How We Slayed The Debt Monster

Remember when you were a kid and you were afraid of the monster in the closet? Do you remember how you overcame that fear? I remember forcing myself to stay awake long past the point of exhaustion, as well as covering my head with the covers in the middle of a hot summer night. Not my finest moment. But when you’re a kid and doing stupid stuff like that, it’s socially acceptable. However, when you’re a full-blown adult and still afraid of the monsters, there’s an issue. This is where Mr. MMM and I stood a few years ago. We finally had to own up to our money missteps and slay our own debt monsters before meeting each other and committing to a new frugal way of life. I’m guessing you can relate to such a financial path… 

Facing Our Fears

 

paint

I used to be afraid to paint my own house – until I did it! #faceyourfears

Fear can be a dirty word. If you’re fearful, you’re weak. At least that’s how I used to see things. You see, Mr. MMM and I grew up in lower-income families on the right side of the tracks. Meaning, we went to school and were neighbors with kids who had much more than we did. This made us both desire nice things. Growing up the way we did fueled the fire of desire for big houses, nice cars, and fancy vacations.

What we didn’t realize when we were kids was that our friends weren’t happier than we were. Despite not having what other kids had, we were both really, really happy. We both had wonderful childhoods and wouldn’t change a thing. Read all about my childhood here and read all about Mr. MMM’s childhood here! That’s our adult perspective; our childhood perspective was quite opposite. We wanted stuff. We wanted lots of nice stuff to validate our success as adults. So what did we do after growing up and leaving the nest? We bought ourselves nice stuff. Lots of it. And oftentimes on credit! Yep.

But after having racked up hefty credit card bills on who knows what (aka stuff), we realized we needed to face what we had done and dig ourselves out of our holes. This is also known as slaying the debt monster. We did this separately (since we hadn’t yet met) and more than once in our adult lives. Hence, because we wanted more stuff growing up to compete with our friends, we put our own adult finances/stability in jeopardy to prove something to people we didn’t even know anymore. And I’m guessing some of you have done the same unfortunate thing. If so, don’t fret, it happens. Read on my fellow financial friends!

Want to read more about our past financial woes? Check these out:

But I Deserve Nice Things

 

fireplace

I deserve nice things as long as I can pay for them with cash. Our family room fireplace 🙂

One of the biggest issues with living beyond one’s means is the fallacy that we deserve nice things. I’m not even sure what that means since nice things is extremely relative. I suppose it means nice things compared to what you had as a child, or nice things compared to what other people have around you?

Note: Any help with the definition of nice things would be greatly appreciated! 

That aside, nice things to me meant I was going to rent a 2-bedroom luxury apartment at 18-years old. It also meant I was going to buy myself a fast car and drop tons of cash on new clothes every week. C’mon, I deserved it, right? WRONG. I never should’ve sacrificed precious money at such a young age on an apartment I didn’t need, or on a car I couldn’t afford, or on new clothes to go out with friends.

Nice things to Mr. MMM meant spending money on going out with friends and on whatever his heart desired. Before we both knew it, we were in substantial credit card debt without even fully starting our adult lives. Again, this was separately, since we wouldn’t meet each other for another 10 years or so.

My Kid Also Deserves Nice Things

 

family pic

Family beach vacation – paid in full

By the time Mr. MMM met and tied the knot, we had both slayed our own debt monster and decided, together, to live a more frugal and meaningful lifestyle. But that wasn’t before we nearly committed financial suicide by purchasing a home we couldn’t comfortably afford. Why? Because we deserved a nice home AND our daughter deserved it, too. Yes, we almost bought a big house to validate our success and give our daughter what we felt she deserved. What?! That is absolutely nuts, if I do say so myself!

Fortunately, we came to our senses before signing on the dotted line and pulled the plug on the house situation. We have since decided that what our daughter actually deserves is to have two parents who are both responsible with money and are planning for the future. Thankfully, we remembered how awesome our childhoods were with very little in the way of material things or fancy vacations!

By staying in our starter home, we were able to afford to pay cash for some custom renovations to create more living space. And because we stayed put, we now have money leftover each month to reach our financial goals and pay for a fancy vacation here and there.

Our daughter does deserve nice things. But nowadays, nice things means we’re fully funding our retirement accounts, partaking in low-cost index fund investing, and carefully spending the difference. We don’t necessarily believe in budgets for our family. Although, I do think budgets are a great starting point for slaying the debt monster. Instead, we believe in saving/investing significant portions of our income while simultaneously spending only what is necessary for our monthly needs.

I’m proud to say we shifted our mindset to frugality and, in the process, decided our daughter deserved a strong financial future as opposed to a bigger bedroom.

Slaying The Debt Monster

 

coaster

Having debt is no laughing matter.

