Paying off debt - continued

I want to thank all those who took the time to add a comment yesterday. I am sure they will help the men and women who read them and find something that will fit their circumstance and make sense to them. It is a wonderful thing to get well intentioned advice from people who have been in the same situation, and it is enriching to offer that advice with an open heart.

This is an important topic and there are a few points I want to continue with today.

Anne made a good point that I want to comment on, she said:
When budgeting and cutting back, it is too easy for me to start feeling cold, hungry and destitute, before even beginning! But when I start looking at all that we already have: food in the cupboards, clothes in the closets, more "entertainment" items than anybody needs, a roof and walls to keep out the elements, plenty of blankets and comforters, I start feeling rich rather than deprived. Then I am able to be objective about what items are truly necessities, and spend or not spend accordingly.

Yesterday at my voluntary job I was asked by one of our clients to accompany him to the police station. He'd been bashed on the weekend and had to make a statement to the police. He wanted me with him when he did it. He was walking with the aid of crutches so we hopped in my car and drove up town. During the course of the statement, he said that he thought he'd lost his phone during the attack but someone had given it back to him later. He said that phone meant more to him than his wallet because it contained ALL his personal things. It held his photos, his address book and it was his only safety device. This man is homeless and having dealt with him for a few months I know his only possessions are a canvass bag he carries with him, a tent we gave him, some blankets and a swag, a small stove, plate, cup, knife and fork that he bought, and his clothes and hat. He comes to the neighbourhood centre most mornings to have a shower, he washes his clothes every second day in our washer. While we were waiting to be seen, I asked him if there was anything he needed. He said he wanted a new hat because his was ripped, but he added, "I don't need a new hat but I'd like one."

When I meet people like this it makes me feel shame for every time in my old life when I wanted something and complained like a seven year old when I couldn't have it.

A few people recommended Dave Ramsey and I want to echo that. I've written about him a couple of times but if you're struggling with debt, or even if you want to stay on track, reading his website will help, I'm sure. Dave is in the US. If you're in the UK, there is another helpful site called They offer sound advice and have a very helpful forum where you can ask questions or just read through hundreds of pages about people recovering from debt and how they did it. If you're in Australia, you can find no better place than Lisa's fabulous thread on the Down to earth forum. Every two months Lisa and her group set a financial goal for themselves and then work towards it. During the course of the past year, Lisa goal was to save $10,000 - she did it and tells how on the thread. Lisa will start a new thread doing the same thing in the new year, so if you can't, or don't want to, join now, what better time than the new year! Michelle just gave us this link for our New Zealand readers - living off the smell of an oily rag. I've checked it out and it looks like a real winner.

One of the readers sent an email about this yesterday and I want to share part of it with you. It's about budgeting and small children and it's great advice, thanks Lisa. Lisa says:

What I wanted to share is that it is so important not to scare the kids, but to make them part of the discussions even at this young age because then they feel they are making a difference and not just being denied all the time. This might help other families that might be wanting to shield their children from "ADULT" worries. To us it has helped enormously to share not the burden but the fun of finding other ways to live and to make it a choice for us all and not just something we are imposing on the kids from our poor choices earlier. There are still times when it is hard on them and they really want something, but now if I say I just don't have the money for that this week, they understand and don't have a melt down in the store. I try to also sacrifice something I true want so they can have something next week to make up. It will be a very small thing, but it is still a treat and they appreciate their treats so much more now. I give up a coffee I am really craving when I am out (a very rare thing these days for me to purchase) and I gain a lovely smile from my children when I can give them a lollie or a mango.

And finally I wanted to add something that a couple of readers mentioned - that it's easy to feel deprived when you're paying off debt, but you can choose to see it as something really positive. Sure it's nice to have a new dress, you might even think you deserve it, but you deserve to live deft-free and without worry more than you deserve a dress. You might be longing to give your children the game they really want but giving them a life without arguments over money and parents who are financially sound is much better for them.

There will never be a better time than now to decide that you're going to follow a different path and start to get serious about your debt. Another thing that worked for Hanno and I was to give each other pocket money so we felt we had our own money if we wanted to buy something. For us it is $10 a week, but it should be only what you can afford. Betweenbabies, that might work for you and your husband. That $10 can be saved up to buy something more expensive, or spent each week just to buy bits and pieces when we're out. It can mean the difference between success and failure for some people who have a problem when starting to save.

