Step 9: Zen and the Art of Debt Repayment

Debt repayment kind of sucks if all you are focused on is the goal.  It takes a long time, and you spend all of that time mostly not buying things you want.  Sure, the thought of being debt-free can help sustain you through that, but that’s not really enough.

These days, I’m into more immediate gratification.  Let’s focus on the process and not the goal.  What is totally awesome about throwing all your money into a deep hole of debt that seems to swallow your hard-earned cash without get smaller?*

As it turns out, lots of things.

  • We’re spending less money on restaurants and bars.  This means we’re eating healthier and drinking less booze.  We’re also polishing up our cooking skills, and acquiring new ones.  Just this summer, we’ve learned how to BBQ, cook fish, and worked on our homemade pizza dough technique.  As cocktail consumption at bars has decreased, homemade bar tending skills has gone up.  Mr. DebtFreeJD now makes a scrumptious gin and tonic.  And I’ve perfected my ability to drink it while talking his ear off about every personal finance issue ever.
  • We’re spending more time on our bikes and less time in cars.  We’ve been trying not to use our cars for small trips anymore (we both walk/bike to work, so that wasn’t an issue). This has been awesome – so awesome that a future post on this is forthcoming.  A quick run down on benefits: rock hard calf muscles that look pretty nice with my favorite skirt-suit, the ability to have several cocktails at a friend’s house without having to drive home, and a deeper appreciation of the various neighborhoods of the city we live in.**
  • We’re not watching cable TV anymore.  Cable was stupid.  Glad that’s over.
  • Treats we do buy are suddenly much more awesome.  We’re buying less cheese (our cheese consumption before was off the hook).  This has transformed cheese from delicious yummy thing to THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER when we do buy it.  I’d like to say the same of chocolate, but chocolate has always been the most awesome thing ever, no matter how much of it I eat.
  • We haven’t cut down on our charity contributions.  So I feel more virtuous than I did before.  (Does this make me a bad person?  I don’t want to know; don’t tell me).

The big one, however, can’t really be expressed by a bullet point.  I’m going to try first a parable.


6:30 pm, Wednesday night, law firm office:  Partner calls.

Mrs. DebtFreeJD: Hello?

Partner: Do you have time to take on a project?

Mrs. DebtFreeJD: (Envisioning something with a long term dead-line) Sure, yes!

Partner: Great!  We need someone to draft an opposition to a temporary restraining order tonight.  I’ll send everything over.  Let me know if you’ve got questions!

Mrs. DebtFreeJD:  . . . . .

Internal monologue:

I have two options:

Option #1: Grumble grumble grumble #$%#$%# #$%#$% grumble.


Obviously, the “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” attitude is the right one to have.  And here’s the thing about loans: once approached as a problem to be solved through your own smarts, they become a lot less scary.  I solve problems all the time.  That’s my job.  People don’t call up lawyers unless they have a problem that needs solving.  I bet your job is also 100% about solving problems.  We’re expert at problem solving.  We do it for money all day.  So why not do it for ourselves on our own time?

So the last thing on my list of “things that are awesome about debt repayment” is: tackling a huge problem head-on.  When frustrated about loan repayment, I keep in mind this clip from Mission Impossible 2.  MISSION ACCEPTED!

*I hereby term this the “BLACK HOLE OF DEBT EFFECT.”  All rights reserved.

**Following this advice.

***This has never happened to me, but I do have similar stories.  Which I will not tell here.

One thought on “Step 9: Zen and the Art of Debt Repayment

  1. Cecilia@thesingledollar

    I love reframing it as a problem to be solved (and we are good at solving problems! we do that for a living!) rather than a black hole. (I had less debt than you to start, but it drove me crazy when I made a payment representing more than half my monthly income and it barely seemed to drop at all.) Making a game out of it is certainly the way to go. And the spillover effects on health are good, indeed.

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