Changing focus so far this year to primarily save and secondarily pay down our remaining non-mortgage debt was an idea that made total sense to me intellectually and on paper, but in practice didn’t work as well as I had hoped. Which is why we chose to return our primary focus to debt elimination for the remainder of our final non-mortgage debt, my student loan.
As a sort of incentive to finally rid ourselves of this final debt, I’ve started thinking about what life will be like after debt. Will things change significantly? No, of course not. Our focus will again shift to saving, but this time without a split focus with debt involved too. We may decide to shift back to debt elimination in some form through addressing our mortgage, but we’ll be mindful to strive to keep ourselves out of future debt by trying to anticipate places that debt could be incurred (costly home repairs, automobiles, medical emergencies, job loss) and begin to prepare for those eventualities or uncertainties.
But what immediately happens upon eliminating debt?
I think we get a new refrigerator.
I know that probably sounds silly. It is somewhat silly. But at the same time, it is a relatively small thing (in the entire scheme of things) that will make a direct, positive difference in our lives on a number of levels. Our current refrigerator is an energy hog. I’ve calculated its energy usage and in the fall, winter and fall months (when we’re using gas heat or nothing at all as opposed to electric a/c) the refrigerator alone accounts for close to half our total electricity usage. It is close to 30 years old, in an era where energy efficiency was still in its babyhood. The coils were maybe never cleaned by previous owners, and although I make valiant attempts, it is set up in such a way that I can only clean so much underneath without literally skewering myself on the coils. And since it is set back in a nook with the plug in the back, to unplug it to clean it (recommended every three months) it needs to be literally pulled out 7 feet to reach the plug. And it isn’t meant to be moved, so that’s a fun chore.
We don’t want top of the line, crazy fancy in our next refrigerator. Energy efficient, easier to clean, and functional. I haven’t priced things at all yet, but I am anticipating something under or around $1000. We wouldn’t pull out of emergency or current savings funds, we would save ~2 months of the former debt elimination fund to purchase it. And it is really only a matter of time – a refrigerator’s life span is only so long in the first place, and 30 is a granddaddy number. It won’t be that many years before the decision is made for us.
I still have to calculate exactly how much money an energy efficient model will save us per year over our current model, but rough estimates with the energy star website calculates that it would take only 5 years (if not less) to recoup the cost of a new refrigerator in the difference in energy usage. So when we eliminate our non-mortgage debt, a new refrigerator finds its way to us. Unless the refrigerator makes that decision first, like our furnace did last year. I must admit, it is fun to dream. Debt elimination makes it feel possible to dream and actually think a dream might eventually happen. A cool thing in and of itself, regardless of the eventual outcome.
What’s your post debt elimination fun, reward type goal (if you have one)?