What You Might Have to Do if You Want to Get out of Debt

what you have to doWe’re nearly a year into our “getting out of debt” journey here at The Frugal Farmer Family.  I finally feel like we’ve got some experience under our belts, so to speak, and can share a bit about what it takes to get out of debt.  For most in serious debt, there is no easy road.  Most people with debt aren’t going to be able to buckle down for six months and be debt free.  For the majority of those who want to get out of debt, it’s going to be a road that takes a few years to finish.

But those years are likely going to pass anyway, whether or not you choose to use them to get out of debt.  So the question remains: What do you want your financial life to be like 5 years from now?

Do you want it to be the same that it is today, or are you ready for a better life where money is concerned.  Are you tired of the stress and the worry and the pile of bills arriving in the mail each month, or is that all okay with you?

Are you okay serving fries when you’re 80, or do images of heading south for the winter appeal more to you?

No answer is wrong, mind you, but what is the right answer for you?  And if your answer is a resounding “Yes!  I want financial freedom!”, then what do you plan to do about it?

Do You REALLY Want to Get Out of Debt?

Are you ready to make the plan that is going to get you from where you are to where you want to be, or are you going to give up before you’ve even started?  And what does it take to get from heavy in debt to financial freedom?  Well, it takes a lot of things, at least for most people.

Deciding to pursue your goal of financial freedom means you might have to:

 Sell things that aren’t truly gratifying or in line with your “real” dreams

  Yes, you might like that Corvette or boat sitting in the driveway, but is it worth you having to work an extra 5 years?

Make sacrifices in areas that have become “normal” expenditures

Deciding to choose financial freedom might mean having the heat down lower than you’d like in the winter and hang drying your clothes instead of using the dryer.  Things might be come inconvenient for awhile.  When it comes to pursuing financial freedom, every penny really does count.  Whether spending it or saving it, every penny does make a difference in whether or not you’ll achieve financial freedom, and whether or not you’ll achieve it sooner rather than later.  And the funny thing about these types of sacrifices?  They’re not so bad when you get used to them.  I love hanging my clothes on the line now, and being able to bask in the sunshine for a few minutes each day.  I love making our food from scratch and mixing it by hand instead of with an electric mixer.  There’s something very gratifying about getting back to basics.

Say “no” to yourself, and to others

Are you prepared to turn down Friday night happy hour for awhile, or at least cut back?  Are you prepared to find free or cheap ways of entertaining yourself and slashing that entertainment budget?  Are you ready to give up some, even most, of the luxuries that have in the past caused financial freedom to be a distant dream for you?  Are you prepared to make short term sacrifices for the long-term good?  If you’re not, don’t bother.

Commit to staying the course for a long journey

For most, the road to financial freedom means some long-term sacrifice.  This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun, it just means that “fun” will have to consist of game nights and movie nights, and that dinners out and baseball games will need to be reduced.  You decide what the sacrifices will be, but know that every sacrifice you make puts you closer to your dream of financial freedom, and that every month in which you keep to your plan means one less month before you reach the finish line.

If you truly want to get out of debt, know that no matter what your current circumstances are, financial freedom is possible.  It might not seem like it from where you stand now, but remember always that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Remember that one removes a mountain by first carrying away the small stones.  And then, get to work.

Then, keep working.  Keep working until you reach your first milestone, and then your second.  Journal your triumphs and your disappointments, and then tell the world when you reach your goal of debt free.  Whether a year from now or 5, 10, or 15 years from now – you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

 

 

74 comments

  1. Mr. 1500 says:

    “Yes, you might like that Corvette or boat sitting in the driveway, but is it worth you having to work an extra 5 years?”

    Yep, exactly. Whenever I’m considering a big purchase, I always put it on a scale in my mind and determine exactly how many months or years it will set me back. $1000 may not sound like a big chunk of change right now, but the 10s of thousands it can become in a couple decades does sound like a big chunk of change. You just have to train the old brain to think ahead.

    Thank you for the link! Always appreciated and hope you’re staying warm in the chilly North!

