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My Tale Over the Last Year

January 16th, 2009 at 07:17 pm

So I went back and starting reading some of my old entries. I like to think of where I was and how I got to where I am now. That got me to thinking about how my attitude and general outlook has changed on things.

October 2007 – The breaking point.

Prior to October of 2007, I was keeping my head above water, living paycheck to paycheck. I had some credit card debt, 2 car loans, and a mortgage. I was spending more then I made but was making payments on everything. We were going out to dinner a lot and blowing money on who knows what.

In August, my second son was born. A few days after we took him home, he started to have seizures. We took him to the emergency room and he spent the next 10 days in the NICU. They ran every test (blood, chromosome, ekg, etc.) and had specialist from Boston drive out. I turned out be a gland issue that corrected itself in the following few weeks.

I had insurance so I was thinking maybe a small bill but nothing too bad. Well August comes, the charges start coming in – over $30,000. I fight with the insurance company, I fight with the wife. The wife says we need the Cadillac of insurance. Cost - $1,250 a month. The hospital says I need to start paying them at least $1,500 a month. Christmas is around the corner.

Feelings of despair start to creep in. I'm in a hole and I don't know if I can get out. Every time I hit bottom, there seems further to go.

December 2007 – Starting to gain control

Late November, I created my first budget for December with the wife. It was a chore. There was bickering back and forth. We both made sacrifices and agreed to lifestyle changes.

The furnace broke in December, but I had money in the budget for it.

Over the next few months, unexpected expenses popped up but the budget was starting to get easier. I also paid off a big chunk of the medical and had a payment plan of $500 a month for the rest of the balance.

I was feeling control. Something that hadn't happened in a long time. I knew what was coming in and where it was going. Also, the bickering with my wife became less. I was still standing in a big hole, but I was now confident I was at the bottom or very close.

March 2008 – All pistons firing

When March rolled a round, the budget was easy. I had kept tightening it up. I actually trusted the budget and my funding plan. My two big expenses were health insurance and mortgage. They combined to $4,000 a month. If I could put $1,000 a week away, I would have all the money I would need for these. The funding plan was really the key. What part of which paycheck funded which expense.

I was also able to start looking at my goals and start projecting what I could get accomplished in 2008. I revamped my goals going from getting rid of one or two debts to getting rid of all my debt (but the mortgage).

I hadn't really noticed, but the hole was starting to fill up. Not a lot, but very slowly. I started to feel hope. In six months, I went from despair to hope.

June 2008 – Sucker punch.

By June, things were going so well I started planning a big birthday party for the wife. We had been sacrificing for 8 months and it was time let loose just a little and then buckle down and finish off the debt.

Well , no journey is smooth sailing. In June out of the blue, I received a medical bill from August of 2007 for $4,400. It was like someone sucker punched me. All my momentum form the previous months was gone. This threw off all my goals!!!

Sometimes you just have to look at yourself in the mirror and push through. That's what I did. It wasn't fun. I had goals that needed to be re-projected.

December 2008 – Big sigh of relief

In December, I paid off the last of my debt (except the mortgage), fully funded my 401 (k), got a will, and got term life insurance. Not only did I breathe a huge sigh of relief but I felt all this stress just disappear.

There is still a long way for me to go in my journey, but the turnaround in my attitude and outlook is remarkable. For those of you out there, I have been there when there is no hope and no control in your financial life. I have been just holding on. You can get through this. You will be tested and Murphy will show up. It's not easy and requires honesty, communication, and extreme sacrifices to your lifestyle.

The only thing I can tell you is that it's worth it.

19 Responses to “My Tale Over the Last Year”

  1. gamecock43 Says:

    wow. I didnt know about your story. I joined in August when you were well on your way and have always assumed you were ALWAYS the model saver you are now. I didnt realize you came so far in such a short amount of time. It feels like it takes ages to get on a good financial path...but then one day you look back and realize it took a lot less time than you thought it would.

  2. Broken Arrow Says:

    Wow, I didn't know about your story either, at least not about why you were here other than that you had some debt you were trying to pay off. For example, I didn't know your son was having seizures....

