Skip to Content

Counting Down the Days

paper chain

Two years after graduating from college I bought a house. For once in my life I didn’t struggle to make a decision. I acquired financing with my boyfriend and signed my name on the dotted line five days after turning twenty-two.

The down payment came in part from money I’d saved in college. The rest came from a principal free loan offered by my employer. The company provided me with $12,600 and every two weeks I paid $18.89 in interest on that loan. I couldn’t pass up free money; $12,000 was more than a third of my starting salary in 1999.

There was only one caveat to that loan. I had to remain employed for five years. If I left at any point before that time I would be responsible for paying back the principal. There were many times I considered leaving in those first few years but that loan always convinced me to stay.

I’ve never been in debt. My parents paid my tuition bills while I was in college and my grandmother always told me to pay off of my credit card bills each month. Despite the free money I didn’t like feeling shackled to my employer.

I created a giant spreadsheet that included sixty cells and taped it to my office wall. As each month passed I pulled out a red pen and crossed off one date. In the beginning there was more black ink visible then red, but eventually the red marks began to outpace the black.

I remember pulling that paper off the wall and feeling elated when that loan was finally forgiven.

This month my husband and I reached the five year mark on our mortgage. If all goes according to plan we will pay off our mortgage sixty months from now.

I know it sounds rather silly, but I’d like to create a giant paper chain to commemorate the occasion. I could hang it around the ceiling in our sun room and pull off a link every thirty days.

When I told my husband he laughed at the idea. It’s not the first time I’ve talked about celebrating a life free from mortgages. Of course, I told him no one else has to know what it symbolizes. They’ll just think it’s a colorful decoration I made with my son on a quiet, summer afternoon. Only the two of us will know that it symbolizes financial freedom. The flexibility to work if we want to, not because we have to pay the mortgage!

Ellen K.

Wednesday 21st of May 2014

Five years left on a mortgage.... how awesome!!! Go for the paper chain. : ) We refinanced when our twins were infants or toddlers, from a 30-year fixed to a 15-year fixed. Our mortgage will be paid off the year before the girls are seniors in high school.