    • Laurie says:

      Hey, Mr. 1500! We are trying to stay warm with sub-zero temps all last week AND this week. Why on earth do we live up here? We’ve been asking ourselves that more and more lately. 🙂

  2. Liz says:

    We cleaned out a few closets this year and sold a few things we didn’t need. For example, hubby and I both had graphing calculators from high school/college. We never use them now so we sold them on ebay. Even though they are older we still made about $50 on each. We also cut our cable tv and have really enjoyed living without it. We do still greatly struggle with saying no to others. I think its good to go out sometimes and it can be hard to find a balance.

    • Laurie says:

      Liz, sounds like you’ve made some great changes! The “saying no” part gets easier with time, we’ve found. Some will blow you off because of it, but others will stick with you, encourage you, and might even begin to follow the same path. And in the end, you’ll be glad you chose financial security over going out. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Doesn’t it?? When we want to go out to eat with the family, and I remember that Rick or I will have to work a couple of hours to do that, it doesn’t sound so fun anymore.

  3. Brit says:

    Great post Laurie. Commitment is so important when it comes to fighting debt. When I started my debt free fight years ago I made a lot of sacrifices or what I thought were major sacrifices at the time. Only to find out that I loved the going back to basic as you put it. Like you, making food from scratch was such a foreign thing. Now is something I love doing. Again, great post and very motivational.

  4. Dear Debt says:

    Thank you for this! I need some encouragement as I am just generally feeling kinda blah, about everything, including debt. I’ve been better this week post-vacation. No spend days, cooking at home, no going out. I went out once for a cheap dinner with friends. The key is to keep this going and get more work booked! For me it will be at least another 3-4 years until I’m debt free. This really bothers me, but unless I have a significant change in my income that will be the timeline. It is a hard, long road.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, Melanie, we definitely go through these stages here as well. The long journey can feel depressing and overwhelming at time! We’ve got a lot of stuff to pay off before debt free too, but we can do it, and I know you can too. Hang in there, girl! 🙂

  5. I have to admit that I don’t often consider the “five years from now” me. Maybe once or twice a year, I give it some honest thought; but most of the time I keep my head down and the day to day (or month to month) takes up my consciousness. Thanks for the reminder to think longer term, Laurie. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Sure thing, DB40! Now that we’re heading toward 50, we’re realizing how very fast the years go, and that the “5 years from now you” isn’t so far away after all. 🙂

  6. Krista says:

    Thanks for this post. We know we’re inching our way closer and when we think about where we were two years ago we would’ve never dreamed we’d both be done with grad school and almost debt free at this point. That being said it’s getting draining after two years of ‘buckling down.’ We’re close but every couple weeks I get to a ‘Why am I doing this?’ mode and have to go through the mental picturing of what it will feel like to finish to get that burst of energy I need to keep trekking on.

    • Laurie says:

      Krista, that’s awesome that you guys are heading toward the finish line! We keep what I call a “motivational list of whys” to help with the “Why am I doing this?” question, and it helps LOTS when we refer back to it.

  7. You guys are doing great – I love your commitment to debt reduction and can tell you from experience that being able to pay off all of your debt and become debt free is one of the best feelings that I have ever had.

    Honestly it is up there as one of the high points in my life.

    • Laurie says:

      SO motivating for us to hear that, Glen. We still have a ways to go, but at least we’ve made a dent, and knowing that even all this time later you still remember paying off your debt as such a high is a really big help for us. Thank you!!!

    • Laurie says:

      Jane, you’re right on when you say everyone is so worried about appearances. We are lucky that we are done caring what others think. It can be hard some days, but we always choose our plan over our concern about what others think, and it always turns out to be the right choice.

