We got knocked off course

If you’re following my blog, you know that Rachel and I are working hard towards getting out of debt. As part of our adventure into Middle Age, we want to be more financially independent. For almost 5 months (!), we’ve been working our monthly goals, denying distractions, and staying focused. There have been some adventure-bumps along the way, but we’ve been rocking it. Huge chunks of money have gone towards school debt (our current focus), and one school loan should be paid off by July 1st! In the preceding months we’ve closed furniture loans, credit cards, and other smaller debts. 

I was feeling so good about how well we were doing that I allowed myself a little dreaming (and man can I dream). I spent some time researching chartered catamarans (yup). One of my dreams is to rent a chartered 40′ cat in the Bahamas for a few days; the captain and mate doing all the sailing and cooking, Rachel and I doing all the sunning and relaxing.

One of the companies I found shows the boat anchored lazily off a pristine, white-sand cay. I could practically see the captain and chef waiving Rachel and me to row back in the dingy because the fresh swordfish (caught somehow by me) and pineapple (picked somehow by me) dinner is ready. Of course, they’d hand me a fine martini (made by them) from the best Bahamian gin (if there is such a thing). The captain would be so impressed with our ability to pay for the whole trip up-front that he’d offer huge discounts for next year. After dinner, there would be an evening snorkel over the secret pirate ship that sank with all that gold (see? Can I dream or what?)  

Dreams, huh? The stuff we build our lives on.   

Like being on a sailboat at sea, the day can go from peaceful to panic with little warning if a squall comes up. When the sea state changes for the worse, everything is called in to question. Am I on the right tack? Do I have too much sheet? Are the pumps working? Is everything tied down? How bad is it going to get? Was this trip even a good idea?

For Rachel and me, April was like that – financially. Our voyage started out as peaceful and calm; we were on track, our goals were good – and then we hit the squall. We thought we were prepared and had accounted for everything, but there were things we overlooked. I wish I could write that we had planned perfectly and for every contingency, but that wouldn’t be honest, or real.

The vehicle insurance came due. The Baby House in Mesa needed sudden work to prevent more costly damage. The Big House needed spring upkeep. We received three more unexpected bills. We were three weeks into the month and trying to navigate $1,300 in extra expenses and still stay on course. 

I knew it wasn’t going to be fatal, or even close, but we were getting knocked around pretty good while trying to make the next paycheck, stay afloat, and stay on track with our goals. I thought there might be some minor damage, but so far we weren’t shooting up flares; a plus one for us. 

We easily had the funds in savings to cover the bills, but we’ve done this “thing” to ourselves: we really, really dislike taking money out of savings once it’s there. Weird, I know. Once it’s in there, it’s kind of sacred. 

But I knew we had to do something.

First, we increased our financial meetings. We brought the situation front and center and didn’t do the “It’ll all work out somehow” thing. We knew we needed to talk more and keep the response as dynamic as the events. We checked the plans every few days and adjusted course as needed.

Second, we changed some specific plans. It’s spring, and with that comes the cost of grass seed, fertilizer, bee spray (war!) , pool salt, filter sand, weed spray (also war!), flower plants, vegetable plants; you get the idea. Keeping a house beautiful can be a spendy venture and we had built that into our budget.

We staggered the process and scrutinized the materials. I bought less bee spray (but it’s still war!), held off on the pool salt (still too cold to swim), picked out the dandelions by hand (also still war!), reused last year’s filter sand, and looked into seeds instead of plants. Little deviations add up, or in this case, don’t add up.

Third, we slowed down a bit temporarily by adding two weeks to one goal. We gave ourselves the option of either pulling from savings or sliding one of April’s goals out until May 15th. We think it will be met before that, but it allowed us to not pull from savings, and, for us, we chose the lesser of evils. Adding a little extra time allowed us to smooth the ride a bit and still meet the goal.

We made a course correction. We knew we were off track but we also knew it wasn’t a lot. We created a May goal to be back on original course by the end. We’ll still get to the same place at the same time, but the May goals will account for the storm we had in April.    

Finally, we congratulated ourselves. By being stubborn, smart, strict, and creative, we absorbed $1,300 of extra bills, took no funds from savings, met April’s goals (except the one that we slid out for two weeks), and already have a plan to end May back on the original track (and when I get my full load of bee spray: Flight of the Valkyrie on level 10. Uh huh, smells like….you know…). It’s good to celebrate the little wins.  

It hasn’t been easy or fun this month, but setbacks and storms are going to happen. It feels good to know we can weather a storm and regain true course. We might have been a bit too aggressive in our plans, and we’re talking about that. We had to remember that we created our goals, we charted our course, we want to be different, and we chose to journey out. We’re doing this for us.

We had to remind ourselves that despite the financial pummeling, we are doing it. Everybody has bumpy financial months, but at least ours are in relation to meeting some pretty cool goals. We are making progress, even if we got a little beat up this month. Getting most of the way there is better than getting none of the way there. 

So we’re choosing to look forward and focus on the good. Look how far we’ve come in just (almost) 5 months! We’ve learned so much already. Here’s another plus one for us: our debt free date of September 30th, 2020 still holds.

April was a bumpy ride, but I’m still plotting a course towards a chartered catamaran and fresh swordfish.  

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Observations, lessons learned, perspectives, and anecdotes from the Grand Adventure of Middle Age as Rachel and I chase our dreams. I welcome you to follow along and join the adventure.

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