Debt Freedom: Success is About Consistency

One of the things that I think scares people off from pursuing a goal of debt freedom is the fear of failure. Often times, a debt load seems so big and the journey to rid oneself of that debt seems so long that it seems pointless to even try. That, my friends, is how Fruclassity is different, because Fruclassity understands that success is about consistency.

Our debt story goes like this: Rick and I had been in and out of debt for our entire 16 year marriage. Without any role models and without any personal finance education, we simply had no idea what we were doing. We thought that wealth was about the accumulation of “stuff”, so we set about to having the “stuff” that seemingly “rich” people deemed we should have: new cars, a big house, etc., etc. We’d get in debt and pay it off, get in debt again, and pay it off again.

In February of 2010, Rick called me at home (I’d been a stay-at-home mom since 2004) to tell me he was being laid off. In six weeks, our one income would be gone. Surprisingly, it didn’t worry me – much. It should have: after all, how were we to feed our family of six on no money? We made it through his 7 months of unemployment with Unemployment Insurance and by draining our savings and selling our fishing boat. No biggie, right?

Rick found another job in September of that same year. The job was with a great company, but the great company only offered to pay him 80% of his former income.  In our “wisdom” (LOL) we decided that we’d “make up” for the income disparity by putting the difference on credit cards until he got enough raises to make what he’d been making at his former job.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but what we were saying subconsciously was “We’ll just live above our means until our ‘means’ catch up”.

Fast forward to October of 2012, and we sold our house in the suburbs for a hobby farm in the country. We’d long been stressed out with suburbia living, and this move to the country would provide some much needed relief from the pressure to keep up with the Joneses.

It was at this time that we had the clarity of mind to sit down and take a look at our finances, and what we found wasn’t pretty. Our credit card debt had reached tens of thousands of dollars, and we had a bloated mortgage. Our debt to income ratio was an astonishing 65% – meaning our total monthly debt payments equaled 65% of Rick’s gross monthly pay.

OUCH.

If we weren’t in shock, we likely would have went insane.  I started googling things like “How to pay off debt” on the Internet, and found the blessed world of personal finance blogs.  Finally: real people who had debt, and paid off debt.  Some people made big bucks and had mediocre debt amounts, but others, like us, made well under 100k a year and were deep in debt. If they could pay off their debt, we could too, right?

Using what I’d learn from a multitude of personal finance blogs, (the first ones I found were goodies like Frugal Rules, Debt Roundup, Eyes on the Dollar and The Heavy Purse), we formulated a budget and created a spend-tracking sheet.  And we started our blog, The Frugal Farmer, to keep us accountable and share what we’d learned.

The first couple of months were filled with excitement as we stuck to our strict budget and watched our credit card debt decrease instead of increase for the first time in two+ years.

Then the demons of debt started to kick in: the doubt, the pride, the stress of the stark realization of just how deep we were in, the temptation to spend and the boredom of sticking to a strict budget. I like to call them “monsters”.

The first year of our debt payoff went well, even if progress was super slow.

Year two started in January of 2014, and we got a bit slack in our attitude toward our debt.  We were “smooth sailing” so we thought it was okay to let up on the reins. Polar Vortex Winter Hell kicked in, and in Minnesota where we live that means astronomically high heating bills. We paid as much as $1,000 a month to heat our home at times as the temperatures stayed firm at 30-50 degrees BELOW zero.

Our laundry room flooded, requiring a complete remodel. Our only TV (an old tube model) died.  And the debt numbers went back up again.

We were frustrated, discouraged and ready to give up. That discouragement was compounded by a couple of internet trolls who commented on the blog, telling us what irresponsible idiots we were.

July of 2014 had us so close to giving up that I spent nearly a month in a deep depression, and hours a day with my head under the covers, hoping the debt would simply go away.  But it didn’t.

A month into my depression I realized that we had two choices, give up, or fight back.  We chose to keep on fighting. We chose to take the little steps toward debt freedom as opposed to taking no steps at all and resigning our lives to forever living in debt.

