1 Year One Was Bad, Year Two Is Agony | The Billfold

Year One Was Bad, Year Two Is Agony

Last week I made the mistake of looking at Valentine’s Day cards at Whole Foods. One of the cards had a picture of a beach with a couple dancing on it. It is beautiful and idyllic and says in a horrible script font: “Wherever we’re together is paradise.”

This made me angry. No it’s not, card. You are lying, card. Because this is Year Two, and Year Two is three hundred and sixty-five days of hell.

One year ago this week, my husband and I decided trepidaciously to get our financial act together. We had just gotten engaged, and I was having a severe, persistent anxiety attack about the cost of having a wedding. So, like others before us and others since, we enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, had a bunch of bibles and shame thrown at us with great force, and figured out that we could probably be making better choices than we were. So we started to do just that.

In Year One, we cut our living expenses down to the barest bones. We took on second jobs. We sold prized possessions. We focused every cent on getting out of debt. And we paid off $28,000. We were really, really proud of ourselves.

And we deserved it. We worked incredibly hard, were incredibly diligent, and were trying to do something nobody does when they are young and idealistic: get out of debt. We are trying to set ourselves up to win with money at an early age, and we made an important step forward.

But that $28,000? That’s just barely the first step. We’re not even halfway done yet. And that’s the realization that kept hitting me during week one of Year Two: We are going to do all of that miserable stuff for another year, and more. It’s no longer the exciting beginning, where we got to watch those tiny, easily paid debts drop like flies. We aren’t in the homestretch. We are not down to that one last pesky bill, throwing gobs of money toward it and only it. We are in Year Two, and we’re in the ugly thick of it.

We have another year of creating one million spreadsheets to try and formulate our way out of this. We will continue to solicit roommates to share the burden of rent in our miniscule house, where we have started to keep the heat at 58 degrees in the middle of Midwestern winter. I will once again consider selling the rest of my clothes, my final possessions, which will leave me with one old hoodie, so many tee shirts from high school, and a pair of shoes that do not fit me or any human person. I will apply for overnight jobs, because I had been getting a solid six hours of sleep most nights, and that’s time I could be working. I will find no solutions, and I will cry while looking at cards in Whole Foods.

Because that’s the truth of Year Two: We will have to do what we did in Year One, except it will be harder. I will have to go from my real job to my horrible part-time second job at the mall for as many hours as they will take my indentured servitude per week, every week. I will have to continue to tell myself that a can of black beans and some baby carrots is a meal because it has two colors in it. I will have to continue my streak of friendlessness, because everything done with friends costs money, and no one wants to be friends with the girl who only talks about paying off debt anyway. I will have to cancel Netflix because my brain does this thing now where it doesn’t just count the $7.99 a month, it factors in the cost of the electricity and Internet service I’m using while watching season one of Law and Order: SVU and the amount of money I could have made in that time and the depreciation of my laptop and then SUDDENLY NETFLIX COSTS $500 A MONTH AND I NEED TO QUIT.

There is promise at the end of this madness, I suppose. Like the idea of getting to keep all that money we’re paying other people right now. A year and seven months from now, what we’re paying other people each month in debt repayments could be funding a trip to a script-font-y island. And that is a nice thought. An even nicer thought is the idea of bringing children into this world without the burden of debt. Or getting to go back to school and pay for it with money, not debt, so that maybe, theoretically, we can work in the fields we actually are passionate about, not the first place to offer us jobs.

But right now, this is Year Two. And nothing’s going to fix it except (endlessly, tediously, agonizingly) more of the same.


Lisette Reed wants nothing more than a PhD in health education. She lives in Iowa. Photo: Damien_p58


76 Comments / Post A Comment

nonvolleyball (#305)

this was interesting, but I couldn’t help feeling like it raised a bunch of questions for me: where did this debt come from? is this actually the most effective way for you to be paying it off? isn’t there a middle ground between flagrant overspending & a life where you aren’t getting proper nutrition or wearing functional shoes?

@nonvolleyball it raised the same questions for me.

