I listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show a lot and he usually has several people during each show do what they call their “Debt Free Scream!” Sometimes the people travel to Nashville to be able to talk to him and do it in person, and sometimes the people do it via phone. He always talks to them about what was their household income while paying it down, how much was their income, etc. He also always asks the people “what was the hardest thing you had to do during this process?” He also asks them “which bill was it that when you paid off, it felt the best?”
“What was the hardest thing you had to do during this process?” Usually, the people say one of a few common answers – saying no to going out with friends because the amount had not been figured into The Budget. Sometimes they answer that the hardest thing was to just keep going when it felt like the debt fight was never going to end. Now, I don’t do a ton so the first answer isn’t that hard for me. And when my friends and I do get together, well, none of us are made of money so we try to keep cost down. So, it’s not a problem. But I do understand (completely and more than I would like to) that feeling that the debt fight might never end.
So, this is how I have learned to combat those feelings or at least quiet them momentarily. I look back to my situation a few years ago and compare it to today.
1. About three years ago, I had roughly $8,000 in credit card debt. Today, that number is ZERO.
2. About two years ago, I bought a brand new car. With the added warranties and gap insurance, that put me roughly another $20,000 in the hole. Today, that number is ZERO.
3. About last September, my private student loan was almost 21,000. About two or three years ago, it was around $23K. Today, it’s $16,171.82. (My account info on line only goes back about a year so I’m guestimating on this.)
4. About three and a half years ago, I sat at home over the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I remember that my credit cards were maxed, my checking account had oh, about $20-30 in it, and my grand total of savings was probably about $500. I remember thinking “this has to be the lowest I can go.” Today, I have more than I had in savings (at our highest point) when married. And that took us a long time to get to our milestone amount as well.
When I add it all up, I figure that I have probably gotten rid of about $32K in debt over the past few years when I add in the brand new car I had taken on and since sold. I used to have a negative net worth. Today, that number is solidly in the positive zone. It’s not a huge number, but it’s something. I’m worth more alive than dead!!!! When I look at the figures like that, I feel better.
Two years ago, I didn’t feel completely fulfilled in my current job but I also didn’t know what I could do instead. Since then, I’ve gotten certified as a personal trainer, and taken and passed a few specialization tests, and am solidly working toward getting a second certification. And the best part? I owe nothing for having taken those exams. They’re all paid off. A few years ago, I would only have known to bankroll those by using credit cards.
A few years ago, I talked the good talk – about wanting to get out of debt, but still solidly digging myself in more and more month after month. Now, I actually walk the walk. The credit cards (other than the CareCredit one I have for pet health emergencies) are gone. And, the Care Credit is only used until money can be transferred from my online savings account into my checking to pay it off.
It’s funny how things work out. When I had figured out my bills and savings amounts a few months ago, I knew the only way I could cut expenses any further was to cut my housing costs. And then, I got a roomie, and even though it’s temporary, it’s taught me a few things. One, it’s been nice to have someone else around some times. She’s decided she’s set on getting her GED, so when I see her studying, it makes me want to be a good role model for her. So, even if I don’t necessarily feel like it, I’ll get out the laptop and start studying or trying to do some freelance work. (And if that fails, yes, I can watch an episode of something, but she knows I’ve worked hard all day, so I’ve still set a good example.) And, while my food costs have gone up with her being there, I will still be able to save a bit more per month than I could before with the additional rent income. So, while it’s been a bit of a transition to get used to having another person in the apartment, it’s not been as big of a change as I expected. We get along pretty well, and we’re both vegetarians, wanting to better our lives. We respect each other’s space and different habits, plus both of us have been sleeping like rocks lately, which is great, since I’m a morning person and she’s a night owl.
Some days/nights, you just feel like things have come together the way they are supposed to. When I saw my little dog Osito basically running because she was so happy to be outside in the crisp air, I just knew last night was one of those times. You don’t question when things are going well, I have learned. Just accept it and go with it!
And that’s what I’m going to do.
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