We figured that a little less debt than what we had last summer was better than the same amount of debt, right? So we chose to continue moving forward, even if it meant inching along in our debt payoff plan.

Finally, in December of this past year, things started to really roll and we started taking bigger steps toward debt freedom. We paid one small credit card in full, and we’re very close to having a second one paid in full. We are succeeding, even if it’s a slower success than one might think is acceptable.

Too often, when considering working toward a goal of debt freedom, we don’t bother trying or we give up too early because the journey just seems too big or too long.

But success is about consistency, my friends. It isn’t about the end goal as much as it is about getting up, every day, and taking a step toward that goal. A journey out of a large amount of debt works best when one simply takes it one day at a time, and commits to consistency in their efforts. Just worry about staying on budget today. Just worry about saving $5 toward debt today.

Eventually, those little $5’s will add up, and one day, even if it’s ten years from now, your consistency will find you at the finish line and you’ll be debt free. Ten years will come, whether or not you choose to dump your debt. Envision that 10 year mark and ask yourself a question:

Do I want to be in the same place with debt that I am now? Or do I want to cross the 10-year finish line as a debt free person/family?

Then, take a step, just one – toward debt freedom. And tomorrow, take another.  By choosing to keep on the path and take one step at a time, you will reach debt freedom, because success isn’t just about winning: success is about consistency.

 

*Photo courtesy of Melody Campbell

43 comments on “Debt Freedom: Success is About Consistency

  1. Congrats on the new site Laurie. Debt payoff is so much like a marathon. You seem to go along fine, then you hit a wall or “bonk” and don’t think you can make it any more, but then you get a surge of energy somehow for another couple miles, and so on. I have no doubt that you will cross that finish line victorious!

    1. Awesome analogy, Tonya! I’ve run my share of 5k’s, so I can imagine what a full marathon would be like, and I would imagine it’s ironically similar to paying off debt. 🙂 Thanks SO much for your support – it’s always appreciated, Tonya!

  2. One step in front of the other…..don’t worry about what you did yesterday, just do everything you can achieve your goal today. Start stringing those days together……

    Congrats on the new site, Laurie and Prudence – something tells me this is going to be great. 🙂

  3. Congrats on the new site, Laurie, and you’re starting off with a winning post.

    People like to talk about big wins a lot. They’re important, but rare.

    Success, at least in my experience, really is about small daily habits compounded over time. So is failure.

    1. Thanks, DB40! Love what you said about the publicity behind the big wins. It reminds me of the Superbowl. We rarely watch a football game, but we never miss the Superbowl. It’s awesome seeing the big win, but every team and every player knows how hard the days, weeks and months before the Superbowl were too.

    1. Grayson, you have NO idea how very much you have impacted our journey – no words to describe! Your honesty in your writing has carried us through many a day. 🙂

  4. Love the new site, Laurie! And thank you so much for the mention too. I appreciate it and am grateful that I was able to help you and Rick get started on this journey. I know it hasn’t been easy but you have also come some far too. Success is about consistency and believing in yourself. You and your family are worth it and will get there, my friend.

    1. Thank you so much, Shannon. Yes, we are very excited about the journey, and can’t wait to reach the summit! 🙂

  5. I love this! It’s all about the little steps. You are still making progress, even if you don’t feel like it. For me, I have to remember the importance of momentum and that things are happening in the right direction, even if it doesn’t feel like it. We can beat this debt, one day at a time!

  6. Laurie, I feel I know you better after reading this post. I didn’t realize last summer was such a tough time for you. SO glad you chose to keep on keeping on. You are a motivation to so many! Including me : )

  7. Yeah, I love this, you´re so right! Every little step is progress. I always think about debt payoff and weight loss in parallel terms, when I see people who have lost 50 lbs or more, and I think to myself, “geez, I only lost 1 or 2 lbs this week” it can feel discouraging. But then you realize they´ve been at it for a year, or more! And it makes sense. Same with debt payoff. I didn´t get to having this much debt overnight, it took a few years, and so it´s going to take a few years to pay it off, and that´s okay, and good. Thanks Laurie 🙂

    1. Chela, you’re right on track! Both scenarios require time, patience and consistency, and you are doing great in both areas. Keep up the good (and consistent 🙂 ) work!

