I’m Not Really Debt Free

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My brother and I are absurdly boring at family gatherings. We don’t see each other often, and when we do, we spend the entire time talking about finances or Dave Ramsey-isms. He became debt free at the same time and has as much zeal as I do about staying that way. We don’t share numbers, it’s more of a ‘Did you know the YNAB app has this feature!?!’ or ‘OMG, I had an uncategorized expense yesterday and lost my mind’ kind of talk. Nerds unite.

A relative came up to us and said, ‘You talk about being debt free but you both have way more debt than I do. My mortgage is $100K. Your California mortgages are way more than that. I can have credit cards out my ears and still have less debt than you.’

My brother and I learned a long time ago not to debate about finances so we smiled and moved on. Later, I couldn’t shake the comment.

My husband and I got lazy after we paid off our non-mortgage debt. We took our foot off the gas pedal. We figured, as long as we didn’t incur more debt, invested in retirement, and saved a little, we were good to go.

Over the last two years…

We went on trips.

We had too many restaurant meals.

We bought a little travel trailer.

Everything in cash. Everything budgeted appropriately. Honestly? It’s been awesome. We had a great time.

But it didn’t feel right and I couldn’t figure out why… until my relative spoke up. The reason the comment annoyed me is because part of me agrees with her.

Don’t get me wrong, you are never going to sell me on the idea that a maxed-out Visa is the same as my mortgage BUT, the debt should still annoy me.

Once a quarter, my husband and I go to dinner and talk about our big finance plans. We do our monthly budget in 20 minutes at the start of each month but we spend a couple hours each quarter prioritizing big expenses and making a plan. Things that need to be fixed on the house or replacement vehicle schedules or travel. A couple months ago, I added…

Our Big Ugly Mortgage

…then scribbled it out. That’s a stupid, impossible idea. We live on a single income in southern California and I don’t even make six figures.

My husband didn’t say anything. I figured he thought it was stupid too.

A couple days later, he said, “You had a great idea. I think we should pay off the mortgage.” He ran through some ideas he’d been pondering. He could pick up side work here and there. We could snip the budget a bit. He helped me believe we could actually do it within a decent time frame.

Was my relative right? Are credit cards the same as a mortgage? No, not even close. But am I insanely grateful for the remark that started the conversation?

You bet.

What about you? Do you consider all debt the same? How on earth would you have responded to the comment?

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