Before we got married, my husband-to-be and I met with a financial advisor to begin our money conversations. This conversation has become a regular part of our life! Some of the things suggested were life insurance, wills, and retirement funding. One of the things we were interested in was paying off our mortgage and becoming debt-free. Our financial advisor advised against this – for several reasons. None of which we particularly agreed with. After much discussion between my husband and myself, we decided that for us, becoming debt-free was definitely one of our goals.
And so started our journey of becoming debt-free. Our path has been pretty steady, and although we’ve made mistakes along the way, we’re getting there!
Why We’re Becoming Debt-Free
An important step in becoming debt-free is to know your “why”. These are our top three whys:
I have found that not having to pay all those credit card bills or car payments or second mortgages really frees up a lot of cash!
One of the top reasons for divorce in our country is money problems. Becoming debt-free eliminates a lot of stress in a marriage. Going through the process of becoming debt-free encourages a lot of conversation, compromise, dreaming, planning – all of which has enriched our relationship!
Being debt-free allows you the freedom of having a healthy savings account. Knowing that you have an emergency fund not only gives you freedom, but also breathing room in case of job loss or an emergency. Again, this is as major stress-reliever and our relationship stronger knowing we have given ourselves options.
One of our favorite things to do together as a family is travel! Early on, when our children were young, our travels were inexpensive and mostly close to home or with family. As we paid debts off and increased our savings, our travels have become more adventurous. We travel intentionally to teach our children both how to travel and why travel. And, we also teach them to travel debt-free ~ pay cash!
Being in our early 50s, retirement is not something that is “way off” in the future. And while we’ve been working on our retirement funds for a couple of decades, we’ve tried to kick it up a notch lately. Being debt-free allows us to put more money into retirement. We fully intend to retire in our early 60s. Retirement may include one or both of us working, but our jobs will be things we are passionate about! And, we will be working more for the stimulation of it than the necessity of it!
How We’re Becoming Debt-Free
I am NOT a very good budgeter. Actually, that’s not true. I’m great at making a budget. And, being a bit of a number and spreadsheet geek, I really enjoy making budgets. But, I’m horrible at actually sticking to a budget! That said, I do make one and even if we go off it sometimes, I’m aware of that and rework things where needed. Even though I’m not very good at sticking to our budget, it allows me to see areas we need to work on. If an area seems to be getting higher each month, or there’s a spike, I can address it quickly!
I actually have two different stories on refinancing. Our first experience with this was a bad decision. We refinanced from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage without running the numbers through our budget (at least, realistically running them through our budget) and so after we refinanced, we were extremely strapped for cash. All.the.time! It was not a good decision!
Our second experience with refinancing was a much better experience! Again, we went from a 30-year mortgage down to a 15-year mortgage. And this time we did run the numbers through our budget and discovered it would work very well for us. Our payment was only about $15/month higher and we’d be saving thousands of dollars by making this easy change! The “magic number” for refinancing seemed to be 2% points. If our finance rate was dropped at least 2 percentage points, then we knew it would work out budget-wise for us.
Along with refinancing, we also try to pay extra every month. Every time our income increases, we put that extra into the mortgage. Every little bit adds up, and pretty quickly too!
I’ve tried Dave Ramsey’s cash envelope system, and I have to say it makes me uncomfortable to carry that much cash around with me. I’m currently trying to figure out how to do the “cash envelope” system without actually carrying all the cash around. I’m sure there’s a way to do it, just haven’t figured it out yet!
We currently use our debit card for most of our purchases. The only things I use our credit card for our major purchases (appliances, vehicles, travel), and those I make sure I pay off within the month. I use a travel credit card and am able to pay for some of our travel expenses with it.
No Car Payments
Not having a car payment is one of the best feelings ever! Since very early in our marriage, we agreed that we would only buy what we could afford. Saving for a car is, of course, similar to making a car payment. But, if something comes up and I need to divert that money for a month or two, I’m not getting my car repossessed. Of course, we don’t have new cars – ever! But, having used cars helps our insurance payments stay lower too!
How About You? Ready to Control Your Money??
Are you ready to have the freedom that being debt free allows? Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Write out Your Goals – It is hard becoming debt-free! Write out your goals and your “why” so when the going gets tough, you can easily remember your why. When everyone else is doing (fill in the blank) or buying (fill in the blank), it will come in handy to remember why you are going through this!
- Make a Budget – Write down every penny you spend to see where your money is going – you might be surprised! Then, make a budget and tell your money where to go. You be in charge! Having a budget isn’t enough though, you have to stick to it!! That’s the hard part!
- Pay off Debt – There are a million (probably) pins, books, posts out there about paying off your debt and becoming debt free. I personally like Dave Ramsey’s approach, in particular, his snowball approach, to paying off debt. But again, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it
- Refinance – It might be worth looking into refinancing your mortgage if you have one. Our rule of thumb has always been, the new interest rate needs to be 2% points lower to make it worth it. Please make sure that the new payment fits into your budget! Otherwise, it’s just not worth it. At least, not yet! Be patient – the timing might be right a little down the road.
So what do you think? Are you ready to go debt-free? Do you know your why? Let me know, then share with your friends on FB!
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Money Books You Might Like to Read
One of my new favorite books, Live Save Spend Repeat, is by a fellow blogger, Kim Anderson, who absolutely killed it on becoming debt-free! She has a book and a course that are both very reasonably priced and will help you figure out your priorities while still living life!
Here are three more money books that might interest you. Like I said earlier, I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey, but regardless of how you do it – just do it!!