Again, if you have any sound advice about paying off debt or living frugally, please add it here. I'd like to hear from readers who might have been convinced they should start cutting back, drawing up a budget and paying off debt. Do you need any more information about getting started on that road? If so, let me know.

Thanks again everyone. You've shown me once again what a thoughtful and wonderful community of readers we have here.


  1. Not sure if you've seen this site but there are lots of nuggets, check it out!

  2. thanks Michelle, I've added it to the main post. It's great to give a worthwhile link for readers in the various countries.

  3. This is such an interesting topic to read about. Although I don't have any debt, I still like to practice living frugally and save money. I feel rewarded everytime I can make something myself whether it be baking, sewing, crafting like making my own cards etc.
    Yesterday I made my own fruit and veg produce bags so that the next time I go to the supermarket (vege garden not producing much at the moment), I don't have to use those plastic bags that are provided. It only required basis sewing skills, a sewing machine, some suitable see through, light weight fabric which I got on sale and time. Perhaps some of your readers are making their own fruit and veg produce bags, but if not, it might be something they are interested in to help the environment.
    Have a lovely day,

  4. We do pretty well with frugality, but it's easy to get side tracked. The problem is when you get derailed, it's harder to get back to where you were.

  5. I have to admit that I was initially motivated by fear to pay off my debts. Some people are motivated by carrots, I need a stick to make big changes in my life. I was reading a lot of material, from 2005 onwards, that spoke of future bank failures, recession/depression, energy price volatility, food inflation...all very depressing. But it terrified me enough to get my act into gear. Then our son was born and I realised I would be short changing him if he grew up in a financially unstable household. I started reading less doom filled blogs (like your own) and I was able to reframe the change of lifestyle in terms of potential quality of life, which gave me the last little push I needed; and made the whole process a lot more pleasant. Making the most of what I have is now an excuse for creativity and learning, not in deprivation.

  6. I think you're point about remembering that other people are far less well off is well taken. It can be so easy to feel pity for ourselves, or angry at the world when things don't seem to be going our way, but there's always someone worse off, and it's important to be grateful for that which we do have (and to offer help where possible as well, of course).

    My grandmother used to say, "If everyone in the world put their problems in a pile to be exchanged, you'd be very happy to take yours back again". That's not to say these things are easy - they're not - but gratitude is a powerful thing, and can help to make these situations feel a lot better.

  7. I just wanted to say that finally clearing my debts this August has been the most liberating feeling of my life - it's given me far more pleasure than any shopping trip or treat. Dig your heels in guys and stay focused!

  8. Years ago my daughter and I found ourselves with school debt. It needed to be paid. We used tea bags more than once, only used tissues when we had colds and the rest of the time toilet paper and on the list goes. We paid off that debt. Next debt was the car payments hers by then and mine. We both conserved in every way we could - very little fast food sometimes just enough to tide us over until we could get home to fresh fruits or veggies. Car debt was paid and a fund began for our next vehicles. Then house debt. Well this was a big one but over a period of quite a few years this one came too. I thought I had arrived. What a wonderful feeling. I could retire. So I cut back all the utilities to the bare essentials.'s not time for social security yet and it costs more just to live daily than I thought. So I am still working but now I am saving for retirement. I'll be there at some point. We have learned so much, it's been hard at times but we've had fun. Now we use Netflix and stream a lot of BC programs. Pay only $10. a month. It is fantastic. We learned as we moved forward with debt repayment. I hope this isn't to long and will be encouraging to some. Have a debt free day. :)

  9. I have never had the problem of paying off debts, because I never allowed myself to get into debt, even at a time when my Husband was made redundant in the 70's. I think one's biggest assets in life are being able to cook, sew and be creative, because they can become money spinners and save the day when all else fails. I have always survived this way. 8 years ago, my husband was deprived of his large pension (which is a long and nasty story),and we were faced with a very worrying situation. He became ill and now has an ongoing illness. I immediately turned our home into a Bed & Breakfast which is a great success, and I love it.I use all my talents and enjoy sharing our home with guests from all over the world. I always have an emergency fund, and a travel fund. It is amazing how much money can be saved by careful planning, and living simply.I work extremely hard for 11 months of the year,and have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Brisbane with my lovely daughter and family.One of my mantras is turn the mundane into the spectacular. I made your buttermilk Apple Cake yesterday.It is delicious and surpasses my Devon apple cake. Thank you.

