Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.
It’s official: I’ve been tracking my debt for exactly three years.
While I didn’t post my first financial update on Man Vs. Debt until a year later, I first sat down and wrote my detailed list of debts – the one you see listed on my Joan’s Finances page – on April 14, 2011.
Taking inventory and facing what I owed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the effect it’s had since then has been nothing short of amazing.
In exactly three years, we’ve paid off $33,422.83 in debt.
And since I’d figured out our worst-ever total debt (as of January 2011, a few months before I did the detailed debt-by-debt breakdown), we’ve paid off $37,504.24, or 41.82% of our total debt.
Looking back at $33,422.83
On one hand, that’s pretty amazing news. 41% debt-free? That’s a serious number!
On the other hand, this month is hard for me. It’s exactly three years since I started my hardcore debt-repayment plan, true. It also marks the point at which we originally expected to be debt-free. Thanks to setbacks of numerous kinds, many of which I’ve been chronicling here in the interim and some I haven’t been able to share, we’re not even halfway there yet.
That hurts to write.
This journey is hard – much harder than I realized it would be three years ago.
I truly thought that once I started doing the “right” things, the debt would just keep going down, month after month, and … BOOM. Three years later, it’d be gone.
Instead, three years later, I’m looking at three more years – if not longer.
That feels so awful that I’ve been toying with the idea of not writing this post. I’ve done everything I can to stall, to stare off into space, to come up with “important” things I could write about instead, or at least to come up with ways to gloss over the bad parts and then quickly turn the story to the better ones.
I want to do what I’d encourage any Man Vs. Debt reader to do. I want to celebrate the progress I’ve made – and to be clear, there’s much I’m happy about.
But tonight, when I sat here thinking about why I originally started sharing my story, I realized I have to be honest about the rough parts.
Because I don’t write to make myself feel better – well, not really.
When I’m doing what I really am meant to do, I write to connect people. My biggest goal here at Man Vs. Debt is that everything I write makes at least one person think, “Wait, really? I’m not the only one?”
And that means I have to be honest, because I want it to be OK for all of us to feel this way: I’m ANGRY.
I’m angry at a lot of situations in my life that, while outside my control in some ways, have made this journey longer and harder.
I’m angry at myself for not being debt-free by now as planned, obstacles or not.
I’m angry at myself for not being happier about the progress that I have made.
I’m angry at myself for being angry about all of these things, because they’re kinda … dumb.
But you know what else?
I’m not going to quit.
Looking ahead from $33,422.83
We have paid off an average of more than $10,000 a year for three years straight.
We’ve taken our awfulest credit card ever down from more than $36,000 to just over $14,500 – knocking it more than in half.
And while we have $52,181.99 to go – not that I’m counting or anything! – I also have a plan.
I firmly believe that if I could pay off just under half the debt, I have all the tools I need to make it the rest of the way.
It might not be fast, and that might make me angrier than I can say.
But I’m going to make that anger work for me.
That’s the coolest part about tackling things the Man Vs. Debt way – emotional impact matters. That’s our debt tsunami philosophy: Figure out what makes you angry, or sad, or otherwise SUPER emotional. And then use that to stay motivated.
Even when three years doesn’t seem to make a dent. Stay motivated.
Even when crap happens. Stay motivated.
Even when you want nothing more in the world than to give it all up. STAY MOTIVATED.
I might not be thrilled – but I’m ready for what’s next.
Are you in with me – for three more years or more?
And what are you doing to keep yourself motivated for the long haul, even when it’s awful?
I want to hear your stories in the comments.
We’re in this together.