Looking back now to when I finally made up my mind to start controlling my money and push to be debt free, I still find it amusing that I didn’t come to this realization sooner. I had been out of college and working for about two years at that point, not making millions, but not struggling either. I saved some of my money, but it wasn’t much of a priority. I ate out whenever I felt like it, and if I wanted to buy something, usually electronics, I would go get it. During those two years, I moved back to my home state of Washington from Arizona and also got married. That entire time, I was paying the minimum payments on my car loan as well as my student loans.
My wife and I got married in June, 2014. She is definitely a better saver than I am, and adjusting to providing for both of us on my income wasn’t too difficult. I was already living in the apartment we were going to be in, so there were not too many added expenses. However, paying for a two bedroom apartment as well as for the two of us pretty much put a halt to my saving. That was of course the first thing to go, not the impulse shopping. We coasted for few months, hovering at about the same amount of savings since before we were married, and doing pretty much what we wanted whenever we felt like it. My wife had been looking for work for awhile now, and towards the end of September, she landed her first job. That was when it all hit me.
I know that every dollar counts no matter how much you are pulling in each month, but for some reason I didn’t want to realize it until my wife got her job. Our income had more than doubled, and that is when we both sat down and talked a bit more seriously about our finances. It suddenly seemed like we could make more of an impact when it came to setting and achieving financial goals. I had hardly made any progress on my student loans at that point, and was almost finished paying off my car. My wife brought with her a lot more student debt as well bringing the total for everything to $95,000 of debt. At that point it wasn’t hard. We had our hopes and dreams for the future, but we both knew that we needed to knock this debt out first, and that is when we started on our journey to financial freedom!
The aftermath of our decision has, for me, opened my eyes a bit about my own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing money. I go full force when I set my mind to something, which makes it easy to stick to our budget most of the time. However, I am also the spender out of the two of us, and have had to put those desires for new and shinier things on hold for now. Before we started this process, I didn’t think that trying to set goals on my income alone would amount to much. Now, after getting on a budget and cutting out almost all of my spending, we are able to keep all of my wife’s check and almost half of mine at the end of the month! And when I say keep, I really mean stare at in wonder for a few seconds before sending the majority of it off to Navient (Sallie Mae).
We are now pushing hard to get this debt paid off for good. I hope that I have learned my lesson about taking the financial resources I have available and making them work for me, instead of waiting for some magical moment where I have what I feel is necessary to get the job done. I definitely could have made a lot of progress on my own without waiting for two incomes. We have been on this plan for over three months now, and while we don’t have that much spending money anymore, it has been exciting talking about where we want to go these next few years. We are still working on setting our more long term goals, but we both realized that getting out of debt first thing would allow us to have a lot more fun and freedom when planning our future.