I’m loving the posts that everyone is sharing for my debt payoff series. Come back every Thursday to hear about how others are trying to pay off their debt or how they’re debt free! If you’d like to contribute to this series, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi everyone! My blog is American Debt Project and I go by S (sorry, I couldn’t come up with something awesome like MoneyDawg). I live in Southern California and I have a lot of crazy ideas. Check me out on Twitter because I don’t censor myself that much on there!
I don’t have a middle name, but these days it feels like it’s Debt Repayment. I feel bad for my loved ones, coworkers, people I run into on the street. They all hear me talk about getting out of debt. I can’t help myself!
It really has changed my life. Even though I still have $16,000 left to pay off, the end is in sight. When I got serious in June 2011, my debt felt insurmountable (at the highest it was over $48,000), so allow me to reminisce a little about what I did to get rid of a large chunk of debt.
I started being honest with myself
Look, we all live with expectations. Whether they are our own or the weight of other people’s expectations, it can lead us to make bad financial decisions in the name of appearances or what we “should” be doing. I couldn’t afford extra shopping, dining out or weekend trips, even though it felt like all my friends were doing it.
I started saying no, but also saying yes. Yes to simple activities like going for a walk or working out at home. Yes to having friends over for dinner instead of going out. Yes to learning as much as possible instead of watching too much TV. Once I stopped trying to live up to my own and other’s expectations, it started to get a lot easier to save money each month.
I tracked my spending
This concept was completely alien to me last year. But starting in January 2012, I started writing down every single penny I spent. At the end of each month, I tallied up the results and was amazed by how much junk I bought!
Literally-I was spending 15% or more of my food budget on candy and junk food! I became more careful, more aware, and I think in the past year I’ve been eating a lot less junk (although I’ll never stop loving Haribo gummy bears or Cheetos). I still have expensive months, but knowing that I track all my spending keeps me in check and gives me an idea of how much money I’ll have left over based on my average spending.
I think about what happens after debt
I’m hoping that when I make my last debt payment, I won’t be so stricken with joy that I keel over and die. I still have a life to live, a business to build, ideas to implement, retirement savings to add to. Oh yeah and a first home to buy and a wedding to plan! I have A LOT to do! My list is getting longer and I am excited about all of the opportunities out there.
In fact, I was able to take on a project in January that was only possible because I didn’t have as high a debt and monthly expenses as before. It paid off, and now I have the ability to take on this project again as a nice side hustle. Eventually, I hope to have enough security to start my own business and dictate my own work life.
I’m still a normal girl. I get lost online looking at fashion blogs and cute shopping sites. I’ve been pinning madly for the wedding. I’m just being better with money so I can enjoy it more when it counts.
Is your debt always on your mind?
How do you think life after debt will be?
This is a more than helpful post as I roll around in debt. Thank you for the life lines you hold out to me.
My recent post Beginning Yoga
I think you are doing great!
Yes, our debt was always on our mind until we crushed it!!! Now, only our house is left and it doens't bother me quite as much.
DC@Young Adult Money says
It's really hard for me to imagine not having student loans or a mortgage payment. Seriously, that would eliminate a HUGE cash outflow! Saving for emergencies, retirement, medical bills, etc. would all be easier. I'm not "scared" of debt, but I am motivated to work harder knowing that I have a sizable debt load to pay down.
My recent post Why your income and passion should align
Great story! Yes, we are just beginning our journey to debt free so our debt is always on our minds, but now instead of it being in our minds in a bad way, it's in a good way because we're working our way out! I feel a bit obsessed about it too sometimes, but I think it's often because we want others still drowning in debt to join us on this wonderful journey!
My recent post Decision Time
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Great work on the debt repayment! Speaking from experience, you'll want to shout it from the rooftops. I remember the day I became debt free and it was literally like having a massive weight taken off from being around my neck. That memory is what keeps me from going back….that and the freedom that being debt free brings. Keep up the good work!
It's funny, S, that you still crave stuff (the notes at the end of your piece), but you just do a better job. I think people seem to think that savers have it easier. Savers just are people who've created systems that work to avoid spending money. It's a daily grind for me NOT to spend a bunch of money on stuff.
My recent post Dow Reaches All-Time High: Is Now The Time To Invest?
Debt RoundUp says
Debt was always on my mind as I paid it off. Now debt is still on my mind as I keep it off. I use the thought of debt as a way to motivate myself to not get out of control with my spending.
