Thoughts on: Mundane Action

There are times when I think about what people will think once this loan repayment journey is over. The most likely truth is that most of my journey will be forgotten. All of the middle ground where the suffering happened will be overshadowed by the end result. The happy ending will supersede all. As humans, it is natural to only remember the beginning and the end as we take away the life lesson but forget the mundane events of the everyday.

It makes me sad to think that they’ll look at what we’ve done in paying back $575k in student debt and immediately assume that the going was easy.

Explanations will arise, however inaccurate, that dismiss the difficulty of the task, as people say things such as, “Well, she was a dentist and made a lot of money. Of course it was doable.”

Excuses from colleagues about why it wouldn’t work for them will also ensue. “She had a husband who also made decent income”, “She was fortunate enough to have a bakery that took off”, and “She had her writing to help support such a hefty loan repayment.”

It makes me sad because if that were the case, if everyone forgot the effort, then this would be for naught. People will continue to believe that paying back debt is an unreachable goal. People will still avoid pursuing financial freedom, viewing it as attainable only to those who have luck on their side, or to those who have more than.

But none of that is true.

They say that it would be difficult to pay back debt if it is more than twice your income. Well, mine was almost quadruple my income. But I still pushed myself to do it.

I want people to know that my success will not be a result of me making TONS of money relative to my loans.

It will be because of penny-pinching habits, mindfulness, diligence, and hard work.

I want people to know that any success I have will not be because of sheer luck.

It will be because of a constant refining of the self, a vigilant search for the essentials, and a questioning of the status quo.

I hope people remember that it wasn’t easy. I have days I never speak of, spent curled up in a ball on the floor, my hand in fists, my eyes flooding with tears. There were moments full of self-doubt around both my abilities and my choices. Days when I felt lonely because I worked so much. Days my back hurt from doing dentistry and my shoulders hurt lifting cast iron lodge pans. I have burn marks on my arms and bags under my eyes. It isn’t easy, but it’s a meaningful life, and I want people to remember that.

Maybe then, it would help push them through the tough times when they are most ready to quit.

I was ready to quit, too. Hundreds of times.

This story will never be told as widespread as other stories, because it is not an overnight success. The tabloids, the news, the audience … none of them want to hear about mundane action. But it is mundane action that will make ordinary people do extraordinary things. It’s a shame because, well, the non-telling of my story will mean that Regular Joe’s will never reach their potential to be super-heroes. Students will continue to carry debt. Society will continue on with their life-cycle.

But if my story gets shared once or twice, I have hope that it saves a handful of people.

The younger a person hears a story about personal finance, the easier it is to reach financial freedom. In much the same way, the sooner a person with student debt is convinced of their ability to pay it back, the more money they save. Every day that they wait to refinance is a day wasted and a few dollars lost in interest. Every day a person debates about whether they can dig out of debt, they dig themselves a bigger ditch.

I write to empower people in small ways, which over time lead to big results. After two years of writing this post, I still do not believe in the word negligible.

A water carves its way into solid rock, and over-time, forms the rock into an easier pathway.

This is how I want to transform people.

I am no SuperWoman.

I am so very ordinary.

If there is one thing people remember about me and my story, I hope it is that.

 

How Cyber Monday Can Grow a Blog

It was around this time last year that I got serious about turning this blog from something entirely personal to something more helpful to the general public. I would say that it was this exact weekend that I implemented a number of changes and additions that eventually led me to publishing TWO courses this past year (How to Create a Budgeting Tool That Works and Mastering a Budget). While there are other cyber Monday deals out there that you can spend your hard-earned dollars on, here are a few that actually gives back in terms of profit, making it more like an investment rather than a purchase.

Teachable – the platform I used to create both my online courses

If there’s anything I know, it is that you have valuable skills, experiences, and expertise in something. Every one of us, including you, has something to share with the world — something that others would love to learn.

And while creating an online course is one of the fastest ways to leverage on your time and increase your earning ceiling — it’s also one of the best ways to help more people.

When you create an online course, you’re able to change your student’s lives.

So my question for you is: who’s going to be grateful for you this year when you create your course and share your knowledge with the world?

Yes, you can earn a side-income from your course. Maybe even a full-time income from your course eventually. But there are so many other benefits to creating your course and sharing what you know with the world.

