DH = Dear Husband
Dave Ramsey says that when you’ve paid off the mortgage, you find that the grass in the yard feels different under your feet. Two days ago, DH went to the bank to finish off our debt for our 2011 Ford Focus, and I can tell you that the gas pedal feels different under my foot! If you had told me in May that we’d have our first debt paid off in the first week of September, I wouldn’t have believed you. Debt #1 sat at $8,600 when we started this journey, and it’s gone!
Update on our medical insurance story
We’ve not yet been reimbursed for the $2,500 emergency medical deposit that DH had to pay during his business trip to the U.S. in July. We paid the VISA bill which included that deposit in the last week of August, and we killed off Debt #1 in the first week of September. I phoned my insurance company yesterday to see how things were looking, and if all goes well, we’ll have that $2,500 cheque in about two weeks. It will go directly against Debt #2.
I’ll tell you something: it didn’t used to be this way. It used to be that if DH and I knew that money was coming our way – say an income tax refund – we’d come up with all sorts of ways to spend it. We’d get so fixated on whatever it was we “needed” that we’d buy it before the money came in. Then when it did come in, we’d spend it again. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of Ramsey’s call to have focused intensity in paying off debt. You can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out of it. It’s not a “go-with-the-flow” kind of thing. In our first steps out of debt, DH and I have had to adopt an in-your-face intentionality.
“You Only Live Once”
The school year has started. “How was your summer?” is a question that staff and students ask and answer many times during the first few days back. I often said, in answering this question from staff, that I’d taught summer school. In response to the “But why?” perplexity that generally followed, I answered frankly that I was trying to get out of debt. “You’ll always have it,” sighed one colleague, with a wistful shake of the head in acceptance of this inevitability. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” I think that our generation would add, “. . . and debt.”
In the course of this same conversation, my colleague, who had done something wonderful – and expensive – during the summer, said, “You only live once.” I must admit that that one gets to me at times. Besides our society’s sense of entitlement to instant gratification, I think that we live somewhat in the shadow of doom these days. The fragility of the world economy; environmental alarm over our abused planet; uncertain peace amidst ever-present threats of war . . . It makes paying off your car loan seem rather trite. Then there’s the tragic prominence of cancer and other illnesses that remind us of our mortality. It all justifies the idea of living-to-the-full-now-while-you-can. And living to the full now, of course, requires spending money that you don’t have (so that you can be in bondage to your lender later). But after all is said and done, while it’s possible that I could drop dead the day after we pay off our mortgage, I really would rather die debt-free and have an inheritance to pass on to my children than die debt-ridden and leave behind a burden.
So much for the worst case scenarios. Now let’s consider the possibility that the world isn’t due to end, and that I’m still a few decades good to go. I foresee living out of debt as living more abundantly. More to spend; bigger plans to save for; generous, powerful giving; and the absence of a life-sucking weight that so many of us have come to accept as inevitable. I imagine the lightness that will replace it once all debt is gone, and I think this lightness of being motivates me more than anything. And imagine what we could do with regards to innovations to help the environment; medical research; poverty; and threats of aggression if nations got rid of their debts. “You only live once.” So live well, and set yourself up to live abundantly. On to Debt #2!
Ramsey advises to pay off debts from smallest to largest. He says it gives that “lose weight quickly!” encouragement. He’s right. We lost $8,600 worth of financial fat in three months with the elimination of Debt #1. Debt #2 sits at $12,800, and if all goes well, we should have it paid off in five months – in January. We will expect the unexpected, just as we did when we started. A big repair bill for the van and an emergency medical bill from the U.S. were not in our agenda for the past three months, but they happened. There are no guarantees. But there are plenty of reasons to hope.