Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Digging ourselves out of debt, one teaspoonful at a time

Do you have that sinking feeling?

12 months ago, we got hit with an unexpected tax bill, the numbers on the page sent me into a cold sweat! We had made an error on our tax 2 years in a row, resulting in over $4000 of tax debt. We were due an annual bonus from my income stream and had forward planned to pay off the kids school fees for the year, so that we could get ahead. However, this not so little visit from Murphy threw us a major curve ball. We were desperate to get out of debt, so that we could have a buffer and maybe even afford to pay for a holiday or new car. We wanted desperately to buy out of a shared equity mortgage, so that we could build our equity ourselves. But our dreams looked like they were sinking. I felt like we were drowning in debt!

The hardest part of this was admitting that we had a debt problem. We faced up to our mistake and made the best decision. We paid the tax debt first. It had an interest rate that was ridiculous and I knew it was wasted money. So talking with the ATO, we came up with a plan. The tax was paid within the time limits given, but we still had the school fees to pay. 

Honesty is the best policy

When we realised that we were drowning, we faced up to the situation. Writing down everything that we owed and what our income was, was the first step to being honest with ourselves.

The next step was one that I chose to do, so that my hubby didn't have the stress. I arranged a meeting with our school principal, to explain the situation. Being honest with creditors early on, makes for less stress. Once we spoke to the school, the pressure was released. We committed to paying what we could until the end of the year, before starting again this year. By doing this, we were able to bring that debt down to just over $3000 by the end of last year.

Our next item to attack was our personal loan. We knew it was eating at our cash flow, with the high interest. We had already committed to paying more on the loan right from the start, but we wanted it gone! By October, we had a plan. We started using YNAB for our budgeting and learned to give every single dollar a job in November.

Once we started using YNAB, we realised where all our cash was REALLY going. We had just heard from our Real Estate friend, who gave us a valuation on our property. We did some calculations and realised that by rolling the personal loan and buying out our property from the Shared Equity scheme, we could afford a full mortgage and climb out of debt.

Moving forward

On December 22nd our mortgage settled and we had enough money left over for a full 1 month buffer plus a small emergency fund. We had money to get Christmas Presents for our kids and best of all we had gone from $30,000+ in personal consumer debt to about $14,000.00.(including the school fees for 2015, as we would be starting the year, behind) We were paying slightly more, but somehow we were better off than before.

We were able to start 2015 with a clear new goal. To clear out the last of the debt. Yes, Murphy has visited a few times over the first half of this year, but his stay has been fairly short. We have less of a buffer than we did have, but we still have our emergency fund and the buffer builds up each month.  By the end of July that $14000+ debt will be down to about half. One debt will be completely gone and the school fees will be on track for an almost full to full payout by the end of the year. 

I haven't written this to brag about our situation. I have done it to encourage and inform you and others, that it can be done. I am always looking for new ways to save money, but make it fun at the same time. If this has helped you, please feel free to share this post with others. My hope is that together we can all climb out of the debt pit.


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