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!