We're debt free - tracking progress paying down debt with mason jars

More Than Ten Years of Work and a Jar of Pennies to Make us Debt Free!

After more than ten years of work, budgeting, living below our means, and making sacrifices like driving a car with no air conditioning in the Ohio summer it has finally happened. WE’RE DEBT FREE!!! This is including the mortgage!

We paid off roughly $143,000 in mortgage debt plus $21,000 (give or take a few hundred) in credit card debt and student loans since we took control of our finances after taking a Financial Peace University class from Dave Ramsey.

A couple years ago we decide to track the last leg of this financial journey out of debt using a jar of pennies where each penny represented $100 balance in our mortgage.

After Friday night trip to the bank to pull out $3,000 CASH and then a trip to the bank branch that has our mortgage this is what our jars look like:

We're debt free - tracking progress paying down debt with mason jars
We’re debt free – tracking progress paying down debt with mason jars

I’ve got a longer post in the works but here is a short version of what we did:

  1. Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps
  2. Started using the You Need A Budget (YNAB) software and system. Basically Dave’s zero-based budget but living on last month’s income rather than this month’s.
  3. Living way below our means.
  4. Having goals and enjoying the ride.
  5. Big beefy emergency fund for several bumps in the road including four job losses, hitting a deer, medical issues, and the medical expenses of having two kids.
  6. We decided to get Gazelle Intense once we realized we could be 100% debt-free in 3 years if we put the pedal to the metal.
Relax, be confident, be amazing, be you!

The Best Layoff Ever – Part Two – The Whirlwind Hustle

Quick recap – in October of 2015, I left my previous employer to work with friends at a place I’d worked before on software I was passionate about. I immediately clicked with the team, but only got to work with them four weeks before new management came in and did a mass layoff.

This left me job hunting between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which was not a fun experience but I realized what an amazing group of people I’d become a part of. As of January 2, 2016 I had two very promising job prospects. And that’s where the story picks back up…

Continue reading The Best Layoff Ever – Part Two – The Whirlwind Hustle

Don't Go Alone

The Best Layoff Ever – Part One – The Crash & The Team That Had My Back

Over the last few months I’ve had a wild and crazy ride of a career transition. I’m still in IT, still a geek, but I’ve had a whirlwind rollercoaster of a ride over the last few months and finally had some friends convince me to share the highlights of the story with the world. So here goes…

Continue reading The Best Layoff Ever – Part One – The Crash & The Team That Had My Back

Visual Goal Tracking – Paying Off My Mortgage With Mason Jars and Pennies

Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a fantastic idea on Facebook. Her husband was deployed in active duty to the military and she was having problems explaining to her kid when daddy was going to be back home. I’ll give you a moment to grab a tissue while you take that in….

The idea she came up with – grab two jars, and fill one with little plastic army men. One per day until her husband came home. Every day, they move one plastic green soldier from one jar to the other. When the first jar is empty, and the previously empty jar is full – it’s time for the family to be together again!

This got me thinking – you could use the same idea to track almost anything! Just get two jars, fill one up and move things as you make progress. Early this year, we got our mortgage under $60,000. I found out after buying two mason jars that the jars are just about the right size for 600 pennies. So each penny represents $100 of our mortgage.

Here is what it looked like when we started using the jars for tracking our goals.

Started visual tracking of paying off our mortgage early - Summer 2014
Started visual tracking of paying off our mortgage early – Summer 2014

RLIC – Real Life Interrupted Chat

RLIC – short for “Real Life Interrupted Chat.” I’ve used this term for a couple years with the friends I chat with (usually about three a month). When you are a parent of small children, it can often be tricky carry on extended conversations with someone via any kind of chat program . Instant Messenger, Facebook, texting, it doesn’t matter.

You can be mid-conversation and then you hear yelling and find out the cat has banana smashed into his tail and the kids are both fighting over the same My Little Pony toy even though they have at least ten of them.

This has been the story of my life lately if I try to chat with someone while I’m at home. I feel a bit like if I was in the room talking with someone and then mid-sentence just sort of disappear.


The TL90x Extreme Workout for Parents of Toddlers

Tonight I invented/discovered a new workout to do with my kids. I am calling it the TL90x since it involves toddlers.

Required equipment:

  • Bouncy house with a slide
  • IKEA circus tent
  • One or more toddlers.


Stomp around chasing a toddler (two year old girl in my case) and shouting “I’m Sharptooth and I’m going to tickle you!”


Pick up previously mentioned toddler and swing her around saying “ONE! TWO! THREE!” and on the count of three, throw the toddler into a bouncy house. Do a flying leap into the bouncy house. Now jump up and down on the bouncy house until said toddler decides to go down the bouncy house slide. Jump down the slide head-first and do a dive-bomber pushup coming off the bottom. This entire paragraph describes one round of the TL90x workout.

Repeat this until the toddler gets tired of doing all this and then proceed to the cool down.


Go into an IKEA circus tent and pick up the toddler. Lift the toddler up until her head hits the top of the inside of the circus tent and say “BONK!” Put the toddler back down. Repeat until toddler decides to get out of the tent and see what any siblings are up to.

Currently “Reading”: Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath

I’ve been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell‘s books ever since I discovered them with Outliers. He’s got a knack for finding very interesting points that get overlooked in stories. So when I heard he had a book out about David and Goliath and how we tell the story all wrong, it got my attention.

The opening story, about David and Goliath and what was really going covers basically the same material as his TED Talk about the same story. He then leaps into stories ranging from underdog basketball teams to trying to find a cure for cancer that generally are very different takes on the same ideas:

Most things we often consider advantages can actually be disadvantages and vice versa. Also some things that are definitely negative can also have very positive things that come along with the negative.

I put “Reading” in quotes because I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Malcolm Gladwell. He’s got a very good reading voice and I’d highly recommend the audiobook to anyone who is busy especially if they have a commute like I do.

Buy from Amazon:

Empty Shelf Challenge for 2014

I’ve decided to participate in Jon Acuff’s 2014 Empty Shelf Challenge. The idea is simple.

1. Clear out a bookshelf.

2. Every time you read a book, put it on this shelf.

3. Track your progress by posting pictures of the shelf.

4. The goal is to fill up the shelf with books you read in 2014.

So far, the books I’m reading are all in digital format, so trying to figure out a way to do this. I’ll likely just print out labels and put them on books I already own that are about the same dimensions as the non-digital versions of these books.