What You Can Expect if You Choose to Go on a Get out of Debt Journey

DSCN2377We started our journey out of debt in January of 2013, and as of today, we’re just over 6 months into our road to debt free.  It’s been quite the rollercoaster of a ride so far, but we’ve also learned and grown in ways we never imagined.

Let me ask you a question:  Are you in a boatload of debt and considering changing your lifestyle to free yourself of that debt burden?

If so, there are some things you need to know.  It won’t always be an easy journey, especially if you are choosing, like we did, to get extreme about getting rid of the debt.  And I feel it’s only fair to give you a bit of advanced warning about some of the things you may encounter when you make this life-changing decision to free yourself and your family from the debt that’s weighing on your shoulders.

What can you expect?

1.  Erratic emotions.  This is the time, before you begin your journey, to start getting your emotions under control.  Once you begin your journey to debt free, you’ll likely feel all kinds of different emotions.  Some days, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world.  Other days, the days when the reality of your debt situation smacks you in the face, you’ll feel like you’re being crushed by your mountain of debt, and that you’ll never get free.

Days will come when you simply want to give up because it’s too difficult and it’s taking too long.  And other days you’ll be searching the streets for pennies because you’re so jacked up on the high of eliminating the debt.

It’s very important when dealing with these feelings that you either learn to talk logically and objectively with yourself about the fickleness of emotions, or have a good friend who will do it for you.  Take it day by day, and have weapons in place to combat your discouragement on the days you feel overwhelmed.  And when you’re having your good days, use them to your advantage: collect aluminum cans by the roadside, check the thrift stores for hidden treasures, or do whatever else you can do to catapult your goals.

2.  A change in your friendships.  When we started this blog and shared the truth about our situation, the gossip started to spread, even though we thought we were being anonymous.  Some people lifted us up and are supporting us on our journey to this day, others turned their noses up at us, whether out of fear or pride, I don’t know.  Did this bother us?  Maybe just a bit.  But when my husband and I sat down and talked about it, we realized that the “friends” who’d pridefully abandoned us were mostly people we knew we couldn’t fully trust to begin with, so no love lost there, and probably “good riddance” instead.

And on the other side of the coin, not only have some of our friendships been strengthened by revealing our debt and our plan to get out of it, we’ve also made some new, really great friends who are cheering us on to victory.

Whether you do it anonymously or not, f you truly commit to changing your lifestyle in order to get out of debt, people are going to get suspicious that you’ve stopped going out to eat, joining them on costly outings or skipping this activity or that.  And it’s likely that people will find out what your situation is whether you want them to or not.  Be prepared to strengthen yourself to handle their reactions.

3.  Some rocky roads.  I remember when we first started our plan to get out of debt, things were pretty smooth sailing at first.  But then the usual life problems kicked in: unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, medical bills, and other things that happen that can tempt you to throw the debt payoff plan by the wayside.  But just remember that if you stick to the plan, the time will come when those unexpected expenses will no longer hold you hostage, because you’ve got no debt and a healthy emergency fund.

After nearly six months of living super frugally, and learning to conquer the various happenings that work to get us off of our debt-slaying track, I can honestly say that we’re SO glad we’re on this road.  We’ve got a long ways to go yet, but both my husband and I know that when we get there, it will have been worth all of the trouble.  🙂

53 comments

  1. Frustration is the emotion that sends me off course. I get so frustrated at the slow progress that I blow the budget on pizza delivery or Chinese food because I am just fed up with it all.

    That sets me back further and I feel like I have let myself down.

    An unexpected $300+ car repair booked for next week puts me behind for the entire month of July.

    Don’t you feel one step forward two steps back most of the time?

    • Laurie says:

      OH yes, absolutely we do, Jane. That is Rick’s classic saying, actually. It’s for this reason that we’ve committed to our journey for only a year. At that point, we’ll reassess and decided whether or not to abandon our bills and move to some little remote tropical island.:-) Seriously, though, having a one-year commitment, for us, makes this seem bearable, and I’m quite confident that we will continue on this journey in 2014. We just need to play tricks with our psyches at this point in order to make it through this long and often difficult journey, and breaking it down into more bite-sized pieces helps us to do that.

  2. Nice post Laurie – though you knew that already. 😉 I can relate to all of these emotions as I went through all of them myself at one level or another. Keep up the great work and your eyes on the end goal – it’ll be so worth it in the end. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, you’re funny. Yeah, you know John, that’s what keeps us going: we know it will be SO worth it once we get there.

