Even if you aren’t debt-free (but hopefully on your way), check out this article by one of my favorite finance guys, Dave Ramsey. It lists some characteristics of debt-free people. Just a few of my own personal observations now that we’ve been debt-free for nearly four years…
I totally agree with the statement that we are CONFIDENT. I love Dave’s statement that “You know you’re on the right track when your broke friends are making fun of you.” Not long after we paid off our mortgage, we were out to dinner with friends, and I mentioned we were now stashing all that money into college savings instead. One friend commented back and said, “Really? You’re not spending it on yourself? Isn’t there something big that you want to buy?” Nope, not really. “You’re denying yourself.” Really? I don’t feel like I am missing anything in my life. We eat well, dress well (from the clearance rack, mind you), and even take nice vacations. Nope, don’t need a vacation home, a timeshare, a boat, a fancier/newer car, or flashy jewelry. And I sleep REALLY well at night. Better than ever. As Dave would say, “Live like no one else so you can LIVE like no one else.”
However, there are many things that are important to me, like eating dinner together as a family. I fantasized about a new kitchen for years, perhaps for as long as I’ve been in my home (nearly 20 years). Earlier this year, it became a reality. It was a great improvement, but quite expensive. I don’t think of myself as materialistic, but I won’t deny how much I coveted these beautiful cabinets and high-end faucets.
“Budget extra money!” everyone advised. “It will cost twice as much as you think.” We don’t like surprises, so we planned meticulously up front. The budget increased dramatically while planning, and so did our saving. And with only one $800 surprise (pipes in an unplanned location), we paid for it all with cash.
I was confident that I wanted that kitchen and confident that I would pay for it without debt. And I continue to sleep very well with my spending choices.