There are days that my perspective is focused on how big of a mountain our school debt is and I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and hopeless that this will ever be paid off. Then there are other days when I see others who have more debt and they are working hard at getting out of it and their stories inspire me to keep going, with a change in my perspective.
A little background story. My husband and I moved out to Colorado with two stable full time jobs and a decent income. We always knew that I would be a stay at home mom, so we tried to get used to living on just my husband's income, so that when it came time for me to quit we wouldn't be in shock! We bought a smaller house then what we qualified for because we knew we didn't ever want to get in over our heads. Thankfully, we were realistic about that and had wise counsel when we were making that purchase. Sadly, we bought at the peak of the market and bad loans. So, our home value has dropped significantly and we are one of the thousands of Americans with an awful and unstable mortgage situation. Despite that we are happy to be in our home and God has always provided for us and we know He'll continue to do so. Since there isn't much we can control in that situation, we live by faith. It's also a reason we are working so hard at getting ourselves into a better financial position before our loan rates increase. Anyway, shortly after we moved here my husband's job (a ministry position) wasn't able to pay him a full salary any more, so he started looking for work. He found decent jobs, but as we were looking at starting a family, we knew his income wouldn't provide for me to be at home. That's when nursing school came into the picture. Looking back on it, we were lied to, flat out and it makes me mad, but I'm trying to not hold onto that bitterness. As we were looking at him enrolling into school the admissions counselor was telling us about the $10K sign on bonuses and all the loan repayment options that were available to nurses, etc. Well, none of that was really true, at least not here. There is one hospital that offered a sign on bonus and it was like $1,500 or $2,000 and required several years commitment and even that was a limited situation. Loan repayment options are ridiculously hard to qualify for and there are so many people applying that the percentage of people getting them is very small. We've applied twice and the first time were denied and this time, we're still waiting to hear if we got it. So what we thought would happen, didn't at all. The bills are all ours to pay--ugh! It's irritating that we weren't able to make that decision with the real information. It's one thing to go into it knowing full well the situation you're signing up for and totally different when you think there will be options available to help you on the other side. Once we came to terms with the real situation we've worked really hard at taking care of things, but it's been hard.
My husband has been a nurse for about 3 1/2 years and I've been a stay at home mom since then too. Literally, the same week! :) During that time frame we have gone from $55K-ish in school debt to $37K-ish, we've paid off both cars (some where around $10K-I can't remember exactly how much we had left), finished our basement $4,500, and paid for our son's hospital bill around $2,000.
Perspective--when I look at those numbers from that perspective, I'm so blessed by our progress. I know some people have done things much quicker then that, but God has really taken care of us. He has provided for us enough that even as a stay at home mom we've been able to pay off debt and still have the means to pay for the larger things that "came along" in life too. The amazing part in all of that is that we weren't working nearly as hard on it as we are now, so that gives me an extra boost of encouragement too. If we made that much progress without being SO intentional about it, imagine what we can do while being THIS intentional.
I read a story today about a family of 5, with 3 little kids, who paid of $89K debt in 6 months! Crazy, huh? Not only that, but in that time frame they also had a 3 month emergency fund saved and $40K for a down payment on a house AND she was a stay at home mom and her husband's income was $40K/year (that doesn't include the extra jobs they took on during that time frame). Are you kidding me?!?! Talk about motivation. If they can do that in 6 months, what could our life look like in 6 months to a year? I'm not sure we'll be doing that well that fast, but that's still an encouraging story. I do need to note that they did sell a house with $30K equity that really helped them. I'm still impressed though.
All this to say, perspective really is a magical thing. When you look at the progress you've made rather then focusing on the mountain you're climbing, it makes the rest of that climb seem possible again.