It’s been a little over a year since we paid off nearly $150,000 worth of student loan debt, and I have a few thoughts on life after debt. It took us less than 7 years to pay off that debt, and those 7 years were definitely a challenge. Over the last year we’ve enjoyed the fruits of our labor. We finally let ourselves splurge on a few things, but overall our lives stayed pretty much the same (except for the new baby). Here are a few of my thoughts on life after debt.
Thoughts On Life After Debt
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a post like this for a long time. I finally found the words to explain my thoughts after a reader commented on my No Dining Out Update last week.
She commented that she no longer felt like she could relate to my no dining out challenge for 2018. Even though she didn’t say she couldn’t related to me, or my blog, I felt that way. Feel free to go read the comment for yourself, but the just of it was that since I’m privileged enough to not have to cut out take-out, then it must be hard for me to understand what it’s really like to not have the option.
I agree that I am privileged. I’m not going to go off on a tangent about privilege even thought it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Instead, I’m going to be super honest and admit that I am incredibly lucky to be in my current situation as a stay at home mom in Naples, FL. We are doing pretty well financially and I can’t complain at all. We have financial stability and it’s one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. It’s a feeling that I don’t take for granted.
A look at life before we payed off debt
It wasn’t always this way. In order to understand why we are the way we are now, you have to understand where we came from. Ten years ago, Tom and I were both working 2+ jobs and going to graduate school. We couldn’t afford anything. I worked as a bartender on weekends on top of my other job as a graduate assistant only because I couldn’t afford to go out and have fun. It made more sense to work on the weekends than to stay at home.
A few years later I was only able to quit my job and stay home with my first son because I couponed, cut out meat from our diet, made my own dishwashing detergent, cloth diapered, and didn’t buy/ do anything. If we dined out we only did it because we had a coupon or there was a special deal (we were, and still are, big fans of AYCE sushi places).
There will never be a day that I regret getting my own graduate degree or supporting Tom to get his J.D. Even though we took out a ton of loans and had to work hard to repay them, we are in a much better financial situation now than we would have been if we’d try to survive off of our B.S degrees in Biology with minors in Education.
BTW- not that you asked, but we only chose to pay off Tom’s loans. I do still pay my student loans each month, but they are so low and at such a low interest rate that it doesn’t make sense to pay them back aggressively. Plus, they will be forgiven if I go back to work for a government agency. Just thought you might like to know that info. I’d love to eventually write a post about how to decide which debts to pay off first.
Back to Life After Debt
Okay, sorry for that long tangent. Now I can finally tell you how amazing life is after paying off a big debt. If you are in the middle of paying off your debt, keep in mind that you WILL meet your goals one day and you too will be able to enjoy life after debt. It’s pretty amazing. Here are some of my thoughts on life after debt.
It feels so good to splurge
After we paid off the last of Tom’s law school loans, I went on a bit of a Starbucks bender. For nearly 7 years I was very careful about the money I spent on takeout coffee. If I really wanted it I would buy the cheapest drink. When I was on my Starbucks bender, I would pick up a fancy overpriced mocha at least twice a week just as a pick me up.
Let me tell you, that splurge felt so good. And it felt deserved. I never viewed it as a waste of money. I viewed it as a great way to treat myself after years of scrimping, saving, couponing, and side hustling.
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At the same time when 2018 rolled around I felt like I was ready to take a little break. I’m totally okay scaling back on takeout coffee, dining out, and fast food this year just to save a little extra cash. My year of splurging on Starbucks, take out, and fast food made me realize that it wasn’t all that great. I’m just as happy making coffee at home and cooking my meals in my Instant Pot. Why not save the money this year?
Don’t be fooled though, I will rarely turn down a free meal in return for social media coverage. I truly love photographing food and dining out as a social media influencer and travel writer. Greatest. Job. Ever.
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Old habits die hard
I may have been able to slide easily into splurging on food, but man, it’s been tough to get into the habit of buying clothes for myself again.
I’ve always been eco-conscious about my clothing so it’s always been fun for me to buy them used. If you haven’t watched The True Cost, a documentary about how the clothing industry affects human rights and the environment, then you’ve got to leave this post right now, turn on Netflix and watch it. Don’t have Netflix? Head here to download a copy for $9.99.
Between feeling guilty about degrading the environment and wasting money, I have a very hard time purchasing new clothes. The exception is Stitch Fix. For some reason I really love getting that box of clothes sent to my door every 3 months.
Related Post: How to Save Money on Stitch Fix
I also have a hard time spending money on pretty much everything else. If we don’t absolutely need something, I don’t like to buy it. I’m fairly certain most of our friends think we are pretty poor because I’m not afraid to say that I don’t want to spend money on certain things.
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Financial security is the best feeling
People say that money can’t buy happiness, but I beg to differ. I don’t think money can buy things that make you happy, but I do believe that a certain about of money leads to financial security and that is what leads to happiness.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to go to the grocery store and not be worried about going over budget. Oh, we still have a budget and we stick to it 90% of the time. But I no longer get anxious if we spend a little extra. To me, that was the best feeling after paying off our big debt.
Where do we go from here?
I ask myself this question every single day. From here I think we keep investing and saving. I try very hard to not fall into the trap of spending money just because we have it. And let me be clear, when I say we are financially stable I don’t mean we have thousands of extra dollars each month. We have just enough money to save for retirement, the boys’ college funds, and finally make those Hurricane Irma repairs we’ve been putting off for months.
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What about the blog?
Even more than I think about my own money situation, I think about my blog and my readers, and what I can offer my audience now that we have paid off debt.
I wonder if my audience has changed since I have changed and my blog has changed. That’s the beauty and the challenge with a personal blog. I could keep churning out content about how to save money to pay off debt, but I’m in a new place now.
My new goal with my blog and my audience is to show other middle class Americans how to live comfortably while saving for the future. I’d like to show them that it’s okay to stop keeping up with the Joneses and focus on their own financial goals.
I’ve come to the conclusion that most “poor” people are better with their money than the middle class because they have to be! I hope to serve as an inspiration to my audience that may earn a good paycheck, but don’t know how to properly save it to prepare for the future while enjoying a comfortable lifestyle.
I’m sure this sounds like some pretty lofty #BlogGoals. I think I can do it though. I’m going to keep being me- a little quirky, a little cheap, and a lot of lofty ideas.
Food Waste Friday
I’m aiming to put Food Waste Friday on my Facebook page every Friday. Check out my page around 10 am this morning to see what we wasted.
Not sure why I monitor my food waste? Read this post about Food Waste Friday to see why I think wasting food is rubbish.
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