Phase 2: Complete (APU debt fully paid!)

Bald Peak near our home in Forest Grove, OR. Less than 24 hours after becoming APU debt free!

I wrote a while back about taking the losses with victories in life, and vice versa. Thankfully today I’ve got a great victory to share! I’ve finished paying off ALL of my student debt from my undergraduate degree from Azusa Pacific University! It’s a huge win, and it feels great to finally be here.

I graduated just under five years ago (May 2014). I walked across the stage with $25,000 in student loans. That ballooned to $25,810 by that November (2014) when I made the first of my minimum payments. I gave little to no attention to the loans I owed on and figured I would make those minimum payments for the 10-year term they were set up for. I was oblivious, broke, and naive about my financial situation.

Fast forward a few years. I was getting ready to start a new life with Jos as a new husband, preparing for a move to Oregon with no job and a lot of question marks about our life in a new state as she began her graduate program for Speech-Language Pathology. When we moved here in July of 2017, my loan balance was $22,400. I had hardly made a dent in my principal balance even though I had already been making minimum payments for over three years. It was truly disheartening! Would this debt thing ever come to an end? Not at this rate.

In the month leading up to our wedding, God brought a startling realization to me: I was now responsible for the well being of not only me, but a young, wonderful, beautiful new bride to be. I had to get my act together! For me, the fire was lit with the idea of wanting to provide a better life for my new wife. I didn’t like what I had accomplished financially up to that point, and it was time for a change.

Fast forward again to May of 2018, about 10 months ago. My balance lingered at $21,200. But this time, things were different. Since getting married, we had dispatched around $15,000 in credit card debt. That was a victory in and of itself. Our sights were now set on my college loans. The minimum payments kept getting applied each month, but we began chunking away at it with large payments in between those minimums, and we started to see results. Each month the total balance would slide a little more. The $15,000 mark felt good to reach. Then $12,000. We had a goal to be under $10,000 by the end of December 2018, just this past Christmas. We came in at $7,500 left instead, way ahead of schedule. I continued the breakneck speed of both a demanding full-time IT job and driving to deliver pizzas a few nights a week. I got a bit burnt out, but it was too late for the loans, the damage had been done.

Three months later, on Friday, March 29th, 2019 I clicked “submit payment” for the last time. We made our FINAL payment on my loans. Victory! We had done it! $29,751.04 paid in full!

There will be other posts as we continue to the final Phase 3 of our debt payoff journey as we pay off Josilyn’s grad school loans. But is important to celebrate the wins, so that is what we have done this weekend. We are able to breathe a little easier, walk a little lighter, and smile a little more. We have a lot to be thankful for. God has blessed us mightily and He deserves credit for his continued provision.

Wrapping up this particularly joy-filled post, I want to reiterate as I have in the past that if you are in this boat of owing more than you could even imagine paying off, YOU CAN do it. You can do this too! We are normal, average Joes (technically Justins and Josilyns but you get the idea). If we can do this, so can you. If you or someone you know is struggling with debt of any kind and feeling hopeless like there is no good place to start, let me know! I love talking about this stuff, and I love the chance to encourage others to make good financial choices. As usual, thanks for reading, friends. Onward and Upward!

Additional Shoutout – Josilyn finished her last internship on Friday, making this a particularly wonderful weekend for us. She has worked so hard at her graduate program and is clearly going to make an excellent Speech-Language Pathologist! Graduation in May for her – so much to celebrate!

An Ode to Excellent Wireless

You’re not gonna believe what showed up in the mail today…


Yes, yes that is correct. You are gazing on a swag box of free goodies from none other than MintMobile! I was surprised a few weeks ago when I got a direct message from them asking for my street address. You won’t be surprised to know that this is the closest thing I will ever get to being sponsored by a company. Pretty funny stuff!

I guess I had made just enough noise about our excellent experience with MintMobile that they decided to give a little shout out. Up to this point, I’ve referred four new people to MintMobile. What’s awesome (and even more valuable than this bag of awesome goodies) is that they offer $15 off your next phone plan recharge when someone signs up using your referral code. With just the savings from these referrals, my next year of service will cost more than 30% less than the regular cost. And we are already talking low costs for mobile service from this awesome carrier.

The MintMobile movement is pretty awesome because it gets rid of things that you don’t need from a phone carrier. Some of these things I’ve already gone over, but they are worth repeating.

