Tuesday, March 22, 2005

And We Never Once Shopped at Wal-Mart

So yesterday we became debt free. It has been a long road, but one that was well worth traveling, although I wish we hadn't had quite the number of flat tires that we did. I don't normally toot my own horn, but in this case, I just can't help myself.

We weren't always in debt, we spent the better part of our ten years together before marriage completely debt free. No credit cards, no car payments, no cell phones, no nothing. It was cash as you go, and a fine time we had.

I had a brush with overwhelming credit debt at the tender age of 21, falling prey to the ever present applications that are posted everywhere on college campuses. They didn't care how much I made, in fact I didn't even have a part time job when I applied. All they cared about was how much my parents made, and fortunately (or unfortunately, as it were) they made more than enough to qualify me for a $5000 credit line. Put a large credit line into the hands of a naive college girl who is pining for her family and friends back home, and trouble was bound to happen. Long story short was that I overextended myself, got caught in late fees and overcharge fees, and had to have Daddy bail me out, the fact of which I am not particularly proud. I did pay him back, though, every last cent.

Being 30 when we got married, Hubba-hubba and I felt it was appropriate for us to carry the largest financial burden of our wedding, and that would force us for the first time to carry a balance on our credit cards. Hubba-hubba, needing a new car, also purchased a new vehicle. Pair that with a decision to put our second mortgage, on which PMI was being paid, onto a zero interest card and you have quite a bit of debt accumulated within just a few months. We also began our household together, since we did not live together before marrying. From new appliances to toilet paper, we needed it all.

If things had gone as we had planned, we would have paid off our debt in about a year, a year and a half max. But as they say, make a plan and the universe laughs. Two months into being newlyweds and I was unexpectedly pregnant. I had to go on bedrest and disability for the remainder of the pregnancy. My check was about a third of my normal paycheck. Before marriage, we had agreed that when we had children, our first priority would be that I stayed at home with them.

So, we voluntarily entered a moratorium on spending. And when I say that, I mean EVERY purchase was analyzed. We agonized over whether getting the daily paper was an extravagance at two bucks a week. New clothes were a thing of the past, I literally bought no new clothes (except for gift purchases from family and such) for three years. Hubba-hubba was teased at work because he had one 19 inch TV and no cable. We felt that the internet and the newspaper were big enough splurges, and kept it at that. No cell phones, no vacations, no new earrings, no new shoes, no new makeup, nada. I got my hair done twice a year, Hubba-hubba bought some clippers and did his hair at home. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

It bugged me for a while, I have to admit. Keeping up with the Joneses is the favorite American pastime, and I was not much different. I felt poor, I felt that I was getting the raw end of the deal, I was admittedly quite spoiled. But then one day it hit me, there will always be someone out there with more than me. Always. Why am I spending so much time brooding over the things I don't have and enjoy the things I do?

And so at long last, thanks to the historically low interest rates and Hubba-hubba's shrewd financial acumen, we have only our mortgage and his one student loan, which is at a ridiculously low rate as well. Both of those are considered "good" debt, and the student loan is not large at all.

So how did we celebrate? We spent money, of course. But, it was all in cash that we could afford to spend. Finally, the walls of the tunnel no longer surround us, and we could use some sunglasses, because it sure is bright out here.

1 comment:

Cuppa said...

Congratulations! It is a tough road to walk, but oh so worth it when you get to the end of it and are debt free. Enjoy the sunshine at the end of that long dark tunnel.