Monday, January 24, 2011

Disappearing debt little by little

Let's talk about debt.

As I said, we still have it. We're still paying off debts to the IRS, the State of California Franchise Tax Board and student loans. And we have a long way to go. That debt weighs heavily on us every day. It's suffocating. And usually when I think about it I feel a mixture of apathy and failure.


Not very inspiring. Quite the opposite, actually.

So I'm talking to my good friend Darchelle the other day about this debt and she offers another way to look at it. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: (whining) It feels like we'll never be out of debt!

Darchelle: But you have less debt this year than you had last year, right?

Me: Well... yes. (a light bulb goes off) Actually, we haven't accrued any new debt in over two years.

Darchelle: How many people can say that?

And scene.

No new debt

It's true, we haven't accrued any new debt in 2 years.

For the last two years we have been living a cash life.

And it is so rare that we actually acknowledge the triumph in that. We're usually too busy beating ourselves up for the debt we still have. But Darchelle was totally right. We have had less debt each year for the last two years. And if we had managed to hang onto our house, there's no way we could say that. We're moving in the right direction.

It's hard to see the progress because it's not tangible. Because we have nothing to show for our success in chipping away at our debt. That's precisely the point-- having nothing to show. But it's precisely what makes it such a challenging mental game. We're wired to have things to show for success.

Being debt-free... that's not visible. It's not tangible. And it's so slow. We're also wired to want everything now. Now. NOW! Instant gratification. Such a curse.

I mentioned this to Bob the other night. I said, do you realize that we haven't accrued a penny of debt over the last two years? He said that hasn't been the case since he was in college. Or was it earlier? I can't remember now. The point was that it had been a while. Bob got the triumph.

It is a triumph. To go from living most of your life accruing new debt year to year to breaking that trend. Intervening in the upward climb of what we owe. For two solid years. That intangible pile of money owed has shrunk. Maybe not perceptibly. But it has grown, not bigger, but smaller.

We've completely altered the way we live. It's not glamorous, but it's totally aligned with our goal of financial freedom.

Life without credit cards

Because we live a cash life, we have to budget and save before we spend. And once it's gone, it's gone. No more spending.

I haven't had a hair cut in months because there isn't any room for it in our budget. And I've been making do without winter boots in single digit temps in Chicago because we don't have the cash for a new pair. (I'm using thick wool socks in my rain boots for the brief moments I'm outside and it's been working. But I do really want some warm winter boots and curse myself for selling the pair I used to own in the Estate Sale.)

Thankfully, and of most importance, our main NEEDS are taken care of. We have a roof over our heads. We have heat. We have food in the refrigerator.

Hand-me-downs have saved us in regards to Malcolm. Almost everything for Malcolm has pretty much been handed down or gifted to us by the wonderful people in our lives. The rest was purchased at Goodwill and various thrift stores.

We're constantly distinguishing want vs. need. And it gets easier each day. Easier too because we simply don't have the room for wants. We do very well with what we have.

Of course, that doesn't stop us from wanting from time to time. We're human. But it does stop us from spending. And that's key.

Where there is room for improvement: Budgeting.

But for now, I'm going to raise my glass of water in a toast to having less debt this year than last year. And less each year that comes until we work our way all the way down to zero.

Disappearing debt little by little. It's a triumph worthy of celebration.

And thank you, Darchelle, for helping me get that!



Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for being honest. I appreciate your bravery. I've been spending countless hours on the phone speaking with condescending representatives that don't care about helping me save my home. I am presently in foreclosure bc they denied my modification, and reading your blog made me see a little light at the end of the tunnel of what seemed like a dreary situtaion. SO for that I thank you and wish you all the best.


Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...


So sorry to hear about your present situation. There IS light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep on going. Thanks so much for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Thank You, I needed that. I too haven't added any new debt other than student loans in about 1.5 years, my husband & I are in school. He full time,me part time. We need to be out of our house by mid May as it stands right now. We are in the process of moving into a rental. I can get really caught up in my depression, just frozen in it. I'm working what was supposed to be full time but not really turning out to be full time. So I have an interview this week at a job that would probably be full time but would require me to be away 3-4 days a week. I have two kiddos 10 & 13. I guess I'm lucky to be able to have jobs to interview for. Skills that people want. I've gotta do it though. We just can't get buy on what I'm currently making. I'm so tired of freaking out over money... MLZ

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all this great info. I am in the biggest mess of my life, due to health problems(husband) and unemployment. We are in foreclosure and in lots of cc debt. This morning I was contemplating suicide. I came across your blog and It was my light at the end of the tunnel. I feel better now THANKS!! I am going to get all my documents in order and begin to take control of my life.

Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...

Dear Anonymous,

Somehow I completely missed your comment on this post amidst switching to a new commenting system. What I want to say, it DOES get better. I promise. I'm so happy to hear that you're feeling better. How is everything going now? I know that things can seem so bleak and I hope that if you are seriously considering taking your own life, that you will reach out to suicide help lines and get help. We need you here on earth! You'll make it through this by doing exactly what you said: taking control of your life. And you'll be stronger for it. Sending love your way,

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