Like almost everyone else I know, I have student loan debt and it’s strangely something I don’t think enough people are talking about.
Sure, we all make jokes about how we’ll be paying our debt for the rest of our lives or post on Facebook when we finally get a loan paid off, but I don’t think people talk enough about debt and how to avoid it or how to work through it. To those lucky enough to have graduated without debt, congratulations! Seriously, whether you were able to pay tuition yourself or with the assistance of friends or family, you have received an incredible gift.
We all know there are some serious political issues surrounding cost of tuition, student loans, interest rates, and more. But this post is a little more personal.
The first thing I want to say about debt, is that you are not defined by it. Your worth does not come from what’s in your bank account or the number of things you have to pay off. Too often I find myself or my friends beating themselves up for allowing themselves to be in the position they’re in. Whether that’s student loan debt, credit card debt, or car loans. That debt does not define your worth as a human being! Too often I see this contribute to my own understanding of identity. I think that if I work a million different jobs, seven days a week, that I’m somehow defying the definition of my worth that debt has placed on me. But there’s a misconception there as well. You can work day and night and still have debt. I’ve always had at least two jobs at a time, but that didn’t stop me from graduating with debt, like..a lot of debt. I know amazing people who fell into tough situations and found themselves in a mountain of debt. But guess what – you are contributing to this world everyday and enriching the lives of those around you. Your debt does not define you.
*For those of you without debt, please do not assume that your friends are just irresponsible for racking up a balance on their credit card or whatever else it is. That can feel like an incredible attack on someone’s character, as we have a tendency to make unfair assumptions about people due to their financial situation.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of people (myself included) are afraid to confront debt and treat it like the monster under their bed. We’re afraid to look at it. We’re afraid to lift up the blanket and shine a light to see exactly the financial situation we’re in. I mean, it is scary! A breakdown of every debt just staring you in the face is not going to leave you feeling like superwoman (If you stare at it too long, you might actually just cry). Admittedly, it is so much easier to just make your monthly minimum payment and not have to think twice. But recently, Dylan and I have decided to challenge ourselves and really push ourselves to live a debt free life. Now, this isn’t going to be an easy journey, but we are confident that it will be worth it. We’re looking forward to life where there is nothing hanging over our heads and every dollar we take home is ours to keep.
How are we doing this? Well enter Dave Ramsey of course! We finished up our course this past spring (editing this post in Dec) and my oh my was it motivating. The core of the program revolves around the Seven Baby Steps, and we’re working our way through Step 2! If you aren’t familiar with this and you’re serious about becoming debt free, you should check it out. Not to mention, if you’re like Dylan and I and aren’t planning on having children, you get to skip a few steps!
- Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund
- Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
- Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
- Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
- Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
- Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early
- Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously
But my main point here, is that debt is something we all encounter. But you have to know that you are not completely irresponsible for having debt. Now, it is irresponsible to charge a tattoo to a credit card (guilty) or those brand new Adidas shoes. BUT you are not somehow a lesser person for having debt, and the scary monster under your bed doesn’t have to be so scary!
Some of the personal struggles I’ve faced with making this decision is having to say no to things I really want to say yes to. Sure, we could go on an expensive vacation and pay it off over the course of time. It’s not easy to hop on Instagram and see everyone taking these lavish trips that look oh so perfect. Sure, we could go out to eat every week and explore our new city! I mean, we WANT to get to know the area! But if we just had patience with ourselves, we could do all of those things and more without the stress of minimum payments and outstanding balances.
I’m grateful to be able to share all of this with you, as I’ve worked through a lot of the self doubt debt can bring. But trust me, there are days where I feel like we’ll never see the end of it. I’m grateful to have a community around me where I know we can lean on one another and talk about these things! I’m grateful to have you all alongside us on this journey, cheering us on. (For real, encouraging words would mean the world). I would love to hear about your “debt free journey” or how having debt has challenged your self worth! We’ve all been there, so let’s talk about it!