How We Got Rid of More Than $25,000 in Credit Card Debt

If we got rid or all of our credit card debt, you can do it, too. It just takes commitment and steady action.

If we got rid or all of our credit card debt, you can do it, too. It just takes commitment and steady action.

When my husband and I crossed the threshold of $25,000 in credit card debt, it was the breaking point when we knew we needed to go on a financial diet.

I couldn’t look at our credit card statements and see the bloated numbers and inflated APRs without feeling sick and disgusted.

The time for change was now. It was February of 2009; I was 26 years old. I wrote down my goal and started telling my friends and family: “I want to be out of credit card debt by the time I’m 30.” I want to be free of all the financial dead weight.

Four years later, just 11 days before my 30th birthday, my husband and I paid off the last of our credit card debt, which was a purchase for a new mattress.

We were fortunate enough to have some help from our families who knew about our goal, but what it came down to was the same formula for any goal, whether it is to lose weight or become more financially fit:

SMART Goals

  • S – Set a specific goal: Eliminate all (more than $25,000) of credit card debt by 30th birthday.
  • M – Make it measureable: We were able to see progress every month as our debt decreased.
  • A – Take action consistently. For us, we stuck to a plan that we created with AAA Fair Credit Foundation. I can’t say enough good things about this company and its employees.
  • R – The goal has to be realistic. Our plan through AAA Fair Credit Foundation actually had us set up to be credit card debt-free in five years. We did it in less time because we were lucky enough to have family who helped us out because they wanted to see us succeed early.
  • T – It was time-oriented. Another way of saying this is that we gave our selves a deadline. The deadline was my 30th birthday.

The hardest part of this goal was sticking to the action plan. I think that’s usually the most difficult part of any goal. Four (or five) years is a long time. Lots of unexpected situations arose that could have set us back.

I switched jobs several times. In one job switch, I traded happiness and time for a lot more money, which advanced our goal. However, then I switched to a job that paid less but gave me much more joy and personal satisfaction. We also had a couple of deaths in the family that required a lot of out-of-state travel.

Even when I was between jobs and our budget was super tight, we stayed committed.

We also made sure to reward ourselves periodically through the years to keep us motivated: a nice dinner out or a weekend getaway.

The point is: Temptation is at every turn, no matter what your goal is.

Now that we’ve shed all the financial weight, we could easily fall back into the patterns of treating ourselves to some new clothes here or upgrading to a bigger/better apartment, and before you know it, be right back to our fat, sick spending habits.

How We’re Staying Financially Healthy

I like to think that living well within our means is an ingrained habit now. We rarely shop unless it’s the holidays or we absolutely, truly need to replace something (20-plus-years-old mattress, I’m talking to you).

Another obvious factor is that both my husband and I were equally committed. It would have been exponentially more difficult to achieve this goal if only one of us was really into it. When one of us wanted to splurge a little, the other one would play devil’s advocate and question if what we wanted was really necessary.

Just like conscientious eaters track their calories to stay on target with their weight, we track our spending each month. We’ll be damned if we’re the financially fat kids again.

I’d love to know: Are you still living with credit card debt? How much longer until you’ve eliminated all your credit card debt? What’s your plan to get there?

Posted in Financial Goals, Get That Goal, Habits, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Get That Goal: An Open and Trusting Relationship With Your Teenage Kid

I created this “Get That Goal” series to honor and share a variety of astounding goals that influential women around me have achieved, the details on how they did it, and what they experienced along the way.

Setting and achieving goals is one of the essential ways we enrich ourselves through primary foods, which creates healthier, fuller lives. (Learn more about primary foods here.) 

My mission is to show if they can do it, you can do it, too. My hope is that this series will portray how powerful primary foods are to our overall health and well-being. 

Please enjoy, give feedback, and share with a friend. 

Cathy Breshers

Cathy Breshers, yoga teacher at Asana FIT, founder of Yoga Here on Earth and fellow Tenacious Lady

Today, I’m talking with Cathy Breshers. Besides being a fellow Tenacious Lady, Cathy is a yoga teacher at Asana FIT and the founder of Yoga Here on Earth.

