Being debt-free is hard. One must be willing to make sacrifices, to be inconvenienced, to be patient, consistent, vigilant, and determined. It requires focus, discipline, time and planning.
But honestly, being debt-free is the only way to go. There is NOTHING like the peace of mind that comes with not having to worry if there is enough money to pay the bills or not.
Will there be enough to pay the mortgage? Will there be enough to make the car payment? The utility payment? And will there be enough left over to, you know, eat?
My folks did not have a lot of money when I was a child. There were times my mother only had $50 to last the entire month after all the other bills had been paid for, but somehow, she did it. We shopped at thrift stores, we ate day-old bread, we used coupons (religiously!), my mother made our clothes and we learned the value of stretching our dollars out as far as they could possibly go.
As a result, I’ve grown up cheap. And not afraid of a little hard work. And I’m so, so, SO thankful that my parents taught me to be responsible with my finances.
My parents taught me that if I don’t have the money for something, then don’t buy it. They taught me that when I had the money for something, did I REALLY need or want it? “Wait,” they said. “Don’t buy something on impulse, walk away and think about it. Give it 24-hours. If you still want it after 24-hours, THEN buy it.”
And you know what? Eight times out of ten, after waiting and analyzing whether I really needed/wanted the item, I found I simply didn’t. So, I didn’t buy it.
I’ve worked hard my entire life. I started out at a fast food restaurant and worked my way to junior management. I loved my job. I loved the sheer physical work and time went by so fast, and I made so many friends, that I didn’t really think about it being “work” after a while. When they wanted to promote me to senior management and move me to salary, I quit, because I was unwilling to have a company own me – as is sometimes the case when you move to salary.
Though I loved the management aspect of the job, I wasn’t sure the restaurant industry was what I wanted to spend my life doing. So, I bit the bullet (I was SO nervous!!), and applied at a bank. To my complete surprise, I was hired. I worked as a teller for many years (that’s where I met my husband), and then moved to consumer loans. Which I loved. That was such a challenge to me. I learned the blue book value of cars and discouraged customers from paying more for vehicles that would depreciate faster than they were worth. I loved the paperwork. And I enjoyed the people I worked with.
But the banking industry began to change and they started requiring us to sell more and selling is simply something I’m not good at, nor enjoy. I don’t enjoy trying to persuade people to buy something they neither want, nor need. That simply went against everything I believed. So, with great reluctance, I quit. I still miss it to this day.
But it was good timing. Because my first born son came along and I was starting to feel terribly guilty pawning him off on my grandmother-in-law (whose health was rapidly deteriorating) and I knew, in my gut, I simply could not handle placing him in the hands of strangers – I would fret and worry about him too much.
So, I stayed home. And then my second born son came along and when he was about six months old, I had had enough. Staying home all the time was driving me crazy. I felt claustrophobic and I completely lost sight of who I was. I was someone’s wife. I was two little munchkins’ mother, but where the heck did Karen go? I grew resentful and unhappy, and that put a huge strain on my marriage.
During our married time together, my husband had graduated from college, had passed the CPA exam (man, was that time period stressful, for both of us), had gotten a job at a public accounting firm and started making good money. We weren’t rich, but we were comfortable. When GD came along, my husband became very unhappy with his job, not because of the work (which he enjoyed), or the people, but because it required a lot of traveling on his part and he simply didn’t want to miss out on our children’s lives.
So, he quit. And went to work for a privately-owned company. And though he didn’t have to travel, he still had to put in long, STRESSFUL, hours. I WISH I could tell you just how stressful this time period was for Kevin, but of course, I can’t. Suffice it to say, that when you have a job where everything, everything, hinges on your decisions and actions and you’re responsible for the entire company succeeding or failing, it’s a BIT stressful. He lost a lot of weight. And all of this was happening during the time period that I was being selfish and stupid, which only added to his stress, honestly, I don’t know how the man survived.
But during all that time, I watched our money. I used coupons. I didn’t spend more than we could handle. We both drove old cars. We rented our first house and saved up enough money for a down payment to buy a house. And when we went house hunting, we did not look at anything we could not afford. Period.
Oh sure, we WANTED a big, nice, impressive, brick house, but we weren’t willing to pay $2,000 dollars a month. NOT to mention, we couldn’t AFFORD to pay $2,000 dollars a month. So, we didn’t look at them. We stuck with what we could afford. We were patient. We looked at a lot of houses before we settled on a ranch-style home, a little less than 2,000 square feet. It was nothing fancy, but it was comfortable.
