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My husband and I attended one of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University programs more than two years ago. Looking back on all the religious undertones and blatant Christianity, I’m surprised I was as adamant about finishing it as I was. But we were about to get married, we had vastly different ideas of money management and I figured it couldn’t hurt to get some advice. My dad’s also a financial planner, so I know it’s important to get all the advice you can, sort through it, and aim for the best path.

I’m excited because this month we will pay off my car loan. We’ve also paid off my husband’s auto loan. In the next six months we should pay off the credit card debt that he brought to the table. Then our last goal will be to pay off my student loans.

Let me dispel that myth that only the rich can accomplish this. Our combined income is under $80,000. That’s not much for two college graduates. However, this post is about realizing what we have done and not focusing on how others are better off than us. We’re sticking to our plan of paying nearly $1,500 a month on debt. I’ve suspended my retirement contributions. We don’t do many major home improvement projects. Neither of us have smart phones. We don’t pay for cable TV.  We’d like a second dog but it’s not in our plan. We rarely pay for lunch out. And a fancy dinner for us might be a $60 splurge. We also bought a home under 1,000 square feet so we weren’t taking on a mortgage that was too much for us. I often wish we had another bathroom or a kitchen that was more than a hallway but I like our low monthly payment. Although, honestly, there have been times when I’ve cursed the dwarf-size amount of counter space we have.

My sister paid off a hefty-size student loan recently. She posted the big news to her Facebook page and got more feedback on that than any other post.  People said she must be rich or have had a small loan. Others whined that they would never be free of debt. It’s amazing how few people think the debt-free life was actually viable. But it is! You just have to shift your priorities. When you want to buy something, you have to ask yourself if that purchase will get you closer or further from your goals.

I’ll admit our priorities are always shifting. One month we’ll vow to fix the broken pump in the laundry room and then we get a medical bill and have to divert the funds to paying that instead. It’s a growing issue that changes shape and size based on that month’s income and that month’s perception of wealth and poverty. It is frustrating to see what other people buy. It’s challenging to not get caught up in wanting new stuff or big home remodels. It’s hard to think other people might have things that we never will, whether it’s three kids or a lake house. I have to step back and think each dollar is a conscious choice toward the life we want. Sometimes the greatest pleasures in life are just the sound of hot water filling a bathtub. Some people on this planet will never even know that joy.

And so our goal is to be debt-free. I don’t mean just credit card-free, but free of auto loans and eventually free of a mortgage. Today marks the last month with a car payment and I’m pretty damn excited about that!

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