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My Debt Free Life: 1 Year and Counting…

benefits of extreme frugalityI officially became completely debt free on December 11th, 2014, just over a year ago. I paid off my student loans, my credit cards, the divorce settlement, and my house. I had no chains weighing me down. I was completely free.

So how has life been since then? Has a debt free life really been all that different than the one that had a student loan and mortgage payment? Let me tell you, it is worlds different.

The Debt Free Life – After 1 Year

Today, 371 days into my debt free life, I sit here at my laptop with my thoughts swirling. Various life events, personal finance epiphanies, and random recollections of the past…which stories should I share? What will help you on your road to the debt free life? I’ve tried to organize my thoughts a bit, but if they still seem scrambled, I apologize. Even after a year, I still get excited about debt freedom.

1) I Still Relate to No One…Ever

Just the other day, a conversation broke out at work:

“Today marks the day of having the most debt that I’ve ever had in my life.”

Mark just bought a house, so instead of being just $40,000 in debt from his student loans and his car note, he was now $250,000 in debt. He went on to say how much he was sweating the amount while signing the papers at closing.

His team members quickly chimed in though,

“Don’t worry about it Mark, we’ve all got loads of debt, and probably will for life! That’s just how life is today. Forget about the mortgage amount and just enjoy your house!”

As you may have guessed, I said nothing. I simply couldn’t relate. My student loan debts were only $12,000 at their highest point, I never had a car payment, and my house was so basic that I was able to pay it off in one year! And of course, these are all paid off at this point.

I am constantly reminded how much I’ve gone against the norm in this life, but you know what? I wear a continuous smile because of it. The debt free life is a good one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

debt free life - houses2) Anyone Can Do This, And They Absolutely Should

Why is it that so many people live a life of indebtedness? Are they just too poor to make ends meet, forced into a life of credit card debt and car loans? Based on my personal experience, this just isn’t the case.

At the root of it all, they simply just don’t understand that a debt free life is an option!

Their parents have debt, their friends have debt, heck, their grandparents might still have debt! To 99% of this world, debt is just a way of life and they never think twice about it.

So what puts them into debt? It’s pretty simple really:

  • their house is too big
  • their car is too new and luxurious
  • and their mouth eats more restaurant food than their wallet can really handle

I was talking to my friend Laura the other day. She and her husband are 30 years old. They live in a $500,000 house, and she drives and Audi to work. We were talking about her daughter and the fact that she was going to daycare, and Laura looked down at the floor…. “I wish I could stay at home with her, but my husband says I need to go to work to pay the bills.”

She didn’t understand that there was another way. If they would just move to a $150,000 house and downgrade her car to a Honda Civic, she probably could stay home!

Through my first year of my debt free life, I’ve learned that almost everyone could benefit from the options that being debt free provides. They have the option to live a debt free life, and in my mind, they absolutely should!

3) Cash Builds Insanely Fast

Liz and I live in a mediocre house with mediocre cars, but it enables us to have no debt…which obviously means no payments. Think about how much cash you could save each month if you had absolutely no payments:

  • no house payment
  • no car payments
  • no student loan payments
  • no boat payment
  • no credit card payments

Take away all of these payments and you could have yourself about $3,000 extra each month! That means $36,000 a year of cash that’s earmarked for nothing! Wouldn’t that be crazy?

That’s what happened to Liz and I. Without really tracking it, we were able to save up many tens of thousands of dollars  – enough to buy an entire house with cash! And with the passive income from this future rental, we’ll be able to save up cash even faster than we did before!

debt free life - work4) I’ve Actually Grown to Like Work More

When my debt free life began, I had thoughts of quitting my day job and starting some sort of business on my own. It’s not that I hated work – I just thought I might like to do something else even better.

The strange thing is, once I realized that I didn’t really need my paycheck all that much, I actually started to like my work. I was less fearful of losing my job, I was more eager to learn and cross-train myself into different areas of the organization, and I ultimately became more valuable and better paid because of my additional knowledge and vigor. It’s quite likely that I’ll continue to grow in the company and be awarded a very respectable position there.

