Two weeks ago, I received the most beautiful email of all time. Better than a note of encouragement from a family member, better than a job acceptance notification, better than a love letter. "Congratulations! Our records indicate that the above Perkins loan has been paid in full."
I have re-read that opening sentence approximately 34 million times, and it still puts a great big smile on my face. I now better understand what Dave Ramsey says over and over again that "personal finance is 80 percent behavior and only 20 percent head knowledge."
He and others also talk about the importance of creating momentum when paying down debts, and now that I've paid off the first of many student loans, I can testify to that.
I have a renewed sense of purpose in maintaining an accurate budget and controlling my spending. I can more easily walk away from an online shopping cart full of things I once considered necessities. In fact, I'm so invigorated that I might just paint those words on my bedroom wall, so I can revel in them more regularly.
(Just kidding. I haven't budgeted for paint anyway.)
The loan I paid off wasn't a very large one in comparison, and it barely put a dent in the $80,000 in student loan debt I carry. But I'm not bothered by that. I am looking forward to paying off four other small loans and credit cards. I am looking forward to taking on whatever extra work I can speed up this process. I am looking forward to more successes and more progress and more paid-in-full parties.
Throughout this process, I am definitely learning discipline and the value of setting and committing to a big goal, but I think another important lesson I'm finding is that a "sweet spot" doesn't have to be huge. It really is worthwhile to celebrate the little things.