Sending in that last debt payment is an incredible feeling! I skipped away from the mailbox. I splurged with a legitimate “I earned this” feeling on my next trip to the grocery store (and buy splurged I mean I bought two items I’d be staring down for months and just kept telling myself they were kind of wasteful).
And then… I didn’t really know what to do. But I had a few ideas. Thanks to reading lots and lots of debt bloggers over the last few months I knew that “I deserve this” feeling had to be kyboshed – there wasn’t anything wrong with rewarding myself with pudding and nail polish (seriously, I paid off about $30,000 – an $8 treat was totally ok) – but I knew that mentality had to go. Reward done. The sweater I saw in the store, the holiday bazaar I wanted to eat everything at, the apartment slightly out of my responsible price range – in each instance a little voice went “but, you could” and it still surprises me because for years the little voice tried to scream “but you CAN’T” and so I got used to listening to the little voice. It doesn’t really help that I got a little rabid the last few months of repaying the debt and was chucking $1,000 or more at it a month. That is a lot of money to suddenly free up… sort of. I actually keep trying to remind myself that my big reward for paying off all the debt was moving back near my family and actually that “free” money is now rent money. Something I didn’t used to have to worry about.
Anyway, all of that rambling was to say that the voices in your head do funny things when they know there’s money that can be spent nearby.
The voice that I’m trying to learn to listen to is the voice of reason. The one that reminds me how safe and awesome it feels to have a plump emergency fund and that now I’m in a prime position to be able to fill it up to it’s long term goal of $12,000. Possibly even before the end of 2014. And it’s the voice that says “hey, at least those IRA deposits won’t feel like I’m pulling out my own teeth anymore when I do them.” It even whispers, “remember that goal to learn about more stocks and invest in them? Now’s the time!” It’s even the voice that says, “hey, remember charity? Charity is better place to look than your 20th sweater.”
I feel like my decisions in the next few months of debt-free-ness are more likely than any in the last few years to really determine my future financial path because I’m retraining all of my financial habits. When you’re serious about paying down your debt, you go into survival mode. You have to make some decisions, but the goal is very clear. Minimize expenses, maximize repayments. But once that’s done… now the real decisions start. How much do I want to pay in rent? If I were still making debt payments I would live with 8 roommates in the cheapest, safest neighborhood I could find. But I don’t. And I don’t really want roommates. So I’m making a decision to look at places that are $300-500 more a month. Which is now less to save and invest, but still affordable. And that’s a big version of a thousand little decisions we make every day that I’ve noticed I make different because I can now. The good folks at Ca$h Funny have already tackled this milestone and had a few things to say about what to do next, which I agree with. I really think this is one of the moments where the “personal” aspect of personal finance comes into play. I agree with all of the responsible things I should be doing with this new “found” money, but I’m excited about a few things I can finally afford to do – like live on my own or join a gym.
On the flip side though, I feel like my time spent in debt-jail taught me lots of frugal ways that I’m going to continue my entire life and several hustling qualities that I’m just gonna keep rolling with. My entire life is in upheaval this month from switching jobs and commuting/trying-desperately-to-move to a new place and yet yesterday I still managed to line up a side gig painting a ton of giant leaves. And the whole reason I jumped on that opportunity was from years of worrying about money (and also, I like making props) – so I saw an opportunity to make some and jumped at it. Hopefully those aspects of my life continue to stay the same.
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brokeGIRLrich readers, what would your debt free splurge be?