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2017 has been a tough year, and I’ll admit that my 30th birthday wasn’t something I was especially looking forward to, but life has a funny way of putting things in perspective when we need it most. While it’s easy to whine about turning another year older, I’ve chosen to take a different stance this year and celebrate my accomplishments rather than lament my woes. Negativity is infectious these days, so I encourage anyone struggling through life’s challenges to sit down and make a list of all the things you’re doing right – it’s so easy to get caught up in our to-do list, that we forget about all the progress we’ve already made.
So without further ado, here we go…
I started a blog. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding ventures I have ever freely taken on. I have always enjoyed writing and am passionate about financial freedom; I was encouraged by several close friends and family to do something with my skills, and I’m so glad I did. I still have so much to learn and am soaking in all that I can from fellow bloggers and financial experts, but I created something out of nothing – and that’s something to be proud of.
I’m kicking some student loan a**! Just last week I hit the halfway mark on my student loans, and it feels amazing; I’ve also paid down my quarterly loans in full, so I only have to worry about the monthly ones from here on out. I’ve paid off 4 loans in full, and have 5 remaining – I’m set to knock out another one in the next few months. I still have a long way to go, but passing that halfway point was a goal I set for myself this year, and it feels so good to be on the other side of it.
I’m saving for retirement. This is one that I wish I had taken more seriously earlier on, but the fact that I’m on top of it now is something I’m so proud of. I had to take a hard look at what I was making and what I was saving, and adjusting those numbers so that they made sense has helped give me a sense of security in an uncertain world. I still have a long road ahead, but working toward this goal while I pay down my remaining debt was a conscious choice, and one that I’m glad I sat down and made instead of hoping that what I was doing was enough.
I’ll make a side note here to say that there are a lot of different theories on pausing on saving until your debt is paid off, and I respect those who choose to go another route; my biggest piece of advice is to do what is right for you in your situation, rather than automatically following any “one size fits all” advice. People get out of debt in a million ways and at different speeds, but knowing what life will look like when you’re finally debt free is just as important.
I’m done with credit cards (almost). I’m at the point where I don’t “need” a credit card, except that as an American in 2017, you pretty much need a credit card. I essentially use it for the cash back on bigger purchases and then just pay off the balance, so I’m using it as a tool rather than a safety net or a source of alternative funding. A lot of people see credit cards as evil, but they’ve helped me in a lot of ways, including instilling good payment habits and building excellent credit. Being rid of credit cards altogether would be nice, but realistically they are a part of my financial tool set, and learning to use them in that way has only benefited my financial position.
I have a plan to pay down my debt. There’s no feeling as good as having a plan, and that’s probably my biggest accomplishment during this roller coaster of a year. Life has thrown a lot of curve balls my way, but sticking to my plan and making the right choices for my budget and my sanity has helped me to stay on track; slipping up is human, but picking yourself up and diving back in shows determination. Each payment is another step I take toward my goals, and knowing that I’m making them a reality each day is a reward in itself – and seeing those numbers shrink feels pretty good too!All in all I still have a long way to go, but reminding myself of the headway I’ve already made is beyond encouraging. I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way, because this has certainly not been a solo journey, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the love and support of my people (you know who you are). So here’s to the last chapter and cheers to the new one – I can’t wait to see what happens next!