A surprising number of people have found that having their own online course becomes an amazing creative outlet. You get to share your passions and knowledge with the world!

And best of all, you get to do it on your own terms. You get to be your own boss, and you can pursue your biggest, craziest ideas without anyone saying that you can’t. When was the last time you had that kind of creative freedom?

On top of that, you’ll find it’s a real joy to interact with your students. 

Whether you have a course on parenting, or building a vegetable garden…watercolor painting…or even playing the guitar… (yes, these are all real courses on Teachable). 

You’ll find yourself losing track of time. You’ll be fully immersed in the course creation process, and you’ll get to talk all about a subject you love. (With people who love to listen!) 

You don’t need to be a big recognized expert to make a big impact on the world. 

We’ve seen it time after time. Newbie course creators will start off filled with self doubt, but then they take the plunge and share something.

They have zero expectations at first. But all of a sudden, one person enrolls…then ten more…and eventually hundreds, or even thousands.

These course creators are thrilled beyond belief. They never thought “lil’ old them” could be in demand like that.

The bottom line is this: You have hidden talents that the world needs you to share. 

You deserve to feel great about doing work you love. 

You can be the one who helps other people reach their goals. 

I 100% believe this.

That’s why I want you to take advantage of Teachable’s best deal of the year.

Not only do you have a chance to get annual access to Teachable for just $299 (saving $169), but in a couple of months, when you put in the effort, you’ll be able to ask yourself, “Who’s grateful for me?” And there will be a whole bunch of students excited to raise their hands. (And hey, you can be earning a pretty nice side-income as well.)

So if the idea of creating an online course excites you—if you’ve even thought about it for a second—you gotta check this deal out.

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ConvertKit –the platform I use to build an email following

It helps to have an email following. Subscribers are people who have a genuine interest in hearing what you have to say. They are a great group of people to connect to and if you are hoping to teach a particular topic to an audience, there is no better collection than your squad of subscribers.

My followers are amazing, supportive, interactive, and optimistic. They ask a lot of questions about budgeting, paying down student debt, and living a simple lifestyle. It is very gratifying to be able to help this community, and it is because of them that I continue to write.

Having an email following is also useful if you want to reach out to people en masse, or if you have something to share with like-minded folks. Convert Kit has an easy way of organizing people by category, so that those interested in simple living will not get emails about budgeting.

I would highly recommend Convert Kit to any online writer who wants to build a community.

There is a 30 day free trial for Convert Kit for those who are unsure about Convert Kit, but one thing is definite: do not wait to create an email following! It is something that I wish I did early on. It has brought me closer to my readers and has made my writing more meaningful, both to me and others.

After a year of trying it out, I have finally switched from a month-to-month subscription to an annual subscription today, thus saving me $86.

PicMonkey – the site I use to create banners for the blog and Pinterest

PicMonkey is an easy-to-use website for creatives using visual aids to accompany their work. It is especially useful for Pinterest if you want visually captivating banners. Most people who go to Pinterest are in search of something in particular. The ability to catch their attention and redirect them to what they are searching for is key.

Many bloggers underestimate Pinterest as a social media platform, but it is actually the most useful platform to bloggers. Imagery makes it easy to catch the attention of users who are searching for something, and the linking can redirect them to a specific blog post or page.

Off course, PicMonkey has other uses. I specifically use it to create banners for my website, or to create imagery that promotes my courses.

I will even use PicMonkey for personal things, such as invitations to parties or holiday cards. It’s as easy as Paint, but with more functions.

You can try PicMonkey for FREE for 7 days, and then decide if it’s useful to you.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – the course I took that taught me how to monetize a blog

All of this, I learned from a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing written on Teachable by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. I have spoken extensively about how this course helped me monetize my blog, so if you are looking to invest in a course about blogging, I think this is it!

Off course, the final Cyber Monday deal that I’ve got to offer is one that is my own.

Get 75% OFF my course Mastering a Budget by doing the following:

  1. Subscribe to TheDebtist below

2. Follow TheDebtist on Instagram.

 

All subscribers and followers will receive a discount code in their inbox tomorrow that will give them 75% OFF of the course. This is my way of saying Thank You to all my followers. I couldn’t be here without you.

