Debt free

Tired Of The Chokehold

To be totally honest, I am so sick and tired of paying off debt. It feels like a never-ending journey. It’s quite the phenomenon how quickly you can rack up debt, but how it takes forever to get rid of. No this isn’t a rant (well, it kind of is) about my debt paydown, but more how I conquer debt fatigue. Because folks, it’s very real.

I’ve been in debt for my entire adult life (wow, typing that just made me even more dedicated to getting out of deb). I’ve talked a bit about my dance with debt and how it wreaked havoc on my credit score. I started accruing debt my very first year in college. It started with student loans; innocent enough, right? Well, it quickly included consumer debt; credit cards. And honestly, it was basically a downwards spiral. I’m not naturally a saver, nor am I naturally frugal, so during my spendy years, I was not only totally ignoring my financial situation, but actively contributing to it’s demise…I know, a bit dramatic, but debt talk needs a bit of theatrics.

I did eventual get my head out of my ass out of the sand, but whoa, the damage had most certainly been done. By the time I figured I should start trying to do something about my debt and try to eventually live a life of minimal financial stress, I realized I had ways to go.

I researched different debt payoff methods; not going to get into debt avalanche vs debt snowball here, don’t worry. I opted for the debt avalanche method and am using ReadyforZero to help me. It’s great because I don’t have to put too much thought into it. I figured out how quickly I want out of debt, now (unrealistic); and how much I could put towards it every month; over $1000 which is unfortunately, not enough to get out of debt in less than three years. But, I have a plan in place and I’m sticking to the plan.

But….

I’m tired. Bone tired. Half of the time I wake up and think of all of things I can’t do (since I’m no longer accruing debt and all of my extra money is going towards debt) and I think, “This sucks. I just want to go and have dinner and drinks with my friends and not think about the cost, and I can’t.”

I have created mechanisms to fight this debt fatigue. Yes, I follow a budget (thanks YNAB) and every single penny is accounted for. I’ve budgeted for ” fun” money to combat said debt fatigue, but this fun money isn’t nearly as much as it was. True, my previous “fun” money was funded mostly by credit cards. I sometimes, okay often, feel deprived. When I was in my financial dark ages, I did whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Now, I act like a responsible adult and do activities that are in my budget.

I know a lot of hardcore PF bloggers have tackled their debt by cutting out “fun” money categories completely, but I just can’t. However, I’ve armed myself with several anti-spend weapons to keep my budget in check, continue with my debt payoff plan and still feel like I have a life. Like living in zombie-land, you must be prepared for all situations.

Anti-spend weapon #1: Embrace free activities. Mr. MyCountdown and I are all over every free activity we can find. Okay, so we don’t go to every free activity, but we live close enough to a major metropolitan area that there is always a plethora of things to do that are if not free, than really cheap. Spring through fall are the best. There’s free outdoor concerts everywhere, free festivals, street fairs and the list goes on. There’s literally something to do every weekend. During the colder winter months, if we can’t find a free activity, we make sure it’s pretty cheap or we stay home.

Anti-spend weapon #2: We never ever leave the house hungry. Never. We don’t want to get caught out of the house so hungry that we wind up eating bad fast food or salty, expensive restaurant food and then regret it as soon as we get home. If we plan to go to a festival, free park concert or such and only plan to be gone for about four hours, we eat plentifully at home (and quench our thirst) before leaving, making plans to come back home for the next meal of the day. If we’re gone longer, we bring snacks along for the car ride to hold us over until we get home. In fact, we have non-perishable snacks that live  permanently in the trunk of our car. I always bring my water bottle so I don’t have to purchase a drink while walking around. Okay, criminal activity exposed here: I even sneak my water bottle in my purse so I don’t have to purchase water if bringing outside beverages is a no no. And yes, I’ve been caught plenty of times and been asked to leave my water bottle at the gate, and no that hasn’t stopped me from doing it still (I just refuse to buy a $3-$5 bottle of water because I’m thirsty).

