It is a day's drive from us so definitely possible for that to happen at some point. We explored the zoo, Navy Pier, The Cloud Gate, the amazing park next to the Cloud Gate, ate Chicago style pizza, and a Chicago style hot dog. We went rode the train from our hotel, which is always fun for the kids.


Brennan bought his 1st car and got his driver license

In 2016, Brennan turned 16, got his driver license, and bought his own car. It is awesome having another driver in the house. I know he is enjoying the additional level of freedom and being able to have a job and drive himself back and forth from his job.


Breckenridge Brewery Colorado

In October, Nate's grandma passed away so we drove back to Colorado for the funeral. It is always hard to say goodbye to a family member but she lived a good, long life! We stayed a couple days after the funeral and spent time with Nate's dad, brother, and extended family.


Orion started playing hockey

Those of you that know me well know we are not a sports crazy family. I am not a soccer mom, honestly with 3 kids that played soccer from 1-10 years I hope to never sit through a youth soccer game again. I was not ready for Orion to start team sports but our neighbor told us about this amazing program through Fargo Youth Hockey where you pay $40 for 6 lessons and if you sign your child up for hockey ($150 for the 5 month season) you get to keep all the gear for free. So Orion got every single piece of gear for free. I mean, skate, stick, pads, bag, everything. It seemed like it was too good an offer to pass up. We tried it, figuring he wouldn't be ready as he had only ice skated twice before but he LOVED it and was skating well by lesson 3. They split them up into teams and we now have practice Saturday and game Sunday with an occasional weekday afternoon practice. I hear it gets more intensive and expensive but so far we love hockey. I even am helping the Fargo Youth Hockey Association with a fundraiser they are doing on February 9th for Giving Hearts Day where 350 area charities have partnered up to raise funds that day and access matching funds to help their organization. So far that has been fun!


Wynter bought her 1st car and got her driver license


We moved while Wynter still held her permit so we weren't sure what that would mean but North Dakota made it easy and she was still able to get her license on time. A few days later she purchased her own car. I now have two licensed drivers with their own cars in my house. Hard to wrap my head around but so convenient!

Besides that I think we are settling in well here in Fargo. We have a great church and an awesome neighborhood with tons of kids. Orion was out playing every day it was warm with other boys his age. Our house is about 700 sq ft and 1 bedroom smaller but we added a 3rd shower, a 3rd car garage, and a bigger lot so it is working well. I love our kitchen and master bath that had been recently updated and love the hardwood floors upstairs. Overall 2016 was a great year for us!


Michelle

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Our Journey to Debt Freedom Part 2


If you missed part 1 you can read it here.

We were sick and tired of being sick and tired. We were done with college, deep in debt, and not earning nearly as much income as we thought we would be. We felt like we were barely keeping our heads above water and living paycheck to paycheck like most Americans. 

We first heard about Dave Ramsey from a coworker of mine at the law firm I worked at in 2008. She let me borrow a copy of the book, "The Total Money Makeover" and it all started making sense. I had Nate read the book too. We eventually got our own copy of the book so we could make notes, re-read, and photo copy budget sheets to stay on track. This introduction was a good taste of what we needed to do but it took us several months to truly get fired up.

Nate graduated in December 2008. Just as the economy was tanking. He looked for an engineering job in Colorado for 6 months when we finally decided to take a job offer in Maryland in early 2009. Once in Maryland we were earning a professional salary instead of being broke college students and it was time to get to work. I started a full-time nanny job about 5 months after we moved and we were a two income earner family for the first time ever. 

Dave Ramsey said you need to tell your money what to do. We started making a written budget but struggled with sticking with it. Every time we fell off the horse, we just got back on again. It was slow and steady progress. We tried the cash envelopes several times during our time in Maryland 2009-2011 but could never quite get it to work as it should. We started hammering away at our credit card debt, paying big chunks at a time. It felt good to not have that huge burden hanging over our heads. In 2011 Nate received a great job offer back in Colorado with a raise, in a city we thought could be our forever home. By the time we moved back to Colorado in June 2011 we had paid off $28,000 in credit card debt and $20,000 in car loans, $48,000 in loans in less than 3 years since we first heard about Dave Ramsey. All while not earning more than $80,000 combined income for our family of 5. Eliminating all debt except our student loans was an amazing relief and there truly is peace without that burden on your shoulders.

I'd like to say we just kept at it and knocked out those $80,000 student loans right away but that's not our story. I had wanted a 4th child for many years and we had both agreed we would wait until Nate could advance his career and our finances were stable enough I could stay home full time until the baby was in kindergarten or 1st grade. Originally we thought we'd pay off all our student loans first. During a week long Yellowstone camping trip in July 2011 Nate said he didn't want to wait anymore, he was only getting older, and let's go for it. Needless to say, I got pregnant our first month trying and 9 months later we were blessed with our final addition to our family. I did stay home with Orion at first. While Nate received a raise we were without my income. We got lazy about budgeting and saving, busy focused on getting ready for the new baby and didn't make significant progress during late 2011 and early 2012.

I went back to work full time in June 2013 and we started paying extra towards our debt. Essentially my entire income should have been going to student loans but it didn't work like that. We never were good about sticking to a written budget during this period and had a lot of two steps forward, one step back. We had a really good household income and were frustrated that we weren't making headway like we'd like to. We decided to take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our church fall of 2014. That was one of the best decisions we've ever made. The structure, discipline, and accountability of the class were keys to our success. We learned new things from the book and video but mostly from the facilitators and other classmates. We were determined to finish paying off the rest of our student loans ASAP. Some months we made thousand of dollars in extra payments, some months it was only $1200 or $1500 but we kept chugging along. We made goal boards for our bedroom and kept those goals within sight each day so we knew what we were working towards.

