• DH = dear husband
  • DD2 = dear 2nd daughter

“A hundred bottles of beer on the wall…”

Do you remember this song? “A hundred bottles of beer on the wall / A hundred bottles of  beer / You take one down and pass it around and there’s 99 bottles of beer on the wall / 99 bottles of beer on the wall / 99 bottles of beer / You take one down and pass it around …” I won’t write out the whole song, but it goes all the way down to 0 bottles of beer on the wall. And by the time you get there, everyone is glad the song is over.

My siblings and I used to sing it in the car during our family’s 1 hour 30 minute drives to the campground each summer. That was way before the time of i-pads for children’s car ride entertainment. It was also before the days of mandatory seat belts in the back seats. So there were the 5 of us, free ranging and either yelling or singing in the back, with our parents in the front. When I, the youngest, started to feel nausea from car sickness, we’d pull over, and I’d sit on Mom’s lap in the front. Dad always had balls of wax to stuff in his ears for those trips.

75 bottles of beer on the wall!

The connection to our journey out of debt? For the last few months, I have found myself breaking into song after our mortgage payment has gone through and our debt has reached its new low. To quickly recap, our starting point in June of 2012 was:

  • Debt #1 – New Car Debt: $8,600
  • Debt #2 – Old Car, Dog, & Course Debt: $12,800
  • Debt #3 – Business Debt: $80,800
  • Debt #4 – Mortgage: $155,000
  • TOTAL: $257,000

In the five years since we made it our mission to become completely debt-free, we have eliminated all debts with the exception of the mortgage. We’ve been paying it down aggressively, and in June 2017, our mortgage – our total remaining debt – was $75,000.

And yes, I did sing, “75 bottles of beer on the wall …”

Debt repayment vs. savings/investments: A shift

We’ve been following Dave Ramsey’s advice for debt-repayment, as outlined in his book The Total Money Makeover. (And no, I don’t get paid for saying that.) After we had finished paying off the business debt – the last of our non-mortgage debt – we moved on to steps 3 and 4 of his 7-step plan.

  • Step #3: Save an emergency fund to see you through 3-6 months of expenses.
  • Step #4: Invest 15% of your gross income for your retirement.

If I had been left to make the choice, I would not have followed those steps. I was high on debt-payoff. Who even knew that was possible? But it’s true. My old quasi-addictive spending had morphed into quasi-addictive debt-repayment, and I felt frustrated by the slower repayment-pace that savings would entail.

3 old posts about impatience and financial sabotage

I came to recognize that the primary personality flaw behind my initial money mess was impatience. As I have just discovered in a search through old posts, two years ago, I wrote at least 3 that touched upon the role impatience has had on our finances. “I say it without disrespect,” I wrote in Debt Repayment & Impatience. “There is something childish about a debtor’s impatience.” But “childishness” is a bit harsh. It’s not simple immaturity that is at play when impatience sabotages finances.

Anxiety is not something I really understand, but I definitely see it playing out in different areas of my life – including finances. And in the way of vicious cycles, when finances become messed up, anxiety spikes. In a post on Debt-Reduction and Anxiety, I wrote this: “once we started our journey out of debt, I came up against a recurring obstacle that had nothing to do with money: my impatience. Anxiety screams, ‘The problem has to be fixed NOW!’ But it takes the average household 7 years to go through all of Ramsey’s steps to financial health. ‘7 years? Ugh!’ And it’s not a smooth ride. All along the way there are roadblocks, like unexpected expenses, and they test your patience every time. 7 years is a long time for anyone. For a person with anxiety, it’s an eternity.”

Whether it stemmed from immaturity or anxiety, I wanted to get the better of my impatience. In a post on my  resolution to Build up Core (Personal Finance) Strength, I compared healthy finances with planking. “I’ve come to recognize in this journey out of debt how impatient I am. Impatience played a big role in getting us into our debt-ridden state (‘I want it NOW!’), and I don’t want it to sabotage the financial health we’ve been building… I need the core strength … of patience in my approach to our shifted financial goals. Muscles in the human pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen ideally work in harmony. Efforts towards our savings, investments, mortgage payments, and giving can also progress towards an ideal of harmony. No rush. Slow, steady, progress. Balance. Stability. Just breathe . . . and hold a little longer . . . like a plank.”

