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I’ve had debt as long as I can remember. It wasn’t something I was ashamed of, or particularly worried about. Debt is the American way after all. But last Spring I noticed it was down to around $3,000 and I finally felt that little spark of excitement at the prospect of being debt free. Then August came. August of 2017 saw our family suffer hit after hit after hit to our finances that drove that seemingly manageable $3,000 to well over $15,000. Having that faintest glimmer of hope to be debt free motivated me to tackle things once and for all, and with my family on board, we managed to cut our spending by almost 25% per month. It’s been almost exactly one year since we started our journey to financial independence and we’ve finally hit the first mile marker – We’re debt free! It wasn’t easy, but by prioritizing our spending according to our values, we’ve been able to finally break the debt cycle.

It’s Not Always Sunshine and Rainbows

Finally paying off our debt hasn’t made us any less susceptible to the unexpected expenses that helped drive us into it. We’ve still had random financial hits by way of car repairs, vet bills and loss of income (we had to forego rent money while we tried to sell our house). But our focus on spending according to our values instead of our whims helped us ride through those expenses without adding to our debt. We did get a bit lucky with some well-timed windfalls that helped fund our selling of the house and eventually paying off the last of our debt, but I primarily credit our change in attitude.

It’s All About Your Attitude

When it feels like the world is falling apart around you, every last thing just adds to the negativity. I remember breaking down in tears when a light bulb blew because I didn’t have money in the budget for a new one. It was a minor expense, but it was just that one more thing that finally broke me down. The absurdity of such a little thing causing me so much stress finally helped me shift my self-perception from being a victim of my circumstances to being a master of what’s under my control. By taking ownership of the things we could control, we became better situated to handle the things outside of our control. Determining our priorities and living our values helped us to be more prepared and makes it much easier to roll with the punches. For example, we just got surprised with a $600+ vet bill and were able to cover it without much hassle and none of the stress.

Be Realistic

I don’t want you to get the impression everything is perfect. There’s always room for improvement, and it’s no different for me. I have a weakness for eating out. I hate to cook and I crave convenience. But I know I have a limited amount of funds in my fun money that I can use toward that and when it’s gone, it’s gone. And do I really want to blow all my fun money on McDonald’s? No. Well…sometimes. But remembering our goals and our priorities helps me keep driving right on past… most of the time. The point is, I recognize my weakness and instead of caving into it, I’m trying different strategies to help me overcome it (more on that in a future post).

It’s All About Mindset

If you’re still struggling with debt I encourage you to keep pushing your way forward. Look at your spending and how it lines up with your values. Change your attitude and always look for the bright side when any negativity comes your way. I promise you, even if you feel defeated in the moment, living and spending according to your priorities will get you where you want to be.

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