      • my2cents says:

        To anyone who doesn’t know us or our financial goals well, it would be easy to assume we must be bogged down with massive debt. I’m sure that’s the impression our choices would create for a casual observer. We always drive older cars, we don’t have cable or fancy cell phone packages (mine’s an old flip phone, and neither of us has voice mail). We meal plan around sales, pack our lunches and virtually never eat out, replace clothing only when something wears out, etc etc. And we’re not suffering. We’ve chosen to cut all the nonessentials out of our life because they just aren’t important to us. On other hand while we consciously skip what many people think is perfectly normal spending, we do take a major holiday every year with the kids (usually somewhere in Europe) and we plan to retire in our 50s. Those are pretty much the only nonessentials we allow in our budget. We could certainly afford to go out for dinner and have a cleaning person and buy new cars, but frankly none of those things would feel like improvements to our lives, and none is as important doing what it takes to reach our goals. At this point I wouldn’t enjoy a fancy restaurant meal, I’d be mentally converting it to how many extra hours or days I’d have to delay my retirment, and which would I rather have – yet another pair of shoes or admission for our family to the Louvre next summer? When you’ve clearly decided on your priorities, it makes it very easy to say no to whatever and whoever is attempting to sabotage you in the short term!

        • Laurie says:

          I just love that. You’ve said it so perfectly. Let me know if you want to turn this comment into a guest post sometime. I’d love to share an expanded version of your philosophy with our readers here.

  8. Great post! You do have to make sacrifices if you want to get out (and stay out) of debt. But they’re only temporary. Once you’re paid off, you can start saving for things that are important to you….and pay cash!

  9. Good post Laurie! I know those sacrifices can hurt, especially when they fly in the face of what you may have been doing to get there in the first place. 🙂 That said, thinking of where you want to be five years later is so worth it and many of the sacrifices may not even feel like you’re giving up much when you look back on it.

    • Laurie says:

      Agreed, John!! Even after this one year of looking back, I’m SO glad we’ve made the sacrifices we’ve made, and am eager to continue the journey!

  10. Wonderful post as always, Laurie. I love that you pointed out that you have to ask yourself some important questions when it comes to working out a plan to meet your financial goals – and then come up with an answer that is right for yyou. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, because no one else has your specific dreams or goals!

    • Laurie says:

      Kali, you’re right on – there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution! That’s one of my favorite things about personal finance and the road to financial freedom. 🙂

  11. Matt Becker says:

    Great stuff Laurie. All good things take some kind of sacrifice. It’s all about understanding what you truly want and being willing to make the real effort to get there.

  12. Great post Laurie. The biggest problem that I see with most people is that they want a quick solution to their problem. It is the same with people wanting to get rich quick. It just doesn’t happen.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Grayson! And they’re not willing to put in the long term efforts to get it done. I know that was us for years. We had this attitude of “What’s the use – it’ll take years!”. Then those years passed anyway and we were still in the same broke boat.

  13. Great post, Laurie! Yes, there are some sacrifices and tough decisions one has to make when they decide to eliminate debt. It isn’t always the easiest journey but the payoff is HUGE. Knowing why you are doing it and what life will like after you achieve financial freedom are important motivators. Plus, remembering that some of these initial sacrifices you will keep and others are only temporary.

    • Laurie says:

      I think that remembering that the sacrifices are temporary is SO important, Shannon. Often at our house, we focus on “the day when we won’t have to count every penny anymore”. Not that we’re planning on going crazy with spending when our debt is paid off, but it sure will be nice to not have to monitor our expenditures quite so closely. 🙂

  14. Mackenzie says:

    “Get to work and keep working”. Yup! The road to being debt-free is not easy but we definitely have to keep at it. Great post Laurie, I needed to hear this 🙂

  15. There are a lot of paths to debt freedom…..the most important thing is to have a plan, and be ready and willing to make changes to make it happen. It took a long time for us to realize just how much we had to change to get on the right path, some people never figure it out.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, but look at you guys now, Travis!!! You’re almost done working your way out of over 100k in debt!! Now, that is cool, and I know you guys are SO glad you started, and kept on, the journey. 🙂

  16. Saying “no” is one of the most challenging things for me. But the more I do it, the more discipline it creates. That’s a good thing when you are trying to win financially.

