A Budget Update

A year ago, I strayed from my usual resolutions and instead wrote 15 ways we planned to save money and pay off ALL $34,000 ish of student loan debt in 2015. 

Well, I hate to be Sally Sadness (Debbie Downer's cousin) but we did not "do the damn thing."

HOWEVER, I will note that we kind of rocked it. We are officially down to approximately $18,000 ish left to go and plan to bring that number down to zero by the end of 2016. Fingers crossed.

In my 2015 resolutions, I discussed how this debt was unavoidable for my husband and thus me when I married him. I stand by that, as his education has changed his life in more ways than one. He officially went from Mister Lindquist to Master Lindquist last month.

And since I can't help myself (that and I haven't taken the time to come up with 16 non-budget related resolutions for this year) I'm going to make a list of 16 things we did right and wrong in 2015 as well as things we will and will not do in 2016 to finish the job. Enjoy the 16 random photo from my phone. Here goes.


1) We said NO! To vacations, girls trips, guys trips (single tear for Rob) and to things with price tags big and small. I'll never forget the first basketball game we went to right after the new year. We sat there staring longingly at the beers and food being consumed by the people around us. While trying at the time, just that instance along was an extra $20 dollars in our pockets....$25 if you count the ice cream I ordered in my head.

2) Stopped shopping. This included staying away from the stores on my banned list, Kohl's and Hobby Lobby. (OK, ya got me, I went to Hobby Lobby twice, but it was for specific projects!) and online shopping in its entirety except for select purchases. If you don't walk in (or log on), you can't spend money. Rob also did well with reducing his Starbucks habit (well, the majority of the year -- he fell off the wagon when he went back to school in September). Here's to his newfound Starbriety in 2016.

3) Got raises. Not exactly something everyone can take action on per say, but I said yes to a career move that while more work, meant a boost to the bank account that has gone directly to this fund. And Rob got a raise with the completion of that master's I mentioned above. I realize this doesn't seem as doable as cutting back, but attacking debt at both ends is a good strategy if you can do it.

4) Put our home on pause. Nothing got an upgrade this year except for our laundry room which we painted with leftover pain and built a bench out of a wood scraps that we already owned. My apologies to our neighbors who had to endure our complete lack of any landscaping whatsoever. One thing that helped this process was keeping a list of things we want to do when we're finished with the loan payments. I'm looking at you Master Bath!


5) Brainwashed by the Bullseye. My plan to limit our Target trips two $200 per month failed in spectacular fashion. For two reasons: #1) We suck at impulse buys (OK, it's me and my love of reading real live paper books) and #2) We get invited to more birthday parties than a clown. My advice for spending less at this Godforsaken shopping Disneyworld would be limiting trips to once a month.

6) Lack of meal prepping and planning. I'm the first to admit, this is not one of my strengths. So when Rob asks what's for dinner, I think of what I am hungry for, realize we didn't have any of the ingredients to make it and then send him to the grocery store. See chicken casserole nightmare here. While there is a ton of potential for us to do better in this category, the chances we will are slim.

7) Too much action, not enough talk. Everyone has highs and lows when trying to save money and the commitment to the process ebbs and flows. Some days ya just feel like a splurge. I think we could have done a better job of continuing to talk about our goals, both weekly and monthly, to remember why we were doing this. That way we would have been more accountable when we walk by Starbucks (cough, cough) or the scarf section of any store, like, say, a gas station. Instead we spent and refrained from spending based on how we were feeling individually. Your bank account partna is the best one to keep you in check, no pun intended.

8) Forgetting friends and family. These are the people we know and love who want to spend time with us. Of course they do, we are fun people, sometimes even when we're not drinking. But since these other people weren't on budgets, they'd want to do dinner out, or see a movie, or go to Mexico to eat dinner and watch a movie when the truth is we're doing our damndest to resist those temptations and it's hard enough without invites. Loop in your loved ones so they can support you.


9) Fill it up! We never made a chart to fill in any of the $16k + we put toward the debt. That makes me sad. I think it will keep us motivated as well as at the top of our minds if we can create this for 2016. I know just the place to put it and the tiny humans to color it in as we go!

10) Continue to choose experiences over gifts. Instead of exchanging presents with my sisters for Christmas, we are all going out to dinner sans children to reminiscence about our youth. I bought my mom tickets to see Cinderella with Faith for her gift (any maybe some respite for myself from a 5-year-old who plans never to nap again). And I'm going to surprise Rob for one of the holidays this year with a race instead of gift. While some might find that gift offensive (here's a 5K, go run!) he will love it!

11) Coupon it up. I'm not ready to bring a binder to Hy-Vee, but I would like to get back to cutting out deals on things we already purchase like I did before the girls were born. And waiting to buy certain foods until they're on sale. I need to learn what a good price per pound is for meats, etc. Maybe my budding mathematician can help me. We may need to take off our socks to count though.

12) Make Rob read the Dave Ramsey book. To be honest, this whole thing was my idea, not his, and I know he struggles with my desire to do this from time to time. The Total Money Makeover was my inspiration, and while he cheated on my dad's quiz regarding this book several Christmases ago and won 1st prize, he didn't actually read it. So it's time. (Surprise, dear!)


13) Forgo fun. These are prime memory making years with our daughters and we don't want to skip out on experiences just to pay off this debt this year.And occasionally we like to go out just the two of us a) to spend time as husband and wife and b) so someone else has to put Gabby-the-singing-night-owl to bed. So this year we plan to go skiing, ride the rides at Adventureland, see Duluth, Minn., go boating, take in a Cubs game and maybe just maybe if it all works out, go to Disneyland in December. Don't tell!

14) Buy new things that don't need replacing. Phones. Kindles. Televisions. Hair styling tools. Cars. Etc. If it ain't broke don't fix it will be our family motto!

15) Worry. I think this past year showed us that if we put our minds to it, we can climb a mountain of debt and end up on the downhill slide. We will be college-debt free while we're still relatively young and therefore won't worry about how long it would have taken us if we didn't do it this way.

16) Forget. The feeling of paying off such a large chunk of change feels good and we want to remember that feeling all year long so that this time next year, we can save it or spend it as we please. I'm sure a venti caramel mocha will be in order!

I would love to hear your tips and tricks for saving more and spending less in the comments. Fire away!


  1. the one thing that saves us a lot at the grocery store is we purchase a 1/4 beef. it lasts over a year. it seems like a lot at once, but figured price per lb. is cheap. you get steak cheaper per lb. then a lb of ground beef in the store. just something to think about. rob could get his gardening skills back. ;) good luck..

  2. A few tips from the Sundermann Household that we've always done...

    1) Drink water at restaurants. Whether it's a nice sit down place or a fast food place, you can save a lot on your bill by not buying that $2 pop per person. Plus... It's healthier.

    2) Don't use subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc. Buy music you like from Amazon, upload it to Google Play. Don't pay for Amazon Prime... You can wait for free shipping.

    3) Get rid of paid TV. Might not work if you are a sports junkie... But here in Des Moines, we have all the major networks for free Over The Air. Several years ago (even before the boys were born), we looked at how much our Dish subscription cost us, which was $80/month. Seems steep, for the little TV we watched. So, we bought a nice antenna for the attic, ran a cable to the basement to distribute the TV throughout the house, and bought 2 TiVos with lifetime subscriptions, which was a big investment at nearly $900. But doing the math, you can see that paid for itself in about a year. And that was 7 years ago, and the TiVos are still going strong.

    Best of luck to you in your journey of getting that student loan paid off!