Nothing But Net: Putting One-Third of Our Net Income Towards Debt

NetAt the start of the year, I wrote two different posts about debt repayment. First, I talked about how we paid $18,000 towards our mortgage. Then, I copped to the fact that we actually paid $24k towards debt, because Mr. P still had a car loan until one final click paid it off in full.

In both posts, the tone is not entirely celebratory. Part of me is proud that we were able to put some extra money towards our mortgage and towards paying off his car ahead of time. But most of me thought it wasn’t really worth celebrating because so many people put so much extra money towards their debts. That fact, coupled with my feelings that a mortgage isn’t actually good debt at all, kind of soured my celebration. 

Like most situations, it was Mr. P to the rescue. About a week ago, I was blogging* and started reading aloud one couple’s story of putting $6,000 a month towards their debt repayment. Thankfully, Mr. P was within earshot, so I wasn’t completely talking to myself. After he scooted closer to my desk, I looked at him incredulously and almost shouted, “These people put over $60,000 towards their debt last year. What did we do? Nothing!”

He paused — because he is calm, cool, and collected, because he is everything I am not. Then, he said, “I don’t think we actually make more than $6,000 a month, right?” Irate that he obviously never pays attention during my much-beloved spreadsheet sessions, I opened our budget and tapped the screen. It turns out I am apparently the one who doesn’t actually pay attention. I get so lost in the details, that I can’t see the spreadsheet for the line items or the forest for the trees.

Our estimated net income is exactly $6,000 a month**. So, it turns out that we couldn’t be like that other couple. We simply don’t have an extra $6,000 to spare each month — frugal or not, side hustle or not. It’s simply not there. And that’s okay. 

Instead of comparing our goals and accomplishments to other bloggers, now I’m going to start comparing them to our net income. $24,000 doesn’t seem like much when there are so many six-figure success stories in the personal finance blogosphere. But when that same $24,000 debt repayment is compared to our estimated $72,000 net income for the year, it’s looking like quite the cause for celebration.

* Reading other blogs, commenting on other blogs, and then Googling topics related to said blogs. That’s blogging, right?

** Our estimate does not include income that fluctuates like tutoring, lunch duty, subbing, and coaching. Plus, that’s after money is taken out for our insurance and our pension plans. Because yes, teachers pay for those things. Insert side eye here. 

So Tell Me…Do you ever get so caught up in the success of others that you forget to celebrate yourself?

Nothing But Net: Putting One-Third of Our Net Income Towards Debt

29 thoughts on “Nothing But Net: Putting One-Third of Our Net Income Towards Debt

  1. Commenting is so, so, so “blogging.” I’ve been so remiss on my commenting skills lately because I’ve been putting so much time into other projects, and I feel absolutely awful about it! People have been writing such great things and I haven’t said A WORD ABOUT IT.

    Commenting is 100% blogging.

    Also, HOLY MOLY you guys allocated so much of your income to debt repayment! Oh my god! Bells and whistles and streamers and celebrations must be had! I know it’s easy to get caught up in “So-and-so is way more frugal than us” and “So-and-so did so much more debt repayment last year” but you guys are kicking butt. For real.

    1. I know. I kid on Twitter all the time about taking a personal day to catch up on commenting (and even just reading blogs!), and I’m starting to think it’s less and less of a joke. I miss it!

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m really excited with our progress (finally!). I’m not exactly sure what this year will bring, but I’m hoping that it’ll be about the same.

  2. Absolutely! Everyone is different. That’s the “personal” in personal finance right? You guys are kicking all types of butt. There’s that fine line between never being satisfied and never being happy. You gotta be happy, that’s the most important part of all of this stuff. Are you happy? Yes? Then you’re winning at life.

    1. Yup. I completely agree, Mike. It’s so nuanced, but it can make a huge different on outcomes and perspectives. There’s always a lot to be grateful for and happy about…even if debt is in the picture.

  3. It’s very very easy to get caught up in the comparison trap when you aren’t looking at all of the details of two situations, and that’s why it’s good that you started looking at percentages and totals together. 1/3 of your net income toward debt repayment is awesome, and since you didn’t mention their total debt, your $4000 a month may get you out of debt faster than their $6000 a month.

    1. Awesome point, Emily! I’m not even sure I knew their debt total. I think I blacked out when I realized they were putting SO MUCH more towards debt repayment 😉 I’m calmer now.

