Category: Debt Snowball

Debt Snowball Progress: May 2018

We have now completed two months of the new family roles with our finances. There are still some growing pains with our new roles. As is typical for things around the house I prefer to get things done early and often, and Brian prefers to wait.

He keeps reminding me he is in charge of inputting the receipts and that we shouldn’t worry about moving money around in the first week of the month (from one budget line to another). He is sure money will come in and will negate some of the need to transfer money from category to another.

I disagreed and assured him money wouldn’t just show up.

Well, guess what?

It did.

And not just once, but three times. Seriously, it got to the point that I was disappointed when I saw what appeared to be a check in the mail because it just proved him right yet again. I would call my sister and share how I was so mad at my husband because he was right.

I suppose it’s a sign that he should be in charge of the budget. He makes money appear.

I know you’re wondering where this money came from and how do you get some. Well, there are entirely legitimate reasons for this money, it’s just coincidental it showed up this month when he was in charge.

We got money back from three doctor appointments where we had to pay upfront for service. The cash back was from the portion that was later covered by insurance. We got a small refund on our car insurance, and then I sold the jogging stroller.

Yes, I thought about (but not seriously) pocketing the checks he didn’t see and the cash from the jogging stroller sale. I didn’t want him to be right.

So May was a nice month for getting us back on track towards paying down the student loan. With extra income in the month, we were able to put a little more towards the debt this month.

Our exciting news was that Brian’s union contract was finally agreed upon by the university. It only took two years to come to a resolution. It will mean back pay and a raise, which will help our debt snowball. We did agree at our last budget meeting that he could use the backpay first to finish off the garage. He is working on electrical and insulation so he can work year round in his new woodshop.

I expect that we will begin making considerable progress on the debt snowball in the coming months though Cassidy’s summer bucket list does include some activities that will necessitate us allocating more money to our family entertainment line item for the summer months.

Income report from May:

Total extra income                                   $ 200

Current outstanding student loan debt        $28,000

Debt Snowball Progress: April 2018

We are already one-third of the way through 2018. I cannot believe that and neither can our debt snowball. We still owe over $28,000 towards student loan debt – YIKES.

Although the other day when Brian guessed how much we still owed he said $60,000. That made the $28,000 feel much more exciting. He remembers us being stuck at $60,000 for a long time. Perhaps every $30,000 is just a sticking point and we will get over this hump soon and gain momentum through the finish.

For our April budget, we tried something new, and it was not a small change. Brian and I switched roles when it came to budgeting. Be sure to check out how that turned out and how it’s changing our budgeting going forward

This month we didn’t plan for the extra $250 towards our beloved dog, Cookie’s medical bills. They are finally all completed and barring any new illnesses we just had to update our budget going forward to plan for more expensive dog food.

We also had to pay Cassidy’s school registration for next year and the co-pay for Amelia’s surgery. Those were not cheap expenses, but I am glad we have medical insurance and that our kids don’t go to private school. We only have to pay a one-time school registration, which is much better than monthly tuition.

Needless to say this month we did not pay any extra towards student loans, but we did cash flow all of these expenses. That is one reason it is important to us to live below our means. We can cash flow most expenses in a month without dipping into our emergency fund or we can pay extra for the student loan.

Income report from April

Total extra income $ 0

Current outstanding student loan debt $28,200


Be sure to check out previous debt snowball updates

Debt Snowball Progress: March 2018

We’ve hit a plateau with the debt snowball. We don’t seem to be gaining any momentum at the present time and it is downright frustrating.

I know, I need to live by my new mantra, “progress not perfection” even when it comes to our finances, but it’s hard. I HATE this dumb student loan. Seriously, it never seems to go away and every month we pay approximately $120 for the privilege of having it.

That’s over $1,400 every year out of our pockets to the Department of Education just for interest.

While March did prove to be a little warmer and sunnier than February, it didn’t bring as much hope and optimism in our finances as we had wanted.  We again only paid the minimum on the student loan. However, we also used the majority of one of Brian’s paychecks towards our goal of budgeting a month in advance. In order to do this successfully, we had to be able to use our March paychecks for our April budget.  This will make budgeting easier as well as ensure we have enough cash in our accounts to pay our bills before they are due.

March did bring with it an unexpected expense as well.

Our beloved dog, Cookie, had to visit the vet. Luckily, what I feared may be diabetes was actually just a bladder infection. The entire ordeal still cost us over $300, which we weren’t planning for at the beginning of the month. Plus we now have to purchase prescription dog food indefinitely. I guess we’ll have to allocate more money to the dog’s budget line item moving forward.

cookie relaxing in the sun.

