Every few months I get out a piece of paper and a pen. I scribble down our monthly expenses and income and figure out how we could do things differently. I play with dozens of scenarios.
Inevitably, I come up with the, "how we can get out of debt in only 3 years," plan. I get all excited. I bounce around. I show it to my husband, who is a bookkeeper, and ask him to check my logic. Yup, it should work.
The next day I wake up and look at my insane scribblings and realize it won't possibly work. All the good intentions lead to a goodly amount of disappointment. It sucks. This has happened several times a year for the past five years. No matter how much we mean to pay off extra, no matter how many coupons and deals I can find, we always make our bills with a tiny bit left over. This amount can range from $2 to $45 on a good month. This goes towards building a padding in our checking accounts. (I aim for a $300 padding.)
It gets frustrating! We've modified our personalities as far as they're going to go. There's just no way that we can make due with Ramen Noodles five times a week or avoid "entertainment" money altogether. We're not going to squeeze packets of ketchup into our bottles just to save on the little things. I'd like to say all it would take is willpower. I know us, though, and the reality is it's not going to happen.
And I think a large part of financial success is being realistic.
So now I know exactly when we'll be out of (credit card) debt, if not earlier. And that matters because it's not some ephemeral date based on scribbled notes in the middle of the night. It's a contract; agreed upon by BOA and by me. 96 months.
It matters because I know that it is going to end.
(Note: We do have a budget, in excel, for the "reality" of our financial situation. We've managed to completely stop using our credit cards due to our budget and this has helped quite a bit. However, it's not getting us ahead. Minimum payments take forever. One calculator located online suggested 22 years...)