Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


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Spending Fast 2020: What, Why, and my Ground Rules

Three years ago, while I was living in Alaska I was browsing through Pinterest one day looking at budget and money management inspiration when I stumbled upon a little blog called AndThenWeSaved.  Honestly, it was the kick @ss graphics that drew me in but I quickly found a source of inspiration that would (or should I say will) become life changing for me.  The blog’s author, Anna, had experienced a sick and tired moment when it came to her debt.  She then devised a plan to complete a year long no spend challenge, aka a Spending Fast, to get rid of her burden of debt once and for all, and she did it you guys!  She paid off over $20,000 of debt that year and chronicled it all in her blog.  Even more, just before I discovered her she published a book where she further outlined how she got out of debt and gave tips, tricks, and advice to inspire others to be successful at paying off their debts too.  So, of course, I immediately went onto Amazon and bought it (you can find it here), and I tell you what, I was on fire and ready to slay my debts…for about 3 weeks and then the reality of being a broke Paramedic student with barely any income sank in.  Yes, I could follow some of the tips and live frugally so that I hopefully didn’t incur any more debt, but the real attack was going to have to wait until after graduation.

Well, as you can imagine graduation came and my first paramedic job came around 5 months later.  It was amazing, after making only $12,000 in taxible dollars the previous year as a student I was finally bringing in a sizeable income.  Suddenly I wanted all the shiny, pretty things I had been depriving myself of.  To be fair I didn’t go out and buy an expensive car or a fancy laptop, but I could finally get all those fun little things on my list that were going to make me the coolest girl in town right?  Pricey brand name makeup from Ulta, a pair of Rifle Paper Co. designed Keds, a Clairsonic Mia.  Suddenly all of my WANTS were more important than the mountains of money I owed.

And it stayed that way for a while.

Every now and again I would get a wild amount of inspiration to start paying off my debt.  I’d even go back and read through Anna’s book again, but the motivation would quickly go away and I was right back where I started.

Then this last January something changed.  I can’t say that I had a specific moment where it clicked for me, but I was just really tired of being scared of my bank account.  I hated logging into the app for my credit union because I knew I was going to have a scary low amount of money in there.  Y’all that’s NO WAY TO LIVE!  Jeez.  So I committed to getting rid of my debt once in for all.  It was slow going at first but over time I’ve gained more and more momentum.  I’ve cash flowed car repairs, dental procedures, and medical bills.  Oh ya, and I also paid off my car and my line of credit!

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Now, why a spending fast?

So in general I follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps and use the debt snowball method.  Step number 2 is to pay off all your debts but the house (which I don’t have) smallest to largest.  That’s it.  There’s no how to’s or inspiration laying in that step.  Just pay off your debt however you can.

And that’s where the spending fast comes in for me.  Over the last year I’ve done a pretty good job at budgeting and cutting expenses but honestly, I could do better.  I don’t need a  new shirt from Walmart just because it’s cute.  I don’t need to eat dinner with the firefighters every day I’m on shift.  Instead, that money, one dollar at a time, could easily go to pay off my debt just a little faster.

I’m kind of looking at this as a cool challenge.  I’m a fairly competitive person so this is pretty much a competition for myself.  How long can I really go without spending money on my NEEDS (more on wants vs needs later)?

To sum it up I still have a lot of debt.  Close to $80,000 and if I don’t do something radical, at the rate I’m going it’s going to take me years to pay it all off.  If I can really commit to this fast I predict that I can pay off at least $30,000 next year, but possibly more.  It really depends on the amount of overtime and the number of shifts at my part-time job I can get.  We’ll see!

So what are my ground rules/general guidelines I’m setting for the fast?

First of all, the time frame.

I thought a long time about how much I wanted to commit and 6 months just feels right.  So as of now I’m committing to a Spending Fast from January to June.  Then once June comes around I’m going to reevaluate.  I’m keeping the possibility of doing a fast for an entire year high on my list, I’m just not ready to commit quite yet.  By June though, if not before, I should have a good idea if the tactic is working for me.

