The Debt Epidemic

🚨Keepin it real rant ahead🚨

This is us..this is America..scary huh? What if I told you that we are all responsible for this culture of debt and living above our means and we all have to contribute to putting an end to this. It’s hurting us, our kids, our health, our planet, it’s an epidemic and I wish more people were feeling terrified about the topic. It just keeps getting worse each year, small credit card purchases, car payments, student loans, slowly adding up to over $13 trillion. 💳

Who’s ready to break the cycle?? And I don’t mean just pay off the minimums and maybe a little extra to continue to be a slave to debt for the rest of your life. I don’t mean to just do a debt consolidation or home equity loan or line of credit to pay off..because debt is still debt..whether it’s paying ten different people or paying one. And now that you’ve consolidated, guess what, you’re probably just going to add MORE debt now that you’ve freed up those credit cards. 🤷‍♀️

Your past will continue to haunt you if you aren’t ready to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that YOU created this mess, and YOU have to do the hard work to not only get out of it, but STAY out of it. You have to STOP talking about how you don’t make enough money, you’re just barely scraping by and don’t have any extra to pay, maybe once you pay off the car or once you get that tax return you will, or once you get a raise you will, you are lying to yourself. STOP playing the victim and STOP making excuses for your spending habits. You’re only hurting yourself.

Also, those student loans, yeah those suck just as bad as the credit cards, but you CHOSE to go to school and you took them out, so guess what? You owe it..so PAY that shit back already!

YOUR kids SEE you living that lifestyle, and they HEAR you fighting about money, and they FEEL your stress at the end of the month when there’s not enough paycheck to go around. They see you treating yourself “because you earned it”, and they are learning that shopping makes everything better..new stuff will take away that rough week..only it wont.

Harsh words, but let me ask again..who’s ready to break the cycle??

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Lifestyle Choices

This is going to be one of the hardest topics yet to cover at a very high level and also my first mention of FIRE in my writings (financial independence retire early). My goal is just to inform you of two choices and get you rethinking, especially if you feel like you don’t have choices and are stuck in your current financial position. I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the topic or to get into the HOW in this post. I have just dabbled with both lifestyles mentioned and I feel like there are not enough people (especially women) who are thinking about or providing information on the topic..so looks like you are stuck with me. 😜

The above picture is the best way I could summarize the concept of lifestyle creep. For now, as mentioned, this is just to introduce you to the topic, so I have a few stats and thought provoking questions to hopefully do so.

First..the stats tell an alarming story. I recently read in this USA Today article https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/34378157 that the average household is bringing in around $75,000 annually, and of that, they are spending 90% of it, which equates to $67,500 outgoing and only around $7,500 extra annually. (which the article states a lot of this is going towards interest payments on consumer debt). This breaks down to $5,625 in expenses each month and $625 extra. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room and helps paint a picture as to why people aren’t putting anything or very little towards saving, investing, emergency funds and retirement. 😳

Essentially pointing out that people are living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I don’t know that this was a surprise to any of us, but it may be a surprise that people are making the choice everyday with their actions and spending habits to live this way. Disclaimer that there are people living in poverty, so for the sake of my post, I am referring to the middle class mentioned above.

Now on to the questions. Feel free to answer in comments if you want to share, or just answer to yourself or as an internal conversation or with your significant other. Keep it real because denial is a great way to protect yourself from the truth right now, but long term in fact it just ends up hurting you more.

1) Are you living paycheck to paycheck like the scenario mentioned above?

2) Have you noticed that no matter what you do, you just can’t get ahead?

3) Do you receive regular raises or have you changed jobs to make additional money over the course of your career, yet you aren’t seeing a difference in your monthly budget after expenses because they always seem to match what’s coming in?

4) Do you ever pay attention to how much you spend on conveniences like pre-made food, someone to mow your lawn, someone to clean that big house, someone to wash that new car, someone to groom your dog, someone to do your hair/nails/makeup, etc because you are too busy working to do these things?

5) Have you ever wondered why things are like this for you and probably a lot of people you know, yet it’s still a taboo topic to discuss money, so everyone just keeps working harder and staying in the vicious cycle mentioned above?

6) What will happen if you change nothing and keep following this path?

Please reference the above picture as you are going through these questions to see if lifestyle creep has found a way to creep into your life. Remember..be honest.

Next, know that there is another option. As mentioned above, lifestyle creep is a choice and I’ve said this so many times on purpose. So many think they have no choice unless they make more money and this is far from the truth.

Lifestyle creep is a path that many in our society have walked and not challenged until recent years. Here are some questions to ask yourself and see if you’re one of those ready to challenge the traditional path and choose a different way.

1) What upsets you the most about always being broke and living paycheck to paycheck?

2) How has constantly feeling stressed from working so much and not having any money to show for it affected you?

3) What are your values and what are you spending your money on? Do they line up?

4) What are your passions and what do you dream about doing?

5) What could change if you have an open mind and put in the work, I mean really put in the work, to change your current financial path and mindset? Think of one quick and easy way you can change today.

6) What will happen if you start to live a lifestyle designed by you instead of others?

