Re-focusing and finding that line

7231_137563119102_966813_nIf there was one picture that could describe where I’m at right now, that would for sure be it.  That’s me about 95% up, dawdling in the most ungraceful way possible, as I figure out where my next step is to reach the top.  While I knew I had the security of a rope – physically in that picture and figuratively in the form of savings and having a steady job – I do find myself a little stuck on accomplishing this whole debt repayment process even though I’m so close.  Sure, I’ll reach it, but I do find myself getting a little distracted with wants, which I’ve admitted to feeding into the past couple of weeks (albeit justified in some sense, though I won’t harp on the details.  Sorry if that sounds cryptic).

So I thought perhaps a good way to motivate me to get this done with already is to state how I truly got into debt.  While I started this blog about $12k or so in the hole, that wasn’t the totality of it, unfortunately.  It isn’t very linear, since while some debts were being paid down others were incurring, but these are the primary “big hitters” of my debt over the last 15 years or so:

1) student loans

2) credit card debt (going out to party when I lived in college and LA, shopping profusely, spending recklessly)

3) traveling abroad and domestic when I didn’t have the means

4)  medical treatments (which at least saved my life despite the hefty price tag)

5) car payments (Got reamed on the total cost of it as it was my only option, though still have it actually, at 240k miles strong (knock on wood to hit 300k!)).

6) attending weddings (10 in one year, some that I was a part of, some destination), and subsequent baby showers (a couple where I was a godparent)

I do know at some point, the highest it peaked was $30k not including the car payments (since in my then-financially illiterate mind, I didn’t count it for gosh knows why).  Cumulatively, I think $50k is a reasonable estimate, not including the interest.  Thinking about the interest pretty much guts me, to think of all the wasted money due to it and my stupidity.

So now, that I’m about $4k shy to debt freedom, I feel stuck.  I do admit, the “wants” still get at me, tries to make me justify that the debt balance is so small so just go for [insert-want-of-the-moment-here], or try to make it up with another justification.  And while there were a few expenses that incurred, for the most part – I just have to swat that away and refocus.  Refocus and find that friggin line to get to the top.

I think a part of it is, obviously, the self-satisfaction of finally getting rid of this.  And I would be lying if, since I tend to be a people pleaser, that another motivation is because I don’t want to disappoint the readers who have graced me with their time and kind words through this process (seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart!).

But it seems like in some ways, it’ll also symbolically help me let go of some crap and some demons from the past.  All the recklessness, foolishness, feeling lost, doing dumb things over and over again.  I know I’m not that person anymore mentally/spiritually/physically/emotionally, but I also view it that once this debt is off the books, that it’ll close that chapter(s) in the financial sense.  I have a tendency to harp on the mistakes of my past, so once this debt is paid off, it is my hope that I can fully let all that past shit go.

Because what’s next is truly exciting – (hopefully) starting a family with a kickass partner (digression: who is so awesome, since I was super nervous for a presentation and knowing this, the guy shined my shoes the night before as a confidence booster for me.  That’s love, man!), being financially literate and responsible, and essentially just having some financial freedom to accomplish beyond what I thought life was going to be.  That motivation is exciting, and I just gotta keep that in mind over the next few months (months!) as I find my line to get to the top of this debt repayment mountain.

It took me quite a few years to get it – so much so that it probably wasn’t even a line for me, but I probably circled the rock a couple of times before I figured out which was was up. 😉  But at least I eventually figured it out, and the top is right there for me to accomplish.  Motivation and focus – centered.  Let’s do this.

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48 thoughts on “Re-focusing and finding that line

  1. It’s easy to get sidetracked. For us, I was too desperate/paranoid to let lifestyle creep into our budget much. But I’m sure it did in dribs and drabs. And once we got out of it, we celebrated a bit too much for the first couple of months. Then I realized how little we were putting away and had to redraw the line.

    And I’m doing it again now. I’m a depressive and it’s been a long spell of not cooking. We were paying a painful amount for convenience food. I am finally sick of it enough to propel myself into cooking. We’ll see how long it sticks, but for now it’s great.

    Point is, you’ll be redrawing lines all your life. Priorities shift, attentions wander from the budget, life intervenes (my husband and I know ALL about medical bills), etc. What’s important is that you’re aware of this kind of thing. That you check in with this stuff from time to time and, if necessary, update it. Sometimes for the worse, usually for the better.

