15 Lessons I Learned While Paying Off $60k Of Debt

By December of this year, my husband and I will have paid off $61,000 in debt.

It took us 4 years on one very modest income to pay off an assortment of consumer debts.

The last debt we have been repaying- and the biggest- has been my student loans. They totaled $36,000 and included three private loans and one Sallie Mae loan.

These last four years has been a time of regret but also opportunity.

Below is a list of lessons I’ve learned while breaking the “bondage” of debt.

1. Patience

Four years is long time to wait for something. I’ve wanted to do (and get) so much but couldn’t because of my debt. However, I prayed for patience and I believe I’m a much more patient person now because of the slow process.

2. Flexibility

When resources are limited and plans fall through, you learn that flexibility is a great quality to have. It lessens the blows of life and helps you shrug off disappointments with ease.

3. Perseverance

The first two years were the hardest for me because the amount seemed so great and progress seemed so slow – I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow though, we managed to stay the course and have faith we would accomplish the goal.

 4. Thriftiness

This is a quality our great-grandparent’s possessed and if it weren’t for my debt, I wouldn’t have cared the least bit about it. I’ve changed.  I love visiting blogs that show you how to reduce, reuse, recycle etc. Waste not want not, right?

5. Accountability

There were numerous times when I wanted to quit paying my student loans, especially after hearing massive amounts of people were defaulting on their own and Congress was considering liquidating the debt. And since student loans are not bankruptable, it sounded too good to be true. And it is. We should know that all that debt wouldn’t just be written off- most likely the burden would fall on the taxpayer  (like it always does). If you’re unemployed and legitimately cannot repay your loans, I’m not criticizing you, but that wasn’t the case for me. I had the ability to pay- I just needed to put my big-girl pants on and be accountable for my actions.

6. Gratitude

Obviously, our lifestyle has been modest. Affording new clothes and wholesome food has been a stretch and not having the money to go to doctor has been a challenge as well. But even all that considered, I have a lavish lifestyle compared to the rest of the world’s population. After all, “only kings sleep in beds.”  Living with less has made me more grateful for the things I do have.

7. The value of a dollar

Before, I had no concept of personal finance, budgets or even the value of a dollar. I bought whatever I wanted without thinking about the object’s  true worth. I was at the mercy of advertising,  consumerism, and peer-pressure. Now however, I carefully consider a purchase to see if it is worth my hard-earned money.

8. The difference between a need and a want

It’s pretty simple, humans have a few basic needs: food, water, air, clothing, sleep, and shelter. There’s nothing wrong with moving up Maslow’s Pyramid as each level clearly makes life more enjoyable, but the problem is thinking you need to borrow money to get them. You don’t. I’m learning to take mindless consumerism with a grain of salt.

9. How to go without

I actually find it fun now to see what I don’t need.  Whether it’s an ingredient in a recipe, the latest gadget, or a certain dress, it’s liberating to discover you don’t need something to survive or to even be happy.

10. How to give up control

There was a part of this journey that made me feel like I had no control. Maybe it was the fact that wishing away the debt wasn’t working (great plan, right?) or that my husband was primarily the leader of this adventure, I was forced to sit back, wait, and go with the flow. Sometimes, though, riding shotgun isn’t so bad.

11. How to focus

Paying off $60K (or any sort of seemingly unattainable goal) requires laser focus. It seemed that the distractions and temptations never ceased but the peace of mind that comes from debt-free living was enough incentive for us to keep our eyes on the prize.

 12. How to communicate and collaborate with the hubs

What a blessing it has been take an awful situation and turn it into something positive. Going through this process has brought me and my husband closer together. We’ve learned about each other’s personalities, behaviors, and future aspirations. We learned to be patient with each other and most importantly, how to encourage each other.

13. How to cook and make meals from scratch

Eating out and pre-packaged foods are notoriously expensive, not to mention horrible for your body. Having a strict budget forced me to learn how to cook. While I wasn’t always able to afford organic food, I learned how to make simple meals with whole, real food.

14. How much my husband loves me

I talk a lot how “I” have been paying off debt but the real workhorse has been my husband. Since the beginning of our marriage, he has taken control and tackled the debt with “gazelle intensity.” And even though the majority of the debt was mine that I incurred before our marriage, he took full responsibility for it. I told him many times that I would get a job but he insisted I stay home with our child. He’s worked overtime, cashed-in vacations and has gone without. He’s acted selflessly and I’m more than grateful for it.

15. What God’s grace and mercy feel like

The Bible is clear that having debt is foolish and unwise. I believe that if you’re in debt, you are outside of God’s will for your life. You are a “slave.” Even after God graciously got me out of an upside-down car loan, and even though I knew debt was not good, I still took out loan after loan. But yet in a couple of months, I’m going to be debt-free. “Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do.”