As I type this, my credit card countdown avatar says 11 days. As it turns out, I have managed to overspend my budget lately and will have some debt left over on another card that I may or may not have to carry over until next month. But I'm still going to celebrate the June 15/16/17 (whenever the transfer hits) milestone.
I don't owe as much on my car as I thought, so that will be paid off in July. (My car loan is an interest-free loan from a relative.)
Depending on how well I discipline myself over the next month I should be debt free by all financial measures beginning in August.
It was about 5 years ago when I realized I really wanted to be debt free. I didn't have a solid plan in the early days, and the plan went to hell anyway 3 to 4 years ago when I was off work, failed to cut spending and then took out cash advances on the credit cards. I wanted to get back on a 5-year debt payoff plan, but I didn't think it was possible. I got determined, though, and managed to do it in 3 years!!
I've always been more of a spur-of-the-moment guy and not a long term planner. This is my first medium- or long-term plan to bear fruit. I just want to say to others who are in debt that it is possible to get out...just keep paying it down as fast as you can. I downgraded my vehicle and altered my spending habits to make the biggest differences in my budget. Consolidating my credit on a relative's low interest credit card helped, and having the interest-free car loan from a relative helped, but without those I still could've done it in a few months' more time.
Back in February I posted some ideas I had for my post-debt budget. My plans have changed a bit since then; some due to feedback from this board and some due to my reconsideration.
First, I'm going to max out my 401(k), and I'll be able to hit the $13000+ limit in 2005. My original plans for the after-tax money involved a lot of emergency funds. But now I'm going to allow myself to go spend crazy (without building debt) for the rest of 2004 to really enjoy myself after restraining myself for years. After 2004 I will try to find my personal balance between saving the extra after-tax money and spending it on travel; I know I will save some of it, but I'm not sure I will save as much as I originally planned; for brevity I'll explain by echoing (forum poster nickname) John Galt's saying that tomorrow is promised to no one. My emergency plan will be a couple or few thousand in savings followed by credit cards backed by early IRA withdrawals if necessary. But at my current expense levels I don't forsee a situation where I will be short of income long enough to need to tap the IRA. (And I intend to keep my nondiscretionary spending levels low enough to support with a low-paying job.)
I'm not sure yet how I'll invest my non-emergency after-tax savings. It will depend largely on when I think I may need it for a car or home down payment. Those questions are unanswerable right now.
This post is a December 18, 2011 republication of my June 6, 2004 post at Early Retirement Forum.