Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

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


2 Comments

No Spend Challenge 2020: April Recap

Picture_20200503_162709002

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…

Picture_20200430_162249182

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!

signature

 


Leave a comment

Frugal DIY Greeting Cards (from Magazines!)

Hey all!  How are you doing with this whole social distance thing?  Surviving?  I’m just so ready for it to be over but alas, it is what it is right now I guess.

So, considering so many of us are stuck at home and finding ways to get creative and pass the time I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite frugal DIYs.

Now before we start, this project depends on having a stack of old magazines at your disposal.  If you don’t have that you can always get creative in other ways, using construction paper or whatever you may have on hand, but for the sake of my project I’m using old magazines.

Ok, now onward to the craft!  Today folks we’re making DIY greeting cards, which, if you’re on a no spend year like me is great because it means you won’t feel the temptation to spend money on cards.

What you’ll need (and hopefully you already have on hand):

Old magazines
Glue
Scissors
Cardstock or printer paper
Pen/Pencil

IMG_20200410_145943

Step 1:  Flip through your magazines looking specifically for pages with large areas of solid colors OR cool looking prints.  Tear out the pages.

IMG_20200410_150019

Step 2:  Go through and cut out the solid colors from the pages, attempt to keep the pieces a straight as possible (think rectangles).

IMG_20200410_152730

Step 3:  Cut the pieces into small squares

IMG_20200410_161005

Step 4:  Now take your glue and cardstock/printer paper or whatever you’re going to use to make the body of the card.  I had a bunch of blank cards I got at Michaels a while back so that’s what I used.  Begin gluing the small squares to the card in whatever pattern you like, going line by line.  Don’t worry about letting parts of the squares overhang the sides, we’ll take care of that on the next step.

IMG_20200410_164448

Step 5:  Now that you’re done gluing on the squares flip the card over and trim the edges.

Step 6:  Now is the time to embellish.  You can do this however you’d like.  You can even just keep the card as a plain pattern.  If you want to keep the frugal concepts going you can cut out shapes from other magazine pages or extra printer paper (like I did here).  OR of course you can use stickers, glitter, whatever else you may have on hand.

And there you go, you have some easy frugal greeting cards and (hopefully) didn’t even have to visit a craft store!


Leave a comment

No Spend Challenge 2020: MARCH Recap

picture_20200402_165641541

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.

IMG_20200331_110545

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!

signature


Leave a comment

No Spend Challenge 2020 FEBRUARY Recap

Picture_20200308_134942945(*Now, just to make a note, I share the following just to share my experience through this no spend challenge and my debt free journey hopefully inspire others.  These are my own experiences, my own wins and challenges that I mainly share because I know it inspires me to read about what other people are doing or have done as well.)

Hello Everyone!  We made it to March!  Two months down, many more to go.  I’ve admittedly meant to sit down and write this blog for days now but I’ve been enjoying a good mix of living and relaxing that I can’t complain about.

So let’s get to it.  February was actually a pretty good month.  I stuck to my guns and had no big slip-ups outside of my “needs” and allowances!

That being said I did have a couple disappointments financially…

  • I paid more in electricity than I wanted to.  I’ve had a lot of issues with my Thyroid for years.  In December I went through my second round of radioactive iodine to essentially kill it off.  Well, needless to say it worked and I have been FREEZING for the last month which meant turning up the heat in my apartment a bit (because even wearing layers couldn’t compensate).  It only came out to $53 but that was $10 more than January which in the grand scheme is pretty freaking good, just disappointing to me.
  • I went through a couple tolls for convenience’s sake.  For the most part I avoid them, and I actually allow for some toll usage in my budget, but I try to record each time I do it.  In February I didn’t.  I know I’m being nit picky, but every little bit counts.
  • I was going to cancel Disney Plus but was trying to finish the Mandalorian first.  Well I finally finished The Mandalorian but missed canceling Disney Plus by one day (facepalm) so I’ll have it for one more month.

Now for the good things in February!

  • I cash flowed my taxes!  I know this may sound weird, but I saved more than enough in January to pay the $950 plus preparation fees etc. which feels good.
  • I successfully completed my Pantry Challenge!  From the middle of January until the end of February I was cooking solely from my cabinets with the exception of staples like milk, eggs and fruits/veggies.  I won’t lie, there were days where leftovers felt like the worst thing ever, and the firefighters I work with would make fun of me for it (all in jest) but I spent <$50 on groceries in 6 weeks.  That is a win.
  • I was on top of things with my good habits challenge!  I finished 5 books in February which blew my goal of 2 books out of the water.  I also followed my oral care plan to the T.  I had a dentist appt on the 27 for a cleaning and the hygenist commented that I had almost no build up!  Hooray!  I still have a lot of things I need to fix, but for the time being, I’m not doing further damage.
  • I found out about the Texshare card!  I was disappointed to learn that my library didn’t have a few books I wanted and it would cost me $3 per book to do an interlibrary loan.  My library does however participate in the Texshare program which allows members in good standing to go to other participating libraries to check out books, which means, I can go to the Austin libraries and get the books I wanted, for free!

Free and fun stuff…

  • February was Black History month and for a couple select days I found out Regal Theaters was offering free screenings of Harriet so I decided to take advantage of it and I’m so glad I did!  Going to the movies, or moreover paying for movies (outside of dates) isn’t allowed on my wants vs needs list so it was fantastic to get to enjoy the theater.  It also opened up a whole world of free advance screenings to me, so, after some research, it looks like I may be getting to enjoy more free movies in the future.  Don’t worry I’ll share details so you can enjoy it too when I know more!
  • I went to Mardi Gras Galveston with my friend/work partner Shannon.  This is the third year I’ve been and it’s just so much fun (and no, unlike popular belief you don’t have to do crazy things to get beads, at least not in Galveston).  I used my social budget to get some food that day, but made wise choices.  We also found free parking for everything even though it meant walking a little farther.
  • I got lots of free products to try and free food!  The Field Agent app gave me the opportunity to try a lot of toiletry products for free and then through Field Agent and other apps I got free Little Ceasers, Sonic, and Panda Express.  I’m obviously not eating out during my no-spend challenge (outside of my social allowances) so I’ll take everything I can get!

Overall I was able to put $1981.75 toward debt in February!  Heck yes!

Picture_20200228_165141323

Finally, since I haven’t said anything about it, I went on a trip to Washington State to visit my family and friends at the end of January/Beginning of February.  This trip was planned prior to my deciding to do the spending fast and it was so worth it.  In all, not including the flight, which I bought last year, I spend $310.  This included….

  •  Ski equipment rental for two days of skiing (my dad blessed me by paying for the lift tickets and condo we stayed in)
  • Buying the groceries for the three days of the ski trip with my dad.
  • Taking my mom out to see a movie.  She covered dinner and I covered the movie.  It was a good night out with my mom.
  • Going on a hiking adventure with my oldest friend.  She drove, so I paid for lunch.
  • Lunch at Dicks drive-in on an adventure day with my sister’s family.
  • Supplies to make bath bombs with my niece.
  • The airport parking fees for my car in Austin for a week.

So there you have it!  Onward to making March the most successful month yet!