It will soon be too cold for bare feet in our backyard.
- DH = dear husband
- DFF = debt-free friend
“You’re going to miss those people!”
Ah! Sitting down to write my final post for Prudence Debtfree, I’m weepy. “You’re going to miss those people!” DH told me earlier this week. By “those people”, he meant you – people who have been reading and commenting on my posts, encouraging us on our journey out of debt.
Where else in this world is someone going to tell you, “Congratulations!” for NOT buying the new car? And after you’ve spent a small fortune on a pair of jeans, who else but an online frugal friend is going to chastise you properly? “Ruth! You need to go shopping with me! I would have slapped you for even thinking of paying that much money for a piece of cloth with a zipper on it.” And when you’ve reached a significant milestone in debt-repayment, as we did once we’d paid off everything but the mortgage, which people are going to be happy for you and cheer you on? “Amazing accomplishment! You and the family should be proud … go kill that mortgage!”
Sharing journey to debt-freedom: IRL ripple effects
DH is right! I will miss you! Blogging about this journey has kept me accountable and has made me feel less alone in a pursuit that just isn’t talked about face to face.
At least it’s not talked about much. There is one place where I’ve shared more than I would have guessed (and where I’ve learned to filter that sharing): at work. I’m incredibly lucky in my work environment. I teach at a multi-cultural inner-city high school, and it’s a fascinating place – rich in the best sense of the word. Every week day, I am surrounded by a community of colleagues and students from around the globe who find a second home at school. Several staff members read my blog, and some have discussed their own financial situations with me.
When I sent out a request for comments about how this blog has impacted people in their own personal finances, 12 of my colleagues responded. Some of them have never struggled with debt, but most of them have. Here is what they had to say.
“How has my blog impacted you personally?”
Jessie: Ruth has helped me in many ways, not only in finance advice, but in life advice. The moment she helped me the most happened when I was explaining all the reasons why my sister HAD to borrow money from me. Ruth responded with “Bullsh*t”. As someone who never swears, this really opened my eyes to how serious Ruth was being and how she was correct in her assessment of my sister’s situation. She not only helped me but my sister as well. Ruth is the best.
Jesse: You have inspired me. Taught me that being in debt doesn’t have to be the status quo. Shown me that being debt-free isn’t just a dream. Challenged me to question my beliefs about how and when to spend money and made me aware of my financial blueprint. Really, it hasn’t come together for me the way it has for you, but you set me on a course that has gradually changed my life. I don’t imagine that I’ll be as dedicated to the cause as you were, and cars are still my weakness, but your success has made me so proud, jealous, and has motivated me to keep up my struggle!
Cam: The significance of your story is not, really, your story at all. I would suggest that you brought many voices to the journey that might not have otherwise engaged in the debate about the dream of being debt free. Many of our personal conversations revolved around the idea of “is it worth it.” We disagreed on this often. We probably still do. In the process we learned so much (I did anyway) about the things that motivate us. The awareness that such discussion inspires is personally influential; I found myself wondering about debt, and choice, as it applied to friends,myself, my own relationships, and in the process I came to learn things I never intended; and all because of an unassuming blogger who I happened to cross paths with. Once again: Congratulations! You worked so hard to get here. Enjoy it.
Kim: Your journey impacted me in that it showed me getting out of debt doesn’t need to be miserable. Your mindset inspired me. Although I’m not in debt I have shared your attitude with two friends who are.
Nadia: By meeting with Ruth almost on a weekly basis at work, I have not only become more aware of my spending habits but have learned how when we cut down debt it has a trickle effect in all areas of life. You are indirectly forced to examine in which other areas of your life you give too much or too little. It’s all connected. I have also come to learn that your debt is also your partner’s. You’re a team and you have to help each other and be honest with each other.
Deepika: Your blog has helped me explore my own relationship with money. There were many things I could relate to. I didn’t think about new purchases or the future until my husband and I hit a roadblock when he decided to start his own business, similar to yours and DH’s situation, resulting in a huge drain to our savings that we had taken for granted. Your candor, honesty and realness have shown me that there is a way with sacrifice and commitment. It’s not always the easiest choice, but it’s so fulfilling when you know what it takes to get there. Thank you so much Ruth for such a valuable blog! 🙂
Curtis: (Fun fact: In 2015, Curtis and his wife allowed me to interview them for Fruclassity.) My wife and I were stuck in what felt like a financial limbo. After our interview we used what we learned to motivate ourselves and to attack our debt with a plan that made sense to us. We are now half a year away from killing our student debt; a feat that seemed insurmountable to us in 2015. We will soon only have our mortgage left.
