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I finally did it! I am finally debt free! In case you missed it, I paid off my very last student loan after 26 months of working my tail off! Two years ago, I posted my plan to pay off all of my student loans. However, at the time, I had hoped that it would only take me 12 months. I more than doubled that timeline, but I still accomplished it.
If you are new to this blog and you haven’t read my story, here it is.
My name is Elyse. I am 24, not married with no kids and I am DEBT FREE! I never really thought of myself as someone who was in debt. With no credit cards and no car payment, I was not the average American. All I had was a few student loans. Everyone has student loans, so it never really crossed my mind that I was in debt. But, it wasn’t until a few weeks before my 22nd birthday that I got a loan for a Jeep and my very first credit card. I should say credit card(s). There were two or three that “showed up” that month.
For that month of December 2016, I thought it was so cool that I finally had a credit card. I was excited over it actually. I was learning about all the different rewards I could cash in and it was fantastic. Even though I had never needed a credit card, I was determined that I needed them then. I even went on vacation using mostly my credit card. I had racked up a pretty decent amount of money on my credit cards and started picking up extra waitressing shifts to get it cleared. While I have never paid interest on my credit cards, I have definitely gotten close.
I was excited about all of my new things, until my student loan bill came due. I had officially been “on break” from college for 6 months. My grace period was over. A $415 student loan payment showed up in the mail. I didn’t think that I had $415 to put towards my student loan every month. Looking back, I think this was truly my breaking point with money.
I had over $34,000 in debts when I had totaled it up.
Towards the end of the month, I was cleaning off a bookshelf, getting ready to move (again), and found The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. This $15 book completely changed my life path at the time. Dave describes being debt free as such a rewarding and achievable thing. In his book, he says it will take work and it will be hard, but it will be worth it. He has been right. I call this my “God wink” moment because what I needed came into my life as soon as I needed it.
In the first month of my debt free journey, I paid off $1,500 towards my debts. I obviously had been withholding money from myself and my goals. For every month since then, I have focused on hitting huge financial goals. There have been days were I have completely questioned my sanity. I sometimes wonder why I don’t just make minimum payments forever like everyone else. But I also know that someday, I will be able to travel and just stop to enjoy life because I won’t owe any money towards my house, car, college, or credit cards. Knowing that “This too shall pass” has been the motivation to keep me going this year.
“Sometimes, you have to live like NO ONE else, so someday you can LIVE like no one else.” – Dave Ramsey
If you haven’t read the book, I recommend you go buy it RIGHT NOW. It will be $20 that changes your life completely. I will wait, just be sure to come back to read the rest of the post.
I officially started my debt free journey on January 1st, 2017. Originally, my goal was to pay off my debt in one year. Turns out, I don’t actually even make enough money for that to even be a possibility. Read about how I paid off $15,000 on my $38,000 (pre-tax) income last year. Since then, my goal has continued to change every month. Some months, it seems totally doable to knock it out in just a few short months. In other months, the rest of this journey seems like it is going to last forever.
As of February 11th, 2019 at 3:39 pm, I made my very last student loan payment ever! It was 26 extremely long months, but I am so proud of this accomplishment. A huge thanks to @daveramsey book, Total Money Makeover. The#debtfreecommunity, all of my friends and family and my employers. God has blessed me.
So at 24 years old, I am totally DEBT FREE! I paid off a total of $35,495 in 26 months.
So after all of that time, I thought the first day would look so much different than every day of baby step two. Turns out that even being debt free, I have created a lot of habits that will stick with me long after becoming debt free. It really opened my eyes to see that today didn’t feel any different.
Here is what my first day of being debt free looked like!
Slept til 11:30
I am not going to lie, this isn’t a totally uncommon thing for me to sleep til 11 or later. My sleep schedule is totally crazy after being a bartender for so long. I do usually get up earlier on the days that I had off because I am not staying up as late. While I usually sleep pretty late, I didn’t set an alarm on purpose this morning! I was beyond excited to be able to just enjoy my morning to myself. I was in no hurry to wake up or start working on my to do list for the week!