Now what else?  Let’s see….

  1.  Only buy needs.  To some of you that concept may seem super vague.  Others of you may think it sounds super strict.  I promise it will become clearer soon.  My plan is to make a general wants vs needs list, as well as a more detailed list, within the next week or two and share it here for accountability.  This is to keep me on track and remind me what my needs really are compared to simple wants.
  2. Have grace when it comes to unexpected needs.  I recognize that I could plan everything down to the detail and surprises will still arise.  My plan is to weigh each situation as it comes up and determine how significant of a need each item or experience truly is.
  3. Sinking Funds/Envelopes:  Once the new year starts I will stop contributing to a majority of my sinking funds and envelopes.  Sinking funds for health expenses, Toiletries (because hair dye is a need for me, but only the cheap stuff), social, and Misc. will continue to receive contributions.  All others will stop.
  4. Paying for needs.  Some needs such as rent, electricity, gas etc. are going to remain line items in my budget.  Other needs such as toilet paper or socks, should all of mine suddenly disappear (an extreme example but we all know that sock goblins love stealing socks), I’m going to use my current sinking funds to pay for.  For example, the cost of toilet paper would come out of my cleaning and organizing fund.  Because I will no longer be contributing to these funds, once the money is depleted the needs will be paid for using my Misc. envelope.  If that were to run out at some point I will have to go without or use another fund, such as groceries, to cover the need.
  5. Follow through on current plans.  I have a trip scheduled at the end of January/Early February to go to Seattle to spend time with my family and go skiing with my dad.  Two other tentative trips for the first half of the year are a short trip to Alaska to visit friends (using Airmiles) and a possible weekend trip to Dallas to visit my cousin.  I have decided to not cancel any of these trips but instead approach them very frugally.  Each will/would have their own set of rules that I will establish as they get closer.
  6. Make do and mend.  Try to fix it first, buy used if I can and new if absolutely necessary.
  7.   It’s OK to say no.  No to hanging out.  No to spending money.  No to OT shifts.  I’m doing this to tackle as much debt as I possibly can.

And there you have it!  My last paycheck for 2019 is December 26 which means things are going to start getting tight after that!  And the funny thing is, I can’t wait!


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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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Ways I Saved In July

This type of  post is new for me and a bit of a departure from my usual life recap posts.  See, July posed a bit of a challenge for me.  Because it was the end of the fiscal year I found out I would have to wait 6 weeks for my next pay check instead of the usual 4.  On top of that I also had to pay my tuition for summer semester, so when all was said and done I was left with a pretty empty bank account to get me to the next paycheck and I had to get a bit creative.

I can’t lie, having a severely restricted budget for the month was super difficult.  For example, there was one Saturday when the weather was gorgeous and I had nothing to do so I thought I’d take a road trip down to Homer.  Unfortunately road trips require gas and gas costs money, so it didn’t happen.  However, despite the frustrations that came along the way, I actually enjoyed coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make my few dollars stretch further.  In the end I compiled a list of things I did, ideas that worked, and blessings I got, and I thought I’d share it here .

So without further ado, here’s how I saved in July 2016:

