Finance

Six Month Debt Journey Update

Mark and I our on our debt-free journey! If you missed the last couple of articles, we have over $100,000 in student loan debt between the two of us, not including a mortgage that we want to get paid off sooner rather than later. Our goal is to be completely debt free and have $100K in retirement savings, as well as a $50K emergency fund saved up before we move sometime in 2025. Those are some super lofty goals, right?

It has been 3 months since the last entry, in which I shared that we had successfully paid off $15,000 in credit card debt and were using the rest of the year to cash flow our remaining wedding expenses. Since then, Mark and I have had many “strategic planning” meetings to discuss where our money should go every month out of each paycheck, and what our priorities are now that we have had more than a year’s worth of history with our combined finances to look at.

These meetings are very important, and I would encourage you and your loved one to have meetings like this. After several, we finally feel like we are on the same page and have the same exact, not similar, goals in the short-term and in the long-term. For example, we are not making any more large purchases (ex. furniture) for the house until we are debt-free. We have also decided to keep the carpet and the vinyl on our floors, however undesirable these are, and to hold off on getting our walls painted. So, yes, we have builders grade chalky white paint on the walls, ratty carpet, and a $15 dining set from Goodwill, but we are focused on a larger goal.

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As mentioned in our previous post, we also own a fully paid for used Toyota Prius, and got rid of our other cars. We have no car payment, and our car insurance has gone down to under $90 per month from the almost $150 per month we were paying on two cars. While it sounds like we are sacrificing a lot, this has forced us to become content with what we do have. Our focus is to live on as little as possible now and put the rest toward the debt payments and some savings, then buy our dream house with cash and start aggressively saving for retirement after we move. So, what exactly is our plan?

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We sat down together and wrote everything out. We made very conservative estimates to make sure that we would always have a little bit of buffer in our account. Our total income is a little over $6000 per month after taxes. Our plan is to allocate $2500 to go to mortgage (including extra $100 on principal), utilities and bills, food and other small expenses. The remaining $3500 is used to save for Mark’s tuition for his Master’s program ($1000), Emergency Savings ($500) and student loan payments ($2000). While our budget looks tight, we will essentially be cash-flowing the rest of Mark’s degree, paying off student loans, paying off our mortgage a little bit faster and saving for a rainy day all at the same time.

After Mark graduates, we can put the money originally marked for tuition as extra cash to pay off the student loans faster, and hopefully his degree earns him a promotion or another job with a higher income. This is our plan. It is not perfect, and we haven’t really tried it yet, but at the next debt update, we will let you know how easy or how difficult it was for us to stick to this new budget. For now, I just want to reflect on the highs and lows of the last three months, in terms of our debt-free journey:

6 month report

Total debt paid to date: $16,380.12

Total remaining debt, including mortgage: $280,749.69

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Highs

  • We got married!
  • We were able to pay for our share of the wedding without going into debt
  • We added an extra $100 to our mortgage principal payment without it really affecting any other part of our budget
  • Our car insurance decreased
  • We were able to snag deep discounts on our living room furniture, and got rid of our futon

Lows

  • We weren’t on the same page with the debt payoff plan for most of this period
  • We haven’t paid anything on student loans yet
  • Our spending went up during the month of February (we use Mint.com to track this)

We aren’t perfect with this debt. But it is very easy to think you don’t really have a debt problem until you look at all the numbers together. Having almost $300K in total debt and over $100K in student loan debt to start with is very sobering. It made us feel like we were never going to be able to have our middle class dreams, but many people who are middle class like us and went to college and graduate school have similar student loan burdens. I think we should start by not feeling ashamed or hiding from this debt. Just face it, accept it and pay it off as best as you can.

A lot of us took on debt to leverage a more secure and successful future. The best thing that we can do is work hard, get that dream job and make the debt worth it, then pay it off *quickly* and start banking that retirement. The hard work shouldn’t end after you walk across the stage and get that really expensive degree, and there are plenty of folks like me who are in your corner and who can struggle alongside you so that you don’t feel so alone. The road is hard, but hopefully not for long.

Are any of you in debt? Share your thoughts in the comments section. This site is here to be a catalyst for community and support.

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