Oh god oh god I feel your pain. I’ve paid off about a third of some horrible medical debt (it can happen, even with good insurance!). For some strange psychological reason, the remaining two-thirds looks larger than the whole shebang did.

My only advice is to have one thing a week you can look forward to: be it cheese, or a discounted admission to the zoo, or a dollar movie–whatever, just so long as it’s there. It makes the rest of the slogging, scrimping, debt-focused time more bearable.

jmdj (#2,994)

Thank you for writing this. This rings more true to me than A. Tomas’ series “Betting on love..”. THIS is what paying off debt feels like. Having come out the other side, all I can say is that it’s worth it. *also- discover your local library, it can be a lifesaver.

dudeascending (#1,921)

Yeah, what’s the deal, Lisette? How big of a hole are you guys in? From the article, it sounds like it’s, max, $84,000, which isn’t chump change, but isn’t a lead weight dragging you to the bottom of a bottomless hole.

Regardless, when you’re in the home stretch, and later, when it’s finally all done, you are going to feel the most marvelous sensation of lightness and freedom, and you’re going to high-five all over beaches (or any other setting of your choice) everywhere.

Quinn A@twitter (#1,008)

I guess to a certain extent, I wonder if debt is really worse than living a life that makes you miserable. Yes, if you pay off $28 000 this year, you have money to do things you want to do next year. But at the cost of never enjoying anything this year? Why can’t you pay off $14 000 this year, $14 000 next year, and just enjoy your life a little more for two years?
Your goal is admirable, but is it reasonable? Is it sustainable? Crying in public would suggest not to me.

(I should add that I am a person who hates and fears debt, though I have it in the form of a car loan and a mortgage)

francesfrances (#1,522)

Jesus! This just seems so intense. There have been so many stories lately about extreme strategies for paying off debt. I think it’s a great thing, but yikes. Am I just totally dumb, because I’m 25 and have $35,0000 in student loan debt? I’m tired after a day at the office, and I need to exercise and cook a healthy meal. And maybe do laundry. I thought I had my shit together for dogsitting (A LOT) and babysitting on the side, but this story just made me feel lazy. I’m okay with my debt. It’s a fact of my young, over-educated existence.

Mae (#1,769)

@amyfrances That’s how I feel. I have student loan debt, which I’m paying off steadily, and yeah, it would be nice NOT to have it, but I also want to save for retirement/emergencies and have a little money each month left over for fun. I’m lucky to make enough money to do all these things, but I could be living more frugally. I’m just not sure the benefits of, say, reducing my once-a-month restaurant meal would be worth it for me.

I’m curious about what kind of debt the author is talking about. If it’s super high interest credit card debt, I can imagine approaching it like this.

@amyfrances @Mae ditto to both your comments.

chillizabeth (#3,098)

@amyfrances – I was freaking out about student debt recently (always?) and my boyfriend poetically described it as “it’s like paying rent on your brain.” It seems like such a nicer way to think about student debt than as just DEBT. Escapist? Maybe.

Sloane (#675)

Maybe they could stretch their payment plan out to three years instead of two? When I was in the middle of my debt-payoff, I would eat ramen egg drop soup ($0.30!) or those nasty frozen pot pies ($0.65!) because they were cheap sources of protein. But I did that so I could splurge occasionally on dinner with friends or a bottle of wine now and then. It was a balancing act that was miserable at the time, but totally worth it in the end. I could have paid off my debt a lot sooner, but I wasn’t willing to be a miserable hag just to save some money.
And, I don’t know, I seems like this author is complaining about debt like she’s some kind of victim. (And maybe she is, but she didn’t say anything about being mislead about her principal, interest rates, or repayment terms). If she’s a victim of anything, it’s her own repayment plan. That’s the sucky part about debt – you have to pay back the principal, and you can drag out the misery and lose more money in the process, or you can do it short and painfully. Assuming there’s nothing contrary in the promissory note, it’s up to the debtor to figure our what works best for her financially and personally.

