Skip to main content

Why We're Taking A (Short) Break From Debt Repayment

(Originally posted on The $76K Project on 6/18/18)

A few days ago, I shared that Fortysomething and I will likely be able to pay off our third and last credit card by the end of the month. We're over halfway there: "only" $4300 to go. To be honest, I am nothing short of obsessed with getting this done, to the point where I am needlessly checking account balances twice a day.

In the meantime, we've been going back and forth on what to do next: immediately go all-out on paying off my $10K in student loans? Stock up the emergency fund, then focus on student loans? Ramp up investments?

After much discussion, we still haven't made a firm decision. My guess is that we'll probably try to knock out my student loan debt as quickly as possible, then increase savings as we pay down Fortysomething's student loan, which currently stands at a little less than $40K. We *may* also start shopping around for a home loan, just to see whether we could find a mortgage with a lower monthly payment than our rather exorbitant rent; if that's the case, we could be looking for a house by the end of the year.

So the specifics of our long-term plan are up in the air, but what we have decided is this: in July, we're going to take one month off from all-out debt repayment. We'll still be making our overall minimum payment of $600, of course, and we'll still be adhering to a budget, but for just this short while, we're not going to be quite as aggressive in our quest to be debt-free. Instead, we're going to deploy our disposable income elsewhere.

Here's why:

(1) We want to celebrate paying off the credit cards. When we started this journey last year, we had over $22K in high-interest credit card debt. Getting rid of that ball and chain is a big deal, and we need to take some time to high-five ourselves for the achievement. So what's the celebration plan? Well, I've asked for a few days off work, and we're going to head to the mountains for a little R&R at an inexpensive Airbnb. We'll try to be as frugal as possible - cook most of our own meals, find free activities - and of course we won't be racking up additional debt in the process. But yeah, it's time for a mini-vacation. I am so ready.

(2) We have a list of things we've been waiting to purchase, and now is the time to do that. In particular, we're low on kitchen supplies, which is kind of inconvenient for people who cook most of their meals at home. Our wish list includes some plates, a pizza stone, a wok, and a saute pan. We also want to stock up on some home essentials - toiletries and the like - that are less expensive when bought in bulk.

(3) We just need a mental break from the debt repayment grind. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled we're ditching our debt, and seeing our net worth increase month by month is exciting and rewarding. But for more than a year now, a huge chunk of our lives has been about debt. Frankly, it's tiring: tiring to always be tracking expenses to the penny, tiring to have to say no to so many things, tiring to constantly be reminded of our mistakes. We need some time away from this whole process so that we can re-energize and gear up for the next phase.

(4) We want to be strategic as we move forward. From a purely financial perspective, the best next step would be to throw all of our disposable income at our student loans. But here's the thing: even if we put every extra last penny towards those loans, it'll still take between two and three years to pay it all off. That's a long time, and realistically, I don't think such a rigid, unforgiving plan is going to work for us. We'd like to build a larger emergency fund, and we'd like to increase our investments, especially because we're not in our 20's anymore and need to make up for lost time in a serious way. Taking a breather in July will give us a chance to figure out what to do next.

So that's the plan! If you've been paying off debt or have paid off debt in the past, have you ever taken a break from the process? What were the pros and cons?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Okay, Fine, I'm Back

Why? I miss blogging. I miss talking/ranting about money and personal finance. So I've fired up a new Blogger account, this time with uber-ugly formatting circa 2005!  (A stipulation of me returning to blogging is that I don't have to make the blog look nice. Sorry. I did try to pick the best theme that Blogger has to offer, but we're not working with a whole lot of options here.) And why launch a reboot rather than pick up where I left off on the original $76K Project?  For one thing, all of my old links are broken and I'm too lazy to fix them. For another, the original blog focused on debt reduction. We've* moved beyond that. Although we still have a sizable student loan (~$30K or thereabouts), most of our fiscal attention has turned to saving, investing (we have quite a bit of catching up to do in terms of our retirement accounts), giving, and spending on the things/experiences we value. That said, I do plan to move some of the more useful and/or popular $76K Pro

Well! So That Was April.

Happy spring! Here in the $76K household, April turned out to be a rather eventful month: 1. Our teenager ended up in the ICU and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  File this situation under "Things We Would Have Never Predicted," especially given that he was rarely ill up until now. In fact, it had been so long since we'd seen his doctor that the man had retired in the meantime and we had no idea until the ER team asked for the name of his primary care physician. 2. As a result, we've been learning and trying new things. Since he was released from the hospital, we've been learning as much as we can about T1D and working with his doctors to get his blood sugar into a healthy range. This has involved frequent blood glucose checks (his fingers have become pin cushions, basically), insulin injections, and some dietary modifications. It's a lot of responsibility for a 15-year-old who's also in the middle of final exams, but he's handled it amazingly wel

So After Five Years, THIS Happened:

Something big happened earlier in October and I wanted to share it here, especially for those who've stuck around since the summer of 2017 when we started this journey : That right there is our student loan balance. Let's take a closer look: And please note that it is now ZEROOOOOOOOOOOOO. (Okay, actually -$1.02, and Mohela says they will be sending us a refund check for that amount. Whatever will we DO with our newfound fortune) That's right. The student loan that has clung to us like an ultra-persistent leech for the past 20 years is gone. What's more, we are finally, FINALLY [[[Drum rolllllllllllll]]] DEBT FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Here's a graph of our debt payoff in the context of big life events such as medical emergencies, job changes (including my Big Quit back in April 2019 ), and a global pandemic. The x-axis represents month/year (with June and December shown). The y-axis represents total debt in thousands of dollars: Five years, people! FIVE! That's a