I think it’s important to celebrate milestones in life and along the way towards larger goals. I was debt free up until I went to college. I was advised by my parents to get a credit card so I could start building my credit and for emergencies. The student loans were adding up more and more each semester. By the time I graduated, I had around $120k in student loans, about $4500 in credit card debt, and around $8k in a car loan.
I knew this was a massive amount of debt and had heard people talk about how student loan debt takes forever to get rid of and how people are 50 or even 60 years old by the time they pay it off. Being 23, I correctly deduced: “That sucks!” but decided to take the most incorrect path towards dealing with it. I “retired first and would work the rest of my life later”. I moved to Colorado, took a job making $33k/year in Vail (basically poverty in that kind of area) and proceeded to ski/snowboard 85 days that first year. The next year I was in Santa Barbara, CA where I surfed and rock climbed nearly every day and then the next year I was in Summit County Colorado where I fit in 112 days of skiing in that year.
By the time I got my act together and figured it was “time to get a real job”, that $120k in student loans had not moved, I had run out of forbearances. The credit cards were in default since college basically and they had not contacted me in a couple years. I had also parlayed my idiocracy with the car loan by rolling it into another one since it was underwater. I could still fit everything I owned in my Jeep Cherokee, so basically nothing.
You probably know how to calculate your net worth, but just in case, it’s extremely simple… it’s “what you own minus what you owe”…. value of your assets – your debt. For me, the asset side was simple… I had the Jeep Cherokee, probably worth $10k at the time, but had a $14k loan on it. In 2008 I took on another massive piece of debt, I bought a house.
At the point I truly wised up, I was $220k in debt with a negative $100k net worth.
Your first milestone in getting out of debt is when you pay off that first creditor, but one major one is when I realize you are worthless for the first time since your teenage years. So, leading into it I wanted to celebrate… so I had a mini-party: an “I’m worthless party”. Nothing extravagant, but simply got around a few friends to celebrate finally being worthless. Unfortunately, since I was worthless, I didn’t have money to pay for anything big, so it was simply having a few beers with friends. But it stands out in my mind and maybe it influenced one of them to start thinking about their own situation as well.
So, don’t forget to celebrate your milestones. It doesn’t have to be as low key as I do it, but you need to celebrate. When you’re dealing with 5+ years of dedication towards getting out of debt, you need to remember why you’re fighting this hard. Go celebrate, crack open a 40oz in a paper bag when you’re finally worthless again!