debt debs

Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!

Curve Balls – When You Are Hit With Unexpected Financial Events


baseball-curve-ballsSpring is here, B-B-Q’s have been lit up and summer’s just around the corner.  Kids are starting their summer activities, whether it be swimming, soccer, football or some form of baseball.  I’ve been thinking about the latter as I review the series of financial events that delivered us to this point in our season.  There were a number of ups and downs that I consider curve balls that we needed to ‘deal’ with and not lose our drive.  So it made sense for me to use baseball terms to relay to you how my winter – spring financial season went.

The Home Team

T-ballMy husband’s income is variable, based on the demand.  He is a real estate appraiser, so swings are inevitable based on the time of year and the market.  Normally, he does receive enough bread and butter engagements to meet a minimum – moderate level of income and that is what I base our debt repayment plans on.  The idea being that it should feel like we’re playing T-ball.  The figure I use for this is $2,400 per month, which gets paid in two installments, the 15th and last day of the month.  He gets paid one month in arrears, meaning he gets paid next month for the work he did this month.  Therefore I know now, what his income will be for June, as an example.

Basically, as part of the battery, all of his income and some of mine goes to debt.  Anything he makes above that budget amount is a bonus baby which we also apply to debt to help us meet our goals even sooner than our five year plan.   Usually, we are able to stick with this as I have all foreseen expenses budgeted (including car repairs, etc.).  However, I don’t move unspent budgeted money that may be needed later into a separate cash account.  Maybe I should, because it can get messy and feels like we have a dead arm, when all of a sudden we do have a big bill, but I’ve already skimmed off the money and applied to debt.

Opening Season

good-baseball-pitcher-curve-ballsSo looking back to the beginning of the year, January was a tough month, because he had not one engagement last December – a strikeout.  So there was no money coming from him for January.  That was our first curve ball.  Debt repayment goal could not be met, or at least not fully.  I scrimped together $1,000 from some actual and anticipated expense savings whilst declaring a bean soup and scrambled eggs on toast menu plan would get us through the lean winter months.  That $1,000 payment felt like damage control.  As the umpire, I had to watch the game closely, even if hoping the home team could steal a base to regain control of the game.


Then I got small hit on a curve ball, when he told me he could give me $2,000 he was saving in his business account which was for an upcoming annual business insurance premium of $3,100 due soon.  We decided we could put the insurance on the credit card giving us one extra month to pay and gaining cash back points, and hopefully business would pick up and we’d be in for a bit of slow pitch now that the Christmas season was over.  He never could explain what happened in December.  Normally it does slow down, but it has never come to a shutout like it did for him in 2013.   He did, however, land a large contract for the city which we could count on down the road because it wouldn’t pay out for a few months.

Regular Season Begins

baseball-player-in-the-airWell that softball turned into hardball pretty quick when we saw that January was not looking very good either.  He ended $1,100 short from our minimum goal.  With two away and two down, I was starting to get kind of panicky.  I had slowed our debt repayment, but we were committed on a low rate cash transfer credit card that needs to be fully paid by August of this year.  We had put a $24,700 lump sum against our 2.89% mortgage debt last Sept, planning to pay the 0.99% credit card off at $2,250 for 11 months.  Yes, I know this is just swapping debt for debt, but was at a lower interest rate and with no transfer fee. It seemed like a good idea since we were planning to make prepayments of more than that amount monthly.  Of course, we had no foresight of the earnings slump that was to come.

We were window shopping for strike 3 near the end of February when it looked like his income for that month to be paid in March was going to fall $700 short from our @2,400 target.  Not only that, but now we had an over $5K Visa payment due in early March (remember the $3,100 insurance above) plus $2,700 of first installment of property taxes due in March.  Normally I put $450/month in my Emergency Fund each month to build up enough to cover property taxes.  Well, with robbing Peter to pay Paul, that didn’t happen, and things were getting very precarious, indeed!

The Losing Streak

empty-baseball-fieldAt this point we are $4,200 negative on budgeted earnings plus I needed to find an additional $1,100 to make up the insurance payment for which he had only $2K for ($3,100 – $2,000).

What did I do?  Bring in a pinch hitter? I scoured the internet looking for part-time job possibilities and while I was doing that I turned into a blogger.  Overnight.  Magically.  Just like that.

I had no knowledge of the term side hustle.  I didn’t think I had the stamina to work 2 shifts per week at Shoppers Drug Mart after a brain draining workday.  I also decided early on that making money at blogging would, for me, be undoubtedly very difficult.  And yet, I was incredibly stressed and needed somewhere to unload.  So a blogger I became.

I dug-out our Emergency Fund.  I know JMoney says No Touchy! but we were dealing with a job loss of sorts (hey, where did all the fans go?).  That is what your E-fund is for.  Unforeseen events that you have no control over.  Okay, broken washing machines and vehicles kind of are too, I’ll give you that.  But hypothetically we are supposed to have a separate maintenance/stuff breaks fund to deal with that.   Some of us do not, but choose to keep our E-fund nice and high to cover that as well.   [Future post coming during the championships about how I plan to increase my Emergency Fund and why.]

