Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time


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No Spend Challenge 2020: April Recap

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March felt like it lasted for 500 days.

April, in contrast, felt like it lasted for 4 hours.  Man it was a quick month.

This is a weird year to be doing a no spend challenge because it’s almost deceptively easy.  Everything’s closed.  I can’t go shopping, can’t go to the movies….I don’t really have anywhere to drive to besides work either.

Despite that April was probably my worst month so far in terms of my no spend challenge.  I blame food.  I ate out a couple times at work when I didn’t need to.  I know what you’re thinking, Amanda don’t be hard on yourself, but when the year started I put eating out (except for one monthly trip to Panera) on my wants list.  That being said sometimes, when you’ve had a super long day, a strawberry limeaide from Sonic is the best thing ever.

Speaking of work, this last month my employer changed our work shift schedule from 48 hrs on/96 hrs off to 24 on/48 off in anticipation of the Covid 19 spike in TX.  Funny thing is they changed it in order to help us conserve energy but in truth I feel more exhausted than ever.  Thankfully the schedule switches back this week because the change in schedule also meant I was having to drive to Houston twice as much which meant more mileage on my car and more money spent on gas.

Thankfully gas is super cheap right now which is AMAZING.  I spent $1.17/gallon the other day.  I never thought I’d see prices go that low in my lifetime.

Some other notes from April…

  1.  I finally got my stimulus on the 30th!  I had to manually enter my direct deposit info so it took longer.  I’m going to use some of the money to take a small road trip once this mess is over then the rest will most likely either go to the dentist or my car.
  2. Thankfully I’m an essential employee so I’ve been working this whole time which allows me to pay all my bills without issue.  I have student loans from my paramedic degree with Nelnet and from my earlier Bachelors degree through Navient.  The Nelnet loans are deferred with no interest thanks to the CARES act but I wasn’t so lucky when it came to the Navient loans.  Regardless though, I decided to keep paying on both.  I’ve got the budget so why not.
  3. I read 10 books this last month!  That’s the most I’ve read in a month every I’m pretty sure.  One book I owned but the rest where all checked out from the Library on my Kindle using the LIBBY app.  Considering all the libraries are closed it’s been a lifesaver and I love it.
  4. I made $10 via side hustles this month, all from Field Agent.  I couldn’t justify making unnecessary trips to the store to complete jobs with a stay at home order in affect, but since I was already in Walmart I went for it.  I got some free Febreeze too so it really worked out.
  5. We were gifted a lot of food this last month while working from from citizens and local businesses alike.  Jersey Mikes to McDonalds.  I definitely feel very blessed by these gifts.

And finally, money I put towards debt in April…

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The amount may be the lowest yet, but every little bit counts right?  Even better is that I’ll be able to pay off my credit card this month (May)!  That being said hopefully I’ll have really exciting things to report by this time next month!

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No Spend Challenge 2020: MARCH Recap

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Well that didn’t go as planned…

Me on March 1:  Yay!  I have so many awesome things planned in the next couple of months!  2020 is going to be great!

Me on April 1: *glazed over eyes* If I really ration my toilet paper I may be able to make it ’til May…

While we were all hyper-aware of Covid 19 a month ago it was still so foreign to most of us and mostly a joke to the American public.  Now stay at home orders are in place, TP is worth its weight in gold, and the “curve” is definitely not flattening.

Looking back on March it was a fairly successful month, both because I put forth the effort and because I didn’t have the choice.  While it feels weird to talk about going out, having fun, and social wins right now, in order to do March justice and celebrate the good things I’ve done when it comes to my No Spend Challenge I’m still going to write about it here.

Now just note the most of these things I’m writing about took place BEFORE all the social distancing and stay at home orders were put in place.

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So let me start with slip ups…

Honestly, I didn’t slip up to bad.  I got a drink from chickfila once to go along with a free sandwich (I know it’s sooooo bad, but it broke my wants vs needs rule)… but at this point, weeks later I can’t even remember what my other “slip up” was.  I know it didn’t break the bank at least so that’s what matters.

I did, unfortunately, have to get a root canal done, which was unexpected BUT because I had set money aside in January/February I had more than enough to cover it, which was encouraging.

Now some cool things from the month…

-So I’m a paramedic and a lot of events like to offer first responders discounts or free tickets, especially when the events don’t sell out.  It is actually really cool and generous.  Anyway, I never really paid attention to them in the past because they’re usually pretty last minute, but now that I’m trying to enjoy my year while simultaneously spending as little as possible I thought it would be worth a look.  That’s how I managed to score tickets to a Houston Roughnecks XFL game (off-season professional football) and had a ton of fun!  I went with my work partner and only ended up spending $7.50 on ticketmaster fees to get our tickets, tickets that would have been $50 each not including the fee if we’d had to pay for them!  We also parked away from the stadium so parking was free and the subway style train is free in Houston on Sundays so we didn’t have to pay for that!

*Note these kind of deals also apply to active military and veterans so if you fit into that category you should definitely look into it! (It’s called 1sttix.org for first responders and vettix.org for veterans)

-Speaking of free things to do, Movies.  I refuse to pay to go to the movies this year (unless it’s a date) so that led me into the world of advance screenings.  I’ve been using advancescreenings.com which lets you look up your city and then gives you links as to where to get the passes.  It can sometimes be hard to score a ticket, depending on how popular the movie or actor is, but if you can it’s an awesome opportunity.  I got to go to an advance screening for “I Still Believe” earlier in the month when movies were still allowed and I had a great time.  The only thing to note is even if you score a pass a seat isn’t guaranteed.  Get to the theater early (like about 45 minutes for a regular movie; a lot more for a popular one) to get your actual ticket.  Now obviously this isn’t something you can take advantage of at the current moment, but as soon as the theaters reopen, go for it!

