Changing Seasons of Debt Reduction: Episodes of The Unpredictable

  • DD3 = Dear third daughter
  • DH = Dear Husband

Dogs understand

Dogs definitely understand certain words: walk, ball, treat, milk bone, breakfast, lunch, supper, ball, park, Granny, Mommy, Daddy, tricks, car, kitty cat, doggy, squirrel . . . Our dog Rocky gets so worked up when we say any of these words to him. His tail wags, and he starts to spin around or bark in excitement, sometimes even whimpering with the agony of anticipation. That was the case Tuesday when I got home from work and asked him if he wanted to go for a walk “with the BALL?” He could hardly stand the wait as I put on my boots and looked for the ball and thrower.

Spring vs. winter

Spring time means different things to different individuals, and to Rocky, it means we get out the BALL again! There were still patches of icy snow here and there Tuesday afternoon, but it had been melting back steadily, and large expanses of grass were proof that spring was winning over winter in the battle of the seasons. Rocky ran in a state of sheer joy as he chased the ball over and over again. And I soaked it in too. There is nothing like spring for a winter-weary soul.

A few hours afterwards, it was time to meet up with DD3 on her way home from her work shift at a nearby grocery store. “Do you want to go for a WALK?” Tail wagging, all eager to go, Rocky endured another period of waiting before I finally opened the door. I don’t know which one of us was more shocked to see what had happened to our spring landscape: It had turned back to winter! Snow was falling heavily, and not a blade of grass to be found. A dainty creature who doesn’t like getting his feet wet, Rocky stopped dead in his tracks so that I had to pick him up and carry him for part of the way.

Episodes of the unpredictable in the seasons of debt-repayment

There is nothing steady about the experience most of us have as we work our way to debt-freedom. The journey unfolds through different seasons – which often include episodes of the unpredictable.

After almost four years of debt-reduction, DH and I have encountered at least three different  seasons, and we’ve experienced freak weather along the way.

Spring: storm & drought

Year #1 was our best in terms of actual numbers. From the start of June 2012 to the end of May 2013, we paid off a near 20% chunk of our total debt (consumer + business + mortgage) of $257,000. But we got a shock at the end of July – barely two months in. Twelve hours before flying home from his company’s annual summer get-away convention, DH suffered a gallbladder attack. The convention had been in Las Vegas, and we live in Canada – and DH had not brought his international health insurance card with him. He had to pay a $2,500 deposit for a stay of a few hours in a Vegas hospital – where he was diagnosed and pumped with morphine for the flight home. In Canada, we pay nothing (except high taxes) for medical care, and $2,500 was unbelievable to us . . . until we found out that the total bill would be over $6,000! We launched on a mission to straighten things out with our insurance coverage, and after a very long 3 months (during which DH had emergency gallbladder surgery), all was resolved, and we were completely covered. Phew!

Through March and April of that first year, we experienced a drought. DH’s business slowed down so much that we couldn’t make any payment against the business debt (originally $80,800) that we had just started to take on. It was depressing. I lacked perspective and felt stuck. Only later would I recognize this dry period as a blip in a year of overall great progress.

Winter ice storm: frozen

We made our slowest progress during year #2. From the start of June 2013 to the end of May 2014, we paid off just about 11% of our total debt – a big drop from the previous year’s 20%. But we knew in advance that it would be a slower one. We had to pay for a new roof – $10,000, and we were determined not to go into debt for it, so debt-reduction gave way to saving.

What we didn’t know was that we would also have to cut down a dangerously rotted tree in our backyard – $2,000. We didn’t know that our dog would develop bladder stones either – $4,500. Ugh!

Summer: sunshine, rainfall & bumper crop!

Year #3 was one of encouraging progress. From the start of June 2014 to the end of May 2015, we paid off just about 18% of our total debt – way up from the 11% of Year #2. But what was even more encouraging was the unexpected bonus we received a couple of weeks after the end of Year #3 – when DH experienced some freak weather in his business. June is not typically super-profitable for him, but in June of 2015, he had his best month in 6 years of business – by huge margin. About half-way into  June, we wiped out the last $5,500 of our business debt (the one that started out at $80,800), and entered a new era: Debt-free except for the mortgage!

Seasons to come?

This week, Laurie posted a great article on what her daughter’s self-defense class taught her about debt. In a particularly tough exercise, facing men twice her size, Maddie felt stuck: “Well, at first, I thought ‘There’s no way I’m gonna be able to do this.’  I felt like all of my attempts were pointless.  Then I realized that Jon (the instructor) wasn’t going to let me get out of this, and I knew that I had no choice but to fight my way free.” And she did.

