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Does your life change when you're out of debt?

April 28th, 2011 at 06:22 pm

What really changes when you are out of debt? Since I'm a few years away from being free of non-mortgage debt, I haven't really given much thought to how life will change. But now I am thinking of it: will life be any different?

I mean, I'll still have the bills to pay. Food and gasoline to consume. Insurance, utilities, and I'd better not forget taxes. Plus, there will be a large chunk that goes to retirement. Perhaps even some cash will be diverted to my kids' college fund. Last but certainly not least, the mortgage company will still want its hefty share.

So, how exactly will life be any different? I know, I won't technically be debt free until I kick BB&T out of the house. But still, shouldn't I feel something once I'm no longer throwing money at stuff that I purchased ages ago?

Sorry for the downer post. Probably should have known better than to blog while exhausted.

10 Responses to “Does your life change when you're out of debt?”

  1. Susan Parker Says:

    That's a really interesting question. I suspect you will feel much more in control of your life and also be able to make some different (more satisfying) financial choices when you are free of monthly payments that really don't add anything except stress. But I have to say, I didn't even notice when I got to the point where I didn't have any non-mortgage debt anymore. Apparently I never stressed about the credit cards - I was shredding some stuff the other day and found old credit card bills, and was really surprised to see that I had 6K of credit card debt at a time when I made about 13K a year and didn't have enough sense to even be worried. LOL. I guess there is something to be said for blissful stupidity.

  2. mskills Says:

    Susan,

    Interesting that paying off the cards didn't make an impact on you. I guess that is what I'm worried about; that getting out of debt won't really make me feel any better or worse than I do now. In my mind, the extra cash that is freed up will instead go to funding retirement, education, and paying off the mortgage ... not exactly exciting stuff.

  3. baselle Says:

    I would think that the point is that your life wouldn't change when you are out of debt. Not only should you strive to be out of debt, you should be crafting a life that you enjoy and you stay out of debt. Its a little like a diet. It doesn't work if its a diet that you leave, but it might work if its a lifestyle that you can sustain.

  4. J-Money Says:

    VERY good question...and I was talking about that tonight to my husband. I told him I wonder if I/we would still live on a fairly strict budget b/c I would feel 'behind' on gettting the retirement fund bulked up and the mortgage paid down/off. SO -- I don't know if I'll feel any better LOL! I laugh but it is not a laughing matter. Right now the debt I have left is in CARS - 3 of them. One should be paid off in a couple of months and it will take about a year to get the other 2 paid off. After that, we will move into baby step 3 (per the dave ramsey plan) and get a 6 month emergency fund in place...which will take more time b/c I'll need about $25-$30K. THEN we finally get to the investing in mutual funds for retirement and college funding, etc. I know myself well enough to KNOW I will feel behind at this point. Hopefully I will remember to lighten up & celebrate that we've paid off over $100K in debt (not including the house)!!

  5. LuckyRobin Says:

    I feel different every time we pay off a credit card or loan. It's like this weight on my shoulders that keeps getting smaller and smaller. It lifts stress. I think it will make a huge difference to me, but maybe that's because when we started our debt was so, so high and I never thought I'd see the end of it and now finally after years of paying it back we'll be out of credit card debt by year's end. I guess the thing that will change for me, is that the money we've been throwing at debt will go into savings instead. And I love watching savings grow.

  6. mskills Says:

    baselle,

    The logical side of me knows you are correct, but emotionally I'm trying to ignore you Big Grin. For me, Dave Ramsey does such a great job of making debt payoff fulfilling that life afterward seems mundane in turn.

    J-Money,

    Exactly! It is a bit childish, but when I first started thinking about being out of debt, I thought there would be all of this extra money to spend as I please. The discipline that I've acquired in managing my finances is, like parents, shaking its head and firmly prodding me towards responsible stuff like investing instead.

    LuckyRobin,

    Congrats on the progress you've made and being so close to being out of debt. I understand what you mean about having so much to pay off, as I have yet to knock out a debt that is more than a grand or so. Yep, over $16,000 paid off and I'm still dealing with the same debts hangin' around.


  7. Ima saver Says:

    I got my house paid off at age 32. I have had some credi card debt since then, but finally I got smart and decided that I must pay off anything that I charge on a credit card in full every month. I am much happier and do not have the need to buy so much "stuff" anymore.

  8. MonkeyMama Says:

    I'd think it would change dramatically. Depends on how much debt you are in, though.

    I've personally never been *in debt.* Definitely have a mortgage, but I could erase that quite easily by selling the house. Never owed more than an item was worth - that is for sure.

    Talking to others, I Feel we have far more financial freedom. It's the being fiscally responsible in addition to the no debt (the two kind of go hand in hand).

    That said, I think you are wise. I've seen people with very high incomes do the Ramsey plan and their eyes were opened to a whole other way to live. They didn't dream of fiscal responsiblity so much, it seemed to me, as being able to afford everything their heart desired. I don't think they really *got it.* That big incomes don't last forever and a little more saving for the future was probably more prudent.

    Likewise, I have financially troubled friends who think all their problems will magically go away once they are debt free. They get annoyed at how frugal our lifestyle is. What do *we* have to worry about - we don't have any debt!! I think Baselle's diet analogy is good. We are on a lifelong diet. It makes life easier, but it's not always easy. I've also been on this diet my whole life, so maybe I don't feel I have to work so hard at it. But I still think it is hard work. Staying out of debt has certainly NEVER been EASY!

    So, yes your life will change, but it won't be magic, it won't be easy, and you will always have to work to stay fiscally fit. But like anything you work hard to achieve, it is rewarding.

  9. mskills Says:

    Ima saver,

    Coincidentally, I am 32. Of course, a major difference is that my house is not even close to being paid for. Must have been a huge blessing to be mortgage-free at my age, congrats!

    MonkeyMama,

    Great insight. I think one of my biggest problems with Dave Ramsey's baby steps is that once you arrive at the seventh (and final) one, everything he has been building it up to be turns out to be a big mystery. Like, "Hey! I've finally arrived ... now what?"

    I was raised by great parents that, unfortunately, were not very frugal and did not pass on practical financial knowledge to me. While I feel I have a lot of lost time to make up for, at least I'm finally getting it.

    Your comment about friends with financial issues has inspired me to make my next blog post about that exact topic.

  10. Jerry Says:

    I suppose that the sense of relief and freedom that one feels after paying off a debt can't really last forever, I never really thought of that. However, there are opportunities for using your money in ways that being debt-free leads to, and they are both gratifying and enjoyable, if you find the right ones. Sure, the food, gas, insurance, utilities will still be there, but they are less of a stress when you aren't worried about paying off others. It's a really interesting question, and a good one to discuss!
    Jerry

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