Regular Season Ends

Batter-upThen we hit two home runs in a row.  The first was a due to a change-up with a family member and it was an out-of-the-park HR.  My husband is a licensed realtor and acted as agent for my sis and BIL to buy a new home and sell their existing home.  He had not intended on charging them any commission and in turn, return to them the fee he received from the purchase of their new home.  They insisted that we keep his earned commission from the purchase and in return for not taking a commission on the sale of their home they wanted to take us on a cruise (which we gratefully declined).

So that $4,000 yacker saved our home game and I started to relax a bit. Our second inside-the-park home run was that my husband’s March income exceeded our target by $1,600.  This was because of the completion of the large contract that he had been working on for a couple of months.  The regular small housing jobs were coming in, but at a rate lower than last year.  It was hard to say if business would increase to the same levels as before.  I might need to revisit my @2,400 / month projection if this continues.

I still kept blogging, as I soon realized I still had a lot to learn and I also had a story to tell as part of the Hot Stove League.   Maybe, just maybe, I could help others and maybe, just maybe, I could develop my blog into a retirement side hustle of my own.

Post Season

slide-into-baseAs we enter the seventh-inning stretch I see that I need to examine my slugging averages more closely because although the actual income has finally caught up with planned income, my Emergency fund is still $2,100 lower than it should be.  I can account for $1,100 of that being the passed ball shortfall in the insurance premium that I had not budgeted for plus $450 of missing tax savings that I did not fund one month when I was doing a suicide squeeze.

If I can continue to play ball, the plan is to pay $2K per month to the low rate credit card to have it knocked out of the park before the interest rate goes up ($6K – 3 more payments to go).  I’m not sure if I will deploy this strategy again, as it certainly has been a nail-biter.  I may just decide to become a patient hitter and just pay any excess towards debt as it comes so I don’t stress myself out so much.

Now I’ve got some good news about breaking balls and some bad news bears to share as we head into the wild-card playoff.  What d’ya want first?  Okay, the bad news it is – as in a grouch Uncle Charlie of My Three Sons curve ball when I received something in the mail yesterday.  I saw the word Justice on the envelope thinking it was a call to Jury Duty as I quickly tore it open only to find a RED LIGHT CAMERA SYSTEM OFFENCE NOTICE for my car which I was not driving on a particular day in a certain area to the tune of $325.  Ya, sucks the big ball$.

So that somebody, who shall remain nameless, worked his a$$ off this month (as luck would have it) and will bring in ticket sales of $3,200 next month which is $800 greater than minimum plan.  So two things we learned here folks – housing market is moving again in Canada and don’t run red lights when you’re debt wrangling or playing a perfect inning.

To mop up this post, I must confess that I knew little about baseball.  Just like me, you can learn how to manage your finances better too!  You just need to get in the game, define your level playing field and don’t stop short when things don’t go your way and you’re down and outHome plate will still be there, even if you need to round the bases a few times.  It’s practice and green lights that will get you the Commissioner’s Trophy and make you a champion of the series in your world.

Images courtesy of
Baseball glove / Andrei Niemimäki
T-ball / Chris Harrison
Baseball pitcher / Ralph Arveson
First base / Jonathon Assink
Baseball field / JACoxwell
Baseball batter / Eric Ward
Slide into base / Sherri Abendroth
Home field / Sherri B


Author: debster

I am a fifty-something wife, mother and new grandmother, who admits to having their “head in the sand” about their financial situation until amassing $247,500 worth of consumer debt for a total debt of $393,500. We've paid $121K in 2 years with four more years to go. Join my journey at sharing ideas and motivation to all those coping with poor money management and bad debt decisions.

54 thoughts on “Curve Balls – When You Are Hit With Unexpected Financial Events

  1. Lots of ups & downs — but I think that’s just part of life! Glad you’re thinking of increasing your emergency fund to take care of mechanical issues too. I prefer a separate fund but either way works :)

    • I plan to increase it from $10K to $15K. I’m just more comfortable having some more, then if I cannot contribute my usual $450 for property taxes each month due to low income, I’ve got that extra $5K to buffer that sort of thing. I really appreciate your comment. Thanks, Jackie!

  2. Great analogies! It was great that your husband was able to get the commission. I am a licensed realtor too, but have a target market of my high caliber renters. So far, after only a few months, no sales, but it should be building as the tenants move out.

    Great job on the blog!

    • Wow, you’ve got your side hustle coming out your Ying-Yang, Eric! Good for you! I’m glad you enjoyed my baseball inspired post. I had my husband read it, because I wanted to make sure I was not giving out too much sensitive information for him, and his comment was, I didn’t know you knew so much about baseball! ha ha ha That inspired me to add my closing paragraph.