Will there be episodes of the unpredictable ahead in our journey out of debt? Will there be freak weather? Probably. I don’t expect the seasons to be steady, but I hope that my effort will be. I don’t want to be like Rocky, refusing to budge because of an unexpected change for the worse. I picked him up and carried him, but nobody is going to carry me out of debt. I want to be like Laurie’s daughter Maddie, and fight my way free.

Have you ever experienced an episode of the unpredictable while trying to reach a financial goal? How would you describe the “freak weather” you’ve encountered? Your comments are welcome.


18 comments on “Changing Seasons of Debt Reduction: Episodes of The Unpredictable

    1. The truth is, you were placed front and centre of my mind as I prepared to write this one – and I didn’t know where it was going when I started it. (That’s rare. I usually have a plan.) Knowing that you found encouragement in it makes my day : )

  1. Your posts are always so riveting! I love your determination. I just hope and pray that if a windfall comes your way, you’ll be okay with not having to “fight your way free”, because I am praying for that for you and Laurie both. 🙂 P.S. Your dog is adorable! 🙂

    1. Hey, I’m all for a windfall! So thank you! And I am confident that DH and I would use it very wisely at this point. Several years ago? Not so much. I’m with you on Rocky, Kay. He IS adorable. I’m afraid I enable him : )

  2. On her way to work my wife was rear-ended by a box truck during our debt repayment. Our concern was her health. We never expected that she would be out of work for a year and would require surgery to repair her neck. It was a major bump during our journey, but we took it in stride. Health was the main concern, if this event slowed our progress so be it. We had a plan and we would work it no matter what unpredictable events came our way.

    1. Wow, Brian! I have read in your posts some references to your wife’s car accident, but I didn’t realize how major it was. Neck surgery and a year off work are no small deal, and of course your debt repayment took a back seat to your wife’s recovery. She’s 100% now again, right? And despite that unpredictable trauma, here you are, debt-free with just the mortgage to go.

    1. Thanks, Mackenzie: ) That’s a deal! (Your most recent post is, I think, going to be the springboard for my next one. The wheels are turning.)

  3. I really admire your resolve and determination to keep grinding through challenging circumstances with your plan. This post is really, really encouraging and uplifting. Thanks for writing!

    1. Your comment is encouraging and uplifting : ) Thanks so much. I believe that anyone resolving to turn personal finances around will face challenging circumstances. The key is in taking control of our responses to those challenges – which is TOUGH. The more people know they’re not alone in the experience of their struggles, the better. Thanks again, Thrifthounds.

  4. Great analogies and a reminder that debt can be quite the beast to break from. Perseverance and dogged determination – particularly with the knowledge there will definitely be setbacks – is key. Great read, my friend.

    1. Thank you, James. Going in with the expectation of setbacks IS key. And going in with the understanding that the best place for mini & major windfalls is against the debt is also key.

  5. Yes absolutely! For me it was freelancing, and the best way I can describe it was a rollercoaster ride. There were so many ups and downs. Just when I thought it was turing out to be a fun ride, I went upside down and it because a bumpy ride. I think the best way to deal with stuff is just to know it can happen and be as prepared as possible. I got a crown a couple weeks ago and just got an insurance notification that they didn’t feel it was needed. I know I’ll have to go through an annoying process of trying to figure it all out so I can get as much covered as I can, but I’m not worried about it financially anymore, where at one point I’d be freaking out!

    1. Yay!! That is a really significant victory. Many people manage (or mismanage) their finances so close to the line that an unexpected expense like that becomes a major source of worry. So while you’re not free from the annoyance of it all, you are free from the stress : )

  6. This post was so helpful for me, in that it reminded me about the importance of perspective, and seeing the full picture. Sure, we have our bad days, like when the Accord needed $1,100 worth of work, but we also have the good days, when we learn that we’ll be getting a $2,200 tax refund. Now if only the good days could always outnumber the bad… 🙂

    1. Are you getting a $2,200 tax refund? I hope you use it very, very wisely! We used to get all happy with a big refund because it meant we could buy something we wanted. Ugh! It’s just as important to keep a steady focus with the windfalls as it is with the times of high expenses. Thanks for your comment, Amy : )

  7. We definitely experience the same thing! It’s like taking a couple of steps forward and having the wind come and knock you down. We’ll get a card completely paid off and then a car needs to be replaced (true story, just happened last month!). It can be discouraging, but luckily we didn’t go into debt buying another car, yay! But, we did have to take away from our savings…but hey, that’s what its there for.

    1. You’re right – that’s exactly what savings are for. We have never bought a car without some kind of debt, but we plan to buy our next one outright – just like you did. I say you handled your episode of the unpredictable VERY well.

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