11 months ago today I sat at a table for dinner up in Minneapolis. Next to me was my then boyfriend (about to be my ex-boyfriend), and his buddy. We had a fun evening of laughs, cocktails, and some delicious food. When the bill came I smiled and threw my credit card down – I wanted it to be my treat. My ‘add it to my existing debt’ treat. My ‘let me treat you both and pay 16% interest’ treat. I smiled as I paid for the meal, but inside my wheels were turning.
I had just started listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast 10 days or so prior and he really had me thinking. Maybe I could do things differently? Maybe I could get myself out of debt eventually if I change my mindset and my habits? Maybe I could do this thing.
That was the last time I used my credit card. 11 months ago.
(Pause for celebration.)
I made significant progress pretty quickly and I was writing about it a lot on my blog and sharing my wins and discoveries on my Instagram account. My community of debt free journey-ers grew and I knew I was changing my life, and the lives of some of my friends and readers for the better!
Since I committed to this way of life last September I have paid off just over 1/3 of my debt, cash flowed a move across the country, and paid cash for some emergency dental work that came up last month!
Part of me has moments of frustration, thinking that if I hadn’t moved and I didn’t need dental work that my debt would be paid down by an additional $11,000, but I can’t stew about what ifs. I love my life in Colorado, so the price tag that came along with getting here was well worth it.
There were a few things that really helped me gain traction in getting my debt free journey started.
1 – Writing out my total debt number. AND sharing it with people. Seeing the total amount to the penny that I owed made it real. ($40,611.12) Then talking about it took the shame out of it. It was just a thing. A mess really, that I created and that I was finally willing to face head on. As I started sharing that with some people it opened up a new level of conversation about debt, money, and stress that hadn’t been open before. Which led me to …
2 – Cultivating a financially conscious community. I have a primary person that I work with that is my financial accountability partner. We have given many high fives and hugs as we both walk this path to financial freedom. I have many other cheerleaders in my life that are either supporting me emotionally as I do this, making their own financial changes, or both! (Thanks Sarah!) I have a small tribe now of friends both in person and through social media that get it, and support it. If I say no to a fancy dinner or pricey concert tickets, they understand.
3 – Making a budget, and sticking to it. There is a quote I heard about budgeting that rings SO true to me. ‘Using a budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.’ I used to associate the word ‘budget’ with being broke, restricted, and deprived. Now I know it’s the total opposite. I went a couple months after my move where I didn’t meticulously stick to my budget, and I had an underlying level of concern that I might not have enough money on hand to take care of everything.
Then I did my budget for August and was reminded how comforting it really is. I have money set aside for everything I need from gas to groceries to a plane ticket to see my sweet boyfriend, AND I will be getting my emergency fund back up to $1,000 AND making a chunk payment to my last credit card. It’s amazing how much you can make your money stretch when you tell it who is boss.
(I swear by the Every Dollar app – I use the free version.)
4 – Seeing examples of real life success. This is a big part of why I listen to the Dave Ramsey podcast regularly. Every hour there is a ‘debt free scream’ where a person/couple/family comes on the air to share what started their debt free journey, what helped most, and celebrate that they DID IT. Lots of people are living this way, and having multiple examples of this on a daily basis helps keep me going forward.
This is my favorite ‘debt free scream’ I’ve seen. I tear up every time!
5 – My why. I needed to get clear on why I wanted to do this, and continue to think about my ‘why’ regularly. I want the freedom to cash flow whatever I want. I want the feeling of not owing anything to anyone. I want the feeling of paying for a car in cash. I want to have the means to help people that need it. If I ever retire, I want to have a robust, fun retirement. I want to amass cash for a down payment for *if* I want a house again someday, and to only have a 15 year mortgage that I pay off faster than that. I want to have zero financial concerns. At all. Ever. And to do it myself (meaning I’m not banking on winning the lottery or acquiring a sugar daddy).
This decision to change my mental framework around debt and money, and to follow through with habit changes has helped me to be a much happier, focused, appreciative person. The progress feels slow at times, but each month I move closer to the end goal of complete financial freedom.