Debt Snowball Update

Get creative, get motivated. How we're fueling our get-out-of-debt fire. // Time for another debt snowball update. 

But first.

Part of my choice to write & publish in such a public sphere, I put myself, my family, up for scrutiny.

At times I cringe, & think–what am I thinking, sharing such details with all the world?!

But then other times, particularly after I receive a sincere & heartfelt email from a reader about how reading bring joy has helped them some way, I move forward with confidence & know that by sharing, I am doing some good.

I’m in a very trying period of my life right now. Forgive me if my next slew of thoughts are a bit jumbled.

I feel like I’m being pushed & pulled, knocked down & humbled by this mothering thing. It’s not just motherhood. If only it were that! It’s being a military spouse, where my husband often has to work very long hours (with no overtime), goes to training in another state for weeks at a time (he’s been gone for pretty much the better part of this last month), & I’m left to care for all the details of child rearing, housekeeping, & our finances.

To say it’s a piece of cake, though I’m quite capable of this type of responsibility, would be a lie.

Fortunately, though Joseph’s income is not substantial, he is an officer in the military, so his pay is decent (though quite a cut below his civilian peers). And with his job comes many other benefits besides pay–housing & food stipends, full medical insurance, subsidized life & dental insurance, help with student loan repayment. So despite the struggles, we are blessed, and more than just in a financial sense.

But there is still a part of me all the blessings & struggles aside, a strong & vocal part of me that cannot keep quiet the “GET OUT OF DEBT,” voice that nudges me, almost incessantly.

Friends, readers of this blog, & others have suggested in various ways: “Debt is no big deal–it’s just an opportunity cost.”

I’m here to tell you, for this thirty-something mother of five, who has no savings, no retirement to speak of, & still (what seems like) a mountain of debt. IT’S A FREAKIN’ BIG DEAL.

Because each day that goes by that I have debt, is a day that goes by that I’m not saving. Not saving for that tsunami of expenses that are sure to come in five or ten years & beyond, as my children hit their teen & young adult years & the expenses mount & snowball.

And that is absolutely a big deal.

I’m sharing this as a precursor to our debt update. Hopefully to give you some context for where I’m at, where our family is at as we move forward. I could just post some numbers of our debts, but that would only tell a fraction of the story.

And the story is, we’re getting close! Yes it’s hard. And yes, it’s less than fun to make hard choices (especially the delaying gratification ones), but as I write this, the excitement at the prospect of being so close to reaching our debt-free goal, is shooting out my fingertips & into my keyboard.

Since we began this journey almost two years ago, I have become more & more frugal.

Through trial & error I’ve learned I can live on less. That my children can live on less. And that we can absolutely be happier & the better for it.

This paradigm shift has been gradual, but a few things of late have really added more fuel to the get-out-of-debt fire.

Reading MMM has helped my thinking (especially in regards to debt, frugality, & saving) in a totally new way. Reading this post about debt was also another good kick in the rear.

Here’s my last update from April 2014


Since the last update, we DID pay off the 2nd mortgage on our rental home.

The rest of the debts are fairly unchanged, though the order in which we will pay them off has been switched up–namely, we’re going to pay off the small balance on the Kohl’s card (even though it’s 0% interest) before the others.

Notice how our month to be debt-free has been pushed further into the future than before. This is because we’re working on creating a buffer (see change/tweeks below).


Not on the list are our student loans, which except for one (which we have to make a $450 payment to each month), are all covered under two different government & military student loan repayment programs & doesn’t require us to make any payments.

Also, I explain why we have so much credit card debt in this post.

A few other changes/tweeks: 

  • We’re now using YNAB software & principles to budget.
    This program is amazing! I’ve just  begun to use the software & apps but already I know this is exactly what the budgeting doctor ordered. I plan on doing a full review of the software sometime in the next few months.
  • We’re building a buffer.
    We’re holding off making any extra payments above our base debt payments & putting that money into our “buffer” fund, which is part of YNAB rule #4. Essentially, we’re saving one month’s worth of income to just sit in our checking account so that we can start living on last month’s income, instead of this month’s income. One month’s income, including our rental income, is roughly $7,000. Our goal is to have our buffer complete by end of November. This has set us back on our debt snowball progress by a few months, but it will mean greater financial security & peace now & in the long run.

→ Try a FREE 34-day full trial of YNAB (affiliate link)
& for bring joy readers–get 10% off your purchase if you decide to buy it!

