Debt Freedom IRL

I paid off my car loan on Monday. It was a super exciting day for me: I’ve been in debt since the age of 17, when I went off to college and signed those student loan papers. Twenty years later, I’m FINALLY debt free.

Everyone reading this blog knows what a big deal that is. Whether you’ve ever had debt or not, everyone in the personal finance blogosphere knows what a big deal those big financial milestones are. The sense of accomplishment. Freedom. Opportunity.

But in real life?

In real life, becoming debt free was kind of lonely. There wasn’t anyone to celebrate the victory with me, or to understand how I felt. In fact, there was hardly anyone I even wanted to tell!

I told a co-worker, as an explanation of why I was getting Starbucks for lunch. I just said that I had paid off the car, without mentioning the bigger financial picture. The girls in the office as a group have been discussing car loans a lot lately: One co-worker is planning to purchase a new, luxury vehicle. With a big loan, of course. The co-worker I told about paying off the loan bought a new car a few months before I did. She’s already looking in to purchasing a new vehicle, but her husband has told her she has to wait until her current vehicle is paid off. She’s lamented how she’ll be waiting four more years. Despite her husband’s request, she’s already pricing the vehicle she wants, and has contacted a dealer regarding the trade in value of her current vehicle.

I mentioned it to Bryan as we were making dinner. In an ideal world, he would have known before I even made the payment. But our world isn’t ideal, and we sometimes struggle with money discussions. We’re both in very different places financially. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I would be paying off my car loan this year. His response is to usually question why I’m in such a hurry. While he marvels at my financial situation, and how I’m able to stretch the amount I make (despite making much less than him), he doesn’t really want to talk too much about it. Part of it is an old-fashioned attitude about money: As the woman, my money is my money, and his money is “ours”. It makes him uncomfortable that he’s had to rely on me so much financially in the past year and a half. I also worried that I was “kicking him while he’s down”: He’s just getting back to work, and just starting to get things back on track financially. And here I am, going above and beyond. Becoming debt free. Having extra money to worry about.

In real life, it was just another day, save the Starbucks and the confused looks. I felt lonely, and weird, and apprehensive about telling anyone.

Thank goodness I have my online life, where everyone understands the excitement. Where I can proclaim loudly (or type in all caps):


  • Cindy W.


  1. Love it! I can hear your scream all the way from Australia. You are right this community does understand!

    1. It’s great to have a tribe! People who understand what you’re working towards, and can celebrate the milestones with you.

  2. Very well done. I have been reading your blog for sometime now. I do not always agree with your money decisions ( eg the diet, the large emergency fund when you have debt, xmas gifts…) but oh my…very well done. You took it one step at a time and you’re done. Very very well done.

    1. Thank you! You know, I’m always surprised that I don’t get more comments saying “That’s a terrible idea!” I’m definitely not the most frugal blogger. And there are occasions that I look back and wonder what in the world I was thinking! For me, it’s been important that I try to maintain some sort of balance in all aspects of my life, and allow myself to splurge sometimes. It keeps me from getting frustrated and giving up.

      But that’s what I love about this community! People can be supportive, even if they don’t 100% agree! I really appreciate that!

  3. Congratulations!
    To be finally free of debt, to have new and different focus is awesome! WELL DONE!

    [I got here through searching for information on MP Dunleavy. I had just finished reading this piece by Neal Gabler and my mind ran on MP and wondered where she was in her journey. ]

    I love how you’ve documented your goals and progress (with explanation). I believe many will benefit from reading about your journey.

    Onward towards $1,000,000 (as someone else puts it: it’s figuring out how to make $1000, then doing it 1000 times. From the focus, drive & passion I’ve noticed in your posts, I’ll say you’re well on your way.

    All the best to you.

    1. Glad to hear from another MP Dunleavy fan! I keep hoping to run across her writing again somewhere. So far, no such luck!

      I appreciate your kind words about my journey. $1,000,000 seems impossible! But you’re right, it’s all about moving along in small increments. I don’t yet know how I’ll get there (or even if I need to get to $1,000,000), but I’m going to keep moving forward. $1,000 at a time!

      1. Thanks for responding.

        $1000 at a time is a great pace.
        Like the journey of a thousand miles, beginning and continuing to take steps is all that’s required.
        At some point you’ll finish the journey by forgetting the seeming impossible distance that must be covered by shifting focus from the great distance ahead to the next step that must be taken.

        Even if you don’t need to get there; just knowing that you can (I believe you can) makes a world of difference.

        All the best to you as well!

  4. Congratulations! That’s fabulous! You must be so pleased and proud. Let it sink in. You know, I think some of the greatest things we do sometimes are done quietly and alone. Fireworks and parties have their place but sometimes just letting the blissful peacefulness fill you up is enough.

    1. Thanks Cynthia! Having a little time to let things sink in has definitely helped.

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