    I had to decide that pushing myself to cook — pushing myself about how much I *should* cook when I still didn’t — was wasting more energy and mental well-being. It would affect my ability to get other things done if I constantly beat myself up. So I drew a line that fast food was an expense I’d hate but live with.

    Now I’ve checked back in and decided, nope, it’s not something I can live with. So… yeah. This is a long-winded way of saying that the only thing you can depend on is change. Wandering from your original goals is human and, sometimes, ends up being for the best.

    • I totally agree with Abigail. Lines fade and are redrawn all the time. Sometimes it feels like all of the plans we make have this giant asterisk next to them that says:
      * Assuming our goals don’t change or we don’t have kids or no one gets insanely ill or goes insane….
      But those things might happen. And we’ll redraw the lines when they do.

      Marriage is a big deal, and it sounds like it’s making your current line feel a little less important at the moment. You’ll figure out what works for your new circumstances, though. I’m sure of it.

      • Thanks for your vote of confidence in me, Mrs. PoP! Agreed with that asterisk – sometimes things seem so simple in theory, but practice is not as constant. One thing is for sure, is that you and Mr. PoP are awesome role models when it comes to both marriage and financial management, so hopefully we can emanate some of your practices!

    • Very well-said, Abigail! I agree that lines are constantly needing to be redefined and redrawn based on life situations. If only things were as simple as going from Point A to Point B, but unfortunately that’s not how life works sometimes. I’m sorry to hear that you and your husband have had your share of medical bills, and I wish you well with the cooking “line.” Thanks for stopping by, it means a lot to me. 🙂

  2. I think paying off debt gives a lot of us closure in the sense that we are finally able to close out a chapter and start anew. I know you won’t let your wants get in the way of that! I imagine it can be easy to waffle around when you’re so close, since the balance is manageable and it won’t be a complete struggle to pay it off. Just think of how awesome it will be once everything is at a 0 balance, though. You have so much to look forward to with the wedding, honeymoon, family, etc. You don’t want a little bit of debt hanging over you as you go through all that. It’s important to refocus and gain back motivation, and I think you’re only a few steps away from conquering the mountain!

    • E.M. you took the words outta my mouth! That’s exactly what this feels like, but agreed that I’d rather just have it all done with than have this hang over my head. Thanks so much for your kind encouragement throughout these past few months, girl, it’s meant a lot to me!

  3. Holy crap on #4 and nice work on #5. If you don’t mind me asking, I’d like to know what kind of car it is.

    I’m not sure if the “wants” ever go away. I still want a motorcycle. I still want an Acura NSX (one of my favorite cars of all time). While I may give in to the motorcycle “want” some day, I’ll buy a used one for a couple thousand.

    For me, it’s about wanting other stuff more. I’d like to free myself from having to work 45+ weeks/year, so the freedom “want” outweighs the Acura NSX.

    I don’t think I’ll ever reach the pinnacle of “want” enlightenment where the desire for all material stuff goes away, but I’m strong enough to suppress it. Except for maybe the old Honda 919.

    • It’s kinda nice to hear that you have wants, as well, Mr. 1500. Although this doesn’t sound absurd, you definitely have a *lot* of self-control so it’s kinda nice to hear about your wants and how you assess them with your other, higher level wants. I have a 1997 Accord – I’m hoping to at least have it with me until I have a kid… once I do though, I’m not so keen on having it if only for the safety factor (i.e., I only use it around town, not really for long distances anymore).

      • Dunno, I think safety is overrated. I’ve driven some big SUVs/boats which some people buy because of the safety perception. I actually think they’re more dangerous because they’re far less maneuverable. In my 23 years of driving, I have yet to have an accident. I’ve had some pretty close calls because of other boneheads on the road though. If I was driving a big car, I’m not sure I would have been able to avoid all of them.

    • That’s a great way to approach it – I agree so long as there’s progress and no regress, that it’s all good. Hope you’re having a nice weekend!! 🙂

  4. I’m not sure I could ever to that kind of rock climbing. Yikes that looks scary! I think you have made huge strides in paying off your debt! And I really can’t offer any great advice about the wants as you know that’s something I’m struggling with right now too. I guess all we can do is be here and support each other. I got your back lady!