  • We’re also rebuilding our $1,000 emergency fund. 
    We had various expenses come up over the past year which have depleted our emergency fund which is currently $0. I have to be honest, I haven’t been very good at keeping an emergency fund, & once we get it to $1,000, we’re going to do much better at keeping it there.

Also, you may notice that in addition to creating a buffer & emergency fund, we’ll be paying off nearly $33K in the next year or so, which is more than what we’ve paid towards debt in the last two years combined.  This is because: 1) we’re making more money & 2) we’re cutting our expenses even more.

  • Joseph got a raise! Nearly $600 extra a month. Though some of that goes to taxes & tithing.
  • Blog revenue. I’m finally making some money from bring joy, thanks to taking this course (affiliate link) from my pal Bonnie Andrews. Since I’ve taken the course in March, I’ve earned a few thousand dollars in revenue, which has averaged out to several hundred dollars extra a month.
  • I’m teaching preschool. Just once a week, out of my home. I only have six students (including my 3 year old, Salem), but, not only do I not pay for preschool, but I earn about $200 a month too. Win-win.
  • I’m hustlin’. I do freelance work–a lot of it’s one-time random stuff (I just took pictures for a family & got paid $500), some of it’s more short-term temp stuff (like editing). This is income that I absolutely can’t bank on, but I’ve been fairly consistent in getting freelance work here & there, which helps out a lot & adds up.
  • Selling stuff on eBay. I’m still continuing to sell things we don’t need or use, on eBay. Big or little, it adds up.
  • Increase in rents for rental property. We increased the monthly rent on our rental property by a few hundred bucks to more accurately reflect the value & market demand.
  • We’re cutting all frills, lowering expenses–even more. Like dance lessons for Mali, cell phones (we only pay $20/month for our phones & have been doing this since the beginning of the year), & continuing to do things like line drying our laundry, cloth diapering, & saving on gas by only making trips (beyond Joseph going to work) a few times a week.
  • Rice & beans. Yup, after several months over the summer, I’ve worked out a workable solution to the grocery budget (you know how I’ve gone back & forth on this issue). And it’s this–we do a lot of repetition of really frugal dishes, cut out any extra luxury items (like my fave protein powder & pure maple syrup!) & stick to very basic, basic stuff like oatmeal, rice (despite the arsenic 🙂 ), homemade wheat bread (for my family, not for me unfortunately because though I love the stuff, you know I can’t tolerate the wheat),  beans, pasta, soy/almond milk, & in-season low cost fruits & vegetables.

You add the extra income, plus the cuts, & we’re able to throw about $3,000 a month towards our debt (& we’re still paying tithing), instead of the $1,200-$1,800 a month we were doing before.

Pretty exciting, don’t you think?


Other bring joy posts you might want to check out:


  1. Mr. Pickles
    on November 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm said:

    I just happened upon your blog through Pinterest and just had to take a moment to say that what you are doing is H-U-G-E! You and your family are an inspiration to our entire country. I am lucky enough to live a debt-free life, but know debt well. However, being in debt and struggling to get out of it taught me the most valuable lesson ever: to be able to say with confidence and comfort, “I cannot afford that.” Knowing that provides wonderful freedom and keeps you off the hamster wheel of a life burdened by debt. Plus, it’s SUCH a great lesson for your kids to see how dedicated you are to something so important.

    Just a note from a dusty corner of the internet…

    All my best,

    Mr. Pickles

  2. Kelly L.
    on September 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm said:


    This is great progress! I love how you’re keeping track of everything and have a date on the calendar to look forward to when you’ll be debt free! I’m rooting for you!

    I have also begun using YNAB (started in July). I love their seminars – they keep me motivated. My husband’s not sold on YNAB’s philosophy. He thinks it makes me stressed out. Still, I like it and will eventually convert him, I just know it!

  3. janet @ the taste space
    on September 18, 2014 at 9:32 am said:

    Good for you, Janae. I think it is sad that most Americans view debt as normal and as you said, any day spent paying off debts is a day you are not saving for your future. Hopefully your momentum to save will continue once your debts are paid off, too.

  4. Katie
    on September 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm said:

    BRAVO!!! I am beyond thrilled for you! Thank goodness you are making money off of this blog because it is amazing and I can tell you only give us your very best. I am impressed with your dedication to make things work. I cannot wait for the next update.!

