A week ago, I ran out of church with tears welling in my eyes, completely overwhelmed by what my life had become.
I knew we had made the right choice by moving to a new town -- but the drastic change still got to me.
Let me back up a bit and explain.
Our family’s life wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good and I considered myself blessed. I was married to an incredible guy. Our families lived nearby (but not too close). Our northern New Mexico mountain community was beyond perfect for us.
The cost of living was a bit high, but we lived well within our means. We loved the intimacy of a cultured, small town with the amenities of the city not far away. We had a supportive and wonderful church family. We could be on a hiking trail within moments of leaving our door, and on a ski lift or camping within 20 minutes.
My husband had a government job that paid nearly $90,000. I liked to think we were pretty good with our money. We had no car payments or credit card debt. We had a mortgage on a modest, older home. Our 401(k) was kicking butt and taking names.
The one hitch in our financial situation was my husband’s $100,000 in student debt.
We were able to pay the monthly minimum payments and paid extra when we could -- but certainly not as often as we would’ve liked. The monthly loan payments were almost as much as our mortgage payments! But since we were able to cover it all with our income, it was acceptable.
I was thankful for the life we lived, and never took it for granted.
We weren’t searching for a change, but out of nowhere my husband was recruited by an oil company offering to pay him $140,000, including stock options and bonuses.
The catch: We’d have to move far away to an oil town.
My knee-jerk reaction was, “NO WAY!”
I couldn’t think about putting a price on the life we lived. I was distraught at the thought of losing it.
And here was the hardest part: It would all be for debt I didn’t personally incur. Trying to handle debt that wasn’t mine to begin with was very tricky.
I was fully aware of my husband’s financial situation when I said “yes” to the ring, but accepting it didn’t make dealing with the consequences any easier.
I felt a constant resentment toward what seemed like insurmountable debt, followed soon by guilt. The debt usually bothered me more than my husband. But over time, he was beginning to see how it could affect our future.
At some point, I pulled up my big-girl pants and started looking at everything like a businessperson. Slowly, I realized we had to take the offer.
Accepting the new job meant we could get out of debt in three to five years instead of 20. Daily compounding interest is the devil -- at least when you’re paying it.
I didn’t speak to anyone about my realization for weeks, not even my husband. But I couldn’t look at my two children, a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old, and say “no” to the prospect of being debt-free.
To do so would’ve meant rejecting many things that could enrich their lives later: sports, music lessons, camps, travel, braces, etc.
If there was something I could do to make a better life for my kids, especially before they were old enough to be heavily invested in their community, I had to do it.
Kids ruin everything.
We said our good-byes, packed our things, and now -- a year later -- we live in this awful oil town.
I had hoped after this much time, we’d have grown to like it more... but we haven’t. It’s still ugly as sin. There’s still nothing to do. The schools are still rubbish.
I don’t cry daily like I used to, but it still occasionally happens. It’s not that I’m a weakling and can’t handle life.
It’s that I’ve lost the ability to do the things that used to help me deal with stress. And at the worst possible time.
So when I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that this chapter of life is temporary.
I constantly tell myself two things:
It will be WORTH it.
Since the move, we’ve shaved more than a decade off the life of our “debt sentence.” Despite our discontent, the plan is working!
Due to the drop in oil prices (literally the week we moved here), the job hasn’t been quite as lucrative as we’d hoped, but we’re still making great headway.
We could probably be out of here faster if we went all Dave-Ramsey-Wild on our debt. We could live in a cheap, janky trailer, eat only rice and beans, and play Monopoly instead of enjoying our favorite TV shows.
But guess what?
Sometimes, if you’re making such a huge and life-changing choice, you have to give yourself a couple things to keep from going crazy.
So we bought a decent house in a nice neighborhood -- but still spent far less than what we were approved for. We watch cable. This summer, after lots of saving and cashing in a ton of miles, we’re ditching the kids with granny and going to Europe for 10 days.
We just need something to look forward to.
We’ll keep doing this. And as those loan balances dwindle, we can dream about what life will be like when we’re out of debt.
One day, we’ll be able to stop writing checks to a loan company, and start watching our money work for us as we invest in ourselves.
And we can’t wait.
Your Turn: Have you ever made a big sacrifice to help you reach your financial goals faster?
Maggie Moore prefers the term “trophy-wife-on-kid-duty” over “stay-at-home mom.” She loves the outdoors, including skiing, hiking and camping. Other than the goal of debt freedom, her other motivation for budgeting and saving money is her love of travel.