  •  Cooking with what I already had:  My cupboards have never been bare.  I always have a few packages of pasta, pancake mix, ramen, etc., I just usually skim by these items until I crave them, instead favoring what I want right now (pizza anyone?).  So, in July I made the decision to only cook with what I already had with the exception of buying milk and eggs since most recipes call for one or the other. In the end I never went hungry, I found new recipes, and I appreciated what I had that much more.
  • Planning a Potluck:  Speaking of food, as an RA (Resident Assistant) I’m expected to plan and execute one event in the Residence Hall every month.  Since fireworks are difficult in Alaska (thank you 22 hrs of daylight), one of my fellow RA’s and I planned a Fourth of July Potluck and Movie night for our event.  I brought cupcakes (which I already had the mix for on hand, see #1 above) but got to enjoy other dishes like beer battered halibut and home made mac n’ cheese.  Not a bad dinner at all.  Then on top of the food we also had free entertainment by watching Independence Day on our big screen.
  • Went on ResHall Grocery Runs instead of driving myself:  In the Residence Hall I live in (picture college dorms but better), since we have kitchens but don’t have a dining hall we offer grocery runs every week to the local store.  Anyone can go on them so long as there’s space left in our Sprinter van.  More often than not we go to Fred Meyers, which is my store of choice, so instead of hopping in my car and driving myself (therefore using gas), I joined in on the grocery run.  I was able to pick up the few items I actually needed and the transportation cost me nothing.
  • Biked into town–  I needed something from the grocery store and it was a non grocery run day so I borrowed a bike and rode to town instead.  It wasn’t easy considering it’s been years since I’ve been on a bike, but it was free!13880374_10102722653168578_8337803630607402409_n
  • Cancelled my CBS All Access subscription–  A few months back I subscribed to CBS All Access so I could watch Survivor and The Amazing Race.  Both shows are currently out of season and I found I wasn’t using the app at all, so I cancelled it therefore saving me money.  I’ll pick it up again sometime in the future, but there’s no need to pay for something you don’t use.
  • Earned Amazon giftcards for things I needed:  I’ve been a product tester for awhile and one of the sites I go through, Crowdtap, also gives you the ability to earn Amazon.com giftcards for answering various questions or surveys on the site.  Another site, Swagbucks, is similar in that you can earn giftcards for doing various different activities.  When I watch TV etc. I usually like to multitask so I decided to put my multitasking to good use and try to earn some giftcards through these sites for a couple things I needed.  In the end I had $20 to work with, and while I won’t do this consistently it’s a good option, especially for those who like to shop on Amazon a lot.
  • Went on vacation for free:  Ok, this one is a little more of a blessing than something I did for myself.  Back in May my Dad called me and asked if I would like to come down to Washington to visit this summer and offered to use their air miles to get me a ticket.  Of course I said yes!  My parents ended up renting a house on a Lake in Eastern Washington for a week and it was absolutely perfect. See my post here to read more about it. My parents also covered everything which helped me out a lot in the end.   Some other ways I was able to save on this trip were:

-Used my Club 49 membership to get free checked luggage on my flight

-Brought my own snacks for the flight and an empty water-bottle to fill up in the terminal to save money.  I did end up buying a soda from McDonalds, but the McDonalds in the Anchorage airport is on of the few that still honors $1 drinks instead of jacking up the price like other airports.  They also don’t have tax so I was able to pull a dollar bill out of my wallet and be done.

13901328_10102734786158968_7224316368299274631_nSo there you have it, some of the ways I was able to save money during July.  This is most definitely not an exhaustive list, but I thought I’d throw a few things out there.  Right now I’ve continued the challenge into August.  While I’m not quite as strict as I was in July I’m really doing my best to save more, especially with my internship coming up next month!

 


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Lets Get Crafty: DIY Greeting Cards Pt. 1

DIY Collage Card

Back at the beginning of the year I wrote about my journey with Financial Peace, or, at least the beginning of it.  These last 8 months have been a huge learning experience in how to manage my money, and most of all make good decisions with it.  I’ll admit, I’ve slipped up a few times… usually at Target (lets be honest, that store could take all of my money if I’m not careful), but for the most part I’ve really impressed myself with how well I’ve done.

Part of the journey in learning how to manage money well is also learning how to take advantage of your resources and get creative with what you have, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time brainstorming ideas.

Which leads me to this post!

Chances are you give out a fair amount of cards every year.  Birthdays, thank yous, graduation cards, Easter cards, the list goes on and on.  When you consider the cheapest cards in the store are $1 the cost can really start to add up.  I know it has for me, so I tried to think of creative ways to make my own by brainstorming with the materials I already have.  I came up with a couple different ideas so I thought I’d share with you all!