You don’t need a brand new phone. I am still rocking an iPhone 6S Plus from a few years ago. I bought it used for $180 and have had zero issues with it. The only thing it doesn’t have? A notch ; )

You don’t need a store to walk into. Walking into a wireless store is just a trap to get upsold on things you don’t need and services you’ll make little use of. Also, let’s be real. Even if you aren’t that great with tech, surely you know someone that knows how to swap out a SIM card on a phone. That is honestly the “trickiest” part about the whole thing, and it’s not even remotely difficult.

You don’t need to pay extra. Unlike cars where someone may notice if have a really nice ride or if you drive a beater, nobody cares what cell phone provider is delivering texts to your phone and routing your calls. Anymore, it doesn’t matter that much. My biggest fear of moving to MintMobile was getting back into Montana with it when we visited home. Those fears were quickly dashed as we traveled in and around Missoula and Bozeman, always having blazing fast 4G service wherever we found ourselves. This has proved to be a non-issue.

I’ve asked it before and I will certainly ask again. What has you so in love with your current phone provider that makes you not want to switch? Loyalty? To a company that takes more than their fair share of your paycheck each month? C’mon. There’s a better way to do this wireless thing. Give MintMobile a spin, and use this link to tell them I sent you:

Saving money is a big part of this blog, and saving on wireless is a simple and easy first step. Let me know if you have questions or concerns, I’m happy to ease the anxiety where I am able!

Alternative Energy and Our Future


This blog may be specifically about fiscal responsibility and stewardship, but more and more I am also drawn to other forms of responsibility and growing up.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of having my own car. Specifically, I wanted a red car. Sometime during my teen years, my Dad and I took to searching through the classifieds for a suitable, reasonable first car. Being a kid still, I wanted something that would be fun and make me look cool. One morning Dad came downstairs to where I was getting ready for school. He had spotted a 1999 V6 Ford Mustang with 115,000 miles for only $3,200… but more importantly, with a stick shift! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We bought it that same day. Thus began my love affair with vehicles, driving, and the open road.

Since then I’ve had a handful of other cars. One of the themes of these cars has been power. My Taurus SHO made 365 horsepower out of a twin turbo six. My Mach 1 Mustang was the louder, more powerful version of my first Mustang that I always wanted. It truly was a dream car. I’ve always had a thing for American Muscle.

Two years ago, some big shifts happened for me and my soon to be wife. We made some vehicle changes and she was researching a new car to replace her recently wrecked Corolla. Much to my satisfaction, she did all her own research and came to a conclusion on the next car she wanted: a Toyota Prius. I was not thrilled.

In typical awesome wife fashion (technically fiance at the time), she showed me the used car reliability ratings of Prius’ (the plural of Prius has been a point of contention among car enthusiasts for some time now, so I won’t even try). I was blown away. These cars that were nearly a decade old were pulling down all green circles in Consumer Reports. Pretty much unheard of. I glanced at ratings for similar year Accords, Camrys, Civics and Corollas. The Prius beat all of them, fair and square. Crazy! My cold heart warmed up just a little to the idea of driving the antithesis of the cars I had grown to love.

Jos bought a 2008 Prius with 92k miles out of Seattle, WA. Our first hybrid vehicle. Since then, we’ve put on quite a few miles and are now up over 125k. The car hasn’t made so much as a peep. Filling up from empty at the gas pump is very rewarding as well; even when the little tank is totally empty a refill still costs less than $25. This car has brought out a new interest of mine. Instead of making a lot of power and making a lot of noise, I’ve been totally intrigued by the idea of getting around for as little as possible, emitting fewer pollutants into the air that we collectively breathe.

This brings me to the excitement that I have for what I hope is a more electrified future. Tesla has led the charge (no pun intended) with electric vehicles, but there have been plenty of other car makers that have made strides in introducing electric cars to a country that is otherwise in love with gas-thirsty trucks and SUVs. I would definitely not claim to be any kind of environmentalist, but I also see and acknowledge that environmental changes are happening around us, and I’m not sure that we can pretend much longer that we are not a big part of inflicting these changes on our earth.

One of the things that excite me the most about electric cars is the opportunity to use renewable energy to propel these vehicles. With a gas car, you are bound to one source for getting your car around: burning gas or diesel. Not only is this not sustainable forever (we will eventually run out of oil), but it is way dirtier. Living in the greater Los Angeles area for my college years showed me what a city with dirty air quality feels and smells like. It’s not pleasant. Southern California really is a beautiful place, but air pollution is a huge turn-off. People aren’t going to stop driving cars, so it is important that we change the efficiency and fueling method for those vehicles. With an electric vehicle, you don’t have to produce any emissions while driving around. I smile every time I watch an electric vehicle drive by me because I can’t smell it, and I know it’s not pumping any harmful substances into the air we are breathing.

