Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal: Pay Off All Debt By April, 2013

As 2011 draws to a close, I find myself eagerly planning new goals for 2012.  My husband and I have two significant goals for 2012–pay off all of our credit card debt and send our middle child to Japanese school.

Japanese School and Sacrifice

When my son was three, we sent him to Japanese school, and he attended for three years, preschool through kindergarten.  As long time readers of this blog know, my husband is originally from Japan, and his entire family still lives there, and they speak no English.  We agreed long before we had kids that it is important to us that our children know English AND Japanese so that they can communicate with their relatives when we visit.

I was working full-time when my son attended Japanese school, and though it was certainly a sacrifice, we could afford it while living on one income.  Now, our middle child is already three, and we have yet to send her to Japanese school in large part because of our high debt load, but we plan to enroll her in June when she is 3.5 years old.  Putting her through Japanese school will be an even larger financial sacrifice because money is even tighter this time around, but it is something we are committed to do.

While we might be able to swing her tuition, the trouble is that 10 months later, in April, 2013, our youngest child will also be three and ready for Japanese school.   What is a difficult financial burden with our middle child becomes a heavy burden with two children enrolled in Japanese school, and yet neither of us feel comfortable having poured all of our resources into our first child only to tell the other two, sorry, we didn’t have money for you to go.

Why Even Go to Japanese School

Many readers have asked why we just don’t teach them Japanese at home.  If I was also fluent in Japanese, that would work.  I could speak to them in Japanese as could my husband; we could speak to one another in Japanese, and the children could be immersed.  The problem is that I know very little Japanese (despite having taken classes).  The other problem is that my husband is away from home at work 50 hours a week.  He only sees the kids for about one hour in the morning and one hour at night before they go to bed and then on the weekend.  That is not enough for them to become fluent in Japanese.

Other people have suggested getting the kids videos and language programs.  We do have quite a few videos, and my middle child watches them.  Still, she only knows a few words.  If she attends Japanese school, she will be immersed in the language 25 hours a week.  (She will attend from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

Beyond the language training, there is another reason we want our kids to go to Japanese preschool.  They will learn–rigorously.  My son was actually bored when he first transferred to first grade because he was so far ahead of the other kids.  When he switched to his current, more academically rigorous school, he was able to keep up and he continues to be a strong student.  That is something we want to encourage in each of our children.  We both feel that if a child can learn and grow and become academically strong, he will find more doors opening for him as he grows older.  Simply put, we are willing to make the investment now.

How to Pay?

We can’t afford Japanese school now because nearly $1,000 a month goes to debt repayment.  Japanese school for two kids will cost well over $1,000 a month.  We simply can’t swing it.

We could afford it, though, if all of the debt was gone.  Yes, we currently have $55,146.61 of debt (down from our high of $57,966.01 when we officially became Gazelle Intense on October 20, 2011), and I am proposing paying it off in 16 months, before our youngest child turns three.  It sounds insane, but that is part of what a big, hairy audacious goal is supposed to be.  If I do the math, it means we should pay $3,375 a month on debt.  Considering our monthly income is just a bit more than that, well, it is almost laughable.

Yet, I believe our gazelle intensity can make this goal a reality.  As we continue to pay down more upfront, more of what we pay in later months will go on the balance of our debt.  My husband is at his lowest salary point now.  His income should continue to climb steadily.  I make enough freelancing now to have a regular amount to contribute to the monthly income.  Whatever I make beyond that will be applied to debt.  And of course, we will continue to snowflake.

When I asked my husband about this crazy goal, he was onboard.  As he said, “What do we have to lose by setting this goal and not completely achieving it?  We will still be much further ahead than if we hadn’t set the goal.”  So, I am officially stating our big, hairy audacious goal:  pay down $55,146.61 in debt in 16 months.


  1. That’s an amazing thing to work toward, and I really like that you have a good reason for the end date you picked. I think making sure your kids are fluent in their family culture and language is a great goal, and knowing that that’s why you need to pay off the debt so quickly should help you stay on task. I look forward to reading about your progress.

  2. Linden Townhouse says:

    Wow, that is one hairy, audacious goal! I wish you the best of luck. I am trying to save just $3,000 for an IKEA kitchen remodel, so maybe I’d better crank it up a bit!

  3. Good luck with your goal. If you wait to send Child #3 to Japanese school until she is 3.5, just like Child #2, that will “buy” (pardon the pun) you more time to pay off your debt. Even if the debt is not completely gone by then, you will be in a much stronger financial position. I can’t wait to follow your progress.

    Oh, and good luck on the upcoming move!

    • Good point. The only kink is that our second child was born in October, just missing the grade cut off, so she will actually have an “extra” year at Japanese school because she can’t enter first grade until she is nearly 7, so she could have 3.5 years at Japanese school. The last child was born in April, so she will be 6 when she enters first grade. If we put her in right at 3, she will only have 3 years at Japanese school. Wait until 3.5, and she will only have 2.5 years. That is why we had a bit more leeway with the middle child.

