There are some definite money mindset shifts you need to make in order to remain debt free.
We’ve been non-mortgage, debt-free since September 1, 2010.
That sentence ended in a period, but really it’s supposed to be an “epic” period that drops in like a 20-lb. Yellow Pages on your doorstep.
And after becoming so, we vowed to do everything we possibly could to stay out of debt forevermore. We were so committed to that, I almost feel like it should’ve been included in our marriage vows.
We’ve been tested many times along the way, but have successfully continued on the non-mortgage, debt-freedom plan for almost 7 years now.
But it hasn’t been entirely easy to do. It’s caused us to change our behaviors, and wage psychological-warfare (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) on some “generally accepted” money beliefs.
And you know what? People don’t really talk about this side of the debt-free equation. The one where their newly made vows are tested, and they have to change their money habits and beliefs to really stay rooted.
So today I’m telling you − from a woman on the other side of debt for 7 years now − what it really takes to keep lapping the debt-free waters.
Psst: this is not an ungrateful post. You definitely want to be in debt-free world, and I feel very blessed to be here. I just want to give others the heads up on what it takes, once you get there, to remain there, from both a mental and physical perspective.
What it Takes #1: The Ability to See Large Sums of Cash Go, All at Once
Oooohhhh this one is a hard one for me.
Yes, I know I’m supposed to be grateful and all that jazz. And I AM, believe me.
However, I’m going to be brutally honest and say that seeing something like $7,500 being sucked from your account to pay for a new central A/C + heating unit, all at once, instead of in monthly $365 payments is psychologically tragic.
It’s an entirely different mentality, really. Because the smaller numbers? Well, they’re much more palatable. So in a good way, it really, really makes you question what you purchase (as well as question whether or not to just go with the monthly installment plan, provided it’s 0% interest for the first year…from this old blog post you can see I’ve been struggling with this one since 2011!).
What it Takes #2: Choosing the Not-So-New, But Paid-For in Some Cases
Take beater cars, for example, which I seem to have a love affair with.
You can pay for one in cash for less than $5,000, which is a heck of a lot more palatable than saving up $20,000 to hand over at a dealership (see #1 above. Ouch that would hurt, plus make you question your debt-free vows). And, at least in my experience, they keep you on the road.
Like my father once told me, a car’s entire reason for being is to get you from Point A to Point B. Period. Yes, they’ll need repairs more often than a brand new vehicle, but you’re talking to a lady who has never had one car payment in her entire life.
So they’ve done me well.
What it Takes #3: An Unbreakable Commitment to Saving Money
It’s easy to think that once you’re over that debt hump, all that extra monthly cash flow is yours for the taking.
Exotic travel, anyone? New deck on the house? Upgrade to the “fancy schmancy” grocery store with all those cheeses?
These things certainly come to mind after you see how much more is added back into your monthly cash flow.
But if you expect to be able to pay cash for everything − or by credit card to get the reward points, then pay them off within the 30 days to avoid late fees) − then you need to be a committed saver. See points #1 and #2 above.
In the aftermath of debt payoff, yes, you can and do loosen the purse strings some. In our case, this included things like Paul getting that flat screen tv he’d wanted for several years (yes, we paid cash), or the 6-day trip to Cozumel, Mexico for our 5-year anniversary (again, in cash).
But there are other issues and changes to deal with in order to actually stay in the debt-free playground. I guess as the saying goes, “New level, new devil.”