And we still live in that same house today.
I went to work for Wal-Mart when GD was two and MK was six months old, for two reasons, actually. One, to get out of the house because I just needed something more than being a wife and mother (selfish, I know. But there you have it). And two, so we could pay off some bills. But again, I simply couldn’t leave my kids with a daycare, I simply could not do it. So, I worked nights. That way, I had the kids with me during the day, Kevin had the boys at night (which put additional stress on the man during a time period he DID NOT need it).
I worked the 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. shift. I started out part-time as a cashier, but because of my banking experience, management moved me to the cash office where I remained for seven, long, years, full-time. And when I say long, I don’t mean it was long because of Wal-Mart, everyone was great to me there and I really enjoyed the work and the people, but long as in, I ran on virtually no sleep for those seven, long years. I got home in the dead of night and then I was back up at seven (if I was lucky) every morning to take care of the kids.
Those seven years … wow. I can’t even describe to you the stress we endured in our marriage. I was tired all the time. I was cranky. I was irrational and then to top it off, I was listening to a bunch of bitter women at work who did nothing but bad-mouth their men that I allowed that to affect my attitude with my own relationship.
It’s a wonder that our marriage survived at all.
Oh, and did I mention that I also went to college on and off during that entire time period while the kids were in school? I had always dreamed of graduating from college. I wanted to feel like I had accomplished something in my life. I wanted to set a good example for our boys.
To say it was tough would be putting it mildly.
At the end of that seven-year stint with Wal-Mart, everything just became too much for me to handle. I finally quit and concentrated on getting through college. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing in December, 2003.
And through that college experience, I learned how to build websites. And through a plea to volunteer to take over my sons’ elementary school website, I stumbled into my current job – designing and maintaining school websites.
My husband and I have endured a lot in our marriage. We have scratched, clawed, and cried our way to where we are now. But we’re stronger people because we didn’t give up. As a result of all of our hard work, we are debt free.
We never accepted any handouts. We never asked anyone for help. We did it on our own and hung on, even when our marriage was hanging by a thread, we persevered. Everything we have now is because we worked our asses off for it. And though we have more now than we have ever had, we’re still extremely careful about what we spend money on. And we make everything we have stretch to the near breaking point before we replace it – like our 15-year old carpet. Like our 33-year old furnace and water heater. Like t-shirts that get holes in them before we throw them out. Like appliances that simply quit working because they are so old. Like our ten plus year old cars (my husband’s truck is over ten years old, my car is a little over one year old, but I had driven all of my cars for no less than seven years before trading them in over the years).
I’m telling you all this because I get SO ANGRY when people start whining about not having this, or wanting that. It infuriates me when people expect something for nothing. I seethe whenever I hear people whine and complain about their financial situation and yet aren’t willing to make sacrifices in order to get out of debt (do they REALLY need that Blackberry? Or that SUV? Or the designer clothes? Or the house with the three-car garage? Are they even AWARE how much money the government takes out of their paycheck every week?)
Why do we feel entitled to something we haven’t worked for? Why? Why do people feel so envious of others? Do they know the stress and hardships those people have endured to get where they are? That’s like hating a woman because she’s too thin – do they realize how much time is required to look like that??
It’s all about sacrifices, working hard and taking responsibility for our lives. Everyone has a choice – they can either do it, or not. Sure, it’s easier for some given their backgrounds and situations, and yes, that sucks and it’s not fair, but is that a reason to give up? It’s just another reason to work harder.
And if people are not willing to work harder, and make those sacrifices to reach whatever level they want, then by God, stop bitching about it.
I’m sorry to go on and on about this; I don’t mean to sound preachy. I hadn’t intended to write this much, but this is something I feel very strongly about because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have nothing, to be frustrated, to be mind-numbing tired. And I’m more than prepared to go through it all again if I have to. And if we have to trim the fat from our lives, again, in order to be debt free, then by golly, we’ll do it.
But I won’t apologize for what we have or how we live our lives now because we’ve earned it through our sweat and blood to achieve it.
I’ve included the below video on how to become debt free. I thought it had some pretty powerful advice and thought it might help those out there that are willing to make the sacrifices to get out of the debt choke-hold.
Thanks for reading.