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39 months ago, I was a 21 year old recent college graduate with a job that paid barely above minimum wage. I was living with my mom because I couldn’t afford to live on my own. I felt as if there was no hope in sight, thanks to my financial mistakes that caused me to rack up $25,000 in debt. Then I read The Total Money Makeover and decided I was going to dig myself out of this hole, no matter how long it took. I knew that someday (hopefully!) I would get married and I didn’t want to bring so much financial baggage into a marriage.
Today, I sit on my couch and reflect on the journey that brought me to this point. How just 3 years later, I’m happily married to my husband of almost 18 months. We live in a cute little cottage in Iowa with our dog and cat. We both have careers we love and are both pursuing college degrees (this time with no debt!) I think about how my decision to pursue financial freedom so many months ago has given me freedom in other areas of my life. Then, I click “submit” for the final time on the Fed Loan Servicing website.
It is finished. Andy and I are debt free. Let me walk you through how it happened.
As I recapped in this post from mid-October, we had around $6,000 left to pay off: $5,000 towards my student loan and $1,130 as a “tithing debt” to the Lord. At the end of October, I received my monthly paycheck and put around $800 towards our debt snowball, bringing my student loan down to just $4,100. I put the remaining $1,200 from my paycheck aside for some much-needed car repairs.
Last week, we finally received our remaining reimbursement from the Army for our move from Kentucky to Iowa over the summer, which was just short of $4,000. We discovered that my car repairs were nowhere near as much as the amount we had guesstimated (bless the on-campus auto shop and their affordable prices!) Throwing the DITY reimbursement pay and the car repair money aside toward our debt snowball, we discovered we were just $400 away from total debt freedom. We decided to “float” $400 from our checking account until I get my next monthly paycheck at the end of November; this was doable since we live off last month’s income.
It still seems surreal that we are finally debt free. It is such a relief. A weight has been taken off our shoulders. I don’t feel like I am “slave to the lender” anymore. Andy asked me if this day was better than our wedding day, and I said it was a close second. Just like I had dreamed of my wedding day for years before Andy and I were married, I had dreamed of being debt free for 39 months. I’ve dreamed of my “debt free anniversary” long before Andy and I had ever met.
It’s fitting that our “debt free anniversary” is November 7th, which was Election Day this year. A day when we are able to celebrate our freedom as a country by voting for public officials is also a day that Andy and I will always remember as the day we gained freedom from debt.
Now, how will we celebrate? Next weekend we’re going to the most iconic restaurant in Iowa, Northwestern Steakhouse (which just happens to be here in Mason City.) We’re going to order whatever we want without even thinking about price. And we can’t wait!