Reflections on One Year of Debt Freedom

Life has been so busy that last week when my one year anniversary of debt freedom came, it also went pretty damn quick. I blinked and poof! It had passed me by.

Still, June 5th 2015 was one of the most important days of my life.  Even though I’m eleven days late, I do want to take some time to reflect on the past year of living debt free, and what debt freedom has meant in my life.

There were so many days that I didn’t really believe I would ever be debt free. I worked towards it, but it didn’t seem possible right up until the very end. And now here I am, with more than a year under my belt of debt freedom. It’s remarkable.

Being debt free for a year has meant that I was able to get off the sideline and finally into the game. I finally feel like I am taking the steps I want to be taking, and becoming the person I really want to be. I can take risks, or explore interests that don’t have a guarantee. I can say yes to spending money in places that I couldn’t a year ago.

Being debt free has opened the world up to me. I don’t have to hide in my house for fear of spending money. I can take the money that debt once had a chokehold on and put it to use chasing my dreams. It’s downright liberating to be debt free. 

Thinking back over the last year I feel two main emotions: gratitude and amazement.

I am so grateful that I am debt free. It’s made everything else in my life easier. I’ve been able to max out my IRA two years in a row and really get my retirement savings going. I’ve been able to travel more, which is a passion of mine. Saving money for whatever goal I have- travel, retirement, quitting my job- everything is much, much easier without my debt hanging over my head.

Debt is a financial distraction. No matter what direction you might be trying to move it, debt tugs at your elbow and demands you pay attention to it too. With that distraction gone, my world has opened up. I am so much more flexible than I was while I was paying off debt. I am less stressed, less tired and less resentful now that I’m debt free. It’s absolutely made my life better. 

I also amazed at just how I ended up here. Coming from a home where there was no financial education, and never working a full-time job, it took a huge amount of effort to reach debt freedom. Like, huge. This sounds a little full of myself, but honestly, I am just amazed at the effort I put into becoming debt free!

I worked all the damn time, and I ruthlessly slashed my spending to shreds. I was single-minded in my pursuit of becoming debt free. It’s awesome and weird to know that I am capable of dedicating myself so completely to something like that. I would probably make an incredible cult member. I made it all the way to zero, and that is amazing to me.

I am now among a small group of people I know who are debt free. Almost everyone in my life, from fellow Millennials to people my mom’s age, carry some kind of debt. I have none. Nada. Zip. I don’t have a stupendous net worth either, so don’t think I’m riding my high horse around town.

So, with one full year of debt freedom behind me, what do I want to say? I want to say that I am excited, so deeply excited, for my future. I want to say that I am thankful to my past self for getting me here today. I want to say that I have learned so much about who I am, how I work, and what I want for myself. I am thrilled to be where I am today, and I am looking forward to the next chapter. 


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14 Replies to “Reflections on One Year of Debt Freedom”

  1. Lovely post, especially ‘It’s made everything else in my life easier’. We still have a mortgage but are looking forward to that feeling!

    1. Thanks! A mortgage is a slow and steady thing to pay off but I’m sure you’ll get there!

    1. Thanks Tonya! ????

  2. Happy debt free anniversary! I love the lessons you’re taking from it. I continue to be inspired by how hard you worked to pay off your debt — if I hear anyone say that Millennials are spoiled and don’t want to work hard, I’ll send them over here so you can prove them wrong! 😉

    1. Oh my god, I would love that! ???????? Thank you, as always. I’m glad it’s behind me though!

  3. Girl, happy anniversary! This is an anniversary definitely worth celebrating:)

    1. Thank you!

  4. Congrats on the milestone and for remaining debt free! May your future performance be grand!

    1. Thank you so much!

  5. Beautiful. I am so proud of you Kara – you’re such an inspiration to me. God, you jusy have so much fricken drive – it’s incredible to watch and I can’t wait until the day I can say, HEY! I’M DEBT-FREE TOO!

    1. Ah, shucks. 🙂 Thank you so much. You are out there getting after your own dream, and I know you’ll get to debt freedom sooner rather than later.

  6. This is awesome, since basically, this very topic was rolling around in my head today.

    I have a notebook I carry around in my laptop bag with “FI Journal” written on the front. I started scribbling in it earlier this year. Coincidentally, my entry today revolved around where I was 2 years ago, 1 year ago, etc, vs now.

    2 years ago: I had stupidly expensive habits – bars, eating out, new cell phones every six months, etc. I distinctly remember breaking out the budgeting spreadsheet and fantasizing about how awesome it would be to able to save $1000 – in the course of a YEAR.

    1 year ago: Regular use of YNAB budgeting software taught me to track all my expenses, and helped me know exactly where every single penny went. That was helpful, but I was barely scratching the surface of expense reduction. MMM helped adjust the thinking and plugged that gap.

    This week: I am less than a month out from paying off my high interest debt completely. For the last several months, if I didn’t pay off at least $1000 that MONTH, I was disgusted with myself. Savings/payoff rate now varies between 30-50%, depending on how much overtime I can pick up.

    The debt would be gone completely, but for a friend who I spotted $900 to pay for surprise graduate school costs when a loan didn’t come through. (It’ll be back to me in two weeks – long experience with said friend has taught me trust, and I owe her quite a bit for spotting me back in the irresponsible days.)

    Here’s the big thing: Sure, it annoys me not to be able to finish paying off that debt right NOW, and yes, I’ll have to pay a final bit of extra interest as a result…but even a year ago, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to make that choice. This week, I was able to make the decision, loan out the money, and I still have my small emergency fund stashed in the bank, minimizing any risk to myself as a result.

    Mid-July, high-interest debt will be gone.

    By December, I should have both gift money saved AND a full three-month emergency fund.

    Frugality kicks ass, and plugging money-hemorrhaging holes in your bank account feels freaking GREAT.

    I’ve only read two of your articles so far, but I’ll be reading more. Cheers!

    1. Congrats on your progress! You’re doing very well. Plugging money holes is so satisfying and one of the best things you can do for yourself. I feel happier and safer being debt free and having a large savings.

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