Catface (#1,106)

@Sloane I like the way you’re talking. The writer mentions a year and seven months — she and her husband could slacken the reins by almost 50% and be done in three years. And it sounds like a balancing-act approach might let them make peace with the debt, in a sense, rather than feeling oppressed and overpowered by it. I have never been in significant debt but I’m saving for a down payment on a house. I went out to dinner a few nights ago and had squid-ink pasta with clams and smoked geoduck butter and I regret nothing. This is an issue I have with Dave Ramsey and his ilk — the writer actually hits on it, mentioning “shame”: the idea that only those who are debt free deserve to get pleasure from their lives. It also seems more grown-up, and better preparation for a life together, for two people to negotiate their own path rather than to do what Dave Ramsey says. Take what you need from him, but also think about what *you* need.

Lisette, don’t sell your clothes. I can’t tell you how sad that made me to read that. And please reach out to your friends! If it made me sad, I promise you it would gut them to know what pain you’re in. They love you — for god’s sake let them.

NeenerNeener (#156)

This is miserable, but I’m having trouble being sympathetic. It seems a little irrational to me to be so extreme- this isn’t a life or death situation, and it doesn’t need to be treated as such.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@NeenerNeener Yes, what’s the rush? And if she is trying to save money, shopping at Whole Foods isn’t going to help.
I think they swallowed the Dave Ramsey kool-aid, which is too bad. Dave Ramsey prides himself on telling people to get out of debt and not file for bankruptcy, but yet…he filed for bankruptcy.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@NeenerNeener Agreed. Without knowing how much debt they have (and what kind of debt it is, whether they’re in collections, what their interest rate is, etc.), it’s really difficult for me to understand the urgency. Where’s the fire, dude?

While the writer seems able to calculate the opportunity cost of Netflix, she is clearly not able to see the cost of expending all of her energy to pay off debt (not to mention the obvious psychological stress she’s experiencing at the hands of their Get It Paid Now scheme).

@josefinastrummer Yeah really, it seems like 7 years of no access to credit would be better than 3, 4, 5 years of misery. Debt is a contractual obligation, not a moral one. Companies and rich people understand this, and average folks need to figure it out.

@stuffisthings I do consider debt a moral obligation… if I signed a contract, I mean to stick to it. Companies and rich people are WRONG not to do so, and I wish we didn’t let them get away with it.

@Sarah Rain@facebook I’d highly recommend you read Debt: The First 5,000 Years. It may not change your mind at all, but it’s really fascinating and well written and I can’t recommend it to people enough.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@Sarah Rain@facebook While one may be morally obliged to fulfill their contracts, I don’t see any moral obligation to work yourself to death/psychosis in order to repay your debts on an arbitrary timeline. As far as I can tell, most lenders are pretty keen to just continue to collect your interest.

@MuffyStJohn I dunno, I think of a contract with, say, a credit card company as something like my contract with T-Mobile. I’m not *morally obligated* to keep using T-Mobile for the whole 18 months, but if I want out I have to pay a penalty (as indicated in the contract). Likewise, I have no moral obligation to pay any more than the minimum amount on my credit card balance, and even then I can choose not to pay and incur penalties/adverse credit reports without becoming a *worse person*. And should my debts become such that paying them off would be an intolerable burden, I have a right to declare bankruptcy under the due process of law (a process established in the late 1860s when debtor’s prisons were eliminated).

Now, when it comes to debt to friends or family, you can argue that some moral responsibility attaches even in the absence of a contract, but Capital One does not have feelings and isn’t going to cry if I fail to make my payment on time.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings Oh, I’m with you. I don’t think we’re under any moral obligation to 100% fulfill all of our contracts (at least not contracts in the Sally Mae/T-Mobil sense). I was sort of trying to say that even if we were under a moral obligation to repay our debts (or if an individual chooses to feel morally obligated), our contracts have terms that we are to abide by, and nowhere do those terms say AND YOU CANNOT REST OR EAT FRESH FOOD UNTIL WE GET ALL OUR MONEY BACK. You can totally fulfill any moral obligation in this scenario without resorting to extremism. (And again, I’m making major assumptions about the type of debt these people have, but I am sort of thinking it’s closer to student loan/credit card debt than “the Russian mafia is coming to kill my family” debt.)

