Shriveling debt and reset priorities

This month marks a pretty big occasion on our path toward being debt free: we will have more in emergency savings than in debt. We started with about $52k in student loan debt between the two of us, and this month it is down to under $10k. If you haven’t been following along since the beginning, we began aggressively paying down the debt in early 2010. I am very hopeful that we can now pay it off completely by the end of October 2013, or only three months from now! Even if it is a couple months later, like in December, that’s only five months from now.

It’s kind of surreal, but it’s really only going to be about four years of rather large extra payments. In that time, we have also (all in cash) replaced two vehicles, took at least one vacation each year, gotten some nicer long-term furniture, a new laptop, and saved a good chunk toward retirement.

So, what’s next after becoming debt free?

We will be getting out of debt basically just in time to start paying my husband’s tuition for grad school without taking on more loans. This is great, because as I previously mentioned, we were going to allow ourselves to do some things without worrying about the debt hanging around a little longer (update: she had a perfectly healthy baby boy but she is still not 100% out of the woods). We took that wonderful trip to Seattle in May, husband did register for two classes this fall, I went to Chicago mainly for work in June with one day of fun tacked on, and we are working on plans to visit Europe next summer. We’ve even gotten a couple of invitations to stay with people if we visit Germany and Denmark, so those may be added to the list along with seeing Paris.

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Vacation on a budget

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We recently returned from a five day trip to Seattle with my parents. My dad had a conference to attend, and so my husband and I kept my mom company and also got to sneak in a short visit with my husband’s father who visited from British Columbia since it was a short trip for him to come see us while we were there. We had a wonderful time, and we actually spent less than we expected to. I had a rough daily budget in mind for food, bus fares, entry fees, etc., and we went over it a couple times but then came in under budget other times, so it evened out. Even though we stayed at a fairly upscale hotel close to my dad’s conference location, it was not an expensive trip, and that was due to a few factors:

  • hotel location was close to the monorail, light rail, and a major bus pick-up area – took light rail to hotel and back to airport
  • hotel location made many destinations walkable, even for my mom – within 1 mile
  • close proximity to a major shopping/dining area and small plates at hotel restaurant made for some amazingly delicious $20-$30 dinners
  • hotel had refrigerators so we bought milk and cereal at the nearby IGA and had hotel coffee each morning
  • pre-purchased discounted tickets online for Seattle Center’s Space Needle and Chihuly Garden & Glass with hotel business center
  • pre-purchased discounted tickets online for the Experience Music Project (EMP) and Cinerama showing of ‘Iron Man 3’ in 3D with hotel business center
  • took lots of pictures and saved receipts, ticket stubs, wrist bands, and other ephemera to put into a Smash Book (on-the-go scrapbook) instead of buying lots of souvenirs – we came home with an almost-complete book and a great record of what we did each day
  • what souvenirs we did buy, we kept to useful or locally-made items – two t-shirts for my husband, one from a small art fair, where I also got a turquoise necklace

Also, I was relieved and pleased how easy and fun it was to travel with my parents, and my husband agreed. We hope to do some more traveling with my mother, specifically to France, because my father is not interested in travel outside of the US. This made us both excited for planning a few more trips with her.