Four Years of Growth and Change


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono,/

Yesterday was the four year anniversary of our first payment to our debt management program. When a person takes on a long and difficult task, many times it seems that in some ways the time passes in the blink of an eye. I tell you the truth that in this instance, that is not the case. It seems as if we have been fighting our way out of debt forever. Each of these 48 months have been a challenge. Most have been victories, some of them have not. But the constant in all of this is that we have always continued to move forward. We have never given up, always believing that we will successfully find the end of this journey.

Thinking back through the last four years I’ve grown immensely as a person. Going through this journey has forced me to do some soul searching. I’ve learned a lot about who I am, and what kind of person I want really want to be.

I’ve Learned About My Family

Over the last four years, I have connected with my family to an extent that I most likely would not have if it weren’t for our journey out of debt. It’s easy to fill your life with material things and focus all your energy on them. But when money is tight, you’re forced to fill your life with something else. Filling my life with my family has been a blessing beyond words.

It’s every father’s dream to have a son to pass down his family name, and to follow in his footsteps. Watching Tristan play baseball, excel academically, and begin to take interest in technology and computer programming leaves me bursting at the seems with pride. He shares my easy going attitude, and shrugs off disappointments with ease. He and I are planning to build a computer together over the next few months. The fact that my teenage son still wants to hang out with his dad puts a huge smile on my face.

When Tori was a toddler, I admit I struggled to identify with her. The world of ponytails, dresses, and tea parties had me worried that she and I would have little in common to share as she grew up. But as I have expanded my freelance writing over the last four years, she has discovered her own love of writing. We share a similar sense of humor, and after watching me train for various races she has decided she wants to take up running as well. Her stubbornness, passion, and fiery personality come from her mother, and when I look into those big brown eyes, I see the perfect combination of myself and Vonnie. I have no choice but to simply adore this girl.

Every day I wake up in awe to find the love of my life sleeping next to me. She is spontaneous, whereas I require everything to be meticulously planned out. She craves to be around large groups of people, while most of the time I would rather relax at home. She pulls me out of my shell kicking and screaming , and I love every minute of it. She is beautiful in every way imaginable, and I cannot believe she willingly picked me to spend the rest of her life with.

I’ve Learned How To Be a Better Parent

I’ve learned that I should treat my children as the wonderful gift that they are. That does not mean buying them everything that they want, it simply means giving them my attention. If my son wants to show me a new song that he likes, I take the three minutes to listen to it even if I personally think it sounds like an angry cat trying to fight its way out of a box lined with chalkboards. If my daughter wants my opinion on what her next book should be about, I take a few minutes to listen to her ideas and give her feedback even if I was already in the middle of switching laundry, cooking dinner, and responding to an email for work.

When they screw up, I want to take the opportunity to teach them what they did wrong, what they need to do to correct the situation, and what they should do next time. I do not want to just make them feel my fury and belittle them.

With that being said, I’ve learned that sometimes I will be an asshole dad. Sometimes the above paragraphs go right out the window, and I will yell, scream and curse until there are tears in their eyes. Sometimes they will ask me a question and I will just flat out say, “I’m too busy” without even looking at them. But I’m not above apologizing to my children. I accept full responsibility for my mistakes, and I let them know it.

I’ve learned How to Be a Better Husband

In the movie 50 First Dates, the main character has to re-introduce himself to the love of his life every day because due to a car accident she forgets the experiences of the previous day over night. Every day, he has to make her fall in love with him all over again.

I try to approach each day with Vonnie the same way. Not through showering her with expensive gifts, but by doing little things each day that show her I care. By treating her with respect, admiration and love. Each evening, as I prepare for bed I ask myself, what did that day to make her her fall in love with me today?

We’ve Paid Off a Shitload of Debt

Oh right, we’ve paid off some debt too – I almost forgot about that part (not really). Over the last four years, we’ve paid off over $91,000 in debt. That’s a huge number. Our first house cost less than that. Watching the amount of debt we owe drop each month has certainly been rewarding, but painful as well. In the beginning the amount we’d paid off seemed like just a drop in the bucket compared to what was left. Now were on the other end of that curve, watching that number almost free fall towards zero.

It should be obvious from the title that this blog focuses on finances, how to save money in day to day life, and how to rid oneself of the shackles of debt. We entered our DMP with the goal of eliminating a mountain of debt. We are certainly accomplishing that, but I want you to take note that the amount of text in this post focusing on our actual debt is quite small. I was 35 years old when we enrolled in the DMP, setting out on a journey about numbers and eliminating debt. But somewhere along the way it became about something else. It has certainly been a journey to become a better financial leader for my family. But more importantly, it had molded me into a better husband, a better father, and simply a better person.

How has your journey out of debt changed you?

About Travis

14 Responses to “Four Years of Growth and Change”

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  1. Awesome post Travis! That’s a huge number to be working on and congrats for being so close to the end of the tunnel! My debt pay off occurred when I was single, but can still relate to many of your points. Paying off my debt definitely changed me, many ways for the good, and am thankful for what I learned throughout it.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks John – glad to hear that your get out of debt story changed you in a positive way as well. It truly has been a life changing event for us!

  2. Huge congrats, Travis, on all of the lessons you’ve learned. The getting-out-of-debt journey truly is not just about getting out of debt, is it? 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I never would have dreamed that our quest to improve our finances would have led me where it has, Laurie. I wish I could have learned these lessons in some other way, but we don’t get to choose how we travel through life all the time. 🙂

  3. $91k over 5 years is huge Travis, congrats to you and your family. And it sounds like freeing yourself from that debt is almost a bonus compared to the other benefits you’ve gleaned from the DMP.

    • Travis says:

      That’s exactly right, Kurt – it seems almost like a secondary effect at this point. I’ve written about this before….getting out of debt isn’t even the goal – it’s simply a side effect of what we’re really accomplishing. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. Great story Travis! It’s hard to believe when you get started just how life changing the get out of debt process can be.

    When you start being serious about getting out of debt, it always ends up being about more than the money. You start seeing that you will have more freedom, less worry, more time to devote to family. You also start to see that it will change your family tree because your kids see what’s going on. That’s HUGE!!!

    • Travis says:

      Our kids will definitely enter adulthood with a very interesting perspective on finances, that’s for sure, Jason. This journey has not only changed our lives but also theirs – and that IS huge!

  5. $91K in 4 years?! Amazing! Congrats!

    • Travis says:

      It’s been a hell of a ride, that’s for sure, Lisa. I can’t imagine what it will feel like when that money goes in my pocket each month instead of to a debt management payment!

  6. First off, congrats Travis on moving the debt needle that much…its no mean feat and it really provides the motivation to the rest of us who might be on the journey of paying off debts.
    Second, more than even the debt is the lesson about family and being there for each other in the moment and not concentrating or being crushed by the debt and thats a key lesson for any family struggling with debt out there. At the end of the day as Anthony Brandt put it, “Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”
    Great post

    • Travis says:

      Providing motivation is my goal, Simon…’s what keeps me writing. Love your closing quote – learn it, live it, love it. 🙂

  7. Congrats on the progress my man!

    Well I just started my debt journey this year. I imagine a life of freedom being debt free provides. Who says we need car payments and all that crap? Like I say I hate fugging debt

    • Travis says:

      Hey Cedric, nice to meet a new personal finance blogger! I hate fugging debt myself and wish you success on your debt journey – Looking forward to checking out your site!

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