spring update - debt free by 30

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I said in my inaugural Debt Free by 30 post that I would post monthly updates, but in hindsight I figure quarterly updates will suffice. So how am I doing? Well, pretty good, all things considered! I've been paying consistent, heavy attention to my finances and making significant progress on my obligations. So far, I've been pretty good at motivating myself, but something funny happened recently which has inspired me even more.

A month or so ago, I was sitting in a Lyft (unnecessary spending, strike one!) on my way to work after a late morning start. My driver was playing a podcast which quickly caught my attention. It was this podcast, and the speaker was interviewing a man who had retired at 30, lived frugally, and was advocating the merits of public transit in a big city. I felt a weird mixture of immediate guilt (see previous strike one) and fondness, as I felt the same exact sentiments toward public transit. The train is super cheap, efficient, and about a mile away from my apartment - so a nice bit of exercise every morning and evening. Walking is cost-effective, keeps weight down, environmentally-friendly if that's your thing, and is a great way to explore your city. The bit about the benefits of walking and public transportation aside, I was really into what this guy was saying about finances. As my ride came to an end, I found myself frantically typing into my phone the books that this speaker and his interviewee were recommending: books about happiness, frugality, and wealth.

I later found out the guy was none other than Mr. Money Mustache, or the new financial guru who would quickly become a household name in my and my boyfriend's apartment - which, by happy coincidence, is quite frugal for Chicago ;). Mustache is a 30-something retiree who advocates serious frugality and dedication to investment, and rails against consumerism and American debt culture. Overall, his message is incredibly optimistic, and his methodology precise and intentional. He blogs about everything from brewing your own beer, putting away most of your income toward retirement, and living as frugally as possible.

What is funny about this story is this: a few months earlier, my boyfriend had sent me a blog post from MMM himself, advocating that I treat my debt like a flaming emergency (see here). In somewhat typical Jenny fashion, I said "no thanks!", made a peace sign, and skipped away mentally, because sometimes I revert to being a child who doesn't want to be told what they know they should already be doing. In my weak defense, I was just starting to seriously pay down my debts and feeling overwhelmed by how much I was socking away in interest alone. I wanted my money to be mine, and it wouldn't be until I took care of the debts that I had willfully taken. I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today, if you catch my drift. And that hamburger was GRADUATE SCHOOL.

So, imagine the laughter that ensued several months later, when I was bursting at the seams to tell my boyfriend all about this inspiring, amazing podcast and blog I had discovered. Ohh, you mean, this is what you were trying to tell me about months ago and I rudely ignored? Sorry I'm an a-hole! I will humbly take this moment to bow down to my prescient and incredibly intelligent boyfriend who is always looking out for me, despite me being a stubborn horse-led-to-water occasionally, and a far superior being all other times. Just kidding about that last part. But seriously, that guy is a saint.

Although my saint-boyfriend and I are hesitant to fully adopt the Mustachian way (MMM famously transported all his major applicances home via bicycle, for instance), we are really inspired by the simple, effective methods of his reasoning. He reads aloud snippets from the blog while I calculate my latest payments in a Google Doc. We budget as best we can for our major expenses of our daily lives. And we do jokingly talk about MMM as if he is an omnipresent entity: oooh, I don't think Mr. Money Mustache would approve when we order a pizza, or this isn't very Mustachian of us when we blow $20 at the convenience store on our corner.

Overall though, I think we are both becoming more frugally-minded and intentional about our spending. Fortunately, we were already on a good path concerning finances, and are now planning a bit more intentionally for our future. It's certainly encouraging to my own goals, knowing that my partner is as interested in financial health as I would like to be. In addition to the slowly but surely dwindling numbers of my debts, I am finding my attitude shift the most remarkable. I am learning to see progress as nonlinear, and understanding that I will have setbacks that do not necessarily mean I should forego my entire goal, or discredit my achievements, however small.

See you in the summer, and a few more steps toward putting out the debt fire!

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