She is also a Process Coach who guides people through self-therapy and self-improvement. Learn more about Cathy and her Process Coaching here.

Tenacious Lee: What goal have you achieved that you are most proud of in your life?

Cathy: I’m most proud of my relationship with my daughter, Jade. I have such an amazing relationship with her; we are able to share every aspect of our lives with each other.

Tenacious Lee: Congratulations! That’s such a huge accomplishment, especially in today’s fast-paced, digital age. Why did you choose to highlight this particular goal as your greatest achievement? 

Cathy: Thanks. I’m so stoked when she comes to me to share things that I never would have been able to share [with my mom]. Communication between mother and daughter at this age [Jade is 15] can be really difficult. We go through all the emotions together; she lets me guide her and mentor her. We can hang out together. She has her teen life, and I have my adult life, but we can meet in the middle.

I feel like her foundation is so solid that I’m free to make my own goals and they will only encourage her in whatever her goals are. I want to be a role model for her, so she knows that any goal is possible for her.

Tenacious Lee: I like that you chose to highlight this as the goal you’re most proud of; the parent-child relationship is often overlooked or taken for granted as far as goals go. How did you cultivate your loving, open and trusting relationship with your teenage daughter?

Cathy: I used my intuition in raising her. It was confusing to people who weren’t used to my methods. Whenever you do things against the grain, there’s always someone saying, “What the heck are you doing?”

I really stood my ground for what I wanted, and that’s what I did with all my parenting with her. And to me, that’s me being true to myself. The truest sense of the expression “be true to yourself “is having boundaries for yourself and being loving to yourself. I feel like I can take that power and continue it to anything else I want to accomplish in life. It’s an empowering way to live my life.

Tenacious Lee: Yeah, everyone’s a critic when it comes to parenting or relationships. What pitfalls or setbacks did you experience along the way toward your goal?

Cathy: We had a little speed bump at 13. She didn’t really understand that I had feelings, too. Then she realized that, “Oh, the things I do do affect my mother.” Before, it was all about her feelings. I never used blame to have her understand that. Part of communication is letting each other know how you feel.

Tenacious Lee: Were there any other tools or resources you used in reaching this goal?

Cathy: Honestly, I give a lot of credit to my coaching training with Process Coaching  because as we’re learning, we’re working and practicing on ourselves. To be a Process Coach, I learned how to parent myself, which made me a better parent to my child. Since I was able to help the hurt child and hurt teen in me, I could better help her.

Tenacious Lee: Very cool. How would you say achieving this goal has affected other areas of your life, such as relationships, career, etc.?

Cathy: I don’t have to identify as only a mother. I get to experience other aspects of myself because I know our relationship is so good. I have my career and don’t feel guilty. I have a recreational life – I like to sing and make music with friends – and it only makes my identity as a mother richer. Plus, she doesn’t need me as much now. It’s a perfect time for us. She doesn’t have to “fire” me because I’m already her partner.

Tenacious Lee: That makes complete sense. I hope your comments ease the minds of other working moms who might feel guilty for having a career. What’s your advice for other women who want to create the same kind of relationship with their teenage kids? 

Cathy: Trust your intuition. You can get a lot of information, but only you know what’s right for you, and trusting that is very important. Beyond that, I would suggest finding a mentor, guide or coach that you admire and ask a lot of questions.

Tenacious Lee: I think that’s solid advice. So what’s your next big goal? 

Cathy: I’d like to have a thriving coaching and yoga practice here in San Clemente. I love teaching; it excites and thrills me. I want to keep sharing; it brings so much joy for me.

Tenacious Lee: Well, I certainly wish you the best of luck!

Posted in Get That Goal, Goals, Relationship Goals | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Goals for 2013

What are your goals for 2013?

What are your goals for 2013?

Each year now for the last couple of years, I’ve set goals to achieve within the next 52 weeks. I can’t say I’ve achieved all of them, but I can say I’ve achieved most of them.

I share them because studies show that writing down your goals in addition to making your goals public increases the likelihood that you will achieve them. You can see my goals for 2012, goals for 2011goals for 2010, and goals for 2009.

