Urgency in Sports and Debt Repayment

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Jeff. Jeff writes about Sustainable living and finances at his website, Sustainable Life Blog. Jeff really enjoys traveling with his wife as much as he can, to wherever he can.

About a week ago, my favorite team unexpectedly dropped a game to a team that they probably shouldn’t have lost to.  During the game, they were down at one point by 22.  With about 8 minutes left to go in the game, they finally started to play and slowly started to close the gap.  Eventually, they had gotten to within 1 point, but couldn’t quite close the deal.  After the game, the coach said that they were not “playing with a sense of urgency”.  It was true, but when he said that, I was thinking about my own finances and what that meant for me.

For the last 2 years, I haven’t really been diverting much money to debt repayment.  Surely, I’ve upped my savings rate and bought a house and all of that, but in all honesty I should have been free of all of my debt by now – student loans, car loans, you name it and it should have been repaid.  When I was so focused on my debt, I was working 2 jobs and didn’t really have time to spend money.  I had that sense of urgency because I needed it.  I was living paycheck to paycheck, and if I didn’t get a cash infusion when I expected, my debt was going to go unpaid.

Slowly but surely, I started to back away from the cliff.  I paid off 1 credit card, then another, and another.  Once those were gone it was on to paying off some student loans.  I had three student loans, and once the credit cards were done, I focused on those.  I paid off the smaller of the student loans, then moved on to the bigger one.  I was still afraid of not being able to make the payments on my debt, so I was still very focused on debt repayment and very into it.  After all, if I missed one payment on my debt, it could easily spiral into oblivion.  I’d need to start playing catch up, and fighting from behind is never easy.  I could miss credit payments, utility bills or worse – something like my car that I needed to get to work and earn income – making my situation exponentially worse in that instance.  It felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and one false move by me or a big gust of wind (in the form of an unexpected problem) could be the end of me (financially) for a long time.

My first instinct was to spend all the money allocated to getting out of debt on lottery tickets, and once I hit the jackpot I’d be fine.  Just kidding.  The first step that I took was to chip away at my debt every day, every week, and every month.  I got down on ‘defense’ and didn’t add any new spending to the cards.  Once I was done with that, I slowly started to chip away and paid them off, one by one.  I took out the credit cards first, then the smaller student loans – and once that was done, I felt like I was no longer standing on the edge of a cliff where one false move could sink me.  

Of course, with the backing away from the cliff, I lost my sense of urgency and motivation to continue paying down debt.  I increased my savings percentage, but I also increased the amount of money that I was spending every month.  I kept telling myself that these were ‘weird’ months, and I’d get back on my debt repayment next month.   Well, 24 “next months” later, I’ve decided to renew my focus and make sure that I finish off my debt once and for all!

I’ll let you guys know how it goes, but the first month went well, I doubled down on my truck payment, and have set a goal to finish off the payments by the end of June.  

How about you all? Did you guys fall off the debt repayment cliff?  What did you do to get back on?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – Great post! I think that having the sense of urgency if much needed, especially at first when a person has large amounts of high interest credit card debt because even if they are sticking to the payment schedule, the reality is that it still is costing them a large amount of money each year in interest. After getting the high interest debt paid off, it might actually be wise to step back to think about investing some money at least.

I’m curious – what is the interest rate on your student loans that you haven’t yet paid off? Do you think it might be better to invest at the same time as you are paying those off? 

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/birddogger/4930697767/


    1. moneybeagle says:

      Great post. I purposefully backed away from the debt payment cliff after we refinanced about 18 months simply because our long term goal of having the mortgage paid off by the time our kids would graduate school was put in place via the new terms.

    2. FinancialBlackSheep says:

      After Mr. FBS went into the hospital I said it was no big deal and everything would get paid off right away, well then school tuition came up and Christmas and and and…. I stopped and will have everything paid off a month early, this month. I got back on the debt payment bandwagon, because I wanted my freedom from debt more than anything in the world. Good luck, it's hard to stay focused for a long time, and sometimes we need to take these mistakes as breaks to be reenergized and refocused.
      My recent post The Dog is Eating my Money!

    3. Sustainable Living says:

      Great way to do things beagle – we started ours out that way, as we decided to opt for a 15 year note, meaning that even if we did nothing, we'd still hit that mark
      My recent post Small Risks and Cell Phone Cost: Is a Cheap Cell Phone Plan Worth It?

    4. I think that everyone falls off the wagon sometimes. The most important thing is that we get right back on track!!

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