Dear Self of 2017,
Hello from half a decade in the future! I know you must be a bit surprised and confused to hear from me, Self of 2022, but given the inherent challenges of long-term debt repayment and the fact that you seemed pretty darn glum this past weekend, I thought I should write you a note of encouragement.
Five things I want to emphasize:
1) You're doing great! Like, truly great. You're sticking to your budget, you're paying off some serious debt every month, you're not wasting your money on crap, and you're not filling your time with pricy activities. Not easy, especially when everyone you know seems to be buying whatever their little hearts desire (vacation here, new car there...) Trust me, you'll appreciate these sacrifices and efforts a few years down the line.
2) You have so many options in 2022. You want to buy a house? You can! You want to take a fabulous trip to the Caribbean every year? Go for it! You want to invest? Be my guest! You decide to work part-time instead of full time? YOU CAN DO THAT TOO! Without that crushing weight of debt, you're free to do pretty much whatever the heck you want.
The you of 2017 is putting $1600 bucks a month towards your car loan, your credit card debt, and your student loans. But in 2022, you can funnel that hefty chunk of cash into any number of things: savings, vacation fund, whatever you like. The world will be your oyster.
3) On the hardest, financially skimpiest days, remember this: Well before your 45th birthday, your debt will be gone. Nonexistent. Obliterated. That leaves you with (ideally, anyway) decades to revel in a debt-free life. Five years of frugality for many, many more years of freedom. Playing the long game is one of the hardest things you'll ever do, but it will pay off in spades.
4) Time moves slowly in the moment but oh-so-quickly in retrospect. I know what you're thinking right now: five years is forever. But is it? Think back to 2012. That seems like yesterday, right? The time between then and now flew. The next five years will fly by, too, even if the days seem long. So stick with it, kid, and in the meantime...
5) Enjoy your life. You don't need money to appreciate all of the great things happening right now in this moment. You live in a gorgeous area. You can step out your door, walk two miles, and be in the mountains. You have a healthy family. Your kid goes to a fantastic public school. Yeah, I know there are many things you can't do right now while you're paying off debt, but don't let yourself focus on those things for too long. Identify all the great, fun things you can do with the resources you have.
Take it one day at a time, one month at a time. Stick to your budget. Keep your eye on the fiscal prize.
You've got this.
Your 2022 Self