As we ended 2013, we had just under $19,000 in student loan debt left--Eli's undergrad loans from Baylor. Actually, for morale-boosting purposes, I need to write that as $18,000 and some major change. I'm just so humbled at how we have worked together to get to this point.
So, here's what 2014 has in store for us:
1. Ideally, we will buckle down and pay off this debt THIS YEAR. If not, that's okay, but that's the goal; even if we fall short, we will at least make MAJOR strides and get this knocked out in early 2015.
2. We are going to re-take Financial Peace University this year, starting in two weeks. We need all the momentum we can get to reach our goals, so I think that another go-round through FPU will be a good starting point for the year. We took the class in 2008, and since then Dave Ramsey has updated his class from 13-weeks to 9-weeks. Obviously, the main stuff will be the same, but we've been through a recession since then and I kinda' want to hear the updated stuff in those regards. Plus, sitting and talking with other people weekly will keep us on the right track. And honestly, the competitive side of me will feel better hearing how terribly other people are doing--but I'll quash that as much as possible, remembering where we were sitting six years ago. I'll try, anyway. ;)
3. We are open to possibilities and adventure. Obviously, the addition of another rugrat will be an adventure in and of itself, plus it will require the reworking of the budget, putting double daycare as well as diapers and wipes back into the equation for the first time since...well, May, when O was potty-trained. But also, in the possibilities and adventure category comes job stuff. I'm going to be working for the Alabama Learning Exchange training some teachers in technological mumbo-jumbo--and will clear a small chunk of money to go toward debt, but will also hopefully be paving the way for future gigs with them. So far, my school district has been VERY supportive in my interest in these areas. Eli will be waiting to see how the NFL draft pans out, as well as the Army's plan for his career, while continuing with his third (first?) job of NOT doing criminal defense. We will walk in faith and know that whatever will be will be, and we will meet it head on, ready to ride the wave. I actually am giddy at the possibilities and have to talk myself down from my super-over-planning high that I get from playing with this choose-your-own-adventure thing we call LIFE. (And seriously, when I start playing that game while knowing that we will be DEBT FREE--it's really hard to reign in my imagination!).
On a separate note, my family thought we were crazy for the longest time, but slowly we turned them to the Dave side, and hopefully they understand what it is that we are doing and WHY we are doing it this way right now while the children are small.
I recently had a friend make a comment to me about how we have made money (or lack of it) our idol, and the evidence of that is that we don't ever do anything fun. Ouch. I know this friend meant well, though. Dave says that if your friends think you're crazy, you're doing something right. ;)
Money (or lack of it) is not our idol--it's an obstacle to "giving like no one else," our ultimate goal. This time in our life is about choices and sacrifices. Yes, I see pictures of my friends' children who are the same age as E and O participating in soccer and dance and what have you. Does that necessarily mean that we're terrible parents because our children (who are too young to even remember these things later, except through pictures) are not doing these things? Absolutely not. The choice we are making to not do those things right now is ours to make. The ultimate goal is that we will be out of debt by the time it will matter to our children. Yes, I want them to play sports and learn to dance and play musical instruments, but not right now. They will be okay. I promise.
And, for the record, I do fun things. WE do fun things. Usually they are cheap or free. I don't feel deprived. But the perception that we don't do fun things is, I feel, just a reflection on this stage of our lives, and not necessarily a reflection on our view of money. We have two small children that need attention. As much as I would love to be able to balance my different selves--Erin the wife/mother, Erin the teacher, Erin the friend, Erin the fun girl I knew in college, Erin the crafty girl--I'm only able to marginally balance the first two right now, and that's with much prayer! This too shall pass, but right now I'm right where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.
Happy New Year!