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Debt: Who F*cking Cares

(Originally posted on The $76K Project on 10/12/2019)

A few salty notes before I launch in:

1. My child informs me that I swear too much, so I'm asterisking my f-words because I know he reads my blog (hi buddy... I love you! I'm working on my shortcomings but this one's gonna be tough...)

2. I'm currently at CentsPositive (sidenote: it's amazing), but I have a horrible cold [[another sidenote, this one from 2022: I am copying this into the new blog and now that I have experienced a serious global pandemic, I am BESIDE MYSELF with the knowledge that I attended a live conference while feeling extremely ill WTFFFFF]] and have therefore sequestered myself in my room to eat delicious takeout pizza, sip hot tea, argue with people on Twitter, and edit/publish this post, the first draft of which I wrote a couple of days ago. I may be slightly delirious, but nothing stands between me and my keyboard!

2b. My CentsPositive welcome bag came with candy, beer, and chips. Will these sour gummy worms clear my sinuses? Is hard seltzer medicinal?

3. Someone's going to say, "You're contradicting yourself... I thought you were frustrated about money but here you are SPENDING money, you irresponsible moron." Yes. I am frustrated about money sometimes. However, I am realizing that a) we're exhibiting normal, healthy levels of financial responsibility, b) investing in what we value is a good thing, and c) it's okay to contradict myself as I sort through my thoughts.

4. I'm not saying people shouldn't pay off their debt.

5. I understand the concept of interest, yes.

Anyway.

Here is what I wrote.

I've been struggling lately with the direction of this blog because we've clearly deviated from our original goal: to get out of $76K worth of debt as fast as possible.

For a while - like maybe 1.5 years - we were all in. As we described in our early posts, we made some big changes to make the debt disappear:

We reduced our expenses (bye, Hulu! See ya, magazine subscriptions! Gym membership, don't even bother trying to sell us because we're going to work out FOR FREE, you sneaky money-grubbing bastard.)

We snagged new jobs with higher salaries.

We paid off a credit card, then a car loan, then two more credit cards. Then a student loan.

We were prime candidates for the Debt Payoff Honor Roll.

And then... then we got derailed. got derailed.

I derailed us.

My brain derailed us.

When I quit full-time work to (literally) save my sanity, the wheels flew off our debt payoff train in spectacular fashion. I mean, we took on air. We careened off the tracks, hit a few trees, slid down a steep hillside, and probably injured a handful of innocent squirrels in the process.

The hypothetical debt repayment train was totaled.

Six months later, we have a new debt repayment vehicle.

I call it The Debt Repayment Tricycle.

It moves much more slowly than the afore-mentioned high-speed train, and man, do my quads hurt.

But when I think about ditching my trike and re-hitching myself to something faster, I've realized that I... just... don't. want. to. do. it.

Somewhere along the way, I got sick of feeling like making money and paying off loans were the most important non-family things in my life. The fact that I was able to make them a centerpiece for almost two years is pretty much a miracle, given my YOLO-infused financial history. I've just never been that interested in making money (I know, I know... I'm not saying that's a good thing, but that's where I was at). It's never motivated me. Until 2017, my debt didn't really bother me.

I've always been most interested in experiencing my life as much as I possibly can, with whatever resources I have available. In the past, those resources included my credit cards.

Lately, I find the pendulum swinging back towards YOLO.

Exhibit A: I recently paid $91 to run in a 25K trail race.

Exhibit B: We bought a fish tank with all the accouterments. (Granted, I severely underestimated how much this thing would cost, but it's delightful. The cat watches the fish all day long and is living her best life.)

Exhibit C: For CentsPositive, I'm staying in a hotel room in downtown Seattle for two nights, and I'm not sharing.

I'm okay with all this because I KNOW how to manage my money. I'm a budgeting all-star (YES I AM). I'm committed to tracking my expenses and paying my bills on time. I'm a fanatic about maintaining a zero balance my credit card.

Exhibit D: I booked this hotel room on my Mastercard. It's already been paid off.

I've discovered the deep satisfaction of having a tidy, Kondo-esque financial life.

But just as I don't think I can go back to working 40 hours a week, I don't think I can go back to obsessing about debt payoff. Not the way I used to. I'm not interested in devoting our entire disposable income to our student loan.

That loan will go away. It's just not going to go away soon. And that's okay, because I'd rather my family devote our energy and paychecks to other things.

Like going out for an occasional restaurant meal.

Or seeing a movie best viewed on the big screen.

Or taking a memorable family vacation.

Or traveling to a CentsPositive gathering or Lola Retreat to hang out with like-minded friends.

Or signing up for trail races that make me feel like I'm doing exactly what I've been put on this oh-so-runnable Earth to do.

I guess I've realized that it is truly possible to live, really live, with debt. Like, you can have a student loan and also have a life. You can invest in the experiences and things you value and still be good with money.

Can you buy groceries? Can you pay your rent? Can you keep yourself clothed? Ideally, are you not accruing more debt? (Though maybe you are, but if you're reading this, I'm betting you have some darned good reasons for it.)

Then who f*cking cares. 

Paying off your debt fast doesn't make you a better, smarter, more thoughtful, or more moral human being. It makes you someone who's paid off their debt.

And if you're still chipping away at it, as we are, the debt is a line item in your budget, which also includes many other things that are probably way more important to you. And that's totally okay. Your student loan payment doesn't need to carry any more emotional weight than, say, your electric bill.

Yes, I still have money stress. How many of us don't? But after my last post, I realized that most of that stress comes from feeling like I need to move at someone else's pace, guided by someone else's values, instead of my own. I simmered on it a bit and realized... I don't.

So much of personal finance these days is about doing things as fast as possible, whether that's eliminating student loans or achieving FIRE.

But there can be a very normal, very manageable, very scenic middle road. Just you and your tricycle, ambling down the way, enjoying the view, knowing that if you just keep peddling, you'll eventually reach your destination.

If you've had a different experience and paid off debt super quickly, and if you think that's a good strategy, then I'm here to give you a virtual high five. Rock on, sister or mister.

But this is where I'm at.

Debt:

Who actually f*cking cares.

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