    I really cannot believe that your are running your household, being a mom to 5, doing a variety of freelance work, writing for this blog, and no doubt have a church calling AND your hubby is working late or out of town. I am in shock. I wish I could give you 50k and a week off! You absolutely deserve it. Even though your struggles or problems don’t involve death or disease, that doesn’t mean they aren’t hard, that they don’t try you to your limit, and just really stink sometimes. I am rooting for you Janae. If anyone deserves success and a life of debt-free living, it’s you!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 18, 2014 at 9:15 am said:

      Wow Katie, I read this after a long day last night & can I tell you how much it meant to me to read your supporting & kind words? Thank you!

      And boy, I would not complain one iota if I got a week off & an extra $50K 😉

      But you know, hard things in life are like lifting weights. When you’re doing it, you’re thinking–this sucks, this sucks. But then afterwards, you are stronger & more confident in your abilities. So in many ways I’m very grateful for having this get-out-of-debt & other hard experiences.

      Thank you for making my day & hope YOU have a wonderful one too.

  5. Lauren | Breathe & Nourish
    on September 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm said:

    I’ve loved watching your progress with your debt. It’s amazing how much progress you’ve made and how you haven’t lost sight of the goal! You encourage me so much with your story to not give up on mine either. Thank you for being open with us, I really appreciate the vulnerability.

    Also I can’t wait to dig into YNAB, I even signed up for some of the webinars this week!

  6. MP
    on September 16, 2014 at 11:15 pm said:

    Keep it up! I’m here to tell you, I’m on the other end of where you’re at, and the view. is. magnificent. I hadn’t even considered the idea of paying off debt until, much like you’re doing here, an acquaintance mentioned the measures he and his wife were taking. That little seed grew and now … I can’t tell you how much relief I feel.

  7. Aubree Larsen
    on September 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm said:

    Although I am blessed to have no debt besides my house I am inspired by all of your posts about this. I really admire your dedication and I agree that you should get out ASAP!

    I am very interested in your link to the blogging course. It looks interesting and I would love to use your affiliate link to help you out, but can you give me more information as to how it was helpful and what I might expect to get out of it? Thanks!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm said:

      Hi Aubree–thank you for your support! I really appreciate it.

      About the blogging course–it’s for any blogger who wants to stop blogging for free. It’s for any blogger who wants to stop trying to DIY everything (or try to google your way through what you need to know about blogging & business), & get all the marketing/business tools to take your blog from a hobby to a business. I’m still at a point where I’m not dedicating as much time as I could/like to business ventures for the blog, but since I’ve incorporated many of the principles of the course (she shows you exactly what you need to know–in particular about sales & online marketing) I’ve created passive income streams through my info products (my ebooks) & affiliates. It’s super empowering to create things that people need & want, & then get paid for it!

      Bonnie is absolutely approachable–if you sent her an email with any specific questions about the course, I’m sure she’d be happy to help! Also, she does offer a 7-day money back guarantee. Personally, the course lit a fire under me, gave me more confidence in my abilities, & helped me to be way more intentional with the mission of bring joy.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

      • Aubree Larsen
        on September 17, 2014 at 4:43 pm said:

        Thanks so much! I am definitely going to consider doing this. I stopped blogging at the end of last year but I am ready to go back full force into and this seems like something helpful for sure!

  8. Laurie
    on September 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm said:

    Ha ha, yes, it is pretty exciting. I love reading about how other people do the everyday sort of stuff that people don’t always talk about–the mundane stuff no one thinks might be interesting. AND, as I know I’ve said before, I think debt is BAD! Sure, school loans have a purpose, and who can pay cash for a house? I’ve always thought I was a bit of a commitment-phobe–husband excepted–and that applies to debt because I don’t want to be in a long-term relationship with it! 🙂

  9. April
    on September 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm said:

    Keep on keepin’ on! The idea that most have that debt is no big deal and a part of life is a direct line to what happened w/ the recession and housing market a few years back. Both buyers and lenders went above their means because “debt is no big deal”.

    We don’t have our numbers documented like you-but I wish we did. Right now the biggest thing is our student loan (read-Hubby’s-I was lucky enough to never have one) is going to be paid off by the beginning of next year. What a day of rejoicing that will be! It has followed my husband for nearly 15 yrs and I inherited it too on the day of our marriage. We will be so glad to get out from under that! We are in the same boat as you-no real savings, no real retirement…..looking forward to getting that debt gone so we can start saving!

  10. lfwfv
    on September 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm said:

    Go Janae go! Sorry to hear it has been such a trying time though.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm said:

      Thanks for the sympathy. Though on that note, I know my little struggles are really no biggie. Like, “wah! wah! my life is SO hard.” My husband has a great job, my kids are healthy, & I live in free democracy. All my struggles are first world problems, for sure 🙂