Almost two years ago, I first shared some newly-found emotional benefits to being debt-free. We just sent in our last payment to finish off my school loans from college, and were emotionally high from the eurphoria of not owing a thing to anyone.

Two years later, and we’re still shaking in our boots in gratitude for being debt-free.

See, 2010 couldn’t have turned out how it did without our being debt-free and having a fully-funded emergency fund. In early February 2010, we landed in the U.S., thinking we would be here for five weeks. The plan was to attend a few conferences, meet up with friends and family, and get some medical check-ups.

375 days, and we’re still here. Through a series of unexpected twists and turns, it became clear that we needed to be here in the States for awhile. And while there were many positives to this change of plans, it wasn’t cheap.

In fact, were it not for our emergency fund, we wouldn’t have been able to relocate here, get our son started on speech therapy, and work 6,000 miles away from our home office in order to discover Our Next Steps.

In Organized Simplicity, I devote an entire chapter to money management—and not because I’m a financial guru. Far from it, in fact. I’m simply passionate about how far such a little bit of money management will take a family, if they want to go somewhere.

For most of my life, money scared me. I didn’t really know how to wield its power, and I subconsciously thought that if I plunked down cash while looking the other way, it would just do what it needed to do without me in the equation. Ignorance is bliss, in other words.

How wrong I was.

In 2008 and ’09, Kyle and I wiped out the remainder of our debt. We then made a plan to stock up a fully-funded emergency fund within a year. We harnessed our intensity from paying off debt, and managed to stockpile six months of expenses in only four months.

After that, we saved up a few thousand more and celebrated with a trip to Paris (it was the cheapest flight from our city in Turkey).

This all happened because we told our money where to go a la budget. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated—just a simple allocation of funds to different categories, and then sticking with it, even when temptation loomed.

And while it wasn’t easy, it was so worth it, because we never could have predicted our 2010. We never thought we’d be back living in the U.S., and yet here we are. Our emergency fund dwindled to almost nothing, but it didn’t devastate us, because we’re still debt-free. We had to hunker down and stick to the basics when the tidal wave hit, but it wasn’t the end of the world financially.

We dusted ourselves off and got back up. And now, we’re building that emergency fund back up, hopefully to have it fully-funded again in a few months.

Another emotional benefit to being debt-free?

Being able to withstand a financial tidal wave.

If you’re on track to fully funding your emergency fund, and it feels kinda pointless or extreme, rest assuredly— it’s not pointless.

If you’re in the thick of watching your hard-earned emergency fund dwindle, remember that emergencies are what it’s there for. It’s painful to watch, but rejoice that it’s there for you in times like these.

If you’re in the middle of paying off debt and are desperately ready for it to just be over already—be encouraged that it will happen. I never thought it would, and it did. And it’s so unbelievably worth it.

And if you feel shackled by debt and aren’t sure where to start, please know that debt doesn’t have to live with you forever. It’s keeping you from freedom and pursuing dreams, but you can be debt-free. Really. You can. Make a plan, find encouragement, and roll up your sleeves.

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