Also, I would like to open the conversation up to those who wish to see something different or new in 2020. Reach out to me below, or just say “Hi!”

Images of White Fridays

I once wrote about the blackest of Fridays in dreary fashion, and reminisced on Black Fridays past, moments I could not take back. I wanted to write, this year, of bright Fridays ahead, away from all the frenzy. For the past three years, Black Fridays have been spent at dental offices helping Turkey-eating-sufferers and kids who are taking a break from school. But if it wasn’t spent here, I have many images of what it would be like.

Waking up late in a wooden cabin, sitting fireside with a cup of tea, for there would be no need for coffee. A book by the side table, ignored for now, to allow thoughts to passively wander in one ear and out the other. An occasional getting up for a bar of chocolate, but invited back into the loveseat by a cozy tabby. Wireless, eventless, motionless, all things timeless. Stockinged feet, and blanketed messes. We’ll let the candle burn out, let the windows frost, let the soup simmer a little too long. It snowed on the Grapevine only a few days ago, so is it too much to imagine snow?

Can we call them White Fridays?

I know this doesn’t send shivers down everyone’s spine. Most people will not be excited by nothing-ness. Some may even be itching to get to the end of this post to hear the deals. For those who are, I suppose there is value for this day. It gives us the opportunity to shop small, support local, and consume ethically. On this day, I’d like to support those small business owners who support this blog throughout the year. In the name of gratitude, here’s to you.

A guide to shopping slow, small, and sustainably this Black Friday.

+ This all-weather boot, and a Christmas shoe. (Select styles are 60% off and with the code DEBTIST25, you can receive 25% off all Nisolo products)

+ This mug for fireside mornings, and a cake plate for, well, cake. (Free shipping today!)

+ A photo book, for mornings in bed. (Use code VERYMERRY for 10% off site-wide, and tiered discounts for $100+ and $175+ purchases).

+ This gift wrap set for the upcoming holidays, and this notepad to organizing upcoming weeks. (40% off everything today only)

+ A toothbrush for after the Thanksgiving feast.

+ These earrings, paired with this dress, for simple gathering.

Thank you to all of you.

XOXO

 

How to Monetize a Blog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When I first started writing, I was a person filled with angst. I couldn’t quite place it exactly, not realizing  that the unrest lied in my lifestyle as a millennial yes-woman. And so I did the only thing I consistently ever did since becoming a teenager filled with regret and discomfort – I wrote.

In that writing, I found myself – buried under all of  society’s imposed expectations, fetal position underneath all the rubble and trash. When I first started this blog, I didn’t expect anyone to read it. I didn’t even think myself brave enough to share all the darkest parts. I couldn’t imagine myself coming out of it positive and vibrantly alive. And I certainly did not expect a following, nor did I think that my written word would turn into a business. It’s been two years in the making, but now I’ve been able to create a community and a space in this vast interwebs, while also make money on the side to fuel my goal of paying down my debt.

And it all began with Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing!

Where Blog Monetization Began

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner runs a personal finance blog called Making Sense of Cents  and is the author of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I first heard of Michelle on ChooseFI, as an interviewer like myself, talking about a life of side-hustling via blog work. It was then that I was introduced to affiliate marketing, which allows someone to share useful products relevant to their blog or lifestyle in the interest of helping others, while receiving a commission from the company if purchases are made through you. Prior to this moment, my blog made no money. Since then, I have had the joy of receiving additional side-hustle income while doing what I love. My blog became my first side-hustle. 

What I Liked About This Course:

