Paid Off $80k to Escape an Unremarkably Average Life

A Miserable Reality

I realized I was on a trajectory to live an unremarkably average life. That is, I was living my own life from the passenger side and allowing other people’s beliefs to drive my decisions. I accepted what other people thought about me and told me to do. I checked off boxes on some else’s checklist. Brand name education funded through debt, twice. Check. Check. Since I did not know how I wanted to live my life, I was complacent with living this way for a long time. I picked life goals from some else’s checklist, achieved them, and thrived off the applause. Living an unremarkably average life where other people told me where I was going was good. I did not have to think just follow other people.

When my car was deemed a total loss in August 2014, those other people were not there to rescue me from a personal crisis. Since I was not prepared to lose my car, I had to temporarily stop following other people and start thinking. I realized that I was not happy with the way I was living – being in debt and working a job just to afford those minimum payments. I wanted to upgrade my vehicle to avoid that type of issue recurring, but I had little money to do so. I also had little experience buying a car on my own, so I sought out the advice of other people. Despite recently realizing other people’s bad record of accomplishment, I purchased a new car using debt as they advised. What a mess, but I created it. It was my responsibility to fix it.

My Financial Mess

The mess consisted of about $65,000 in student loan debt, $14,000 in a car loan, and $1,000 in medical bills. In total, I owed other people $80,000. On the surface, this was fine because I could afford the minimum payments and still have a reasonable amount left over each month. However, I could not afford a personal emergency. I was also miserable. I regretted taking out most of the debt to finance a life that I was not happy living.

When I realized I had been doing everything wrong, I decided to try to do everything right – all at the same time. Save for emergencies. Contribute to the 401k plan. Save for travel. Get out of debt. Find my passion. For 16 months, I tried to accomplish all those goals but did not gain much traction on getting out of debt. That was supposed to be a priority, but I only paid off $20,000 in debt. At that rate, I would remain in debt for four more years. I was too miserable to be miserable for that much longer.

Hope and Purpose

In January 2016, a friend shared his success using the Dave Ramsey method to get out of debt. I was skeptical if the Dave Ramsey method was going to be like the advice that I received from other people. It was not. Dave tells people to live life on purpose and do so without taking out debt. He recommends focusing on one goal at a time to gain financial freedom. With the motivation to become financially free and a clear plan, I was all in. I got on a budget, lived below my means, increased my income, and solely focused on getting out of debt.

Taking Control

Three years after a car accident jolted my unremarkably average life, I became completely debt free. There were many times when I wanted to stop trying to get out of debt. I was not sure if the extreme way I was living would be worth it. Despite feeling unsure, I kept going. I focused on my reasons I wanted to be debt free – I could not remain in the passenger side of my life’s journey as someone else was driving my life in the wrong direction. I had enough of living like that. Now I am in control and I am living my way – debt free.