So without further fuss, here I present my goals for 2013. I’m especially excited about my financial goal to “Be credit card debt-free.” Mr. Man and I have been working steadily toward this goal for more than three years now. You can read more about the evolution of that particular goal here.

Professional Goals

  • Join and complete the Immersion Program with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition
  • Maintain one to five health coaching clients
  • Get certified as a personal trainer
  • Begin work on book about health coaching
  • Have interviewed and published 12 profiles of fascinating, inspiring local women

Financial Goals

  • Be credit card debt-free
  • Double my monthly income from last year

Exercise and Fitness Goals

Diet and Nutrition Goals

  • Add more veggies whenever possible
  • Eat more protein
  • Eat more frequently throughout the day

Relationship Goals

  • Go on a getaway to somewhere new together with Mr. Man
  • Reunite with friends at Ohio University (OU) this summer
  • Go back to Ohio for Christmas

Spiritual Goals

  • Meditate daily
  • Begin each morning with appreciation, visualization and the intention of spreading more positivity through the world
Posted in Career Goals, Diet and Nutrition Goals, Financial Goals, Fitness and Exercise Goals, General Health Goals, Goals, Relationship Goals, Spiritual Goals, Writing Goals | Tagged | 2 Comments

One-Week Vegan Meal Plan, Recipes, and Grocery List

vegan dietThis year during Lent, I successfully gave up meat, dairy, and fish — otherwise known as a vegan diet. It was an extremely insightful experience.

I thought for sure I would be hungry, but I wasn’t. I thought for sure I’d have cravings, and I did, but they weren’t anywhere near as extreme as I expected.

Benefits I Experienced From Eating a Vegan Diet

Here are a few of the delightfully unexpected benefits I experienced while on a vegan diet:

  • I didn’t feel bloated and tired after meals.
  • I had more energy — even plenty of energy for exercising.
  • I discovered a lot of new dishes I would never have found otherwise.
  • I lost a few pounds.

I never would have been able to stick to a vegan diet if I hadn’t prepared in advance with meal plans. Here’s one of my meal plans that I hope you find helpful, if/when you decide to try going vegan.

Every one of these recipes takes half an hour or less because I know we all want fast, healthy, delicious meals!

One-Week Vegan Meal Plan

BreakfastLunchSnackDinner
SundayScrambled tofu and veggies with hashbrownsMango, corn, black bean and onion saladApple or banana and peanut butterMock meatloaf with creamy chive mashed potatoes
MondayTofu and mushroom breakfast burrito with salsaBlack bean soupHummus and falafel chips or sliced carrots and celeryPad Thai
TuesdayMy breakfast smoothie replaced with soy yogurtPeanut butter and jelly with fruitCelery with peanut butter and raisinsVegan eggplant parmesan
WednesdaySteel-cut oatmeal with raisins, nuts and maple syrupAmy’s South-west burritoApplesauce
cup
Veggie spaghetti with marinara sauce
ThursdayBanana muffinsRoasted red pepper and tomato soup with avocado Vegan ice cream sandwichVegan tacos
FridaySoy yogurt parfait with berries and granolaAmy’s brown rice bowlMixed nuts Buffalo wing-style “chicken” nuggets and homemade French fries
SaturdayVegan pancakes with maple syrupQuinoa with grilled veggies and chick peasFalafel chips and guacamoleCreamy pasta salad with artichoke hearts

Recipes for the One-Week Vegan Meal Plan

Scrambled Tofu and Veggies With Hashbrowns

Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2 people

1/2 block of firm tofu, chopped
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 thinly sliced potato
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook sliced potatoes with a dash of salt and pepper over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, in another skillet, add the other tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the chopped tofu, bell pepper, and onions over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Serve with hot sauce and/or ketchup.

Tofu and Mushroom Breakfast Burrito With Salsa

Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2 people

1/2 block of firm tofu, chopped
8 baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
8 small corn, 4 medium or 2 large whole wheat or corn tortillas (Ezekiel is a good vegan-friendly brand)
Dash of garlic powder
Salsa for garnish

Directions

  1. Coat pan with olive oil and cook chopped tofu and mushrooms and garlic over medium heat until mushrooms are browned and tender, about five to seven minutes.
  2. Place cooked mushrooms and tofu in tortilla(s), add salsa and roll it up.