-A big win for me…I used my creativity to finally get some things done that had been on my list.  Like finishing a “painting” I started about a year ago but didn’t have the inspiration to finish. I also turned an old, grimy, used up Bath and Body works candle jar into a votive holder for a pillar candle that had been sitting in my closed for years.  Now I can use it during my relaxing at home bath “spa” time.

– I found several apps on my fire TV that offer free shows and movies which is awesome!  I’m currently working my way through “The Middle” on IMDB TV.  There is around 1 (singular) commercial every episode, but for enduring the 1 commercial I get free entertainment.  That’s soooooo much better than HULU which makes you pay AND watch more commercials.

Now for some Stats…

Side hustle income: $48, so not even half my goal of $100.  With social distancing though, once that went into effect I couldn’t justify going out to complete most audits.  Some, like restaurant based audits were canceled too.  (This doesn’t include the 72 hrs I worked at my part time job)

Money to Debt: $2462.97 (This includes minimums)

Now here comes April… In about a week and a half they’re expecting a big surge in Covid-19 cases so my full time job changed up our schedule from 48 on/96 off to 24 on/48 off until the middle of May.  Overall it’s not a massive inconvenience but it does mean two things…

  1.  I’ll be driving to and from work twice as often so I’ll be spending more money on gas.
  2. I won’t be able to pick up as many shifts at my part time job if any.

I guess we’ll see how it all goes.  Until then, keep social distancing everyone!  Let’s prove all the models and projections wrong. And for everyone stuck at home having to get creative, I’d love to see all the ways you’re saving money or upcycling things you have, feel free to share!

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New Look and the “She’s Paying It Off” Story

Well hello all.  If you’re reading this right now it means you found your way to my little corner of the internet, my blog.  Maybe you’ve been subscribed to me for awhile, maybe you founds me through social media… however you made it here, welcome.   Over the last 6 years this blog has covered everything from my time volunteering in Bolivia to my life going to Paramedic School in Alaska.  If you’ve been around here for awhile you may notice a bit of a different look and purpose currently.  Just as seasons change so is my blogging season, and out of this new season has grown “She’s Paying it Off.”  A place where I can share about my current journey to become debt free.  A place for victories and struggles, ideas and advice.

Now, without further ado, story time, or moreover the story of how I got to this place financially and why I decided to so something about it. I promise to make it concise *wink*.

Just after I turned 18 my mother took me down to the bank and helped me open my first credit card.  I needed to build good credit she said and this was an important first step. A couple weeks later I left for my freshman year of college.  I hadn’t worked that summer and didn’t have much disposable income at the time.  I still remember my first purchase on that card, Finding Nemo on DVD.  The thrill of the purchase, the idea that I could spend money even though I didn’t technically have it.  Still though I was very careful with the card, typically only using it for needs.  I was lucky I went to college before social media became very big (everyone was still using myspace at this time, and it was new, just to date myself) so the temptation of comparison and the luxury of online shopping wasn’t commonplace.

Fast forward 4 years to graduation.  By the time I was granted my diploma for my Bachelors of Science in History I was well aware of what debt was.  I had maxed that same credit card just a couple months earlier to pay for a spring break trip to Disney World and had approx $35,000 in student debt under my belt from my silly degree as well as a semester spent studying abroad.  Some of you may be confused as to why I refer to my degree as silly but it really was.  I had no plans to do anything with History, I just enjoyed the subject.  Everyone had said I needed to go to college after high school, so I did.  No one told me I should probably have some idea about what I wanted to do with my life first (trust me, I’ll elaborate on this much more later).

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Studying abroad with Semester At Sea, Fall 2006

I assumed after I graduated college just the fact I had a degree would land me a good job and I could pay off my debt and live the life of my dreams.  Spoiler alert, it didn’t.  I moved back in with my parents and after putzing around for a year was hired as a second grade teacher at a school in Bangkok, Thailand.  The job definitely wasn’t lucrative but it gave me adventure, something I craved more than anything.  My student loans were deferred, and I had a blast for 2 years.

I won’t go into all details of my life between Thailand ( I moved back to the US in spring 2010) and when I first discovered the way, er, *cough,* I mean Financial Peace University.  We’ll just say I traveled the world and made very little money.  I don’t regret a minute of it but in hindsight it probably wasn’t that smart.

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My second year teaching in Thailand, 2009

So on to FPU… my church always offered the class a couple times a year, but it was finally in late 2013 that I decided to take the plunge and invest $100 into the kit, and I flourished.  I did so freaking well.  I budgeted my little heart out and because I had few expenses (lived with my parents at the time and my car was paid off) I was able to save a lot of what I made even though my hourly wage was piss poor.  I knew a life change was coming so instead of applying everything to debt I put it in savings…

Then a lot of change came.  I made the decision to go back to school to get my dream job. I moved to Alaska to do that and bought a new to me car that could survive Alaskan winters.  I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned in FPU, but my debt started to increase and I kept telling myself that was OK…

Now here I sit.  5 years later.  I”m approx $80,000 in debt give or take, but I”m making headway.  I did finish that second degree and got my dream job.  I now make double what I did before which is fantastic, but I still have a long road ahead of me.

If you’ve made it all the way through my story I must say I’m impressed.  I know it’s not that exciting, but it’s also so necessary on this journey.  I need accountability and I’m hoping you can help me with that.  I don’t know how long this journey will take, but I know I’ll get there eventually.  I believe it.

Thanks again,

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