What it feels like to be debt-free
I’ll tell you something now that I’m really just fine lovin’ what I got
~”could you bite the hand,” Wolf’s Rain OST1
The TL;DR version: it feels fucking amazing. If you’ve never been in debt and worked hard to get yourself out of it, you really have no clue.
I pay rent, utilities, and car insurance. That’s it, folks. Everything else is MINE. MINEMINEMINEALLMINEYOUCAN’THAVEIT. Ideally I’d pay health insurance, too, but that’s not going to happen until I sort out post-roommate finances (I don’t wanna!).
But for now I’m relaxing and enjoying the fact that I can put effectively an entire paycheck into my savings account every month. And I’m not talking about that free one I get from getting paid 26 times a year and only having to pay bills with 24 of them. Or at least I was paying bills with 24 of them. Now I’m paying bills with 12 of them. Five thousand dollar emergency fund, here I come!
Not only am I stuffing almost half of what I make into the emergency fund, I also have some disposable income for stuff. Granted, it’s stuff like taking the cats to the vet, buying some new bras, and actually being able to afford beer. Shit most people wouldn’t normally consider very exciting (the cats would be going to the vet, anyway, but it’s much less hassle now). Eventually I’ll be purchasing a netbook since Stinky the Laptop died and also getting a massive upgrade for the desktop…one that I anticipate will last me another seven to ten years with only minor updates.
I’m much more relaxed, now. Being debt-free is a burden off my shoulders…it’s like getting a foot of hair chopped off your head. You’d been carrying it around so long you didn’t realize your head could feel so light. Add in my growing-by-leaps-and-bounds emergency fund, and I’m almost ready to take on the world. Or at least be ready for when the world decides to take me on. So long as it doesn’t involve getting hit by a bus or some other medical disaster. D:
I haven’t changed my spending habits much. I still eat for cheap, but I do splurge just a little more (see above comment regarding beer). I still save up for those disposable income items, although I do expect that one day I’ll run out of my little laundry list of bras, guest towels, netbook, new comforter, etc, and have the sudden realization that I don’t know what to do with all this fucking money. I do that even now with my increased grocery budget. I spent some of it last week on shoes (from Goodwill) for the weddings I’m attending this year. I’ve still got a twenty in my pocket and the groceries for this week have been bought and there’s gas in the car and beer in the fridge and I may just decide to buy stuff to make dessert or maybe stash it away with the rest of the Get the Cats Vaccinated fund. And oh yea, I got the air filter on the car replaced, too. WTF how do I still have money?
And that reaction makes me happy. It means I’m not falling back into the days of spending everything I earned. I doubt I could, at this point. Three years of just scraping by to pay off as much debt as possible has made me rethink every whim. It was a nasty time, but one that’s given me a perspective that’s only earned the hard way. Mind, I still don’t have enough to justify getting health insurance at the moment…I’m in a bit of a windfall situation since I’m working overtime quite a bit. I don’t want to commit to health insurance until I’m sure I’ll be able to afford it once I’m back to just 40-hour weeks and living on my own. Once the roommate leaves in December I won’t be putting almost a paycheck into the savings account anymore. I’ll probably not be working overtime, and thus I’ll be out almost all of that extra cash. Hence the emphasis I’ve given to the emergency fund. I want to put as much in there as possible while I’m in this windfall situation.
This perspective is something I wish I could just give to people, especially those who have never staggered under the one-two punch of debt and underemployment. I sometimes worry too much about others…I probably come off as pushy at times with my rabid attitude toward debt of any kind. It’s because I refuse to bear that burden any more. If I can’t pay cash for it, I don’t want it. A firm stance gained by working too hard for too long for too little.
I may remain underemployed, but I will not tolerate debt until such a time that I feel I am financially able enough to take it on responsibly.