  4. Good for you guys for making it a priority to pay off debt! We send our oldest child to Japanese School too, and dread the day when we will have 2 (maybe even 3?) kids in Japanese School at the same time. It is a big financial sacrifice but we hope it will be worth it on the long run. Your school is much more expensive than ours though. Good luck!

    • Yes, it does get costly with several in Japanese school. If you don’t mind, what area of the country do you live in that it is so much cheaper? Is your school only through kindergarten like ours, or is all through elementary? (I wish ours went up through 8th grade, though I don’t know how we would afford it!)

      • We live in Ohio, and pay $180 per trimester (I think it comes out to about $20 per day). The school is year-round with just 3 weeks off in the summer and a week off for spring and winter. She only attends on Saturdays (is that how your school is?) for 3 hours. The parents do a lot of volunteering though. The school begins at “nenshou”, or 3-year olds and goes through high school. We plan on having our kids attend through 3rd grade, and they can continue on after that if it is enjoyable for them. It is a big sacrifice to give up our Saturdays too 🙁

        • Ah, now I see the difference. Our school is a full-fledged preschool. She would go 5 hours each morning and be fully immersed in Japanese. When she is a bit older, maybe 4.5 we can send her for 8 hours; the first 5 hours are Japanese immersion and the last 3 hours are in English. We do send my son who graduated from the preschool to classes on the weekend though.

  5. Good for you for setting such a great goal. I am confident you can reach it. Best of luck and hoping the best for you and your family.

    As far as school goes I think you are doing the right thing. I am also hoping to send my kids to private school.

  6. I think that though your goal seems lofty, you’ll be able to achieve it. It’s amazing how the match works when you just set your mind to it. We are currently working on being debt free in less than 4 years. We started off with $125,000 worth of debt at the beginning of August, and right now we’re down to $105,000 in just 4 months. Once we can really get the snow ball rolling I’m sure that it will just start dropping faster and faster. Keep at it!

  7. I love that you’re taking the bull by its horns!

    And I completely understand your want for teaching kids the language. I speak Spanish and so does my entire family. My husband does not. Luckily, there are a lot of Spanish speaking nannies in our area, and I hope to have one around to help clean and cook and nanny when we have kids. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ll see.

  8. Is it possible for you to barter anything that you do professionally for a portion of the tuition? Good for you for cementing your goal and moving toward it!

  9. That is a VERY audacious goal. I just wanted to add in my thoughts.

    Good for you in placing such high priority on your children’s education, generally as well as specifically on the language and culture of their Japanese family.

    Also, my in-laws took Dave’s Financial Peace University class and so I know a little about gazelle intensity. I hope you can smash the goal to pieces! In a good way 🙂

  10. That’s an amazing goal. I look forward to seeing updates and seeing success. Regardless of how it goes, you will be making some huge strides and I’m sure you will be an inspiration to a LOT of people!

    • Yes, that is the thought. Even if we don’t accomplish the goal completely, we will be much closer than if we didn’t set this goal!

  11. I am excited for you! It would be an amazing accomplishment. I look forward to reading more about this as you continue your journey.

  12. What a goal! Keep us posted. One thing about publicly sharing goals is that it can help with some extra motivation due to public accountability. Good for you guys.

    Also, I’m impressed by your commitment to send your kids to Japanese school. It strikes me as very honorable to do this as the kids can then communicate with one entire side of the family, which is a way to really honor one’s heritage as well. Also, the notion that this helps the kids academically otherwise adds another dimension to the decision. Taken in that light as well, an investment such as this might pay dividends down the road in many ways, both family-related and academic-related. Very cool.

    • Thanks. Not many people understand our commitment, but it is something we both agreed on long before the actual children ever entered the scene. Ideally, I’ll learn Japanese some day too. 🙂

  13. An audacious goal for sure, but having such a noble cause will provide significant motivation.

  14. This is amazing! I thought I had all this debt and didn’t know what to do, but now that I see you and your goals, I know that mine are truly attainable as well. I only have about 8,000$ of debt and my fiance has about 12,000$ and I know that we can pay it off somehow while also putting our kids first as well. I thought that it was either one or the other, but you have inspired me to see that they can both come first!

  15. I totally get the Japanese school plan. My husband speaks fluent Polish. I do not. If there was a Polish immersion school I would consider sending them. I do send my son to private school but the cost is minimal-$140 a month.

    The truth is that values are expensive and you value your children learning Japanese.

  16. howdy!
    I love the idea of your children being able to speak their native tongue and communicate with their family. Plus in college when everybody else is killing themselves to learn spanish or french your kids can settle in for their “easy A” in japanese! My thoughts are that it sounds like a great family bonding learning time for everybody to learn Japanese including the culture and history together–including you! Take some of the money you would spend on the school and get some tapes and videos and even have the oldest kid teach everybody. While immersion is definitely a great way to learn fast, the truth is at 3 or 4 years old even just learning it through tapes etc. their little brains will suck it up like a sponge!

    Plus all the money you would have spent sending them to school you can actually send the whole family to Japan to see the family–which was the whole intended goal in the first place!

    Good luck with everything…

    • Actually, we are leaning toward not paying for the other two to go. It simply isn’t in the budget. Your idea sounds like a great alternative, and maybe it would help me to learn too. 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.