I know some of you might have raised an eyebrow at the title of this post because I’m not quite debt free yet (wishful thinking!), but I will be soon enough. Ever since I started this journey, I’ve become so focused on paying off my debt and it’s pretty much taken over my life.
I’m obsessed with budgets, addicted to watching the numbers go down and excited about what the future holds. I have to say, I’m a lot happier now that I have a solid debt repayment plan and I’m certainly embracing the journey but it’s important to realize that all journeys, good and bad, come to an end.
Debt Is Only the Beginning
When you’re paying off debt with such a laser-like focus, it’s easy to get so caught up in that drive and motivation that you only see your end goal of becoming debt free. But what happens after that? Can you even imagine what your life will be like?
I have goals to start investing more and put more money toward savings and improve how I manage my finances to avoid getting into debt again. I think about how low my expenses will be and how I plan on keeping them low. After I make my final payment, I probably won’t wake up the next morning to a perfect life where no hardships or financial emergencies ever occur again, but I’ll have more choices and more control.
I can work less, spend less, spend more time focusing on my values, control my money better and build wealth and experience what it feels like to not have to owe anyone anything. This is my ‘why’ and it’s important to keep it in sight at all times.
To me, becoming debt free means that I’m one step closer to financial freedom. It’s not the end of something, it’s only the beginning.
Realizing What You Value
I’ve learned so much from being in debt and as a result of this journey I’ve realized what I value in life the most. So far, I’ve worked my tail off to cut expenses, increase my income, spend mindfully and remain motivated. These are all key elements in becoming debt free. There’s no secret or magic formula. You just need to plan everything out, stay focused and keep making payments until your balance reaches zero.
Frugality helps, but it’s not required. However, I have developed a love for frugality that I never thought I’d have.
I value experiences and quality time with my family, rest, travel and exploration, stability, spirituality and my faith along with having a positive creative outlet. None of these involve debt.
The life changes that I’ve made won’t just disappear when my debt is gone. I know that I don’t want to be working well into my 60s or dragging myself to work each morning to trade my time for money so I can struggle to afford my lifestyle.
In order to stay aligned with my values, I’ll need to continue living below my means and finding satisfaction in the little things that I enjoy and value because thankfully, I’m not a flashy person who need a lot to be impressed.
Setting More Goals
I’m super goal orientated, so this is definitely a reason to not view debt repayment as the end all be all. I’ll still need to live afterward and I’ll still have goals and obstacles in my way. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t know how to relax and I need to work on that. In college, I’d pile on additional classes to my course load for the semester, and then I’d find two internships to work as well. You only live once so you need to go hard and build off of each goal that you reach.
I’m going to relax for a bit after I pay all my debt, then I’ll start up again with the next set of goals.
Those goals will include:
- Increasing my emergency fund
- Getting more into investing
- Saving up to buy a house (I know, this may cause more debt. But I have a plan for this…and you have to live somewhere)
- Setting more aside for my son’s college fund
After all of these goals are met, I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I’m sure I’ll be busy working toward all of these for a while anyway. That’s why it’s so important to embrace the journey, but realize that it will eventually come to an end and always be prepared for the next step. Life is not a race that you need to rush through, but it’s always good to know where you’re going.
Have you given much thought to what your debt free life will look like, or are you just too fixated on the goal itself? What have you learned to value over the years?