The first thing that we had to do, when we decided to start our debt repayment plan, was to change our minds about how we viewed debt. We knew we didn't like having the bills and monthly payments, but we really began to look at it as a burden and weight that was holding us back from some of our life goals.
We were newlyweds, and one of our main goals was to create a solid marriage relationship. This is still our goal. We strongly felt that being in so much debt could potentially strain our relationship in the future. We had a discussion a few days ago, and we both realized that neither of us can recall an argument about our finances. This isn't to say that we don't disagree from time to time about how our budget will be allocated, but it just isn't a heated issue.
Our second major life goal was to have children. There was no way we could afford kids with such a huge amount of our income going toward debt and interest each month . We just didn't have the extra money to pay for the doctor, hospital, furniture, clothes, diapers, etc. We both wanted to be very involved in raising our children by having a parent home most of the time. This goal seemed so far away for us, but it was also so important to us that we knew we would do what it took to make it a reality.
With our changed mindset and defined goals, we knew where we wanted to go. The question was, how to get there?
The #1 most important thing that we did was NOT CREATE ANY MORE DEBT. None whatsoever. For any reason.
We took the credit cards out of our wallet. We decided that we were not going to buy anything that we wanted to finance. No new cars, no new furniture, no expensive vacations. The amount of integrity that this simple principal adds to your life is utterly indescribable. For the first time in many years for both of us, we were completely paying our own way. We weren't relying on debt to make up the difference at the end of the month, or to pick up the tab when we felt we "needed" or "deserved" something that we didn't have the cash to pay for.
Rather than desiring possessions and luxuries, we began to desire freedom. Freedom from the limits imposed by our debt. Freedom to live a life of our own design. Our thinking changed. Our lifestyle changed. These weren't sacrifices, they were choices. Looking back, I think it's one of the best choices we have made for our relationship.
When I was in college, I never stopped to think all those times I was using my credit card to pay for new clothes, concert tickets, or pricey dinners out with friends, that it would impact my life for years. I didn't stop to think that it would impact my future husband's life. I essentially traded those temporary and trivial things for years of worry, stress and hard work. If we hadn't taken such an aggressive approach toward our debt, I might even be telling you that I had traded those things for my marriage or for time with my son.
If you have debt, I encourage you to take a look at your own life goals and how you view your debt.
More in the debt series next week. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.