My recent post Tax Rebates for College Students and Their Parents
Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says
Congratulations on the journey traveled. I don't have "bad" debt, only investments, but sometimes don't like the feeling of owing at all, so am trying to make extra steps towards being fully debt free.
My recent post Buy my method, not my lifestyle
Right now we only have mortgage debt, so I'm not particularly worried about that (although I would like to have it paid in full). But when I had student loan debt it was always on my mind. I was always thinking about ways to pay it off and make more money. Now I'm more focused on saving money.
My recent post Advice From Your Therapist
Good job on the debt repayment! Paying off our consumer debt is always on my mind, and I too am looking forward to the day when it is finally gone 🙂
My recent post Movin’ On Up
Thank you all for the great comments! Just wanted to say that my debt is now under $12,000 and by next week it will be under $11,000! It's great to make progress and being done with this journey will be such an exciting moment in my life. But I couldn't have done it without the support of peers in this blogging community. You guys are really, really awesome!
Tracking spending is a huge commitment but one that is absolutely necessary to getting out of debt. Sounds as though you are very focused…that's awesome! For me, getting completely out of debt is all about finally being able to experience freedom. I think that's going to be a nice place to be.
Rich Uncle EL says
Wow that’s awesome your almost done. Student loan debt is getting out of control, but many do not have any other options. Parents are over extended as well with their own debt. If you don’t get a degree then you are viewed less knowledgeable in the corporate world. Many kids could not qualify for scholarships so they turn to debt. America needs a big overhaul to education or risk something greater affecting the economy soon because of the debt crisis.
The Norwegian Girl says
great story! I love how you have weekly posts by other debt bloggers as well, a good way of discovering new blogs!
I try not to think about debt too much, as I`m still living with my student loans, and won`t start the downpayment until January 2015. But I do keep away from any other kind of debt. I rarely use a credit card.
So your saying the moniker “moneydawg” is still available? Sweet! Kidding aside, you’ve done an awesome job. I cannot wait until my student debt is gone. Just making simple changes in how I’ve approached my finances seems to effective so many other parts of my life positively. Keep up the good work!
Thank you very much, Ian the moneydawg :)! Yeah, my debt was actually very little student loans and more consumer debt of car loans and credit cards…now it is just a 0% interest credit card and a $5K student loan. I'll actually be paying the student loan first since it is a 6.55% interest rate and my no interest credit card has a year before the rate goes up!
You've done amazing so far. Right now I have about 10,000 worth of debt. I recently took out the loan and the interest rate is low that I am not in a huge rush to pay it off. I'm more focused on savings.
My recent post Shielding Children from Financial Struggles as a Single Mom
That doesn't sound bad at all! Over half my debt is at 0% interest, which is nice because I have almost a year before that rate goes up.
Melinda Gonzalez says
I think being honest is the most important step! If you just try to control spending without realizing how bad off you are, it will be a lot harder. We can always find excuses for why we need something, LOL.
" I’m just being better with money so I can enjoy it more when it counts." A fantastic sentiment and one that will serve you will went you are debt-free and have financial freedom. It is incredibly satisfying to spend money on things that matter most and are within your means. Good luck and thank you for sharing your story!
My recent post Meet Shannon Ryan: Financial Literacy Advocate
Debt is on my mind a lot, which is annoying. I can't wait when I don't have to think about it everyday. It literally does feel like a big weight on my shoulder. When I am debt free, I think my whole psychological outlook will change.
My recent post Where did you learn about money?
It will happen, I promise. I used to wake up every morning thinking about my debt and the huge payments I had to make each month. Now that's it so much less and just a fraction of my monthly income, it's a lot less stressful. I'm still thinking about it since I'm focused on paying it all off by July 1, but it's not that overwhelming feeling like before. Good luck, you got this!
That last student loan payment check is an absolute joy to write. Your story is amazing, clearing out that much debt in such a short amount of time. Good for you! I look forward to reading the post about your last payment.
Debt it always on my mind, I can't sleep as well as I'd like with a mortgage on our balance sheet. We are fighting desperately to pay off our mortgage as well!
You're doing a fabulous job of whittling down debt! I can tell you as someone who paid off a mountain of debt that being debt free is life changing in big and small ways. You'll be glad you decided to take on this goal of getting rid of debt for good.
My recent post Giving Feels Good
Jason Butler says
This is a good article. I am currently working on eliminating a large amount of debt as well.
I would love to pay off my debt, but I barely have enough to live on. I need to just hang on until my daughters are old enough that I cant halt child support. I work for half of everyone around me.
My recent post Passed Away