5) Multiple Sources of Income is Key

If you want to live a debt free life and you want to be secure in your position as such, then multiple sources of income is key. While I do enjoy my work and my income is much better than average, I am not willing to put 100% of my well-being in one stream of income – especially one that could very well dry up tomorrow. While work may seem secure, you must remember that the company could suddenly go belly-up or could ultimately decide that they no longer need your department. Be real – your “secure” income could end just as quickly as it started.

Instead of depending solely on your salaried income, why not look into other sources that could steady your income ship should Murphy ever visit your front door.

The income sources could be:

  • a rental income
  • dividend income
  • website income
  • mechanical labor income
  • tutoring income
  • contractor income
  • music lesson income

The list could really go on and on. Right now, Liz and I each have our work income, I have this website income, and we we’ll soon have rental income. If we both lost our jobs tomorrow, we could still live quite comfortably on our remaining two sources. It’s an unlikely scenario, but it sure feels great to have that assurance!

debt free life - house6) I Fell in Love With the “Normal Life”

For many, living the “normal life” is repulsive. They want to have luxurious cars, gargantuan houses, and sparkling jewelry. They want to live the good life, even if it means living paycheck to paycheck for it.

I, on the other hand, have fallen in love with the normal life. This sensible house and our mediocre cars are allowing us to live the life we always dreamed of. One of:

  • carefree living
  • multiple vacations
  • relaxed budgeting
  • and excessive giving

We are living the good life, all because we have a normal existence.

7) I Get Better Tax Breaks

When I paid my house off, do you know how many times I heard, “Derek, why on earth would you pay off your house? You’re forgoing those wonderful tax breaks!” At least a hundred times… I still can’t stand that question to this day. Please don’t ask me…even as a joke. I just might go clinically insane.

When you have a mortgage payment, you pay interest to the bank within that payment. That interest payment is tax deductible – meaning that you can deduct that amount from your total income and not pay tax on it. If you earn $50,000 a year and pay $5,000 in interest payments, then you’ll only have to pay the IRS taxes on $45,000, not $50,000. So, by paying $5,000 to the bank, you’re saving $1,250 in taxes to the government. In total, you’re still net negative…by $3,750. Those numbers aren’t too smart, so I just paid off my house to get rid of that interest payment.

Now that Liz and I are earning more money as business owners, we’re earning even better tax breaks than that stupid mortgage interest deduction. By investing in our website and our rental house, we can deduct items like:

  • gas mileage
  • cell phones
  • internet
  • tools
  • dinners
  • entertainment
  • and most importantly, depreciation

By paying ourselves first and the government last, we ensure that we keep the majority of our money.

Are You Working Towards a Debt Free Life?

So what about you? Are you working to earn yourself a debt free life? With a debt free life, you could choose an occupation that interests you, instead of the one that simply pays the bills. You could begin giving money away rather than hoarding it at every moment. Or, you could invest heavily and build up a tremendous inheritance for your children and your children’s children! The possibilities are endless when you choose a debt free life.

What are you doing to earn your debt free life?

Battle of the Mind Get Out of Debt Money

AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. Sounds like a great 1st debt free year! I would love for you to expand on the tax breaks. I understand the gas mileage, phones and tools but not the dinners and entertainment. Just trying to learn more. I need to look into how to minimize our tax burden!

    • Hi Julie – yes, it definitely was a great first year of debt freedom! I can’t wait to see what years #2 and #3 bring! As for the tax breaks – I have been learning a ton about real estate from other people as I get up to speed with the business. I’ve gone out to breakfast meetings, dinners, and even got some work done on the golf course. Since I took my business out to these venues, per my understanding, they are considered business expenses (everything within reason of course) and can be deducted from my overall earnings. These are some of the great perks of going into business for yourself.

  2. Aren’t meals deductible at 50% (not 100%)? (Unless for employees).
    Document everything. Golf outings could be a flag.
    (I am not a tax accountant, but I do our taxes and had a small business at one time).

