Obsessing Over Debt Isn’t Healthy

I started out in November of 2011 with about $38,000 of debt. I’ve made some good progress on this debt, I’ve cleared almost $10,000 out since I started aggressively paying my debt off. As much as I should be proud of that progress, sometimes looking at the $28,500 I have left owing is a little discouraging. It always seems to me that, no matter how fast that total dwindles, it’s never quite fast enough for me.

Last winter, I was pretty consumed with paying off my debt. I was constantly tweaking my budget, trying to eek out an extra dollar here, an extra dollar there. I’d stare at my current debt balance and obsess over ways to get that number down. I’d feel discouraged that I wasn’t able to vanish my debt faster. I felt like as much as I was doing, it wasn’t enough. Clearly, this kind of obsessive behaviour wasn’t healthy.

Once I got to the point where I’d maximized what I could afford with debt repayment, I started to get even more anxious. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is probably because I felt powerless to change my “debt destiny”. I couldn’t improve upon my debt free date any more, all I could do was sit back and watch my automated payments chip away at my debt total. Originally this felt like a curse, but now I realize it’s a gift.

Set It and Forget It

Now, I can sit back and relax and let my debt trickle away at a steady pace. I don’t have to think about it anymore, other than a few times a month when I make my extra payments. This is great because it gives me time to focus on other aspects of my life.

Focusing on Living My Life

Now that I’m not so focused on combating my debt behemoth, I’ve been able to put time and energy into some other parts of my life. I’ve run a 10k race, I’ve gotten engaged, I’ve moved to a new house, and I’ve gotten a dog. It feels much more healthy to be focusing on this stuff instead of obsessing over something that I have very little power to change. Nowadays, instead of staring at my mint.com balance and stressing over the numbers, I’m focusing on the positive aspects of my life.

Caring about debt is important. Not enough people do it. Being in debt is a terrible feeling, it limits options and it makes me vulnerable to things like job loss and emergencies. Having a plan to eliminate it is one of the most important things a responsible adult can have. But once that plan is in place and is being executed, learning let go of that anxiety and letting the plan take care of itself is another important lesson, one that took me a few months to learn.

I’m a terribly impatient person, I’ve always wanted the future to arrive right now. But I didn’t get into debt overnight, and I’m not going to get out of debt overnight. I really enjoyed getting into debt, I enjoyed spending the money as a student and living the life that debt allowed. Now I’m making it my mission to enjoy getting out of debt.

Do you stress over your debt? I want to know!


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  • http://lifeintransitionpf.wordpress.com/ LifeInTransition

    I stress over trying to avoid debt.  My husband is in a pricey graduate program where tuition is 34K/yr.  He has finshed a year w/o taking out loans, and we barely have enough to cover the second year (the bill is coming in august).  The stress makes me forget how most of his classmates had to take out loans for tuition and living expenses their first year of dental school, and that since we didn’t have to do that, we’re actatually in decent financial shape.

    • JordannK

      That’s awesome that you were able to pay for his school! You’ll definitely be ahead of the game once he is all done and ready to re-enter the work force.

  • http://twitter.com/seedebtrun See Debt Run

    Do I stress?  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t before, but like you…we made such amazing progress in a short period of time and are so optimistic because of that.  I’m still stressed occasionally, but I’m not scared anymore.  You know the glass is half full, right?  Well, what about looking at all the amazing things you have done, instead of dwelling on the things you haven’t yet accomplished?  I think you’re doing great on your debt pay-off goals so far!  Try not to stress!  <—easier said than done, I know…

    • JordannK

      Sometimes it’s hard to see the glass as half full, I need to get better at that!

  • http://bogofdebt.wordpress.com/ Bogofdebt

    I do.  I think it’s because I”m still in the begining phases of paying it down.  I’m bookmarking this post to read at a later date!  I know right now I tend to worry about it because it doesn’t feel like it is going down fast enough for me but I try to keep in mind that it is going down.

    • JordannK

      That’s exactly how I feel. It’s not going down fast enough, but with patience and time it’ll be gone eventually and that’s the important thing.

  • http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/ Michelle

    I definitely stress over it. But without student loans and a mortgage, I don’t think I’d be as happy. So in my head they are “better” debt for me. I can’t wait until they’re gone though!

    • JordannK

      Student and mortgage debts are definitely the some of the better kinds to have, none is the best though!

  • http://centsofacountrygirl.wordpress.com/ Country Girl

    Yup, I definitely stressed out over the amount of debt I accumulated in student loans. The stress did help motivate me to get it paid off quickly though. Interestingly enough though, I’m not near as stressed about my mortgage though (despite it being an even larger amount of debt technically) – and I’m not sure why! 

    • JordannK

      I think we’re in the same boat then, I want my student loan debt gone, but I feel like when I get a mortgage I won’t be in any hurry to pay it down. I think I’ll spend most of my extra money on making the house exactly as I want it, rather than paying down the debt.

  • http://www.uniquegifter.com/ Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Well said, and congratulations for recognizing this early-ish in your debt-free journey.  I stress over it sometimes.  We took out a loan for our new car and it freaks me out to have bills every month, even though the rate is much cheaper than our time value of money and than the return we get for paying down extra on the mortgage.  I guess I really like the idea of being able to go back to a student lifestyle and living like hobos if the sh*t ever hit the fan.  

    • JordannK

      That’s one reason I really like not having a mortgage. If things went south, at least I wouldn’t have that debt to deal with, student loans seem pretty minuscule in comparison.

      • http://www.uniquegifter.com/ Anne @ Unique Gifter

        Yes – but one of the benefits (of paying it off super quick) is that we can walk into the bank and drop the payments really low, really quick.  The last time we checked, we can drop our mortgage to something like $700/month! That’s without attempting to refinance or anything annoying.  Very relieving.  

  • Frugalportland

    You hit the nail on the head. It is freeing to automate, but boring. Focus on the percent you paid down, that will help.

    • JordannK

      Definitely! I’m nearing my 10k paid down “anniversary” and it’s very motivating to see that number inching closer!

  • Budget & the Beach

    I don’t stress too much about paying off debt, as I’ve never had too much where it seemed impossible, but I do stress about not having enough money, especially when it comes time to pay rent. I hate that feeling. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where my budget is working for me. I’m still adjusting, so right now I’m obsessing a bit, but I hope to be the point where I get into a livable budget and I don’t have to think about it. 

    • JordannK

      I’m in the same situation, I have enough in my budget to cover regular expenses, its the irregular and unplanned expenses that keep throwing me for a loop, we’ll get it eventually though!

  • C The Writer

    Yeah…I am stressed (and kinda angry, since I felt tricked) about my debt. Especially since I have absolutely no way to pay it back.

  • http://www.momoneymohouses.com/ Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses

    I definitely used to stress over debt when I had my student loan because it just wouldn’t go away fast enough, but I definitely love the set it and forget it system. Now that I’m debt free that’s how I just automate my savings and RRSP. I set it and forget it and I love it!

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