So where were we in this chronicle? Oh yeah, it was 2010 and my ex-wife and I had just separated. The break-up was fairly amicable. We split our finances fairly evenly. From our split I ended up keeping my personal retirement accounts and she kept hers. We split our savings account, which left me with a few thousand dollars. I kept this money to the side as an emergency fund in case anything more happened.
It was during this break-up, during the summer of 2010 that Mrs. Reaching Our Balance and I rekindled a romance that had fizzled many years prior to that. The truth is I have been in love with Mrs. ROB for years, but never really got the opportunity to fully pursue a relationship until 2010. The kicker was that Mrs. ROB lived in one state and I lived over 1500 miles away. But I wasn’t going to let true love slip through my fingers this time. So I began doing extra things at work to make more money. I taught extra classes, took any duty that I could that would make me more money so that I could continue our long-distance relationship.
Moreover, I felt that I had to cement our new relationship with all kinds of stuff. So for the next two years I made extra money, but used all of that money to: take trips back to visit Mrs. ROB once a month, go out to fancy restaurants, go on various trips. We went to Iceland, Disneyworld, Mexico, Belgium, Australia, the New York Finger Lakes region, Las Vegas, and other places. Some of these trips, at least my portion, was paid by my job because I combined these trips with conferences for my work. In essence, I took a working vacation. But a number of the trips: Iceland, Disneyworld, Mexico, etc were nothing but pleasure cruises. And I ended up paying for most of the trips because Mrs. ROB wasn’t making much money at the time.
Also, Mrs. ROB and I got engaged and planned a destination wedding. All of these items I financed with credit cards and the extra money I was earning. Because of my divorce settlement I was able to hold off the financial wolves for a while, but it wasn’t long before I burned through all of those savings, which was supposed to be an emergency fund, and was putting Mrs. ROB’s engagement ring, wedding, trips back to see her, and her moving expenses on credit cards.
I was making more money than I ever had in my life, but it was all being used to finance what I thought needed to happen. The truth is I didn’t need to go out to fancy dinners, travel back to visit the Mrs every month, go out all the time, and take all of those trips. Mrs. ROB would’ve loved me no matter what, but for whatever reason I felt like I had to. I don’t regret the memories they made. They were great. But I went way overboard. I mean we went abroad 4 times within 8 months of dating each other. That is CRAZY!!! I knew full well what I was doing, but I figured that once certain things occurred it would be all right. I could just make more money or cut things out at home to balance it all out. The things that I expected to come in (eg. Extra monies, etc) never did. I did cut back at home, but it wasn’t enough to finance the lifestyle I thought I needed I and wound up racking up more credit card debt. My car was totaled so I bought a used car that was almost brand new instead of buying something fairly used. Simply put I wasn’t making smart decisions financially. I could’ve had very similar experiences by toning it down, but I went above and beyond and didn’t need too.
So in August 2012, Mrs. ROB are finally married. She moves from our home state to be with me and I finally start to gather all of the information about our finances. Of course it took me four months to do this and I don’t do it until I go off to a conference in Copenhagen and Mrs. ROB joins me from a trip that she had taken for school to Northern Ireland.
Finally, I gather all of our financial material and realize that I am now $117000 in debt. About $73,000 of that was student loans and another 10 was a car loan, but that means I had racked up almost $35000 in debt from our excursions and dinners and what not. Now Mrs. ROB has her own student loan debt, but discussions of her finances are for a different time.
For those of you reading this you might imagine how this hit me. I mean I knew I had debt and I knew I had accumulated a lot, but I didn’t realize how fast I had burned through my savings (which were gone) and had accumulated all of this other debt. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn’t understand what I was thinking and doing. Here I am a well-educated individual, who makes a good living, and who is neck-deep in stupidity. It was at that moment in late January 2013 that I made the decision I didn’t want to do this anymore. I was sick of debt. I was sick of living like this. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sleep. I wanted that debt gone like now and the only way I knew how was to work even more and dig myself out.
Now that digging myself out didn’t occur right away. Like any good academic I did my research. I read personal finance blogs, books by financial advisors, started listening to Dave Ramsey again, and subscribed to different financial magazines to figure out what some of the best ways to pay off debt was. At first, I really didn’t even develop a system. I just kind of treaded water for a while; all the time keeping up with my payments on my student loans, but never attacking it with the scorched earth that Dave Ramsey recommends.
I probably took about two months to gather this information and then I was determined to pay off debt. Over the next year I paid off about $20,000. I paid off my car, got rid of one of my credit cards, made slight progress on my student loans. I continued to teach extra classes, do paid speaking gigs, anything extra I could to increase my income.
So here we are October 2014. I have about $95000 in debt. I actually have not paid off as much debt in the last six months for a variety of reasons, but most importantly because we bought a house (a post for another time) and we needed to buy furniture, make some home repairs, move, take care of some vet bills for our dog, etc. I am, at the moment, treading water a bit. But I am better off than where I was a year ago. This blog is my way of keeping myself honest; a record of my journey to pay off debt, pay off our mortgage, and become financially independent.
I have made mistakes over the last year and a half as I have started to pay off more debt, mistakes that I will share in future posts. But the good thing is that I recognize them and I don’t stop. I am more determined than ever to make a better life for myself, Mrs. ROB, and any future family we might have.. There will be fits and starts along this journey. I can’t promise we won’t take a trip abroad (for a conference of course) or not go out to eat or buy a new couch. But I can promise that I am not going back to that financial place in 2013. I have caught the financial independence bug and I mean to see this through to the end; whatever the “end” might mean.