As I pull into the school parking lot to wait for the bell to ring, a quick glance around shows me that my van is one of the oldest ones in the lot. Shiny, newer, bigger cars sit inches away and I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy.
I’ve been driving a 2004 Honda Odyssey since 2012. When we bought it, it was already 8 years old! But here’s the kicker, we paid cash for it so we didn’t have a car payment. And instead of going to buy a brand-new car when we “needed” one, we have been fixing what we could on our current cars (and setting a limit so we didn’t put too much into them) and saving for the past several months so we can buy a newer car without going into debt.
The Start of Our Journey
My husband and I started off our marriage by having a common goal to eliminate debt and spend smart. We’ve been doing it for 12 years now! We have good and bad months – he is much better at it than me since I’m the spender between us. I could daily go to Chick-fil-A for their Chicken Mini’s and Iced Tea and not think a thing of it. But he keeps me grounded and helps me remember that we have a goal. Our goal in the beginning was to pay off our debt. So we doubled down by not eating out as much, stopped contributions to our 401(k)’s for a limited time, cut cable, meal planned, and a few other things so we could focus all of our efforts on paying down car and school loan debt.
Then came kids. And they are so expensive. I quit my job when our first child was born and we became a single income home. We kept the course as best we could, with a few mess ups here and there.
But you know what? WE DID IT. It was SO hard. I wanted to do so many things during that time. Vacations, home remodels, evenings out with friends, big celebrations of birthdays and holidays. But the payoff has been a much bigger reward than if we had did those along the way. Don’t get me wrong — we still did those things. We just saved and thoughtfully put a plan into action so those vacations and holidays didn’t follow us home or through the next few months to pay off. And we are now debt free.
There are so many options these days to “get it now, pay later”, that it should seem pretty easy to get what we want, when we want it. But we aren’t looking at the “right now.” Our plan was to get to a place in our lives where we can give to those in need. If we are too busy taking care of ourselves, we lose the ability to see others. We also wanted to plan ahead for our future by starting early on our retirement fund. Also, our kids futures so they won’t need to pay off thousands of dollars in school debt or car loans. They watch us. We need to be the example. By us trying to teach them now the value of saving, working and spending within a budget, it can make a world of difference in their lives. Our kids are our future. For us to sacrifice now for THEM, and for our retirement, makes it worth it.
Debt Free Struggles
Even though we eliminated our debt, it doesn’t come without (first world) struggles. We bought a home that we have worked hard to remodel and enjoy, creating so many wonderful memories that I couldn’t even begin to count. We love our house but thought a bit more space would be nice. We thought about moving, we thought about remodeling and went back and forth so many times on it. Do we go into debt so we can get more space, more utility bills, more-More-MORE? After weighing and calculating numerous times, the answer is no. We could easily get a loan and make it happen, but it would put a strain on our finances. We are learning to be content with what we have, because in reality, we are very blessed indeed.
And my car jealousy? Well, driving a car that is paid off sure does beat one that’s not.
You Can Do It!
So this is my encouragement for you. With the start of a new year, just know that it’s possible. Take it from me, a mid-30’s mom in YOUR community. You can live without financial stress and monthly payments, and still live a pretty great life. Cars, vacations, and all those wonderful things taunting you at Hobby Lobby or the clothing boutique down the road can still be yours — if you plan ahead and save up for them! You may not own the newest or the best of everything, but you know what? That’s definitely okay. And if you save now, one day, you will.