You see, I’ve been down the debt payoff road before. I even briefly followed Build Wealth Boulevard. But a year of higher than usual bills, a bunch of impulsive purchases, and a few months of not tracking my spending sent me back to In the Hole Neighborhood.
I started this post just before New Years’ but I wasn’t yet sure that I was ready to admit my mistakes here. I’d made a commitment to moving forward, and was feeling great about it, and didn’t want to dwell too much and derail my emotional wins.
The last time I paid off debt I was actually discouraged by most of the blogs I found. It seemed that everyone was in their early 20’s, unmarried and without children, and had hundreds of dollars worth of shopping for clothing, shoes, meals out, and high-priced cable TV packages to cut out monthly. None of those things matched my life. On the other side was increasing income – every successful blogger seemed to have a slew of profitable side hustles. I considered side hustles or getting a second job, but as a single mom I greatly resented the time I already spent away from my kiddo. Even though it meant I’d be in debt longer, I chose not to work more hours than I already did. I slogged away month after month after month, paying the little extra I could a little bit at a time. I still read a fair number of articles and blogs, to educate myself, but finding a story that resonated with me didn’t happen very often.
But it wasn’t my circumstances that caused me to get into debt, and it wasn’t my circumstances that caused me to get into debt again. It was my mindset.
In the past year or so, I’ve learned to truly appreciate the blessings that I have. I’m finally at a point I’m not just comfortable in my own skin, I feel amazing — even though I’m fluffier in the midsection than I’ve ever been and I’m at an age where there’s a never ending battle against chin hair 😉 I find myself in absolute awe of the world around me almost daily – a slice of moon hanging in the sky won’t ever fail to make me happy.
I can’t explain exactly when this happened — when I realized I am happy with myself and my life. A few years ago, I would’ve said I was happy and grateful, but I can feel it now.
How does this affect my finances? As I said in my last post, I consider my Past Self’s choices to be stepping stones to where I am today. Yeah, I made some big financial blunders, but I also know now that I have the ability to correct my mistakes. This time around, just like last time, I’m looking toward research and reading for external motivation, but my view has been widened and for some unknown reason, the stories that continued past debt repayment to financial independence and early retirement do resonate in a way that other stories hadn’t. I found a name for the goal that had been hidden in my heart the whole time — I now can envision a life after my hourly wage.
On paper, it will take years, maybe close to two decades, to reach that goal. A few years ago I wouldn’t have even dreamed of financial independence, because it would have seemed impossible — and this was when I had no debt!
But now I have something to work toward, instead of just working away at my debt. It makes a big difference.
In the past two months, I’ve cut out most unnecessary spending like coffee away from home, music shows, and occasional meals out. I cut my auto insurance by 55% by switching companies. I decreased my already cheap cell phone bill and compared it to landline prices – it’s cheaper to stick with the cell phone. I cancelled Netflix. I started biking to work and on cold days drove only to the train station instead of all the way to work. I decided to keep biking in winter. I made all my own food. I drank wine only on weekends.
These were all relatively small things that a few years ago I probably thought wouldn’t make a difference. I probably thought somewhere deep in my brain that I “deserved” coffee out and Netflix. I definitely thought that the money spent on shows was worthwhile, even though I haven’t missed it at all. I now love meal planning, even though I’m still not very good at it. I love going to bed early and getting up early to make coffee and really savor my mornings. I love riding a bike!
So….starting from scratch. Where exactly is my scratch, these days?
Here’s my starting point for 2017:
My monthly payment minimums are currently almost $1000. The last time I paid off all my debt I was struggling with $300/month payments! But I can do it.
And hey, after an automatic payment to my student loans yesterday, I’m already 0.5% of the way there!