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When we started paying our debt off there were a bunch of things I could say about how it sucked. But somewhere along the timeline of the last 12 months, I changed my mind.
I used to complain about wanting to take a vacation (specifically a cruise) and not wanting to cook at home every night. I even had to unfollow friends on Instagram because watching their adventures was making me miserable.
I don’t know when it happened but I noticed it on my anniversary weekend. Everyone asked me what we were going to do for our first anniversary and I was like ¯_(ツ)_/¯. My husband kept asking me if I was okay (maybe based on the fact I never shut up about cruises) and really, I was. For the first time, I didn’t have any FOMO or vacay envy.
“But Jen, how do I achieve ultimate debt repayment enlightenment as you have?”
I can hear you asking it and honestly, ¯_(ツ)_/¯. But I can share some things we’ve done that I know have made this season suck a lot less. And when you see firsthand that living frugally is surprisingly simple, it becomes less of a “season you have to endure” and more of a lifestyle. One that I’ll likely carry with me long after the debt is gone.
I may talk mostly about paying off debt but only because that’s where I’m at. Ultimately, it’s just a means to the end of a vision we’ve cast for our future. And deciding on this vision was essential for making the small everyday decisions seem more eternal.
A road trip without google maps is a road trip I do not want to be on. Same with your life. having a reason for doing what you’re doing is going to be the big push that keeps you going.
So sit down and write out a vision for your future. Think big, that’s what millionaires do. Include dream trips and how many kids you want but also what you’d like to do when you retire and then figure out when you want to retire and how much you’ll need to do it.
Casting a vision for your life shouldn’t constrict you to the plan, road trips have plenty of unplanned bathroom breaks and coffee stops. But a vision will keep you heading toward each goal in the right direction and at the right pace.
Start a Blog
I used to judge people with blogs. But seriously you guys, this whole “sharing my feelings thing” has been majorly cathartic. Being able to help people and hearing how I’ve helped you has been an amazing and motivating experience. It also takes up a lot of my time so I forget about all the things I could be spending money on.
Start one for free at WordPress.com or go all out with your own domain name through Bluehost. It’s super easy and connects you to hundreds of other personal finance bloggers with the same mindset who are currently or have paid off massive amounts of debt.
You’de think it’d be a bummer to sell your stuff or worse, throw it away. But it’s the most freeing feeling you can have with two feet on the ground. We started posting things on Craigslist and OfferUp and took clothes to Plato’s Closet. Then what we couldn’t sell we took to Goodwill.
We were able to finish paying off my car and got rid of a lot of superfluous stuff lying around. I’ve now made it a habit to purge every few months.
We started mystery shopping after reading about it on The Penny Hoarder. We do a lot of restaurant shops and it doesn’t come out of the budget because you get reimbursed! I’ve also been paid to test drive a car and ask questions at a bank. It’s fun to feel like a secret detective and not have to do the dishes when you get home.
Color in the Lines
We started coloring in a debt thermometer a few months ago and it’s been a game changer. It’s disgustingly big and not cute at all but at the end of every month we take turns coloring in the section we’ve accomplished and every time we turn the the the A/C up or down (we put it by the thermostat, real clever huh?) we’re reminded of our progress and what lies ahead.
I’ve made a color-in debt thermometer for you for FREE at this link so you can get started today on visualizing your goal.
Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.