I didn’t realize a dog could get a bladder infection and I certainly didn’t know how to collect a dog urine sample until now. I’m sure it was a funny sight to see me chasing our dog around with a soup ladle as she tried to find the perfect spot to pee on a crisp March morning.

This month we did plan for extra money in our family entertainment so that we could take a one day trip to Chicago over Cassidy’s spring break. She’s been longing to go back to the American Girl Doll store. Since Amelia has never been there, we are all going for a day trip together. Otherwise, spring break will be hanging out at home and hopefully enjoying some outdoor play if the weather is nice enough.

the girls at the American Girl Doll store with their dolls

Next month, an additional challenge to our budget will be Amelia’s surgery. With that will comes a large co-pay (thank goodness for insurance) and prescriptions, follow-up appointments, etc. It was almost one year ago that she got her adenoids out and tubes put in. Unfortunately, she has to go back in to get tubes put back in and her tonsils out this year. We are hopeful that this will solve all of those issues and she can avoid surgery again any time soon.

Income report from March:

Total extra income                                   $ 0


Current outstanding student loan debt        $28,200


Be sure to check out pervious month debt snowball updates.

Debt Snowball Progress- February 2018

I am so glad February is the shortest month of the year, and not because of our finances — though I won’t complain about the positives of that. It’s because I’m sick and tired of the weather. By February in the Midwest, most people are done with the winter. We’ve hit our max of cold days. We no longer want to be couped up inside with dry skin and germs. It seems everywhere we turn people are coughing, sniffling and complaining about being sick.

March, while still cold and dreary, is a month of hope. We’re almost out of the dreaded winter. Even if we get a big snowstorm, it’s not likely to stick around too long.

So good-bye February and hello March.

February is also a good month for most people’s budgets.

With February being the shortest month there are 2-3 fewer days to spend your hard-earned money. This should mean savings in food expenses, gas, electric, water, etc. For some of those utilities you don’t see the savings until March, but still, something to be thankful for.

However, it is not a good month for everyone’s budgets. Year after year Brian shares stories about his co-workers who get in a bit of a bind because they don’t plan. His job is hourly, and they are paid twice a month on the 15th and the last day of the month. His co-workers are not dumb people, but it seems that every single February they forget that their paychecks will reflect the shorter month. With 2-3 fewer days an hourly person is going to make less money.

So the hourly employee who is paid twice a month needs to either set aside money in the good months (those with 31 days) for the shorter months (February).

Otherwise they need to be willing to cut their expenses in February.  If you are struggling with your budget this February, think about ways to not let that happen next February, because I have a secret for you. February is always going to be the shortest month, even in Leap Year, it’s still the shortest month.

The way that we budget Brian’s end of February check will not impact our budget until March. We are fully prepared for the smaller paycheck and plan accordingly.

We also received our tax refund this month, and we used that money to essentially increase our emergency savings. I want us to move to a system of budgeting where we use the previous month’s income to dictate the next month’s allocations. For instance, starting in March, our March budget will be created using all of the income from February. The only way to make this happen was to temporarily beef up our emergency fund.

This way of budgeting will allow us to better allocate our money at the beginning of the month.

This can be a difficult change to make because you must have an extra months worth of income to be able to do it. Between our income tax refund and one month of not paying extra on the student loan, we were able to make this switch.

Due to this switch, this month was slow and steady in the area of our budget snowball. We just paid the minimum due but will be back on track for extra payments next month.


Income report from February

Cashback from credit card                 $200.55

Cash back from Ebates                      $ 69.41

Total extra income                               $ 269.96



Current outstanding student loan debt        $28,400


Be sure to check out our complete debt snowball progress month by month.

Debt Snowball Progress- January 2018

This month I learned something that just might be a game changer for realizing our financial goals. We need to treat them like one big game. That helps to bring out our competitive side.

If it’s a game, we will find every which way, without cheating, to win.

We Gerkens, don’t like to lose!

Remember we’re a gamer family, so friendly competition is our thing.

Mid-January I entered receipts from our Sunday basket and was surprised to see the amount of money we had left in our food category (eating out and groceries). It’s no secret that I have a serious love/hate relationship with menu planning. I hate to do it, but I love how much money, time, and headache it saves us at dinner time.

I knew we could come in under or at budget for the food category if we seriously buckled down.

This meant sitting down to figure out what we were going to eat for dinner for the remaining 12 days in January. After deciding on a menu plan, I made my grocery list and figured out what stores would have the best prices.


2017 Budget Recap & 2018 Financial Goals

financial goals

Happy New Year! This is going to be a great year.

