We also made sure we could give ourselves a way out should we ever need that money in an emergency. This was a big one for us because we set up a HELOC but didn’t touch it. We knew it was there in case of emergency which was great but we didn’t want to access it, it was for peace of mind. I’m not sure we would have done it without having a “safety net” to access the money should we need it in an emergency.
Recommended Reading: One Bed, One Bank Account: Better Conversations on Money and Marriage
We kept our goal right in front of us. When our friends would go on trips or buy new cars, we reminded ourselves “Mortgage free in our thirties.” Those 5 words we repeated to each other so many times it’s unbelievable and it was very important to our success. We had to remind ourselves all the time why we were doing this and what it meant for us.
I’ve got a long list of things we gave up to become mortgage free on our site but I’ll give you some of the ones that stand out.
- We didn’t have a smartphone, we shared the classic flip phone and we couldn’t even text. We looked ancient compared to everyone’s smartphones.
- We didn’t eat out and learned to cook good meals. Part of this was out of necessity with our family developing allergies. But it ended up helping our budget quite a bit.
- We didn’t travel at all. This was one of the harder things to do. My wife and I love to travel and to stay put was more of a challenge than we thought it would be.
- We cut costs wherever we could. We stocked up on groceries when they were cheap, always hunted for good deals and often when without.
Overall,we questioned every expense. From Netflix, to car washes, to groceries and everything else you can think of. The question was always: “Do we need this right now or can we wait?” You will be amazed at the amount of things you can pass up on when you don’t really need it.
Delaying gratification also played a huge part. Even today I think about any significant purchase for months, I have found waiting for things makes me either want it more or lose interest. Either way it’s a win.
How is life different now that you’re debt free compared to when you were drowning in debt, both from an emotional standpoint and a financial standpoint?
Life is completely different, and utterly the same all at once.
There’s two parts of being debt free. The actual debt free part means life is a lot better. The looming mortgage payment is no longer part of my reality and that is a great feeling. That feeling of needing to make a payment every two weeks (plus the extra match payment) isn’t there anymore. The stress of money has gone down a lot. Once you get to debt freedom you realize that you don’t need as much money. This is partially through the habits of becoming debt free, and partially through no longer having the debt itself.
At the same time, life isn’t any different. We aren’t financially free so our day to day routine is the same as it was before. Wake up, kids, work, kids, eat, sleep, and repeat. So it’s a strange beast in a lot of ways. Financially it’s great, but day to day not a lot is different. Which I have to say is a little bit of a let down, but we are talking less than 1% let down and 99% awesome!
That said, anytime things are a little rough or the day is feeling long I remind myself we are debt free and it always puts a smile on my face.
What are some of the pivotal things you’ve been able to do now without debt that you could have never done while in debt?
We are able to save like it’s going out of style. Which it never will, because saving money is cool. Tell your friends!
Pivotal things…hmmm…. we are able to travel more now. We are hitting our stride with that, the kids are at the best age for travelling. We have just come up with our travel plans for the next 5 years and I’m really looking forward to all the trips.
Another nice thing, while not pivotal, is we are able to live on less. We trained ourselves for a long time to make the extra mortgage payments, and now that we are debt free, there isn’t a need for spending more.
One of the biggest pivotal things is that we now are able to think about what’s important. We value family time and experiences above things. I find myself walking the malls (because it’s ridiculously cold here and I love walking) some evenings and seeing everything and thinking “Don’t need it” and “Don’t see the value in it” which is weird, because when I was going without for those 6 years I wanted everything at first. Now I am able to buy more stuff I find I question the item a lot and if I don’t have a great reason for buying it then I pass on it.
What message or words of encouragement do you have for those still struggling with debt who are overwhelmed/in denial regarding their situation?
If you are reading this and wondering if you can do it yourself, the answer is yes, you can become debt free. You don’t have to buy into minimum payments and 30 year mortgages. Take some small steps in the beginning and see how it feels. Take control of your situation. You can do it!
I’m an average person and was able to do it. It takes times and effort. So focus on the long game. Every time you put extra down on your debt you are giving your future self a raise. It won’t feel like much at first but if you keep at it you will start to see results.
That’s my advice, figure out why you want to be debt free, start small, and keep at it until it’s done. One last bit
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