Attacking Debt Now: But when do I get to "Live a Little"?

 
I started a financial series a couple weeks ago, check out the first two posts here and here.

Finances are very personal, we all look at finances a bit differently. All of us, at least I’m assuming most of my readers live in such a way that money is essentially a part of everyday life, will face financial dilemmas.

We will buy things that we can’t actually afford, whether it’s a house, a car, education. Some of us will even use our credit card for purchases like clothes, electronics, and maybe even groceries when things are tight.

If you’re out of debt this post won’t really help you much, unless of course you’re putting all of your “extra money” into savings, then maybe it’s time to take a little break. If you’re serious about attacking your debt, then you may left wondering, “when do we get to do fun stuff?”

You probably go one of two ways: (1) You’re so serious about attacking debt, you don’t want to use any of your money to celebrate or go on vacation or do anything else that sounds remotely fun or (2) You’re wondering how you’re supposed to live and be spontaneous when all of your extra money is going toward debt.

Now, most of us may fall under the latter, but no matter which side you’re on, trust me, it’s important to celebrate.

February 2013 we started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at our church. I need to thank God more often for bringing that class into our lives! Really, it completely, utterly changed our view on money and life. At that time, we had 3 debts: Car Loan, Career Starter Loan, Student Loan.

In the last 8 months, we have successfully paid off our Car, Career Starter, and have made huge leaps with our Student Loan. Now, I’ll be honest, most of this happened because we had money sitting in a savings account; however, we also made some changes in our life to make the goal of debt elimination come more quickly.

Eliminating Debt & Still Living

To be honest, we don’t “do” as much as we’d like because of our debt. With budgeting, we’ve set limits for ourselves in the way of entertainment and dining out. There aren’t a lot of new purchases coming into our home, we try to be content with what we have. That was one of the changes that happened after the class, we realized we living as slaves, slaves to those whom we owe money and until we have paid them back, sacrifices on our part needed to be made.

However, we both see the importance of celebrating victories. What might classify as a victory?

  • Holding your first budget meeting
  • Converting to paper money for everyday expenses vs. a plastic card (how we do that coming in a post soon)
  • Simply figuring out how much debt you have
  • Paying off a credit card, then shredding it
  • Paying off a loan
  • Paying off another loan
  • Getting a part-time job

Only you can know what the victories will be for your family in your journey to living debt-free, tailor this list to you. Once you’ve decided that eliminating debt is something you want to do and you’ve made a list or just evaluated your situation and recognized what needs to be done, let’s talk about why celebrating your victories is so important. 

  • You’ll get worn out. If  you’re attacking debt, you’re probably going to have to cut back on some stuff you’re used to having (even if it’s just not getting a $4 coffee everyday), and you will get tired of this after awhile. It’s new and you’ll miss your “old ways”. 
  • You’ll gain confidence. There may be a point along this journey, after you’ve given some things up, that you wonder why you’re doing this. Boost your confidence and gain momentum after a debt is paid off by celebrating. 
  • You’ll appreciate the sacrifices your spouse is making. In the day-to-day grind, you may forget that your spouse gave up his weekly lunch date with his buds or that she gave up her monthly manicures. By taking a night or weekend to celebrate a victory, you’re also celebrating your spouse. It’s a way to come together and thank one another for the sacrifices each is making. 

How should one celebrate paying off a debt or taking proactive steps to do so? Again, this will be personal, but one thing we can all avoid is going off the deep end and accruing more debt in our celebrations, think Alaskan cruise. If you’re in debt and trying to get out, I’m here to tell you that you can’t afford a cruise. We’re getting out of debt people, not digging ourselves deeper.

Want to know how we celebrated?

We went out for sushi, just my husband and I, and spent $100 on the most delicious raw fish we’ve ever tasted! And we did so without an ounce of guilt. 

It was something we both wanted and agreed upon. We got dressed up, hung the “paid in full” on the fridge and had ourselves a merry time! When your celebrations are meaningful to both of you, you will look forward to that experience, you will be rejuvenated and empowered to continue your journey to a debt-free life and you’ll excitedly take that money you’re not longer spending on Debt #1 and put it toward Debt #2.

How do you or would you celebrate in your road to becoming debt-free?
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5 responses to “Attacking Debt Now: But when do I get to "Live a Little"?

  1. We're trying to pay off our debt, too! The “when to celebrate” question comes up for us, too. We want to still enjoy spending some money on special times…not wait 10 years to do so! We tend to spend a little too often, though, I think. Thanks for this series!

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  2. Elsie, that was one of our biggest issues with D. Ramsey's class. We got it, once we're debt free we can have all the fun we want, but we're young now and without children, so we still wanted to “live a little”. In addition to the debt victories we still do fun stuff on birthdays, anniversaries, etc. I think the fact that we sat down and wrote out when we would indulge has helped. Congratulations on getting debt-free, it's a tough journey so it's nice to hear from others who are doing it as well.

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  3. I love this perspective and showing that it's okay to have a little grace in this area. I do want to be debt-free but I also know that I don't want to never do anything nice or be able to go out on dates or vacations so we try to budget a little for those types of things. My husband and I took FPU right after we were married, barely hanging on financially and unemployed other than my one or two sub jobs a week. The class totally changed our outlook on money. We don't hold to everything he teaches but I like the basic principles and the fact that he bluntly tells you like it is. I will forever be grateful for it. We recently paid off a credit card that hasn't been used in over 3 years. Now we are attacking our mountain of student loan debt.

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  4. Financial Peace changed our lives! We absolutely still celebrate:: we have a set budget, use cash, and spend wisely! Celebrating has started to look more like a gourmet meal cooked at home than a night out, but it holds the same “specialness” so to speak!

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  5. Ashley, thanks for stopping by. It's nice to hear how the class has helped others. We too gained a whole new perspective on money after the class. It's my hope that God has blessed you since you took the class and that your family is well. Celebrating the small victories gives us momentum to going, doesn't it? We are only left with our big stack of student loan debt as well.

    Tabatha, I love how each of us celebrate differently. Sometimes our celebration is a homemade pie and ice cream, something special at home like you. It is very encouraging to hear about other families who are trying to live debt-free. Keep it up!! Thanks for stopping by.

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