Almost four years ago we started picking up the pieces of our financial wreckage. We had made so many bad decisions and compromises for so long, that it was hard to get traction in the area of financial freedom. In some places we needed to make a complete 180 degree turn from what we had been doing to what we should be doing. In other areas, more subtle change was required. As we picked through the broken pieces we started forming them into a mosaic of freedom and hope; a mosaic we aren't yet finished with. But how do we keep going? Sometimes, its easier than you think.
For almost four years we have been working on paying off all of our debt. At first there were plenty of wins because we had a lot of smaller debts. We would pay off a store card and two months later pay off another card. Now that we are in the home stretch, the wins have slowed down. The few remaining balances we have are pretty large. All the things we had to sell are gone. We do a few things on the side, as we are able, to make a little extra money. Otherwise our only way to pay off debt is through our income and a plan.
Shortly after we started paying off debt I thought it would be a good idea to have a tangible way to celebrate when we achieved a goal and could close out one account. It had to be something fun; something we could all participate in, even my five year old daughter. But it also had to be cheap because I didn't want to celebrate paying off a debt by creating another. After we had paid off our first debt, it hit me at the grocery store. When we sat down to dinner that night, I pulled out three forks, laid a blanket on the floor, and opened a strawberry cream cake. We had had one once before and they were fantastic. Over the next hour we ate cake right out of the packaging till we got sick and watched The Ballad Of Little Joe, my daughter's favorite VeggieTale. Total cost, $8 ($6 when it's on sale). That strawberry cream goodness became our debt free celebration, and we have had several since. Most recently, I have added a small triple chocolate cake on the side; a desert for our desert.
Over the next year, maybe a little longer, we will have three more cakes. Even though there will be lots of months between paying off these last three debts, I'm reminded to keep plugging ahead with the plan not just when we do our budget, but also when I walk through the bakery department at our grocery store.
My daughter asks all the time how close we are in paying off a debt. I want to believe its solely because she wants us to be debt free, but it think at least a part of her wants cake.
What are you doing to recognize and celebrate the victories along the way?