And right now, the little progress bar of my online tax software is telling me that the amount of my refund is higher than my total remaining debt.
I know that might change once I put more information into it, and that’s okay.
As an aside, I make most of my money in January, which I think tells the IRS, “whoa, this girl is going to make a lot of money this year, we better get our cut,” so I always get a fat refund.
If anyone could tell me how to avoid this in the future, I’d be much obliged.
That’s not the point today.
It’s going to sound strange, but it stresses me out a little (nay! more than a little) that in just three weeks, I could pay everything off and call it done.
Isn’t that weird? I’ve been slowly plugging away at this debt, and I am so, so proud to say that it is nearly gone. I have less than $800 to pay on my student loan, and something near $3,500 on my car loan.
When I got my paycheck deposited into my account in January, I panicked. It was bigger than usual. Back when the debt seemed insurmountable, I would have happily thrown that money onto the debt pile, and I would have felt lighter.
This time? I decided that my savings account needed to be fatter.
So instead of saying, “so long suckers!” to the student loan debt, I padded my emergency fund.
Now, it could have been the right thing to do, and it could have been the wrong thing to do. I can make excuses and justify my decision all I want.
But the truth is, it’s human nature.
The road to debt freedom is a long one. A marathon, if you’ll pardon the metaphor. And if my math is correct, then whenever my tax-free loan to the US government gets into my checking account, I’ll see the finish line.
In fact, I can see it now. No harm would come to me by paying off the student loan today.
I think, “oh, February. That’s a good month for kissing my student loan goodbye.”
I’m at the end of the race, and instead of finishing strong, I’m slowing down. I’m not walking yet, and I don’t intend to.
The Psychological Impact of a Windfall
Back to the estimated tax refund. Because it will come in a lump sum, I am hesitating. HOWEVER, I know myself, and I know exactly how I have been doggedly paying down the student loan, and I know, really know, that if I had earned ~$500/month more each month, I would have put that on the pile.
But now, it looks like I’ll be debt free by March 1.
And that seems crazy!
However, I know exactly how to make it feel more real. I need to start imagining my life, without debt.
This imagery makes me so happy to wait on the house-buying process.
I think that I’ll feel light.
I might even take myself out to dinner.
I can remember how I felt when I was laid off in January 2009. I was constantly worried about money, and for good reason. Being debt free will mean never having to stay up late at night in tears, wondering how much more of my life I could put on credit.
Life won’t change, really. But I will be changed.
I will be on the other side.
So, no matter when this windfall hits, I will be telling ACS that I want to break up. I will tell my credit union that I’m done with the car loan.
I will tell myself that I’m not going to have a car loan, ever again.
I’ll continue to save half my income.
I will NOT let my lifestyle inflate to match the new space in my financial obligations.
I will be able to say “in debt” in the past tense.
It’ll be amazing.
Have you had this slowing at the finish line before? What would an unexpected windfall do to the timeline of your goals?
Kathleen writes about her path to financial independence as well as ways to save money, live simply, and enjoy the fun things that life has to offer.