Slaying the debt monster as an adult is no different than facing the closet monster as a child. When you finally face your fear you can do just about anything.

I know that, as a child, when I finally threw the covers off and marched over to my closet to look inside, I faced my fear and was able to start putting things into perspective. Slowly but surely I was able to overcome the closet monster. I was able to logically reason with my fear when it reared its ugly head the next night and the night after that. Soon my fear of the closet monster was gone and I was able to rest peacefully each night.

The same was true of my debt monster. When I finally stopped burying my head in the sand and faced the balances on my consumer debt, I was able to chart a plan and slowly but surely dig myself out of the financial hole I had created. I was able to slay my debt monster. It really was that simple. I made sure to spend less than I made and put the difference towards the debt.

Mr. MMM did the same thing when he was facing his own debt monster. He put all of his consumer debt out in front of him and wrote down the amounts of each balance. He then began tackling the debt with intensity until it was wiped out.

There are many methods “out there” to tackle debt. There is the debt snowball, the debt avalanche, and so on. Ultimately, it comes down to making a plan and sticking to it.

Here are a few more posts about our housing situation:

Steps Taken To Slay The Monster

 

Here are the steps we took to eliminate our debt. Even though we did this separately (since we hadn’t met yet) the steps we took were the same. Hence, I will use “we” in the following list.

  1. First, we admitted our debt was out of control.
  2. We then calculated the entirety of our debt – instead of just ignoring it.
  3. Then, we made a plan to eliminate it.
  4. We stuck to our plan of elimination.
  5. Finally, the debt was gone.

Victory Feels Better Than Nice Things

 

Mad Money Cat

Mad Money Cat never had debt. #FIkitty

A few years into our debt-free (except our mortgage) lifestyle, we are having a blast and living authentically. Just before our amazing wedding, we realized that keeping our expenses low gave us the freedom of options. We also realized that being house poor was not anything we were interested in. The luxury of having the option to go on nice family vacations and regularly contribute to a college fund makes our routine financial sacrifice worth it.

I can proudly say that financial victory (AKA slaying the debt monster) feels so much better than having nice things.

And just for the record, I still feel like we have nice things. Dare I say, I feel like we have nicer things than I had when I was in debt. Everything we have today is paid in full – and that makes all the difference!

No, we don’t have the latest designer fashions or high-end vehicles in our driveway. What we do have are nice clothes and two vehicles that we own outright. We also have the peace of mind that comes along with knowing our financial future is being fully funded. And, it’s nice to know that we could go out and buy ourselves the latest fashions and a high-end vehicles, if we wanted to. Victory comes from having the willpower to put your financial future ahead of your current wants. Doing that has made all the difference in our lives.

Oh, and the best part about slaying the debt monster is sleeping peacefully each night!

How are you sleeping these days? Have you had to face a debt monster? If so, how did you handle facing your fear and conquering your money?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The 76K Project Jul 25, 2017, 2:15 pm

    Thank you! This is inspiring. We’ve got a long way to go, but it feels great to be slaying our debt monster.

  • Lance @ My Strategic Dollar Jul 24, 2017, 12:34 pm

    I sleep pretty good at night knowing that I’m paying extra towards debt AND investing. I doubt I’ll ever just throw all my money at debt. Investing is more powerful.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 24, 2017, 1:00 pm

      This is true. Mr. MMM and I were much younger when we attacked our debt. We were still single without kids or real responsibilities. Today, we’re not just focused on eliminating our mortgage. It’s a piece of the overall puzzle, but we definitely value investing over just paying the balance down.

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Jul 24, 2017, 10:23 am

    I’m sleeping pretty well. Right now, I’m paying down an extra $4k on my mortgage to get rid of PMI in 3-4 months. I’ve faced the debt monster before with my student and auto loans… I’m excited that after I get rid of PMI, I will be able to focus on increasing my investments.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 24, 2017, 12:57 pm

      That’s awesome! PMI is such a killer. We were able to eliminate it when we did our reno last year. Our mortgage is our last debt to conquer. Soon 🙂

  • Dads Dollars Debts Jul 24, 2017, 10:18 am

    Debt is truly a monster. I commend you guys for sticking with the starter home. We made the mistake of buying a bigger home then we need with a million dollar view (and unfortunately the same type of price tag). We are staying put now, but I realize this is to the detriment of my future retirement. I will wait out the 2 year period to be a “primary home owner” and forgo capital gains tax if we sell it. In 2 years, if the values have gone up enough I may just pull the trigger. If not 2, then we will reassess again in 5.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 24, 2017, 12:56 pm

      It wasn’t an easy decision to stay in our starter home. After all, we’re taught from a very young age that having a big house is an indicator of success.

      It sounds like you’re still on the right path even after your purchase. I’ll be interested to hear what you decide to do in the future!

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