  3. It’s not an easy journey and it’s a shame when support drops from people we thought were friends. Makes you wonder what was holding those friendships together in the first place.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Brian. That’s why it was so easy for Rick and I to let them go. We are loyal and honest, and we shouldn’t expect anything less from our friends, but often times people do, you know?

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much, Mrs. PoP. Yeah, it is amazing, but I really think pride and/or fear (as if debt were contagious) are to blame. The same thing happened to my mom when she and my dad divorced. Their loss, our gain. Yes, it’s our hope to be able to really be there for others in the same situation, and to encourage them that they can be debt free as well. 🙂

  4. Keep up the great work Laurie! It’s funny sometimes, but mostly unfortunate, how some people react to others, when situations change. Whether through debt, an illness, or for us, even moving 15 minutes away was an excuse enough to say we’re too far away. But I guess it teaches you who your real friends are. It is a rocky road, but looks like you’re making great in-roads on your debt journey! Nice post!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s terrible, Anthony! Yes, you’re right about it teaching you who your real friends are. That’s why we’re almost relieved at the ones who turned their backs on us. We don’t ever again have to be concerned that they might betray us.

  5. My wife and I went through the same set of changes and emotions that you’re family is going through. It’s tough to be okay with it at first, but eventually you get used to it. Plus, it’s all going to make you more financially fit in the future which is worth it!

  6. It hurts my heart that “friends” would have reacted negatively to such a positive step the two of you chose to make. Guess it really cut out the people you didn’t need in your life. I find your story inspiring and so glad you decided to share it!

    • Laurie says:

      Erin, you are so sweet. 🙂 Yeah, it’s really ok though about the friends. The ones who’ve stuck by us we are closer than ever with, and so many new friends too have come alongside us. Have a great day, Erin. 🙂

  7. Thomas says:

    Life is about growth and change. And when you have some of the friends you had its time for the to move on. They at this point in time aren’t the friends you truly need to have around. I think we all go through this whether we are in debt or not. People cant take the grow of others when they themselves are changing. Remember they want people like them around so you are too much for them to handle. Cut your loses. Even though a year is a long time it seems to fly by, just think we are already in July so half of the battle is already in the books. Unexpected things will happen to knock you off track just take it in stride and keep moving. I know easier said than done.

    • Laurie says:

      You’re right, though, Thomas. It’s been a trying six months, but we’ve also experienced more growth and happiness than we expected, and it’s been wonderful. 🙂

  8. E.M. says:

    That’s so ridiculous that people were gossiping and that they stopped being friends with you. Their loss; you don’t need their negativity anyway! I hate how debt has such a stigma around it. For years I felt like we were the “black sheep” of our family because we couldn’t afford things everyone else could. Come Christmas time, we couldn’t give the fanciest gifts, and one aunt always made a point of showing everyone up in that area. Now I’ve realized it doesn’t matter because she’s probably in debt, and my parents just decided to actually do something about it.

    • Laurie says:

      E.M., you are SO right! We have people we know like that too, but I know in my heart that we are doing the right thing for our family and that we are the real winners. 🙂

  9. Alexa says:

    There are definitely some rocky roads when you change your lifestyle to a more frugal one. Friendships do change and some people just don’t understand why you want to live your life frugally. In the long run as long as you know what you are doing is right you will be able to get through the rough patches.

  10. It’s always strange how friends choose to not support friends who are making positive life changes. Being debt free and having financial freedom are incredibly worthy goals. Yes, that may mean you have to say “no” to some fun outings that you may not be able to afford – right now. But that doesn’t mean forever and good friends would try to find no-cost ways to enjoy time with you. It is in these times where we do discover who are true friends are. You guys made an amazing choice to get rid of debt and I am incredibly proud of you, my friend!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s what we’ve found, Shannon. Our true friends are being amazing – supportive, helpful and encouraging, and we feel more grateful than ever for them. Thanks so much for your encouraging words; it always helps us to stay strong. 🙂

  11. Sicorra says:

    Congratulations Laurie! I agree there are a lot of challenges but you guys are doing very well, and I know you will continue on… 🙂

  12. Matt Becker says:

    So true that whenever you decide to do something different, you always need to be ready for negative reactions from some people. Even people who are incredibly well-intentioned and who you love very much may have trouble understanding what you’re doing. It’s at those points that, as you say, you need to be strong in your resolve to do what’s best for you and your family.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Matt! And it’s been a huge thing for us too, knowing that we are still on our journey and going strong regardless of the negative activity. It has really empowered us to keep going.

