The Consequences of Becoming Debt Free


6 Comments
Debt Payoff

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you may be familiar with our debt story. In it, we go to great lengths (maybe too great) to explain our brief journey into and out of debt. The TL;DR version of it is that we acquired $20k in debt through student loans, and we paid it off in less than two years. And while we touch on this briefly in our story, we wanted to discuss why we got out of debt in the first place and, with the benefit of a few more years of context and perspective, how that decision has affected our finances today.

The Why

Financial

The most obvious reason for getting out of debt was a financial one. We owed money, and we didn’t want to owe money anymore. We wanted to know that every cent we were working hard to earn each month was our money. And we wanted the freedom of knowing we could make plans with our money that didn’t involve paying someone else first.

A huge motivation for getting out of debt in most situations is to avoid losing even more money to accruing interest. That was certainly in the back of our minds, but because we we had planned to attack and kill our Debt Monster within two years and because our loans had a low enough interest rate, this didn’t factor in too heavily.

Psychological

But why the rush to pay off our debt so quickly? It was all mental. We felt this weight hanging over us, the feeling of being unable to enjoy the money we were making because we knew it wasn’t truly ours. I mean it was, but someone else had a rightful claim to it, as well. We just couldn’t deal with that. We wanted to feel secure, and we could never quite feel that way while we still had debt.

This isn’t to say that everyone does or should feel that way. In fact, if you’re still motivated to get out of debt and you don’t have all these icky feelings, good on you! You’re living in the best of both worlds. But we probably needed this extra psychological burden so that we could eradicate it from our minds as quickly as possible.

The Why Getting-Out-of-Debt Affected/Affects Our Lives

Budgeting

Getting out of debt forced us to have a budget, a real budget, for the first time in our lives. And we still have one. In fact, we even have a blog about it! It has become as much a part of our family as our cat. We’ll likely always track expenses and monitor our spending on a daily (but sometimes every-few-days-because-we’re-bad-people) basis. We’ll never be unaware of how our spending stacks up to our savings over the course of a month. Whether it likes it or not, our spending is under our watchful eye forever and ever. Thanks, debt!

Big Financial Picture

Having a debt-payoff plan forced us to plan financially for the future. Not for the present. Not for tomorrow. But for years down the road. We had to look at our finances and make long-term goals using our estimated income and expenses. It was no longer just a question of whether we had the money in our bank account to buy what we wanted right in the moment. It was a question of whether that money could be better used to help us meet long-term goals. To this day, we’re always looking ahead — to our girls’ college educations, our retirement, future vacations, a down payment on a home, a rainy day fund. We’re no longer in debt, but that big-picture perspective has never left us.

Continued Debt Freedom

Working hard to pay off our debt had a big impact on our feelings about debt: we freaking hate it. And we’ve done everything in our power to not take on more debt. We’ve felt very fortunate to have avoided the Debt Monster again. We’ve had a few close calls, like considering financing our first and second and third cars, but we’ve stuck to our guns. We still have such a vivid memory of how it felt to know we no longer owed anyone a cent, and we want to whatever we can to feel that way forever (minus a future mortgage).

Lifestyle Realization

Our spending habits will never be the same. When we were paying down our debt, we realized we needed to build a lifestyle around our budget, not the other way around. Even though we’re now debt-free, we’re still happy living a lifestyle below our means. That feeling of financial independence will always be greater than any feelings of wanting to maintain a certain lifestyle. Thanks to those two years of accelerated debt payments, we’ll probably always be mostly reluctant to spend freely.

So while getting out of debt made us debt-free, it really served as the foundation for most of our financial habits and perspectives. So much of who we are now financially and otherwise is thanks to that decision to pay down our debt. So despite the interest rate or the amount left or the countless better reasons to not focus on paying down your debt, there’s a lot more to gain than just debt freedom.

For those of you who have or who are in the throes of paying off your debt, how has it affected your life? What has changed?

Four Men: Four Different Incomes


9 Comments
Four Men, Four Incomes

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, Johnny and I loved looking over this article that’s been going around the web the last couple of weeks: 4 Men with 4 Very Different Incomes Open Up About the Lives They Can Afford. We thought the article was super interesting and eye-opening to read such different perspectives on money. So we wanted to share some of our takeaways from the article and hear what you thought, too!

Lifestyle Inflation

Everyone in the article needs more money to have the life they want. While it’s great to aspire to make more money and be successful, it’s surprising that none of them (mostly the top two earners) are satisfied where they’re at. It’s a never-ending mirage, an unquenchable thirst that we all have — which manifests through lifestyle inflation. It’s part of humanity to always want more than we have, and while it’s great to have goals, we can all do a better job of finding satisfaction where we are right now.

Happiness

For the most part, their happiness on any given day wasn’t that different. The guy making $1 million a year put himself at an 8 or 9 for overall happiness (on a scale from 1 to 10). The guy living on the poverty line said his happiness was at a 7 or 8. This goes along with the old saying Money can’t buy happiness. It can buy peace of mind, security, hope for the future, and it can open doors that would otherwise be shut. But happiness? It’s got nothin’ on that.

Hard Work is Hard Work

As much as society likes to tear down the wealthy for being greedy and selfish, it’s hard to dislike the millionaire shown in this article. He watches every penny, his number one goal is to pay off his parents’ debt, and he’s set up a trust fund for his children so their futures can be bright. Some of what he says obviously sounds pretty out of touch with the average American, but he doesn’t sounds like a bad guy. And as a first generation American from an immigrant family, he’s worked very hard to get to where he is. We think it’s worth celebrating successes such as his, rather than demonizing it all the time like our country tends to do. Of course, the wealth distribution in this country is clearly out of whack, but the solution shouldn’t be to discourage people like the millionaire from budgeting and succeeding.

The Hustle

We also found it interesting that the two wealthiest men in the article don’t want to retire. They don’t see retirement as the end goal. Certain personality types live and breathe for working and creating and hustling, and it’s clear both of them feel that way.

Budgeting in Poverty

We found it very eye-opening to look at someone’s budget who lives below the poverty line. Budgeting would be almost impossible because there are food stamps and subsidized rent and then the actual money you’re making can’t cover your day-to-day costs. Budgeting would feel like a frustrating, fruitless effort. And that’s not to say budgeting shouldn’t happen, but it would be hard to feel like it would make any difference.

Time

Time still might be the most valuable commodity. The wealthiest guy is having to work more hours than he’d like, and the impoverished guy is having to work more hours than he’d like, too. Regardless of what their time means to their employer, they still realize that time is their most valuable commodity. It, more than anything else, affects their ability to accomplish what they’d like.

It’s easy to make assumptions from this one article, but it’d be foolish of us to extrapolate any conclusions from a sample size of one from each of these income levels. But it is a good conversation starter, and we’d love to hear what your thoughts were! How do they agree or differ with ours?