It all goes back to chill the fuck out.

NeenerNeener (#156)

I originally read stuffisthings’ comment and thought he was referring to the way that some people do have the attitude that it is kind of morally wrong to carry debt, regardless of whether you’re making the contractual payments (because I was already going there in my head).
I am more of the opinion that you are morally obligated to keep a promise to the best of your abilities, with caveats. I’m not sure any of us are saying that it’s morally okay to sign a contract you have no intention of fulfilling.

@NeenerNeener I also think it is bad that some people have the attitude that it is kind of morally wrong to carry debt, regardless of whether you’re making the contractual payments, just for the record. And I think that actually may be the more relevant motivating factor here, since I don’t think they were facing a choice between “don’t pay at all” and “live in complete misery for three years.”

NeenerNeener (#156)

@stuffisthings But we’re supposed to disagree about stuff!
(I just remember one day hitting reply on one of your posts and thinking it might seem like I had it in for you, I don’t remember what it was about, maybe the envelope of cash…)

sally (#917)

Hello? Are you all trying to talk her out of this? They are doing the right thing. They are paying it off fast so that in the end they will pay less, and will be able to retire, and educate the children they will be able to afford to have. They’re putting in two years of pain to get out from under. They deserve a standing ovation.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@sally What’s the point of retiring at 75 if you are going to be miserable until then? Why can’t people just live their lives right now instead of following the advice of personal finance leeches?

Yes, it’s fantastic to get out of debt. But having a nervous breakdown in Whole Foods just isn’t worth it. Being miserable for the first three years of marriage isn’t worth a lick of retirement savings, which might not even be there or worth anything when they retire!

@sally I agree with you, ultimately, this will be a very good thing for them. But they’re putting in closer to three years of pain, and honestly, it sounds like Lisette’s mental and emotional (and potentially physical, depending on what she eats) health is suffering for it. There’s got to be a happy medium. Maybe instead of $28K, they could pay off 20, or 15, and be able to eat a full meal, or go out once a month with friends.

There’s obviously a lot we don’t know about the kind of debt Lisette has or why they have to go back to school to get the jobs they’re passionate about, but this just doesn’t seem healthy.

Sloane (#675)

@sally Financially, it might be incredibly smart. But personally and emotionally, it might be stupid. There are decisions that make so much sense on paper, but not in real life. This author sounds like she is working valiantly to get rid of her debt, and I absolutely applaud her effort. But if she is driving herself crazy worrying about the power bill for watching netflix, it might not be worth it.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@sally I was only saying that this seems too extreme, and agree with Sloane that it’s probably personally and emotionally stupid. Paying off, say, $3,000 less a year isn’t going to make the difference between retiring and not, or affording children or not, but it may make a big difference in her life experience today.

Mae (#1,769)

@josefinastrummer Yeah, I feel like this sort of reaction to debt is related to the way our culture wants people in poverty to be punished (for the sin of being poor) by being denied all pleasure. I strongly object to the idea that as long as you’re in debt and don’t have a flush retirement account you don’t deserve to have any pleasure in your life. (Not that anyone on this thread is saying that, but it’s a sentiment you do encounter a lot.)

Present happiness doesn’t trump all financial concerns, obviously, but it does matter.

@Sloane It’s not even financially smart. These “cut everything to the bone and pay down debt NOW” plans have no basis in real finance principles whatsoever. In fact, if you were the CEO of a debt-laden, publicly traded company and you decided to start firing workers and selling assets to pay off all the debt immediately, you would likely be replaced and/or sued by the shareholders for violating your fiduciary duty.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@stuffisthings Although to be fair, as an individual, and not a company, I doubt she would be able to leverage in the way organizations do and earn a higher return than what she’s being charged in interest. But I’m strictly looking at dollars when I say that, and recognize that a part of your example has to do with other, less immediately-tangible benefits.
And from your comment above – I agree and I have a hard time understanding the moral obligation mentality.

E$ (#1,636)

Oh, Lisette. If I were in Iowa, I would be your frugal friend and only do free things with you!

