Inside: We can’t all be an extreme debt-payoff story. That doesn’t mean you suck at money though. Here’s what we’re focusing on now instead of paying off debt.
Guys! Big news.
I was just nominated for a Plutus Award for this year’s Best Debt Freedom Blog. I am so honored! I can’t believe it for about 500 different reasons.
Here’s one: I am a total failure at paying off my debt fast.
Despite all my ire-laden cries of kill your debt, hoser!, I myself am not the shining example of this.
In fact, I’m still paying just the minimums on all my debts.
And I’ll do ya one more: we just took out more student loans for Zach’s last year in college.
I’ll wait here while you go get your torches and pitchforks.
Paying off debt isn’t a linear road
Got them torches and pitchforks? Great. Settle down, light up a campfire, crack a beer, and let’s roast some marshmallows off the pitchfork tines.
I envy the people who are uber-debt-slayers. You know—the software engineers who live in a box behind their parent’s house and don’t ever need to go anywhere their bike can’t take them. (Is it me, or does it seem like most extreme debt-payoff stories include one of those elements?).
Some people live uncomplicated lives and can pay off their debt fast. We’re not those people (and we don’t even have kids!). I suspect you aren’t such a person either.
Related: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry
Things have gotten…bumpy for us. I was working at a low-paying job as a lab animal caretaker just two years ago. Then I had a job as a biological science technician with the USGS. Then I lost my job because its time limit ran out faster than they were expecting. ****** ***** was then elected into office and effectively killed the new position they were hiring me for. Now I’m trying to build a freelance writing career in an area where I’ve had no formal training.
Our cat almost died from a mystery infection earlier this year. Zach’s GI Bill didn’t cover all of his college expenses like we thought it would. I was stuck in Peru for four days after the hurricanes wiped out the airports and lost a potential major writing contract.
We’re placing a bigger emphasis on saving right now
Don’t mistake these excuses (and they are legit excuses) for laziness. Sure, I’d like to take a flame gun to my debt. I’m sure you do, too. But right now we’ve got other priorities.
We’re focusing on saving up an $8,000 emergency fund right now on top of our other savings. Why? Because if we’ve already gone through a bumpy road in paying off (and accumulating) our debt, then doing it without the savings we’ve had would be like driving a Honda down a mogul hill at full speed.
Don’t believe me? We tried going the low-to-no savings route before. Check out how well that worked with our supreme shit-show of a house that nearly drove us bankrupt.
Related post: Savings V. Debt: Our Four-Step Guide To A Balanced Plan
Maybe it’s because of that that I’m overly conservative with savings. (It’s the only time I’ve ever been called conservative. Excuse me while I count my monopoly money through my monocle and twirl my fake mustache).
We’ve been working on saving up our emergency fund for what seems like years. In truth, it’s actually only been like a year, and we’re up to almost $3,000. I don’t know how long it’ll take us to save up the rest of it.
Focus on other metrics than debt
I like focusing on metrics to keep me motivated in my financial journey. But when you’re focusing on a metric that’s moving at a pace that someone’s 90-year-old grandma with a walker could beat, I’ve learned you need to change tactics.
Instead, I’ve been focusing more lately on our net worth (fun fact: we just moved into a positive net worth two months ago. Hooray for zero!). It’s a more holistic view of your personal finance journey anyway. Never mind that most of our net worth comes from Zach’s union retirement accounts that we had no idea he was contributing to before he went back to college. But I digress.
If you’re paying off debt at a glacial pace like us, then try focusing on something else. Keep track of your net worth, savings rate, savings accounts, beer bottles, etc… Whatever it is that you’re focusing on before you get to your debt. (You are focusing on something, right?).
Get ready to rain hellfire upon thee debt
Just because you’re not one of the uber-debt-slayers yet doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. You’re just focusing on the personal side of personal finance right now, and that’s OK (unless you run a blog about telling people to get outta debt quick). You do you.
In the meantime, we’re dreaming of the days after our emergency fund is topped off. Then we’re gonna rain hellfire upon our debt and torch that sonofabitch until it’s gone.
Are you paying off debt slower than you’d like? Leave a comment below!