    • Good points Dottie. As far as I understand, meals are deductible at 100% if the entire meal is actually spent discussing business. If only half is, then it’s only deductible at 50%. Golf is a tougher one to write off, but if you’re truly talking about business during the entire round, then it should qualify. It all comes down to how much business is actually getting done at these events, and how effective it is for your business. Think link will help out anyone that still has questions. Thanks!

      • Derek,

        FYI – Meals & entertainment expenses are only deductible at 50%. Certain types of parties (like ones open to the general public) are 100% deductible, but if I understand your meal expenses correctly, they would be limited to 50%. Still better than nothing!

        You’re right that self-employment does allow many more expenses to be deducted!


        • Awesome. Thanks for the info John!

  3. So, so, so good.

    I just loved this post.


    • Always good to hear the enjoyment. Thanks for dropping by, Derek!

  4. Derek, great post as usual. Good for you. I aspire to be debt free one day soon. We are getting there slowly. We still have a mortgage but no car payments. I have only a couple thousand left on my student loan. Hubby works from home (teleworks) so we save a ton there; checked with a CPA and decided it wasn’t worth it to try and use tax deductions for home office. We have some dividend income and hubby has started cashing in some saving bonds that have reached maturity. Believe it or not the biggest reason (not the only) I want to be debt free is I am currently working a part-time job that I really enjoy. Would love to be able to continue that for awhile longer. Am working on more income streams. Hopefully in 2016! Am so glad I came across your website. Has been so helpful and enjoyable.

    • And I love reading your comments, Suzie! That’s awesome that you have so many plans in place to become debt free. Keep up the awesome work!

  5. We are debt free also but still putting our second child through college. This spring we make our last payments and then we will be debt free and done with higher education costs ($39,000 for this year). Pretty exciting!

    Thanks for posting positive images of your life four others on the path to see!


    • That’s awesome Alice! I’m so excited for you and your future life of no debt! You’re going to love it. We sure do!

  6. Great post! We live very similarly to you and I think you make 2 great points.

    1.) People need to realize this is absolutely possible if you make a few key choices correctly and have the right attitude.

    2.) It is really easy to save money once you get the ball rolling in the right direction (no car payments, loan debt, cc debt and mortgage) and simply roll all this money to savings.

    People say that it must be really hard to save >50% of your income to achieve financial independence early. I counter with the thought that it must be really hard to HAVE TO go to a job 40+ hours every week for the rest of your life. It is simply a matter of flipping perspective for many people. Keep spreading the word.

    • Thanks for the comments EE! You’re right on. If people just lived in a simpler house, drove simpler cars, and didn’t eat out quite as often, they could all save more than 25% of their income – probably more than 50%! At this moment, I’m 30 years old. By the time I’m 40, I’ll probably have the option to work or not work – or more accurately, to do whatever it is that I want to do! 🙂 Yup, at that point it sure is going to be tough on my naysayer friends that still have to punch the clock every day. 😉

  7. Stories (and updates) like yours are really inspiring. We want to be completely debt free in 2016. There isn’t anyone we know offline who doesn’t have debt, so it’s difficult to comprehend what life could be like.

    • 2016 is just around the corner! Exciting! Believe me, life is continually better then less debt (and the more cash) you have – especially if you don’t increase your lifestyle. No one has to know that you have money, but it certainly will increase your security and overall enjoyment in life!

  8. Great post.

    On an unrelated note, do you live in Nebraska? I noticed a familiar skyline in one of your pictures.


    • Hi Paul – nope, I live in West Michigan! Still a beautiful place though. 🙂

  9. Congrats on being debt free. We’ve been debt free for a few years now and I can confirm that it is the most liberating feeling in the world. I’ve heard one financial guru advocate getting the mortgage paid off, saying “why would you pay interest to the bank to avoid paying taxes to avoid paying taxes to the government.” That makes sense except I actually trust my bank more than I do the government and therefore do not subscribe to that way of thinking. What I do like is not paying interest to the bank but finding other ways to keep my money out of the hands of the IRS. (Dark confession…hubby and I both worked for the IRS for decades. EEK!) At any rate, being debt free allows you to invest in vehicles (not cars) that keeps your money away from the government. Max out your 401k and traditional and Roth IRAs. Invest in dividend paying stocks that carry a lower tax rate. Buy municipal bonds that are tax free. But the best reason for being debt free is what I said in my earlier sentence. Being debt free is liberating. No feeling like it in the world.

