Reflecting on the events of the past week, I’ve been thinking about the fact that every time it seems we get into a good rhythm of paying off debt, and are poised to make significant debt repayment progress, something seems to get in the way. That is not at all to say that we don’t make progress despite that, but the fact remains that we seem to get sidetracked right on the verge of significant progress. When we were on the brink of paying off our credit card debt, my car’s engine completely died and had to be replaced, which actually put us into even more debt for a very short time and delayed the credit card payoff by over a month. And now, when we were poised to hit our debt with a extra paycheck/stimulus check double whammy, the furnace decided it’d rather have that money.
Which leads me to my latest observation on why debt stinks. Life doesn’t just stop or go on hold and wait for you to get out of debt before throwing any curveballs your way. When you’re in debt, and working diligently on getting out, your “extra” money is earmarked towards that debt, so when something happens that will set you back financially, you either may not be prepared for it, or it may set back those debt elimination plans significantly.
The other side of that, is when these big things happen, I find myself thinking about how much closer we’d be to being out of debt if only we had that money we spent on unexpected expenses available for debt reduction. All told, including the upcoming furnace replacement, since the start of this blog we will have spent probably close to if not over $10,000 on unexpected repairs and other expenses of that nature. That total equals almost half of our remaining debt. Without those setbacks, our debt might be approaching four figures right now. However, our increased financial awareness and responsibility has left us able to handle these setbacks without completely going under, which is more than I could have imagined a year ago. But still, if we didn’t have significant debt we’d be in a better place to prepare for life’s inevitable surprises.
Life doesn’t just stop. It goes on, things happen, and you have to roll with it. And when you’re in debt, you have to decide between how much you want to devote to getting out of debt versus how prepared you want to be for unexpected expenses. And whatever you choose as that balance point, somewhere you’re taking a risk. We’ve consistently chosen to risk more by saving less versus holding back the debt repayment. So far, we’ve been able to manage that, but for how much longer? It might be time to reconsider that strategy before timing doesn’t work out on our side.