One of my favorite sports teams is going through a period that a lot of sportscasters call a “rebuilding year.” If you’re not up on your sports terminology, it essentially means that the team is going through a transition period in which, after a season or more of performing poorly, the management, players, and coaches get together and make massive changes (which can often involve bringing in new management, players, and coaches while getting rid of the old ones).

Surviving a ‘rebuilding year'

With only $1,918 to go and several months still left in the year, we’ll spend time rethinking our goal and decide how we should prioritize our debt payoff.

While this is good for the team in the long run, it usually means having a season or two where everyone struggles to get it together under the new culture.

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I like to think of my family as going through a sort of “transition year” during 2016, as well. Not only did we just add a tiny new player in 2015, but we are also looking at our finances in a totally new way. We are essentially rewriting our entire playbook, and we are coming to terms with the fact that we’re in a period when it feels like we don’t exactly have our house in order.

It's a crazy kind of chaos when you have a long period of time to pay off debt.

For us, it means throwing almost every single extra penny we can find hiding between our couch cushions towards our credit cards, medical bills, and student loans. Not a single cent goes unaccounted for. We budget like crazy, track every single spending habit, and analyze how we have done at month’s end.

While it may seem to have a semblance of organization, it is turning out to be much more work than we had ever thought it would be. But it’s training us to be stronger and smarter money managers.

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For some reason, it was an unusually quiet month full of long, boring days.

Back in our childless days, this used to mean that we would use our boredom as an excuse to go out doing something like spending a ton of money on an expensive meal, a pricey play or musical, or a day at a theme park. And then, of course, we’d regret the credit card bill later.

Learning how to say ‘no'

But this year, as we do our best to tackle our $20,001 debt payoff goal, we have had to retrain our minds to resist all the temptations and fight back urges to replace “nothingness” with “somethingness.” So far, that has meant saying “no” a lot: no to shopping, no to eating out, and no to extensive traveling just because we were bored and had a little extra money.

Luckily, we have successfully retrained ourselves to enjoy the quiet, and be at peace with our no-spend weekends.

And all that hard work – all that rebuilding of our finances and retraining our brains – has paid off big time in terms of our $20,001 goal. For the month, our family managed to pay down a whopping $1,636 worth of debt.

The vast majority of that has come thanks to the lessons we have been picking up along the way (putting aside nearly half of our income, focusing on small frugality, and side hustling when possible), but at least $200 of that $1,636 came from learning to be comfortable with living in transition, embracing the struggle and chaos of trying new things, and learning to love a new kind of life while we focus on debt repayment.

For those following along, we are rocking the “pay off $20,001 by December 31, 2016” challenge. With the $1,636, we have now paid down $18,083 this year! With only $1,918 to go and several months still left in the year, we’ll spend time rethinking our goal and decide how we should prioritize our debt payoff.

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This is part of a series chronicling Michelle's road to debt payoff. To see Michelle's July update, click here.