Debt Free Lifestyle
What does it feel like to live the debt free lifestyle? Simply stated in one word. Amazing. Now if you want a more exhaustive description, I need a few more words. Let’s see. Amazing. Freeing. Liberating. Inspiring. Empowering. My list could go on, but maybe you should hear the story to truly grasp what living debt free is really like.
The Debt Free Journey
My journey to the debt free lifestyle started in my mid-twenties. I was a freshly minted college graduate and had just finished my first year out of college. Still at home with mom and dad, I was paying a modest amount of rent, and I had racked up a bit of credit card debt while looking for a job. A little later the same year, I picked up a car loan, $13,500. My Saturn SL2 four door Sedan…after all I would be getting married and having kids, so I might as well spring for the four door. Yes. I was that kind of kid. Always thinking ahead. I confess I did regret letting go of the hot rods I drove in my teen years. Along with the credit cards and car, I financed my first computer…I needed it to be successful at work. In all, it was around $20,000, and I was 24. Luckily, I avoided the student loan mess that many college graduates are dealing with today. So like any good son, I followed in my parent’s footsteps. Credit cards, car loans, etc.
It was spring 1996, when my debt wake up call came, and thus my quest to become debt free began. In all, it took me 2 years to pay off my debt, but I also invested during that time. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have focused on my debt 100%, but I was young and didn’t have a coach or guide to help me. Once I paid off that $20,000, it was time to start paying on my fiancee’s $20,000 debt. Yes. The double debt whammy. Unfortunately for me, my spouse had gotten into the same mess I had.
Along the journey to pay off my wife’s debt, we encountered a few other snags. Well, actually, they were just stupid mistakes. We all make them. Right? In a stroke of utter genius, I bought my new wife a Kirby vacuum cleaner on credit. After all, it’s the perfect gift for a new bride. That was mistake #1. Then, mistake #2 hit. The meat delivery service…complete with a freezer on credit to store your meat in. Now that was more her than me, so I don’t take credit for both of our mistakes. Those two mistakes set us back 1 year on our debt free life journey.
Now I know this is supposed to be about the debt-free lifestyle, but to truly appreciate the living debt-free, you need to know the journey. Knowing and remembering the journey is critical to never going back into debt. I’m routinely surprise when people finally reach their goal to be debt-free, but then choose to go back into debt believing they can handle it. It’s a lie. Never go back.
The Debt Free Lifestyle
My wife and I paid off our consumer debt in 2002. Just 10 short months after I began working for Dave Ramsey. We were 31 years old. That was 16 years ago. No credit card debt. No car debt. No student loans. It was amazing.
In 2004 or 2005, my wife’s car had a meltdown. For you motor heads out there, her engine blew a head gasket. Yes. It was as bad as it sounds. Rather than making that expensive repair to a 1997 Plymouth Breeze, we paid $3,500 cash for her aunt’s used white Buick LeSabre. She was asking $5,000, but I worked in the family discount. It was the first car we purchased with cash, and it felt goooooood! Since that time, there’s been the silver 2001 Honda Odyssey ($7,000), the red 2004 Honda Odyssey ($11,000), the green six speed 2007 Acura TL ($23,000) (that I purchased after my green 1994 Saturn SL2 started smoking at a red light), the 2007 Honda Odyssey ($21,000) (purchased to accommodate our sixth child), the 2003 Chevy Avalanche ($12,000) I purchased in 2012 when we sold the Acura, my wife’s black 1969 Corvette ($20,000) (she loves that car), and our latest addition my 2012 Grand Sport CE Edition Corvette ($50,000). All paid for with cash. Yes you can do that when you don’t have debt hanging over your head. Oh, and we’ve passed on the debt free cars lifestyle to my son who purchased his 2004 Honda CRV with cash.
I have to say, it’s a lot of fun to get good deals on cars when you pay cash.
Once we were out of basic consumer debt in 2002, we took a short break due to family growth which required us to move into a new home. Once we settled into the new home, it was time to turn our attention to paying off our house. Without consumer debt, its easy to pay off your house early. We paid and extra $15,000 off on our home in about 12 months, then we started paying double house payments. As my income increased, we poured more cash onto “home mortgage fire” while at the same time doing some home expansion. We were able to pay our new home off in around 5 years!
Having your house paid off is a major part of the debt free lifestyle. Let me tell you, the grass really does feel greener in a yard that has a paid off home mortgage. I will say that one thing did shock me a little. When we sent in that last payment, things didn’t feel very different right away. It took about three months to really sink in. When you don’t have debt and you don’t have a mortgage, you’re bank account grows really really fast. Before you know it, you’re looking at your checking account balance going “wow. that’s a lot of money. What do I do with it?” You see. You are now totally, 100% debt free!
I won’t lie. Becoming debt-free is a tough journey. It’s worth it, but sometimes do yourself a favor. Bend the rules. Take your wife out to dinner. Enjoy life just a little. It’s nice to have an oasis or two to refresh yourself in the middle of the journey. It’s okay as long as you don’t abuse it, and lose track of your goal to become debt-free.
Now, one of the most exciting parts of the debt free lifestyle is vacations. You enjoy them more. You get to pay cash. You get to take more vacations, and you get to take almost whatever vacation you want. We like to break ours up a bit. My wife and I decided we liked to take vacations without the kids. I know. Don’t judge me. If you haven’t tried it, you should. You’ll love it. So, I’ve gotten addicted to traveling once per quarter, so four trips per year. My wife and I sneak away two times a year, and two times a year we take the kids. We actually travel a bit more than that, but now that we’re debt free, we can afford to take four bigger trips per year while doing smaller less expensive weekend trips throughout the year. Adult trips to places like New York, the Florida Keys, and Sandals Resort in the US Virgin Islands. Kids trips to Disney World, Sea World, Bush Gardens and more. It’s one of the most enjoyable things we get to do as a family.
We’ve been 100% debt free and living the debt free lifestyle for 5 years now. It changes how you think. It changes how you dream. It changes what you aspire to do with the rest of your life. Now, I’m on a journey to figure out how to pass wealth on to my children and grandchildren as well as whoever I can help.
I was a 24 year old when I realized there had to be a better way and set out on my quest to live the debt free lifestyle. That’s the time I set out on my goal to become a millionaire, and now at forty six, I believe everyone who wants to become a millionaire and is willing to work hard enough and do the right things can be one. Aspiring to become wealthy is a good thing if it is done with the right heart. It’s a noble goal and worthwhile. Wealth is having enough money to meet our needs and wants while leaving enough left over to help others.
Tools for Your Debt Free Journey – Financially Fit Step 5, Becoming Debt Free for Life