Paying off debt is a funny thing, especially when you’re carrying a relatively high debt load (like we are). It feels great to put $2000-$3000 a month toward student loans, but we’re starting to get to the point where that isn’t enough to pay off a loan each month. I’m not going to lie- it’s a little discouraging. When your debt load is so high, it can be hard to feel like $128,000 is drastically different from $158,000.
But I was thinking today about where we were ten years ago. The dark days (financially). The pre-Dave Ramsey days. Ten years ago, I was in graduate school and B. was still finishing up his undergrad degree. We were living together in our first apartment, we both had part time jobs, but we survived mainly on student loans.
We would regularly go out to eat- I’m actually a little ashamed of how much we went out- probably three or four times a week. I can’t remember what we did for lunches- possibly ate out and when we did cook at home, we tended to lean heavily toward highly processed, more expensive convenience food. I never planned any meals for the week and we more or less flew by the set of our pants for food. I’m pretty sure we threw a lot of food away. Also, I didn’t even discover the magic that was Aldi until about five years ago, so we were definitely over-paying for groceries.
Additionally, this was also our pre-kid days and I’m pretty sure we went out a lot on the weekends. Bars, movies, more expensive dinners out- we partook in all these social activities. We owned (and still own, despite my best decluttering efforts) a large selection of DVDs and thought nothing of replacing expensive electronics when they broke (I had a decade long love affair with Apple products, which are ridiculously more expensive).
Finally, we had no plan with our money. There were some months we didn’t even have enough money left to make B.’s student loan payments (I cringe so hard when I think back on this). It wasn’t that we didn’t have the money- we just didn’t have any plan about how to make a budget or how to really make our money work for us. And, most importantly, we weren’t prioritizing our financial future. Our life was a hot financial mess.
I’m sharing all of this with you for two main reasons. First, I think it’s important to look back and see where you were and where you are now. It can feel like $2000-$3000 a month isn’t a lot, but when I look at our life now, we are nothing like that financial hot mess couple we were a decade ago. Are we perfect? Hell no! But have we vastly improved our financial picture and life? Absolutely.
Second, I want to emphasize that we were not innate savers. Though frugality runs, to some extent, through both of our families, we were not innately motivated to save money (or really, make any good decisions with money). Ten years ago, we were making literally every bad decision with money. Eating out, prioritizing social life over paying bills, and not saving anything for our future. But through commitment (and a lot of trial and error), we managed to get our spending under control. So if you aren’t an innate saver- never fear! You can get your financial life under your control and you can make your money work for you. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get saving!