Finally debt free
It’s important to mark and celebrate milestones in life and paying off long-standing debt is right up there with getting married and having children. Today I am officially, 100% debt free.
As much as I’d like to pop some champagne, I can’t help but think that the money spent on a bottle would be better served in a TFSA, appreciating value over the next 30 years.
So instead, I’m writing this blog post!
I am my father
As long as I’ve had a credit card, I’ve had debt. After University, that reality compounded. I was never great with money and for a while let the opinions of others dictate my spending.
Looking back on it I was embarassingly careless. I’d regularly offer to pay for food and drinks for other people, I tipped on every everything (including takekout), attended every social event, and was always chasing latest trends.
FOMO drove a lot of the monetary decision making for “Old Cole”.
Post-undergrad I got accepted to Vancouver Film School for their Digital Design program. Fortunately, I was able to secure a decent scholarship, but as tuition and cost of living in Vancouver were not cheap, the debt pile grew larger. I just kept telling myself, “I’ll have money someday.”
Working in tech, there’s this fictitious safety-net style of thinking where maybe, just maybe, one of the companies I work for will hit it big and I’ll not have to worry about money anymore. While this is and can be true for a lot of people, it’s certainly not guaranteed.
A few major things that helped me get out of the debt hole are:
- Skilling up and earning more
- Taking on more freelance work
- Spending less
Who knew that this recipe would lead to more money in the bank?
The biggest lever for sure, however, was spending less
Similar to exercise, no matter how much you work out, if you aren’t eating right, you’re not going to see the gains you want. In fact, just eating right can often times get you 80% of the way to your fitness goals. Same thing with money. If spending grows as income does, you’re going to go nowhere, fast.
For me, spending less was easier to maintain because I was:
A) older B) had travelled a ton C) was settling down with my girlfriend.
All 3 directly correlate to a decrease in FOMO.
I was at the age where going out just didn’t appeal to me anymore; I had seen the world and scratched the metaphorical travel itch; I had found a partner who put more value in presence than she did in presents. Keeper right?
A lot of people set budgets for their monthly costs and it is definitely an exercise you should do. But for me, I wanted a little more leniency. That’s why I opted for the “saving target” approach.
First things first, figure out how much you need to live: rent, utilities, groceries, cellphone etc. Talking bare essentials here. Then clarify what your monthly (or yearly) income is after taxes. Then set a goal for what you’d like to have saved in a given period of time: 3 months, a year, 2 years, retirement. Then establish what do you need to save each month to reach that.
This is obviously super simplified, but it is roughly what I do. I set a specific saving goal for each month on top of monthly costs and then everything that is left over is for guilt-free spending; or saving more if you’re like me.
If you’ve still got debt, don’t fret.
There is hope, but you’ve got to have a plan.
Don’t do as I did for so many years and just wish it away. It ain’t going anywhere and when it comes time where everyone else you highschooled with is buying a house and you’re still eating $10 Avo-toasts in a bachelor rental, don’t be surprised as to the reason why.
Don’t be like “Old Cole”.
“New Cole” is way happier with less shit he doesn’t need.