My Breakfast Smoothie With Soy Yogurt

Use my same breakfast smoothie recipe, just swap out the Greek yogurt for vanilla soy yogurt and stevia or maple syrup for the honey. It’s just as delicious, I promise!

Steel Cut Oatmeal With Raisins, Nuts, and Maple Syrup

Follow the instructions according to the package. Mix in the raisins, nuts, and maple syrup once the oatmeal is fully cooked.

Vegan Banana Muffins

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6 people

3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup raw sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.
  3. Fill lined muffin cups or an oiled and floured muffin baking sheet 2/3 way full.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Soy Yogurt Parfait With Berries and Granola

In a glass or small bowl, start with a vanilla soy yogurt base, add a layer of berries followed by a layer of granola. Repeat the alternating layers.

Vegan Pancakes With Maple Syrup

This recipe is courtesy of my friend Jennifer Blanchard at Inky Bites.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2 people

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup to 1 and 1/4 cup of almond or rice milk
1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup
Optional: nuts, berries, maple syrup for topping

Directions

  1. Mix flour and baking powder together.
  2. In a separate bowl mash banana with almond milk until the lumps are mostly out. (Start with 1 cup and add more if necessary.)
  3. Add vanilla and agave nectar or maple syrup to banana mixture.
  4. Mix banana bowl with flour bowl, whisking to remove lumps.
  5. Cook until golden brown over medium-low heat.

Mango, Corn, Black Bean, and Onion Salad

Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 people

2 mangos
1 can of corn or frozen corn
1 can of black beans
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the corn, beans, onion, and cilantro.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss.

Black Bean Soup

I recommend this black bean soup recipe from PETA. (I have no affiliation with PETA, I just like the organization’s vegan recipes.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly With Fruit

Ah, the old-school classic: peanut butter and jelly. If possible, use an organic jelly or try one from your local Farmer’s Market. Pair it with and apple, banana or whatever fresh fruit you prefer.

Amy’s Southwestern Burrito

I adore Amy’s products, especially the burritos. They have a lot of vegan and vegetarian-friendly options.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup With Avocado

I recommend the Pacific Natural Food’s Organic Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. I like mine with some sliced avocado on top; black beans and/or corn is good in it, too.

Amy’s Brown Rice Bowl

Amy’s Brown Rice Bowl is another quick, easy and healthy option I grab when I’m short on time.

Quinoa With Grilled Veggies and Chick Peas

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 people

1 pound carrots, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can chick peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup quinoa
1/2 pound spinach
1/4 cup chopped or crushed pistachios

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots and mushrooms with the oil, salt, and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Add the can of rinsed chickpeas. Divide the spinach among plates and top with the warm quinoa and vegetables. Sprinkle with the pistachios and drizzle with the oil.

Mock Meatloaf With Mashed Potatoes

I used PETA’s mock meatloaf recipe and creamy chive mashed potatoes recipe. I recommend using whole wheat bread instead of the white bread for a more nutritious swap.

Vegan Pad Thai

Again, I used this easy vegan pad thai recipe from PETA. Don’t be scared by the long list of ingredients — it’s still quick to make!

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

I used this beautiful vegan eggplant parmesan recipe from Oh She Glows. Angela Liddon has such beautiful food photos — I wish I had her photography skills!

Veggie Spaghetti With Marinara Sauce

It doesn’t get faster or easier than this — just chop up your favorite veggies (or whatever is left in the refrigerator!) and add them to your favorite simple marinara sauce. Cook your whole wheat pasta according to the directions on the package and top with your fresh, healthy marinara sauce.

Vegan Tacos

I used this yummy vegan taco recipe from Bon Appétit. If you haven’t discovered soy chorizo — it is amazing!

Buffalo Wing-Style ‘Chicken’ Nuggets and Homemade French Fries

I found this Buffalo wing-style “chicken” nuggets recipe from PETA. I made my own fries to go with it.

My Homemade Fries

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

4 small or 2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat a baking sheet with the olive oil and toss potato strips until they are evenly coated in the oil. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once, until fries are golden.