But seriously, I know with working two jobs and pinching pennies all over, you feel like you have no time for friendship. But it sounds like you need some support in your endeavor, the kind that comes from being with people who are in the trenches with you in some way. Did you take Financial Peace at a church, and if so do they have get-togethers you might feel comfortable attending? Can you find a place with flexible hours to volunteer when you’re available? Maybe you could look for a part-time job more aligned with your interests, so you’re meeting like-minded people and furthering your dream?

I know these suggestions probably aren’t helpful and may even be overwhelmingly stressful, but my point is: You’re doing a great job, and you deserve the emotional support to take you over the top. I also agree with Mingus_Thurber that if you have one thing to look forward to every week, you will be further fueled to debt-free success.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

I really admire them for this, even though it does seem like it would make more sense to maybe pay off $25,000 a year instead of $28,000, and use the extra $3,000 for fun things? BUT that being said, I can imagine that this is a snapshot into her life, and she doesn’t feel this way all the time (in which case I would imagine this rate of debt payment to be unsustainable).

ThatJenn (#916)

I hope you get to do some fun, free things soon that help with your mental health; this sounds really hard. Regardless of what everyone else says, this is what you have chosen to do right now, and that’s okay, but it is also okay to take care of yourself. Please do take care of yourself. Wearing shoes that fit, eating properly: these things will save you money in the long and even medium terms. Taking good care of your marriage will also save you money, a lot of money. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself. You are doing a hard thing and you are awesome (you would be awesome even if you were still at your full debt level, and this is just another awesome thing you are doing to make yourself more awesome) and you deserve to be well-fed and to have some comfort. If I were your friend, I would totally want to hang out with you no matter what you needed to talk about, and honestly I might try to talk you out of going so lean with your budget – but it would be out of love. But! I am a stranger on the internet and do not know what it is like to be you (I mean, neither do your friends, but they’re closer), so I will just say this stranger totally believes you can make your own responsible choices, and thank you for sharing all this with us.

Also, can I just say I really appreciate that the Billfold posts more than just upbeat happy stories about quickly paying off debt (but also doesn’t post JUST sad gloomy stories)?

(This was accidentally posted as a reply to another comment, but it’s really just a comment for the original author, who is the “you” I’m referring to here.)

Runawaytwin (#2,693)

I hate to ask- and it is going to sound snarky- but whole foods? (I.E. Whole Paycheck) Everyone-myself included- I know feels poor and awful in there. I get how in Manhattan there arent many options but in the midwest there should be tons of lower priced grocery stores.

(again I take it back if that is where your part time job is or you were there for other reasons)

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@Runawaytwin I dunno, I like to just walk around Whole Foods sometimes. They have lots of free samples. And they have a pretty good selection of beer, not to mention their bulk section is better than most, and pretty reasonable, depending on what it is you are getting.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@Runawaytwin There are things I buy at Whole Foods because they are actually cheaper there then elsewhere. The bulk section is great for grains and the like. They have the lowest prices on greek yogurt in my neighborhood. The 365 products are all practically dirt cheap- cheaper flour, cheaper sugar, cheaper whole wheat pasta, etc. They consistently have my favorite brand of canned tomatoes in stock, which most other stores don’t, and they have it for a little cheaper. And my favorite hard cider is cheaper at Whole Foods than anywhere else by $2-3 per six pack. If you aren’t buying like, cheese and prepared foods, and you only buy produce that is on sale, Whole Foods isn’t so terrible for certain things.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@RachelG8489 Rachel, that’s really good to hear that you can buy cheap stuff at Whole Foods. I might check it out to see if it’s cheaper than my local city supermarket. Sadly, I live in a state that doesn’t sell alcohol in the supermarket, so that’s no help!