Chris: We both seemed to approach the topic of debt and savings with the same sense of frugality and perspective. What has been neat is opening up the conversation surrounding tempering expectations, measuring “wants” against “needs”, and the influence of social media on how people want to be perceived. All of it as it relates to spending habits, planned and perceived obsolescence, and the manner in which people attempt to shape their image by buying this, wearing that, eating here, vacationing there, owning this house, condo, cottage, car, etc. These were thoroughly enjoyable conversations and discussions that were initiated by different staff members in the photocopy room as a result of your blog.
Lisa: I have learned so much by following your journey out of debt, and I really believe that some advice you once gave me – not to overextend on a new home – has saved me from having to make a similar journey myself. I will really miss this blog, but am so glad you made it!
Laura: Reading your blog has influenced me into some better habits. I now track my spending – something I never used to do. And tracking has made me realize how much I’m giving to the bank in the form of fees – something I didn’t care about previously & considered just a fact of life. I’m actually planning to switch banks because of it. Another influence from your blog comes from what you’ve said about the importance of communication with your DH. This has encouraged me to talk with my partner about our finances (which we keep more separate than you two do). I used to avoid talking with him about money, so this hasn’t been easy! It’s a big switch, and there have sometimes been heated disagreements. Then again, you’ve written about the arguments you and DH have had 🙂 I’m going to trust that it’s a good idea and not let the conflict prevent me from communicating and asking for communication. My partner’s retirement is now on the horizon – just like yours was when you started your blog. Our goals are now more specific – not vague and indefinite as they used to be.
Diana: (Fun fact: Diana helped me set up my blog when it was new. When I told her that I had chosen “Debtfree” as my last name, but that I still needed a first name – something that had to do with wisdom – she immediately suggested “Prudence”.) When you first spoke about starting your blog, and wanted a bit of support, I was more than happy to offer the name for your alter ego. In the past years, one of the best things was watching growth. First, the growth of everyone who came into contact with you. The number of staff members who just “dropped by” to talk about debt. The growing sense among your coworkers that we could be smarter – elders talking about the holes they were in, younger members learning to avoid those pitfalls, and everyone agreeing that financial laundry was a dirty secret that had long needed airing. You were that breath of fresh air, and many people now have finances that don’t stink. The second growth was yours. From “I’m not a tech person” to “my blog updates to my pseudonym’s Facebook account”, you’ve gained in confidence and followers what you’ve lost in debt. Promoting your children’s book, beginning to post as Ruth, and a hundred other little steps towards confidence were as wonderful to follow as your honest, direct, and painfully humorous takes on your own life. You have always had a strong bent towards community service, and I think that the blog has allowed you to stretch your reach beyond your closest circle. We come to you with the adult equivalent of teen heartbreak and shattered hopes – missed payments and interest rates, and you give fair, non judgemental ear. You have become a trusted confidant, and people bring you their successes, because you have inspired them, us, to follow in your footsteps. We too, eventually, will do the debt free dance. And as Prudence is folded up and carefully stowed away, the ripples and effects that Ruth has created live on. 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.
Jed: Mostly just jealousy. A lot of good intention coupled with even more inaction.
My hopes for this blog
I saved Jed’s comment for last because he is exactly the kind of person I hope this blog will continue to reach. I too felt jealous of other people’s financial discipline, confidence, and health. I too experienced the frustration of good intention followed by giving up. That doesn’t have to be the end of your story. It wasn’t the end of mine.
One of the worst side-effects of our society’s silence on the topic of debt and money management is that too many people flounder in their personal finances without a compass. When we defy the taboo and talk, we sharpen each other’s awareness of the issues surrounding debt and money in general, and we all get wiser in dealing with them.
This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written! It’s time to come to a close now. A big thank you to Dave Ramsey for writing the book that changed our lives! If you need a road-map to debt-freedom, read The Total Money Makeover. I’m so grateful to DFF who brought the book-CD to us when she knew we needed it.
Even in these early days of freedom from debt, we are experiencing an unexpected blossoming of exciting new ideas for the years ahead. There’s an abundance that’s bubbling up that has to do with more than just money.
I hope we never take our freedom for granted. Like all freedoms, we will need to guard over it and protect it. We’ll do this with a humble remembrance of the financial distress we’ve left behind. With gratitude for all that is opening up to us as we move forward. With the self-discipline that we’ve developed. With prudence.
As always, your comments are welcome:)