Also, how cool is it that you can produce the fuel (electricity) that powers an electric vehicle? With the cost of solar panels and equipment going down all the time, it will soon be feasible for houses and other building to be modified with low cost solar. How awesome would it be if you could drive your car around using energy that your home or property produced on its own? Sounds awesome to me.

Right now, depending on where you live, your electricity comes from a variety of sources. You may live close to a big river and have access to hydroelectricity. Maybe you live in a desert area that gets a ton of sun, so you get to use solar-produced power. Or maybe you live near a windy area and there are large turbines overhead that makes the power you use. Sure, there is still a need for coal and other less desirable energy sources, but we are moving toward having a cleaner, more sustainable future for us and future generations. I know I am sounding a bit like a hippy right now, but it’s less the tree-hugging side of this and more the technology and smart-energy side of things that is so cool to me.

If I had my way, I would go out and pick up a used Nissan Leaf from 2012 or 2013. But my lovely wife hates the way they look, and I can’t blame her. They are not attractive. Instead, we will probably keep saving our dollars and cents and eventually replace our Prius with a used Tesla Model 3 if we are lucky here in a few years. I am excited to see good used electric cars continue to come down in price as this will allow the average Joe to drive and enjoy the all-electric experience. Here’s to a shockingly fun automobile future!

Taking the Defeats with the Victories


Have you won at everything you’ve ever done? If so I would absolutely love to meet you, because I can say that I certainly have not.

Blogging is more fun when there is progress, when things are going well and when we are riding high’s of life. Aren’t all these the same things that we try to post to social media to give off the rosy facade that our life is nearly perfect and that we are always “moving forward, growing, winning”? Eh, let’s be real. Life usually deals us way more defeats than victories. It is perhaps the way in which we absorb these defeats that say more about who we are than when we win. If you were reading to see how we would rise up and dash debt to the ground in one fell swoop, well, sorry to disappoint.

We were cruising right along for the past few months, even the past year has been pretty steadily awesome. Making consistent debt payments, watching the total loan balance continue to fall, and getting more excited at the thought that in the next year or two we would be debt free. I’ll admit, I was starting to feel pretty good about the progress we had made. But life often has different plans for us.

I got fed up with my second job delivering pizzas, so I stepped down from that position. Around that same time, Jos lost a bunch of her work on her aging MacBook. I did my best to recover the files that I could, but there were many files and folders that simply could not be recovered. I felt responsible for this loss, being the in house IT pro, so I decided it necessary to go out and buy a $250 file backup solution and get that installed. Not cheap. Meanwhile, the old laptop continued its dysfunctional ways, and we got to the point that we decided to get a new(er) laptop for Jos. $340 in total on a 2013 MacBook Air that had a battery that needed replacing. So now she has a little bit better computer to get through the remainder of graduate school, comps, and eventually the Praxis. If that was not enough, the driver’s side mirror broke on our Prius, so I had to order that $40 replacement and had a weekend project swapping out the broken one yesterday. That I actually enjoyed.

Beyond all of this, we are staring down our 6-month car insurance premium coming due later this month, and we have a number of weddings we are both standing up for and attending, all of which will require travel expenses and wedding gifts. We likely have a move coming up in the next few months. All things we are overjoyed to do, but all of which will cost extra money.

Okay, why am I sharing all of this? Not very glamorous is it? Well, if you set out to do anything worth doing in life, you will fail. And then you will probably fail again. And then again, at least a few more times. I guess I am wanting to bring the human aspect to this topic of Figuring Out Finances. We are not figuring it out on our first try. There must be trial and error. Hopefully, this encourages you if you have thought about getting out of debt but have felt like it is an impossible task and so far you have only thrown up your hands in disgust and declared that you’ll “figure that stuff out later.” I would encourage you to start working on it today! Go ahead and fail, it beats doing nothing.

Defeat is not fun or easy. But it is necessary.

We will work in the next few weeks to get our emergency fund boosted back to it’s $1,000 level. From there we will again begin making steady payments as we are able to on the remaining debt we have. If you’d like to see where we are at in our journey, click here.

For those of you who have reached out regarding articles you enjoyed or topics this blog has helped you with, thank you! Hearing how this blog positively impacts others is likely my greatest joy in writing, so thank you!