As mentioned, a lot of people have started looking at the above stats and questions, and are starting to make the decision to customize their lifestyle based on their own unique values, not what society tells them to value. Spoiler alert..it’s not through making more money as mentioned above..it has never been about that. It’s about a lifestyle of being content with only those things that bring you value. Luckily, it usually don’t cost anything at all, just the basics needed like food, shelter, experiences and none of the extra crap. 😊

Don’t get this lifestyle design twisted with a life of going without, because it’s actually the opposite of that. You have room for so much more when you let go of stupid shit.

Well..shocker..I have lots more to say but I’ve said enough for one day. What are your thoughts or questions on the two different paths mentioned above?

8 ways to eat out for less

Chipotle is my weakness and I love everything about it..except that it would cost my family around $750 a month if we ate it for dinner every night. 🤑

So we try to limit it to be a once a month treat, and try to find ways to make it even more affordable than it already is. Today, we got 6 servings of food for $16.72!! I also got enough napkins for both of our car glove boxes for the next few months..lol.

But while I was ordering today, I thought about some different ways that you can save money while eating out, no matter what you’re craving.

1. Don’t eat out at all..and if you’re like me and know that not eating out at all is a recipe for disaster, then limit it to once or twice a month and budget for it. (if I don’t eat out at all, then I will fall HARD off the wagon and go on a wildly expensive and unhealthy eating out binge)

2. Eat before hand. Yes you read that right..grab a snack first so you aren’t ordering more than you need or super sizing because you’re starving. Or if you’re eating out for dinner, make sure you had a good lunch that day.

3. Does everyone really need a meal or at minimum..their OWN meal? Likely not, so do like we do and make quesadillas at home for the kids and let them eat a little guacamole and chips as a side or you can share an order of food also.

4. Much like the previous tip, the portion sizes are ridiculous these days and WAY more than one person needs in one sitting. I ask for extra rice because it’s free, and I can make 3 meals out of one bowl.

5. Find some add ins or sides from home. We usually do chips from home and add some carrots and grapes for sides. Or if you’re ordering a pizza, skip the breadsticks and make a salad at home with it instead.

6. Look for promotions! Chipotle was doing BOGO for wearing a youth soccer jersey this weekend, so I dressed my soccer star in his and got a free bowl for it. I know Chick-Fil-A does similar dress like a cow promotions. This makes it fun also, because you can dress ridiculous and get some crazy second looks from people.

7. Join the rewards program. Don’t get me wrong..don’t use the rewards program as an excuse to eat out all the time, but if you can earn a free entree down the road for when you do plan to order, then take full advantage of that. If you’re like me and get excited and forget, Chipotle has a way to upload receipts afterwards. (as long as you do it within 30 days of ordering)

8. Do carry out. If you dine in, you are more likely to get pressured into adding on drinks, appetizers, and desserts that you don’t need. Also, you will need to add a minimum of a 20% tip, and tipping is also something you have to do for delivery. So avoid it and go grab your food and take it to the park or take it home to eat. Save the fancy sit down meals for extra special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday.

Those are some of my secrets to saving money while still getting your favorite fast food fix. What are some ways you save when eating out?!

My biggest financial mistake

Y’all might want to grab some popcorn. 🍿 I promise you will experience a wide range of emotions when reading this, including disappointment, anger, humiliation, sadness, confusion, and hope. At minimum, some good laughs as you get a glimpse into one of my biggest financial mistakes EVER.

I still remember 18 year old me getting my first car back at the turn of the century. 👵 I remember it to the day..because it was on September 11, 2001. I became the proud owner of a 1997 Geo Prizm that I signed up to get a loan on, and since I couldn’t get the loan on my own, my boyfriend co-signed for me. 😳 I was a full time college student and was working part time delivering pizza and taking the max in student loans that I could. 🍕 I remember my car payment being $225 and my car insurance being just as much. So I was paying $450 just for my car and insurance. That Geo started me on the road to bad choices..so buckle up and come along for the bumpy ride. 🤣

When that boyfriend and I had a bad breakup two years later (shocker), I wanted him out of my life completely. Now that I had two years of payments, I really showed him by walking into a dealership and buying a brand new 2003 Chevy Cavalier off the showroom floor with..wait for it..ground effects. 🤦‍♀️ Everyone please take a minute and reread that and laugh WITH me. It’s best to get a visual, so imagine me delivering pizza to you. But stay with me..it gets even better. I rolled in a few thousand bucks from that Geo Prizm that I traded in because I was “upside down” on that loan. My payment was now $364 a month and I can’t remember insurance cost, because I likely blacked that out of my memory.