  8. Congrats on the new site! I did exactly the same thing when I finally woke up, Googling “How to get out of debt.” Thank goodness for the real people out there! I am always inspired by your motivation and ability to keep making progress. So many people would have given up. Now that you are starting to pay off those small balances, it’s only a matter of time until the bigger ones start to fall. Way to go!

    1. Thank you so much, Kim!!! Yes, we are working fervently on it. It feels good to finally see some real progress. 🙂

  9. Congrats on the site guys-can’t wait to read more from you 🙂

    You’re so right it’s tough to have a bad month and want to throw thw towel in. When our debt was at 135k i was in the mindset that it wasn’t even worth trying because we’d never pay it off. Guess what? We’re almost at the 50% mark with a plan to have rest paid off in 2.5 years. In less than 3 years we’ll be 100% (non mortgage) debt free. Small steps eventually add up and more importantly it gets you onyo the habit of moving forward.

    1. Catherine, that’s wonderful news!!!!! And those two+ years will pass SO fast, as you can tell by watching your little one grow. 🙂 Won’t that debt free day be nice! 🙂

  10. You’re right, it is all about consistency. I was worried about my recent payment but after reading this I now know that its a part of the progress. Some months will be better than others. I have to keep at it.

  11. Congrats on the new site Laurie & Ruth! Thank you as well for the mention, it’s much appreciated. 🙂 You hit the nail on the head here Laurie. It is SO easy to just give up and take your ball home when you’re in the middle of paying off debt. I remember when I was paying off debt that I needed something magical or huge to happen – that I wouldn’t see success without it. The crazy thing is that it’s that commitment to taking a step forward each day that gets you there. Not that it’s simple all the time, and definitely not easy, but definitely possible when focused on the goal.

    1. John – you said it right. Some of the hardest months are when you have to work to just put an extra $10 toward debt, but getting there is what wins the game. Thanks so much for sharing your story, so that you could impact me and thousands of others. 🙂

  12. Internet trolls are just nasty. I hope they never bother you again, but if they do, just remember that there are SO MANY people that gain hope and inspiration from your blog that just don’t comment. Trolls are just deeply unhappy people that want to poison everyone else. Keep at it!!! I’m a year into my debt repayment and I’ve reached some big milestones in that year. One thing that I really thank my past self for is tracking each month. Somehow I had the presence of mind to start a notebook and enter the debt totals each month as well as tracking spending categories. I am still ironing out the tracking process, but feel pretty good about where my money is going. Yesterday I was feeling discouraged, but remember to think about where I was in March of 2014. SO much has changed since then!!

    1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful news!! SO glad you are kicking your debt to the curb – life without that bondage is SO much better. Keep up the great work, and visit/comment again – we enjoy hearing these stories. 🙂

  13. Goal setting is so important I think to success. Not just setting goals, but setting the right sort of goals. Making a goal to pay off, say, $25,000 in credit card debt feels awfully daunting and progress will likely feel really slow and have a two-steps-forward-one-step-back, demotivating sort of sense about it. But setting a long-term goal of paying down credit card debt and a short-term goal of paying off $200 this month works a lot better. Meet that $200 goal and I think we feel motivated to set and achieve another similar goal. In time, the Big Goal is met.

  14. So true! It’s easy to get discouraged when you have an expensive period where things go wrong, but it’s important to focus on how far you’ve come and just keep on going. In the beginning, it felt like dieting to me. I’d be good for a little bit, then splurge. Now my financial choices have become more like habits so it’s easier to stay on track and keep going.

  15. I love your perseverance. It’s so important to remember that any sort of behavioral change and lifestyle change all comes down to consistency. Thank you for adding to this wonderful community!

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