I will be debt-free by Christmas.

In just a few weeks, I will have repaid all my consumer debt. Only my mortgage will remain. It’s taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but the end is near. I’m wondering, though, if I’m ready for the transition.

For three years, I’ve focused on becoming debt-free. Many of you are making the same journey, and you’ve begun to e-mail me the same question: What’s it like living debt-free?

I assume that becoming and living debt-free require a similar skill set. Frugality is probably just as important to remaining debt-free as it is to reaching that goal in the first place. The concepts I learned while using the Debt Snowball can probably also be used to save for things like cars or new furniture. An abundant emergency fund seems natural, too, as do fully-funded retirement accounts.

But I worry about lifestyle inflation. I suppose it’s natural for a person to relax a bit once he’s paid off his debts, to allow himself a few more indulgences (though paid with cash rather than credit). How do you keep from reverting to old habits? How do you keep from spending too much?

How is living debt-free different than becoming debt-free?

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