    • No feeling like it in the world, and it only gets better as you invest and create passive income. Soon, life can be exactly what you WANT it to be, rather than what it HAS to be in order to survive. THAT’s when life really gets good.

  10. Here here! We’ve been debt free for years now. There’s no better feeling in the world. And yes, cash sure does accumulate quickly!

    We forget how weird we are. Here was a recent reminder: a banker was reviewing our net worth late this year and, once he got through the asset list, he asked about liabilities. We replied we had none. He said “What about the mortgage?” None. “No loans whatsoever?” Nope. His final comment (after checking our credit report)? “Do you know how unusual your situation is?” It made me smile all the way home.

    • Haha, that is AWESOME! I mentioned to Liz the other day – “Do you know how odd we are? We own two homes outright with no loans.” Yes, we are weird, but I love it!

  11. Such a great post Derek and congrats! 1 year debt free! That is the greatest.How weird are you! I want to be your kind of weird.

    SO agree with this as it is happening to me now with a job I have had for almost 15 years: ” While work may seem secure, you must remember that the company could suddenly go belly-up or could ultimately decide that they no longer need your department.” I do work a part time job to help with saving, and need to create more income and find another job soon. I had to stop paying down on the house this year because of my job situation. Just glad I had already started saving as much as I could. Thank goodness I paid off my car years ago (still have the car) and have no credit cards and school loans (all paid!) Thank goodness for that! Gardening is also a passion I have which helps supplement some of the food costs.

    • Hi Nicole. Thanks for the great comment! What you said is so real for so many people. There are many that get into a bad financial situation, but they had never saved a dime before time. That is when life gets scary.

      You (like me) were also weird – you thought ahead! Good for you! Keep your expenses down, increase your income, and invest for the future. You’ll never regret it!

      • HI Derek,
        I am back on the paying down the house train.I have a goal for the end of the year and I am hoping I make it to one big milestone. I am still working the part time job and my current role here at main job has changed. I figure we may get a couple more years here which would be great.
        Like your story on HisandHerMOney (I listened again to it today because it’s SO inspiring) I have a 1 year emergency fund if the main job goes kaput so that I can pay all my bills. I am glad I put that time to place more money into the account.

        So thank you again for sharing your amazing story. It has truly inspired me and got me recharged again to see how much I can pay down that mortgage.

        Congrats on all your accomplishments!

        • That’s AWESOME Nicole!! I just know that you’ll kick butt on paying down the house. It’s such an amazing feeling and makes life so enjoyable. Liz and I don’t have to worry about expenses and we just keep saving our extra money for the next investment, which will just make life all that much easier. It’s a fantastic train to get on. Best of luck to you on your journey, and have fun with it! 🙂

  12. Oh how I would love to be debt free! That being said, we only have mortgage debt but are current under contract to buy a duplex which will more than double our total mortgage debt. The thought is a little terrifying but I do remind myself that the duplex will provide us with a nice income that we can use to save even more money and get us closer to our goals. Congrats on being completely debt free for a full year! I hope to someday be there too!

    • Mrs. SFF, I do hope that you have good renters and that your duplex value increases, but increasing your debt load can be very dangerous. At any given time, your rental income might stop, your duplex might decrease in value, and your bank might insist that you pay back the loan immediately. Debt can increase the chance of wealth, but it can also increase the chance of great poverty. For me, I don’t need millions and millions of dollars, and therefore, I don’t need debt.

