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Do you ever dream of what living debt-free might be like? I did too and now that we are I want to share what living debt-free really looks like for the average middle-class family.
Before we were debt-free, I had this idea in my head that once we were debt-free, we would never worry about money again. My husband would work a 40 hour work week, and we would have money and time to spare. We would live on a small acreage with farm animals and a vast garden to give us fresh food. I could go on, but you get the idea. I was thinking of a debt-free utopia; not at all realistic.
Now that we are free of debt I know that although some aspects of my debt free dreaming were right, most were not.
What The Debt-Free Life Really Looks Like
1. You Still Discuss Money Often
My husband and I always talk frequently about how much money is coming in and setting priorities for where it will go.
We still keep a running list of non-monthly expenses that will be coming up as well as non-monthly wants so that when extra money does come in through overtime, bonuses, or blog money we use it wisely and not give it to restaurants and Target.
2. You Still Keep A Budget
Our budget is a simple piece of typed paper broken into monthly recurring payments like property taxes, insurance, utilities, and other set payments as well as a set amount of money for food, clothing and other more flexible (yet still needed) expenses. When we get slack on keeping ourselves accountable to our budget, we spend way more than we should and end up not reaching the financial goals we desire to achieve.
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.
3. You Still Have To Work Hard To Pay The Bills
My husband is an RN. Shortly before we became 100% debt-free, he was offered a nursing job in another department of the hospital that was a lot less stress than his current position in the ER at the time. In the switch, he lost his evening hour pay and his weekend pay. He also couldn’t work his second job around the new position hours.
The pay off was a hubby who enjoys his work days more and is home with his family more hours per week. The cost was that we broke even financially, meaning the cut in pay equaled the payments we no longer pay. Our budget is essentially just as tight without payments as it was when we had payments.
We chose family time over a bigger paycheck and to do that means sacrificing the extra money freedom that I thought all debt-free families enjoyed. You know–the one you hear all the debt free advisers on the radio talk about. “Think of all you could do with that money you will no longer be using for payments!” We traded that money for time.
My husband’s basic pay each month pays for our “needs budget”–mainly our food, shelter and transportation bills with little wiggle room for other bills.
Thankfully due to investing some of the inheritances we received into rental units we have that monthly income to pay the kids for chores, give my husband and I some spending money and pay for a few activities for the children each month.
My husband also often receives overtime and I earn a small yet above minimum wage income from blogging. These streams of income plus bonuses my husband sometimes receives at work pay for our “unexpected emergency needs” and a few things from our “want it” list.
We feel pretty blessed to meet and sometimes exceed our bills each month. God is faithful to provide for His people.
4. You Might Not Live In A Grand Home
I have no idea why, but for some reason before we were debt- free I always thought that all debt-free people lived in great neighborhoods in fancy homes or could afford all the expenses that come with country living. After reading The Millionaire Next Door I know that isn’t true for all those living debt-free lives–including ourselves.
We live in a very average home that we bought for just under 10,000 dollars–nope, I did not forget a zero. We purchased the house for ten thousand dollars, then spent two years and $30,000 remodeling it from top to bottom by ourselves.
We got a home for under $10,000 because it is in a so-so neighborhood. In fact, the house next door to us is quite the sight to behold (the picture above this section is the view of the house next door from my dining room window)
We really don’t mind though as the location is so near to everything it saves us a lot of time commuting, giving us more time at home together and we set out on our journey to being debt free to do that in order to have more family time.
5. You Do Worry Less, But You Still Worry
A few months ago my husband came home and told me his department was being bought out by another company and that he wasn’t sure at that point what was going happen.
Before being debt-free with a three month emergency fund and multiple income streams, that type of statement would have sent me into worry mode.
Now with no payments and three months’ worth of income stored away and more than one source of income, I just looked at my husband and said, “God’s got this, no worries. You are a great nurse, we will be okay,” and I 100% meant it and slept peacefully that night.
Everything did work out and he is still working.
However, there are still days when I wonder, “How are we going to afford the glasses the boys need, or the bill for my daughter’s emergency tooth extraction, or the ingrown toenail bill,” but God takes care of that too. It never fails that just as the bill comes due, the money becomes available.
6. You can give more (and that is my favorite thing)
My favorite thing about being debt-free is how much easier it is to give. To help a person out and not wonder “If I give this can I still afford to pay the payment for…by the 15th of the month when it is due” is a very freeing feeling.
When you are debt-free, you have more control over your budget and say about where your money can go and if you wish to give, you can.
Yes, I know I said above that our budget it still tight and that is true, but it seems like whenever we give, God takes care of it and we once again pay our bills and have a bit left over for wants. We are blessed.
In fact, I set aside a portion of my inheritance specifically for giving. God allowed my husband and I to help out people in impactful ways with that money and I pray continually that He will use our family to give in that way again. To me, giving is healing.
Update: One Really Cool Benefit Of Staying Debt-Free And Keeping Your Expenses Small
I wrote this post when debt-free living was still pretty new and fresh, now we are several years into it and I wanted to add one more point–If you stay debt-free, keep your expenses small and keep growing new and ongoing income sources, you will get to a significant benefit of debt-free living–choices!
Choices such as buying a bigger and nicer home or helping the kids out with college or buying another rental unit or taking a five and a half month RV road trip across North America as a family. And yes, both of those last two are real-life examples from our family.
Read More About Our Debt-Free Journey:
- Why I Rarely Talk About Our Family’s Journey To A Debt-Free Life
- Our Debt-Free Story Part 2: Back Into Debt & Out Again
- 10 Tools To Help You With Your Debt-Free Journey
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