It’s much easier for me to share my mess than my victories with you. I’ve written thousands of words about our debt free journey, but I keep sitting on this last one, this one where I tell you we did it. It’s done. We succeeded.
Inevitably, some people see success (in anything) and explain why that person’s advantages or personality or connections made their success possible. They let themselves off the hook by highlighting the gap between themselves and the successful.
I’ll be the first to share my advantages, but I hate to think that they would discourage others. We had it easier than some, and harder than others, which is pretty much true of everything in life.
I wouldn’t call myself a success in general, but we did succeed at becoming debt free. We defied the bank’s expectations and proved that we would pay them way less money than they expected. We are an outlier.
I don’t want to be an outlier, even in positive ways. I haven’t completely let go of the thirteen year old who just wants to blend in with her peers.
We aren’t really called to blend in, though. Our lives are meant to look so different that people notice and ask us the reason for our hope.
Now that we’ve been debt free for almost two months, here are my major takeaways from the process:
1. Commitment trumps circumstance
If you listen to Dave Ramsey’s show, you’ll hear people with wildly different backgrounds and circumstances call to say they’re debt free. Single, married, making $30,000 a year or $200,000, teachers, entrepreneurs, full time parents, Southerners, military officers, and farmers.
In our personal journey, some months were harder than others, with setbacks like an unexpected medical expense or car repair. We also came across blessings like extra work opportunities and paid for family vacations.
Either way, our commitment to the process made the biggest impact. We deeply felt the temptation to spend extra money on something other than debt or to give up altogether when it felt like we were losing the reins.
It’s like a roller coaster metaphor I’ve heard: there are ups and downs, but you’re safe as long as you stay in your seat. Just don’t jump off, and eventually, the ride will end.
The challenge now is to stay committed to smart financial choices, to get back on the roller coaster. We’ve hit a huge milestone, but any other financial goals will require the same commitment and discipline.
2. In the words of Michael Scott, “Mo money, mo problems”
We became voluntarily blind for the debt payback years. A nicer home, more restaurant dates, vacations, and a hundred smaller desires were simply off the table, which made it easier to ignore them.
I thought I had permanently killed the part of myself that sought happiness in possessions, but it had only been hibernating, dormant for a season.
As soon as we made that last payment, I heard the siren’s call of that cute home decor aisle at Target. The urgency to buy a home, which I’ve never really felt, infected me.
I suddenly remembered everything I’ve wanted but didn’t need, and the barrier that had stopped from me before vanished. Is that what the expression “off the rails” means?
I’m grateful to be debt free, but I like the less indulgent me, the version of myself that thinks less about possessions.
Technically, we had the money to buy these things before, but we were committed to becoming debt free, so we had mentally taken away our options. What I’m learning to do now is say yes a little more often without indulging the side of myself that thinks stuff will make me happier.
Three more takeaways in part two!
Other posts in this series: