Life after debt

About once a month I like to post up a submission from a Punch Debt In The Face reader so you can get a feel for how other people are doing. Last month’s story focused on a woman who was $63,000 in debt and trying to figure out how to get out. Today’s story, is much more upbeat…

Meet Mel.

I’m a married mom of two kids, who works full-time in Human Resources, and I’ve been following Ninja’s blog for at least a couple of years. When he asked for some of his readers to contribute their stories of how they’re doing, financially speaking, I thought it would be a good chance to submit mine, in the hopes that it might help any readers who find themselves in a mess, and are not sure if there is life AD (After Debt).

When I first discovered Ninja’s blog, it was some time in 2008. As a New Year’s resolution that January, I had decided to start budgeting and keeping track of expenses. Prior to that, for six years, we lived in ignorant bliss with respect to our financial situation. We each had a credit card that carried a revolving balance of approximately $10-$15K, as well as two car payments, and a mortgage. I had somehow convinced myself that everyone lives in debt – it’s no big deal. Now I look back at that person and want to give her a Ninja-Chop. That’s just crazy talk!

The budgeting process was difficult at first to get expenses on track, and see where we were spending our money. We cut where we could, and buckled down, and at the end of each month, I took whatever was left and paid it down towards the debt. After 6 months, I made the final payment to the credit card company, and kissed our credit card debt goodbye. It felt so good! In that time, my husband got a new job, where his car was paid for completely, and our other car payment had been fulfilled. In less than a year, we had been able to reduce our debt to just our mortgage, and as a bonus, began making extra payments to reduce the principal amount.

Fast forward to the nearing the end of 2011. I am happy and proud to say, that the only debt we continue to carry is our mortgage. We are able to contribute to vacation funds, and savings accounts for expenses that pop up above and beyond the monthly budget (Hockey fees for my kids, brakes for the car, etc). Additionally, we were able to take some equity from our existing property, and purchase an investment property in Arizona this past year. And as someone who lives in Toronto, and spends frigid winters in the North, I’m very excited to have a getaway where it’s warm!

Not only have we remained out of debt, but we have fulfilled other areas of financial responsibility:

– We are both contributing to our retirement
– We have an education fund that we contribute to for our children each month
– We have a healthy emergency fund that currently covers three months expenses that I’m hoping to grow to six months
– My husband and I both have life insurance policies, and even more importantly, critical illness insurance.

My friends tease me for loving me some spreadsheet action, but it feels so good to be in charge of your finances, and being able to do what you want with your money, rather than being held tight to the banks and the credit card companies.

Ninja’s Comments: Mel freakin’ killed it, and I’m glad that I may have been a small source of inspiration for her. What inspired you to punch your finances in the face? What part of personal finance turns you on (spreadsheets, investing, paying down debt)?

20 thoughts on “Life after debt”

  1. I have to admit that Mel’s not the only one with the Excel love going on. I had a spreadsheet where I would keep track of all of the outgoing expenses… sometimes, I’d look forward to making a payment on a bill just so I could put something into the spreadsheet.

    Personal finance gets me because it’s a part of *everything* and I wanted to live a life where nobody could come up and take my stuff away because I was low on cash that month. Thanks for bringing us the story, Ninja!

  2. Awesome job Mel! I love your success story! As a wife and mother of 3 it is nice to read about another mom in love with Excel. My husband is great, but not in love with Excel, budgets, planning. It’s nice to hear how other families get it all done! Enjoy your AZ home this winter:)

    • Thanks Trina!
      My husband does not share the love of Excel either – he lets me get my love on, then we discuss the big ticket items and review.
      For a time I thought it would be impossible to raise a family and NOT be in debt but I truly believe anyone can do this!

  3. Growing up below middle class around upper middle class made me want to be responsible with money. Too many times I was teased about my clothes and could not participate on certain field trips when I was a kid made me very aware about money. I’ve made a great deal of mistakes throughout my life with money, but the one thing that made the difference for me was never getting credit card debt. That has allowed me to easier keep track of my money and tempered any major purchase because if I couldn’t pay it off in a month, I shouldn’t afford it.

  4. Wicked awesome story, Mel! Thanks so much for sharing; I’m going to take a page from your book and make more in-depth Excel budgeting and tracking my New Year’s Resolution. You and your husband have worked hard to get where you are; kuddos and congrats! I’m also loving all the Canadian representation of Ninja fans (I’m in the GTA); Toronto-born and we’ll be back in town for UFC 140!! I should point out that our weekend in T.O. is full paid for… Ninja will like that comment LOL!

    • Thanks Mo D. – I bet UFC 140 will be the bomb dot com – have a great time! Glad to hear that it’s fully paid for as well – Ninja wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • Don’t give up – It’s never too late. You can still turn things around.

      A big website that helped me was There are so many tools and worksheets on her site to figure out how much debt you have, and how to budget, how much should be going towards each category, etc. Her website really helped me establish my systems in the early going.

  5. Awesome story Mel! Are you even blonde?

    “What part of personal finance turns you on (spreadsheets, investing, paying down debt)?”

    CASH FLOW! That excess every month is what gets me going…so I guess paying down debt and increasing investment income falls under that.

  6. Way to rock it, Mel! I love me some Excel, too–I’ve been tracking everything in my workbook for over 6 years now. I have to stop myself sometimes when I get a little too pie chart happy…haha.

    Thanks sharing your story and best of luck with your future goals!

  7. Hi,

    I just found this blog, and I love it. It really makes me feel like I am not alone in the excel loving LOL.
    Congrats Mel!
    I am 21, and recently married with my college hubby. We are thankfully not in any debt or getting into any. He is in his last year of school, graduates in May with his BS. And I graduate in May with my Master’s. Currently, living off my summer savings and my husband’s monthly paycheck. I go to school full-time.
    We don’t have salaried jobs yet but I am looking forward to it. I have already started thinking about our budget once we start. First of all, I am excited about the significant future increase inflow money. Right now, its mostly outflow :/

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