Being in debt can be a crippling feeling. Not only do you have your regular bills to pay, but you have this large chunk of money to pay off that can be a looming sense of dread.
Once you remove that debt, though, it’s like you’re free! Free from the bonds of cars and student loans and credit cards.
John and I are, and have stayed, debt-free for over 6 years besides the mortgage payment. We came into marriage that way and it’s been such a freeing feeling, knowing that our money is actually ours!
Here are the things we’ve done that have kept us debt-free; I hope this can encourage you and even give you ideas if you’re currently struggling with your money.
We had a good upbringing
Our parents instilled in us good habits when it came to money. When I got my first job at McDonalds, I went to the bank after my first paycheck, set up a savings account, and started plugging money away.
Living at home made saving easier, but my parents taught me to save at least some money from each paycheck and do what I liked with the rest. Of course, I may have spent a little too much money on video games, but even after I got married, I knew that I had to take care of the money I earned.
We prioritize saving
When it comes to money, our savings account is most important to us. If something were to happen and you lost all immediate income, would you be prepared?
Maybe it’s due to the fact that John’s been unemployed four times, but having a good-sized savings account makes me feel safe and ready for the worst. We’ve definitely had those situations- one of our cars needs four new tires, one of us makes a trip to the ER… and because we had money in our savings account, we could pull the money from there, instead of putting it all on a credit card.
Speaking of credit cards…
We don’t use credit cards
We still HAVE our credit cards, but we no longer use them. The only times I remember using them were for making online purchases, and paying my cell phone bill. Nowadays, we just use our debit card and it’s so much easier to keep track of rather than going back and forth between my checking account and credit card statement.
We live within our means
We know how much money we make, so we know how much we can spend and what to prioritize. Here are some of the things we do:
- We bought a reasonable house: Thinking back, we definitely could have gotten a bigger house, in a great neighborhood, with a basement and bigger bedrooms. Instead we bought a foreclosure that needed a little work, and just fixed it up before we got married. Our mortgage is affordable and we even pay extra on it every month.
- We have cheap/free furniture: The furniture we have is either stuff we brought with us into the marriage, given to us for free (our couches), or bought cheap from garage sales (lamps). The only exception I can think of is our bed and mattress, which we purchased new. We just didn’t mind if everything was shiny and new, and figured we’d buy better furniture when we had more money. Six years later, we still have most of it, but are setting aside money to replace the old stuff.
- We budget carefully for groceries: You see me write about this a lot on my blog, but groceries are one of the biggest expenses that people can overspend on. By setting a budget ($75 a week for us), I know exactly how much I can spend, so I get creative with our meals. See: How I stick to a $60 ($75) a week grocery budget
We’re (mostly) content with what we have
I think the biggest part of money is the mental aspect. We live in a society where you HAVE to have the newest, biggest, best thing RIGHT NOW, otherwise you’re not keeping up with the cool kids.
And then you see your friends with a new car, or going on an awesome vacation, and jealousy sinks in. Why can’t I have that cool stuff too?
What you may not realize is that the friend with the new car is making ridiculous payments on it, or that family going to Disney World is putting everything on a credit card and going into serious debt.
I would much rather have my older, reliable, paid-for car and be happy than buy a car that’s way out of my price range and stress about paying it.
Is it easy to live this way? Not always. There’s always something that wants to pull our money away: new couches/furniture, that amazing car that just went on sale, the newest video game system I have to have… practicing delayed gratification is super hard, but being able to pay for something with straight-up cash is worth the wait.
We’re “weird”, as Dave Ramsey says. But if being weird means we get to keep our hard-earned money as opposed to paying interest on something we “needed”, I’ll be weird the rest of my life!
Whether you’re debt-free already or still working on it, I hope you now have some good ideas to keep you on the right path!
Be sure to leave a comment with anything that you’ve learned along the way as well; there are many others that need encouragement!