Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Friday, June 15, 2018, my family officially became debt free.
We have no credit card debt.
We have no student loan debt.
We have no car debt.
We have no debt on appliances, electronics, or any other item.
And even though it’s not debt, we don’t even have any outstanding medical bills.
We’re currently renting, so we don’t even have a mortgage.
After almost 15 years of marriage, my wife, Amy, and I have finally returned to zero.
It’s been an amazing day. It started off with a nice morning walk, just me and my headphones. By the time I returned, the kids were already getting ready for the day. I grabbed Amy and said, “I need you to do something.” I logged in to the student loan providers website, set everything up, and said, “I want you to make the last payment.”
She pressed the submit button, and closed the window. I am man enough to admit, I cried. Then, she cried. We hugged each other. She said, “You did it, babe.” I corrected her, “No, we did it.”
The wait began.
I had my favorite drink — Sugar Free Rockstar (which I like to call “cold coffee”) — and had the kids work on a sign that read “We’re Debt Free.” They colored in the letters with enthusiasm. They have been part of this process, and my family tree has been changed. They will grow up being taught to stay away from consumer debt, how to build savings, and learn how to give.
Amy had an activity planned with our kids, but my son was sick today so he stayed home with me while she took our two daughters to have some fun. The Boy and I hung out at the house. I chose to the take the day off today, because I wanted to be off for this special occasion. I cleaned and did a little house organization. I ordered my youngest daughter’s birthday gifts with the money we had budgeted. There’s no more credit card purchases here; everything is paid in full. I did anything to keep me busy while we waited for the official word from the student loan provider that the money had been processed.
My plan for today included meeting a dear friend of mine, David, to have a celebratory lunch. Since my son was sick, he agreed to bring lunch with him to my house and we enjoyed our meal at our kid-abused, paid for kitchen table. I had Chinese food, and savored every bite.
Food tastes better when you aren’t making payments on it.
My son wanted to play outside before going to the doctor, so we did. I relished my time with him. We went to the doctor; he’s fine and just needs to work a little virus out. He’s not contagious, so we are a “go” for celebrating more later tonight.
And then, more waiting. As has been the custom for this process this year, I knew the student loan provider wouldn’t have anything definitive until after 6 p.m. I checked anyway. “Processing,” it read. The wheels were in motion. I admit, I was nervous. “What if it doesn’t go through today? What if there’s some problem?” The borrower is truly slave to the lender.
We cut so much out of our budget this year. I took on a second job, utilizing the skills from my main job to aggressively accelerate our debt payoff. Amy helped run defense with the children, and kept the household functioning at somewhat normal levels. She was excellent with the budget when grocery shopping, finding things for the kids to do on the cheap, finding clothing, and so much more. For several months, I was doing 50+ hour weeks. It was so hard when we were going through it, but today it feels like a distant memory.
More waiting. And then, at 6 p.m., I checked again. The moment had finally arrived. The balance was shown as $0.00.
Our progress has been measured visually with a debt chain that has hung in our front room since January, the start of The Year of No. Each link represented $1,000 of debt, and we started the year with around $20,000 left to go.
I cut the next to last link in the chain, then had Amy cut the final one. It read, “Debt Free.”
Today was all about Amy. The last of the debt was hers, and today we fulfilled a goal I had made when we became engaged. I wanted us to be totally free, and now we have broken the chains of debt. When we started The Year of No, my deep-in-my-heart goal was to be out of debt by our anniversary. We beat that goal by one month. Our anniversary is July 26.
We have celebrated little milestones along this journey with something cheap and fun, and today was no different. We packed up the kids in our 18-year-old, paid-for, hanging-on-by-a-thread minivan and headed to a local frozen yogurt shop for a calorie-laden “dinner.” There no place for healthy food choices today; we celebrated our freedom with decadence, paid for with a debit card.
Froyo tastes better when it’s not attached to an annual percentage rate.
Today is day zero. Tomorrow is the first day of our debt-free life. I am beyond grateful to the many people who have helped on this journey, and have provided encouragement. I have even loved the haters, because nothing drives me more than “You can’t do that.”
We have followed Dave Ramsey’s plan as outlined in his book, “The Total Money Makeover.” I am here to say that we are proof: it’s a simple plan that works. I love it when a plan comes together. You can either wallow in your misery, or get angry and take action. I pray you chose the latter.
Our official debt payoff since starting the plan in full is $34,076 of debt paid off in 21 months.
Someone recently told me, “I wish I could be like you.”