Have you ever been debt-free as an adult?

In August of 2017, I became debt-free for the first time in my adult life and it has felt incredible.

Below I will share a few stories about stressful financial situations, comparing how they would feel with the added stress of being in debt to how they feel being debt-free.

I am sharing these stories, not to brag, but rather to inspire you to continue your journey toward debt freedom.

Everyone should experience the feeling of true financial peace and you can’t get there without being debt-free.

What it Feels Like to be Debt-Free

Story #1: Heat in car going out in the middle of winter

Feelings BEFORE debt freedom: Worry and Panic

The heat went out in Andrew’s car and he had been trying to wait it out until it got warmer in the Spring!

His idea was to layer-up to keep warm during his 15 to 20-minute commute. Which I have to give him props for, because he was doing this without complaint for the entire three weeks.

If this were to happen before we became debt-free, I would have probably encouraged him to continue with this strategy. I know that probably sounds terrible, but car repairs can be unpredictable in their pricing.

Any kind of car repair immediately would cause me to panic and feel overwhelmed.

Even paying for oil changes stressed me out before I was debt-free.

It’s hard enough to plan for expected expenses when most of your paycheck goes out the door the day you receive it.

Feelings AFTER debt freedom: Sad and Irritated, yet Accomplished

The funny thing is, when you don’t have debt payments, you have extra money to save.

Life feels much lighter.

Instead of being weighed down by the unknown cost of a car repair, I felt confident to solve this problem immediately.

I encouraged Andrew to take it in to the car repair shop to find out what the damage would be. Once we knew what the problem was and what it cost to fix it, all we had to do was say yes and pay the cost.

It is incredible how much less of a crisis this felt like compared to when I was in debt.

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt irritated and sad about having to use our savings and deal with the car repair shop. At the same time though, I felt accomplished.

We used and replenished our emergency fund at least four times in that year. It can feel frustrating to keep refilling your savings account, but it’s a far better feeling than when you don’t have a savings account to draw from.

In the end, we had to pay about $450 to get Andrew’s car fixed.

Having built our emergency fund so many times before, I felt sure that it could be done again. And each time we rebuild, it becomes easier than the last!

Story #2: $3,262 Security Deposit

Feelings BEFORE debt freedom: Disappointment and Frustration

There were three adults living in a small, two-bedroom apartment for about six months. It wasn’t terrible, but it definitely wasn’t comfortable either. Andrew, his younger brother Trevor, and I eventually decided we wanted to live in a rental house.

After MONTHS of searching all the rental apps that I could find, I thought of a different way to rent the house that we wanted.

During this time, my sister and brother-in-law were living with my parents while they figured out their next move.

We found a house that was split level, with an entire apartment on the bottom floor. I’m talking a bathroom, bedroom, large living space, and a kitchenette.

It would be snug for a while, but the house as a whole was very spacious. We toured it and ultimately fell in love! It was perfect.

The price was right, the space was great, the only problem: we had to pay 1.5 times the rent as our security deposit.

Feelings AFTER debt freedom: Annoyed and Defeated, but Lucky

Luckily, I actually had the cash to pay most of this deposit. It cut DEEP into my savings, but after some time, I decided it would be worth it.

When I found out the amount we would owe for our security deposit, I felt annoyed and defeated. I really had to question how badly I wanted to live in this house and how much the reduction in rent was worth.

We’re clean people so we knew we’d get most (if not all) the money back. (And we did!)

The best part about this situation is that it reminded me how lucky I was to be able to afford it.

Before becoming debt-free, this house would have been out of the question. I wouldn’t have even considered it. Frustration and disappointment were common feelings before I found financial peace.

It is amazing how many more doors are open to you when you have the freedom and flexibility of a savings account and room in your budget.

Story #3: Job Changes

Feelings BEFORE debt freedom: Paralyzed with Fear and Anxiety

I wouldn’t even considered changing jobs before my debt was paid off.

I was wide-eyed and ready to work for my first accounting firm for as long as it took to become debt-free. Having a salary and benefits straight out of college made me feel like I was rich and successful. I felt accomplished and happy learning something new every day.

The longer I worked for that same company, the more office politics began to bother me. Knowing I had massive debt to pay off forced me to deal with the growing frustrations about that job. Debt forces you to make choices you don’t want to make, thanks to past choices you already made.

The ghost of decisions past following you into the future to torture you for as long as you let it.

I’ve always had a passion for personal finance, helping others, and entrepreneurship. I knew I’d be stuck working this job to pay for the “normal” debt lifestyle, and changing jobs felt scary. If I left that company, I would be desperately seeking that same security at another very similar company.

When I thought of my entrepreneurial goals and ambitions before, I remember feeling paralyzed with fear and doubt. The sheer thought of giving up my steady income and security to start something myself would give me anxiety. It was even easy to believe my co-workers when they said I would never find another company with the same great benefits I was receiving.

How could I survive without health insurance or paid vacation days?

It is truly overwhelming to think of leaving a job with security while in debt, let alone leaving that job to become solely responsible by starting your own business.

Dream Big | Change Careers | Start a Business

Feelings AFTER debt freedom: Exhilarated and still a little fearful

After becoming debt-free, I made four different job changes in about two years. I had the confidence and peace of mind to ask for the wage I deserved to earn. That first step took me to a career I enjoyed, plus a benefits package and salary that was better than my first job.

My new-found financial freedom allowed me to value my happiness above my wage, benefits, and traditional “security”. What I learned is that I didn’t have to make sacrifices with my salary and benefits thanks to my confidence, which resulted in better opportunities.

I continued to grow my confidence in my skills, knowledge, and value. With each job change, I grew closer to my dream of starting a business. Eventually, valuing my happiness above all else led me back to my passion.

One of the best things I learned is that being employed by someone else provides a false feeling of security. Your employer could fire you or lay you off at any time, then what would you do?

The great thing about being debt-free and going through the process of paying off debt is that you learn how to take BABY STEPS.

Whether you want to go after a new job with a better salary or benefits package, a new career entirely, or you have that entrepreneur spirit that I have, the first step is to prepare yourself financially.

Now, instead of being paralyzed by fear, I wake up feeling exhilarated and ready to fight for what I want. The fear is still there, but it sits quietly inside me as I continue to reach for my goals. I can move forward, despite the fear, taking one baby step at a time.

Dream big and set yourself up for success. Reach for what you want, but ultimately, take that first baby step toward financial peace so that you can actually get there!

I’ve had a failed business, a successful business, and I’m working toward more success right now! None of this could have happened without first becoming debt-free.

A Note of Encouragement

Are you currently paying off debt?

Yes? I bet you feel tired.

It is an exhausting process, but it is 100% worth it! Don’t give up.

Think daily about your WHY and the thousands of other people who have struggled through it. If we can do it, so can you!

Think of the LONG-TERM RESULTS instead of the short-term struggle.

Keep going! You’ll be glad you did.

For help reaching toward that debt-free feeling, sign up for my FREE eBook full of the tricks I learned during my journey: