Debt-free has so many more benefits than living in the here and now, charging your Instagram worthy lifestyle for all to see. I’m only two months away from paying off over $72K in consumer debt, and I can’t believe how different my life is now. I started my debt-free journey about two and a half years ago, and my money mindset has only changed for the better. Read on to see how my life has changed, and the benefits of being debt-free.
1. Stronger Marriage
Money fights are the #2 cause of divorce in the United States, right behind cheating and infidelity. Couples who are on the same page about their finances have less money fights than couples who keep their finances separate or simply don’t talk about it. When you both agree how to spend your money, you’ll worry less about money. Wondering how much the other spouse is spending stops. You’ll stop playing the “you bought this” so “I deserve to buy this” game.
This is the most surprising, but most beneficial aspect since we decided to become debt-free. It’s hard to convey how much stronger my marriage is. We didn’t necessarily fight about money before, simply because we never paid attention to our finances as a couple. I handled the finances on my own, paying the bills, and trying to make things work. All of the stress and guilt fell on me. I figured that most of the debt was my student loans, so I should figure out a way to sort it out myself. All of the bills were paid on time so my hubby didn’t know anything was wrong or that I was stressed out. The only hint of trouble was when I would casually tell him to stop spending until our next paycheck.
Sharing the budget and creating a plan together is empowering. Our communication has improved, not just about our finances, but with just about everything now. We agree on our monthly budget and worry less about what the other spouse is buying. If one of us wants to buy a large ticket item, we discuss it beforehand and make a plan on how to purchase it.
2. Less Stress
Financial stress is debilitating, spilling over into every part of your life. A cnbc survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 85% are stressed out about money sometimes, and 30% are constantly stressed about their finances. Stress not only affects your productivity but also effects your health. Digging out of a financial mess can take years or even decades. Not knowing if you can pay your bills, or staying in a job you hate just because you can’t risk losing your job is extremely stressful. Why live with this type of stress when you can take the steps to erase debt from your life? Read this article on how to start living debt-free.
Just knowing that I have a concrete financial plan has decreased my stress tremendously. Even though I’m not consumer debt-free yet, the satisfaction of paying off each debt has brought me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I am in control and know exactly where I’m heading financially. It’s hard to stay stressed when you have an actual plan and a different viewpoint on money and financial security. This alone has given me a sense of peace.
3. Stop paying more in interest
Debt charges interest, even if you have a low-interest rate. Interest is charged for the convenience of owning the item before you have the cash to pay for it in full. I know most of you will argue that you have a low-interest rate and you would rather invest the money in the stock market where you might earn more in interest. My argument is, “Why take on the risk in the first place?” First of all, you need to actually invest the money, and then earn more than the interest paid for the entire loan period, not just for one quarter or one year.
Most of you won’t save it either. If you were able to save and pay for it outright, why pay for it with credit in the first place? Paying in cash is simple and straight forward. You know exactly how much you’ve paid for a product or service, and might even be able to haggle down the price paying with cash.
There is a majority out there that will argue that buying interest-free is smart. You always pay off your loan before the interest-free period ends, so it’s like getting free money. Wrong! Nine times out of ten, you’re paying full-price for this convenience. Don’t fool yourself into thinking businesses are doing you a favor. They exist to make money and will make up their profit margins any way they can. Most products and services eventually go on sale, so why are you so happy to pay full price just for it?
Every month, I total up how much of my debt payments went towards interest. Let me tell you that I hate doing this. Seeing how much I threw out the door just for the simple convenience of owning something I wasn’t disciplined to save for in the first place makes me physically sick.
4. Save more
Debt-free living erases all debt and loan payments from your life. When this happens, you’ll have more discretionary income left to save. You decide how to spend, save or invest the money. Instead of having most of your paycheck dedicated to bills, your paycheck will be yours to spend and save as you see fit.
Saving more is one of the most exciting side effects of becoming debt-free. Having a fully funded Christmas budget ready to spend by November is exciting. I can shop stress-free knowing that I already have the cash set aside, not second-guessing if I have enough money or if I’ve spent too much. I also love that I have the cash set aside for car maintenance or repairs. Resentfulness existed when either one of our cars broke down and required an expensive repair. Now, I’m only slightly annoyed. I pay for it now and move on.
5. Financial emergencies become inconveniences
When you’re debt-free, you’ll be able to save more (benefit #4) and have money saved up for emergencies. I used to freak out every time one of our cars broke down and needed an expensive repair. I would argue with my husband that the cars were a piece of a junk, and that I was tired of spending so much money on them. The truth of the matter is that all cars need basic repairs, tune-ups, and regular maintenance check-ups. This is a normal cost of owning a car. Now that I have money saved for car maintenance, I don’t bat an eye when we need to repair the car or buy new tires. I already have the money saved and it doesn’t feel like the end of the world anymore.
