DH = Dear Husband
Our debt in June 2012
“Now it’s June, and DH and I are taking the proverbial first step on our journey out of debt.” That’s what I wrote almost exactly 5 years ago, and I can now say that it was one of the best steps we’ve ever taken.
Back in June of 2012, our debts looked like this:
- 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
At 53 and 49 years old, DH and I knew that we weren’t in a good place financially, but it wasn’t until we read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover that we realized what we had to do about it. A friend had dropped off the CD version of the book, and I listened to it during my morning and afternoon commutes one day in mid-May 2012. “I allowed myself a vision on that car ride to work … In my mind, I fast-forwarded to the day my husband and I would make our last mortgage payment, and we’d be completely debt-free. It was glorious! I’ve known for years that our debt load has been a burden, but I didn’t realize how life-sucking that burden was until I envisioned it gone.”
And so in June of 2012, after almost 20 years of marriage, DH and I prepared our first monthly budget together. We would stop hoping that things would get better and start making them get better. Debt is something that many of us wander into, but (as Ramsey says) nobody wanders out of it. A plan is needed, as is an attitude of focused intention. We had our plan, and we were intent on using all extra money to focus on one debt at a time, starting with the smallest.
Our Debt in June 2017
Nobody pays off debt in a vacuum. Life continues to happen, and it’s not easy to stay focused on a long-term goal like debt freedom in the midst of it. We have 3 daughters and a large extended family, and I can think of a few times over the last 5 years when urgent family matters have taken over and made debt-reduction seem like the lowest priority possible – and rightly so. But here’s the thing: when you make a habit of things like budgeting, tracking expenses, and really thinking about every purchase, they start to become automatic – even through the times when “focused intention” is not so focused and not so intense.
And in a 5-year period, there are going to be significant financial road blocks too. We’ve had to deal with vet bills, car repairs, appliance breakdowns, slow business months, a dangerously rotting tree, and a new roof to name a few. But not once have we gone back into debt. For the small, unexpected expenses, we maintained our mini-emergency fund of $1,000 right from the start (as per Ramsey’s plan). And for the larger, planned expenses like the roof, we saved. Such an obvious thing to do, right? But we had always used debt for the big purchases, and this was a first for us.
So after 5 years, where do we stand?
- Debt #1 – New Car Debt:
- Debt #2 – Old Car, Dog, & Course Debt:
- Debt #3 – Business Debt:
- Debt #4 – Mortgage:
- TOTAL: $77,000
My children’s book
I find a cool symbolism in the fact that my children’s book has come out in the same week as our 5th anniversary of debt-reduction. You can read the story behind Ella Builds A Wall over at Fruclassity (and if you’re interested, here is a trailer of the book). For now, I’ll just say that my children’s book represents to me the “Why?” behind our efforts towards financial health and freedom. We spent far too many years in a place where freedom was stifled by obligations to creditors. Now we have so much more room to breathe. Compared with the “life-sucking burden” of debt that I first recognized 5 years ago, writing and self-publishing Ella Builds A Wall has truly been a life-giving breath of fresh air.
(If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can go either go here or let me know in the comments, and I’ll email you about it.)
Looking ahead, I see two more years to the finish line. I hope you’ll check in to see how we’re doing. And even more, if you’re facing a debt-load yourself, I hope you’ll draw hope from our experience.
We were “normal” for far too long, maxing out. Our household debt-to-income ratio rose steadily along with the national average – until it went off the chart with my husband’s job loss, and long-term financial stress set in. We’re in a debt-normalizing era, and so many of us are surprised to find ourselves trapped. And we feel a mortified shame for it. But there really is a way out, and while it’s simple, it’s not easy. It means going against the grain – of society at large, of family dynamics, and of our own individual patterns of thought and behaviour. But it can be done. We’re doing it, and so can you.
Join us for the remainder of our journey, and be encouraged to start your own.
Your comments are welcome.