6 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned While Paying Off $50,000

When you think about what you want to do with your life, what comes to mind?

I assume you have dreams that you want to accomplish and things you’ve always wanted to do…

What if I were to tell you that one of the biggest things that people overlook in achieving their life dreams is their DEBT?

Debt has become standard, but it shouldn’t be. On the flip side, if we didn’t have access to loans, we wouldn’t have be able to buy houses, cars, college tuition, and more…

So what’s the catch?

What if I were to tell you that becoming debt-free by 29 was the best thing I’ve ever done?

Here are six life-changing lessons I learned while paying off $50,000 of debt that you can take and learn from if you want to do the same.

Related article: How to Prepare to Pay Off Your Debt with Confidence

1. You don’t realize how much debt holds you back until you’re out of it.

It isn’t until you discover the freedom that comes with being debt-free that you realize how bound you were.

It reminds me of the stories in movies when someone is lost from their family or separated from someone they love. But somehow, they find their way home again.

What happens?

They are happier than before because they realize how much they truly love that person. The same goes for getting out of debt.

Once you get rid of your debt, more possibilities are available to you. You find yourself thankful for the options that being debt-free affords you rather than stressing about the little things each month, like paying your federal student loan or car payment.

2. Paying off debt is a rare but exciting accomplishment.

When you pay off your debt, you get excited! You will tell your friends and your family about your plan to become debt free, and they will be happy for you. It will be one of the biggest accomplishments of your life! Seriously.

You will want the world to celebrate with you, but they won’t.

Not many people get excited about paying back what they borrowed. In fact, many don’t want to pay it back. That’s why there are thousands of articles on Google that talk about “how to get student loan forgiveness.”

And I can’t blame them.

The only difference is that when YOU make a plan and pay your debt off on your own, you will be proud to share with friends and family. Good for you.

3. You understand why so many people are trapped.

Getting into debt is easy. This comes as no surprise, but it is truly life changing. Once you begin focusing on how much debt you have and how you can get rid of it, you can see why people across our country are trapped.

It is incredibly easy to get into debt. It takes 5 minutes to borrow money from a lender or set up a credit card. Plus, we are always being sold to from every angle. “Buy this, and buy that!” It is never ending.

Realizing this will put you ahead of the pack. Once you understand that every company or business is trying to get your money out of your bank account and into their pocket, you will be empowered to say “no.” You won’t feel bad about it either. You will feel empowered.

4. You don’t realize how long it takes to get out of debt.

This may seem silly, but it’s true.

When my wife and I got married, we had $50,000 of student loan and car debt. We got serious about paying it off and cut WAY back on expenses to make room to pay more than our minimum balances.

We both had jobs at non-profits, and we were making very average salaries.

To expedite our process of paying it off, we decided to move out of our house and purchase a camper (check out the story). This way, we could put even more towards our loans.

Doing this sped up the process of getting out of debt a ton, but it was still slow! We ended up living in a camper for 11 months before paying off all of our loans.

It was a grind!

My point is, when you focus on getting out of debt and paying it off, it is a great reminder why you never want to borrow significant sums of money again; it takes a long time to pay it off!

Need help getting your finances in order and improve your life? Join Zack’s free 5 day email course to learn more tips, tricks, and actionable plans to manage your finances better!

5. You learn to live without.

It seems obvious, but living without debt is one of the biggest take-aways of our process of getting out of debt. There are many things in life that we depend on for happiness, and in reality, we don’t need many of them.

As an example, If I asked you to write down your top 3 priorities in life, your list might look like this:

  • Caring for your friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Pursuing something that matters to you
  • The basics (food, water, shelter)

At the end of the day, we all have very basic needs in life to be happy. Pursuing a life of simplicity when we were paying off debt taught us these things even more.

All of a sudden, going without Netflix, super speed internet, dinners out each week, and the other things we blew our money on with no regard, didn’t seem so important to our happiness.

In fact, they were the things that were keeping us from finding freedom from debt.

6. We found time for more of what we love.

We learned that the more we got rid of, the more room we had for things we loved. The more you cut out of life, the more meaningful things you can ADD into your life.

More often than not, we just keep adding things to our life and never get rid of things. This is why people often accumulate more than they ever need!

This meant that for us to reach our goal of becoming debt-free, we needed to cut back on some things in life.

As a result, we had more time for things like visiting the library to rent FREE books! (Did you know Amazon isn’t the only way you can get books?) We also focused on spending more time with family, cooking at home, reading, and being outside.

These things were always a priority, but they just had more room to live in our lives because we got rid of other things. The only difference is that we didn’t have cable, the internet, separate rooms with TV’s, or other distractions (of which we often enjoyed) to keep us from enjoying these activities more.

“We don’t necessarily suggest that everyone move into a camper to become debt-free, but we do suggest that everyone take a look at their life and find what they can cut out.”

When auditing your life, it’s helpful to think strategically about what you can remove from your life so that you can CHOOSE what you put back in. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t have to look like our journey.

It can be something that you can do relatively easy. Make a plan that fits your life and your goals.

We don’t necessarily suggest that everyone move into a camper to become debt-free, but we do suggest that everyone take a look at their life and find what they can cut out.

The key is to strategically take away so you can add more of what you value. Do that, and you’ll find a whole new world of opportunities to do more of what you love and hopefully become debt-free.

Zack McCullock

Zack and his wife lived in a camper for 11 months to pay off $50k of loans so they could do more of what they love: travel and pursue their passions. Zack is an entrepreneur and blogger at FreeUp where he writes about personal finance. His blog is focused on helping millennials get out of debt so they can do more of what they love.

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6 Comments

  1. Natalie @ WalletSage June 14, 2017
  2. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer June 11, 2017
  3. Joe June 7, 2017
    • Zack June 7, 2017

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