Leaning more towards savings/investments

In June, DH and I showed evidence of progress in that quest for financial balance. When we started steps #3 and #4 two years ago, I in particular did so grudgingly. I followed the plan though – not because I liked it at that point, but because I trusted it.

As we approached June this year, we knew that we were going to be coming into some extra money. DH and I agreed in the summer of 2015 to fund DD2’s rent, utilities, and groceries for 2 years as she studied downtown and trained for track east of the city. Those 2 years are now over, and that monthly payment needs a new direction.

At first, we decided that we would save it all to make the annual lump-sum payment we’re entitled to make against our mortgage. That would bring our debt-free date to as early as January 2019. But as we continued to discuss things, our priorities shifted. Yesterday, we made it official. We’re investing all of it – surpassing the 15% recommended by Ramsey. This will mean a later debt-free date, but somehow, that’s OK now.

Confidence in personal finances

Here’s my analysis: For the first few years of our journey to debt-freedom, we were motivated by a negative desire – the desire to get away from the financial stress that had made us miserable.  As we paid off debt after debt, that stress was decimated, and we gained an unaccustomed confidence. And now, we are becoming more and more motivated by positive desires – the desires of financial freedom. It’s no longer about what we’re getting away from. It’s what we’re moving towards. And ZERO bottles of beer on the wall is just the beginning.

Are you more motivated by what you want to get away from or by what you want to move towards? Your comments are welcome.

A big “Thank you!” to Femme Frugality and Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers. Both sites featured book reviews for my children’s book, Ella Builds A Wall. 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’d say I’m motivated by a bit of each. I want to get away from my car loan (13 payments left!) and my mortgage. But I’m also motivated by saving and making sure my nest egg lasts now that I’m in retirement. I’m glad you’re moving in a positive direction in both what you want to get away from and what you’re moving towards.

    1. Thank you, Gary. It’s true that both forces can work at the same time – the “get away” motivation along with the “move towards” motivation. So, 13 bottles of beer left on the wall for your car loan. Here’s to your zero!

    1. It’s true that the moving towards phase “happens along the way.” It can’t be planned – you just find you’re there. And it’s a good place to be : )

  2. Congrats on the milestone! I spent lots of time in the back of the station wagon on family road trips, being the youngest of five. 🙂

    I’m motivated by a bit of both, moving away from the negative, the debt and reaching the positive the wealth building. I like your plan, a mix of both now that you and DH have tamed the majority of the negative.

    1. There were times when we were focused on debt-reduction exclusively when DH would ask, “What are we going to do when it’s all gone?” Funny question, but I think if that “moving towards” motivation doesn’t kick in, the risk of yo-yo debting increases. (And I have good reason to think it. This is our 2nd debt-repayment. The first time – much smaller debt – we went and maxed out on a mortgage after paying it off. Ugh!)

  3. How powerful that you’ve reached a point of financial confidence. It sounds like you are not taking “baby steps” per se since you are now charting the course that you are confident is best for you, and are motivated by your bigger, more personal goals. Congrats!

    1. Thank you, Kalie : ) It really is wonderful to have been released from that place of operating in fear. I think that so many people are there without realizing it. Part of “the matrix” of this debt-era we’re in.

  4. Given your last debt is mortgage debt I definitely think investing that extra money is a fair choice.

    Just an idea, what about keeping those “extra” investments in a separate ETF to help you track it against your mortgage debt? It might be fun to see your extra investment grow to surpass your mortgage debt over time. Then you’ll always know that you could pull the trigger, liquidate your extra investment, and payoff the mortgage (not that you’d want to, but its fun to know you could).

    1. Thanks, Owen. I like your idea, If we ever need to “pull the trigger” though, we’ll liquidate our TFSAs (similar to Roth IRA). We are investing in RRSPs (similar to 401k) – and we still have tons of room. Still, we’ll be able to do a rough tracking of the mortgage vs. the investments.

  5. Awesome progress! We just started our journey to pay off the mortgage at the beginning of 2017. So far so good. Debt just isn’t a cloud worth keeping over one’s head. In all honesty, we do have a large chunk of student loans we intend to leave “out there.” The interest rate is only 2%, so for now, it gets to live. 🙂

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