It was around this time three years ago that Johnny and I joined hands together, jointly extended our pointer fingers, and pressed “Submit” on our final debt payment. If all of that sounds kinda weird, it was. And I’m glad you didn’t see it. But boy was it exciting! And then after we pressed it… and the payment confirmation appeared, that was it. It was realllly anti-climatic. We were officially debt free, which was a really big deal, but nothing had changed. It wasn’t until the coming weeks and months that we realized what a freedom we felt from no longer having debt. I’m assuming it’ll be the same when I turn 30. At first I’ll feel no difference, and then gray hairs and wrinkles and poor taste in music will materialize in the coming weeks. That happens, right?
So today we wanted to share our thoughts on three years of being debt free.
First I want to go back to the very beginning, that fateful day when Johnny and I started paying off our student loans. It felt like an insurmountable task, one with no end in sight. And we didn’t even have that much debt — just $20k between the two of us. Initially we figured it’d take 5-7 years to take care of it. But instead, we planned and plotted out our debt snowball method to make it happen in two years and then got to work. Money was very tight for the entire ride, especially since we moved two times and lived in NYC and Boston during that time. But in less than two years, we destroyed our Debt Monster.
Fast forward to three years of debt freedom… how has it changed our lives? While we worked toward paying down our loans, we matched an employer 401k contribution, put away $300-$500 into savings each month, and had a $1000 emergency fund. And once all of the debt repayment was said and done, we’ve been able to do the following:
- Continued contributing to retirement by maxing out our Roth IRAs for the past two years
- Bought a used car with cash
- Opened up a 529 for little miss Sally and plan to open up one for our new little nugget next year
- Saved up enough money for a future down payment on a home (and continue to save towards this each month)
- Built up a six-month emergency fund
- Stayed debt free
It’s crazy how much more we’ve been able to do with our money now that we no longer have that monthly debt payment. We’ve also seen some promotions and raises in the past three years, but I kind of killed most of that awesomeness when I quit my job in May :). Mostly, our ability to do more with our money has come from sticking to a strict budget and continuing to live with a money-saving mentality. We don’t know what the future brings, and we feel lucky to have been able to avoid the Debt Monster again up to this point. If and when life happens and our finances take a hit, we want to be as prepared as possible.
If you’re still trying to tackle your debt demons, your reading this is a testament to your likelihood of totally making it happen. If it’s on your mind, and you just can’t shake that feeling of owing someone else money, you are well on your way to debt freedom. Whether it’s $5,000 in debt or $100,000, all it takes is a plan and a resolve to stick to that plan. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself awkwardly clicking a mouse button with a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/cat and celebrating a debt-iversary on a random Wednesday, too.
What about you? What financial freedom have you found from paying off debt? Or how will your life change once your debt is paid in full?
Congrats! It’s really nice to see a young couple taking their financials seriously. You are an inspiration for a lot of us who are trying to get where you are at. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Yay! Every move seems right. Congrats. I also bought a used car by cash, which is what I planned, You know the stress of being in debt is something I don’t want to experience. I know what it feels like. Great story by the way.
That’s awesome! My husband and I are striving to click that button like you guys on the last payment on our house sometime next year. We don’t have any debt besides the mortgage so are throwing every penny we can save into it. Our goal is to pay it off 2 years from when we bought it, which would be fall of next year. We CAN’T WAIT to hit that button on our last mortgage payment! Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂
Once you guys have enough saved for a 20% down payment and closing costs for a house in Utah, do you plan to divert your additional savings somewhere else, e.g. to more 401(k) for Johnny if you’re not maxing his out, to more 529, or to taxable investments? Or are you just going to keep saving cash for the house? Do you think you would buy a place in NYC?
Once we have 20% down, we’ll make sure we have a 6-month emergency fund in place, and then the rest will go toward savings that will work for us. I don’t see us buying as long as we live out here… so we might be renters for a while longer yet!
Joanna “quit” work, I know you still freelance. That’s a benefit of paying off your debt : )
True… being able to be at home with our girl and freelance in my free time has been a huge perk of being debt free!
