There have been several times in my life when I’ve leaped into the unknown, only half sure of what I was doing but completely sure it was the right thing. The first time was in 1995 when I left my hometown for college at the University of Delaware. The second time was in 2004 when I got married. The third time was in 2006 when I found out I was pregnant. The fifth time is now amidst some pretty big decisions I’m mulling over and decisions I can’t quite mention yet.
The fourth time, though? That was in 2007 when my husband and I got serious about paying off our debt. I’ve discussed ad nauseam the reasons why we decided to pay down our sickening amount of debt and I’ve talked about what we’re thinking about doing next. However, what I don’t think I’ve discussed are the benefits we’re reaping from the fact that our debt (with the exception of his student loans and our mortgage; I don’t count his loans as my debt since a) he came into the relationship with that debt and b) my name isn’t on it) is gone. So perhaps it’s time to talk about that. So let’s do that.
Although it took 5 years, we did it. We paid off our jointly accumulated debt, including the extra $17K we incurred in 2010 when we had to buy my husband a new car. Overall, we paid off just under $70K in 5 years. Not too shabby. And when I made that final debt payment, I felt like Andre the Giant was lifted off my shoulders. I know that I walked a bit taller that day. However, along with the relief of no more debt, there are some other benefits including:
- The lack of stress over money. Although we don’t fight about money, when we were paying down debt, there was a tremendous amount of stress. We would stress about how much to put towards a specific debt and then stress that we weren’t doing enough for the others (we followed the DR snowball method, although not quite perfectly). We stressed that the date for the final payment seemed so far off and that we never felt like it would come. We stressed that something bad would happen, and that bad event (whatever it was) would derail us from our very well constructed debt repayment plan. The list of stressors on our money was extensive and exhausting. But now that we don’t have those payments, those stressors are lifted. It’s nice to get paid, make the necessary utility payments, withdraw cash for the other expensive and then just breathe.
- Having choices. Now that we don’t have money allocated to debt repayment, we’ve been able to readjust our budget to include more funds in areas that were sorely lacking. We can have a little more fun with our money (within reason, of course) as well as know that if certain things happen, we’ll be okay (I’m sorry to be vague but I promise all will be revealed at some point). It’s a fabulous feeling to be able to control your money instead of having it control you. Which is what happens when all of your extra money is being spent on unnecessary debt.
- Being able to help and support others. A very dear friend of mine is just beginning her debt payoff journey. She and her husband are in exactly the same position that my husband and I were in 5 years, and I know how hard this is on them. It’s a huge lifestyle adjustment to go from frivolously spending on credit and worrying about making payments every month to carefully watching every nickel that flows through the checkbook. But the fact that we’ve been there means that we can support them and encourage them and mentor them in ways that we didn’t have. DR talks a lot about giving back financially; I think giving back in this capacity is even more important.
- Learning from the past. Five years of paying off debt isn’t something you quickly forget. It’s kind of like labor–it’s painful, it’s exhausting, it takes forever (if you’re me) and although time does lessen the severity, it’s not something you ever forget (anyone who says that she doesn’t remember the pain of labor is a damn liar). But you learn from it. You know what to do differently the next time. In the case of debt, you make sure to remember the causes of that pain and then you don’t do that. Although we’re stronger people because of it, my husband and I never care to relive the last 5 years, financially speaking.
It’s true that debt freedom is priceless. I can’t wait for the day my husband’s loans are gone and our house it paid off. But for now, I’ll settle with having no consumer debt. Like Cookie Monster singing the praises of the letter C, it’s good enough for me.
Readers, what have you gained from paying off your debt?