My last debt progress report was an entire year ago, and my have things changed since then. As a quick recap, my husband and I got married with lots of debt. When we got married in March 2011, we had about $85,000 in debt. AND we didn't even have a mortgage! Most of this debt was comprised of student loans, but some of it was a car loan and credit card debt.
A few months into marriage, my husband and I watched the Jim Sammon's Financial Freedom Seminar, and we realized that our approach had been all wrong. We committed to living a debt-free life, and being the best possible stewards of the financial resources God gives us.
Our decision to live debt-free is not very popular. While some family and friends have been very supportive, others have made us feel like we are making a big mistake. Some have said we are foolish to sacrifice so much right now when we can have a better standard of living if we are open to debt. Others have adamantly told us that a mortgage is not debt. (My husband's not-so-tactful response to this is "yeah, and cold sores aren't herpes".) Still others have wondered why we are "Throwing away so much money" paying off our debt when we could invest it. To which my husband's usual response is "Tell me any investment that will guarantee I earn more money than we waste in interest on our debt" (hint: there aren't any). The most common response we have found to our lifestyle is that many feel we are judging them just by having the beliefs we do. We don't go around judging people, I promise. Many of our friends believe differently than we do, and we are ok with that. Our beliefs about debt are a result of our faith, and we don't expect everyone to share them. But it is almost like people feel we are judging them just by not falling in line with the cultural norm.
I give these progress reports, with my husband's blessing, for the benefit of those of you who are in the same boat we are. Perhaps you are feeling the heavy weight of debt on your shoulders, or are tired of paying thousands of dollars per year in interest. Perhaps you just got married and already feel like you are twenty steps behind because of your debt (like me and my husband felt). I hope you get encouragement through my transparency and see that getting out of debt is not only possible, but amazingly attainable with God's help.
SO, the first step to living debt-free is to get out of debt. We started with $85,000 in debt in March 2011. By June 2012 we had $50,983, and our last progress report in January 2013 reported that we had $39,886 left. Our goal in 2013 was to get below the $20,000 mark, and it was not very easy.
WE DID IT!
As of today, we are down to $16,926.
We have really been working hard the last few months in particular, since we found out we were pregnant. Now with a baby due to arrive in June, we hope to be very close to being out of debt by the time our little one arrives. It will be difficult, but as we see the numbers get smaller and smaller, we are more and more motivated. I often use the metaphor that our debt is this giant gaping hole in the ground and we are just hoping to fill it up with shovelfuls of money. Every shovelful doesn't feel like it does much, but now after 2.5 years of working, we are finally seeing the hole fill up!
Another setback in 2013 was the discovery of another student loan, which the lender hadn't begun collecting on. I had no idea this loan existed until all of a sudden it showed up, and I realized we owed another $1200 on top of the original $85,000. This minor setback was frustrating, as we watched our total owed increase instead of decrease. But we took it in stride, and paid off the loan as quickly as we could.
We feel so incredibly blessed that God has worked with us through this. My husband and I both remind ourselves that in the end we want all the praise for our hard work to go to God, because we know He has been the one to provide opportunities for work and money that has allowed us to get where we are.
So what are our plans once we get out of debt?
First we plan on going on our reward trip. After so long working towards this, we are looking forward to a trip to Brazil to visit family and friends and relax. (of course, we have to save for this trip first). THEN we will put our noses back to the grindstone and begin saving all the money we were previously putting towards debt. We hope to buy a small fixer-upper in a couple years, where we will live debt/mortgage/rent free while we save to build a home in the future. But as you know, God may change our plans, and we are ok with that. It is just so inspiring to look ahead and see a much brighter future.