Some believe that being debt-free means having freedom to spend money on whatever they would like and living life big – with no restraints. However, having been debt free for over twenty years, we can tell you that the vision of spending with abandon, finally gaining the respect and admiration of others, and discovering true “happiness” is not what being debt free is all about.
Here’s the truth
When we became debt free, we were making a salary that was far less than the average American family. So, even after we become debt-free, it was hard work to remain debt free. We still had to save for future expenses, continue to budget, and be consistent in setting goals.
However, having said that, there are some seriously wonderful perks that come along with owing no man any money.
For an in-depth explanation of the points I cover in this post, watch the YouTube video, on which Larry and I discuss, “5 Truths About Being Debt Free”.
#1 – We developed more patience
The truth is: the process of becoming debt free develops patience.
The ability to create a plan and work systematically toward a solution continues in you life after you have achieved freedom from debt.
There are no quick fixes in life. Paying off loans takes time. Finding peace in the process is found through writing down your goals and keeping them in front of your face. Coincidentally, the habit of writing down a list of goals means that you have a 70% greater chance of successfully completing them.
When you hurry
- mistakes mount
- frustration builds
- stress multiplies
Your patience will often be tested, but delayed gratification becomes your friend. Over time, you’ll gain an appreciation for what you have and what you own.
After becoming debt free, my husband and I realized that being in a hurry isn’t really the best course of action much of the time. The unexpected perk of finally seeing the fruit of your journey is that along the way you will have developed patience.
#2 – We enjoy less stress
The truth is: You experience less anxiety and less worry with no debt hanging over your head.
If you are on the journey of paying off debt, then take heart. Every time you reach another milestone, do something to celebrate. Find somewhere quiet, sit down, and breathe in the feeling of having relieved yourself of a measure of stress.
As you make progress, more and more anxiety will drop from your shoulders.
I have be honest, becoming debt free significantly lowered my stress levels. Even though we have lived on a low income, we worried less and enjoyed greater peace.
#3 – We have more options
The truth is, we have had more options (even on our limited income) because we had no debt.
We always planned for me to go back to work when we had children. For us, there seemed to be no alternative. Our income was low and our budget would simply not work with just one income.
However, it took several years for us to conceive our first child. During our time of waiting, we made the most of our two-income household status, prepaying large portions of our mortgage.
By the time we found out I was expecting our first child, we had little left of the mortgage and determined I would quit my job – even though it meant eliminating nearly half our income.
Our first son was born in December of 1996 and we paid off our home in full fourteen months later.
I admit that staying home with my children was a luxury. The only thing which allowed us to consider this option was the fact that we were debt free. If we had owed money to anyone, I could not have left the full-time workforce.
The number of options available to us has continued to expand over the past two decades, which has become increasingly important as we head toward retirement age.
#4 – We find it easier to budget
The truth is: budgeting is easier when you are debt free, sometimes significantly so.
Even if you are still moving toward the goal of debt freedom, you can have a taste of easier budgeting. Every time you cross a debt off your list, you gain that amount of money every month to apply toward the next goal in line. It doesn’t take as long as you might think to begin to feel the iron hand of debt loosening its grip on your life.
With no regular payments, you have more disposable money to work with and you reduce your monthly cost of living Moving money to different areas of your budget is simplified and and funding future goals also becomes easier.
#5 – We developed healthy communication skills
The truth is: my husband and learned to work together.
In order to pay off debt (and continue to pay cash for everything we needed), we had to be unified in our purpose. Together, we set our sights on grabbing our great big goals and refusing to let go.
We practiced absolute fiscal honesty with one another and vowed that we would never pit our own desires against those of our spouse. We had to work together. There was no other choice. If we wanted to succeed, we needed to be a team.
We had monthly (sometimes weekly) budget meetings, set goals, put goal sheets in front of our faces, and encouraged one another when the unexpected happened.
We like to say that we were broke, but happy. We never let money (or lack of it) determine our level of happiness. I think maybe we succeeded because we refused to believe that we couldn’t. We simply refused to fail.
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4 thoughts on “5 Honest Truths About Becoming Debt Free”
Really needed this encouragement. I have to cook everything from scratch now to save money, no processed meals which are expensive. I make the pizzas from scratch etc. I get tired sometimes. I appreciate the acknowledgment that is it not easy.
MaryAnn, I’m so glad you found my words encouraging. I, too, learned to cook from scratch because of cost. Now, I continue to do it because it’s so much healthier than prepared foods. Years ago, I started making our Friday night pizzas from scratch, because even the premade ones were too expensive. Larry and the boys like my pizza so much better than the thin, cheap variety.
I am so inspired by your story as well as informed by your videos. Couple of topics I would love your insight on… (I apologize if you have provided and I missed them). How do you define your goal length? Is there a formula? What defines short, mid and long-term? Second, as you provided advice on developing an emergency budget quickly do you have any advice for quick action retirement savings (aside from throwing all you got at that fund)?
Thank you so very much!
Hi, Peggy, thanks for the question. We look at the amount of money we have available each month to put toward all our goals. Then, we choose what percentage of that total amount to use toward each goal. For instance, if we need a new washing machine in 12 months, we may put a greater percentage of our monthly goal money toward that new washer in order to get it funded more quickly. However, if the washing machine can wait, we will fund it more slowly, meaning that it gets a lesser percentage of the total amount available. The real key is: to make sure that your goal list is always prioritized. Items that need more immediate attention are always at the top of the list. Our best advice for retirement funding is to find an investment professional who understands your goals, risk tolerance, and shares your values. Then, work closely with them. We started saving late, but have been super happy with our progress. However, all the credit goes to our financial planner. We are getting ready to do a program on Monday, July 5th that discusses goals. Our personal financial planner is also going to be making a guest appearance. So, be sure to keep watching the YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/underthemedian