  • It taught me how to sell without compromising my values. I am very much against selling for the sake of selling. As a minimalist and a frugalist, what I choose to purchase is very important for me, and I wanted that to translate into my blog. I dislike sales-pushy people and am very much against excessive consumption. This course helped me to balance the implementation of affiliate marketing without feeling like I sold my soul.  I use affiliate marketing as a means to share with others products or experiences that brought value to my life. I help others by directly linking them to note-worthy companies. I am very mindful about not infiltrating my blog with a cluttered handful of advertisements, generally limiting each post to one or two.
  • It allowed me to invest in myself and helped propel us forward with student loan repayment. This course is an investment in your ability to make money. More than that, it invests in expanding your skill set and abilities. I knew nothing about growing a blog, but learning about affiliate marketing was a great introduction into running blogs as more than a digital day-to-day diary. I am the first to say that my investment into becoming a dentist (costing me more than $550k in student debt) was not worth the education that I received, albeit it was worth the life lessons I learned and the person that I became. But this course is worth every penny! If you are interested in increasing your income, speeding up your trajectory towards financial independence, or a flexible job that allows you to stay home, I highly recommend this course.
  • It gave me a job that I love. I get to work as a part-time writer, staying at home working in my PJ’s, and doing what I love to do. All because affiliate marketing makes my blog a money-making venue. I always hear people say, “I don’t believe anyone can ever love their job”, and when I do, I feel very sad. I also feel guilty, because I DO love my job – in fact I love all my jobs! I love being a writer, a dog-sitter, a baker, and a dentist. However, if I never discovered how to monetize my blog, I do not think I would be able to make that statement. If I never fell into this  sphere of making money on the side, I would have probably been stuck working as a dentist, five days a week, burned out from the emotional stresses and mental challenges with a crick in my neck and an aching back at the ripe age of thirty. This course gave me my first glimpse of what it means to step back from a traditional work-life. It gave me the opportunity to limit my time in other jobs, which prevents me from hating a mundane existence. If writing is your passion, then maybe it’s time to carve out a job for yourself.
  • It gave me the confidence to start other side-hustle ventures. It’s hard to step out of  a comfort zone. It’s hard to leave a job that promises stability. It’s hard to do what others are not doing. It’s hard to chase freedom, when it also involves the freedom to fail. But once you’ve left the zone, there is empowerment outside of  it. Using what I learned in affiliate marketing gave me to confidence to believe in my ability to sell my skills rather than work for pay. I started to see value in my ability to take care of dogs. I saw value in the bread that I was making. I saw value in a lot of things. I left an egg-shell that was already shattered, I crawled out of a cocoon by putting myself out there. I think it takes one tiny step to fall fantastically forward into a black hole of bliss. This course was my one. tiny. step.

What I Like About Affiliate Marketing

There are many positives to affiliate marketing. In the interest of brevity, and in the hopes of allowing you guys to figure what you love about it yourselves, here is a list of the things I liked most.

  • It increased my income and quickened our pace with loan repayment.
  • It taught me a lot about myself, in terms of what I wanted to promote and what I did not want to promote.
  • It allowed me to share with my community what brought  the most value to my life.
  • It allows my readers to connect directly to the source, facilitating a sharing of useful resources.
  • It shined the spotlight on small businesses and companies just starting out, especially those who I believed has a great impact.
  • It provided me with the lifestyle I wanted, and is a great opportunity for writers just starting out, or people interested in working from home, nixing a commute, or being with their family.

How to Start Making Money with Your Blog

So if you are interested in writing and earning money, start with this course! It’s an easy transition for beginners like me, who knew nothing about starting a blog. Right now, the course is ON SALE (which hardly ever happens!). If you use my affiliate link here and use the code OCTOBER2019CC, you will receive $28 off of the course, making the total price $169 after the discount! Now I know frugalist followers will be rolling their eyes at this price, but do remember that it’s an investment for the FI lifestyle. When done right, you can make that money back quite easily, especially if  you approach affiliate marketing from a mindful place. But do hurry, because this deal won’t last long! It ends Sunday, October 20 at 11:59 pm PT.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me if you need any help or would like to learn more.

A Lesson in Making Do with Where You’re At in Life

I like metaphors. I like them so much that I take mundane occurrences in the every day and aggrandize them into life lessons. Over-glorified moments twisted with a truck-load of positivism, spun into something better. Oh, the world in which I live!

So I’ve got a metaphor.

Last Sunday afternoon we were experiencing an Indian summer, not atypical of Southern California. It was hot, I was wearing shorts and a tee, my bangs were sticking to my forehead, and my skin was sticking everywhere else. We were at home, finished with the morning chores, the run to the farmer’s market, the 10am football games, an afternoon of nothing ahead. An ideal situation for me. Even more so for my husband. He had just sat down at the computer, when I suggested we go to the beach. We were there exactly twenty four hours prior, but I was hankering for a re-do and thought, it couldn’t hurt to ask.