  4. Oh gosh, I am so with you on this. It’s definitely easy to get into a competitive mindset when it comes to debt repayment. I know I will not be able to put more than $1000/month towards debt this year no matter how frugal I am, and that’s just the way it is. So I just need to focus on the fact that that’s $1000 per month more than zero, which is the amount I was putting towards debt last year. Plus it’s a pretty large portion of my income.

    1. And it gets so tricky looking at other people’s numbers. Like if I have an astronomical mortgage to begin with and my payments are really high, is that the same as someone who triples their payments to reach FI sooner? It’s definitely all about doing whatever you can and acknowledging that every step towards debt repayment is a step in the right direction.

  5. Shannon says:

    I really loved the Frugalwoods post about the Danger of Comparison.

    I think we tend to look at ‘keeping up with the Jones’ as like the penultimate of comparison – but frugality can also be a competition, and not a particularly encouraging one. It’s easy to look at the outlier success stories and think “well, I cannot possibly measure up to that level of frugality or savings or debt repayment”, but that’s not really the point of any of it, right? It’s about having your goals and striving towards them, not what anyone else is doing.

    At least, I’m really hoping that is true, because I definitely have not used 1/3 of my income towards debt repayment. At least not in 2015. Maybe for 2016. 🙂

  6. Congrats on your successful debt repayment! A third of your net income is tremendous!! It’s hard to feel successful when we’re comparing ourselves to others which is why we should compare ourselves to our own goals instead. And this is definitely worth celebrating.

    Also, commenting is absolutely blogging. I’ve been behind on it lately, but I’m blogging right now! 😉

  7. This so resonates with me. I’m nowhere near other savings rates of other bloggers either (although I do get inspired by them and get practical tips) but I think our rate is the right one for us. Same with when I am running – the only thing that matters is that I’m doing my personal best.
    Thankyou for sharing your story when you are in the depths of debt repayment and ‘keeping it real’ for us.

  8. It’s definitely far too easy to compare yourself to others. Paying 6K towards debt every day is something most people couldn’t do for obvious reasons. If you’re doing a third, I think that’s awesome!

  9. SO MUCH YES TO THIS! I know I favorited that tweet too! haha! These are my thoughts on PF bloggers. So many people going from tiny incomes to six figures and then attaining debt freedom in like… a year. It’s so discouraging! But now I’ve come to realize, we’re actually putting my husband’s entire income towards debt every single month! When I realized that we’re actually “living” off one income, I felt so great! I mean, who knew?!

    Be proud of the small wins! We can’t all be awesome side hustlers making millions.

  10. I love how you framed how you’re going to think about all of this. (And OMG — I just wrote “your” instead of “you’re.” Get this girl to bed stat!) I’d say comparison is no one’s friend generally, so comparing ourselves to others LESS generally is a good thing. That said, it’s impossible not to do it some, and so thinking in terms of percentages makes way more sense. But even then, keeping perspective is still so important. We save 80% of aftertax money, for example, but we make enough that we could light some of our money on fire and not miss it. (I’m only exaggerating a little.) I would hate if others felt like they had to try to hit the same savings percentage on a modest income, and that’s a big part of why we don’t share our numbers. No need to stoke those competitive or comparative fires!

  11. I think 24K towards debt is AMAZING and a huge amount of money. It’s all relative right? It’s a priority for you, you’re working on it, and you’re using what you have. I say be proud!

  12. I seriously appreciate your explanation of events with your husband – I feel like a lot of those situations are very parallel to my fiance and I! I can get a bit hasty with excitement, where he is always laid back, collected and says “Okay..breathe in & out.” It’s challenging to not play the comparison game because it’s a motivator! Yet, every person/couple’s/partner’s/family’s situation is incredibly unique by demographic, income, side hustle, etc. I try to view it as, what are the key takeaways that I can then apply to our personal finance situations. Sometimes it turns into a jumble of strategy, but it takes tweaking this, and perfecting that to get it just right. 🙂

  13. When I read too many earlier retirement blogs, it makes me really resent going to work. I have to take a break now and then and remind myself that we’re actually doing pretty well. We’re on track to retire between ages 45 and 55, and that’s way earlier than I ever imagined a few years ago.

    1. That’s a fantastic retirement range! I think if we teach into our 50s, we will be quite happy. I’m not sure I want to push it any later than that. And, of course, if I ever start resenting my job or my students, I will bow out early and do something else.

  14. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing, but it’s so important to recognize your own progress. Everyone’s income and situation are different. We will be a one-income for over a decade. When I remember all the progress we’ve made on one income, I definitely feel proud and accomplished. But when I compare, it’s easy to feel discouraged. Glad you realized this about your own situation.

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