One of the things that I think scares people off from pursuing a goal of debt freedom is the fear of failure. Often times, a debt load seems so big and the journey to rid oneself of that debt seems so long that it seems pointless to even try. That, my friends, is how CashBlog is different, because CashBlog understands that success is about consistency.
Our debt story goes like this: Rick and I had been in and out of debt for our entire 16 year marriage. Without any role models and without any personal finance education, we simply had no idea what we were doing. We thought that wealth was about the accumulation of “stuff”, so we set about to having the “stuff” that seemingly “rich” people deemed we should have: new cars, a big house, etc., etc. We’d get in debt and pay it off, get in debt again, and pay it off again.
In February of 2010, Rick called me at home (I’d been a stay-at-home mom since 2004) to tell me he was being laid off. In six weeks, our one income would be gone. Surprisingly, it didn’t worry me – much. It should have: after all, how were we to feed our family of six on no money? We made it through his 7 months of unemployment with Unemployment Insurance and by draining our savings and selling our fishing boat. No biggie, right?
Rick found another job in September of that same year. The job was with a great company, but the great company only offered to pay him 80% of his former income. In our “wisdom” (LOL) we decided that we’d “make up” for the income disparity by putting the difference on credit cards until he got enough raises to make what he’d been making at his former job.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but what we were saying subconsciously was “We’ll just live above our means until our ‘means’ catch up”.
Fast forward to October of 2012, and we sold our house in the suburbs for a hobby farm in the country. We’d long been stressed out with suburbia living, and this move to the country would provide some much needed relief from the pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
It was at this time that we had the clarity of mind to sit down and take a look at our finances, and what we found wasn’t pretty. Our credit card debt had reached tens of thousands of dollars, and we had a bloated mortgage. Our debt to income ratio was an astonishing 65% – meaning our total monthly debt payments equaled 65% of Rick’s gross monthly pay.
If we weren’t in shock, we likely would have went insane. I started googling things like “How to pay off debt” on the Internet, and found the blessed world of personal finance blogs. Finally: real people who had debt, and paid off debt. Some people made big bucks and had mediocre debt amounts, but others, like us, made well under 100k a year and were deep in debt. If they could pay off their debt, we could too, right?
Using what I’d learn from a multitude of personal finance blogs, (the first ones I found were goodies like Frugal Rules, Debt Roundup, Eyes on the Dollar and The Heavy Purse), we formulated a budget and created a spend-tracking sheet. And we started our blog, The Frugal Farmer, to keep us accountable and share what we’d learned.
The first couple of months were filled with excitement as we stuck to our strict budget and watched our credit card debt decrease instead of increase for the first time in two+ years.
Then the demons of debt started to kick in: the doubt, the pride, the stress of the stark realization of just how deep we were in, the temptation to spend and the boredom of sticking to a strict budget. I like to call them “monsters”.
The first year of our debt payoff went well, even if progress was super slow.
Year two started in January of 2014, and we got a bit slack in our attitude toward our debt. We were “smooth sailing” so we thought it was okay to let up on the reins. Polar Vortex Winter Hell kicked in, and in Minnesota where we live that means astronomically high heating bills. We paid as much as $1,000 a month to heat our home at times as the temperatures stayed firm at 30-50 degrees BELOW zero.
Our laundry room flooded, requiring a complete remodel. Our only TV (an old tube model) died. And the debt numbers went back up again.
We were frustrated, discouraged and ready to give up. That discouragement was compounded by a couple of internet trolls who commented on the blog, telling us what irresponsible idiots we were.
July of 2014 had us so close to giving up that I spent nearly a month in a deep depression, and hours a day with my head under the covers, hoping the debt would simply go away. But it didn’t.
A month into my depression I realized that we had two choices, give up, or fight back. We chose to keep on fighting. We chose to take the little steps toward debt freedom as opposed to taking no steps at all and resigning our lives to forever living in debt.
We figured that a little less debt than what we had last summer was better than the same amount of debt, right? So we chose to continue moving forward, even if it meant inching along in our debt payoff plan.
Finally, in December of this past year, things started to really roll and we started taking bigger steps toward debt freedom. We paid one small credit card in full, and we’re very close to having a second one paid in full. We are succeeding, even if it’s a slower success than one might think is acceptable.
Too often, when considering working toward a goal of debt freedom, we don’t bother trying or we give up too early because the journey just seems too big or too long.
But success is about consistency, my friends. It isn’t about the end goal as much as it is about getting up, every day, and taking a step toward that goal. A journey out of a large amount of debt works best when one simply takes it one day at a time, and commits to consistency in their efforts. Just worry about staying on budget today. Just worry about saving $5 toward debt today.
Eventually, those little $5’s will add up, and one day, even if it’s ten years from now, your consistency will find you at the finish line and you’ll be debt free. Ten years will come, whether or not you choose to dump your debt. Envision that 10 year mark and ask yourself a question:
Do I want to be in the same place with debt that I am now? Or do I want to cross the 10-year finish line as a debt free person/family?
Then, take a step, just one – toward debt freedom. And tomorrow, take another. By choosing to keep on the path and take one step at a time, you will reach debt freedom, because success isn’t just about winning: success is about consistency.