I somehow still had friends for the two years I drove that thing around, so thank you to those who stuck with me through the hard times. 👭 Luckily my brother was driving that thing one day and totaled it. (don’t worry..he was fine) Also lucky me that the dealership saw nothing but dollar signs on my naive ass and sold me GAP coverage, along with everything else they sold. So I was now free and clear of that additional $10,000 that I was “upside down” in with car and old boyfriend baggage. 🧳

This is the part where you started fresh..right..Mindy..right..please tell me..oh geez. One may have taken that clear break as a sign. I took it as a sign to get that SUV with the third row I always wanted..as a single full time college student..still delivering pizza and now also working another job at a video store just to get by. 🙄 The year was 2005 and that 2001 Dodge Durango cost me $293 a month, and I’m still blocking insurance costs out, but we can assume around $125. I eventually got a job that was an hour commute, and this was when gas was $4 a gallon, so I was basically working for free. But that job also introduced me to the coworker who heard my bitching about money on the daily and sponsored me starting the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace classes at her church.

What do you all think I did next? What would Dave had done? 🤔

Stay tuned for Part 2..

This is us

I thought with all the new followers, it’s a good time to re-introduce the magic behind mysemibasiclife (you read that right..I totally referred to myself as the magic). To celebrate, my daughter humored me with a photo shoot, and my favorite was one of the bloopers. 😜

Sometimes life is more about what happens behind the scenes, between the “perfect” pictures, when you’re trying to pose and get the best lighting, hide that lazy eye, those wrinkles and those frizzy grey hairs. She captured all of these things, all of my imperfections, including crows feet I didn’t even know were there. How fitting to show my imperfections to all of you who have been following along on my imperfect journey to financial freedom. This is me..always laughing at my own jokes, never taking things too seriously, currently staring off into space like only a true dreamer can do. 🤷‍♀️

This is the entire family that puts up with my latest crazy schemes, understands the bigger picture behind those crazy schemes, sometimes appreciates my hilariously witty comments and penny pinching ways, and packs in the car with me for that fifth trip to the library in a two day period. 😂

You weren’t there for the early years, the dark debt days 😬 where we were living beyond our means and got ourselves into a financial spot where all of our paychecks were going towards debt. But you have now followed along as we ditched the debt, got rid of car payments and paid our last student loan off, which puts us at a grand total of $165,000 in consumer debt paid off!! You’re following as I am feeling weak, but holding strong and halfway through my #nospendyear. You followed along as we bought our first rental property and are following along now as we now search for the next one. 👀

We are excited to continue sharing our life after debt journey, including our ever changing goals, working on growing our net worth, celebrating the success, overcoming the setbacks, and the blood, sweat and tears along the way as we define what financial independence looks like for our family. 🔥

Enough about us though..I want to hear from you..what’s your story? What topics that I’ve covered have helped or would help you along your journey?

What questions do you have for me?

👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

$113,108.34 The true cost of our education

In the above picture from eleven years ago, I see a couple of crazy kids having fun at Mardi Gras without a care in the world. This was pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre debt-free lifestyle and pre-multiple bad hairstyles, including a year with bangs. 😬

The crazy kids above had been in the job force for several years, although I’m not really sure what Matt did then or what he does now even, but I had begun down the insurance career path. Along with entering the job force, I had adopted a lifestyle of debt and had been led to believe that’s just what people do, and student loans are just something you pay back for the rest of your life. So we had around $50k combined student loans and our “almost degrees” to show for it, meaning we each had enough credits to qualify for a bachelors, but didn’t actually have a bachelors degree to show for it. 🤦‍♀️

Matt had been at least paying the minimum on his loans..I was too busy saying I couldn’t afford my monthly payments, yet I could eat out and go party all the time wearing new clothes and driving a new car. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

Things changed shortly after the above pic when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. We both made the choice to go back to school and get those degrees wrapped up. We paid cash for my last few classes, which I finished up online, while working full time and having a baby at home. It was tough with Matt also working full time and taking night classes three days a week. 😴 👶 🍼

We weren’t paying on our loans during this time, or the interest that was just stacking up on those already high principal balances. To top it off, Matt’s new career change into a Computer Science degree from a for profit university added another $40k to our already giant mountain of student loan debt. 🤦‍♀️

Fast forward to about six years ago, when we finally started paying the minimum monthly amount on our loans (only because we had to get them out of forbearance). So if your name was Sallie Mae, Mohela, Nelnet, Fedloans, etc., you were on our payroll for the past six years. The amount we were paying in minimums was around $1500 a month, which was more than our mortgage at the time. 😬💸💸💸

I often wonder what else that money could have been doing..for us, for investing, for our kids, for donating, for the economy, etc. It would probably make me sick to run any actual math on what we missed out on not investing the money, and how much total we paid in interest. 🤢

We decided to get serious and use the debt snowball method, and continued throwing every extra penny we had towards them. I skipped eating out, meal prepped, bought used clothes, and budgeted like a badass. It felt like the slowest process, and that we would NEVER pay them off. Some of these loans had 6% interest, so a lot of times I was barely even touching the balance when I made a payment. 🙄

We set a goal of being debt free by August 2019, because that’s when my son would be starting Kindergarten. It was always a big goal, and even through each of the setbacks, I knew we would just have to adjust and keep going. I would like to say there was some big secret program we used, but we literally just made a goal and made the necessary sacrifices on a consistent basis to crush it. I can’t even say how good it feels to finally write this post, and even ahead of our goal. 🎉😎 👩🏼‍🎓 👨‍🎓