Another thing that we took away from Financial Peace University was truly using the cash envelope system as designed. Cash hurts to pay with. You are handing away some of your hard earned money instead of mindlessly swiping your credit card. The thing with cash is when it is gone, it's gone. This was a huge wake up call to me. Especially in our spending money category. Nate and I started out with $40 per week each for coffee, treats, lunch out, or we could save it for something for ourselves. We soon realized our budget didn't have that much extra so we cut back to $20. Thinking through our purchases and stopping when money was out was an important thing to learn. We also used cash for groceries, restaurants, and entertainment. It was fun to stretch the budget and have money left over.

June 2016 was another milestone for our family. Another big cross country move and another promotion for Nate. Our house in Colorado had gone up significantly in value and we were able to buy a new house with $85,000 or 25% down and keep our payment the same as well as take the rest of our equity and pay off the remaining balance on our student loans. It was an amazing feeling! We truly feel like it has been a marathon and a hard one at that but we have changed our family tree!

Instead of living paycheck to paycheck, giving into instant gratification, we now can plan, save, and spend money on the things we want to enjoy. We are putting money away in retirement and want to start investing. We have a fully funded emergency fund and 20 year mortgage with a very low rate. Someday soon our mortgage will be paid off too and we will not owe anyone any money. Our way of thinking about money has changed. We won't finance anything again. If we need a new car and we don't have cash for what we want then we'll lower our standards. If we want to take a nice vacation, we'll save for it. It takes planning, effort, and discipline but most importantly I hope we are teaching our kids these lessons now so they can start their adult lives without the heartache and stress of digging out of significant debt. Just because everyone in America is doing it, it isn't right. You can save up for your purchases, you can get ahead, you can win with money, and you then can bless others with your money too.

Visiting Ramsey Headquarters August 2016 on the way back from visiting family. We get to do our debt free scream live on air during the radio show 11/8 3-4pm CST!


Michelle

Monday, August 1, 2016

Our Journey to Debt Freedom: Part 1

Debt Free!

Our path to debt freedom was a long and windy one but we finally made it June 28, 2016! We are completely debt free except our mortgage! How'd we get here?

Part 1: Stupid Mistakes

Nate and I both grew up with similar backgrounds. We weren't poor, we always had food on the table, and a roof over our heads but we weren't wealthy growing up either. Our parents didn't travel a lot. I got a few new clothes when school started and at birthdays and Christmas but our parents couldn't afford expensive or fancy things. Both Nate and I got married young and had kids young. Both of us knew if we wanted to go to college we'd be paying for it ourselves. I don't remember being specifically taught about money as a kid. 

As a young adult and as a single mother I bought into American way of instant gratification. I can put it on the credit card and pay for it later. I can finance the new car because I need something reliable. I can rack up thousands of dollars in student loans because I am going to go to law school and make good money and it will be easy to pay off the loans. How else I am going to get a better job or get ahead or ever be able not to struggle financially if I don't go to college?

Instant gratification is a terrible American cultural lie. You do not need what you want, when you want it! You can save for it, work hard, work a 2nd job, buy 2nd hand, or wait. It won't kill you, I promise. A lot of the credit card debt I racked up was as a single mom on monthly budget shortfalls from having too high of living expenses for the income I was bringing in. I didn't live a lavish lifestyle but I could have made better choices. Reduce grocery cost, buy a used car, find a cheaper apartment. The thing was at the time I didn't want to. I justified all these as necessary things at the time. I had to live in a safe neighborhood as a single mom. I had to have a reliable car that didn't break down. Both are true but there is a middle ground.

After owning 2 used cars that were horrible and broke down non-stop I decided to lease a new Honda Accord. Piling money into used cars wasn't something I could afford but I also couldn't afford a lease. Leasing a car is a horrible financial decision as you take on all the immediate depreciation of a new car but technically don't own the car in the end. I ended up buying out my lease with a used car loan and drove that car 8 years until I was pregnant with my 4th child and we couldn't all fit in a 5 seat vehicle. It was a great car and I got good trade in value when I traded it for my van but I don't even want to know how much I paid in interest and how much lost value I took on by leasing it.

Student loans, the golden ticket to success in America! No way! Nate and I both bought into the lie that the only way to get ahead was through a college degree. While I enjoyed my time in college and I am proud that I graduated with my Bachelors degree there are ways to do it without going into debt. Even 9 years after graduating from college I don't make that much more than I did at the bank without a college degree. Nate has an engineering degree and has seen huge jumps in his salary because of his degree. He almost doubled his salary out of college and over the past 8 years has almost doubled it again. Having a degree for him has paid off but he could have gotten a degree slower without going into debt. That is what I wish I did, continued to go to college part-time and cash flow my degree. If I get one point across do not take out student loans! I repeat do not take out student loans. They will haunt you forever. There may not seem like there is another way but there are other ways, scholarships, work study, full time work and part-time college. 

When we started attacking our debt we had $128,000 in debt! Staggering amount for two young adults with minimal income and 3 kids. Our debt broke down into $28,000 (half Nate's, half Michelle's) in credit cards, $20,000 ($10,000 left on two car loans both bought new), $80,000 student loans ($35,000 Michelle, $40,000 Nate). It was utterly overwhelming! 

In Part 2: I'll fill you in on what we decided to do about it.


Michelle