We know the feeling that you folks felt once you were debt free. In fact, and you guys will again revisit that feeling big time, it felt even better when we made our last mortgage payment. Then we were truly debt free. So after that, what comes next? For us it was the freedom to really explore and, with the help of ongoing professional financial assistance (ie., from our son-in-law), we then educated ourselves and dipped our toes into some serious conservative investing. And then things started to really take off wealth-wise!
I can’t imagine what a great feeling that must have been to pay off your mortgage. You guys have done a great job with your money management!
Our 1 year debti-versary was on Thanksgiving. I really love that it falls around that time of year. Lots to be thankful for! Congratulations! =)
Very cool! Congrats!
My husband and I have a long way to go, with $40,000 yet to pay off in student loans. We are on our way though! In the six months we’ve been married, we’ve said good-bye to $5000 in private loans and credit card debt. Our final payment to the credit monster is next month, and that will be a very big moment for both of us. I think the scary thing is knowing that we have two cars likely needing replacement in the upcoming years before that debt is paid off, plus wanting to have kids, wanting to save for a house, needing to put away more money for retirement, and balancing saving with wanting that debt gone. We are on a roll now, but it seems like debt could so easily come crashing down on us if we let it. Your blog keeps me motivated!
Isnt it overwhelming sometimes all the things we want to save for? Ideally Id love to be saving for a down payment, car replacement, a future wedding, etc but there’s only so much money to go around! So Im kind of just saving as much as possible and hoping it will all settle out somehow…
Way to go on staying focused, Jen! There are so many places for our money to go at all times… Johnny and I find ourselves getting overwhelmed sometimes, too! It sounds like you guys are prioritizing what’s most important, and the rest will come with time. It may seem slow right now and for a little while longer, but once your debt is paid down, you’ll be amazed at how much money is freed up each month and how quickly you can catch up on all your other goals. Keep on keepin’ on!
I dream of a day when my student loans are all paid off! I just finished paying loan number 5 (of 12), so I’m on my way… but I still have quite a ways to go. The hardest part is being patient.
Awesome. With your attitude and focus, you’ll be done before you know it!
Congrats! I find your story so inspiring! My husband and I just began our debt repayment journey. With over $60,000 in student debt, it’s daunting, but we’re committed to working together to get it paid off as soon as we can. I can’t wait to experience the freedom you described 🙂
You can do it! During this time when you guys are making sacrifices and keeping a super tight budget, just keep imagining the day when you’re completely done. It looks like you guys have a plan, which is a huge step in having success. Good luck!
Thank you for sharing! When your light is still waaaaaaaaaaaay down at the end of the tunnel, stories like yours keep the train movin’.
We have another 2 years to go until our debt monster is tame – and it seems like so long from now! More than once, I’ve wanted to chuck the whole idea, but stories like this (and the celebrations that accompany them) remind me why we’re doing this. Thanks for sharing!
You’ve got a plan in place, which is key to success. Keep on keepin’ on and you’ll be celebrating your debti-versary before you know it!
After my wife and I paid off our student loan debt we decided we weren’t actually debt free with the mortgage hanging over our heads… So we are trying to tackle that monster now. It’s a beast. Probably another 2 years until it’s gone.
Way to go!
I love debt free posts-and the follow ups!!
It is hard for me to imagine the day without debt, especially my student loans — and I haven’t really started paying them (yet). It is on my goal list for 2015, and really hope I can start to see some progress. I know what is holding me back is being scared + not knowing where to start.
I remember Johnny and I feeling the exact same way right before we started paying down our loans. It’s important to look at the little victories. Even if $500 (as an example) doesn’t make a huge difference in the overall total, you just paid down $500 in debt! Celebrate that! Reward yourself with something small for each month you stick to your goal. You can do it. We loved the debt snowball method because of the little psychological victories that came with it. Once you have a plan in place, the motivation will come right along with it. Good luck!
[…] to find an “investment” that delivers a guaranteed interest rate like debt. While we feel extremely fortunate that our encounter with the Debt Monster was relatively brief, it was long enough to remind us […]