August 9, 2013

One year debt free & five lessons learned.

Today's a special day for me! One year ago today, I wrote this post about finally becoming debt free!
It's crazy how quickly time has passed but I just thought I'd check in and share a few things that I've learned over the last year being debt free!
1. Budget, budget, budget.
Having a customized written budget (I use one in Excel) was the most important factor in being able to pay off debt. And now that I'm debt free, I still use one. In fact, I update mine at least twice a month at every payday....sometimes more often. Things get moved around, amounts change, and new line items get added all the time. Life circumstances change and my budget goes right along with it.

Call me crazy, but I love looking at and working on my budget. It's empowering to know exactly where my money is going! It's not perfect and I have gone over budget more than once but having a written zero based budget helps keeps me on track! If anyone needs a budget, just leave a comment with your email address and I'll be happy to email you the template I use.

2. Stay focused on the next goal.
While I have more saved now than I did this time last year, it's nowhere near what I had hoped I'd have. It was really easy to spend more and save less this past year as I adjusted to life not consumed by credit card bills and because of that I'm still working on Baby Step #3 - a fully funded emergency fund of 6 months of expenses. I'm a little disappointed in that but it's nothing that's going to derail my plan! Life is full of surprises and opportunities, but I'm refocused now and hope to reach this goal in the next 10 months.

3. It's not no, just not now.
I really, really, really want to take a big vacation somewhere!! Groupon Escapes and the Top 20 from Travel Zoo are constantly calling my name but I need to remind myself that I'm not quite ready for that. I don't want to drain my savings on something as temporary as a vacation. So while I really want one, I want financial peace and stability more.
Isn't this cartoon the truth?? I've so been there!

4. Know your numbers.
I'm always amazed when I hear people say they don't know much about their finances - it's most often when I listen to Dave Ramsey or watch Suze Orman.  People don't know the basics about their financial situation, which when you think about the fact they are calling in because they need help, isn't all that surprising. So I think there four numbers that everyone should know...

Monthly income.
Monthly expenses.
Total debt.
Total savings.

Knowing these numbers (even if you don't like them) takes away the fear of the unknown and gives you the power to change them! It does takes a bit of time to figure those numbers out, but trust me when I say it's worth it!

5. Live below your means.
I think this one is pretty self explanatory but I've learned that my expenses need to stay low if I expect to make any headway with my savings. Living within my means just isn't enough.

And finally, I just wanted to share this quote I found on Pinterest. I don't know who this Sacha Guitry is, but this sums up my journey perfectly!

I know there are so many more things I've learned over the last year but I think I'll leave it at that for now. I'm an open book so if there is anything else that anyone wants to know, by all means - please ask!

Until next time...


  1. Hi Rachel I'm currently starting my journey to become debt free and would love a copy of your template! My email is Thanks! I love your blog

    1. Hi Shawna! That's takes a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice but it's so worth it!! Best of luck!!

      Check your email :-)

  2. Hello Rachel! Katie M. told me about your blog. Love your projects!!! I'd love it if you could e-mail me your budget template too -

    Thanks so much!!!

    1. Hi Aisha! I can definitely email you the's on my thumb drive which I left at work, so I'll make a note to send it tomorrow! Thanks for stopping by :-)