Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#20 - Become Debt-Free......

To be honest, out of the 50 Things on my list, this is the one I LEAST wanted to write about. For one thing, it was destined to happen early this year, so it felt kind of like cheating to be on the list. But it's something I've never been able to say before, so I left it there.

The other reason I didn't want to put it on the list is that it feels a lot like I'm bragging. Believe me, that is not my intention. In fact, I can't take any credit for it at all.

Hubby's upbringing was far from idyllic. They typically lived on land owned by someone else, and his father made his living working for the land owner. His father also did some work in a chicken factory, and his mother worked in a couple of sewing factories. Wages were worse than pitiful, and they raised two kids, Hubby and his sister, on those salaries.

It would be easy for someone raised in those circumstances to become one of the "sorry" members of society, but Hubby was determined not to do so. He had an amazing work ethic from the age of 16. He bought his own car, and the first time his father bought a vehicle on credit, HUBBY had to co-sign the loan.

Not long after we started seeing each other, Hubby mentioned that he had NEVER made a house payment late. I was incredibly impressed by that. I had just been married to someone whose philosophy of bill paying was that he was not obligated to pay anyone who already had more money than he did. Guess who lost his house in the past year? (With my name still on the mortgage, but that's a whole different story.)

I'm not sure if Hubby molded me into his philosophy of owing money, or if I just adopted it on my own. But when we got married, I became determined not to let debt overwhelm me as it had done in the past. Having a cooperative partner was a significant step up to start with. When we financed cars, we paid more than the required monthly payments so they would be paid off sooner. (The exception is my latest car, because we got 0% financing.) We pay off credit card balances every month, with very few exceptions.

When we decide to take a trip, we plan very far in advance and pay for the trip up front. Our travel agent, Judy (bless her soul), takes care of everything, and she has my credit card number on file. I give her an amount to charge to the card every month, something we can handle and that I know will pay for the trip before it happens, and she takes care of it. It may seem silly, but to us it makes traveling much more enjoyable to know that we aren't going to have a huge credit card bill to pay when we get home. Except for the bar bill on cruises, but we budget for that too. Even when it includes things like $300 pedicures

Our house was paid for shortly before I even came on the scene, so I can't claim any responsibility for that. In fact, if it were up to me, we probably WOULD have a mortgage. I would so love to have a new house (the list of things I wish were different in this early-70's house is quite long), but I'm practical enough (when nagged by Hubby) to realize that it isn't worth the trade-off. I'm not willing to work beyond the year I am eligible to retire, and paying a mortgage in retirement is too scary even for me. So we continue to make improvements on the house, and I make do without the things I wish I could have. Like closets, a real garage, a real laundry room that isn't in the basement, and a downstairs bathroom.

That's not to say I'm giving up on winning the lottery, though.

Our last major purchase was the RV a little over a year ago. We made a pretty significant down payment, and then my mother gave me a hefty check for my birthday last year. It was very generous of her, and we put every single dime of that check on the RV loan. So we managed to make the last payment just about a week and a half ago. Again, I have to give Hubby all the credit for that. If it had been up to me, we would have bought a brand-new RV instead of a used one, and it would have been bigger. (Full disclosure here. I'm sounding like a greedy b**ch, even to myself.) And it was tempting to take the check from my mother and buy some other toys. But by then the prospect of having no debt was so near I could almost taste it, so I let good sense (provided by Hubby mostly) prevail.

That's not to say we are wealthy by any means. We still have the usual monthly bills, and some of them don't represent good sense at all. For example, I pay for the pleasure of having internet to three different companies: our home internet, the internet on our iPhones, and the connect card I needed for remote access when I was teaching online. I may need to whittle some of those things down too, after I retire.

So there. I've written about the first of my 50 Things, something I feel a little uncomfortable talking about. It's something I never dreamed I would achieve in my lifetime, not because it was impossible but because it's our very culture. And now that we have no debt, I can start working on #31.

1 comment:

KatyDid53 said...

I want to be JUST like you when I grow up! Love you & I'm so proud of you!!!