We paid off $60k in debt in one year. Here is a step by step guide as to how we made it work.
Do you ever look at your bank account and wonder “why am I so broke all the time“??
If you have to ask that question you must not be telling your money where to go. Your money is telling YOU where to go. Now that just aint right. Money, I truly believe, is the root of all evil. You look around at your friends and think “why do THEY get a four wheeler and I don’t” or “why do THEY get to go on this vacay to the tropics and I don’t”. Comparison is the HARDEST thing my husband and I had to overcome when we decided to declare war on our debt. Those roots of jealousy get you and begin to twist your thinking. I’m here to tell you what steps we are taking to achieve financial peace. (shout out to Dave Ramsey, you the real MVP)
Step 1: Tell Your Money Where To Go
We started by telling our money where to go. We created a budget. Budget…ugh.. such an adulty word. That’s what I get for being in my late 20’s. At first I just tracked all the money to see where we were spending it all. I am ashamed to admit we were spending a gross amount of money on food. Take out, eating out, fast food, dessert and drinks all fell into that category. So we started using cash for food. Somehow cash stings a bit more as it leaves your hands than a piece of plastic does. This encouraged us to eat at home more often and to bring lunch to work. I slowed down my Starbucks trips (first world problems, am I right?) and started taking a closer look at where our money was going.
When we first got married we each had our own separate bank accounts. We put each other on our respective accounts and designated one account for bills and one for spending. I would put an allowance each time I got a paycheck for grocery spending and other things (such as prescriptions, home improvement products like air filters, etc.) This money was only to be spent for these things. The other account is the one I would write checks out of (yes, people still do that) for rent, internet, cell phone bill, giving to church and charity, electricity and water. Some things were on auto draft… I AM a millennial for goodness sake. But I was telling our money where to go.
If you want a copy of my own personal budget form that I created from scratch in Excel, enroll in my $10 self-paced online course.
Step 2: Assess the Debt
Once I got an idea as to where our money was going, I added up all of the debt we’ve been making minimum payments on. Dusty’s truck pooped out on us, so we had to get a vehicle to replace it. Credit Cards, Student Loans and Medical Bills (hey, NICU) added up quickly even though it felt like it took forever to track down a total amount due for everything. But the hard work was worth the effort. I now had a total number that I could begin tackling one dollar at a time. Dave Ramsey suggests working on the smallest debt first and then tackling the bigger ones from there. The little victories on the way help you gain confidence and momentum. (By the way, if you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, get your tail end over to daveramsey.com and start taking control of your life. We listened to the Financial Peace University DVD’s my dad so graciously let us borrow.) So we took any extra money we had after we paid our necessities each month and started paying off debt. And when I say necessities, I mean necessities. Food, Water, Electricity, Rent. Not cable TV, not a monthly subscription box, not a music streaming service, not any of these “extras”. Necessities only.
Step 3: Live Like No One Else
As Dave Ramsey says, live like no one else so later you can live like no one else. We didn’t get to participate in every single event, outing, trip, etc. that our friends invited us to. That stung. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing and it can really get you down. We didn’t get to go to every concert we wanted to go to or take every vacation opportunity that flashed in front of us. We said no often and “lived like no one else”. While lots of our peers were buying NEW things (houses, cars, side by side ATVs, cool power tools, awesome hair products, etc.) we were sitting in our rent house enjoying the things we were paying for.. you know like electricity and water. I would say the patience part of “living like no one else” is the hardest part about our debt free journey.
We both have full time jobs. My husband is a teacher and I work for an electric cooperative. We decided to live off of one income and the other we would assign to pay off all the debt we possibly could. Prior to this debt free journey we had bulk of money in our savings account, hoping to save up for a down payment for a house. We decided to put that sum towards our debt and rebuild the savings account once the debt was paid.
