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.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.