As we approach the New Year and start thinking of new goals, I’ve started to reflect on my personal finance journey thus far and my goal of being debt free by 2018. To give you some background, I started my journey to become debt free last year (2016) and within 18 months of embarking on this new found journey, with focus and dedication, I managed to pay off over 38k in debt! My goal is to be completely debt free by June 2018.

I’ve been walking down this road of budgeting, managing my money better, and paying down debt for almost two years now and I thought it would be beneficial to share what I’ve learned so far!

1.) Achieving any goal requires sacrifice, which is always easier said than done. 

Long story short, I’m learning that sacrifIce and “adulting” can really suck. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy step-by-step manual for life and “sacrifice” looks different for every person. I’ve learned that change requires transformation, it requires sacrifice, which at times, can be pretty painful. For myself, traveling has always been my vice and for the past two years I’ve had to sacrifice splurging on traveling which has been gut wrenching for me (dramatic I know)! Good news is that I’m not dead so I now know that NOT traveling won’t kill me which means sacrificing wants for needs isn’t awful and can be done. This brings me to point #2.

2.) I never want to be in debt again!

Who likes being in debt and feeling like they can’t really do what they want to do? Who honestly enjoys sacrificing? Not me, which is why I never want to be in debt again. When you have debt, you are running in a hamster wheel. No matter how much you work you are indebted to a lender. A lender doesn’t give a damn if you get sick, lose your job, have a mental breakdown, or lose all your limbs because at the end of the day, one way or another, they will get their money. I hate the feeling of knowing I “have” to go to work because I NEED the money versus going to work because I WANT to be there.

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3.) Patience is a virtue. 

Throughout the process of becoming debt free or achieving financial independence, the key takeaway is that patience is truly a virtue. There are days when I’m beyond frustrated that I’m not at the finish line yet; I get angry, I adjust my budget, I sulk for a tiny bit then I bounce back. I’m human and like most people, I don’t have a ton of patience for the process or not having what I want right away. They say on average, the “overnight” success stories are ten years in the making, so I’m thankful that my “overnight” success story will only take 2.5 years (thank God)!

4.) Having a plan in place is better than no plan at all. 

Before I got super serious about attacking my debt, I was wandering around in the dark. A prime example being, making payments on my student loans according to the loan company schedule that was laid out before me. It had never occurred to me that I could pay off my loan faster by making extra payments to tackle interest or actually pay off my loans entirely. Once I really got clear about my financial goals and figured out what my true aim was, I was able to put a plan in place and pay off my loans (click here to download the free budgeting sheet I use). When I got organized and had a plan that supported my “why,” my reason for wanting to be debt free and achieve financial independence, it made life so much easier.

5.) Figure out a system that works best for you. 

There are plenty of resources, articles, and blogs, like this one, that will point you in the right direction or help you get started but it does take a little time to figure out a system that works best for YOU. When I first started budgeting, it took a lot of trial and error, at least 8 weeks, to get a budget in place that actually worked and helped me achieve my goals. Once everything was down on paper and a system in place, it was smooth sailing from there on out. I just had to actively stay involved with tweaking and adjusting my budget where necessary.

6.) You will make mistakes. 

With any life adjustment, you will make mistakes. Over the past two years, I’ve fallen off the wagon, I’ve spent more than I should, I’ve totally disregarded my budget at times, and so on. I’ve made mistakes, as will you, forgive yourself and keep it moving. I’ve also learned that the worst thing you can do is fall off the wagon and stay there. Fall off, dust yourself off, and hop back on — you’ll be thanking yourself later.

7. ) Blogging about money keeps me focused and holds me accountable. 

I’m not saying blogging is for everyone, but it’s been a great way for me to stay focused on my long term goals. I’ve always geeked out about personal finance, but blogging about it takes me to a whole other level. I’ve been reading more and more about different techniques people use and applying tips from other personal finance bloggers about things they are doing to achieve financial independence. Blogging about money has kept money and my goal at the forefront of my mind. There is also a level of accountability that comes with it. I have to essentially practice what I preach. If blogging isn’t for you, I recommend that you physically write out your financial goals. By writing out your goals you are 42% more likely to achieve that goal over just stating the goal. I highly encourage to write out your goals and hold yourself accountable for them!

8.) Investing in my future is the best thing I’ve ever done. 

It has been a long and slow process but it’s literally the best thing I could have ever done for my future self. I want to be able to leave a legacy for my future family and I also want to make an impact. I want to help and inspire people, but I also know that the first person who needs help and change, is me. Becoming debt free will give me even more options than I have now. It will open doors that I never knew existed and will ultimately allow me to do what I want rather than do what has to be done.

I hope that the personal lessons I’ve learned along the way, help you on your own journey and with your goals for the New Year. It has not been the easiest journey to embark on but it has been one of the most fruitful for my personal growth and freedom. I highly recommend you try it, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

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Written by Carmen

Creator of www.makerealcents.com, a blog dedicated to all things personal finance and money. Crushed over 38k in debt in less than 18 months and I’m on a mission to help others achieve financial freedom.