I feel like debt is very personal. In order to talk about my debt, you have to understand me a little bit first. I am a recent college graduate who got married between my junior and senior years. Your brain is saying, “Who in their right mind gets married while they’re in college??” Me, that’s who, and I’m not sure that I have ever really been in my “right mind.” Just kidding. Anyway, my high school sweetheart and I got hitched the summer before senior year and had a total of about $23,500 in school debt give or take a few hundred dollars. Yikes!
My husband and I knew that getting out of debt was very important, but I didn’t realize how important until I started reading. First, I read books by Christian financial advisors like Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett. Actually, one of the Larry Burkett books was a requirement in our marriage counseling, and I’m SO glad that was the case. As I started drinking the metaphorical “get-out-of-debt” koolaid, I began reading blog posts and articles about couples who had plunged deep into debt and were successful in recovery. One thing was sure, I knew I didn’t want to accumulate MORE debt.
Still, my husband and I were both seniors in college for that first semester of our marriage (you know you’re a student/teacher when you talk about your marriage in “semesters”), and neither one of us was making decent enough money to throw a lot at debt. We were living on what we made at our jobs plus extra side gigs we could do for cash like cleaning houses, mowing lawns, and giving people IT help (my husband is a tech guy). We were excited to save $100 a month extra. So $23,500 debt was just sitting there laughing at us. Thankfully, we weren’t yet paying interest because we were still in school.
Finally, my husband completed that semester of school and was working full time. I was finishing my final semester and working less than ever, but trying to budget smart and save all that I could on living expenses. What really hit home for me was an article I read about a couple paying off their home by the age of 30. Reading that started me thinking about how worth it saving and focusing on paying off debt really is.
Coming to grips with debt and paying it off is a total mindset change. Your brain goes from having thoughts like “we’ll pay it off eventually” or “but I REALLY want this” to “we have to get this done now” and “I don’t need that right now.” Here are some thoughts that really encourage me and keep me motivated on this journey…
It’s not forever. – I will eventually be debt-free and be able to adjust my habits to have more “fun money.”
“Live like nobody else does now, so you can live like nobody else does later.” – Dave Ramsey
Am I currently spending a night or two a week doing odd jobs like painting and housework in order to save extra money? Am I tired of making sure I only buy food on sale with coupons? Do I wish going out to eat wasn’t a major life decision? Maybe, but it’s NOT permanent. It is temporary.
“You can do anything temporarily.” – My mother
(Are you sensing a pattern yet?)
I have very few needs, and way too many wants.
Watching my budget has made me very aware of how materialistic I am, and how much I think I “need” that is really a want.
“You’ll never regret saving instead of spending.” – I know I read this online somewhere. If anyone knows whom I might give credit to, please let me know!
I won’t regret the iced coffees that I didn’t drink, the extra clothes that I didn’t buy, the movies I didn’t see in theatres, or the dinners I didn’t eat out. In the end, when I’m debt free, I don’t think I’ll whine about missing out on frivolous things. (This can be taken too far, but I’m talking about general “fun” spending.)
Have some fun.
Now this might seem contradictory to the last point, but hear me out. Most people will go CRAZY if they never allow themselves to eat out, have a coffee with a friend, buy a new pair of shoes, etc. I am a firm believer in having a little “’fun money” each month. A inexpensive date night here and there help my husband and I to remember that we can have guilt-free spending if we plan accordingly. “Fun money” helps you remain sane and not feel like you’re going to be destitute for life.
I have so much more to share about the journey I am on right now towards financial freedom. However, let me just say that it’s not always easy. It gets easier as you go, as you reach goals, and as you see that debt number dwindle. I told you that my husband and I started marriage last year (June 5) $23,500 in debt. Today, by God’s grace in providing ability and opportunity for hard work and saving, we’re down to $4,346.02! We had paid $18,000 by our first anniversary. Which reminds me of two more encouraging thoughts/tips.
People may tell you that it’s not possible to pay off debt so quickly or that you shouldn’t “kill yourself.”
You know your limits. Some people are okay eating rice and beans once a week, but others would go crazy doing that. You know if you can handle extra side jobs. YOU are the one who has to pay off the debt. As much as people care about you, don’t let them discourage you from going for your goals.
Reflect on where you’ve been, and you’ll want to keep going.
It is so nice to look back and see that we’ve paid off almost $20k. That’s a ton of money I don’t have to worry about anymore. Reflection motivates me to keep going, keep working, keep saving, and keep thanking the Lord that He’s allowed me to come this far.
Wherever you are on your financial journey, even if you’re debt-free and trying to save for a house/car/retirement…I hope you’ll be encouraged to stay the course and pursue your financial goals. Don’t stress out, take things one step at a time and stay consistent. It will pay off, literally.
In the future, I’ll try to share more about how exactly we’ve paid what we have.I’d love to hear your success stories as well!