Debt is Not Forever
Years ago, before we began budgeting, we used to make financial decisions using this six step scientific system:
- I want that...
- I need that...
- I need that now...
- How much per month?...
- (Wet finger in the air) we can "afford it"
- Pay for it later
None of this stuff produced more than momentary happiness, and most of which came with guilty baggage, and a craving for more stuff. I'm by no means perfect today, but I've learned a lot through the process of paying off our debts, creating a plan, and saying NO for awhile.
Debt is Not Forever
Getting out of debt isn't near as easy as getting into debt. We don't have DVR, so let me tell you about something called "TV commercial breaks." During a 30 minute TV show, the television network will take breaks to show you some advertising (how they make their money). Typically three or four commercial during a give break. I typically spend this time trying NOT to lose to my wife in Words with Friends.
But, I was actually watching the commercials the other day and guess what all of the advertising was related to... money.
- Let us help you file for bankruptcy and wipe your slate clean.
- This credit card has no black-out dates
- Use our company to file your taxes
- Get zero percent financing for 5 years on a brand new money pit (car)
I stepped back to think about how we've come as far as we have in realizing that debt is not forever. We're not special, we don't make absurd amounts of money (average among American standards), yet we seem to have "beat the system," when it comes to the chains of debt.
- Commitment: We committed to being debt free before we had kids, and we committed to not taking on any more debt... ever.
- Focus on the important things: Along our road to being debt free I could sense that other's thought we were weird, or even a little bit crazy. But, we continued to focus on the things that were most important to us. We prioritized our budget to make sure it was in line with our goals.
- Get mad: We got a little pissed off at ourselves for handling money so poorly early on in our adult life. We let that fuel us and strengthen our commitment and focus toward our goals.
- Create a plan: Having a solid plan every month (budget) helped us measure our progress on a regular basis.
It wasn't easy, but we were able to pay off nearly $40,000 of debt in 23 months. We used the power of having a monthly plan (budget) and the debt snowball method to create momentum and see progress quickly. (Check out the link at the bottom of this post for an app that helps you track your debt snowball).
The habit of budgeting has helped us tremendously in the years since becoming debt-free. It wasn't as if we "arrived" financially speaking, we merely had less baggage to worry about. We are free to think differently about life and have more choices because we're not chained by debt. And it's helped us be more intentional (most of the time) about our approach to our personal finances.
What is (or was) your reason for getting out of debt?