A few weeks back, I put up a facebook post about finally being debt free. There were more responses on that update than I thought possible. Clearly, money issues touch a nerve. I know. I’ve been in and out of debt a few times. I get the reason why people want to know “the secrets”. It’s like when a friend drops a bunch of weight. All you want to know is what she did. so you can repeat it.
Oh, man. All I wanted that night I posted on facebook was for there to be some secrets for me to share. However, much like losing weight, there are no secrets to financial freedom, just good planning, hard work and discipline. Also like weight-loss, if you don’t have a healthy relationship with your tormentor (in this case money, in diet’s case, food) then nothing you do will last forever, no matter how successful you are short term.
So what was different this time? Why do I think we’ll be successful going forward? There has to be something I can share. Let’s see, I did not have a specific goal, other than get out of debt. I did not even have any altruistic motivation like my kids’ college or a new home. We simply got ourselves out of debt because we had hit rock bottom and had no other choice. So what was the magic this time that makes me think it will stick?
A few nights ago The Husband and I went to see a “Mortgage Guy” (He’s since corrected us. He is in fact a lender, but we still like to call him our Mortgage Guy.) who ran our credit reports and started us on the road to buy our house.
Our credit scores? Well let’s just say they set my heart aflutter. In that moment, pouring over the details of that report, that’s when I realized what’s different.
Back in the day when I first paid off a little credit card debt, I never thought beyond the zero balance. I did not change my lifestyle and I certainly didn’t plan for the future. I’m not even sure I knew what my credit score was back then. I only knew I hated the weight of that debt so I paid it off the first chance I could and continued on my clueless, merry way, thinking investment was for rich people and I would die before anything really mattered so as long as I could pay my bills and furnish my home I was good.
This time, we have been strategic with every move we have made. We have worked hard, sacrificed and held onto the belief that it would all be worth it someday. The other night, I looked at those credit scores like the greatest personal victory I have ever had. They were not just the mark that we had done something right, but also the ticket we needed to a brighter future. Proof that the last five years of belts so tight they nearly cut off our circulation have all been worth it.
Those credit scores (and our kick-ass debt to income ratio) will mean better interest rates on a mortgage, more options for lenders and the keys to any castle we choose. (Within the appropriate price range of course. Can’t mess with my beautiful DtoI Ratio, now can I?)
Before this time, The Husband and I never looked far enough ahead to connect the dots of debt. We bought and sold three houses, secured countless car loans and used credit irresponsibly, thinking all the while we would get ahead of it “someday”. We could always pay the bills and they just kept approving more. So, we buried our heads and thought we were just fine.
This time, I asked questions about all of the things I just mentioned. I made it my business to understand how to make my money work. I didn’t just take my mortgage guy at his word and jump in blind. I bugged him-for nearly two hours-and got all the information I needed to proceed according to a solid plan. I do that now with everything. I bargain shop for everything from car loans to new shoes. I am patient. I am thoughtful. I know money decisions are never short term.
That’s the secret this time. I’ve decided I am worth a plan. I might just live long enough that I should think about my future, and unlike what my mama taught me, I don’t have to die in debt. There is a whole lot of mental stuff between me and my money. My secret is I’m starting to tackle it so that I can make money work for me, instead of being held its captive.
So far, that seems to be a high-scoring start.
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