Anti-spend weapon #3: Family and friend activities. Our favorite activity is hosting friends and family and going to others homes as well. We always do it potluck style, that way food and drinks (I always supply an inexpensive bottle of wine to the festivities because, well, wine is always good) are incorporated into our general grocery budget, instead of our “fun” money category, which is extremely limited. We have game night, watch movies and even bust out the home karaoke machine (that’s when the party really gets going). We also enjoy these activities because it allows family and friends with children to join in the festivities.

Anti-spend weapon #4: Inexpensive or free hobbies. Both Mr. MyCountdown and I enjoy spending time outdoors and a great afternoon for us is typically going for a nice run, bike ride or long hike outside (with the Mr. taking pictures), or bringing a blanket with a few books to the park for a read and a nap. On cold, rainy or snowy days, the only thing I’m typically interested in doing is curling up on the couch with one of my cats and whatever novel I’m reading (you can also partake in less PG, but explicitly more fun adult activities with your significant other on these kinds of afternoons too 😉 ) and all the above are totally free.

Anti-spend weapon #5: Continually envision and focus on what my life will look like once I’m out of debt and all of my hard-earned money is mine to keep.

So yes, I have extreme debt fatigue at times. I’m pretty sure many folks in a similar situation do, but this is how I battle the ever-present fatigue.

What anti-spend weapons do you wield to defeat the “spendy” monsters and keep you on track with your financial goals? 

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The “Our Next Life” Series

Piggybacking off of From Frugal to Free and Our Next Life, I thought I would add my own “My Next Life: Series”. ThinkSaveRetire started this series and has invited others to join in. These great bloggers discussed “their next life,” life after being financially free.

My next life is about fifteen years away. I’ll be debt free by 2018, and it’s at this point that Mr. MyCountdown and I can start the sprint down the road to “our next life.”

I’ll still be working at the five-year mark, but ALL of my disposable income will be mine and not promised to various banks (I’m so excited for this), so Mr. MyCountdown and I plan to travel more. With both of our incomes combined (I’m currently the breadwinner, but Mr. MyCountdown is on the fast track at work to making a much higher income than I); we would love to take a three month “mini” retirement and travel the country hiking and camping. Mr. MyCountdown and I love being outdoors and we have dreams of driving coast to coast to explore this beautiful country we live in. Mr. MyCountdown can focus on his photography, and I can focus on well, not working and travelling coast to coast!

In ten years, I’ll be forty-three and would have been debt free for 7 years. At this point, Mr. MyCountdown and I would have funneled quite a bit of money into our investment accounts (once my debt is paid, we plan to live on just my income and save his). If Mr. MyCountdown’s income increases on the trajectory we are expecting (okay, hoping), we will have been saving close to six figures a year. We’re not ready to fully retire yet, but getting there.

In fifteen years, we would have saved enough money to live modestly off both our dividends and part-time work. The part-time work will not only supplement our incomes, but will fuel our passions. We will be at a place financially, where we can be choosy about how we spend our “working” time.

At this time, our next life begins. You’ll find me splitting my time between volunteering at some of the local museums and animal shelters; doing some paid part-time work; reading and writing; and doing the physical activities I enjoy like running, hiking and swimming. Mr. MyCountdown can found running every day, focusing on his photography and cooking up delicious and creative meals in between his part-time work.

We don’t have any plans to move; we really love our Midwestern state. It’s beautiful with miles of coastline to explore; nature to camp, explore and photograph; and fun small cities sprinkled throughout to visit; also, our family is here and we are very close to them. We will use some of our “part-time” income to help supplement any wanderlust we’re feeling.

I’ll be excited to get out of bed everyday because I dreamed up a life and then did the hard work to make it my reality.

Tell me about what your “Next Life” looks like. Some questions posed by Our Next Life are:

  • What will your transition be like? Will you be quitting a job? Making a move? How will all of that go down?
  • What are the big goals you have for your next life, or just the goals for the first five years or so?
  • What are the little day-to-day goals you have for yourself?
  • Will you quit working, change what you do for work, or stay the course?
  • What will a day in the life look like?
  • How will you manage your finances in the next stage?
  • What will excite you about getting out of bed every day?

And don’t forget to link back 😉