  13. Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility says:

    Hi Laurie, I’ve wrestled with a lot of these things over the past four years and sometimes the frustration, judgment, and everything else gets the best of me. However, the longer I go on, the more I am winning out over these temporary setbacks! Keep up the good work – you’re doing amazing!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s so encouraging to hear, Lindsey! I’m so excited that you are winning out, and I know we’ll be there too, soon enough. 🙂

  14. Moni says:

    I almost cried when I read this, I have been struggling with my emotions over the last couple of weeks. We are also at the six months mark and progress isn’t happening fast enough or so it seems. So much guilt and shame and regret and worry. And to know we have a long way to go. I got so caught up in anxiety (out of proportion to the situation) that I felt I couldn’t make decisions. I went to the health store, and although I wrestled with spending money, bought a Back Flower remedy mix for the emotions I was struggling with (you pick up to 7 emotions from a chart) and it has helped, but reading this article has been wonderful. Thank you

    • Laurie says:

      Moni, SO glad we could help!!! Know that we are going through the same struggles right now, so you guys are not alone. We are here for you guys. I know you can make it through!

  15. jim says:

    Not to make light of the difficulties you’ve encountered with so called friends gossiping about you and not supporting you when you decided to get debt-free – this is for encouragement purposes only. We, too, have been on a “pay off every debt we owe” since Jan, 2013. That consisted of paying $4000/month on our mortgage. Guess what happened in Jan, 2013? Spouse’s exceedingly dear dad died. That entailed, besides the heart break, a very expensive trip several hundred miles away for the funeral and stay – along with helping our daughter and her family with expenses. February – daughter gets some weird MS-like thing and lost her lower body strength. Still don’t know if it was a virus, MS or something else really weird (at least now it appears to have gone into remission). That required using lots of vacation/sick leave to care for her and their children. Later (and I’ve lost track of which months these occurred in) – needed to take unexpected trips for son’s future education to the east coast and down south. Then had to go back to the Midwest to visit wife’s mom who was grieving the loss of her spouse of 70 years. Then the wife got a bad mammogram (f/u turned out good) but then she got a bad colon cancer scare (which runs in her family – still dealing with that and not sure what that all may entail) then grand daughter was diagnosed with eoe – google it if you’re interested. Suffice it to say, it’s incurable and pretty rare. Now we’re looking at sending son off to the east coast for law school and altho he got a full ride scholarship tuition-wise, we’re going to be paying quite a bit for his living expenses. Hell, all we wanted to do was aggressively pay off our mortgage – ha! Guess the world showed us (and continues to show us) – but that’s what happens when you try to change your world. Stuff happens and I’d much rather have a few loser “friends” gossip about us and otherwise try to undermine us than deal with the crap we’ve been dealing with. It almost makes me think we ought NOT to pay off that mortgage early ’cause ever since we tried to start doing that, we’ve just had one horrible thing after another happen.

    K – this is NOT a sob story. This a “here’s a little perspective for you” story. Sounds like you guys are doing great. Do NOT get distracted by anyone or anything. Best of luck.

    • Laurie says:

      OH dear, Jim. So very sorry for all that you and your family have been going through! Yes, you did indeed give me a little perspective, and I appreciate it. Hoping for best of circumstances for you in ALL future endeavors, family and finance.

  16. Pauline says:

    Good for you if the negative influences in your life got away. You can be friends with people who have different values but you need to find a common ground where both parties are comfortable and that is not easy when it comes to money.

  17. Great article!

    The road to debt reduction is not an easy one…but it is well worth while. When myself and wife (and kids) started on the path it was tempting to give up when we hit road blocks – such as unexpected dental expenses along the way.

    however, having a solid plan really seemed to help.

    Alex

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Alex, for the words of wisdom. I totally agree that it is a worthwhile journey, and I know we’ll be extra glad when we’re finished. 🙂

  18. I think it’s pretty sad that some of your relationships changed once you began to attack your debt. If anything, your friends should have been more supportive. I guess your real ones were, anyway…so maybe this was just a purging 😉

  19. Keren @ Stepping It Down says:

    My emotion the last couple of days? Shame. I’m ashamed of the spot I’ve gotten me and my family into. But we will prevail. Eventually 😉

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, Keren, I have SO been there. Just bear in mind that the important part is that now you are getting yourselves OUT of the spot. 🙂

  20. Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances says:

    This is great, and extremely true! We have just been lucky that so far no one has begun gossiping about us (that we know of). Instead, I feel as though a few of my friends have realized how important paying off their own debt is, and have started their own plans for frugal living.

  21. Pingback: Closing Report: July 8th – 14th | Real Simple Finances
    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Matt! Glad you stopped by. We are definitely in the “carrying away small stones” part of our mountain moving journey, but we are hanging in there. 🙂

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