Enjoyed my morning (afternoon) coffee
I sat and drank almost the whole cup without working very hard. I did some mindless scrolling through Instagram and Facebook to see all of the comments and messages from my debt free post on Instagram. (In case you missed it, here is the link.) I wrote in my planner, but I just sat there and sipped on my coffee.It was very peaceful.
Told my work no
In the first two hours of being awake, I had two people from my work ask me if I could pick up their shift tonight at work since I had the night off. I quickly responded with “I am sorry, but I have plans!” I already have 40 hours scheduled this week and I look forward to not working as much overtime this week. During my debt free journey, there were multiple weeks of 50-70 hours spent at work. One of the things that I am aiming to work on during Baby Step three and beyond is a better work/life balance.
I did feel a little bad about telling people no to working, but it was actually a really great feeling as well. Knowing that the money I make in the days that I am already scheduled this week is enough because it is all going to me was extremely comforting. In a few weeks, I will probably start picking up some more hours again, but I didn’t want to spend my first debt free day at work!
I had expected the day to be a little more spectacular with a big lunch out and doing something fun, but instead I reheated some broccoli chicken alfredo while I worked on my blog! Never underestimate the power of leftovers. I spent most of my baby step two living off of leftovers and I don’t see that changing too much moving forward. One of my favorite bloggers @DebtKickinMom has an awesome YouTube video that explains the concept of zero food waste! I strive to meet this most weeks, but it is progress over perfect. If you want to know more about zero food waste, check out her youtube video right here!
Worked on my budget
That budget life doesn’t end now because I am debt free. It will still be a priority to have a budget every week. I am not going to lie, I actually really struggled with creating a budget with student loans not being the main goal. I have no ideas on what I will be adding to my budget now that I am on baby step three. It was crazy that I spent all of baby step two saying no to most of the things, but now that I don’t have to say no to all of them, I don’t know what I want to say yes to yet. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I really just said “maybe later” to a lot of things. There were things throughout the journey like bars and restaurants, that I just did in smaller portions. I always budgeted and cash flowed things that I wanted or found another way to do them.
Had coffee with a friend
One of my friends had a baby in the last month and I haven’t gotten to see him yet! I told her that I would bring her coffee and come hang out with her! I bought her and I both Starbucks and cuddled her baby while we had time to catch up. If anything, holding her little boy was a reminder of why I kept going on this journey. Someday, when I have babies and a family, I will be able to sit and cuddle them all day knowing that my finances are taken care of.
I went to see my roommate at her restaurant, because she always comes to see me! We went to 50 cent tacos and I drank water! My total bill was $12 after tipping her! It was one of the cheaper meals that I have had out with friends in a while, but I planned on going to the gym straight from the restaurant, so I didn’t eat too much and I didn’t want to drink! I enjoyed sitting in a restaurant without worry about my debt, but I don’t plan on making it a normal habit again.
Went to the gym
To be extremely honest, I almost skipped this. In the last few months of baby step two, I worked a ton of hours at work. I put work before my health for a lot of the time. It isn’t uncommon for me to put work before my health and I have watched my parents do it for years. Now that I am not throwing every penny to someone else, I look forward to being able to put me first for a little while. On my first day of being debt free, I decided to put me first and go to the gym. I have started looking at fitness apps and other things to get me back into the swing of things. I don’t think I have really worked out since the half marathon that I ran in October!
Had a glass of wine at home
The other day, my roommate and I went to the grocery store and got $1 mini bottles of Moscato. They are about 6 ounces of wine and I enjoyed my $1 cheap wine. I actually usually prefer cheap wine over more expensive wines. Sometimes it really is about quantity and not quality!
Worked on this blog post
This blog has been a huge accountability booster and money maker for me throughout baby step two for me. I am excited to be debt free and able to blog about other things than just how much I made in payments every month. Baby step three and beyond is when life starts getting fun again! I can’t wait to share lessons and experiences with my readers!
Life isn’t so different now that I am debt free.
I guess my point to most of these items are that life doesn’t really feel that different yet. I am sure that when I start transferring money over to savings instead of over to debt, it will start feeling a little more real. Honestly, today felt just like every other day before debt free.
If you are debt free, what is the first things you did after becoming debt free? If you are still working on paying off your debts, what do you think you will do with your first day of being debt free!?