I remember a time long ago when I was on a motorcycle (crotch rocket type) tearing up some twists and turns on River Rd in Baton Rouge late at night.  All alone on the lonely back road I could gun the motor and meld into a single force of speed with the machine.  I used to wear earbuds in my helmet and listen to the radio while I was riding.  One night I had forgotten to tune in to my station to rock out to before suiting up and hitting the road so instead I just flipped it on through my jacket pocket and WJBO AM 1150 was on.  Oh well, guess I’ll have to listen to some yawn worthy AM crap while riding I thought.  Dave Ramsey’s show was on and I started listening to it.  At 80mph heeling over 60 degrees through a long twist next to a levee in the Louisiana night, the wisdom of avoiding debt was being pumped in my mind.

They say that people tend to remember things better when they experience a traumatic event shortly after.  Maybe that wild night of riding was what burned the philosophy of being debt free into my mind.   Maybe it was getting home and calculating out the cost of borrowing money in all its forms.   I don’t know what it was, but from a young age, I quit caring about my credit score.  Literally.  I canceled any open credit lines and I went to debit/cash only.  I was 20.

It never occurred to me that debt was far more than a bad financial choice at the time.  I just never realized it.  Carefree, I was able to dream whatever my wildest dreams were without the debt anchor whispering, “You can’t do this.”  If I lost my job, I would not be destroyed by debt.  I was a free man that didn’t owe anyone anything.   I had never realized that debt was something far more insidious than a poor financial decision.  I didn’t realize debt was a life anchor.
Large Anchors in Sand
It wasn’t until my great scheming to go cruising began that I realized how deeply destructive personal debt could be to life plans.  I married Dani.  Dani had debt and I had the house which was asset backed debt.  And suddenly, the idea of cruising had a powerful enemy.  How could you leave with all that money that you owe?  The simple answer was that you cannot.   It had to be addressed.

Dani had come from a different world.  She cared deeply about her credit score.  She cherished it and watched it rise with a swell of pride in her heart.  Her little pet credit score.  She didn’t have 80mph of Dave Ramsey hammered into her head along with a huge shot of adrenaline early on.

We had the typical fights that couples have over money.  Especially early on.  Once we were engaged we needed to come up with financial plans, and I was fighting an uphill battle.  Dani is a budget manager that administrates (literally) a billion dollars.  But slowly, she saw the debt for the anchor it was, holding us in place, preventing our dreams.  It isn’t until you REALLY want to go somewhere that you see all the strings holding you HERE.

I used that angle.  I harped and hawed.  Dani was insistent that her 0% credit cards weren’t costing us anything.  I told her they were costing us more than just money even if we weren’t paying interest on them.  Eventually the compromise came when I told Dani what it would cost to take our cruise and ask her to make the budget for it.  I’d dictate what it would take, and she’d figure out how to get there.  I think that was the bridge that was built that helped us come eye to eye on debt.

Slowly Dani too started to hate the debt.  Sure it wasn’t costing us anything.  I mean it was 0% interest.  But it was there.  The college loans that were kept around like cheap pets that no one cared about.  The credit cards that “didn’t hurt”.  The old bad investment in a time share.  (“It only costs sixty dollars a month.”)

Slowly they grew in her mind, fueled by my hatred for them.  They became the monsters that haunted us.  Debt was the enemy, the enemy of our plans, the enemy of our lives.  Its more than an interest rate or a cost calculation.  It was a monster.

At first in the financial plan for our goals we had this big budget that included paying off the debt.  A complex set of goals to pay down this debt and then that one then do this other thing and shift all this money around all the while saving.  But Dani became hateful of the debt as I did.  The complexity in the plan.  And we began attacking it.  We reached the point that we were putting five thousand dollars a month towards the principles on our debts.
Road Sign for Financial Freedom
Finally.  Yesterday, our pay day, we paid off the last of our debts.  We owe no one anything.  And it feels so good.  I’m so proud of Dani for becoming as aggressively anti-debt as I am.  She still cares about her pet credit score somewhat, but I think one day I’ll convince her to let it go too.  One of the things I truly enjoy about Dani, is that it seems when one of us becomes passionate about something, the other assimilates that passion.  Its great.  We’re a power team.

File this one away as another major milestone in our plan to go cruising.

Debt.  Eliminated.