Yep. We did it.
Except for our mortgage, we are officially debt free!!!
I wrote about the beginning of this journey in this post about living like no one else. 17 months, one home improvement loan, two car notes, and some credit cards later… I can announce that we are no longer slaves to multiple monthly payments with interest!
I know the number one question is going to be… how did you do it? I’ll get to that in a bit, but let me start by saying that when my husband decided he wanted to get serious about paying down our debt, I was pretty excited. When he started talking about how quickly he wanted to do this by paying down pretty substantial amounts, I was not so excited. You see, I wanted to be debt free, but I was going for the slower, less painful route.
We were on two completely different pages here.
Unfortunately, we would be following his route whether I liked it or not. Not surprising, this led to some discontent in the beginning on my part. I had already written out an entire list of projects for our home and was ready to get started and his debt epiphany put a huge dent in my plans. Every time a little bit of money would be “freed up” and I thought I’d finally get to have a little extra for “the project list”, he’d have already transferred it to savings to put down on something else.
I was not a happy girl.
Crazy, right? My husband was trying to do something great for our family and I was ticked off that I couldn’t buy new sheets. Seriously. It was hard for me too because I looked around and saw other women who had bigger homes that were fully furnished, nice new clothes, the latest in accessories, and most of them were stay at home moms. No offense to you SAHM, but here I was, a full-time working mom, and I couldn’t buy sheets because they weren’t in the budget.
I was pretty bitter about it all.
So what changed? Ironically enough, I decided to tune in to a podcast of the very man that started this whole mess, Dave Ramsey. My interest was piqued. I listened to another podcast, and another, and another. Most of the time, I was impressed by stories of people who were giving their debt free scream (and had waaaaay more debt than we did). Other times, I heard callers who had so much savings that they needed guidance in how to invest it. Then, one day, I heard a caller who wanted to start the Total Money Makeover and had an entire plan and wanted to know how to get his wife on board. Dave quickly told the man that it wouldn’t work unless the two of them decided on a plan together.
There was my hangup. I didn’t like that my husband decided to do the debt paydown and dictate how things would go without considering my input. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pay off debt… I didn’t like that I wasn’t asked how I would like to go about it. Once I acknowledged the root of my bitterness, I was ready to grow up and just do it already.
Here are some of the things that helped me on the way to debt free:
Know where your money is going each month
I’m sure most of you think this is a no-brainer, but so many people don’t truly have a grasp on where there money goes. (How much did I spend on coffee?!!!) We used Mint to help us keep track of where our dollars were going. Having the app on our phones made it even easier.
Plan your spending with a budget
There it it, the dreaded B word. But seriously y’all, it is a necessity. Not only does it help keep you on track (use that Mint app, folks) but it helps you prepare for those expenses you forget about (the annual daycare enrollment fee, HOA dues, etc.) I’d love to say we totally lived on just what we budgeted each month, but that would totally be a lie…
It’s not my money or your money, it’s our money
This is a personal opinion so don’t crucify me here, but I think it is so important for married couples to combine finances. Keeping separate accounts and splitting the bills is what roommates do, not married adults. Separate accounts also leave more room for financial infidelity – you know the stories of couples trying to get financing and finding out that one (or both) have built a massive amount of credit card debt. Ouch. It’s much more of a team effort when you’re all dipping in the same pot.
Realize that stuff is just that… stuff
This one is tough for me, especially with the neverending appeal of new and shiny things. As they say, in the end, the one with the most stuff still dies. Sometimes you just have to say put down the great deal and walk away. I’ve gotten much better at this since being more aware of what I’m spending (see the first tip) and knowing my budget (there I go again).
Grow Up Already
One thing Dave Ramsey always says is that debt is a sign of immaturity:
It is human nature to want it and want it now; it is also a sign of immaturity. Being willing to delay pleasure for a greater result is a sign of maturity. However, our culture teaches us to live for the now. “I want it!” we scream, and we can get it, if we are willing to go into debt. Debt is a means to obtain the “I want its” before we can afford them.
If that doesn’t give you a big wake up, I don’t know what will. That is truth, people. It takes a lot of growing up to let go of the “want, want, want” mentality to make better financial decisions. Case in point, I traded in a beautiful Eddie Bauer Ford Expedition that I loved and still owed $15,000 on to get an older Honda Pilot with a smaller payment – it was a decision that saved us $5000. We paid off the Honda Pilot in four months, the last payment being our final debt. And you know what, the vehicle does what it’s supposed to do – gets me from point A to point B. Funny thing, right?
I realize that you may not be on the same page as us and aren’t quite ready to tackle the debt monster, but if you are thinking about it in the slightest… do it!! It is possible, you will survive, and you’ll be so much better for it. The Dave Ramsey website is a great place to start. Listen to the podcasts. Believe in debt free. Check out the book for free from your local library.
You won’t regret it.
And you’ll never miss all the stuff.
If you want to be part of a community trying to become debt free, how about joining the Debt Movement? You may even win some money to help you with your debt free goal!