boy jumping into the water
Photo by Jon Rawlinson

Awhile back, we became debt-free.  It was amazing to realize we weren’t indebted to anyone, that after we paid our living expenses, we could decide what to do with our money.

But the benefits to becoming debt-free extend beyond the financial.  There was an internal refining process to our family that transformed us. And we walked away from our debt-free journey all the better because of it.

So what were these benefits to shedding the debt?  Here are a few.

Once we made a goal to become debt-free, we started communicating better.

Because a financial goal like becoming debt-free requires a plan, that plan required communication.  It meant my husband and I were going to sit down regularly and talk about our budget, our spending, and our money goals.  This seeped in to other areas, like how we were doing emotionally with all this, and how our desires for the future depended so much on our financial health.  It opened the doors to talk about deeper things that really matter, so our relationship deepened.

Because we wanted to be debt-free so badly, it dimmed the sparkle to other money desires.

We could taste the benefits of debt-free living, since every month we were closer to our goal.  Not owing a dime to anyone became more delectable than any whirlwind vacation or new kitchen appliance.  Sure, those things are nice, but they just started seeming… unnecessary, once we were unified in our worthy financial goal.  Our souls’ desires aligned closer to those things in life that really matter, and we liked caring about the things God cares about, instead of what the culture tells us to love.

Because we finally had a workable financial plan, we had hope.

We know what it’s like to just assume you’ll have school loans forever.  We never had a big shovel, so digging out of our debt hole, however small, seemed impossible.  But once we unified and set this goal, it seemed reachable. I’m not talking about a vague goal like “becoming debt-free.”  We had a specific goal of completely paying of X dollars by X date.  We decided that all the money coming from this blog and my e-book would all go to my school loans.  There would be no extra splurges in life.  It wasn’t easy – it was work.  But we had hope, and that made all the difference. We woke up, excited and eager to see how we could throw more money toward our goal.

boy looking into the sky
Photo by Delcio GP Filho

Because we had financial hope, we decided to change our family tree.

Once we learned not only that it’s good to be debt-free, but that we could be debt-free, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  And that light is living differentlyWe can choose to embrace simple living because no one else is clamoring for our money. We can set aside money for our kids’ future, and set them off on their own journey without a burden of debt.  We can make concrete plans now, in our early 30s, to retire with dignity, have the necessary funds to spend time with our grandkids, and enjoy giving to causes we want to bless because some 35 years ago, we chose to get out of debt and not let money rule every decision we make.

The takeaway

Now, I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture that being debt-free solves everything.  Economic setbacks still happen.  Layoffs still happen.  And unexpected money pits still happen.  But being debt-free means those things don’t hit you like a mack truck – they’re an annoyance. They don’t have to change our entire lifestyle – they can further confirm our conviction that living without debt means having more options, having more peace.

And while we may never be rich, we can be wealthy in those areas where we want to be wealthy – in relationships, in experiences, and in supporting causes that matter for eternity.  I’ll take that over depending on Master Card, any day.

single person on a journey
Photo by Bex Ross

• If you’re not debt-free, but you’re on a plan, be encouraged.  You can do it, no matter how small your income is.  It’s not easy, and it takes sacrifice and hard work, but it is so worth it.

• If you’re not debt-free, and you haven’t really considered the benefits to shedding the debt, I ask you to sit down and make a list of the pros to hanging on to debt.  Even student loan debt.  What are the benefits?  What are you missing out on by holding on to this burden?

• If you’ve decided to get out of debt, but don’t know where to start, head now to Dave Ramsey, and gather any information you can.  Read his book, The Total Money Makeover.  Listen to his radio show.  Take his course, Financial Peace University, even if you have to take it online (we did, and it was great).  Perhaps sign up for My Total Money Makeover forums (I’m over there), and find encouragement from like-minded people on the same journey.

I can’t speak highly enough of this man, who is a reasonable financial voice in a crowd of insanity.  Nothing he says is new, because it’s good, old-fashioned common sense. And that’s what makes it so great.

If you’re debt-free, share your celebration stories!  And if you’re on your way, share lessons you’re learning on your journey.

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