By: Laura Walton AFC®
Do you track your net worth? It’s a great way to measure financial health and progress. We update net worth statements each time we meet with 3rd Decade clients and when I noticed that one couple’s net worth had gone from -$18k to +$128k in just under two years, I was curious – how’d they do it?
Their negative net worth was due largely to student loans – over $90k – and paying off those loans became their obsession – here’s their story, blow-by-blow:
“We finally got tired of having debt. We got on the same team with the same mindset, same goal.
“We started out by doing a dreaded paper budget. We went through our previous few months credit card statements to breakdown how much we were spending in each category per month. Creating a budget and itemizing the previous month expenses is still something we do regularly. This practice, as painful as it was, helped us to identify where we were bleeding money.
“We trimmed back on the basics; only ate one dinner out a week, meal prepped all lunches, and cut back on alcohol expenses. We cancelled any monthly subscriptions we had, no matter how small the amount. We limited clothing and home purchases to “need” not “want”. We also sold off clothing items on Poshmark, and home items on Letgo, to bring in extra cash.
“Any extra income (bonuses or money left over after budget) went directly to additional loan payments. Eventually, as our loan balance grew smaller, our desire to see that balance at zero soared and each month we were throwing more and more money in the pot.
“Seeking external motivation was huge for keeping up our money saving habits. We started listening to The Dave Ramsey Show podcast, reading the TCI Foundation’s weekly blog, and following Mr. Money Mustache. These daily and weekly reminders of other people’s successes helped us get over the anxiety of having debt and change to a mindset of control.
“We had tough conversations about where our money was going and why we were spending on superfluous items or activities. But, we made sure to budget in things we enjoyed, such as vacations to see friends or weekly golf outings. Finding balance between living on a budget and enjoying hobbies was important to not get burnt out.
“Ultimately, creating a vision of what our long term goals were (starting a family, feeling at peace about retirement, owning a home, traveling), helped us create short term goals on a weekly and monthly basis. Meeting these smaller goals gave us momentum to keep pace.
“And when we made that last payment, we laughed and literally said “see ya!” Then we went to Rosa’s Mexican Food, our one allotted meal out for that week, to celebrate.”
I should add that not only were they paying off debt but they were aggressively saving for retirement at the same time by maxing out their Roth IRAs and her 401k plan contribution as well. They also maintained an adequate emergency savings account throughout. And, in case you’re wondering, this isn’t because they had big incomes, but rather because they had big discipline!