The Biggest Decision We’ve Made to Pay Off Debt

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I should be in Astoria, Oregon right now. It’s a small town near the coast where Heath and I could enjoy highs in the upper 60s and lower 70s. (You can’t see me but I’m practically salivating over this weather forecast.)

I strategically made our summer plans to involve a week-long drive from Texas to Oregon, where we would stop through Utah to visit a few national parks before heading through southern Idaho and over to the Oregon coast. We’d spend a week in Portland, then move over to Astoria and maybe a little further south some place with a beach where there was a chance that we could jump in the water without freezing.

And now, here I am. In Austin, Texas. Inside. In my swimsuit. Sweating. After the first few days, I gave up on clothes and just started my day with putting on a swimsuit (in the future when I live in Hawaii, I’ll start each day the same way because it’s the coolest but still socially acceptable outfit). I find myself remembering that these 100 degree days are the whole reason why Heath and I bought our RV over a year ago. We swore that the summer of 2013 would be our last summer in the south. Texas from June-September is simply too hot.

And yet, here we are. After a few weeks in Alaska and a full week in Portland (which I will be sharing more about soon), we are back in Austin which was absolutely NOT the plan.

You see, back in March, while driving from sunny California on a gorgeous 70 degree day, the tire on our tow dolly blew. Fortunately, our car was fine and our RV was fine, but the dolly was not. Roadside assistance brought us a new tire and even bent out the metal frame that was entangled into an unrecognizable mass. The next morning, we were on our way.

Except there was one small problem. Our brake lights on the right side of the RV weren’t working, and neither were the right blinkers or our running lights.

Now I don’t know too much about mechanics, but I’d like to think that replacing some lights is pretty easy.

Three mechanics later…

Heath and I stood outside the RV, frustrated, annoyed, and ready to leave Franklin to the wolves. No one could figure out what was wrong or how to fix it. They just shrugged and passed us off to the next mechanic, leaving Heath and I standing with our arms crossed discussing how we could possibly make it to Portland for the conference we needed to attend. Plus, how would we drive the RV anywhere at all? With no brake lights, we wouldn’t pass inspection and we can’t update our registration, and we would be looking at hefty ticket for driving the rig, or a huge mechanic’s bill if we had them re-wire all the lights (which was suggested by one of the clueless-to-the-cause-of-the-problem mechanics).

And just like that, my carefully laid out plans for a summer of adventure and travel and beautiful, gorgeous, flawless, way less than 100-degree weather days were gone. We were stuck in Texas.

Heath and I love to travel, in case you hadn’t noticed. We can travel full-time for roughly $2,000 a month and create memories and experiences that we will one day write into a lengthy book only partially designed to make you jealous of how extremely cool travel is, and therefore how cool I am. After all, we are travel writers and full-time RVers, so it only makes sense that we are always traveling.

Instead, the RV decided we would stay put for a while and I’ve been waking up in the same place every morning for a whole week, which is a very rare experience for me. But hands down, being “stuck” in Austin is the best thing that could’ve happened.

I need to write that sentence down and put it on my fridge or tattoo it on the back of my hand so that I can remember that when our meticulously thought out plans are ruined,  I can know that it’s usually for the best.

I say all of this just to tell you about our progress in the year of the RV versus Student Debt. Versus really isn’t the right word, since we’re using the RV as a tool to help us fight against our debt. But last month while deciding if we would RV to Oregon or stay in Texas, the epic battle between adventure and accomplishing our goal grew in intensity.

This was one of the toughest decisions Heath and I have made in our marriage (if not the toughest). Adventure and thrill or pay off debt while living somewhere familiar and comfortable?

For the sake of our monstrous goal to pay off all of our debt in one short year, we are currently living on Lake Travis in Austin with no departure date. And while life here isn’t physically comfortable, it’s fiscally comfortable.

Living in Austin helps us keep our expenses low. We live in our RV paying less than $400/month in rent and daily get to jump in the lake to cool off, which is completely necessary with this relentless heat. Since we aren’t traveling this summer like we budgeted for, we can devote more of our time and money toward paying off our debt. This means taking on more clients and making bigger payments.

As of today (I wish I could insert a drum roll noise, but you can just imagine it in your head), we have paid off 38% of our student loan balance. That looks like this:

Initial Balance: $27,397.46

Amount Paid to Date: $11,150

Balance Remaining: $16,856.63

biggest decision to pay off debt

With our current income and expenses, I predict that in December we will have a remaining balance of somewhere between $5,000-10,000. To be clear, our goal is pay off our entire balance by December 31st.  (Which means you probably shouldn’t expect Christmas gifts from us this year).

I have no idea if we will actually pay off our debt by the end of 2015. I hope we do. Every day I look at the chart on our fridge and am reminded of this goal–which I highly recommend to anyone paying off debt.

Moving back to Austin has felt a little like settling, but it was the best decision we could’ve made to help us pay off debt. It’s less adventurous and sexy than traveling full-time, but let’s be real, nothing about debt is sexy anyway.