      • We aren’t looking to save millions and millions of dollars and get filthy rich, just wealthy enough to give us an income stream we can live off of. This duplex, although it means taking on a mortgage, should give us a net income of $10,000 or more per year. We hope to buy a single family home for ourselves in 7+ years and then we will have two rental properties along with our savings and at that point we should have enough to live a simple modest life. Although I would love to be completely debt free the area we live in is expensive. Our down payment plus closing costs for this property would be enough to buy a home outright in some parts of the country but I wouldn’t trade our amazing community for something less expensive. We know the risks and have done our research and will make our dreams come true.

        • Sounds like you have a plan at least, MSFF. Let me ask you this – If you had no renters in your property for an entire year, would it put a serious strain on your finances? If no, then I’m a little more okay with your debt. If yes, then I’d say you have a serious risk on your hands.

          • Any prudent investor always will plan in some sort of vacancy rate in their calculation as there is always the unexpected and we certainly could handle a vacancy for a period of time without breaking a sweat. But as the vacancy rate in our city is 1% having both apartments vacant for an entire year is highly unlikely. IF, and BIG IF there, something major happened, we have extra cash and investments we could liquidate. We don’t take debt on lightly but in some cases it is hard to move forward without taking on some.

          • I’m not arrogant enough to think that my way of investing and living is the only way. It’s just what’s best for me. And, by your answer, it sounds like you’ve discovered what’s best for you and have multiple back-up plans if things don’t pan out exactly as they should. Thanks for the commentary MSFF!

  13. Inspiring post. I’m four years into my debt-free journey, and I live modestly, but also have a modest income. Determined to pay off the credit cards and car laon, then dive into the extra mortgage payments and go from there.

    • That’s great, Claire! Sounds like you need to earn some more money! Have you read my book, “101 Ways to Make More Money.”?

  14. This month marks nine years since we paid off our home. It’s amazing the change in cash flow! We were fortunate to invest the increased cash flow starting in 2007 so we could take advantage of the 2007 to 2009 market correction. Plus actually owing our house was a great feeling.

    Thanks for your post and congratulations.


    • That’s great John! I’m so glad to hear from people that are weird like me! So where are you today? Multiple rental properties? Other investments? I’d love to hear!

      • Derek,

        I haven’t purchased any rental properties (I did own one commercial property several years ago). Theoretically I’d love to own several, but I’m a big believer in understanding your personality and strengths & weaknesses. I’m a bit of a worrier by nature, and I found that (when I had the commercial property) I worried too much about everything that could (but usually didn’t!) go wrong. So rental property isn’t a good fit for me personally. Plus I’m a big “no debt” guy, and rental properties require tons of cash if you’re not using leverage. I love real estate, though, so I have a tilt in our portfolio to REIT’s.

        We’ve used the free cash flow from paying off the mortgage to build a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds. Now, at 49 years old, I work very part time on some freelance work I enjoy doing. Only a few hours a week that I can move around other things I’m doing.

        I believe paying off the mortgage and using the free cash to invest directly led to my being able to have the schedule I do. I guess that’s why I’m such a “no debt” guy!

        Thanks for your work on this site.


        • I’m a bit of a worrier myself sometimes, but hopefully I can handle the rental property. I really like the idea of the passive income though, so I’m moving forward with it! Always happy to see your comments John. 🙂

  15. Good to hear that you have gone debt-free! I am looking forward to achieving the debt-free status on 5 may 2016 when I would completely pay back the mortgage for my second house (one of them is giving me rental income)! I am really excited to achieve that milestone.

    But I am already confused as to how to invest the surplus income? I don’t want to blow up the entire money on vacations or eating out or anything which will not give me any returns in future

    • Hi Dinesh – you’re right! There are so many helpful articles out there about how to get debt free, but very little about what to do when you actually get there!

      From now until May approaches, I want you to start switching your mindset from “payoff debt” to “invest heavily in my future”. No matter if you want to retire early or not, we all still need a large amount saved up for our own elderly care. For starters, just keep it in a high-yield checking account (our credit union gives us 3% up to $15,000). Next, start looking into a Roth IRA and invest in Index Funds. Beyond that, think about investing in real estate or starting your own business. If you’re not the business type, then perhaps you’d like to be an angel investor and fund someone else’s idea. There are many options once you start looking, and they can be extremely fun too! Good luck, Dinesh!

