$23k Debt-Free

Priority, be debt free


A little break from counting numbers on our debt balance. Not many people within our circle understands why Joel and I do the things a certain way, our sacrifices, and what is exactly our goals/plans are.

Back story:

Joel’s student loans began rolling in right when we started dating, roughly ten years ago. We lived on a separated section of his parents house (like a mini bachelor pad type of thing) for about 6 years. In those 6 years, he was late on a lot of monthly payments. I had no credit and his was below 650, and no savings. We were not on the same page financially and spent paycheck to paycheck, and spent more than what we made. We were financially irresponsible and sometimes we could not even take our pets to the vet for emergencies or for regular check ups.

About three years ago, Joel left his auto technician job and into a new career. He started working for Maritime and that takes him about 4-8 months a year away from home. With the bigger paycheck coming in, we were able to pay one student loan, a couple credit cards, and personal loans. We didn’t worry about saving money for 6-month expenses or emergency because mentally, we were not on the financial freedom track.

A year ago (October 2015), we made a drastic decision to move to another state. We took out a personal loan, applied and approved for our very first apartment, and vaccinated our two pets all within two months. Now that I think about it, that was some ballsy move huh? After settling for 2 months (holidays), we had to charge a big chunk to our credit card to pay for Joel’s school/training that is required for his job and another credit card charge to pay 2 weeks worth of our hotel stay while he finishes the rest of the course. Before moving, we were able to pay 50% of our debt total only to bring it back 50% again in just 6 months. Due to personal matters, Joel did not take any job for about a year after working 8 months straight the previous year. So we were solely relying on whatever savings we had and the unemployment checks he was receiving. We were running low by April and had just enough to pay one more month of rent and whatever bills we had flowing thru monthly. I remember I lost some weight because I was budgeting like crazy on groceries and made sure I was able to buy our two pets their needs first. We were both extremely stressed and I spent a lot of hours working out to not think about it. We would cry on most nights and had the hardest time falling asleep. By May 2016, thank God! A job came through and although it was not the best, Joel took the 6-month long contract. In that 6 months, we were able to fill up our 6-month expense savings, Joel was going to be home right on time for the holidays, etc. Only to let me know that he took a job that he missed by a day prior to the 6-month contract. There was an opening and he took it, higher pay and better benefits. After 6 months apart (plus the 2 months he was in Hawaii waiting for a job call), I cried for weeks because he will only have a week to visit, miss the holidays, and leave for another 4 months. Not the way we wanted to end 2016 and welcome 2017.

Today (Jan. 2017), we are finally on the same page in our relationship financially, emotionally, and mentally. We looked at it as an opportunity to finally tackle our entire debt and increase our savings. We welcomed 2017 by paying off a little over 43% of our debt. We will not spend Valentine’s Day together, but hope to celebrate it by paying off his last student loan. His last two months, we plan to save 80% of his total income which doubles up our regular 6-month expenses budget.

Throughout the years, we struggled individually as well as together. We were together when we were young and had no responsibilities. We were together when we started fighting about money. We were together when we started to feel the struggle of relying on ourselves financially. We made every imaginable mistakes you can think of together. We were together when we were learning to adjust into adulthood. We tasted the struggle of not having anything for ourselves, scraping, and thought we’d never make it out.

If I had the choice to do everything all over again, I would say ‘Yes’. Whatever we do and say today, we do it as a “Team”. We would have never progress if we did not struggle all these years. Our relationship suffered in more ways than one. Whether it’d be personally, emotionally, physically, or financially. We tasted every bit of it and now we are learning to make important and huge sacrifices. If being apart for the time being is what we need to do for us to stay above water and enjoy life, then so be it.

Our goal to be debt free is not to aim for riches (materialistically or a fat bank account), it’s because we don’t want to be slaves to lenders. We have no kids, mortgage, and are unmarried meaning we want to enjoy our ‘single life’ and travel a little here and there together. We do not want to owe money to lenders, rather enjoy our money spending time together, and grow our savings for protection. We no longer want to wonder if we will be able to keep food on the table or a roof over our head, do we have enough gas to make it to the gas station, or  will we have electricity or hot water next month. Being debt free means Joel will be home more & we can have room to breathe without feeling like our lives is a game of roulette.

Sure, somewhere in the future we will rack a debt again, but we want to make sure it is an investment. We always dreamt of a wedding, Santorini honeymoon, travel other countries,  a 3-car garage and large backyard for his man cave and running space for the fur kids, 2-3 kids of our own, have a college fund for each kids, and own a couple of houses to rent out so he can retire early. I think it is possible I mean, where we are today is something I only wished for and yet here we are.

What struggles helped you get on track, financially?


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