I wonder how good people are at going to Whole Foods for just the cheap stuff. Are they able to resist the cheeses and prepared foods and other things that run up the bill?

olivia (#1,618)

@josefinastrummer I think this is more common than you’d think. All I usually buy at Whole Foods is meat, produce and eggs. The other grocery store in my neighborhood is just as expensive as Whole Foods, but with much lower quality meats and produce.

notpollyanna (#2,841)

@Runawaytwin There are things that are specialty at other grocery stores (organic, vegetarian, gluten-free, that sort of thing) that Whole Foods will have more options for, one or more of which will be cheaper than the one option at another store. That’s what I get at Whole Foods. That and a Carol’s cookie every time I am there. It is too delicious to resist.

breakfast (#633)

@josefinastrummer My boyfriend and I regularly shop at Whole Foods, beginning because it was right next to my old job, but we still do because it is cheaper than Safeway, which is the other nearby grocery store. It is the same price for beans, bread, cheese (boring store brand chedder), milk, cheaper for yogurt, THE CHEAPEST for walnuts, about the same for chicken and it ‘feels’ like better quality. Oh man, I could go on about what to get there. Short story: if you stick the staples it is same price or cheaper.

Now, granted, we are hard-nosed cheapskates able to resist the delicious things but it is possible to make it out of there cheap. For me, it also makes it easier to be cheap when grocery shopping is an enjoyable experience. Though on one sad occasion I said to boyfriend that I will feel like I’ve made it the day I can freely buy olives from the olive bar.

@breakfast Do you live in DC? Because Whole Foods is defo cheaper even than Giant on many items. It surprised me too.

breakfast (#633)

@stuffisthings Close, Baltimore!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@breakfast LA MART. GO TO LA MART.

Seriously it is my absolute favorite grocery store in the entire world. Super-cheap produce, tons of canned/dried stuff, loads of cheap frozen goods.

And there’s a great Indian grocer somewhere that sells spices for prices that make your head spin they’re so low, and you can buy a 20 pound sack of rice for like 18 cents.

KatNotCat (#766)

This isn’t much, but I hope it cheers you a bit: You are right about that font. You are so right about that horrible font.

Remember to take care of yourself in the now, too.

olivia (#1,618)

Yeah unless the author is legally bound to this repayment plan, maybe back off a little. Having a miserable, friend-free life for 3 years isn’t worth it, in my opinion. It doesn’t seem worth it to the author, either. Life is short, and there’s more to life than being debt free!

Crabtree (#774)

Hon, don’t take an overnight job. Sleep keeps you alive. Also, maybe don’t sell all your clothes. If you end up with a job interview or an opportunity to move up in your current workplace then you will probably need nicer clothing than a hoodie and then you will have to buy it. The cost of the clothing will then just stress you out, and it isn’t as if you get the exact price that you paid for the clothing back. But you are doing amazingly! Just take care of yourself, because you deserve that too.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@Crabtree I second this entire comment!

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

This is the exact opposite of that article featured on LearnVest last week about the woman who managed to get her debt under control in three years because her boyfriend said he would buy the house. Of course the circumstances are different and we only heard her story after the fact, but I think Lisette should read that article and get some tips.

ladybug (#2,583)

@josefinastrummer The lady from the LearnVest article was making what I would consider an unusually high salary for her age/line of work (30-ish/nonprofit), and she’d gotten about a 50% raise over 3 years (also not what I’d consider too typical these days). So while her ability to pay down debt seems admirable, I think it’s also a bit atypical. Hopefully this is just a bad day/week/month post for Lisette, because it seems like she might want to rethink how extreme the plan is if she is likely to be this miserable for the next few years. As others said, cutting a few thousand dollars off each year’s payback might make live livable/enjoyable instead of something to slog through.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@ladybug I believe she was making $50,000 a year and she had her masters. She received a raise of $20,000 over the course of the time she was taking care of her debt. Is $50,000 in DC with a masters degree really atypical? She was one person. Lisette and her husband are paying down her debt together. I don’t understand why she is in such a seemingly unnecessary panic.

ladybug (#2,583)

@josefinastrummer Yes – I agree re the panic. I guess you’re right that 50 for a masters seems reasonable. It did seem like a lot of her story made it sound like all the debt got paid babysitting and stuff though, where it probably was chipped away at more so from the 20K in raises. I’m currently in a field/job where they keep deflating the pay and pay grade for increased education and work experience, so I’m probably just jealous!

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@ladybug I’m with you! I am getting ready to leave a job where I work my ass off for $10,000 less than what everyone else makes doing my job in other companies in my city.