  10. My husband and I have no debt, but we prefer to live frugally and use what we have wisely to make it last. For me it's a challenge and fun to use what I have to make something new and needed. We have raised our daughters to do the same and given the current economy they are very thankful we did!
    It's so encouraging to come here and find people who are working towards the goal of being debt free....and happy! Better for family's and for our countries!

  11. I'm also a fan of another NZ website called This is run by a Southern gal (originally from the US), who is now living the simple life in NZ's Far North. Blessings to you. Bev :)

  12. Rhonda Jean
    I don't know if this was posted before / yesterday but just wanted to add to those thinking about starting a budget. What I found most frustrating was figuring out what happened to the 'cash' taken out at cash machines. It just disappeared in my budget and it was frustrating.

    So now Simon and I try to spend everything on our debit card, even if it is just a stamp, so that I get a record of where at least shop the money was spent at on my online banking. I keep tabs on updating my budget every few days and can always remember what the money was spent for when the debit shows up online.

    Also, I keep my budget on a spreadsheet (excel). Just so I don't repeat my expenses as they come in, I make my 'cell' I add in expenses within a given category, like, groceries, as a little formula so that it shows me what each amount came to if I click on it. For example, in the cell of grocery expenses, it may say £70, but if I click into it, at the top I could see the following: =56.89+2.44+4.76+5.91

    Hope that made sense!
    Jennifer (HomeMattersMost)

  13. thank you for such a thought provoking blog. we sold our house to get out of debt, so i could stay at home and be with my new baby. we put everything into renovating an old beach house and then gave it all away. we now live humbley in a rental property, paid off all our debts and the relief from the stress is amazing. i do have to add though it is easy to feel comfy when you have your own real estate fully paid off, and were able to purchase this at such a lower more affordable price in the past. now real estate is beyond most young people and if no hand me downs from parents will never have that stability in their lives. also young people do not have those domestic skills to do handmade etc to make the essentials of life. i am amazed how much it costs to go the supermarket now days for such a simple shop of the basics.
    another huge drain in insurance, which i think is the biggest con of modern age.

  14. I am passing the Stylish Blogger Award on to you. If you would like to accept, you can find details at my blog,

  15. Just found your blog the other day and enjoying it. I/we the family have lived simple, on the edge so to speak, most of our lives. The four children at home love it so daily life is good for us. We have lived with little money and no debt for a long time here in northern Mexico where it is a part of the culture to do so. Thanks...

  16. Thanks for the mention! I have tried in the past to give him an amount of cash each week, so I think I should go back to that. He did do okay with it. The thing I have to remember is that I need to have a little cash, too, because there are things I want to save up for or be able to buy that I don't think about when we budget, like getting yarn to do a project, or just splurging on something I don't normally buy, but still like. My husband believes that he treats cards the same as cash, but I know he doesn't by the way he uses the two so differently. He also struggles with the idea of not taking his bank card with him everywhere he goes, while I think it's one of his greatest weaknesses. But one step at a time. We need to get back on Dave Ramsey's program, we only did it for a few months, but during that time, I really noticed where our money was going and was much more conscientious.

  17. I think one of the keys is that the person has to want to make a change. And everyone in the family has to be on board. Someone mentioned Netflix. Another option is your local library. You can check out DVD's - free!

    Watch your local grocery store flyer's and plan your meals around what is on sale, especially the meat. If you eat a lot of chicken breast (or what ever meat you use a lot) and they are on sale, stock up and freeze some if you can. That specific meat might not go on sale again for 2-3-4 weeks. Along with this, make enough to take for lunch the next day. Better yet, make a double batch and freeze one for later.

    Think about have a few meatless meal. Rhonda Jean has a great recipe for chickpea burgers.

    Think about a garden and start to grow some of the things you like to eat. Get the kids involved.

