In the last 14 months, we’ve paid off $44,513 in debt, while paying $11,700 toward our mortgage. That’s a grand total of $56,213 of debt paid off in 14 months. We didn’t win the lottery. We didn’t come into an inheritance.
Hardly. We simply got motivated and found ways to be satisfied by our success in getting out of debt. If we can do it, so can you.
We happen to be living through the most expensive time of our lives: We’re paying for two tuitions – one college, one high school – in cash. We’re paying down our mortgage. We’re saving for retirement.
All of these expenses motivate us to work hard and to stay out of debt. Luckily, we have some things going for us. We’re still in our 40s, my husband is in his peak earning years, and, with the kids mostly raised, my time has been freed up to generate a second stream of income.
These four strategies worked for us. They’ll work for you, too.
Get On The Same Page
I don’t remember the exact moment my husband and I decided that it was time to get rid of our debt, but we luckily found ourselves on the same page at the same time. Initially, I was more motivated; but since I manage the money, I was able to get started right away. As soon as my husband saw how much progress we were making, he kicked into action.
Though we’re far from living a life of deprivation, we have learned to delay gratification of some wants when it’s necessary for debt reduction or avoidance (i.e., paying cash for a college education). I drive a seven-year old minivan (and will for some time more); our kitchen is in serious need of a remodeling job; but neither of those things is worth more debt.
Celebrate Big Wins
Nothing accelerates debt reduction and supercharges motivation like big wins. Ours have come in the form of bonus income and life insurance cash value. But a big tax return or selling old, unused electronics, clothes, or random doodads works too.
Celebrate Little Ones, Too
Even when big wins were few and far between, we found or created lots of little ones to keep our spirits high and keep us going. Rebates, PerkStreet rewards, missing money, even jury duty pay…no amount has been too small to throw at our debt.
We have $14,785 in non-mortgage debt to go. We hope to have it knocked out in the first half of 2012. Then we’ll need to sit down and decide what this new normal will look like financially.
There will be no shortage of places for money to go. We want to increase our retirement savings; we have another college education to pay for; and it would be nice to remodel that kitchen… But working all of it out is the fun part.
What motivates you to keep up the task of debt reduction? We’d love to know – share in the comments section below.
Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about everything having to do with personal finance. She shares money saving and debt reduction tips on her blog, The Family CEO. When she’s not reading or writing about money, you can usually find her hanging out with her friends and family and cheering on the Kansas Jayhawks.