Friday, April 3, 2009

debt accountability

I happened onto the blog Life as Mom recently. She has a weekly feature called Frugal Fridays. I'm not sure if this post will fit the bill, but I've been meaning to get some of this down "on paper" so this is as good a time as any.

I mentioned in my last post that by next year one of our goals is to be out of debt. Truthfully, we are hoping that happen by this summer thanks to a sizable tax refund (our first refund in five years!). Since 2002 when I had to quit working while pregnant with Liam, we managed to amass about $13,000 on our line of credit. None of this was because of extravagant spending, just basic survival and some small emergencies. We had it down to around $6,000 before moving to Ottawa, but it quickly snowballed when we bought this house.

When we moved we also went from two incomes to one, but didn't decrease our giving which at the time was around 30%. We LOVED being able to give this much, not only to the church but to other causes/charities/ministries as we felt led. However, it became evident that we were actually having to use our line of credit to continue tything at that level. That seemed crazy.

We knew that God didn't want for us to go into debt in order to give to others.

Although we wanted to give God the chance to provide enough for us to continue that giving pattern, He made it very clear -especially to Peter- that, while He was pleased with our desire to give, what He wanted was us not our money.

To be honest, we'd been using our giving as kind of an excuse to be lacks in other areas of our spiritual lives. No time to pray? No problem, we give a lot. Haven't touched my Bible in weeks? But I've still tythed!

It was a bit of a wake up call.

That all being said, we decided that we needed to get the debt paid off so that we could afford to give more when we felt led.

So we made a budget. Down to the penny.

When all is said and done, we really didn't have many areas we could cut.
- we both have cell plans that we're locked into, but they're both the lowest plans available
- we eat out maybe once a month
- we suspended our RRSP and the boys education fund contributions for one year
- we bought a three year old van when we needed to upgrade to something bigger to fit three car seats
- our one "extra" would be having cable, but it keeps us from renting movies and, I admit, we're TV people -it's our way to relax and decompress at night- plus it's only around $45/month

The only area where there seemed to be some room to play was our grocery bill. At the time, we were spending at least $600/month on groceries for the four of us, including all of Simon's special flours, oils, pastas, etc. My goal is to cut that down to $400/month or less.

I'm envious of those of you in the States and your ability to use coupons to massively cut your grocery bills. They just don't do that here. Sure there are coupons, but nothing close to what is available in the US. I'm not sure why that is.

So my goals for the month are to:
- keep our grocery bill under $400
- plan all my meals out before shopping
- find a bulk supplier for coconut oil DONE
- find an affordable local supplier for pastured beef (possibly bison), chicken, and eggs
- find an affordable local source of goat products (cheese, milk -hopefully raw- and butter) for Simon

I have a few leads on the beef/bison, will be ordering coconut oil tomorrow or Saturday (if there's anyone from Ottawa who wants in on a bulk order, leave me a comment or send me an email), and have at least a week's worth of meals planned that will only involve me buying fresh produce based on the sales fliers.

Why am I telling you all this? Admitting our not-enormous-but-still-embarrassingly-large debt load?

For accountability and because I find that I'm much more likely to accomplish a task if I write it down for the entire internet to see. Fear of failure is a powerful thing.

I jest.

(sort of)

Also, I want to be able to celebrate here when we DO get it all paid off.


  1. Good for you, Amy, for writing this all down. The reason I don't like doing this is because I like to turn a blind eye so I don't know how much debt we are REALLY in. But my husband, lovely man that he is, likes to frequently remind me that we are 'in over our heads' in debt. This has a lot to do with my spending habits. Which I admit, have to change. And fast! You have put forth a very reasonable budget and it's great that you're doing this! Good luck to you my dear!

  2. I wish you great success. You will be a wonderful example to your children.

  3. Ah, using the Internet for accountability. Yes, I have done that one and yes, it can work!

    I've been working on our family finances and living within our means this year, and it's been tough! I don't think we could get by on $400 for a food budget, even with careful spending. Will be watching you and cheering for your success!

  4. Good for you guys!
    We are working towards being debt free too.
    Hopefully we can celebrate together :)

    I hear ya on the US coupons vs Canadian coupons! I found a great site though called Simply Frugal that is all deals and all Canadian! Woohoo!

    Good luck, and can't wait to hear your accomplishments along the way!

  5. Best of luck! We are working on our debt snowball (dave ramsey style) is tough, but very worth it!

  6. Oh you are a brave one putting this out there. I am a bit too embarrassed to write about my families debt. Not to mention my husband would be upset. He likes to keep these things private. But I applaud you and look forward to hearing about your ideas.

  7. Hey, what special foods are you buying for Simon? I'm a relatively new reader here so I wasn't aware you were working with a special diet. My son is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts so I am always on high alert for moms that might have new food ideas, and recipes to try. Any tips you might have, please let me know! Let's share!

  8. Simon is allergic to milk (but can have goat cheese/milk/butter), wheat (although isn't celiac), onions (are in EVERYTHING), soy, and a handful of other sensitivities.

    We had him tested traditionally and were told he could eat all nuts (I know, weird eh?), but then when we did VEGA testing through a naturopath last month, she said no nuts. She said it was more an issue of the molds on nuts than the nuts themselves. He's certainly not anaphylactic (sp?) though. I did notice a nasty red bum the last times he ate whole cashews and almonds, but he eats peanut butter almost daily without any obvious issues.

    His dairy/soy allergies are my reason for needing a source of bulk coconut oil (which is also all kinds of good for you!)

  9. Money is one of the most stressful things in life I think.

    When we got married we knew I wanted to stay at home with the kids so we did a lot of planning to make it happen, including ditching the debt. It's not easy but you can do it! Sounds like you're off to a great start, having a plan is half the battle.

    If you cut your groceries, please let me know how!

    My beef with coupons and all the Oprah episodes about cutting your grocery bills with coupons: Most of the coupons seem to be buy one get one free or something like that on products that aren't always the healthiest. So what if I can get a free pack of something loaded with trans fat or high in sodium?

    check out They sometimes have coupons for butter, sour cream and things like that.

    I look forward to hearing your money saving tips along the way!

  10. Kudos to you guys for making a plan. We too are working on paying some stuff off. Since we have been on one income now for almost six years we are pretty good at cutting back to pay stuff off. And usually I start with groceries too, that is where things get a little out of control. Not sure I could get us down to $400 a month, but closer to $500 would be realistic.

    I look forward to your celebratory post.

  11. Sounds like you have a good plan! Hope you reach your goal!

    (found you thru Nanette's tweet)

  12. I know what you mean about the accountability. I am much more likely to get something done if I write about it, or tell someone about it.

    We're lucky. I keep our grocery bill down below $300/month, but all our beef and milk is supplied by our farm. Good luck finding local producers you can purchase from! For beef, try getting from a dairy (they sometimes need to butcher an animal and you can get the meat for much cheaper usually)

  13. Fabulous ideas! You are way ahead of me :)

    I do the second hand shopping and looking out for pacakaging too...forgot it on the list, thanks for mentioning it. And we have had the same roll of paper towels for months upon months...just don't use them! My mother taught me well there...

  14. We spend - gruesomely enough - around $300 a week on groceries. And now that I've written that down, it's a LOT of money. There are 5 of us and one of us has a gluten intolerance, but still - what are we doing, eating GOLD BARS? And we don't eat OUT, either! Sheesh!

  15. I have shared some very private, but honest information on my blog about our budget for this same reason.... accountability! And, to help others feel that they are not alone.


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