    Sincerely, Emily

  18. We are a family of six, and although we have been completely debt free for seven years now (FREEDOM!!!) we continue to live richly, but frugally. One of the biggest chunks taken out of each month's income is for food and household necessities. This is an area of our budget that we have been able to whittle down over the years. Here are some specifics of what we do, in case they may be of help to others who are working on paying off debt: Our monthly budget for food and household necessities is $350(US). $100 of this is for fruits and vegetables, and local farm eggs. (We grow and preserve blackberries, tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, and butternut squash, as well as summer salad greens.) $200 is for staples (flour, grains, beans, dried fruit, etc.) bought in bulk from a buying club, toilet paper, soap, olive oil and sometimes cheese. (Our meat is venison gained by hunting each fall, which we preserve by canning.) $50 is for shoes, clothing, sheets, towels, dishes, or any other household items we may need that month. These all come from second hand stores. With whatever money is left over at the end of the month, I go to the salvage grocery store and buy organic, "fun" foods. These may include dried cereal, cookies, chocolate, tortilla chips, jam, peanut butter, crackers; whatever packaged organic foods they have at that time. These are special treats that our family enjoys throughout the following month. Other than these treats, all our food is made from scratch. We use baking soda for brushing our teeth, baking soda and vinegar for shampoo and hair rinse, cloth napkins (serviettes), handkerchiefs instead of tissues, flannel pads for feminine needs, and flannel wipes instead of toilet paper (for #1 only). Replacing these throwaway paper products with washables does not increase our weekly number of laundry loads, but does save a nice amount of money each month. We also have no TV service, but use the library and internet for free movies.

  19. I have paid off my debts for the most part, and I am now paying-as-I-go to finish my college degree.

    I still struggle with getting over the feeling that my possessions define me. As in - what brand of purse are you carrying, or where are you vacationing, or how big is your house?

    I think it's very important to surround yourself with supportive people, and people who are like-minded. It makes it much easier when you're not the only one who's on a budget. I absolutely agree with not buying magazines or watching tv and avoiding the mall.

    I feel like spending is like any other bad habit. It takes a very conscious effort to break it, and sometimes you slip up, but you can't give up. You just keep chugging along and you'll get there.

  20. It took us about six months to learn to live on our budget. Now it's so much easier and we don't feel deprived because we have our little envelopes stuffed with cash when we need to buy something such as clothes, new tires for the car, etc.

  21. i am trying to get out of credit card debt and student loan debt. i am tired of overdrafting my checking account each month because of too many bills. going to try dave ramsey's snowball effect on the CC's. also have practiced going entire days in a row without spending a dime. very difficult b/c of a lifetime of brainwashing but not at all impossible. it's a habit that takes a while to form. planning to bank up an e-fund, cut up two low-balance CC's, and freeze the high-balance one in ice until the emergency fund is sufficient. i don't own a TV, but i do live alone so the cell phone is nice peace of mind. in the spring i hope to try my hand at growing veg in the backyard! the hobbies i love are walking and hiking, bring a picnic lunch! ... knitting, and reading. i do pay $70/month for my yoga studio but that's like the health insurance bill i can't afford to pay so i keep it! it's a matter of 'picking your battles' you see. i hope to be completely out of CC debt in the next three years or less. reading posts like these are definitely an inspiration to me so thanks to all who have done so!

  22. Gosh this post and yesterday's are inspiring. My husband and I are burdened with a fairly typical mortgage like many people with young kids. You've really got us thinking though. And talking. And planning. Thanks Rhonda Jean.

  23. Hello again,another very useful post. As you have mentioned Money Saving Expert in the UK, I should also mention The website grew from a MSE thread by Weezl74 and is now providing 2 months of meal planning, shopping lists, recipes and advice to allow you to feed a family of four for £100 a month. In the next 2 weeks they will also have a plan for a family of four for Xmas week for £25, including xmas lunch. The site is completely run by volunteers, striving to provide planners within govt guidlines and helping people get out of debt.

  24. Hi Rhonda,

    As always very interesting post. I was wondering.. and I wonder if you or any of the readers can verify for me..........
    We have tried really hard to stay out of debt and clear CC's and have followed alot of advice that is given in your posts and readers comments.
    Now we are lucky enough to have a place in Dubai that we worked sweat and blood to pay off in 2 years.Thankfully it is also rented out so we have an income from it. We owe nothing to anyone, have an emergency fund, a monthly savings plan for yearly outgoings like car insurance and cat injections, community charge,and we also have a company savings plan taht we put into each month.

    However.... We rent the place that we live in here in Cyprus,and that makes me really uncomfortable as I feel that we 'should own our own property'

    So the question is can you consider yourself debt free if you are renting a property? or is it really wasted money.

    Thanks HBH

  25. Thanks for sharing! I live in a household where my husband doesn't want to know anything about our money, but wants to spend it, whereas, I manage all the money and want to save it/pay off debt. It makes things really difficult!

  26. Hi HBH, if I understand you correctly, you do own property in Dubai. You have assets and no debt. There seems to be a trend in Australia now, because house prices are so high, that people are buying a house in the area they can afford to rent out, but renting a place in the area they want, or need, to live in.