  17. Dee says:

    Great Post Laurie. You are so on your way! I found your blog during my journey and found you on your first post (amazingly enough!) and you have come so, so, so, SOOOO far. You should be congratulated on the progress and the complete mental shift towards your life. I really have enjoyed your first chapter and I am looking forward to the next part of the journey. Keep on keeping on.
    I am now debt free (except for mortgage) and I still appreciate certain blogs to keep me honest and focused forward…yours is one.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, some days it doesn’t seem that way. 🙂 Truly though, thank you SO much for your encouraging words, Dee. HUGE congrats to you on dumping all non-mortgage debt – that is awesome, Dee!

  18. Such great points Laurie. I can remember when I finally made the changes necessary to get out of debt, I was blown away with how much I could live without. It actually became a fun game I did with myself, what could I figure out how to live without and how much money would it save me over the course of 12 years. By having fun with it, it changes your mindset and you don’t feel deprived at all.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s what we’ve done, Kyle, and it really does work!!! I was just mentioning to a gal last night how great it feels to be more “self-sufficient” in that we know we can live with just the basics in life now, and do it successfully.

  19. I think everyone has that slide scale of doing whatever it takes to get out of debt/become financially independent. I’m always striving to achieve that balance. Some months I succeed more than others. For instance this month I couldn’t take just sitting in my house working all the time, so I’ve gone out to eat with friends a couple of times which makes me budget slightly angrier. But it was also good for my soul to spend time with friends. Yes, I’d prefer it be a cheaper alternative, but it wasn’t the case. I think for everyone out there they need to find their own version of balance. Great article Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      I think so too, Tonya. And you’re so right about sometimes needing to spend some money. We have had a couple of months like that, and I always remind our family that it’s OK, because you need to take care of your emotional health too, and sometimes a night out doing something fun can really help with that. 🙂

  20. According to Dave Ramsey, it takes the average household seven years to get out of debt. We’re 18 months into it, and while I hope that it won’t take another five and a half years, I’m willing to stick to it if it does. Writing about it really does make a difference. It makes the journey more meaningful when you find a story in it, and by sharing it, you make yourself accountable to your readers. All the best for year two in your journey out of debt.

    • Laurie says:

      This is what I’m talking about – the willingness to commit to staying the course, no matter how long it takes. And you’re so right about writing about it being motivating. That is one part of the debt journey that I’m extremely grateful for, is the ability to share it with others.

  21. JRod says:

    Hey Laurie, another great post from you, no surprise there! I think the most important thing is being OK with sacrifice. The fact that we all want to live a normal day to day life by our own expectations can cause us to spend more on average than we really should. I’ve been limiting myself since day 1, and I’ve got no debt at all to show for it! Thanks for the great read!

    • Laurie says:

      Love that, Joshua, what you said about being okay with sacrifice. We used to think of sacrifice as a punishment of sorts, now we view it as a blessing.

      • JRod says:

        Hey Laurie, I’ve been sacrificing for years now, and I’m better because of it. Although I have no mountain of debt to pay off, I do intend on retiring early. That includes long 12 to 18 hour days on weekdays and spending very little on anything. However, I know my sacrifice will help me to reach my retirement goals! Thanks for your response, I’ll see ya around! Ohhh, by the way, I know I’ve been gone for a while, but I’m back now for good! If you don’t mind, stop by my blog for a bit of a description of what happened.

  22. Wonderful post – you’re absolutely right, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The road to being debt-free isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. And it always helps when you have a nice and supportive community to lean on during your journey 🙂 It is clear that you are much loved, Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      Amen to that, Laura!! The support in the PF blogging community is amazing. When I first started reading other PF blogs, I was so surprised at the encouragement out there. A big bunch of awesome readers and writers. 🙂

  23. I think the more you are able to let go of consumerism, the less you want. Granted, we still go shopping and buy probably more than we need, but at least it’s well thought out in most cases. A huge benefit of giving up satellite TV and going to stores every weekend is that we have no idea what the “hot” item is this season, except for the new Disney movie characters. I guess we aren’t totally commercial free yet, but we’ve come a long way!

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, it is indeed a process, especially when you’ve got kids. 🙂 But you’re so right about letting go of consumerism – not caring about having the latest and greatest whatever makes a world of difference.

