It’s that special time of year for personal finance bloggers – time to update your debt payoff and/or net worth numbers. While commenters often say it’s nice to read these posts for the transparency, the best part for me is being able to look back and see how far we’ve come.
At the beginning of 2015, we had over $43,000 on our credit cards, with interest rates of 9.9% to a whopping 27%. Since then, we’ve been able to pay down balances and decrease our interest charges by taking out a consolidation loan (7.99%).
We started 2017 with one credit card with a balance of $1,600 and the loan with a balance of $21,000. Over the course of the year we were able to pay off that last credit card* (YAY!) and get the loan down to $14,200. We’re going to try to pay off this loan, in full, by the end of 2018.
Consumer Debt Paid Off = $8,400
We have two mortgages. One is for our residence. We also held onto our starter home and are renting it out to a friend. Paying off these mortgages ASAP is part of our plan to reach financial independence.
Principal on Mortgages Paid Off = $4,000
After reading my announcement about being an attorney, you probably realized why student loans are such a big part of our debt payoff journey. The total numbers for my undergraduate and law school loans always seemed so unconquerable. However, year by year, we’ve been chipping away at them and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Principal on Student Loans Paid Off = $12,500
Debt Payoff Progress
The past two years we’ve paid off about $20,000 in debt each year. In 2017, that number was closer to $25,000. One of the big reasons we’ve been able to increase that amount, is that our interest rates have been decreasing. It’s a great feeling to be able to pay more towards your actual debt, instead of paying so much towards interest.
My 401(k) is up to just over $34,000, which is an increase of $10,000 from last year. We still have our two vehicles, which I value around $10,000. In 2017, we also purchased our bus, for $5,000, in cash. There were some costs to buy the bus and get it on the road, but none of it was put on any type of payment plan or credit card.
We still have a couple of thousand dollars in our HSA account. Our focus was contributing enough to cover all of the childbirth expenses associated with the twins. But it’s nice to have a little bit of an emergency fund for medical expenses.
How Did We Do It?
Frugality – The primary reason we’ve been able to improve our finances is that we’ve stopped spending so much money on unnecessary things. It’s become our new normal to skip eating out, cut our own hair, grow vegetables in our garden, and only buy “new” clothes at consignment stores.
Swagbucks – I only earned $150 in 2016 and had a goal of increasing that amount in 2017. I ended up earning $350 in Amazon Gift Cards (mostly spent on diapers) and PayPal Cash. Read more about Swagbucks here.
Tutoring – I’ve been working in online tutoring for the past couple of years. It takes place twice a year and has to do with my occupation. In 2017, it helped me earn $2,300.
Blogging – This blog very much remains a labor of love. After taking out expenses, I earned approximately $300 over the year.
Freelancing – I have been having a lot of trouble finding the time to do freelance work since the twins were born. However, looking back at my work from earlier in the year, I made approximately $500.
2017 – A Lost Year?
This has been a stressful year for our family. The twins are wonderful, but they have definitely pushed us into survival mode. Even during the pregnancy, I found myself having so much trouble with everyday tasks, let alone finding the energy to hustle very much. It felt like a year lost to adjustments in becoming a family of seven.
Yet, these numbers are encouraging. I think we’ve reached a type of financial automation point. Our finances are steadily moving in the right direction just by sticking with our new status quo. Thanks to our frugal lifestyle and a little side hustling, we were able to pay off $25,000 in debt, buy a bus, and invest in my 401(k)! And don’t forget, we’ve been a one-income family for most of the year.
Related: Take a trip in a time machine and read My Post From Last Year
Looking Ahead To 2018
My word for the year is “Healthy.” I want to work on balance. However, the knowledge that just sticking with our current efforts resulted in increasing financial gains in 2017, tempts me to push a little bit harder with side hustles this year.
I have five children and a husband who need my attention. I don’t want to set unrealistic goals for myself, but I don’t want to just settle and be complacent either. We still have big goals for the future. But we are in a much better situation with the new job, which has a slightly higher take-home pay than my previous one. I think that with a little extra side hustling, we should be able to pay off the consolidation loan while keeping up with all of other financial efforts.
Beyond our finances, I’m really excited for this year. My new, largely work-from-home position is such a blessing. I’m able to spend more with my family and help out more at home. It feels like I’m “working” even more, but with less stress and a better sense of balance. I anticipate that next year’s update is going to be a monumental one.
Tell me: What did you accomplish in 2017? Did you hit any big money goals?
*We do still have one credit card that we use for our monthly expenses, to earn cashback points, and pay off in full every month.