  16. Hi Derek, I found your newsletter via my Twitter feed (always like to let biz know the source of new customers!) This is great advice. I, too, have a friend who is a slave to her debt problems. Every year “I’ll get out of debt this year…” and then new clothes, new refrigerator (top of the line), etc. And she’s working 60 hour weeks with a little one! I’ve got one child out of college and running her own freelance biz. She lives with me, but pays $325/month rent all inclusive, which is a deal. I’m doing it to “teach” her how to budget. She’s been very good. My son was doing great until he got a girlfriend – he’s a junior in college – and now has such a spending habit on dates. UGH. But, they must learn on their own!

    I agree increasing income is one way to get debt free, but so is reducing expenses, which you allude to. One person above posted gardening for food. Two reasons to do that: healthier vegetables and lower costs. I’m not a fan of the Goodwill company, but we have other “restore” type places where I live, and we use them IF we “need” something new (going to a wedding, etc.) I’m a big fan of Netflix and Hulu.

    I’ve just subscribed now that I found you, and I sent the link to my entrepreneurial daughter because she’s been much too cheap with her “expenses.” As a photo/video person, she can surely deduct mileage to all of her “scouting” locations in case she uses one in the future…I’m still trying to convince her of that.

    Oh, and I’m not debt free, but only have a mortgage. I plunk 18% into my retirement plan at work. I did, however, have to raise those two kids for 10 years mostly on my own income (child support is meager)…but I’m making up for it.

    • Great to meet you Susan! Sounds like you’re doing great and are open to learning more. You’ll probably love my future posts, and I can’t wait to hear your comments on them!

      As for your kids, yes, they need to learn on their own. I wasn’t always wise with my money either – they will learn. Don’t worry.

  17. Derek,

    I think I must be the most boring investor in the world! I’m in a handful of Vanguard funds, with the vast majority in the Total Stock, Total International and Total Bond (and Short Term Corporate Bond) funds. I’ve added a small tilt to small cap, value, emerging markets and REIT’s just to jazz things up a bit, but I doubt they have a material impact. I’m a nerd with all things finance so it gives me something to fiddle with when I re-balance.

    I’d love to invest in real estate, but (for me) I don’t see it happening. For a few reasons:

    1. I’m a worrier by nature, so I’m sure I’d obsess over clogged toilets and leaky pipes. I know they’d rarely ever happen, but I’d still think about it too much. Understanding our individual strengths and weaknesses is really important when it comes to managing our lives (including finances)!
    2. In my area, real estate prices are high relative to the rental income. Most property would be less than 1% in revenue (vs. purchase price)….not enough margin, in my opinion.
    3. I’m radically anti-debt, so leverage is out. Mathematically I can make a lot more sense out of real estate if I used leverage, but after nine years of total debt freedom, I just can’t bring myself to go back into debt.

    I had a previous commercial property and financially it did quite well….in fact the gain from the sale paid off my personal residence. But when I run the numbers now, REIT’s make more sense for me. Better diversification, I don’t have to worry about the management, and totally liquid if I need to sell a portion. Plus the historic returns don’t seem too far off from what I could expect to make owing property (if I don’t use leverage – see above…..).

    I’m moving away from my long-term career as a freelance CPA and getting into writing and financial coaching. Our investments (using a total return approach) support our spending and should (if history is any guide) do so for the rest of our lives. It’s a surprisingly tough transition – I guess after nearly 30 years of “nose to the grindstone” it’s tough to just walk away. But I’ll keep trying!

    Thanks for asking!


    • Thanks for the response John! It sounds like you know exactly what level of risk you’re comfortable with and are making it work for you, which is awesome! For me, I tend to want to control my investments. This is why I’m more prone to invest in an investment property. I can see the renters, I can see the house whenever I want, and I can see that consistent money go into my bank account. If anything doesn’t seem quite right, I can jump on it and do something immediately. I may learn to hate being a landlord, but for now, it seems like a fantastic option for us!

