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.

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