    • Laurie says:

      Charles, love that. We have started thinking of purchases in terms of how much time it costs us, and it’s really changed our view about the things that really used to drain our budget, like going out to eat. It’s not so fun anymore knowing that we’ve got to work an hour or two to pay for it.

  24. Allison K says:

    I worked as a hotel maid to help us get out of debt.The other maids were rude and lazy, and worked really slowly so that they could get more hours. But, I realized the faster I worked, the more rooms I got to clean, and the higher my pay was.
    I think being willing to sacrifice is the biggest step to getting out of debt, and we were willing to dig deep and do what it took!

    • Laurie says:

      Allison, I love that you were willing to do that job to get out of debt. That shows that you were truly committed to your journey, and that’s what it takes to make your way to success. 🙂

  25. Great article Laurie. Loved the Back to Basics article and I do agree that it can be gratifying. I’m kind of old school I guess but most of my peers think the “basics” are like the stone ages or something. And I think staying the course is great advice. Too many people give up after a short period of time, throw their hands up and say they tried but it didn’t work. It takes sacrifice, hard work and patience….but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

    • Laurie says:

      “Too many people give up after a short period of time, throw their hands up and say they tried but it didn’t work.” Andrew, spot on with that quote. That’s the difference between failure and success.

  26. Really love this post Laurie. Asking that question of how many years you might have to continue working for that seemingly amazing purchase is really important. And so is remembering that the journey to debt freedom will have an end as long as you keep making progress!

    • Laurie says:

      Love that, Hayley, about the journey will have an end as long as you keep making progress. LOTS of extra wisdom in the comments on this one – more than usual!!!

  27. anna says:

    I totally agree with saying no to yourself, as well as others! I tend to justify things by telling myself I’m missing out, when really it can be spaced out in greater intervals, or we can find things to do that are way cheaper or even free! Great tips, Laurie, especially with figuring out expenses that we’ve previously seen as “normal.”

    • Laurie says:

      You’re so right, Anna! The “normal” expenses we justify often aren’t missed at all when we learn how easy it is to live without them. 🙂

  28. Even for those of us not in debt, commitment is incredibly important. You must commit to those same ideals that have kept you in the black and always stay aware of your spending and saving.

    One question though, how do you dry you clothes in the winter? Do they just get hung up in your home? (I dry a lot of mine by hanging because I don’t want them to shrink in the dryer, but they just get strewn about the house.)

  29. Great post, Laurie! I really had to tighten my budget (or actually have one!) after I left Corporate America. It’s been both a blessing and a curse. I realize now how mindlessly I used to spend and find many of things I felt I “needed” I really don’t. Life is far simpler and I love that. On the other hand, I would like more wiggle room because stressing out about money is no fun either. And even though I know these kinds of sacrifices are worth it and often temporary – it always seems to create an almost obsessive need in me to have something I just told myself I could do with out. 🙂 I spoke to parents last weekend and they said it was super cold back in Minnesota. I’m heading home in a couple of week so I guess I bring lots of warm clothes!

    • Laurie says:

      I can identify with that, Tanya. I have some of those same obsessive thoughts, especially when it comes to the kids and their needs, and it really is a good bit of work to find a balance, isn’t it? Yes, FREEZING here. Wind chill of 25 below today. 🙁 Yes, get those warm clothes going on!!!

  30. “Keep working” is the most important part of this post. You need to KEEP working at it, day after day, month after month. to accomplish your debt goals. I like that you are focusing on cutting expenses in this post, but I also think it’s important to sacrifice time and commit it towards income-producing activities as well.

  31. I did this for approximately three years. Didn’t spend much, saved over half of my income and pounded away the payments, and now I have a much greater sense of relief. A lot of my friends splurged on nicer cars, or the big 65 inch TV along the way, but after a while I started to feel bad that they’d get trapped and I had more choice. It’s hard getting started, but after a while I think it’s fun to see your progress and realize you’re not as stuck as you used to be 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Ryan, these are the types of stories that keep our family on the road to debt freedom – thank you SO much for sharing. If you ever want to, you’re welcome to send us a guest post sharing your story. I’d love to share it!

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