It was not unfair of him to say no, either, but there I was, left with a decision to head to the ocean water on my own and trample in the waves, or stay. Due to a fear of being swallowed whole by fierce waters (to blame: a near drowning experience that resulted in a missing bathing suit bottom after being tossed around like a rag doll in the wash), I can never brave dousing more than my bottom half when I go alone to the beach. But the hot weather had me wanting more – a fervent dumping of my entire body into deeper waters. I needed a hand, though. Strung along were other excuses – I was avoiding the drive to the water which would sacrifice an hour of my weekend, en total, along with the cost of dreaded parking meters.

I realized that in that moment, the beach was something I did not have, but wanted. It was another case of wanting more out of life when plenty abound. In much the same way that travel can be a form of escape from the mundane, so too was the beach a way for me to escape an afternoon in idleness. In a matter of moments, I started to think of what I did have, and it dawned on me to apply my mantra of making do.

As crazy it this may sound, I decided to create my own ocean. I wanted to dip in water, to cool down, to play and frolick. I scoured the tub, dug the plugger from underneath the bathroom sink, and turned the faucet to Cold. I filled the tub with water and was reminded of the kiddie pools we used to own. Those tiny things we would spread out on the lawn and clamber into, practically sitting on top of each other, all arms and legs. For some reason, I wanted to replicate that childish scene. I put on my bathing suit (you gotta dress the part, you know?), and dunked right in. I moved around a lot, which caused the water to slosh. Just like that, I had created waves. I know it seems crazy, but I got what I wanted – an escape from the mundane. It was nice. I was happy.

Now let’s aggrandize.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share that on THAT particular Sun-day, I got something right. I didn’t run away from my unhappiness. I acknowledged what I wanted to do. I tried to make the situation positive and bright. I worked with what I had, which I know can sometimes be the hardest thing. And as this post is titled, Make Do with Where You’re At In Life, maybe today isn’t a day that you can will yourself out of bed. You sure can try but if your limbs are too heavy or the bed too soft, then make do and imagine you’re on a cloud. We need to raise a planet where there is no social stigma for these things. Where we protect people’s feelings. So what if a thirty year old wants to pretend she’s made an ocean out of a dingy bathtub? So what if an adult needs to be a vegetable for the day? It is only when we preserve and allow for these activities that we can make the world a bit more bearable, more light, more happy.

 

An Early Morning Baker’s Shift

I’m no longer what the patisserie world would consider an early morning baker, even though to the rest of the world, I qualify simply because I rise at an earlier hour to bake. But I have been meaning to share my experience as an early morning baker for a while, if only to reminisce on what I remember as some of the best mornings of my life.

I was working for RyeGoods back when they were slinging bread in a garage-turned-commercial-kitchen behind a blue house with an orange tree located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. We were a band of misfits in the most positive sense – dreamers creating magic. Headed by a pastry chef who disliked sugary treats and a carpenter who built out everything we worked on, the crew was made up of a business major who decided to quit paper to help his sister fulfill her dream, a surgeon’s son who fell in love with bread at a pizza restaurant, a chef who was interested in the mission of the bakery, two ladies who were also doing their own cottage food endeavors, and myself, a dentist who wanted “something more” in life. To be honest, I was probably the less fitted to the band of misfits – a straight-edge with neither tattoos nor insight into sports or pop-culture, and no formal training in the restaurant industry. I was there because I bake sourdough bread at home. But even misfits have families, and this place felt like home. We came together under that roof called upon by a shared love of what we do and a belief in the mission – make healthy, delicious REAL artisan bread using traditional methods while supporting local farmers preserving ancient heritage grain.

My shift began at 2 am in the morning, and I worked three days a week. My alarm was set at 1:40 am, in order to get the most out of my sleep. On weekends, it was around the time the bars outside my window would close. While others went home to sleep, I left home to start my day. Theo, my cat, would clamber into the warm spot that I’ve just vacated, as if to say, “I’ll guard this until you return.” By the time I’ve slipped on my baker outfit (an old pair of jeans, a New Zealand hat, and a Krochet Kids tee), he’s already drifted back to sleep. I’d hop into my car and drive the ten minutes to our bakery, avoiding indecisive rabbits and sleepy eyelids. I would park in front of the fenced yard where the orange tree sits, and walked down the long driveway surrounded by mist, past our delivery truck and into the beloved garage.

