Why don’t more people talk about this part of paying off debt? I feel like a broken record over here, but it is H-A-R-D to knock this last bit out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. We WILL pay it off and it’s not THAT hard. It’s not like staring down the barrel of a 2.5 year process to pay off $114,000 of debt. But that doesn’t make the last bit easy.
I like to define things and I have found that it’s helping me identify what is making this seem so hard. Let me share…
A) DELAYED GRATIFICATION. Let’s talk about this. For two years we have sacrificed and delayed all things that didn’t seem absolutely relevant and critical to our day-to-day happiness. We have put off buying clothes, house stuff, food, the list goes on, and on, and on. You get the idea. We try to live simply so that later we can live a little more extravagantly (liking cooking a gourmet meal when we want to instead of opting for bologna because it’s too expensive to whip up a fancy dinner “just for fun”).
B) DEBT FREE CELEBRATION. We have spent so much time focusing on the finish line that we have laid down bait for ourselves. Then stare at the bait for two years while we anticipate the celebration that will follow the last student loan payment. As we get closer to the prize, we find ourselves in the midst of motivation creep. We will spend a little here or a little there…because we are so close to being out of debt we think, “What’s the difference?! Go ahead and get that now because we’ll be buying it the minute we’re out of debt anyway but by then the timing won’t be right.” We have started to prematurely buy things in celebration of being debt free. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?! It’s frustrating and a vicious cycle to break. Although, we have identified this starting early and have put a stop to it. Similar to when we started this process, we have to say out loud – often in the store – “the student loan must go first.”
C) PRE-PAY TO CELEBRATE. The other big issue we are running into that has slowed us down some, and that we’ve had to put a stop to, is paying for something now that won’t be happening until a little later in the year when we ARE debt free. Think of flights. If we want to go on a trip later this year to visit family, relax, etc., the flight for that trip will need to be purchased ahead of time. We were thinking we would be out of debt in plenty of time to purchase those flights, but thanks to a certain squirrel and a large tax bill (due to a Roth rollover) we are going to be out of debt a few months past the previous target we set. Regardless of being debt free when these trips or activities take place, the planning is requiring some expense and we are trying to minimize those or hold off as long as possible so we can knock the debt out first!! IT MUST GO!
D) THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING. It seems as though there is always something that pops up each month that takes away the focus from our debt. While a decent chunk of our income is going to debt (about 50% of our take-home pay), we still find pesky things like vet bills, taxes, or speeding tickets – also known as “Murphy” – nibbling on that portion of our income and delaying our inevitable debt freedom.
The past few months have felt very discouraging. We continue to keep our eye on the prize – so long as we don’t buy it first! The debt is our priority still and we have regained focus. Our new goal is to have it paid off by May 15th. Considering our tax bill this is an aggressive goal. Luckily, I’m looking for some aggressive goals in my life and this one will do just fine.