How much debt did you have and how long did it take you to pay it off?
I took a 401(k) loan in 1997 of $8,000 for a down payment on my condo. My mortgage was $34,800 for 15 years. I paid off the mortgage in 2005. I paid off the 401(k) loan in 2001. I bought a new SUV in 2006; did a dumb thing by trading it on a new model in 2008; the car loan was paid off in 2010 (it started out about $25,000.00 – stupid, I know – I’m 46 and it was my first brand new vehicle ever).
How does becoming debt free actually feel? Does it feel better than you imagined it would?
It feels unbelievably comforting, like a safe harbor we’ve created. The economic news is unsettling, but I know that we have $40K in savings, plus retirement assets, and a paid for car and house. Our monthly obligations (maintenance, phone, cable, cell, power, home and car insurance) are about $800, which I could lower by ditching cable, and changing cell phone providers. My husband, who struggled with debt from his prior marriage, can’t believe how wonderful it is not to owe anyone.
What were some of the struggles that you had to deal with along the way? Was there ever a time where you almost gave up?
I didn’t have any struggles since I am a total convert to living way beneath my means. I read “Your money or your life” in the mid 90’s so I knew that the key for me was having a paid for house so that’s what I focused on first.
What would you consider to be the most important key to becoming debt free? What helped you the most?
It is defintely living beneath your means, but enjoying it. I view being frugal and saving money as a grand, masterful game that I try to excel at. I’m trying to get my husband on board with experimenting on living on about $14,500 a year but so far, he’s not in!
It seems a lot of people have bought into the idea that debt is essential in order to prosper, what do you have to say to those people?
I say that no possession you have is worth the peace of mind I have about being completely debt free.
What was the biggest sacrifice you would say you made in order to become debt free? What about you changed the most?
My biggest sacrifice is living in a 900 sq. ft. condo with my husband. It’s a one bedroom, 1 den, 1 1/2 bath place in Florida. It met my needs when I was single…but not so much with a husband, who has three daughters (they never lived with us, obviously!). We also share a car. My attitude shifted in the 90’s and I never reverted to the consumer lifestyle. I mean, yes, I buy things, but I try to be very cognizant of if spending the money makes me really happy, or just satisfied.
Did your friends and family give you a hard time about your new mission to eliminate the debt from your life? If so how did you deal with it? Do you think you inspired others by your journey?
I try to inspire my step-daughters but they basically emulate their mom, who’s a total spender. My family and friends know by now what I’m like…I’m frugal about 90% of the time. No one gave me any hassles because, you know, people really don’t talk about personal finance too much!
What is next for you? What financial goals do you plan to accomplish?
We travel to Europe..I have a friend who lives in Germany so we try to see her every year; we’ve started taking tours with a pub group to Scotland, England, Ireland; we went in September of 2010 and we’re going again in 2012; Alaska in 2013. I would like to transition to a spartan lifestyle so that I can quit working for a year or so. I have been in the same career for 28 years and, really, I’d like to relax for a year and see what happens. Again, I would view the spartan lifestyle as something “fun” and challenging, but as a person who endured it out of necessity, my husband isn’t really on board!
This story was submitted by Amy who is self-proclaimed weirdly frugal who dreams of retiring early…or something like that.
Debt Free News From A Debt Free Reader Series
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More to come…but only if I get some new submissions! 😀