October of 2018 – sitting down after my barefoot walk across our backyard

DH = Dear Husband

In debt “like everyone else”

We live in a time of record-breaking personal debt, and for a long time, my husband and I fit right in.  DH and I were in debt from the start of our adult lives – and for the first 25 years of our marriage. Student loans, credit card balances, car payments, lines of credit, mortgages . . . As far as we knew, we were doing what everyone else was doing – and we were right.  But carrying debt like “everyone else” was hazardous – sort of like “everyone” smoking in the ‘60s.

The unexpected happens

We were very comfortable with our debt, and we continued to go deeper into it even after we came face-to-face with a truth you might have encountered: The unexpected happens. For some, it’s a marriage breakdown. For others, injury or illness makes work impossible. For us, job loss hit. After DH became a casualty of the hi-tech bust early in the millennium, we lived in a limbo of denial and financial stress for years.

In 2009, he launched a home business, and while things were looking up income-wise, we had also taken on a huge business debt that put us even further in the red. A sober realization that time was passing, that retirement would happen within a decade, and that we were set up to be in lousy financial health made us extremely uncomfortable with our debt. We looked hard at our numbers, and they were not pretty. In 2010, at our worst, we had a debt-to-income ratio of 350% – more than twice the current record-breaking national average.

Our journey out of debt

In June of 2012, inspired by Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover, we began our journey out of debt. DH and I joined forces to become fiercely intentional about our money and where it was going. We started to budget. We looked for opportunities to earn extra income and to cut costs. We adopted a more frugal lifestyle and gained a heightened awareness of every expense – every purchase. And we bickered. A lot.

But it worked! Ramsey says, “… the grass will feel different under your feet when you own it.” For over six years I looked so forward to the day when we would take our first barefoot steps in our backyard, debt-free.

Over 6 years waiting to kick off my shoes

My blog, Prudence Debtfree

There’s a taboo against personal finance talk in our society that keeps many stuck in denial – or else stressed out in silent shame. By chronicling our journey out of debt, I hoped to help break that taboo.

For my final post, I was happy to quote a colleague who had come to recognize “that financial laundry was a dirty secret that had long needed airing.” For her, this blog provided a safe space to start a process of change. “You were that breath of fresh air … Thank you for my choice to cut up every credit card but one, and for the old furniture instead of the new financing plan, and for the feeling of possibilities.”

Our debt-repayment graph

Although DH and I have completed our journey out of debt, I’m going to keep this blog up for a while longer. If you have come across it, and you are trying to change your financial reality, I invite you to read a few posts. I hope you’ll find a story that resonates with you and that gives a breath of fresh air to your financial laundry.

If you are struggling with debt, you’re not alone – as current stats on personal debt levels prove. There’s a good chance you have more power to change your situation than you realize. My husband and I did. Our story starts here.