Now that I’m all debt free and have celebrated all over the great state of Texas you may be asking yourself “What’s this blog gonna be all about, if not Kara’s desperate and rather single minded sprint towards debt freedom? What does she have left to say? Will there still be catering leftovers?!”
And perhaps the biggest question of all…what comes after you’re debt free?
My life has been so absolutely about paying off debt since last September that I kind of struggle to think about what I was doing before. Diving into the world of personal finance blogs has changed my entire worldview and my daily life. I devoted myself to eliminating as many costs as I could and to upping my income so that I could eliminate my debt and start myself down the road to financial freedom.
I changed not only how I spend money but how I relate to it. Whereas before I felt ruled by my debt and money, now I know that money is a tool- and I know how to use it. Ever since I graduated college and I became a sort-of adult, my debt has shaped every decision I have made. I moved home after college to work and save money because I needed to get a start on paying off debt. I closed my credit card because I couldn’t afford it AND my debt. I put off travel, meals out, trips with friends and general life activities because of my debt.
I worried and stressed about my debt load. I have never made more than $25,000 in my life and my debt was more than that. It hung over my head and around my neck. Every time I spent money on anything, I was reminded that I should be spending it on my debt. I was limited and I felt it every day. Between my debt and the fact that I couldn’t find a full time job for years, all my decisions came from a place of fear and worry.
I threw myself into debt payoff and here I have arrived at the end of that journey. For the first time ever my decisions abput my life will not come from a pace of fear. I have a control that I have never experienced before. I have a new sense of calmness. I feel more open to everything around me. It’s wonderful!
So what’s next? What to do with my money now that I don’t have any payments to make? How to live my life now that it doesn’t revolve around debt? It’s a whole new world out there! I’ve outlined my goals and my timeline for reaching them below:
-Max out Roth IRA ($5,000): Now that I can start saving, I want to do so aggressively. Maxing out my Roth IRA is the only thing I can really do this year, as my income has dropped and we’re already 6 months gone in the year. However, maxing that bad boy out is something I plan on doing every year for the rest of my career and is pure retirement savings. I think it’s a great step to take right out of the gate. Timeline: December 31st, 2015
-Beef up E-Fund to $5,000 ($3,000): Security in my finances is my overall goal. I want to have money for the first time ever! I want to know that one big car repair isn’t going to send me down a hole of credit card debt. I want to be able to absorb the ups and downs that life is bound to throw at me. A strong E-Fund is a great insurance policy. My costs are pretty low and I’m planning on remaining single, child-free and property free for at least three more years. My fund doesn’t have to be huge but it has to be enough that my world won’t be rocked by one emergency. I think $5,000 should be a good buffer for my lifestyle. Timeline: April 1st, 2016
-Vacation with the boyfriend ($500): My boyfriend and I are planning a week long road trip the first week of September. We’ll be hitting up some states in the west of the US and I’m so excited. We’ve never traveled together before and I love a good road trip. We’re planning on four nights camping in a two different National Parks and one night in a big city in Colorado. I’m amped to spend the time together and do a fun vacation on the cheap! Timeline: September 1st, 2015.
-Vacation with the best friend ($375): My best friend and I also are planning a small weekend road trip this fall. We don’t have all the details worked out but we’re thinking a 3 day camping trip to Arkansas sometime in October. It should be beautiful fall weather and a nice jaunt to get out of our cities and celebrate our friendship/her birthday/my debt freedom! Timeline: October 5th, 2015.
As you can see, I need to come up with at least $5,875 by December 31st this year. And that’s just savings! It’s pretty ambitious, considering I’d also like to get going on the emergency fund savings and also you know, just continue living my life. I feel totally confident I can do it though.
I plan on keeping my same, shall we say, austere, lifestyle for the rest of the year. I’m dead set on avoiding lifestyle inflation. My plan is to just shovel all my non essential money right into my savings, exactly as I did with my debt. Pretty much every extra penny I have is going to some sort of savings account. I plan on opening up a few more accounts so I can tell more easily when I’ve hit a goal.
And what’s next for this here blog? Well, more adventures in saving that’s what! I love writing and I love being a part of the personal finance blogosphere. Like I’ve said before, this community of ours changed my life. Without the inspiration, advice and kindness of our little world, I absolutely would not have done what I just did. No way am I giving this up! So I hope you’ll stick around and share the next phase of my journey with me. 🙂
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.