Meanwhile, rich people everywhere are leveraged to the hilt and laughing their asses off.

@stuffisthings Also, debt *is* money. It’s just money from the FUTURE!

deepomega (#22)

@stuffisthings I mean yes, but no. Like if they have mid-term plans (buying a car? buying a house?) then that debt might make it very hard to do so. And I empathize with preferring to suffer in the short term rather than wanting to smear it out over a decade.

what the F were you doing at Whole Foods?

julebsorry (#1,572)

I swear to god, this article is having the opposite effect on me and makes me want to run out and spend $ irresponsibly just to confirm I DON’T have to be miserable.

Girl, good lord! Dial it back a little bit and TREAT YO’ SELF. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow! You only get one life to live! Don’t live in misery just because of the numbers on an excel sheet!

I mean, I have more of a tendency to be the grasshopper and not the ant, and I’ve worked HARD to curb those habits. BUT…there’s nothing wrong with paying down only $25k worth of debt, and then treating yourself to something fun for all your hard work! You earned it!!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@julebsorry Seriously. I’m totally happy with my minimum monthly student loan payments. They’re an expense. Kind of like internet service or a gas bill. But I would never in a million years consider so much as selling a few ill-fitting outfits (let alone ALL OF MY CLOTHES) to get rid of them just for the sake of being rid of them.

Maybe if I got a big raise I might think about upping the payment like $20/month. But even that . . . eh. I just don’t care. I make my payments on time and that’s it. They will get my money when I get around to giving it to them.

deepomega (#22)

@MuffyStJohn I mean, that’s fair, but when you see people being like “I spent 6 figures on my 30,000 of student loans,” this is why. Interest kills.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@deepomega I’d feel much worse paying 6 figures on 30,000 of consumer credit card debt than I would paying that amount for an education. I’m old-fashioned in that sense. Sure, I don’t relish the idea of paying interest, but I will also never lose any sleep over it.

deepomega (#22)

@MuffyStJohn That’s your choice, I guess. But it’s a cultural difference, not a moral one, and it bums me out when there are so few people here empathizing with the debt allergy that she’s showing.

Someone upthread talked about how 84,000 isn’t a lead weight and when I read that I FELT a lead weight, dragging me to the bottom of an ocean. Some people are bad at having debt, and would rather get rid of it ASAP so they can put their debt towards better things than “shit I bought 10 years ago” or whatever, and that’s fine.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@julebsorry I’m not talking about morality here (my morality talk is upthread).

If someone wants to make a personal choice to destroy their present moment (or years of their life) in an obsessive effort not to have debt in the future, that’s their right. But I won’t pretend to understand or empathize with their situation.

Sandy (#3,752)

@deepomega I’m late to the party but I needed to say I soooo agree with you and @sally up above. The author is being proactive about her debt! Give her a slap on the back! Yeah, the day she wrote this it totally sucked and she felt down about it, but if I’m reading the post right, in about a year and seven months she will be completely debt free. No more debt. Yay! Good for you! Keep at it! Then you’ll have the rest of your life to be debt free. I applaud people who can pay debt down while still going out to eat and buying little luxuries, but that didn’t work for me: My husband and I watched our debt roll in and out like the tide, spending some and paying some, until we went cold turkey on discretionary spending like the author here. And then it was gone. Now we do all the stuff we love (we took the family to Europe this winter for 2 weeks) and we can afford it all, which wouldn’t have happened if we were still paying interest to half the world. And here’s where I’ll really get in trouble: Overall, I think Americans (myself included) are not great at saying, “This is going to suck, but I’m going to sacrifice spending for a while to gain a greater good.” (We’re MUCH better at saying “Treat yourself!” or “You deserve it!” or “This is too hard.”) If she’s choosing to do sacrifice FOR A WHILE, she should find herself some equally frugal friends, which will make everything better, and carry on. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Wait, you’re eating canned beans instead of cooking them from dried, and baby carrots instead of whole ones? Spendthrift! (Just kidding of course. My husband and I did the same thing in our first few years of marriage, but our personalities and situations were such that it didn’t feel so hard. Hang in there, and think about ways to keep it from being miserable, even if it does mean setting back your payoff date a little bit.)