Creamy Pasta Salad With Artichoke Hearts

Who says going vegan can’t be rich and delicious? This creamy pasta salad with artichoke hearts recipe from PETA proves how satisfying going vegan can be.

Grocery List for the One-Week Vegan Meal Plan

Produce

Bell peppers
Onions
Baby Portobello mushrooms
Bananas
Apples
Russet potatoes
Raisins
Spinach or kale
Blueberries
Sliced or shredded carrots
Strawberries
Chopped walnuts
Pistachios
Black beans — fresh, canned, or frozen
Corn — fresh, canned, or frozen
Mangos — fresh or canned
Avocados
Chick peas
Water chestnuts
Bean sprouts
Snow peas
Chopped peanuts
Green chillies
Eggplant
Jalapeño chile
Artichoke hearts

Condiments and Spices

Garlic powder
Garlic salt
Nutmeg
Salsa
Hemp seeds
Chia seeds
Salt (I recommend a sea salt or kosher salt)
Pepper
Maple syrup
Red pepper flakes
Cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
Ketchup
Mustard
Soy sauce
Apple cider vinegar
Oregano
Parsley
Basil
Cilantro
Vegan mayonnaise
Shake-n-Bake Buffalo wing coating powder

Meat and Dairy Substitutes

Firm tofu
Vanilla soy yogurt
Almond milk or rice milk
Gimme Lean Beef (meat alternative)
Daiya “cheese”
Soy chorizo
Vegan “chicken”

Miscellaneous

Rolled oats
Orange juice
Stevia
Raw sugar
Brown sugar
Whole wheat flour
Baking soda
Vanilla
Granola
Lime juice
Lemon juice
Vegetable stock
Peanut butter or almond butter
Jelly
Amy’s Southwestern Burrito
Amy’s Brown Rice Bowl
Pacific Natural Food’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
Quinoa
Soba, rice or other noodles
Breadcrumbs
Pasta or marinara sauce
Vegetarian refried black beans
Corn tortillas
Whole wheat pasta

Posted in Diet and Nutrition Goals, Healthy Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How We Reduced $8,554 in Credit Card Debt During the ‘Great Recession’

How we are reducing our credit card debt through a debt management program with AAA Fair Credit Foundation.When we first started our debt management program with AAA Fair Credit Foundation in January of 2010, Mr. Man and I had just a little more than $25,000 in credit card debt.

Today, roughly two years later, we are down to $16,446.

We are both contributing to our 401ks, and we have $956 in savings.

While this may not be a wild success story, it is a clear case of slow, steady progress.

How Our Debt Management Program Works

Even though we’re getting out of credit card debt at a slow and steady pace, much like with diet and nutrition goals, we know that means we’re more likely to stay out of debt.

We started the debt management program based on the recommendation of a friend after we realized we were barely making a dent in our mountain of debt once all of our APRs were between 20 and 30 percent on our six credit cards. (Read more about why and how we got started with our credit card debt management program here.)

Rather than continue to pay all of our credit cards separately, we have one lump sum directly deposited to AAA Fair Credit Foundation and they pay our credit card bills. They negotiated all of our cards down to anywhere from 6 to 9 percent APR.

We are still free to pay extra on any of the cards separately, and we can raise our monthly payment to AAA Fair Credit Foundation at any time. All of our credit card accounts are closed, except for my Discover card because that’s the oldest card with which I’ve established my credit history. Plus, we wanted to keep one credit card open for emergencies.

We do pay a $35 monthly maintenance fee, which we feels pays for all the excellent and attentive service we have received from the staff.

Benefits of the Debt Management Program

    • It eliminates the hassle of paying multiple credit cards with varying due dates.

It’s one payment that’s automatically deducted at the same time every month.

    • The program is super flexible.

If something were to happen where one of us lost our jobs or an accident occurred or whatever, we can work with our advisers at AAA Fair Credit Foundation to renegotiate a new debt plan that we can still adhere to.

    • We finally feel in control of our finances – not our finances controlling us.

That empowerment is such a psychological boost to increase confidence and reduce stress. We know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we have a clear path to our end goal.

How did you kick your credit card debt or how do you manage it?

Posted in Diet and Nutrition Goals, Financial Goals, Goals | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments