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Tightening the Belt

I have described myself elsewhere as a Boy Scout with ADHD and no filter. Unfortunately over the years that has affected my attitude toward money. And so I haven’t always made the wisest financial decisions. My wife does much better. I’d have been well served had I given her the check register of “the Garlits estate” but you know how that went, I’m sure. ADHD. “Ooh, shiny!”

I am getting wiser with age. I think. I hope.

I’m surrounded by opportunities at present, but I think I’m staying put. You see, ten months ago I took a job in Indianapolis with a lowball first year salary after the previous job situation became unmanageable. Went from a 5 on, 5 off 12 hour watch analyst schedule to banker’s hours. In northern Virginia. With the family still in Indiana because we told the kids when we moved back to Indiana from northern Virginia back in 2010 that we were putting down roots until they all graduated from high school. We did very well with that, except for me having to commute from Virginia for awhile.

Disclosure: I’ve been taking contract gigs since 2012.  Year to year at will employment. That means they can let you go at any time for any reason, and you can quit at any time for any reason.

I had taken the job in Virginia specifically because it was a 5 day on, 5 day off gig. I could go home to Indiana every 5 days. And spend five days there. I took the job in Indianapolis because they dumped the 5/5 schedule and my goal was to quit as soon as I had landed a job. Any job, really. Well…as long as it was in emergency management or a related field. That’s what I do.

My painful task once replanted in Indiana was to right size the personal finances so we were living within our means. That didn’t go so well. Over the past couple years we’d financed three vehicles. I know! They weren’t expensive vehicles but, I know! I also ran up credit card debt trying to steady the good ship Indiana Finances. And made some dumb decisions which left us with a good bit of tax debt. And I made a really stupid decision concerning my master’s degree capstone paper. I allowed them to bully me into signing up for the class when I couldn’t really devote the time to it, couldn’t really afford it, and really didn’t want the professor they assigned to us.

So I did something really smart and really stupid. I sat down with the wife and told her that I wanted to be out of debt. That I wanted her involved with the week to week finances. That I had cut up all the credit cards and cancelled the accounts.

That I wanted to cash in the 401(k), deposit it into her personal checking account, and give her the control of paying off all of our debt with it. And beefing up the emergency fund. Showing her when the mortgage and utilities are due. And basically giving her veto rights over all of my financial decisions. Historically financial mis-decisions.

So, we cashed in the retirement account and are furiously paying down debt. Yeah, I know, with the retirement account. It’s cheating, I know. It may require a ten percent penalty, I know.

But by the end of this month, the only people we’ll owe are the mortgage people and the bank because of one final car payment. By the end of the year that final car will be payed off, too. And within about four years, the mortgage will be paid off, too. Then we won’t. Owe. Anyone. Anything. Except the debt of love. We’ll be living far beneath our income. Well within our means.

I feel like a weight has been lifted from me. Here’s to not living hand-to-mouth. Here’s to financial freedom.


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