Money is such a crazy topic. I hate talking about it, yet at the same time, I am always wanting to read and hear how to best handle money. I recently described the way I approach money to someone by saying I aim to be “cautious and intentional” with it. Not to mention, you all know I’m thrifty. The thing is, people want to know what that means and what that actually looks like. Recently, I realized I should share more about money and some of the lessons I’ve learned in dealing with it. I still don’t feel totally comfortable talking about it, but it’s worth it if it gives hope and encouragement to someone else.
When I graduated college, I had somewhere around $22,000 in debt. All of it was student loans, you know, the “good debt” according to some. The thing is, it could have been much worse. I had several scholarships, went to a public in-state university, worked through school and lived on a tight budget. We can go into more detail later, but to start, I had $22,000+ in debt. And then soon after, we got married. The hubby had a little bit of school debt of his own. We each had entry-level jobs with less-than-entry-level pay.
We decided early on that we didn’t want to hang on to that debt. We’d both lived on very little so we knew it was possible to do so. A few months into our marriage we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class, which encouraged us to be even more radical about it. I can’t say that we followed everything he teaches; you do have to take what he says with a grain of salt and figure out what works for you.
Aggressively, we paid six times what the minimum monthly payment was on my loans. Our default answer seemed to be, “we can’t afford it” whenever something came up. Sometimes I think about that time and wonder what we did spend money on because knowing what we made compared to what we paid in debt, I’m still not quite sure how we did it.
Exactly 18 months after I graduated, we were debt-free. I remember the day I got the paycheck that would allow us to make the final payment and couldn’t help but tell my boss what that check meant.
I don’t often tell this story because I know it’s not a common one. Debt is hard and it can be devastating. I don’t want to make light of the situation some are facing. There’s a lot of situations I’ve never faced and I cannot begin to imagine. Not everyone can pay that much off in the time that we did, and I don’t want to make it sound like you’re failing if you can’t. This post isn’t about me waving this in your face. When friends talk about debt, I am often completely quiet because I don’t want it to sound like I have it all figured out. We were fortunate to both be on the same page about money and have two incomes, which allowed us to make significant payments. I’m not going to say it was always easy either–I had a lot of health issues during that time and also took a major pay cut to take a different job. I tell my story to give you hope. Being debt-free has truly allowed us to live much more freely. We still have a relatively tight budget and sometimes I still get stressed about it. We continuously have to say “no” to a lot of good things because of cost. But ultimately, we’ve had so much more freedom without debt.
I want that sort of freedom for everyone. I’m not a financial adviser, nor can I act as one. But I can tell my story and encourage others. I can tell you how I (we) approach financial decisions, and taken with a grain of salt, maybe this money talk will be beneficial to you, too.
I’ll be writing more posts related to money in the future, so let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to answer or topics to cover.