In 2011, my newly wed husband and I decided to get out of debt. It felt counter-intuitive because it was, after all, our first year of marriage. Weren’t we supposed to be having fun and seeing the world, not battling debt in a tiny apartment and a rice and beans diet?
We didn’t understand it fully at the time, but spending our first year of marriage battling debt as a team was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Not only did it help us learn better financial habits, but it helped us change our behavior about money – and that having lots of it doesn’t directly correlate with “having fun.”
Fast forward to November 2012. At this point, my husband and I were living 100% off of his income and putting each of my paychecks toward our student loan and credit card debt. We sent our last check that month, bringing our beginning balance of $22,000 in 2011 to $0. Ah, sweet relief!
Six weeks later, we became parents.
Was getting out of debt worth it? Yes.
(Here’s one other guy who thinks so, too. Read his story.)
Did we enjoy battling debt?
In the moment, not terribly. But we knew it was money that we owed, so there was nothing to do but pay it and free up our income as quickly as possible. So, when we thought about the long-term gains? Yes, we enjoyed that.
There are two primary ways that you can still enjoy your weekends while battling debt, whether you’re single, married, have kids, or don’t have kids. I’ve divided them into two categories: Behavior and Finances.
Choosing to enjoy your life and make the most of it is a behavioral choice. Creating and implementing a step-by-step plan to accomplish your debt-free goal is a financial choice.
Here are several examples to help you understand how this can apply to your situation:
How to Enjoy the Weekend While Battling Debt
Behavior – What mental and emotional decisions can you make that will help you enjoy your life while battling debt?
- Rank the importance of debt freedom – How badly do you want to get out of debt? Do you want it as badly as you want to replace your 10-year-old car with something brand new off the lot? Do you want it so badly that you’re willing to sit down each month and create a spending plan to make it happen?
- Weigh the opportunity cost – If you decide to cut back on the weekends by not eating out as often or by not shopping for new clothes or gadgets, you can enjoy your time more by weighing the opportunity cost. Because you didn’t spend $50 at restaurants or $100 on a shopping spree, you can attack debt with an extra $150 THEREBY having the opportunity to spend money on clothes and restaurants down the road when you’re debt-free.
Be unified in your decisions with your spouse or accountability partner – There is power in unity. When my husband and I both believed in the debt payoff plan we established, it made it much easier to decide what we’d do on the weekends. Going for walks at the outdoor mall or riding our bicycles or baking a frozen pizza and doing movie night at home became some of our favorite pastimes, knowing how much money we were saving on more extravagant weekend plans.
Finances – What financial decisions can you make that will empower you while battling debt?
- Reduce the cost of a favorite weekend activity – Do you love eating at a new restaurant every Friday night? Try recreating your favorite restaurant meal at home for a fraction of the cost. Do you love going out for drinks with friends? Host a gathering at your house, instead. Sometimes, it’s just those little tweaks in the budget that help gain the most moment on your debt-free journey.
- Try a staycation – If you really need a vacation but can’t afford to take one because of your debt load, consider a staycation. My brother and his wife found a lodge located two hours from home right on the water. They asked their family to watch their kids and, for a very inexpensive cost, they were able to get away and enjoy some time together. BONUS: Because they booked accommodations during the off season, they only needed to pay half price. They went ahead and booked another weekend lodging for our parents to have their own getaway next weekend. How cool is that?
- Try using cash for things like restaurants and entertainment – I don’t know about you, but I find it extra difficult to control my spending during the weekend. The biggest change happened when my husband and I decided to use a set amount of cash each weekend for things like food, entertainment, and miscellaneous. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it worked, because whenever I veer off that path and use my debit card, our account starts to look like roadkill. (I don’t even know what that means, exactly, but it’s bad. Let’s just go with. It’s bad.)
As you’re battling debt, remember that life is still full of fun opportunities. What you’re doing is extremely important and will impact you (and your family) for the rest of your lives. So what if you have to forgo the $37 movie theater popcorn for a while? What’s that compared with taking your whole family to Hawaii in 10 years – and paying cash to do it?
How do you find a balance between paying off debt and enjoying your life? Share in the comments below!