AitchBee (#3,001)

I can’t decide if the [bulk of the] commenters are going to engender “Aw, permission to be kind to myself” or “BEING LESS UNHAPPY ABOUT MY STRINGENT SAVINGS PLAN BY SAVING LESS, IF ONLY I’D THOUGHT OF THAT you morons” feelings in the author (if, indeed, she plans to read them).

Since getting serious (“srs”) about my money, I’ve definitely found myself way more prone to having the kind of irrational spiraling-Netflix-freakout Lisette talks about, and this “is this gonna be forever” fatigue goes without saying. Four for you, Lisette! You go, Lisette.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

I hope she is exaggerating at least a little bit here. I followed Dave Ramsey’s plan and paid of $93K in 3 years. It was hard, but not as depressing as this story.

notpollyanna (#2,841)

@SterlingCooper05 Your income is going to have a lot to do with it. Your achievement is wonderful, but not possible for everyone, even if they cut to the bone. You probably still had more spending money than this woman. I paid off $53k in 4 years, but that was on a $25k salary while spending a fourth of my income on health care. I lived with my parents, so I didn’t pay rent, but I spent every leftover dime on my student loans to pay them ahead. It was miserable.

Year One for us was interesting. He was in the army for six months. Year Two we moved in together, which was good but somewhat trying. Year three the GFC hit and his hours were severely cut back. Year four he was unemployed and I was still studying. Challenging does not begin to describe it; we nearly broke up. Five, six and seven have been mixed.

WhatWorks (#3,097)

Sounds like maybe it’s a slippery slope for the author and she’s going to extremes to avoid “backsliding”. The way money works, you pay to be poor, you get paid to have money, so it’s worth it to do everything you can to tip over into the black unless you’re very financially savvy and can leverage debt to create more money (ie. making money off of other people’s money that you borrow).

So, if that’s the case then that kind of extremism will pay off and this short-term pain now will be followed by a well-earned and deserved sense of accomplishment. Keep the end goal in sight!!

Some people need to go to extremes. On the other hand, if this is a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be addressed, this could turn in to the kind of deprivation that will follow long after the debt is paid off (and potentially could have contributed to the debt in the first place?) If that’s the case, then this extreme effort is not going to solve the problem, and suffering may be more of a general “way of life” with or without money. Money by itself is not good if you’re a miserable person!

I get the feeling though that they are just going all out to make sure they’re accomplishing their goals, and that if they can make it thru to the other side, it will have been worth it for them.

Nick (#1,548)

@WhatWorks How do you figure deprivation contributed to the debt?

notpollyanna (#2,841)

I paid my student loans in an extreme fashion for the last four years. Sometimes it makes sense to try to pay them down fast, to be that kind of miserable. My example: I didn’t make enough money to cover rent of any sort, so I lived with my parents. Even though I couldn’t afford rent, living with my parents meant that I did have enough leftover at the end of every month to send extra to my student loans. My budget was “spend as little as possible”. I did this with the goal of reducing my monthly payments to the point where I could afford a rent payment. It was miserable. Living with my parents was bad for a lot of reasons. Three and half years in, I had paid down ~$45k (of $106k) and reduced my payments from $870 to $460. It was a huge accomplishment, but it still didn’t leave me enough to pay rent (and utilities, and food, etc.). It was soul crushing to make SO MUCH progress for zero payoff. Finally I found a new job making a lot more money (60% raise!) and could afford rent. Sigh of relief.

Spending less on my student loans would not have made me much less miserable because I would still have been financially trapped in my parents house. Sometimes that is how it works.

MalPal (#1,200)

My personal perception is that there is probably a better way to do whatever it is they are doing. The main criticism I have is that what they are doing now isn’t teaching them how to live in a balanced way. Even if they get out of debt completely living these lifestyles of punishment, they still haven’t learned anything about balancing their budget for practical and personal needs. I would hate to see them caught in a cycle of indulgence and repentance.

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