    • Aww, I got your back, too, my love!! Rock climbing is pretty fun, a lot of strategy and thinking ahead, but I would always end up getting really bruised since I thought I had longer arms or legs than I did. lol Hope you’re having a great weekend, yay for some sunshine! 🙂

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  6. I know what you mean, I feel so dumb for never keeping track of my debt when it was at its highest, it’s all one big haze. You are close though, and while you will feel a great satisfaction at paying off your debt, I know the wants will still be there. It’s just figuring out how to build wealth while still enjoying life that is the key. Excited for you!

    • Aww, thanks Sally, your words mean a lot! Agreed about that whole building wealth component – it’s motivating to think about. I know, a part of me wonders how much the total amount was, but it’s unfortunately a haze (and kind of too unfortunate to think about). Thanks for stopping by, I love the concept of your blog!

  7. Wow, I didn’t realize it had gotten that high. The interest is really killer ;( I say I’ve amassed 81k but I’ll never know the exact number because of interest. It’s awful. Glad we are both in better places mentally and financially. I can imagine it would be hard with so much less debt to go, it’s easy to give in. But you are almost there! Once it’s gone, make it gone for good and then start having just enough fun. B is so cute for shining your shoes! I love little sweet things like that. One time Ryan made my lunch for me, just because and it made me day. It’s the little things that keep us going. You are doing great and I am so inspired!

    • Aww, that is adorable that Ryan made lunch for you! I agree it’s those little loving things that can make the relationship so amazing. Thanks so much for your encouragement, as well – I knew that I should eventually confess about where my debt stemmed from and the totality, but I was always ashamed, embarrassed, etc., especially given my age. However, after you and GMD and many others being so honest, it for sure gave me some courage and that I wasn’t alone. I’m so proud of and happy for you with your progress this past year, both with debt, your career, and your amazing side hustles. You inspire me so much, as well, M!! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. 🙂

  8. Sounds like debt fatigue, we all get it (I got the last of mine around the $6K mark and went a little spend crazy) when paying off debt. My suggestion would be to get a few of those little wants out of your system and then seriously refocus on debt repayment. Don’t let anything else stop you until you reach that finish line! Good luck, I know you’ll do great 🙂

    • Glad to know I wasn’t the only one, as I agree it’s debt fatigue. Thanks so much for your motivating words, I’m definitely doing my best to refocus and keep on!

  9. You’re going to have an awesome future, Anna 🙂

    Debt fatigue is an absolute killer and I’ve gotten sucked into it a few times. I don’t think there is anything wrong with saving for a few of those wants, as long as you can accept that it will take longer before your debt is gone. The choice is yours!

    • Agreed Erin! It’s a frustrating process, and it has been one of those things where I realize that a want will just delay the end, so why keep torturing myself. My focus has for sure been renewed – hope you’re doing well and having a great weekend!

  10. You’re so close! I know I always have trouble sticking to my finance goals around this time. It’s holiday time, break time till January, I just want to relax and enjoy myself, but it’s important to stay focused so we don’t create more work for ourselves in the new year.

    • Agreed, Stefanie, I think a part of it for sure has to do with the holidays and having a break until January. I’m just telling myself to “finish strong” (kinda like in a run :)), so just keeping on with that. Hope you’re doing well and staying focused (but still finding some way to enjoy yourself. :)).

  11. Anna – you’ve done amazing and I am so proud of you!!! As Mr. 1400 said, wants don’t go away so don’t feel bad about wanting things. It’s normal. But as he does (and I do too) I have something that I really, really want (my goal) to compare wants against. And it’s very rare that a want trumps a goal. I think it’s harder for you right now because you have a wedding to pay for and a few MONTHS (yeah!) of debt left to pay off. Once your books are clear – you will have that freedom to consciously say yes while still respecting your budget. I also think when we get really close to financial freedom – it can also be a bit scary. Sometimes we play tricks on ourselves and self-sabatoge our efforts because even though we want financial freedom, we are scared that we might screw up (you won’t) so we stay in debt where we are comfortable. You’ll soon be starting a new chapter in your life in every way and you’re going to be amazing. 🙂

    • Aww, thanks so much for your amazingly kind words, Shannon, they honestly do mean a lot!! Both in your encouragement and your guidance with staying focused on the goal to trump those wants. You’re so spot on, as well, about the self-sabotage part – I agree and own that I do that *a lot* with myself. It’s a funny thing, but I agree it’s that fear (of unknowing about that financial freedom, although obviously it’s an awesome thing). Thanks so much for your encouragement (now and these past few months), it was truly uplifting. 🙂

  12. Wow, you’re almost there. Just looking at your progress from the beginning of the year until now, it’s pretty remarkable. Good job. I’m a pretty frugal person with very little wants…but I still have wants. It’s normal to have those wants and normal to spend things on wants as long as it’s within reason. I’m also curious as to what car you have. I put on a lot of miles because of my long commute so I’m hoping it will last a long time.

