Reflections on one year debt-free

One year Debt-free anniversary!

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Friends! Tomorrow is our debt-free-iversary!  

One year ago, December 19th, 2018, we made our final payment on our Line of Credit, finishing a sixty-five thousand dollar journey and achieving perhaps the biggest goal we had ever set out for. For today’s post, I thought I would take a look back at the past year, at what was awesome and what was harder than I expected, and where we are heading in 2020. 

First…a flashback…

When we started our debt-free journey, we owed over $65000 on student loans, credit cards, lines of credit. We were struggling to cover all the bills each month, doing a ‘rob peter to pay paul’ situation where I would drop a bunch of cash on a credit card, but then use the credit card to buy groceries for the rest of the month. We would fight about money on the regular. Well, to be fair, would fight about money. Dan would mostly just listen to me. You see, this debt was a HUGE anxiety trigger for me. I could go for weeks just fine, and then one day, BAM I’d be freaking out about wasting our money and not being able to pay our bills. Basically, I was stressed, not very happy, and overwhelmed at what to do next.

Sound familiar? 

So – what did we do to fix all the things? I credit the success to Dave Ramsey and his book Total Money Makeover. I read it, listened to his daily podcast, surrounded myself with all things Dave to keep me focused and moving forward.

Here are the main steps we took to pay off all that debt:

You can read more about how we paid off all our debt here.

I cried as I made the last payment last year. It was SUCH a huge mountain to climb, and I was so grateful that it was done! We were onto our Emergency Fund, which meant saving around $15000, and then we could start throwing money at the mortgage and saving for and buying things we wanted! And honestly, I thought it would be smooth sailing from there. But, as you’ll see, each year brings new challenges and goals, and things don’t always go as planned. 

There are MANY things that we are celebrating and high-fiving over from 2019. We’ll get to those in a second. But first…

Stumbling blocks from 2019

I seriously expected to be done the Emergency Fund by March. We had been putting at least five thousand dollars a month onto our debts, so it shouldn’t take us that long to save up $15,000, right?


We cash flowed the trip to Mexico. Then our income took a bit of a hit – for a few reasons. Dan didn’t take on as much OT because we had missed each other, and family time became more of a priority. Then Dan’s work went through an unexpected buy-out situation. We turned our RRSP contributions back on sooner than we planned to take advantage of the last few months of the employer match. It winds up being more money in our pocket down the road, but it sure hurts our monthly bottom line now. 

We had the EF up to about eight thousand, feeling pretty good about ourselves. And then our washing machine died a smokey, gross death. We made the choice to buy a new washer and dryer. 

We had it back up to about six thousand, and then Dan’s car died. And while we had about a thousand dollars in our car maintenance sinking fund, it didn’t cover a new (to us) car that would be reliable and last for a while. SO we dipped into the EF again. 

So, here we sit, at the end of another year, and we have about five thousand in our Emergency Fund. NOT fully funded, as I had anticipated. We aren’t dropping HUGE extra payments onto our mortgage – also what I expected. But… 

Awesomeness from 2019

We did not go back into debt. 

After 13 months of gazelle intensity, we let up on the gas for a few months. Dan and I enjoyed a celebratory trip to Cancun in February, paid for in cash, of course. 

We bought a new washer and dryer, and a new car, and we paid cash for both without stressing about it or freaking out about how we would pay the bills in the month ahead. 

Plus, we are currently renewing our mortgage on an adjusted schedule, and we intentionally chose a plan that allows us to pay extra each year. We are set up for the future to get it paid off sooner. 

I don’t lose sleep over money and bills anymore. 

Our credit scores are both excellent.  

We haven’t paid a penny in interest in 12 months! 

We have slowed down our living in a way that supports being intentional with our money and supports my mental health. This means that in December we aren’t running from event to event. Our calendars aren’t booked every second of the day. And we are soaking up a lot of quiet family time together. This season of life is amazing. 

And, in sharing our success last December, we wound up creating this space. Reach has turned into something bigger than my wildest dreams, and I am SO excited for the future!

When I posted our debt-free story, I didn’t anticipate how many people in our circles would reach out and ask us what we did and how they could do it too. Christmas Day last year, I woke up well before anyone else in the house and sat on the floor typing. And typing. And typing. (The first of many mornings spent like that.) I wanted to get down as much wisdom and guidance as I could for people, to help everyone feel the freedom we felt in being debt-free. 

That slowly led to a Facebook group, where I started my ramblings and then eventually to this space. I am so very proud of the work that we do. And the big work that YOU do, too.

Our community has paid off $238,511 so far. And the first time one of our tribe messaged me to say she had made her last payment and was officially debt-free, I started to cry. (Stay tuned for her story, coming in the new year!)

A Sneak Peek at 2020

So, with a new year just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to achieve in the next twelve months. 

Some of our goals:

  • Complete our Emergency Fund
  • Save for renovations
  • Cash flow a trip to California in the fall
  • Give more
  • Put at least $10K extra on the mortgage this year

Plus, we have been working on some really exciting Reach projects to help even more people get intentional with their money in the year ahead. Stay tuned for that! 

Sometimes days, weeks, years don’t go as planned. But with a bit of reflection, I can see that we were still very successful this past year. I’m proud of all the things we DID do and I am very excited for the year ahead!

Plus, I’m looking forward to hearing about all of your mindful money successes and struggles – what’s good and what’s bad? How can we help? Join our community over on Facebook for conversation and daily inspiration!  

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