  18. Derek this is very cool and congratulations to you and Liz for pulling it off! I agree that most everyone around me have learned to “live with debt” because “that’s just how it is”, especially here in Calgary where the average mortgage on a single-family home is $450,000 >,<

    I refuse to buy into a life based on debt and I'm definitely working towards a debt-free life. I came into my senses just last year when I started my blog and I've learned so much already. I love having access to people like you Derek who live outside of the norm – it inspires me to do just that too!

    • Great! I love helping people out, especially in this way! Being debt free is definitely an option for almost everyone. I can’t wait to hear about the house that you own free and clear in the future!

  19. We’ve been 100% debt free for over 5 years and couldn’t agree with your comments more. We’re retiring in our forties in just 3 months and being debt free has meant we are able to bank our paycheck each month for the past year and are giving it all away to charity. That is the power of being smart with money and truly catching FIRE!

    • That’s awesome Mr. FS! I can’t wait to be in the same position in 10 years!

  20. Debt-free here.

    We cheated a little bit (used the remains of my mother’s life insurance, paid out back in 1989 and invested very conservatively until I turned 21 in ’99, to buy our house outright).

    We’re hardly sacrificing. We live in a 1500 sf doublewide with a 1000 sf “mother-in-law apartment” (where we really do have a MIL living, at least half the year). Our yard is bloody enormous– one level acre, mostly in backward, with a delightful southern exposure. We have two cars (an 06 Pontiac G6 and a reconstructed 06 Dodge Grand Caravan) that run like tops. We’re contemplating a third vehicle (a truck would be really nice, but I still have a hard time justifying more vehicles than drivers, although our oldest child will be getting her permit in September).

    We even have pets (3 cats and, since our oldest dragged home a puppy last weekend, 2 dogs) and amenities (the house had an above-ground pool when we bought it, otherwise HELL NO!!). Every Christmas, we travel to Florida to spend time with my husband’s mom– and with our savings from not being up to our eyeballs in debt, we’ve paid off her debts, too!!

    I see our friends and acquaintances choosing to suffer with high debt loads because they “want nice things” and “that’s just the way it’s done.” I don’t say a word. They’re crapping their pants over the economy right now. I won’t say I’m not concerned, but my underwear are leastways clean.

    Sometimes I feel guilty about the level of luxury we have achieved. I guess we had some advantages (capital assets) off the start that others don’t. But by and large, we’ve earned the place we’re at now by keeping our goals in view and our wants small. 10 years of living in a trailer, followed by aggressively tackling those engineering school loans, have paid off.

    • That’s awesome MC! Congrats on being completely debt free!! It really is hard to keep your mouth shut though isn’t it? Especially when people say stuff like, “that’s just how it is…” when referring to their massive mortgages and student loan debts. Nope, it can be done differently, just like you and I have discovered.

      As for the market, I’m actually glad to see it down. I’m buying up the market while it’s cheap and while I’m young! 🙂

  21. Congrats Derek that is truly the way to live. I am working on it everyday and it really depends on your desire and the cost of living situation. Houses in my state are drastically higher than in other places in the US.(250K or more for a modest house) Not counting the property taxes which range anywhere from 7K to 20K depending on the lot size. Given all these factors I still want a debt free life as well, it just will take me longer to achieve. Good Luck and keep talking about how it feels to live the free lifestyle.

    • Yeah, I am fortunate to have such cheap living conditions near me. Like you said though, you can still do it, but it might just take a little longer!

  22. Huge congrats on celebrating one year of debt freedom! My husband and I became debt free in 2012, but we haven’t bought our first house yet, so that chapter is still to come. It does, however, create a peace in our home that is something of great value to us both!

    • Awesome! For the future house, be sure to save up at least 20% for the down-payment (to avoid the PMI), and then pay more each month than you have to! Complete debt freedom is fantastic!

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