It was a year ago today that I proclaimed on this very blog that we were debt free. I say “we” because it was a family effort. A 50 month journey to pay off $109,000 worth of debt ended in one finally payment of $2700. It started with self-education of me, and I brought the simple concept of the debt snowball to my wife, knowing we needed to make a change, we jumped in. We involved our children, wanting them to understand the changes that were going to take place and explain the “why.” Our why was to reduce stress in our lives, gain control of our money, build a better future for the five of us, and most importantly teach our children better than we were ever taught. I would not change the events that led us to this path, only wishing it had come sooner. This is our year of living debt free.
What we don’t Fear
Before we understood the common sense principles of personal finance we lived in fear. Mostly fear of the unknown or the unexpected because when the unknown or the unexpected entered our lives we didn’t have a plan for it. When that event involved money we choose credit to address it. We repeated this bad behavior for 15 years and added debt, stress, and anger to our lives. In my debt free post from one year ago I wrote the following:
Today that continues to hold true. We continue to have less stress in our lives, not fearing the unexpected. The unexpected continues to challenge us even in debt freedom, in the form of a job loss for me earlier this year from my company of twenty plus years. Just think of that event with a pile of debt and no emergency fund. It would have sent our family into crisis. With a solid plan in place it has become an inconvenience, sure it stings a bit to lose one’s job, but I like to consider it an opportunity to move on to something bigger and better. Even battle tested for one year and absorbing one major unexpected assault my words still hold true.We don’t fear changes or unexpected events because we have a plan. Click To Tweet
What has Changed
Since becoming debt free we have been able to loosen the budget up a bit to spend a little more money on things we value. We took two vacations this year, one an experience vacation to Orlando to celebrate our twins sixteenth birthdays. We had an amazing family trip and the fact it was planned and paid for in cash made it that much better. We also took a summer trip to visit family in California. A yearly trip we used to take but was a sacrifice during our debt repayment. We have added two credit cards back into our financial tool belt. One a cash reward card and a second a travel rewards card. We use them for everyday purchases to maximum rewards, but only if we have the cash on hand. These bills are paid in fully before the end of the month, and sometime before. We have increase retirement contributions and started 529 funds for our children. We had to press pause on some of these things due to the job loss, but expect that to be over soon.
During dinner the other night I reminded the family that we were approaching our year anniversary of being debt free. There were many comments, “wow that was fast” was one. I asked them how our first year of debt freedom was. My daughter said not much has changes since I don’t pay the bills. We all got a laugh over that one, but her brothers reminder her that there had been more wiggle room in the budget for spending and she agreed.
To cap off our accomplishment here’s a quick interview with the man who inspired us.
Are you in debt? If so, what’s your plan for tackling it? If you are debt free, how has your life changed since paying off your debt?