    • Thanks so much, Andrew!! I honestly don’t think I could have accomplished this without the motivation of putting it all out there, but I’m grateful that I did because it really does feel awesome! I have a 1997 Accord – my mom had it the first few years, but I took ownership in 2001 and still have it. I’m hoping to at least keep it until I have a kid, then I will most likely trade it in for something safer (I mostly just use it for around town). What car do you have?

  13. You got this, Anna!! I don’t comment much, but you are one of my favorite favorite (yes that’s two favorites!) PF bloggers. We all get into debt (or more debt) for stupid reasons, but we can be smart and get out of it. I’ve been a little stuck the last couple months between paying off the credit cards and procrastinating on paying off the student loans. I’m kind of embarassed to blog about it, but I did commit to a minimum monthly report!!

    • Awww, thanks for making me feel so special with the favorite-squared remark, Jocelyn! 😉 Don’t be embarrassed, though – I think it’s normal to feel stuck at times (heck, I just posted about it!), but know we’re all rooting for you and cheering you on! I’ll stop by to check out the monthly report in a few, hope you’re having a great weekend, girl! 🙂

  14. Anna – you are so close – that is awesome!! Sometimes I look back the Mindless Spender Tanya and I think – girl, what we you thinking? Obviously I wasn’t thinking! LOL. I can’t wait until the day I stop by and see the post where you proudly proclaim you are debt-free! 🙂

    • Haha, right, Tanya!!?? I ask myself that all the time, and obvi, I just wasn’t thinking! Thanks so much for your encouragement, now I *have* to get this done so I can finally post about it! 😉

  15. We have all these financial struggles before we became aware of how bad they truly are but when you are self-aware and successful in paying down your debt, it’s a great place to be. How great is it that you were able to pay down so much principal and interest on your debt now, and not 20 years from now? And major props for the success you have done!

    • Thanks so much, Tara!! I agree that self-awareness is key, and that at least I realized it now. I admire all the 20-somethings like yourself that became self-aware so early, and are so determined to accomplish this. Know I think you’re doing amazing, as well, girl! 🙂

    • I know, right? Then babies like 2-3 years afterward! I loved it, though, it’s amazing to see our “family” grow into second generation little ones. Sending you good vibes, as well, Michelle, Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Aww, thanks Michelle, your support always means so much! I just have to buckle down and focus, but I’m committed to completing this whole debt mess once and for all!

  16. I’m right there with you cause I’ve made my own fair share of big purchases and big financial mistakes. You’re so close to the end, just keeping fighting. It will all be worth it! And I hear you on all the weddings and baby showers etc. They add up quick, but are something I wouldn’t want to miss.

    • It’s always kind of comforting to hear that people you admire go through their own stages of ‘wants’ and overcome them. THanks so much for the encouragement, KK, I’m for sure going to accomplish this through heck and high water!

  17. I don’t know if this is part of what you’re dealing with, but there are these odd moments right before I achieve a goal where I’ll get the urge to just quit. I don’t know why it happens, but I have a bit of a quitter’s mentality when I get close to the finish line. Back in cross country, I’d find myself walking for a few seconds during the last mile (of course, only if I was out of the coach’s line of site). I think there’s something about knowing that you’re close enough to the goal that takes the edge off. You’ll hit the goal, and that’s great and all, but, for me, I’d lose the motivation to keep pushing myself once the end result was no longer in doubt…

    • Man, Mr. DbF, very enlightening thoughts and I agree that I’m dealing with some of that, as well! It’s kind of like a mixture of lost motivation and somewhat fear, which is illogical since it’s a great goal to accomplish. Thank you for sharing this insight, I’m going to have to marinate on this some more!

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