Our first month of intense debt pay off was January, 2015. It took us a few months after Ben was employed to play catch up – pay my parents back for a beater car we bought with borrowed money, get a mini $1000 emergency fund saved, etc…
We sat down at a Starbucks, ironically with overpriced coffee in hand, to make our new “intense debt payoff” monthly budget. We wrote everything out, thinking we were being pretty frugal, and ended up with only a few hundred dollars each month over the student-loan minimums.
At $300 hundred dollars over the 10-year-payoff minimums we could pay it off in 8 years. 5 years longer than our 3 year goal. Ugh. This was disappointing to say the least.
But, we prayed, and asked God to to provide ways to pay it down faster, and we agreed to stick to our budget. Even if it would only yield a couple hundred dollars extra every month.
As soon as we had all of January’s income in the bank, we transferred out the extra $300 to the student loan company. But at the end of the month, we had even more leftover. Weird! We paid that too.
And so it went. Faster than we’d thought, we were able to pay down the first thousand and the next thousand, and then a few thousand more with a big tax return…
As we slowly started gaining momentum in debt payoff, and felt excitement from the progress, we got crazier and crazier about things we were willing to go without temporarily in order to make more short-term progress.
Every month we would make our budget, we’d figure out more things we could cut. Cheaper hair cuts, no kids clothes, cable, groceries, cheaper dates, trading babysitting with friends, and on and on.
All of the sudden, it started to feel borderline like a “fun” challenge: How fast can we get rid of this debt? How little can I spend at the grocery store?
[Side note: don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-spending-money. This is not some frugal-worshipping guilt trip to make you feel bad about buying a cup of coffee. Someday, I hope & plan to have a bigger grocery store budget. To buy steak and disposable diapers. I hope to lavish birthday and christmas and columbus day gifts on people because I love any excuse to buy someone a present. We hope to travel further than the 500 mile stretch of I-80 between Omaha and Chicago. We hope to generously support our friends in ministry and give crazy amounts of money to our local church. I am not advocating holing up in your house, being a cheap-skate scrooge, and never spending any money ever again. Nope, that’s not what I’m suggesting. Just so we’re clear. End side note.]
What I am suggesting is this: Getting out of debt can seem daunting, unrealistic, maybe impossible. Or, maybe you’re so far in the hole, it’s just easier to avoid it all together.
To you, I am saying, it is possible.
You can do it. You can get out of debt. You can cut up your cards or pay down the hundreds of thousands of professional school loans. You can live on less than you make and become financially free. Once you start, 2 things will happen.
- You will end up being able to make sacrifices you didn’t think you could make.
- You will work harder than you thought and increase your income more than you thought possible.
You can do it. Pick one or two things to cut and put the amount you save towards debt or your savings goal. The motivation and momentum will pick up, and eventually you’ll feel like this guy.
Ok, maybe not. But the progress will become exciting. So, are you getting out of debt? Or doing crazy things to achieve other financial goals? What keeps you motivated?
P.s. if you need some inspiration, here a few posts to get you started:
- 4 areas we’ve figured out how to cut spending in.
- 5 Things We’re not Buying while getting out of debt
- 3 semi-hippie things I do to save money
- How to start a budget
- My #1 Tip for Cheap Grocery Shopping