Tomorrow, March 17, 2015 will mark
five years of living debt free.
What did the moment look like when we became debt free?
Flash back to March 17, 2010, two months shy of our 2nd anniversary. I was working on the budget and realized that we just had one payment left on Jeremy’s student loan and we were done. Free and clear with no payments. I called Jeremy into the room and I made him submit the final payment on his student loan on the computer.
Honestly, the moment was kind of anticlimactic. Jeremy was more wondering about why I had him come in to click submit, than he seemed to care about becoming debt free. I look back and realize now how he was so busy with school, leaving the finances up to me, plus I was the only one working all just meant he really was not as invested in paying everything off as I was.
In order to mark the occasion I talked my husband into going out for ice cream. We used a gift card someone had given us, because I did not feel like spending any money (ha).
The next couple months brought peace
There was no huge windfall of cash to figure out what to do with the next month without any payments. No fanfare and no excitement. It was quiet. Quiet and peaceful.
As summer approached, the slow period with interpreting, I noticed something. Work was slow and money tight, but the stress of trying to juggle everything was simply not there. I was different and I had changed. I had no idea how much having debt had affected me psychologically until the burden was gone.
Now, there was so much peace.
Later in the year, I wrote one simple sentence in our Christmas letter about paying off all our debts and how thankful we were not to have any payments. I was surprised by the amount of comments I started receiving about how we were now debt free.
At the time, I did not know how to handle the attention or how to give encouragement and brushed off the comments by saying ‘it really was not a lot of money to begin with’ or ‘it was just $7,600’.
I did not realize how impressive it was for a young married couple to become debt free, not having any payments at all and others wanted to know our secret.
My secret was so simple, it did not even seem to be worthy to be called a secret. I followed a budget, did not borrow any more money and kept making payments towards debt. There were a lot of mistakes I made in the process as you see here and I did not have the intensity to pay the debt off as quickly as possible. Mainly, I wanted my husband to graduate with no student loans.
Others started sharing my story
News started coming my way of friends and family sharing my story with their friends because they were so inspired. I became a magnet and now had requests for financial advice from those closest to me. Not sure what advice to give since I took mine from what I heard from Dave Ramsey and what I had learned from the Bible, I did the best I could patterning after what I did in my own affairs.
I now realize it was more than advice they were seeking, I was someone who had struggled and won against debt, giving hope and the idea it was possible for my friends and family to do the same.
Since my debt free milestone, there have been several people in my circle who have started taking responsibility for their finances by making a budget and setting up a plan to become debt free themselves. I am so proud of them and so humbled to be a catalyst of positive change in their lives.
Debt free five years, what has changed?
Lots of travel?
- Well, kinda.
- I did go to Africa to visit some friends for two weeks, but used money we had received as wedding gifts (I really should have put the money towards debt).
- My husband travels twice a year for medical reasons, but those amounts are budgeted for and worked into our monthly budget.
- I have gone on several girls’ weekends with some close friends, but always worked extra or put money from an agency I normally did not work for towards the trips.
- We have taken one vacation together in the last five years (sad I know), which we budgeted for and saved the money ahead of time.
- In a word, No.
- My husband continues to drive a 15 year old car with 104K miles on it.
- I drive a weathered 12 year old car with 225K miles (hey, they are both paid for!).
- My husband continue to fix most of the repairs which come up, saving us a lot of money.
- Define lifestyle.
- Yes, I admit, I have slightly increased our food budget so I can purchase higher quality ingredients.
- We still live in the same, cheap apartment we have ever since we got married.
- Our total monthly expenses have actually gone down considerably in the last five years and I am working to get them down further.
- We eat out less now than we used to as I would rather cook at home.
- We are homebodies and prefer dates at home or on the cheap such as going to the park.
Increased net worth?
- Depends on the month.
- I work harder now than I did five years ago which results in bringing in more income.
- I am really good at saving money and for a couple of months at a time our net worth rises, then another opportunity to invest in my husband’s education comes along (tuition) and our net worth goes back down to the baseline.
- A lot of money has been saved and a lot of money has been spent on tuition, car repairs and other set backs.
- My emergency fund has not grown much beyond the $1,000 baby emergency fund overall, but this will be changing this year for sure!
No more budgeting?
- Ha! Could not be further from the truth!
- I continue to budget and am even more strict about our budget than I was when paying off debt.
- We follow a zero-based budget each month where every dollar has a name.
- Our long term plans have expanded and we budget to stay on a track to obtain those goals.
- I will not take on any more debt.
- I have crossed the line in the sand, never to go back to borrowing money of any kind, for any reason.
- I do not have the same need to impress others with how I spend my money.
- My tendencies towards being materialistic have almost disappeared.
- My contentment has grown considerably.
- I am more aware that everything I have, is a gift given to me by God, and one I must steward carefully.
Once my husband finishes school (hopefully in December 2016) and gets a job, our income situation will change drastically. Will our lifestyle increase proportionally?
I highly doubt it overall, but there might be a few things we will increase. We are simple people at heart and will continue to live on less than one income, which will allow us to save for and purchase a house for cash as well as fund the other financial goals we have.
The best part will be my husband will have full control of his income without a single cent to pay back to any lender! We will be well equipped to provide for all our family’s needs, save for the future, enjoy the fruits of our labor, and give generously all because we will continue to live without any debt.
One final note, becoming debt free and living these five years debt free would not have been possible had God not provided the means by which to work, the income I have had, and the wisdom to handle money wisely. I give all the credit to God for placing us in this situation we are in now.
Is being debt free glamorous?
Not at all, at least not in my life. However it is quiet and peaceful, which is something I will not change if I can help it. There are enough stresses already in life, so anytime I can hang on to quietness and peace, I do and am loath to trade anything for those feelings.
There is so much potential ahead of us and life to live; we will be able to do anything since we are not limited by payments. I absolutely love living a debt free life!
Now, what celebration is complete without a gift?
I decided to give away a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey to one fabulous winner because I am thrilled to have made it to 5 years of being debt free and am so appreciative of you!
The Total Money Makeover gave me hope to see it is possible to live a debt free life and gave me the tools to become debt free. I really like this book because the advice is simple, easy to implement, makes sense, and includes humor. I am excited to give this book to the winner and I hope it will change your life just as it has mine.
How to Enter You can enter by leaving a comment, any comment, below and I will use a Random Number Generator to pick the winner on Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 8pm PST (Arizona time). Now, leave a comment to enter this give-away! The winner will be picked on Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 8 pm PST (Arizona time).
The Give-Away is now over. Congratulations Grammyprepper, you are the Winner!!
(I purchased the give-away book on my own and am not being compensated for the book or review in any way and please note I will respond to all comments like I always do, but will wait until after the give-away is over so I do not mess up the results.)