The following post is a guest contribution from Jefferson at See Debt Run. If you would like to write for My Money Design, please feel free to contact me.
People often ask us about the sacrifices that my family had to make when we were paying off over $20,000 in credit card debt. I usually respond by telling them about how we cancelled vacations, stopped eating out, and figured out ways to slash our utility bills. We also found ourselves having to get creative to find ways to spend our free time that didn’t involve spending any money.
Even many of our traditional hobbies that we used to pour ourselves into in our free time were no longer an option for us. With so much of our cash flow tied up in your repayment efforts, there was just not enough left to justify these expenses.
For the Sport of It:
Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed playing sports, and I have tried to push this same passion onto my children. Sports are a fantastic way to keep yourself active and fit, and they can help teach you the value of hard work and help you learn to work well with others. However, many sports are also very expensive when you consider the league and tournament fees and the required equipment that has to be purchased.
I knew right away that I was going to have to give up some of my favorite sports when we started our austerity plan. I loved playing golf and tennis, but both of them are clearly sports for people with money. Instead, I had to choose cheaper alternatives like playing disc golf and table tennis! Even my kids were forced to dial it back a bit with their sports and activities. My wife and I made a promise to them long ago that we would make it work if they ever wanted to try any sport, but during our 14 months paying off debt– we steered them towards cheaper (but less competitive) leagues at the YMCA and the local county parks.
Designing our Future:
My wife has always had an eye for design, andhas always been a passion of hers. However, even when trying to decorate a house frugally, it still involves spending a bit of money. My wife and I agreed at the start of her journey that she would simply start writing down all of her ideas in a journal and would put her hobby on hold until our debt was paid off.
We also agreed that it just didn’t make sense to “collect” anything when we were paying off debt. In fact we decided to the opposite, and ended up selling everything from baseball cards to musical instruments in an effort to reach our debt payoff goals more quickly.
Frugality As a Hobby:
One interesting side effect of spending month after month finding ways to shave money off of our bills, is that we started to view frugality itself as somewhat of a hobby. If I found another grocery item we could switch to Amazon subscribe-and-save or if we discovered another way to slash $10 off our cable bill, we both celebrated a bit. In lean times, found ourselves taking pride in the small victories.
Similarly, I found myself looking for side hustles in my free time, always trying to find new ways to bring in additional income for my family. This meant that I stopped watching television and playing video games, and instead spent my evenings and weekends blogging, creating niche web sites, filling out surveys, and looking for other income opportunities. This “hobby” of mine has actually continued to be a big part of my life even after paying off debt. I have just learned to enjoy spending my free time doing something that enhances my life.
When we finished paying off our debt in the spring of 2013, we stopped putting our hobbies on hold so much and started to catch back up with them. We signed up the boys for Tae Kwon Do at a nearby dojo (which isn’t cheap), my wife started again working her magic to make my house stylish and beautiful, and we finally got to take that family vacation. Of course, we did it this time armed with a self-taught financial education, and the realization that if we didn’t have the money to pay for something– it wasn’t happening.
While it is true that paying off debt may involve putting your hobbies on hold, this ends up being an even bigger incentive to work on paying off debt more quickly!
Jefferson and his wife Michelle write for the finance blog “See Debt Run“, a site dedicated to helping families get and stay out of debt.