What inspired you to become debt free?
Before we got married, Ashlee told me that she wouldn’t marry me until every bit of my $17,500 student loan was paid off. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is! From the beginning, it was Ashlee’s persistence and encouragement that drove us towards getting rid of our debt.
In the end, we got married before the debt was paid, but just days after our wedding, we made the decision to put all of our financial efforts towards paying off our debt. We also credit our desire to become debt free as a result of our upbringing.
How did you do it?
In the beginning, before we were married, I was paying slightly above the minimum monthly payments (about $200 per month) while leaving plenty of additional money to fund my single male lifestyle. I was pretty wasteful, and I could’ve certainly applied more of my money towards the loan, in retrospect. I did, however, put most of every windfall that came my way towards the loan. When we got married, I had paid off about $3,500, leaving me at $14,000 going into the marriage.
After getting married, we were both working. We applied the majority of Ashlee’s paycheck towards each monthly payment (about $1,200). We also applied windfalls towards the payments as well. We developed the habit of living strictly on one income, and we continue to live this way.
Finally, on July 21, 2014, we paid off our debt in full.
What surprised you throughout the process?
It was surprising to discover that our $17,500 in debt was actually a fairly small amount compared to the national averages of student loan balances. Our debt seemed overwhelming at the time, but we can’t imagine the pressure felt by many of our other fellow graduates with $25k, $50k, or even $100k in outstanding student loans.
What were the most difficult aspects of the process?
It was extremely difficult knowing that we were working so hard just to get to… zero. We were well below a $0 net worth, and every debt payment reminded us of this fact. It was also difficult to see beyond these debt payments and invision a future free of debt. Lastly, it was difficult parting with that $1,200 each and every month. That was a large portion of our take home pay at the time, and we had many exciting ideas of where that money could go if we weren’t making debt payments.
How does it feel to be debt free?
There’s an unquestionable sense of freedom being debt free. On the month following our final debt payment, it was an amazing feeling being able to choose where 100% of our paychecks went. This feeling continues to this day, over a year after becoming debt free. We can choose how much to give, how much to save, how much to invest, or how much to use for experiences such as travel.
How can others find out more about you?
You’re looking at it! We created Save Money Dammit to share our experience of continued financial learning. When there’s no more debt to deal with, your money takes on a new level of complexity and excitement.