The shift consisted of myself and the surgeon’s son. Since I am always late, he’d have switched on all three ovens and loaded two of them with sixteen lodge pans. It won’t stay cold here for long.

We remove pre-shaped pastries from the fridge – sleeping babies awaiting us to give them life. All goods made with croissant dough are placed in the proofer to rise. The others await the pre-heating ovens on a baker’s rack. These first few moments are the slowest, giving our bodies time to wake. He usually checks the bread bake for the day as I pull out the banana bread loaf pans. Once loaded into the ovens, I return to mix vegan loaves. It takes about fifteen minutes. Divvied up into their pans, they join their bread counterparts in the ovens and are forgotten about for the next fifty minutes.

Next on my list of tasks is the assembling of pop tarts. Flour the surface, sandwich jam between dough sheets, and crimp with a fork. This repetitive movement was very calming to me, along with the background noise of clanging combo-cookers, a signal that the first batch sourdoughs were being scored and loaded.

The clock hands move slightly faster.

Occasionally, one of us will ask a question about bread, share some insight, or talk about a recent experience outside of the bread world. But most times, we worked in silent understanding of the roles that we’ve fallen into. We were both working 60-something hour weeks, having picked up midnight shifts like a pair of crazies, for the love of bread. For those four months, our thirty minute conversations qualified him as my only friend. We started work the same week, “the last of the OG’s” as the carpenter would say, and leaving the system we’ve made was the hardest part.

At around this time, we begin juggling roles. Whoever was free checked the state of the croissants. When they were ready, we shuffled around each other, egg washing, sugaring treats, loading pastries, all while eyeing timers. When a timer would go off, we just needed to look at each other to know which of us was leaving to check the ovens.

At 4 am, one of us feeds the starter and mixes the levain. The other holds the fort.

There’s still the cookies to be squashed, icing to be made, lavender sugar to be sprinkled on blueberry scones, and more loaves to be pulled out of the fridge. If we could sacrifice an oven for a larger bread production, we would, but often times, pastries were a priority as it neared delivery time. Our brains are calculating minutes as our muscles mechanically move in routine rhythms.

At this time, an occasional step outside may be necessary, as the tiny garage has turned into an oven itself. The pastries fill the space with that familiar scent of a grandmother’s kitchen. The outside air in February is the perfect contrast to the passion we had for dough. We stripped sweaters and wiped sweat from our brows. But we can’t stay away from the ovens for long.

Croissants that have cooled need to be twice-baked with almond filling, pop-tarts need to be iced, and cookies need sprinkling with maldon sea salt. Meanwhile, the banana and vegan loaves require slicing. I’ve honed in on the ability to slice them into equal portions using my two finger’s width to measure. We send the end pieces out for the baristas to enjoy. Whoever was free can bag the bread loaves and load them into the truck. We had worked out the system where pastries would be ready and the area clean so that once our delivery guy walks in, he would be able to box and prep efficiently. But on some days when the bakes were heavy, the arrival of the delivery guy will indicate our need to double our speed.

Throughout all this, we’ve tried to keep up with the piling dishes during whatever down time we had. We knew it was a good day when the dishes were low once the packaging and delivery crew arrived.

Sundays, though, were my favorite. Sundays were bagel days. We would rush to get everything done and out of the way to make time for bagel prep. Standing side by side shaping bagels in silence was something I think we both relished. It was the part where everything slowed down, and when I felt like I was really in my element. As much as I liked pastries, bread was really my calling, and that translated when I started my own bakery. Pastries were oh-kay, and I somehow landed the job of pastry prep along the way, but shaping bread was where everything lined up. After letting the dough rest, we would poke holes with our thumbs and spin them around thrice to enlarge the dough to the correct size. We set them on floured trays and once they were all prepped, we would take each tray into the back part of the house where a pot of boiling water sat on the stove. It was here, in the dim morning light, that the idea of Aero Bakery was born. As we were leisurely boiling bagels (six at a time because that was the biggest pot we had), we talked about how Rye Goods started, and I learned of cottage food operations. We were dreamers, after all, and my dream was born here. I remember everything about that back house. The way the darkness slowly faded away, the creak of the wooden floorboards, the direct view you had from the kitchen window into to bustling garage. I can still smell the mist and the bread, the morning fog and the stove top heat. Nothing made more sense in my life than those few moments of peace.