  3. Hey debt debs, I really enjoyed reading this post! You had me on the edge of my seat a couple of times, but was thrilled when I heard about your two home runs! Who knew personal finance could become such an exciting spectator sport! Some great inspiration highlighting what persistence and a little creativity can help you achieve.

    I think some weekend sports writing could be a great additional ‘side hustle’ for you to help crush that debt!

    • Ha, so funny and what a nice complimentary comment, Jason! I’m glad you enjoyed it! It just shows that if you don’t know much about something you can learn and always fake it till you make it. Hmmmm… sports writing ay?

  4. I go through a lot of this as an actress and now a freelancer. That’s why I work out my budget based on percentages rather than fixed numbers. If I’m funding every category, with every paycheck, I know everything be funded.

  5. Great recap of the game Deb!! I always warn my clients that they absolutely have to plan for the unexpected or the curve balls because they seem to be inevitable and happen more than the home runs. And it truly takes consistency and training to make sure that you are staying in the game and not falling behind.

  6. Agreed that the emergency fund is meant to serve a purpose and when an unexpected expense(s) arises, you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. It is kind of like a fire extinguisher. Why leave it is the nice, clean glass case when a fire breaks out? Break that glass and use it. Of course, the extinguisher – like money removed from an emergency fund – needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Moreover, once an emergency is overcome, it is a good time to reassess based on experiences from the emergency. Is the fund large enough, too large…?

  7. Man there have definitely been some ups and downs. I think we all experience that on some level. I’m glad you had a couple home runs in there. Keep at it, and glad you found the blogging world!

  8. This was awesome! Love the analogies. Glad to have you in the blogging world!

  9. Well written, my friend! :-) Glad it’s all working out. Those curve balls suck! We’re still trying to dig out from the winter heating bills, but are better prepared for next season, at least. Have an awesome day, Deb!

    • Thanks, Laurie! Yes, I read about your plans to address your heating costs. I bet it feels good to be taking charge of that. Have a great week!

  10. Great post! Love all the baseball references :)

  11. Very well written post! I’ve always looked at my debt repayment journey in a similar vein to weight loss, but I can certainly see a lot of the analogies you’ve made here as well. Glad to hear the income has picked up :)

    • I very much relate debt repayment to weight loss as well! It can be very hard but not impossible and you have to make sure you don’t get back into bad habits! Thanks, Morgaine, for your support. :-)

  12. Excellent read, Deb! Loved the baseball analogy- what a great piece of writing!

  13. Great analogies Debs! It would make even more sense to me if I would take the time to look more into the rules and regs of baseball. :) Ups and downs happen and I’ll be making a post soon about a set back I’ve had over this weekend along with the “extra” money from my garage sale!

  14. I’m glad baseball is one of two sports I follow =). Red light cameras stink! I am so paranoid about them now, but I don’t actually think our area has any. I’ve only made a right on red without fully stopping before, but it was enough. I’m glad everything worked itself out, and hope things continue looking up for you!

  15. Wow, do you know some baseball lingo or what?!
    Sounds like you have quite an income roller coaster in your household. I’m glad to hear that things have come together, though. Good luck getting those low-rate payments done, when they expire the interest is a doozie!

    • LOL, you know what, Anne, all self-taught, researched entirely for this post. We’ll get the low-rate card paid, no worries now, even though I was getting antsy before!

  16. The “pinch hitter” is my favorite analogy! I definitely have gone this route when I was looking to increase my income. It’s been a great way to learn and grow both financially and as a person.

  17. Life really can be a roller coaster. I am always impressed and inspired by people who live on variable income. That would be really stressful for me. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger appetite for risk and uncertainty. Without risk, there is no reward : ) Great post!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I’ll be first to admit I’m not a big fan, especially while we are aggressively paying down debt. ;-)

  18. Great article….just got some bad news of a serious curveball headed my way. I still refuse to give up…..debt free will be apart of my life.

  19. Great stuff DD…love the analogy! You’ve certainly been through some twists and turns. It’s so tough to see those curve balls coming…an effective pitcher can really hide them. That’s kind of how life is…we never know when it’s going to throw us one of those.

  20. Great analogy, Deb. You can plan all you want (and should) but life will always throw those curveballs at you. It sounds like you did an overall good job of keeping the ball in play. :)

  21. You did very well hitting those curve balls. I would definitely want you on my home team.

  22. Haha, I admittedly know nothing at all about baseball (don’t really like the sport) but cool analogies. I feel like I’ve been hit by unexpected expense after unexpected expense lately, and while I haven’t gone into any debt or even touched my savings, it’s been a big of a struggle.

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  24. Interesting analogies, taught me a bit about baseball. Life is a like a wheel, it will go up and down, and that’s how you learn. What to remember is good times don’t last so you have to prepare the rainy days, but then rainy days don’t last too and sooner or later you’re back on the game again ;)

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