6. More choices and opportunities
Debt-free living opens up more choices and opportunities that may not have even been considered before. No longer will debt serve as an excuse in any of your decisions anymore. Debt holds you back from dreaming about how your life should be. You may be stuck in a job you hate because you’re too scared of taking a risk and losing your ability to pay all of your debt payments and bills. According to Bankrate, debt holds you back from pursuing other life goals. You’ll feel like your life is on hold.
I started this blog after I took control of my finances. I always dreamed of starting a blog, but didn’t know what to blog about and didn’t think I had enough money to start one. These feelings were fueled by my “stuck in debt” mentality. I thought that throwing money at blogging would be stupid and pointless while I was still in debt. I would eventually do it after I was more financially secure. This was just an excuse too. Happily, this blog has helped me stay focused on becoming debt-free and has further strengthened my resolve to finish paying off all of my consumer debt. I chose to create this blog as a creative outlet where I can share my financial journey, in the hopes of helping out others too. This would have never happened if I chose to stay stuck in debt.
7. Live well below your means
Debt-free living forces you to take stock of your finances and your long term dreams. Living this lifestyle will inevitably push you to live well below your means. You’ll see the gratification of paying all of your bills, saving for expected purchases, and investing in the future. Spending more than you earn is how your debt accumulated in the first place. I didn’t consider using credit cards or buying a car on credit as living beyond my means. It’s common to use debt. I considered myself financially responsible and “living below my means” because I paid all of my bills on time. I didn’t really equate credit cards and loan payments as living beyond my means. Now, I know better.
My parents struggled to pay their bills and borrowed constantly until they were backed in a corner and forced to file for bankruptcy. Since I didn’t have creditors calling me since all of my bills were paid on time, I thought I handled money well. The Dave Ramsey community showed me that debt-free living was possible. Living well below my means meant not buying things I couldn’t afford with cash. I’m much more in control of my finances now and truly know what it means to live well below my means. I spend, save, and invest now without having to rely on consumer debt.
8. Simplified finances
When you’re debt-free, your financial plan becomes much simpler. Tracking debt payments and interest paid (other than your mortgage) is a thing of the past. You’ll still track regular ongoing monthly expenses like utilities, savings, and investments. The exciting part is tracking how much interest you’re earning, instead of tracking how much interest you’re paying. Believe me when I tell you that tracking how well your investments are doing is much more exciting than paying off debt. Now, I have fewer payments to track and less interest to pay, and it feels damn good!
9. More contentment
A side effect of debt-free living is contentment. You’ll learn how to appreciate the things you have instead of constantly wanting more. Ever since I learned to budget my personal spending money, I value each purchase and weigh the pros and cons before I purchase it. Before, I shopped out of boredom or stress and didn’t stop to think if I owned something similar to what I was purchasing. Now when I purchase an item, I either really need it, want it and will actually use it.
I worry less about the next big purchase and appreciate what I own now. I can now fully enjoy going out with friends and family that I used to take fore-granted. Spending time with family and friends, either at home or out at the movies, are both equally rewarding and special. I used to think that spending money was a prerequisite to having fun and bonding. I’ve had the most soul-searching, deep conversations, and experiences with families and friends these past two and half years without spending a ton of cash.
10. An actual financial plan
Before I started my debt-free journey, I had similar goals like everyone else: paying off debt, buying a house, and retiring comfortably. I never sat down and forced myself to create an actual financial plan. I figured that I would accomplish them someday. The truth of the matter is that you must force yourself to figure out how you’ll get there. Thinking that hard work and persistence will pay off is not an actual plan. Living debt-free forces you to make a plan, create a zero-based monthly budget, and tell your money where to go.
I now have a specific plan to pay off all of my consumer debt, save for a house and my son’s college fund, and invest for retirement. Now, I have put my plan into action, instead of worrying about how far behind I am. Read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover to follow the plan that I’m using.
Last Thoughts on Benefits of Being Debt-Free
My life has changed for the better since my hubby and I decided to become debt-free. Not only has our communication strengthened, but we are now on the same page on just about everything. Simplifying our financial plan has decreased stress, as we no longer pay more in interest as we pay for everything with cash. We save for all of our expenses, making financial emergencies minor inconveniences now. Becoming debt-free has forced us to live well below our means and it’s less restrictive than we originally thought it would be. Now, that we’re so close to being consumer debt-free, these 10 benefits have kept us motivated to finish paying off over $72K in consumer debt. Looking into the future, opportunities and choices are now at our fingertips.
Please share your thoughts on any of the benefits I’ve mentioned above.