    I can completely relate to the sense of loss of control, and how remarkable it is to regain that sense.... It was exactly what I lost in my divorce and regained in its aftermath. Amazing how such a simple word can mean so much to a man....

  3. Ima saver Says:

    You have done a great job!

  4. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Merch, just in the last couple of weeks I was noticing how kind and supportive you have been on others' blogs. I'm afraid I had previously thought you projected a gloomier vibe. That is evidence as to how oppressive one's difficult personal finances can be....and how bouyant having it under control can be.

    In these blogs and over in the forums, there are people who have done remarkable jobs of pulling themselves out of big holes, even though sometimes it has taken years to do it. I really respect that. I never had to pull myself out of debt. Fearing the poverty of my teen years, I always acted as though those days could come again at any time, and so saved like crazy. People who've had to completely change their lives to pay off debts are more amazing than us ol' troopers who just have always slogged along, planned for the worst, lived below our means. It is like the one climbed a vertical cliff in an afternoon while the other just walked up the backside of the cliff on a nice shallow 2% rise, taking all their lives to do it. Give me the slow slope, but, wow, aren't those cliff climbers amazing!

  5. katwoman Says:

    Congratulations on getting out of debt and into the "plus" column! (I never get tired of reading this type of blog post.)

  6. Myrtle Says:

    What a post. You brought tears to my eyes! You have done just wonderful and I am so proud of you. Please continue to keep us posted.

  7. North Georgia Gal Says:

    COngratulations! In November 2008, I was where you were when you began, with not near as much debt! I was spending more than I made, living paycheck to paycheck. I had gotten to where I couldnt even make the minimums on my credit cards. I started posting, and created a budget. Just since November, I have noticed a huge difference! I am paying everything and have a plan to get it all caught up! I don't feel despair any longer. Your story re-affirms my belief that it can get better!

  8. Debtfreeme Says:

    Thank you for sharing the story of your family journey.

  9. whitestripe Says:

    oh merch. i didn't know your story either, only a little bit of it. you have always been very caring and supportive with your comments on my posts, and always looking out for everyone. never pushy and always thoughtful. your story is very heart-wrenching, especially as everything you have gone through is something that couldn't be avoided. i wish you only good things in 2009 and am looking forward to reading even more progress. you have come such a long way in a little while and i have no doubt that you will come through this strong as ever. *hugs* to all of you.

  10. Analise Says:

    You have had quiet a journey with your finances, but kudos on the impressive results. Thank you for sharing your story. No doubt you will inspire many others who are where you used to be... living paycheck to paycheck.

    I am so happy your baby is well after the scary experience you had in his first weeks of life.

  11. mooshocker Says:

    All I can say is wow! Post of the year so far! God Bless!!!

  12. scfr Says:

    Your family's story is amazing, and you're a real testament to what is possible.
    So glad your son is okay.

  13. baselle Says:

    Reading this post, I think you are lying about your title. In my mind, you are Mighty Merch.

  14. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad your son's problem wasn't long-term.

  15. Petunia Says:

    Merch, thanks for sharing your story. It's inspirational.

  16. dmontngrey Says:

    Thank you for sharing Merch! I had been aware of most of the details, but it was easier to follow summarized in one post. Very inspirational indeed! Even inspiring just one other person would make sharing this beyond worth it.

  17. monkeymama Says:

    Don't have much else to add - but definitely another thank you for sharing your story!

  18. Brenda Says:

    You have done a fantastic job and you are such an inspiration to others. I have nothing but respect for you. I look forward to reading your posts even though I haven't joined in the blogs yet. I just don't feel that I have much to add. I'm kind of like 'Joan.of.the.Arch' and have always had to save and scrimp. I try not to buy things until I've saved up the money for them and I live by the rule 'Don't count your money until it's in your hand'.

    I'm so glad your baby is doing well. You should be very proud of yourself and your family.

  19. Jerry Says:

    I'm really shocked (but not terribly surprised) to hear about that insurance company jerking you around. It's a terrible tale being repeated over and over again, and I suppose the only good that would lead from it is that it was part of the impetus for your remarkable transformation and great financial work! Not everyone could take a lemon like that and turn it into lemonade... nice going, and keep up the good work.
    Jerry

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