This month was our first full month being debt free. No more loans, mortgages or lines of credit. It’s been great, but it wasn’t what I expected.
5, 10… ok all the years of my normal adult life have had some sort of debt attached to it. Being debt free is a touch surreal, mixed with a lot of awesome, and if I’m being 100% honest, a touch of disappointment.
Why the disappointment?
The 1% disappointment comes from within. I have been building up debt freedom in my mind for years.
While we were climbing out of the “debt hole”, we told ourselves over and over: “Once we are debt free it will all be different”.
But it’s not different.
It’s still the same routine. We get up, go to work, cook our meals, shuttle kids around to activities, and wonder what happened to the weekend every Sunday night.
Nothing has changed.
I made the mistake of thinking that debt freedom was an ending. Only to find it was just another memorable moment in this wacky journey of life.
I’m not saying it’s bad, but debt free… it’s not what I thought it would be (that could be a line in a really bad country song).
Debt Free Perception Versus Reality
When you are going after a big goal, it’s a good idea to give yourself an amazing vision to shoot for.
This vision can serve as a guiding star. Something to turn to when you are feeling the weight of a long journey. When I created this ideal of debt freedom in my mind I made it a BIG vision.
I had visions of me with my family sitting on a beach enjoying the good life.
That is not what has happened.
The debt free vision I created doesn’t match my reality. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that I thought it would be different.
I should have managed my expectations
It’s always about expectations. I thought, foolishly in hindsight, that being debt free meant that I would be free. I thought that we would be able to jump on a plane with my family and go somewhere nice the day after we were debt free.
But that’s not how it has started out.
Can you give an example?
Sure, and thank you for asking!
In fighting to meet our goal to be debt free this year, we used every resource we could to get there. This meant depleting all our accounts from our money system
We are out of debt, but our cash reserves are low (which is a nice way of saying non-existent).
Now we are trying to get a solid footing in our accounts before we do anything big.
We would have loved to go on a trip to somewhere warm over the Christmas break, but we didn’t because we didn’t have the cash to go.
My wife and I had many conversations about going somewhere to reward ourselves for these past 7 years. In the end, it always came down to the same thing: I don’t want to go into debt, to celebrate getting out of debt.
Did I want to go somewhere warm? Yes!
Did I feel like I deserved to go somewhere warm? Oh yes!
Did I go somewhere warm? No.
n the end we settled on Grand Forks, North Dakota, because it was close, and we could afford it. In the end, a blizzard and a flu knocked out any family plans we had on going anywhere.
1- lack of good sense or judgement; stupidity.
2- celebrating being debt free by going back into debt.
Sure the timing could have been better. If we were debt free in September we would have a few months under our belts and felt better off financially. But the reality remains that a trip right after you get out of debt, will put you back into debt.
I can hear what you are thinking, and yes, we could have used a line of credit, or a credit card. But that would be defying the point of what we have been working towards.
Out of Debt. Not in the Clear
Just because we are out of the “debt hole”, doesn’t mean we are in the clear. We won’t be until in the clear until the hole is far enough behind us. Once there is enough space (in the form of savings), then we can start to do some of the things we have been craving to do.
If I’m being completely honest travelling, at Christmas feels like a price gouge. Everyone is travelling at the same time and you pay a huge premium for that. It’s not to say I’ll never do it, but it’s a premium trip for sure.
Was Becoming Debt Free Worth It?
Yes, it was worth it. I wouldn’t change what we did to become debt free. We are both fortunate and grateful to be in a position to make this a reality.
The problem was all my own doing. It’s the way I viewed it.
I made the choice to view debt freedom as the “end all, be all”. A little more thought and I would have realized that debt freedom is the beginning of another chapter.
It’s my own fault for thinking life would change overnight. Change, like most things, takes time. The results of what we are working towards will start to show up slowly over time.
To clear things up, I’m ecstatic to be debt free. If I had to do it all over again I would do it. The past 7 years have set us up for a much better future.
All I’m saying is that the 1% disappointment is my own fault for thinking the world was going to change overnight.
If you are working towards something big, I encourage you to think about your expectations once you achieve this goal.
In the end it’s a moment in time, once that moment pass the question will always be “What’s next?“
What about you? Have you ever achieved a goal and found it to be a let down? What did you do to overcome it?