How Creativity Helped Us Rock Our Debt Free Journey

How Creativity Helped Us Rock Our Debt Free Journey. Our jump to being debt free was a LONG road, but with persistence and a lot of creativity, we did it!

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What does creativity have to do with becoming debt free? Everything. Today, I’m going to share with you how creativity helped us rock our debt free journey. And let me tell you, this was not a quick, five month, getter done debt free situation either. We had to work our tails off for nine years to rid ourselves of all of our debt.

We entered into our marriage with enough student loan debt to fund a really nice house. We didn’t have crazy credit card debt, our cars were paid off, we didn’t live lavish lifestyles…it was literally ALL student loans. We had both hoped that by going to great private schools, the money we spent would be quickly turned around to high-paying jobs, so the debt we incurred would be easily wiped away.

I still remember one of my Journalism teachers announcing to our class that he and his wife had just paid off their student loans. He was OLD. I literally thought to myself, “That won’t be me. I’ll pay these off within five years if not sooner.” I had never thought through the very real problem of interest on my loans, and of course, could not foresee how difficult it was going to be for me to get a job post-college.

I won’t go through our entire story here, but what I will say is that when we met, we chose to go through Financial Peace University at our church early on. Through that class, we gained a common language and a clear path of what to do next. At that point, the deed of indebtedness had already been done, and we were two singles paying our minimum payments every month.

But after that class, everything changed.

So back to creativity. How did we, as two creative individuals, use that creativity to stay focused and rock our debt free journey?

Budget, Budget, then Budget Some More

First of all, we learned to budget. Real budgeting means you simply allocate the money you’re receiving through your job to whatever expenses you might have. In other words, you give your money a home.

We discovered really fast that the money we were using for eating out, clothes, and the “little” things here and there could be better used by clearing our debt and saving for an emergency fund.

We also discovered that a budget is not a fix it and forget it solution. Once we were married, we had regular meetings where we would go over our finances and tweak our budget as needed. You never know when your car is going to need major repairs or if you’ll need to pay an unforeseen hospital bill. Having the emergency fund of $1,000 fully funded was an important first step, but we still found that there were times where a good old-fashioned re-allocation was needed.

Gifts

We had to get creative with how we budgeted too. We wanted to be able to give each other and our families great gifts at Christmas but we didn’t want to run up credit card debt in the process. So we began setting aside a set amount of money every single month through the entire year to pay for those expenses.

We also took advantage of using Swagbucks that we had earned to help purchase presents on Amazon. (You can convert your Swagbucks into gift cards on Amazon.) There was even a time that we went through all of our old gift cards and used them for gifts or cashed them out so we would have money to pay for gifts and/or whatever we needed at the moment.

Since both of us are creatives, we used our own skills to make many of our presents too. You can make cute ornaments, card sets, small toys, knitted items, etc. for people. I’ve made tote bags, paintings, onesies for babies, knitted blankets, hair bows, and homemade journals for friends and family over the years.

Think about what you’re naturally good at–is there a way you could give that to someone else?

Vacations

We got really good at staycations during our debt free journey. We have discovered so many gorgeous hikes in our area and are better for it. Hey, the Japanese say that forest-bathing is good for the soul, and we’re here to second their opinion. Being out in nature and not spending an arm and a leg to do so is completely doable for most people.

Even when we lived in L.A., we would drive over to the beach, find some free parking, walk up and down the beach and talk before heading home. Soul filled with happiness–check. Here in Oregon, we’ve been known to pack our lunch and go for a day drive to a nearby forest or over to the coast.

Now, that said, we did allocate vacation money in our budget too so we could have a break here and there. Because our debt was so large and would take us literally almost ten years to tackle, we realized that not going on a vacation for that amount of time would be a challenge. We knew we weren’t going to be flying to Paris, but staying the night at a budget motel at the coast was doable.

How could you be a tourist in your own town? What free activities are available for you and your family?

Celebrate

If you have long-term debt that you’re paying off, I highly recommend adding in moments where you celebrate how far you’ve come. Make a chart where you celebrate every time you hit a milestone. Your celebration doesn’t have to be fancy–we like to share a pint of ice cream with some blackberries that we’ve picked locally and frozen–but please, please, don’t ignore your victories. Those victories are what push you forward through the years of debt paying.

We got really creative when it came to celebrating: homemade signs and banners decorating our house, making treats at home instead of buying them, and enjoying a free movie courtesy of the library are just a few of the ideas that we did (and still do) to celebrate.

Get out a piece of paper and make a mind map of all the creative and free celebration ideas you can think of. Keep a running list in your planner right alongside your debt repayment plan.

You CAN do this. You can get out of debt, but it will require a plan and some serious gumption and creativity to get to the finish line. The good news is, many of those creative habits that you started during your debt free journey will become a favorite part of your beautiful life.

Have a lovely {and creative} day!

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