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How Far Will I Go To Pay Off Our Debt?

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A few people have commented to me a while ago that if I was serious about reducing my debt I would do more. I should cut out the cable and I should spend as little as possible and sell most of our possessions. I’ll add that you could go ever farther and live out of a truck as this man has been doing. Now that’s an extreme way to get rid of your debt.

But while I am trying to pay off our debt as quickly as possible, I’m trying to live our lives in a way that will not lead to major splurges once our debt is paid off. One could say that I am trying to establish life long spending habits for our family. There is always a fear that we could end up back in trouble down the road if we do not work on what got us in debt in the first place.

And the biggest thing that got us into so much debt was spending more than we earned. It’s amazing how one little phrase can sum it all up, but it’s true. That is the base of our problem and that’s what I am working on correcting by living within our means.

I like to think of it as finding that happy place where we are spending less than we earn, yet still having some things that we enjoy. With the three of us, we do want to enjoy life but we are learning how to do it for less and we make our dollars stretch as far as they can.

I think with each passing month, we are getting closer to that happy place. That’s where I want to be while paying off our debt because I think it will be a great way to live once we are debt-free.

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18 Comments

  • Reply Jeremy |

    That brings up a good point. There is a fine line between working hard to pay down your debt and sacrificing your quality of life. I think your approach is the best way to achieve your goal without adversely affecting other areas of your life.

    We’re in a similar situation to you and while in theory we could do even more to attack our debt even faster. We could stop putting money into retirement accounts, sell our newer vehicles and opt for old beaters, cut our cable and high speed internet among other “luxury” items and have our debt paid off in a fraction of the time (compared to our projected 3.5 year plan).

    But to me that makes no sense. Yes, we would save a lot of money over that time in interest, but would we learn anything? By maximizing the focus on debt reduction while continuing to automatically save and invest, make reasonable payments and live on a very tight budget we are building a sound financial outlook that will continue to benefit us even after all the debt bills are gone.

    Life is too short to sacrifice quality just to wind up in the same old habits after one problem is solved.

  • Reply Matt |

    I think there is a happy medium where you don’t spend more than you make while at the same time you still enjoy your way of life. Too many people try to keep up with the proverbial Jones’ and in doing so end up overspending. I think you’re doing an amazing job even though you could have cut a few more things out to speed things up and potentially made yourself miserable in doing so. Keep going at the rate you are and you’ll have a nice healthy amount for savings and investment once the debt is paid off. You’re an inspiration to all of us in debt.

  • Reply Him |

    The PFBlog community and its readers can be tough on the debt reduction.

    The fact is that you’re probably doing better than 99% of those who are in your situation, with a modest income to boot.

    There will always be people who will be doing better or more. As long as you keep focusing on your goals you’ll get there.

  • Reply Shawna |

    I agree with you 100%! I think if you force yourself to suffer then you are not going to be building lasting habits. Your way (and mine too) seems to lead to more of a lifestyle change instead. I’ll be glad when I get to a point of spending less than I make 🙂
    You seem to have paid off a nice chunk – congrats on the progress.

  • Reply Flora |

    You have children, right? If you moved the family into a truck, those kids would be in foster care in a jiffy. You know what you’re doing.

  • Reply DC Smith |

    Here’s another thing about stuff like cable and fast internet service. Yeah, in an emergency it is certainly something that can and should be cut. And yeah, paying that bill once a month can make it look pretty big. I know I cringe every time it hits the card.

    However, for several years I went without cable (or any TV). My job had long hours and I didn’t think I had time for that stuff anyway.

    Then I read “Your Money or Your Life” and started tracking expenses. Down to the penny. Guess what? I was spending a LOT of cash on books, magazines, movie rentals, admission to things like the car/boat/home show that I would not have done had I not been bored. And that doesn’t include the gas (I was an hour from a decent-size town).

    Digital cable for me is less than $2 a day. Internet about the same. Now assume a family of four, and the price for cable stays the same, but would you read the same books and magazines? How much for four to go to the movies? Just one $4 admission/magazine/paperback each, once a week, and the cable is more than paid.

    Don’t ever tell Comcast I said it, but even at the prices they charge now, cable TV is a darn cheap way to waste time, especially during the snowbound months. It may not be wholesome, educational, or healthy, but if there’s one thing it is, it’s CHEAP.

  • Reply Kim L. |

    I agree with you and everyone else .. you still need to live life! I like how you said that you are just trying to learn a new way. It’s so true. You are doing the best you can and that in itself is a great accomplishment.

  • Reply Anne |

    It’s just like “dieting” versus changing your eating habits. A diet will likely cause you to return to your unhealthy ways once the diet has ended and the anticipated result has been achieved. Changing your habits will lead to a possibly slower, but steadier, and longer lasting end result. Smart move.

  • Reply Lazy Man and Money |

    I think that it’s insane to start selling your stuff off. You’ll just have to buy it back at a higher rate when you are out of debt. Anne is right with the health analogy. Selling your stuff off would be like a starving yourself, you’ll just put on double the weight back.

    The similarities between health and wealth is what lead me to create Lazy Man and Health.

  • Reply missiondebtfreedom |

    Tricia – you are exactly right that spending more than we earn is how we got in this mess. That slow bleed is what ultimately does us in financially. It is usually not some huge financial disaster, but the accumulation of years of “spending more than we earn.”

  • Reply lowincomelady |

    Hi Tricia, I have been reading your blog for ages now! I really enjoy your writing. You are an inspiration! My family is trying to pay off 111,000 worth of mortgage debt and we are on 3 pensions. We are currently paying double repayments of $900 a fortnight but we still don’t go without what we need or want. Its just that we don’t tend to want very much as we are basically frugal. Sometimes we decide not to get something because we don’t actually need it or could do without it. Its amazing how little you actually do buy when you go through this process! Anyway, I wish you all the best and keep on blogging! Your blog is such a joy to read! Cheers lowincomelady in Australia.

    (I am a member of the NCN Network but I am called Weight Money Life there. I also have a food/weight loss blog called foodobsession.wordpress.com which is linked to at the NCN Network.)

  • Reply Stephanie |

    Yes spending more than you make is the problem that got us in trouble though. It is about deciding what is important, and what you are willing to cut out. Though I find some of our more frivolous things we cut when we had to (lost job) I do not really miss and we have not added them back into the budget.

  • Reply frostextera |

    What living on your own with no one to look after, cutting expenses is easier. Currently I work at a hotel as night audit, and I have a free breakfast. This saves me alot of money of breakfast foods every month. Not to mention the way my schedule pans out I only eat twice a day now. I think I average $40-50 a month on food now, instead of over $100.

  • Reply ispf |

    […] If you are actively working on your debt I highly recommend this post. Another very good post in a similar vein is by Tricia @ Blogging Away Debt where she answers the question How far will I go to pay off our debt. […]

  • Reply Nick |

    I am currently in a debt management program and cut most of my expenses. The two expenses I refuse to cut are satellite TV and my Netflix subscription. With Netflix, I pay $20 a month and have gotten 16 movies in the last month. $20 is cheaper than one trip to the movie theater after getting snacks. We have found that when we just use the entertainment options we have at home, we save a lot of money each month.

So, what do you think ?