Originally published on The $76K Project on 6/25/17
They say that in life, you have to write your own story. So here's what I want to see when I read my story five years from now:
We used to be $75,000 in debt, but we've paid it off. The $22,000+ in credit card debt? Gone. The $53,000+ in student loan debt? Eliminated. Kicking our debt out the door took a lot of discipline, patience, and a long-term mindset. The process wasn't always easy, nor did it always go as planned. We've made some mistakes. We've had some setbacks. Ultimately, though, we stuck with it. Now we live in place we love, and we're not saddled with hundreds of dollars in debt payments every month. We persisted. We're free.
The specifics on how we got here is a discussion for another post, and one we'll certainly share. The short version is that it took many, many years, during which time we've moved multiple times, traveled frequently, experienced underemployment, faced hefty medical bills, and - frankly - made some pretty dumb decisions. We haven't always been patient enough to save and instead have made impulse purchases with our credit cards. We've owned a house we couldn't afford and taken out student loans that now sit on our shoulders like financial elephants.
So here we are.
Three months ago, my partner and I (he's Fortysomething, I'm Thirtysomething, and we have one Kiddo) decided to get serious about paying it off. We started with over $76,000 in debt. We made a rather clunky, bumbling budget in April, stuck with it, refined it in May, and kept powering through in June despite several unexpected bills. It's been challenging: we live in a relatively expensive area, and our dual income is decidedly middle class. We've had to cut back on going out to eat (my Achilles heel), and we've realized we can't afford to hit up Target every weekend for new clothes or home decor. We know we can't gallivant off on expensive vacations just because we feel we deserve a holiday.
What keeps me going is that I see progress. We now have a savings account, for example - nope, we didn't have one a few months ago - and we've seen our total debt decline, if only by a few hundred dollars. The changes are taking place at a glacial pace, but now that we're three months out, I see their effects.
I'm putting all this out there in part to help myself stay motivated and in part because I know we're not alone. People don't talk about their debt, and if there's anything I've learned from our experience, it's that the choices we make with our money don't always reflect the reality of our financial situations. We are not the only ones who've spent what we don't have and in the process dug ourselves into a deep hole.
That said, it's hard to put it all out there because I know we should be in a better situation at this point in our lives. If you're in the same boat, or if you want to avoid this particular boat (I highly recommend said avoiding of debt boat), follow along. We want to share our story and strategies, and we'd love to hear about yours as well.
Current debt status:
Total debt, June 25, 2017: $75,505.31
Credit card debt: $22,286.44
Student loan debt: $53,218.87
Current savings: $2000