I don’t know about you, but I dream about the day that I’m debt free. Oh, the money I’ll have to spare! I’ll be able to buy a new car, invest more, travel. My income won’t be tied up in payments anymore; I’ll be able to do so many more productive (and fun!) things with it. Financially, there are tons of benefits to being debt free.
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But what about the positive, non-financial effects of debt freedom? Even though I’m not completely in the black yet, I have significantly reduced the amount I owe over the past few years, so I know that reducing and eliminating debt is hugely beneficial in ways that go far beyond finances. For example:
- Less stress: Debt stresses me out. Having to make a million payments every month, not knowing where the money is going to come from, and worrying about every little purchases is very, very unsettling to me. Since paying off most of my debts, I find myself much less anxious. I sleep better. I breathe more deeply. I don’t get sick as much. I suspect – scratch that, I know – that this is because I’m under a lot less financial stress than I used to be.
- More time: I’m a big believer in taking on extra work to get debt paid off faster, so to that end I took on several extra jobs while I was in hard-core debt reduction mode. This was successful with this strategy, but it came at a price – in the bad old days, I had practically no time to pursue hobbies or go out with friends because I was so busy working all the time. Since shedding a lot of my debts, I’ve also been able to shed several of my part-time gigs and the extra time that I have has done a lot to boost my happiness level. Just like having all your income committed to payments sucks, it also sucks to have all your time committed to working so that you can get rid of those payments. I’m glad those days are behind me!
- Bigger dreams: This might be just a personal quirk, but I suspect that I’m not the only one whose dreams felt stifled by debt. It’s very hard to think about traveling or buying a home or starting a business when you’re just scraping by from month to month. Now that I feel less financially squeezed, I’m finding myself dreaming big dreams again. I could go to Paris or save up for a down payment or write a novel with the extra time and money I have. Feeling like your life is full of possibilities again is incredibly satisfying and so worth the stress and hassle of paying off your debt as fast as you can.
Like almost everything in life, becoming debt free has unintended consequences. But unlike almost everything in life, all of the unintended consequences of paying off your debts are good ones!