I left earlier than the other guys, committing to work only until 6 am. Before leaving, I loaded as much as I can into the trucks. We wanted the delivery guys to be out around this time, too.  I grabbed my sweater, waved goodbye to my fellows, and would slip into the morning dawn. Birds are chirping, the sun is rising over the palm trees, and there was bread in hand (when there were extra). My whole body is warm and humming, just like the ovens. My skin is crackling, just like bread cooling on a rack. My brain is light, like a bird’s feather, floating free.

I joined the “early birds” on the freeway heading to work before the traffic starts. I enter my home to a meowing cat, ready for food. Sometimes, my husband and roommate are already in their respective showers. I clamber into bed and wait for breakfast, when I turn on the kettle to make a cup of coffee.

When I quit, I told myself I will never put my body through a sleep schedule like that again. I also know that I will never feel that alive, unless I do.

Simple Things: Wooden Hangers

Sometimes, simple things matter. Sometimes, it’s all that matters. Our household lives by the adage, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Curating a home is part of living an intentional life, and the things with which you surround yourself does define your lifestyle. In my opinion, a few simple things bring so much more beauty to your home and value to your life than a hundred gadgets.  This series is dedicated towards those simple things. 

I’ve wanted wooden hangers for a majority of my adult life, which equates to about the last ten years. Many a time I’ve visited department stores and turned towards the hanger aisle, if only to longingly run my fingers along the smooth edges of polished pine, or unfinished walnut. But the cost of wooden hangers is too great, at about a dollar a piece, for me to ever make that leap. So I have spent years begrudgingly using free, hand-me-down plastic hangers that leave pointy shoulders in my tees and dismay in my heart.

But providence proves just and patience is the best virtue, for this weekend when we were walking the two dogs that we were sitting on Rover (get our side hustle monthly income report here), we swung by the recycle bin behind our garages to find it overflowing with unwanted things from what we assume to be a recent neighbor’s move. And there, sitting on the floor next to the miniature Australian shepherd was a box FULL of wooden hangers. Now I am not one to dumpster dive, but in the name of frugality I am also not completely opposed to it. As my roommate fairly stated, it can’t even be considered dumpster diving. Rather, it’s as if someone plopped a box of beautiful wooden hangers in the middle of my path, already unwrapped and ready for use.

I looked to Mr. Debtist hopefully and with pleading eyes. Can I please take this home without you judging me? He carried the hangers home himself. Once we got inside, I started wiping them down with white reusable rags. They were in pristine condition. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was completely prepared to polish them up but there was no need. In fact, there was hardly any dust.

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No chore could stop me from immediately switching out those icky, flimsy, plastic hangers in our bathroom nook for these “new” wooden ones. You see, we have no closet in our main living space (only one under the stairs) and so we’ve lived with this makeshift rod hung up in a tiny indent next to the shower. Our clothes have been hanging on plastic hangers exposed to all guests and visitors who use our restroom. We’ve made do, but it’s not been pretty.

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Now, they still do hang exposed, but my heart is full. The beauty that I feel from wooden hangers make living with no closet that much more bearable. In fact, it makes it that much more exciting. I could live without a closet forever if it means I could stare lovingly at these wooden things every day. Plastics be-gone! Don’t worry though, they won’t end up in the trash. We got these plastic hangers from my parents and they will be returned just as my brother conveniently leaves for college in two weeks. I am sure there they will find a new home.

What about you? Things you’ve found in the trash that have made your home that much more beautiful?

 

Finance: How We Paid Off $145K in Student Debt in Two Years

On the heels of the previous post, a word on how we paid off $145k in Student Debt the past two years. I think it’s one thing to inspire people to pursue a road less traveled with the hopes of reaching a more ideal life, but it’s another thing to give any meaningful sort of advice on the matter. It is the latter that I wish to address in this post.

I’d be the first to admit that tackling half a million dollars in student debt is a daunting task. However, with a few pointers under your belt, the task becomes much easier. Here are some steps that we took ourselves, listed in the order we took them.

