Written by monthly contributing writer, Kat at Inspired to Action.
When my husband and I finished college, we decided to pay off our college loans as fast as humanly possible. We did not want to start our married life off mired in debt, so we embarked on a one year adventure that involved somewhat ridiculous and embarrassing sacrifices.
Here are a few things we did to make our goal a reality.
1. Make It An Adventure
We decided to do everything we could to pay off our loans in just one year. Knowing we only had 365 days to reach our goal made all the sacrifices easier….and almost fun. It was a challenge. An adventure.
One of the more ridiculous things we did was choosing NOT to fix the air conditioning in our car. That might not seem too extreme, but may I mention we lived in Houston? And I commuted an hour and a half each day for work? In heavy traffic. All. Summer. Long. Between the intense heat, massive humidity and heavy smog, I’m surprised I never passed out while driving.
But I knew it was only for one year, so I endured. And now? It’s SUCH a fun part of our story to tell, because it was an adventure. Remember, adventures are rarely comfortable or easy in the moment.
So, pick a time frame (3, 6, 12 months), and set a goal (dollar amount or percentage) and start your adventure.
2. Focus On Purpose Over Prestige
We lived in one of the wealthiest communities in the Houston area because that’s where my husband’s job was located. But we lived like we were scraping the bottom of the socioeconomic barrel.
Our old, used cars made noise as they puttered alongside the Jaguars and BMW’s. Our friends lived in brand new, big homes and we lived in a roach infested apartment on the edge of town.
Yes, it was humbling, but we didn’t mind that we were less than impressive, because we had a goal. So we had dinner parties on our hand-me-down table, Super Bowl parties with our 13 inch tv and we knew our friends loved us for who we were rather than for what we had.
Making financial changes can be hard, but if you keep your focus on the goal, it makes the sacrifices seem smaller.
3. If Your Income Increases, Don’t Adjust Your Budget
This is a huge reason we were able to pay off our debts so quickly. After college, my husband worked full time and I worked part time, but we didn’t change our poor college student way of living.
As our income increased, we funneled everything toward our debt. It was SO much easier to make sacrifices and live meagerly because we didn’t know anything more.
Even if you are farther along in your marriage and family life, you can still utilize this principle by committing not to raise your standard of living if your income increases…until you’ve reached your goal.
4. Redefine What A Need Is
Some people might say air conditioning in Houston in August in bumper to bumper traffic is a need. Some people might consider cable a need. Internet? Magazine subscriptions?
One way to test if something is a “need” is to give it up for one month. Knowing that it’s just a 30 day trial will make it easier to try to live without it.
List all the things you spend money on regularly. Discuss each one with your spouse. Is it truly a need? Can you reduce the cost in anyway? Can you put it on a 30 day trial?
You might be surprised to find that many “needs” aren’t needs after all.
The Hidden Benefit of Going On A Debt-Free Adventure
If you and your spouse choose to start the journey towards becoming debt free, remember that nothing unites people like a common goal.
Because of what my husband and I went through to pay off our loans, money is something we honestly never argue about. Our commitment to stay out of debt and live within our means, has removed the friction that financial strain brings to so many marriages.
Are you ready for an adventure? What are some ways you’ve paid off debt or reduced your budget?