You have to believe it to achieve it, right?

I love the newness and opportunity for a fresh start that a new year brings.

I’m excited for 2018, especially when it comes to our financial goals.

I get a little too excited to do our year in review financial statement. Yes, I know that makes me a huge nerd, but I’m okay with it. If you haven’t done one before be sure to check how and why to do a budget recap every year.

Last year was the first year we recapped our year in this format and also the first year we publicly stated our financial goals.

Our financial goals for 2017 were the following:

  1. Pay $20,000 towards student loan debt  (we paid $8,206)
  2. Average $650 spending or less on food every month (average was $796/month)
  3. Average spending on home supplies and improvement at $75 or less a month. (instead our average was $298/month)

Well we didn’t do so well on those, but it was our first year with such specific financial goals. One thing I will do differently in 2018 is to input the monthly income and expenses on the yearly spreadsheet at the end of each month. This will help us to monitor how we are doing throughout the year rather than just at the end of the year. Similar to how we track our monthly expenses on our everydollar budget throughout the month, rather than just at month’s end.

Annual budget recap sample

Sample year in review budget form. All you have to do is change the expense and income categories to the same ones you use from Everydollar or whatever budgeting system you use.


Debt Snowball Progress – December 2017

We did it!

No we’re not debt-free yet. Don’t worry that I’ll be shouting from the rooftops.

Another month closes on our debt snowball journey, and we are

getting closer to our dream of debt-free.

debt snowball progress

We may not be a lot closer, but if we don’t celebrate the small victories, we might lose sight of the prize.

Thanks to our Christmas budget, our December budget was not impacted whatsoever by the holidays.

Now is the perfect time to establish a Christmas budget for this coming year. It will take you about 30 minutes of work and will save you hours of a headache and worry next year.

We had a delightful holiday with family and friends, and we didn’t break the bank. There is no fear of opening our credit card statements this month because we have money from our budget to cover all expenses.

In fact, rather than worrying about our bills we get to enjoy a little extra money when we receive our Ebates cash back check, cash in our Ibotta money and cash in our credit card cash back. In total we will be getting about $200 back through these three avenues of shopping/spending for the last month.

I’m looking forward to sitting down with our budgets from the last year and recapping how 2017 was for us and setting new financial goals for 2018. Yes, I know this makes me a giant nerd, but I’m okay with that.

Besides if you don’t set goals and set them high then what are we working toward?

What would stop us from frivolous spending?

We were able to make a sizable extra payment on our student loans this month, and we are optimistic this momentum will keep up. After nearly ten years of no raise- thank you State of Illinois, I received a 3% raise that will start showing up in my paychecks this month. It’s not much, but after so many years without one, it seems monumental.

Unfortunately, even though Brian works for the same institution, his unit is not yet receiving the raise. Their union is currently in negotiations that have been ongoing for over 18 months. We are hopeful they will settle their contract soon, and if it includes back pay that will help us tremendously. I’m trying not to count my chickens before my eggs hatch, BUT it’s hard not to imagine how much that could move the needle our debt snowball.

Be sure to check out 2018 financial goals later this month, which will include a recap of our 2017 financial goals and whether we met them or not.

So here’s the update for December

Income report from December

Money from Varage Sale      $   22

Mileage check for work     $ 272


Total extra income                               $ 294


Extra from paychecks     $406


Amount extra put towards student loan      $700




Current outstanding student loan debt    $29,020


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Debt Snowball Progress- November 2017

Wow, another month has passed, and we are quickly closing in on the end of 2017.

I can’t believe it.

Call me a nerd, but the end of the year means I soon get to do our end of the year financial recap. Yes, I like calculating numbers, creating debt payoff projections and setting financial goals.

debt snowball motivation

I have felt defeated a lot recently in regards to our debt payoff. It feels like that stupid student loan is going to be around forever. I probably spend more time feeling defeated than empowered in our ability to get rid of this debt.

I was lamenting its existence, yet again, and the staggering amount we still have left. When I shared this with Brian, he was quick to remind me that we have come a long way. We are now under $30,000. That amount is still scary, but given where we started it is quite amazing.

Sometimes when the road gets long, we forget how far we’ve come and how many obstacles we have overcome to get where we are.

To fully comprehend how far we’ve come, I took some time to sit down and think about where we started.

Since June 2013 we have paid approximately $64,000 towards student loan debt, and we cash flowed $33,000 for the following: roof and siding on our garage, a complete kitchen remodel, refinancing our home and two vacations to Disney World.

That means in 4 ½ years we have paid off $97,000 that equals about $1800/month.