I am proud to sit here and say (or type I guess) that I am debt free. I don’t owe nothing to no one! It’s a little strange though, because for the last four years, and very definitely the last ten months, my whole life has revolved around being in debt.
Since I graduated college and my loans kicked in, student loan debt has hung around my neck like a weight. I felt like I would never be free. But after a lot of lifestyle changes, a lot of eating leftovers, and a lot of weekend nights spent at home and not out, I have released that weight. I’m free!
But what’s next? What comes after debt?
When Paying Off Debt Becomes Routine
The thing about it is, when you have debt, you know exactly what to do. You simply get paid and then make a debt payment. It’s a simple transaction no matter what kind of debt you have.
You can go online for credit cards, student loans, car loans, medical bills – all sorts of debt – and make a payment. There’s very few complications.
I found it easy to live a life that was centered on debt payoff, too. I like walking, so it was easy for me to trade driving everywhere for walking everywhere. I hate cooking, so eating the leftovers I could snag from my catering company was a money saver and made my life easier.
The little things I changed ended up meaning big savings, and I was able to make multiple payments a month. That was kind of fun!
Now that I’m all debt free and stuff, the next step is more complicated. What do I do with my money now that I really own it? Now that it doesn’t go off to a loan lender each month?
I Want Security
The most important thing for me, post-debt, is to build security for myself. I want to have some peace of mind when it comes to money. I never really have.
The first thing I’m going to do is build up my emergency fund. I always keep a small emergency fund on hand, but I want one that’s able to absorb a big crisis. I don’t want one car repair to throw me back into debt.
Right now, I think the number I would feel good about is $5,000. That’s definitely enough money to handle something like an emergency plane ticket back home, or a new windshield for my car.
Having a savings account that I have easy access to is a priority. I want my emergency fund somewhere I can get to fast.
I Want Enough Money For Retirement
The next step after my e-fund is savings that are a bit more complicated. The thing about saving like a grown up is that you have to make your money work for you. It’s not just about stashing some cash under your mattress. Where’s that going to get you except a gangster film? It’s about investing.
A true baller knows that investing your money is the best way to see big returns. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes and being overly cautious. Leaving your money in a savings account will net you less than 1% a year in interest. Putting your money in the stock market can have you seeing returns from 6% to 10% a year.
I plan on fully funding my Roth IRA this year. I want to start saving for a future where I am safe from debt and comfortable in my retirement.
Yes, there are more risks in the stock market. But I just spent the last 27 years of my life being broke and in debt. Post-debt, I’m willing to take just a little bit of risk to get some reward! As I plan to avoid debt for the rest of my life as much as possible, I’m going to need to make money off of my money. That requires having some investments.
So, I’m going to set myself up with a padded emergency fund and I’m going to dive into the wide and wonderful world of investing. I’m looking like quite the grown up, aren’t I?! I think all the responsibility deserves some sort of reward!
I Want To Travel
I just spent the last 10 months being truly hardcore about paying off my debt on my sub $30,000 salary. I gave up a lot of things in the name of debt freedom, and I want to get some of those things back! So, my post-debt life is going to include some perks. Namely traveling and food.
I want to see the big wide world out there, and I want to eat my way through it! A dinner out on the town once a month and saving for some international travel is just what the debt free doctor ordered.
I plan on opening another savings account (sans stock market) to save for a trip to Europe or South America next fall. I also plan to enjoy one nice restaurant a month for a little while. Remember, I hate to cook!
Debt freedom is an amazing thing. My first steps are going to be to keep myself debt free. I won’t be taking unnecessary risks with my money, and I don’t plan on blowing it on useless things. I want to be deliberate and I want to have a good life. Now that I’m debt free, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.
Are you debt free? How did you manage your money after paying off your debt? If you’re still in debt, what are your plans for after you pay it off?