Step 4: Scrimp, Save, and Sell
Most of our furniture came from a thrift store. We finally gave in and got new matching recliners. Dusty showed up to Big Lots! on Black Friday at the butt crack of dawn to snag a couple of recliners for a deal just as good as a thrift shop! But that meant we had to wait a couple of months for Black Friday to arrive before we could enjoy our comfy new recliners. Until then, we had to scrape by with what we had (Hey, at least we had something! It may have been ugly and uncomfortable but it was functional!)
Also, we wear hand-me-down clothes. Our son has (maybe) 8 onesies or outfits that we paid for. The rest (and there is QUITE a bit) was given to us. Our next door neighbor has a son one year older than ours. We get his shirts, shoes, shorts, pants, jackets, you name it! We even get some of his toys!
I get hand-me-downs from my aunt (she’s the snappiest dresser around), and my stylish bestie, Nia. I shop garage sales and I NEVER pay full price if I am buying myself something from a store.
Dusty is a thrifter. He’s always been the thrift shop king. I love seeing his thrift shop finds! He also never buys anything full price. We shop sales, outlet stores, or discount stores.
We saved as much as we could as often as we could. We price check everything (yes.. everything.. including toilet paper) and purchase at the lowest price available. Even if that means having to go to a couple of different stores in town. I had a small amount taken out of each check and put into a separate account for Christmas. We are Christmas people. We decorate the house, play the music and buy the gifts. The small amount adds up and by the end of the year we have enough to buy a reasonable gift for everyone on our list.
Dusty is pretty good at selling stuff online and buying stuff second hand at a discounted rate. He’s skilled at negotiating! We sold anything from clothes to guitars just to make a few extra bucks. If there is something expensive you have that you don’t use very often.. just get rid of it! If there is one thing I’ve learned, there are many things that I once thought were essental that really aren’t.
Step 5: Negotiate
Student Loans are the bane of my existence. It is as if they’ll never go away. I have my Masters Degree in Marketing and Dusty is working on his Masters in Early Childhood Education. The student loans have been adding up for quite a while and finally came due. There was an older loan from when Dusty had first began his college journey that had accrued an offensive amount in interest. After discussing it with a collections agency we were able to get at $20k debt by paying a lump sum of about $1,800. Can I get a hallelujah??? A little negotiating went a long way for us. (This $20k is included in the $60k amount in the title of this post).
Another idea is to refinance. You can also save a bundle by altering the way you pay. To learn more about refinancing, visit LendEDU!! At LendEDU you receive instant quotes (without harming your credit) from the leading student loan refinance companies. Think of it like Progressive for student loans! You’ll be able to know how much you can save and ACTUALLY save it! You’ll be saying goodbye to thousands of dollars just like we did!
Step 6: DON’T GIVE UP
Once you are about half way through you’ll want to give up. You’ve been sacrificing for too long and want to totally quit and rack up those pretty zero balance credit cards all over again. Cut up the cards and get over yourself. Run, don’t walk, away from the temptation to quit. Don’t self sabotage. Be self aware enough to realize when you are. Be accountable with your partner to make sure you aren’t the root of your family’s money problem!
We are still on our journey to be debt free but by following these steps we have gotten quite a bit closer to freedom. Soon we will be able to purchase our own home without fear of our debtors coming out of the woodwork with a hand out.
Own your debt.
Pay your debt.
If you are serious about declaring your war on debt, consider taking my course How To Budget And Pay Off Debt. The course is only $10 but could save you thousands if you do it right! In this course I provide my own simple budget form that I created from scratch in Excel. I provide additional tips and tricks as to how we paid off this large sum in only one year and even give you a sample of what a completed budget should look like. CLICK HERE to enroll. You can enroll today and revisit the course later.
** I would also like to add a big THANK YOU to my parents for teaching me how to manage money at a young age. My mom taught me how to balance a checkbook at 16, my dad taught me the importance of saving, and they both, together, helped as much as possible to shield me from drowning in debt. They paid for my university and my vehicle prior to me graduating. They have truly been a blessing to me and I know that I would be up to my eyeballs in debt if it wasn’t for their diligence in helping me financially in my late teens and early twenties. Thanks, mom and dad, for helping me get off to a great start!