Ever since I signed my name on the dotted line to take out student loans in order to attend the college of my dreams, I’ve been in debt. It’s been 14 long years of paying debt ever since: those original student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, then another vehicle loan, a construction loan. Even though my husband and I invested wisely and saved frequently, all that debt meant we were never really in the black; we were always in the red, in debt, and we felt like we were in for it for the long haul.
And then a funny thing happened. We got serious about paying debt – and getting out of debt – and soon had paid off all of our loans with one glaring exception: our mortgage. After all, we needed a place to live, and didn’t have the extra $100,000+ sitting around to pay it off. So we grew comfortable with that $134,000 elephant in the room and tried to ignore its very existence.
When we sold our house, though, we paid off the mortgage in the process, although it did mean giving up our home. The result? My husband and I are now, for the first time in our adult lives, completely, utterly, totally, 100% debt free! While I knew our new debt free status was on the horizon, I definitely didn’t predict how the lack of debt in our lives would make us feel. To be honest, it’s exhilarating, and that feeling – that sense that a huge burden had been lifted off our shoulders – surprised me.
But what’s surprised me – and continues to surprise me even now – is how being debt free has changed my perspective on taking on new debt.
Before we sold our house and paid off our mortgage, I viewed debt as a necessary evil. If you wanted a car, you needed to take on debt; if you wanted a house, you needed to take out a loan. Now, though, I’m seeing debt a little differently. It’s so empowering to be able to spend, save, and invest our money on just the things we need today or want tomorrow, and not on something we technically “bought” yesterday. There’s only one word to describe it: freedom.
Although I know we will ultimately go back into debt to buy our forever home – long-term rental doesn’t make as much sense when you know you’re moving someplace for the rest of your life – I’m going to make it my mission to pay off that mortgage as quickly and efficiently as possible… because I like this feeling; I like feeling free; I like the flexibility it offers me and my family.
When was the last time you were debt free? How did it make you feel?