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: 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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No Spend Challenge 2020 JANUARY Recap

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Whew.  Anybody else feel like January lasted for like 100 days?  I don’t know why the first month of the year always feels so stinking long!

It was a crazy month indeed.  I moved to a new ambulance/station at work which is in an entirely new section of our county that I haven’t worked much in.  It’s fantastic though because it’s knocked about 30 minutes each way off my commute, 40 miles off round trip, and I’m using a lot less gas which is awesome.  Plus I pass by Costco on my way home from work, which thankfully is closed at 7am when I get off (because no one needs to spend that kind of money during a no spend challenge, lets be honest), but the gas station is open that early and gas there is super cheap!

As for sticking to my wants vs needs list, well, it was a challenge at times, I won’t lie, but I’m going to go ahead and toot my own horn and say I rocked it.

See my tracker below?

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Ya, I only had one big slip up…  A ticket to go see Kesha live with my work partner/friend in April.  Honestly, I could have technically filed it under my social category in the needs section (see my previous post to see my reasoning for needing a social budget) BUT, there are a lot cheaper social activities I could be doing than an $80 concert ticket, so making it a need is not justifiable.  That being said, do I regret buying it?  No way.  I have wanted to see Kesha in concert for years and when the opportunity popped up to see her and to have someone to go with I jumped at it, and I’m pretty excited!

(P.S. That same tracker is available in my free printables section of the blog if you need one!)

If I’m being entirely honest this month wasn’t a huge challenge with wants vs needs.  A fact I attribute to the whole concept still being so new and exciting.  There were definitely a couple things I ran into that I had to tell myself no when it came to it, but overall, differentiating between wants vs needs wasn’t to hard.  I’m sure this will change eventually so I’m not taking this honeymoon stage for granted!

Now let me talk about some successes.  Some small changes I made this month, or ideas I breathed life into that seemed to work….

  •  Actively avoiding tolls for the most part.  I still drove through a few toll plazas, because toll roads are everywhere around here and in these situations they drastically cut down in my commute time HOWEVER, I avoided tolls approx. 95% of the time, which I’m pretty proud of.
  • Starting a pantry challenge.  Halfway through January, I realized that I don’t need to be dedicating as much to groceries as I am because I am wasting so much food and I have a HUGE stockpile.  My cupboards are nowhere close to empty.  So for the second half of January as well as the full month of February, I’m doing a pantry challenge.  I’ll let you know how the rest of it goes, but so far so good!
  • Using my extra time to focus on establishing good habits.  The first I decided to focus on was a good dental care routine.  Dental work is so expensive (not to mention painful) so preventative care is paramount but I’ve always sucked at it.  I made it a goal to brush/floss/use mouth wash every night before bed and so far I’m at 100%!  The second goal/habit I chose to focus on in January was taking time to read a little bit everyday.  I will admit, I missed two days, but every other day I was successful and I finished 4 books by the end of the month!  Two books I already owned on my kindle, a physical book I owned, and a library book!
  • I finally finished up my bottle of dish soap.  Instead of throwing the bottle away I washed off the gook and refilled it using a giant bottle of dish soap I got from Costco for free last year.

Now lets get to the fun part.  The money I saved!

So January is a bit of a unique month.  I did cut categories from my budget, because of the challenge, which helped, but January was also a 3 paycheck month as well as the month where I get my PTO check (I earn 163 of bonus PTO a year since I have to work holidays as a paramedic (we get it instead of holiday pay) which cashes out down to 70 hours every January). So my income this month was abnormally high.  I won’t have this much leftover in the coming months so that’s something I’m coming to terms with.

Also, I will owe money on my taxes (approx $1000) so the first priority will be to apply what I save to that.

So what are my final numbers?

$5831.25!

I’m pretty proud indeed.  Hopefully in the next week or so I’ll know exactly how much I owe on taxes and how much I can pay to debt.

And now, one last thought on January.  I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the last week-ish of the month was actually spent on vacation visiting my family in WA, a trip that was planned before I decided to do the challenge.  I count the spending on that as seperate and a full breakdown and budget travel recap will be coming in it’s own blog soon!

And there you have it, 1 month down and at least 5 more to go!  We’ll see 😉 Anyone else out there doing a no spend challenge along with me I’d love to hear about your successes as well!

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