    It looks like you've set yourselves up nicely - no debt, income from the Dubai property etc. I see nothing wrong with renting in Cypress. Relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

  27. When we first got married, my husband and I were earning very little (me in an entry level work role and him in a minimally paid semi-voluntary role). We had a book that we wrote down all of our expenditure each week. As well as regular expenses like groceries, rent and utilities, we allocated an amount ($10?) each week to go towards the furniture fund and about $10 a week each of personal spending money. We also saved up any unspent grocery money to treat ourselves to dinner out once every couple of months when we could afford it. We survived quite well!! Eventually things changed and we were both earning a decent income for a few years, but returned to stringent budgeting when we both went back to full time study while living off savings from the previous few years (that was the intended purpose of the savings). While it was hard returning to a more frugal lifestyle again, we always had more than enough of what we needed. We've emerged from that frugality from necessity place again, but we're still living far more frugally now than we were during those in-between years!

    Interestingly, we've had a credit card from the beginning, but ALWAYS pay it off in full before it starts earning interest. We're able to monitor our spending so this is possible, and it means we're not working with too much cash (which stresses me out). I really hate being in debt, so that probably helps keep the credit card in check.

    Thanks for your wisdom!

  28. Thank you Rhonda for taking the time to respond and helping me feel more at ease about renting here in Cyprus.

    Thanks to you,and the advice on the blog, we live quite simply here and try to stick to a budget, though we sometimes go over. We have an electric cooker, but electricity is SO expensive here so we bought a gas BBQ with birthday money from the family and have cooked on that for 6 months already. We have now moved it into the garage, where we have set up a dining area which has beautiful views over the valley to the coast, for the winter season so that we can still cook on it during the cooler/rainy months of winter.

    Doing this saves us at least 50 EUROS a month.

    Thank you for helping us think outside HBH box and be more frugal.


  29. Oh how I wish my step-daughter could read this one or for that matter your entire blog! They give the grandchildren anything they want and they have hardly any money at all! Definitely not teaching them a thing.
    My daughter is learning how hard it is after blood clots nearly killing her, and the two of them without jobs. They are slowly coming back around, and trying to pay off their debts. Now they save their change to buy presents, and they never want to be in debt again. Of course the hospital bill will take a while to pay off, but she is determined to do it.
    I think people are slowly coming back around, but there are a lot who just don't want to. Thanks again for your great posts, they are always inspiring.

  30. Here are some things that we do as a family to save money. The first thing that I do is hang all my laundry on racks. If the weather is great outside, which in a perfect summer is 90 days worth. But here in the Pacific Northwest area of Tacoma WA, I hang my clothes on racks in the living room. I don't care if company comes over. The people who might come over would be friends I am not worried about that. The racks are movable so they can be moved to a bedroom if needed. Another thing I do is post our budget where we ALL can see it. We did several family nights when our children were young tweens and teenagers where we would "cash out" in Monopoly money, the amount of my husband's paycheck. The pile was usually in $20 increments so the pile would be huge. Then we would sort the money into each category: mortgage, heating,foot, gas, etc. The kids were always amazed at how fast the money "flew" out the door. This experience REALLY helped them see how expensive things are and allowed them the opportunity to be aware and a part of the solution. Another thing I do is make gifts, and other things. People are always so appreciative of the time and effort. Why waste $50 bucks on someone's gift, just to give them something, when homemade will do just fine. Sometimes we do spend money on "real" gifts but a lot of the time, we don't . Thrift stores are fun and I like staying out of Macy's, Nordstroms, and the like. We also have friends who rotate magazines that our library doesn't carry. We subscribe to one magazine, then we all share it. Just little things make a big difference. I also keep my house temperature at 62 degrees. We have a wood stove for when we are really cold. Sweaters and slippers are always on in fall and winter.

  31. As Lisa is doing, I've found it very useful to have short term goals to keep on track with keeping expenses down so that "we live like no one else so that we can live like no one else." I've also found that slow change works best for my husband and I. A few years ago we'd never have considered certain life changes (selling many of our belongings, for example) but over time our priorities have changed.
    As other readers have said, having a baby has had a huge impact on how we think about balancing enjoying each day and saving for the future. For example, enjoying each day with our son means we have to spend money on heating, so that he's comfortable, but thinking of the future means he does wonderfully with used clothes, few toys, and cloth diapers.

  32. I couldn't resist commenting. Very well written!

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