Steps to Paying Down Debt

  1. Figure Out Your Why. The pillar to every debt pay-off story is the “Why”. Why are you pursuing financial freedom? How does paying off the debt lead you to a life you want to lead? What will keep you going? These are the questions you must first answer. You need to build that fire within you, the one that burns so achingly that you’ll never forget, turn around, or give up on the reasoning behind why you decided to take that first step.
  2. Hire a Professional. While not for everybody, I highly recommend this if you are like us and do not come from a lifestyle geared towards financial independence. As you can see from my money egg, I had a long history with money that makes me hyper-aware of excess consumption. Each person has their history with money and it shapes the way you view your finances. I knew when I graduated from dental school that I did not come from a place of wealth, and neither do I have experience with dealing with large sums of money. I also did not want to be the person dealing with a looming debt hanging over my should. I had to talk to someone, and fast! While colleagues were buying homes and cars with their first paychecks, the first thing I paid for was a financial planner. And it changed our lives! If you are swimming in a large amount of student debt like I am, then I would highly recommend a conversation with Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner (affiliate link). He helped us save thousands of dollars on our journey, and as you can tell from our Itunes interview (here) he has no problem telling you how to optimize your repayment journey … which is exactly the type of person you would need in order to get great feedback! He broke down why we could optimize our path better (from a financial standpoint) by waiting 25 years and investing our money instead, but I chose to follow what I felt was right, and pay it back aggressively instead. The good thing is, you can discuss options and a good professional will make sure that you are aware of all the ways you can tackle the debt, but in the end, you are the decider about what to do.
  3. Educate Yourself. Admittedly, we did this with a financial planner holding our hands. We learned about budgeting strategies, loan repayment options, ways to optimize our health insurance, options with our retirement funds, and more. Off course, you don’t need a financial planner. There are plenty of books, sources and inspiration out there. The more you get educated on personal finance, the more options you will have. As you learn new ways to battle the same thing, you will become more innovative in your solutions, and doors which you never knew existed will open. Knowledge will only facilitate the process.
  4. Get Budgeting Down. It’s difficult to direct money towards paying down debt when you are always scrounging for money in order to live. Living paycheck to paycheck would indicate that there is nothing left-over to funnel towards your goals (student loans included). Creating a budget and sticking to it will help. Start with my course on creating a budgeting tool, and go from there!
  5. Manage All Other Debts. The last thing you want to do is to focus on student debt so much that you ignore all other debts, or worse, accrue an even larger number of debts! For us, managing all other debts meant paying down higher interest debts such as credit cards. We paid these off within the first month of marriage. However, for those with lower interest rates than my student loans (that is, lower than 6.8%), we paid only the minimum payments. For example, Mike’s car loan has a lower interest rate AND a lower total amount. Therefore, the money would be of better use towards my student debt, rather than eliminating the car loan.
  6. Get a Good Job. Let’s face it, a good job will largely affect how well you can pay off your loans. A job that’s consistent, reliable, and pays well. As much as I would love to explore being a temp, I also know that working more days as a dentist will help us on our repayment path. So there must be a balance. I can’t just cut down dentistry to one day a week and then pursue all my other creative endeavors. And if you’ve got a large debt, unfortunately, it wouldn’t behoove you either.
  7. Consider Side Hustles. Once our spending habits were controlled with a good budgeting tool, I started to think of ways to increase income. Actually, I started to explore hobbies that I like to do, and found ways to use that to make extra money. I started side hustles at the beginning of 2019, and the returns have been increasing steadily. I cannot wait to see where this year of side-hustles will take me.
  8. Be Kind to Yourself Along the Way. Lastly, but most importantly, find ways to make this lifestyle sustainable. The importance of enjoying life, rewarding yourself for your hard work, and having grace cannot be stressed enough. If everything in your journey is harsh, then it will be difficult to continue on when the days get rough. Because they do. I can recognize when I feel bogged down by the weight, tired by the work. When I do, I schedule a day of rest, or force myself outdoors, or meditate to reset. I send all my focus towards taking care of me, and in doing so, the loans find a way to take care of themselves. Ways in which we make this journey more sustainable include finding creative joys – I dabble a lot in the arts, Mike dabbles in music, and we both fulfill recreational activities in the form of travel, hiking, board games, and get-togethers with friends and family. In the end, you have to do whatever it takes to feed the fire.