This first DIY card is super easy.  You can literally crank one of these out in 15 minutes or less, so grab some old magazines and lets get to work!

First of all, here’s what you’ll need (Plus a pencil, I forgot to get that in the picture.  Lo siento!)

DIY Collage Card

First you’ll want to trace the card.  I like using cardstock for the card itself.  It’s heavy and has a really nice smooth feel compared to traditional construction paper.  I typically by big packs of it at Joanns when it goes on sale for $2 every so often, and usually I can cut out two cards from each sheet, so it works really well.

DIY Collage Card

Next it’s time to cut the card out.  I usually use a ruler and exacto knife to get a really straight edge, however I got these really great American Crafts scissors at Tuesday Mornings, and they rock!  They’re so exact and sharp!

Then, once the card has been cut out, go ahead and fold the card in half.  If the cut wasn’t perfect go ahead and trim the edges.

DIY Collage Card

Now  you’re ready to collect your materials.  As I go through my magazines I typically look for pages with lots of the same color (usually adds) so that it will give me a lot of room to work with.  A lot of times I’ll try to fit a specific color scheme as well.  Below are the ones I picked out for this card.

*Tip:  If you want to use white, try to use a page that doesn’t have a lot of print on the backside because once you glue it down the print will show through.

DIY Collage Card

Next cut out the pieces from each page that you want to use and from there cut the strips into little squares approx 1 in x 1 in (and no, it doesn’t matter if they’re perfect).

DIY Collage Card

DIY Collage Card

DIY Collage Card

Now you’re ready to start making your card!  Bust out your glue stick and get to work.  I personally like to alternate colors completely, but this is your card, get creative with it.  Also, don’t worry about lining up with the edges, you’ll be able to cut off the excess in the end

*Tip: Put the glue on the back of each piece instead of spreading it on the card first.  Each piece will overlap just a little bit, so in order to make sure the entire piece is glued down the glue will need to be applied directly to each piece.

DIY Collage Card

DIY Collage Card

DIY Collage Card

And viola!  You have a card!  Aren’t you proud?  I love these colors, they turned out so fun. Perfect for summer!

DIY Collage Card

But you also don’t have to stop with just the collage.  You can start adding other elements on top if you would like as well.  Here are a few other cards I’ve made using some of the leftover card stock scraps.  They’re obviously still a work in progress for the most part, but you get the jist.  The possibilities are essentially endless.

DIY Collage Card

So there you go, DIY cards using materials on hand.  Saving a little money and creating something personal for those special people in your life.  I have a few other card ideas swirling around so stay tuned for those.

And on another awesome note, this is the last post that will feature pictures taken on my poor little broken Canon Rebel.  The camera served me well for 7 years but it was time to move on.  I actually broke the screen on it while I was in Boliva so I wasn’t able to see any pictures I took until they got leaded onto my computer, which was a huge pain.  But, after more than a year of drooling over a new camera, and spending 5 months stalking Amazon.com to see if the price would budge I finally went for it and got a Canon 60D, and folks, it’s beautiful.  It’s amazing how much technology can improve in just a few years.  Oh, and the screen on it is one of those where you can flip it in and out and around (you follow?), so hopefully I won’t break it this time.

Yay for Gods blessings!   I head down to Mexico in less than two weeks so I’m excited to see what it will do!  (Ironically enough Mexico was the first big outing for my rebel too, this time I will prepare for all the dirt and dust involved).

Thanks for stopping by!

XO,
Manda

 


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Moola Saving Tip Numero Uno: Buy in the Off Season

Imagine.  It’s the middle of October and you’re headed to Walmart to buy a new pack of underwear.  On your way back to the unmentionables section you are suddenly overwhelmed by racks and racks and racks of clearance summer clothes filling up the wide aisle.  You think “sweet! Maybe I can score an awesome _______!” But after 20 minutes of sorting through XS booty shorts and XXL T-shirts with cats on them you give up.  Dissapointed not to make the find of the century.

