Pop the balloons! No debt-free party for us.
- DH = dear husband
- DD1 – dear first daughter
- DD2 – dear second daughter
- DD3 – dear third dauther
“have a barefoot mortgage-burning party”
We began our journey out of all debt in June of 2012. In September of 2018 – less than 2 months from now – we will make our last payment against the mortgage. It’s a weird reality that is only gradually catching up with me!
To unload our grand total of $257,000 in debt over the last 6+ years, DH and I have followed Dave Ramsey’s plan as detailed in The Total Money Makeover. I remember when I first heard (via the book-CD) Ramsey talk about paying off the mortgage. It seemed like such an impossible goal! “When you pay off the mortgage,” he said, “have a barefoot mortgage-burning party and invite all your friends, relatives, and neighbors.”
“Yes!” I thought. “We’ll do that!” And I had visions of barefoot dancing in the back yard.
But now I don’t.
When I think of the best parties we’ve had in this house, I think of birthday parties. I’d say we averaged 15 guests per birthday per daughter (we have 3) when they were young children. DH would twist balloons into different animal shapes and we’d put on a balloon-animal puppet show for a gaggle of little girls. We’d play musical chairs, sing songs with actions, eat pizza and cake … Those were great times! And then there were the surprise birthday parties: DH’s 40th; my 40th; DD1’s 21st; DD2’s 21st. (How will we ever be able to make DD3’s a surprise?) So much fun!
And what makes a party fun? A big part of it is that all guests are on board with the cause of the celebration. Who doesn’t genuinely wish the birthday girl or boy the best for their big day? Hopefully no one who has been invited! Same goes for weddings – which are the best parties ever! Who among the guests does not wish the newly-weds a bright future together?
“I don’t think we should have a party to celebrate our debt-freedom,” DH said a few months ago. “It’s not something that other people want to celebrate.”
Strange reactions to debt-freedom
I remember about 4 years ago, there was a commercial for a bank that featured the mortgage pay-off of a good-looking, fit, well-dressed, 40-something couple. The wife, presumably driving from work, approached their big suburban house when much to her surprise, a marching band came out of the garage. Friends and family emerged to cheer her home, and her husband, who had arranged the surprise, smiled and hugged her.
At work one day, a fellow teacher made reference to the commercial. “How selfish can you get?!” he said, full of uncharacteristic spite. I must have asked for clarification. “Paying off their half-million dollar home!” Words failed him, and he just waved his hand in a gesture of disgusted dismissal. I figured I was missing something obvious, so I didn’t pursue it and we changed the subject. This man, by the way, is one of the most approachable, accommodating, accepting, friendly people you’ll ever meet. He is exactly the high school teacher you want your children to have.
A few weeks ago, I was speaking with an equally pleasant person, and since he knew that I blogged about debt-reduction I let him know about our approaching $0 mortgage. I could see him absorb the information and struggle a bit to find the words before he said, “I know that’s important to you.” Again, I felt I was missing something. Normally, this man is quick to smile and encourage, with goodwill to spare – but there was none of the above in his response. I think he was striving for neutral.
Evolution of responses to our journey out of debt
There was a shift in people’s responses to our journey out of debt 3 years ago – when we had paid off everything but the mortgage. “I’ve already noticed little changes,” I wrote at the time. “Someone asked me yesterday why I had chosen to teach summer school, and I said, ‘We want to pay off the mortgage before we retire.’ Her response was, ‘Yep. That’s the smart thing to do. Get rid of that mortgage.’ I always used to say something like, ‘We’re trying to get out of debt. My husband lost his job in the high-tech bust and we got ourselves into quite a debt hole.’ The response would usually be a respectful and somewhat sympathetic nod of the head. So there’s been a shift. I’m no longer the object of sympathy. I’m ‘smart’.”
From “object of sympathy” to “smart” to … ? I’m not sure. All I know is that for a reason I can’t figure out, it isn’t necessarily positive.
“Am I talking about this too much?” I have wondered. I know I had a tendency towards too much debt-talk for a while in some situations, but I’ve intentionally kept that tendency in check for the last few years. (If you know me IRL, correct me if I’m wrong!) So what’s with these lukewarm to cold responses? A few possibilities that come to mind are that some people:
- think mortgage pay-off is a private matter that shouldn’t be talked of.
- believe that anyone who talks of paying off their mortgage is boasting.
- think that debt-freedom is a weird goal and nothing to get excited about.
- see prioritizing debt-repayment as shallow.
- feel defensive about their own debts.
So many of us who read and write blogs about personal finances find an open freedom online that’s often stifled IRL. I know that when the day comes and I write of our debt-freedom, a virtual cheer will be sent up by the online community I’ve been a part of for the last 6 years. And while there will also be several face-to-face congratulations, I think it’s wisest not to throw a party to celebrate. So I’m agreeing with DH on this.
Does this take away from anything? I don’t think so. It’s just a matter of accepting things the way they are. We’ll still celebrate – just not with a party. And we’ll still walk barefoot in our back yard:)
Would you throw a debt-freedom party? Can you relate to the evolution of responses I mentioned? Your comments are welcome.
Image courtesy of flickr.