My Debt-Free Journey | Part 4

July 15, 2016

My Debt-Free Journey | Part 4 (& Debt-Free Scream!)

This is the final post in the series, My Debt-Free Journey. If you missed the previous posts, catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Debt-Free in Six Two Years

It was evident that things were moving along faster than our calculations indicated. We continued paying off the debt with intensity and passion. My husband’s hours resumed to full-time during that time as well.

Because we had gained some sense of discipline, the increase in income didn’t disappear into thin air, as it certainly would have in the past. Every penny of the increase went to the debt.

Twenty-five months. It took us twenty-five months to pay off the $74,000 (and fifteen years of financial wandering and overspending)!!

A New Passion

My journey to debt-freedom resulted in something unexpected…a new passion. During the two years of paying off our debt, I became extremely passionate about sharing with others what I learned about money.

I wanted everyone I knew to find freedom and peace in their finances and to discover that they didn’t have to live a life saddled with debt. I would teach co-workers how to budget during our lunch breaks and started helping friends put together a plan for their situations. Each time I helped someone, I became more and more energized and excited.

After becoming debt-free, I trained to be a financial coach and have been working one-on-one with people on their finances since then.

The Unexpected

Just three months after becoming debt-free, my husband lost his job. The reasons were unrelated to the previous reduction of hours, so the job loss was a complete surprise. What was amazing, though, was that we didn’t panic.

We definitely needed my husband’s income, but because our debt load had been eliminated, we knew we would be okay until that income was replaced. There was a lot of emotion tied up with the job loss, so we were able to focus on working through that and on my husband securing a new job.

It would have been an entirely different story had we still had all of our payments.

Our Debt-Free Scream!

The job loss came just a couple days before our trip to Financial Peace Plaza (now Ramsey Solutions) for the financial coaching training.

While we were there, my husband and I did our debt-free scream. If you’re not familiar with what that is, listeners of the Dave Ramsey Show call in or go in person to celebrate their debt-freedom by screaming, “We’re Debt-Freeeeee!!”

Here’s our debt-free scream, live from Financial Peace Plaza!

Doing our debt-free scream live was an awesome way to cap our two years of sacrifice and to celebrate our new-found freedom.

On the Move…Again

The $74,000 represented our consumer debt, and we were elated to have it out of our lives! We still had our mortgage — the one that was over 40% of our net income.

Throughout the entire process of coming to terms with our debt, working to pay it off, and dealing with sudden unemployment, we always managed to pay the mortgage on time. As I mentioned, we were house poor, so prioritizing the mortgage came at the expense of so many other things.

After just six weeks of being unemployed, my husband was offered a job. But, this new position was out-of-state and would require a move. Talk about not on the radar! Moving was not something we saw coming (especially now that my eldest was in high-school), however after much thought and consideration, my husband accepted the job. We decided to move and to sell the house.

Becoming Completely Debt-Free

We bought our house with no money down in 2006 and needed to sell in 2012, so like millions of Americans, we were severely underwater. Because of the job loss, and the relocation being over 100 miles from our home, we qualified to sell our house via short sale.

This was not how we envisioned selling our home, nor how we would become 100% debt-free, however being able to sell it under these conditions was a blessing in disguise. We had bought too much house, mortgage-wise, and this process allowed us to come to terms with that and move on from it.

Freedom in Debt-Freedom

Becoming debt-free brought unexpected freedom in other areas of my life. I was growing out of my career choice. While working in fashion for fifteen years brought AMAZING experiences, travel, and relationships, the care and passion I once felt for it began to wane. I had no passion for fashion. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

When we moved I had two choices: continue in a career in which I no longer saw myself long-term, but now with a 2 ½ hr commute each way, or I could transition towards another career. I chose the latter. My passion for helping others achieve their goals in their finances was beating loudly, so I pursued a path that allowed me to incorporate coaching others as a part of my full-time job as well as independently on the side.

Because we were debt-free, I was able to leave a career that became just a job and transition into what I was meant to do. This would have never been an option before. Our lifestyle, when we had debt, was tied to the salary of my fashion career.

Even though I make significantly less money than I used to, I am beyond grateful to be doing something that I love. The career transition also brought a healthier work-life balance — no more 17 hr days!! I was more than willing to trade in salary for that!

What’s Next?

It is tempting to look back on the past with regret and list all the things that would be different if (fill-in-the-blank). Honestly, I do succumb to that temptation sometimes, but only to remind myself that mistakes are learning opportunities — and not just for ourselves.

I also remind myself to think about where we would be now if we didn’t get things together when we did. Who knows? Bankrupt? Divorced?

We are very much still on our financial journey. And by the way, everyone is in some form or another. I don’t believe you are ever done; you just enter different stages.

We are facing challenges that so many others are facing like cash-flowing a college education, and figuring out retirement. Plus we will be among the 1.5 million boomerang buyers slated to re-enter the housing market in the next three years.

Our plan is to purchase within our means, with patience, and without house fever this time. We will secure a mortgage at that time — one that still allows us to meet our other goals — and we plan to pay it off early and as quickly as possible.

While we have a lot on our plate, I no longer feel the hopelessness I once felt for our financial future. Instead, I feel contentment, peace, and of course, hope!

What About You?

Okay, so this ended up being part life-story and part debt-free story, but money and life do go hand-in-hand, right? If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. My goal and hope in telling this story is that others (you) will be inspired to take action and take that next step in your finances — whatever it may be for you.

I also hope my story serves as a cautionary tale for those who are not proactive in their financial lives. You will very easily “find yourself” in trouble as a result of not paying attention and not having direction.

I do realize that sometimes hearing debt-free stories can be equally discouraging as they are inspiring. It’s easy to hear them and dismiss them because your situation is different. If you just read my story, and if that’s how you feel, I hear you, but I want you to know that we’re not different.

You Can Do It (No, Really, You Can)

Our numbers and our circumstances may not be the same, but everything that I had inside of me that led me to pay off my debt, is inside of you too. One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Your actions are going to line up with your thoughts — whatever they are. If you want to make and see progress in your finances or any area of your life for that matter, then you need to believe and think that you can.

That may sound strange, and please know I’m not saying you’re going to “think your way” out of debt, but I have seen both first-hand and through coaching, the tremendous impact your thoughts have on your progress. Wanting the results is not enough. Believing you can attain them is key.

So Long, Farewell

I hope you enjoyed the peek into my journey. Again, thanks for reading this far. As I continue on my journey both financially and personally, I wish you blessings, hope, and peace as you continue on yours.

I would love to hear from you — about your journey and your thoughts on mine. Chat with me in the comments below!


My Debt-Free Journey: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3