Can you relate to this scenario?  Maybe it wasn’t Walmart (because lets face it, their clearance items are usually not that great), but at Target, JCPenny’s or some other store instead?

I typcially have great luck when it comes to clearance sections, but if I’m trying to find something specific I’m usually screwed, especially when it come to pricier items.

But I think I’ve finally found a way to get what I want for a price I can pay.  See, even expensive stores like REI can end up with to many Columbia raincoats and in an effort to move inventory they need to slash prices giving normal people like us a chance to get that sweet item we’ve been eyeing.

Case and point.  When I returned home from Bolivia last winter I had just spent the last year in summer climates.  My collection of winter clothes was lacking and I desperately needed some boots, but, considering I didn’t have a job and hadn’t had a paying job in a year I needed them to be cheap.  I looked everywhere, in stores, online, but nothing was right.  Either they were ugly or way to out of my price range.

Fast forward a few months.  Well, to a few days ago to be exact.  I went onto the Crocs website looking for a pair of sandals.  Say what you want about Crocs.  I hate the original ones but their newer styles aren’t so bad.  Well, I didn’t find any sandals I liked, but then I looked at the top of the page and found a word that always gets my attention, SALE!. So I clicked and that’s when I found these:

Boots!

They may not by Merrels but they’re still cute, had great reviews and are comfortable for people with wide feet, which I unfortunatly have, but the best part???  The price!  Originally $93 (a price I could have never afforded) they had been marked down to $30.  That’s right, $30!  Ya, I won’t probably be able to wear them for another 6 months, but who cares?  I finally have boots!

And this isn’t the first time I’ve scored a sweet deal in the off season.  While I was in Swaziland on the World Race in February 2012 I wandered onto Backcountry.com’s clearance website Department of Goods where I was able to score a sweet pair of Chacos for $45 in the color I wanted!  Chacos usually sell  for around $100.  That’s pretty steep in my book, so I waited and looked and finally found my pair for more than 50% off!  Another cool thing about Chacos?  When the straps wear out you can get them completely re-webbed for $36.  That’s like multiple pairs of sandals in one.  Score!

Chacos!

There’s nothing quite like the high you get from scoring an amazing deal on something you really want.

Have you ever made a great score on an items you’ve been eyeing?


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My Love Affair With the Target Clearance Rack

Sale.  This one word can make any womans heart flutter.  When you add the word Clearance into the mix, ooo, watch out.

When I go to Target (which isn’t as often as one might think) I have a habit of trolling the end-caps and attune my vision to notice the little orange stickers that mark an item as clearance.  Those beautiful orange  stickers.

Every now and again I make some great scores at Target, but this week was better than most.  Here’s what i got…Target Score

Pink Scotch Expressions Tape: Originally $3.20 on clearance for $1.64, used $1 coupon = 64 cents

Mead OrganizHer Coupon binder: Originally $15 on clearance for $4.50

Suave Professionals Hair Care: Not technically on clearance… had BOGO coupon worth up to $5, it took $5 off my total cost so each bottle came out to 50 cents in the end, yay!

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Heather Bailey Planner: Originally $15, on clearance for $3.50.  I have trouble using planners but I do make lists so I’m hoping the format of this planner will work for me, and if not at least I didn’t spend a fortune on it.

Target saving

 

Package of 4 bowls: Originally $7 on clearance for $2.  I’ve been stocking up on household items for awhile now.  A couple weeks ago I bought a pack of plates on clearance so I thought I might as well get some bowls to go along with it.  Afterall, you can’t eat cereal on a plate!

Target Savings

 

And finally I was able to score this dress as well as the same design in black for $12.50 each (Originally $25!).  The funny thing is a couple months ago I took pictures of both dresses and put them on my “want list.” I typically don’t get 95% of the things on my list so it was cool to score something for once, and for a good price!

Have you had any great scores at Target (or anywhere else) lately?