My husband kept saying, we make way too much money to be this far in debt. In the back of my head, I was thinking that we could never pay off my student loans. I honestly expected to be paying on those well into my 50’s!
Then one day in church, they announced a personal finance course so we signed up. I’m not sure we had a major “enough is enough” moment, rather an opportunity to improve so we jumped on it!
You paid off close to $200,000 of debt. How much did you pay off exactly?
We paid off a total of $194,683.52 in 18 months. During that time we only had $1,000 in savings but are now working toward buildings that savings. We hope to have 6 months of expenses saved by the end of the year.
How much income were you earning while you were paying off debt?
When we started in January 2016 we were earning about $120k. We had an approximately $8k increase in salaries between then and our debt payoff date of July 28, 2017. By our debt-free date, we were living on less than half of our income each month so that we could pay off debt with the rest.
What specific things did you do to save and pay off your debt?
We started zero-based budgeting and actually sticking to our budget. We started to pay with cash for things like groceries and entertainment. Paying with cash really helped us stick to the budget. We cut expense anywhere we could and ended online shopping.
We also sold an investment property we owed money on, we weren’t living in it and although we were receiving rent income, the sale helped boost our debt pay off substantially.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
We have a small chalkboard up in our kitchen that tracks our goals. It is something we see every day and are excited to update with each paycheck. We also keep motivational pictures on our phones so that we can reference those when we’re experiencing a moment of weakness.
How did you manage the days where you just wanted to go out and spend money?
My husband had a side hustle and I started one so we focused our time on those. We spent little money and a lot of time on both side hustles which kept us from being able to go out and spend money.
What would be some money advice to your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself to take the time to learn how to handle my personal finances properly. I’m an accounting major with an MBA so I thought I knew what I was doing. There is a big disconnect from what we’re all taught in school and how we should really be dealing with our personal finances.
What steps are you taking to ensure your debt freedom is permanent?
We have made the decision to never go back into consumer debt again. We’ll certainly take out a mortgage after we have at least 20% for a down payment but car loans, credit cards, and other debt are a thing of the past.
To ensure this debt freedom is permanent, we have created savings goals for things that we’ll eventually want to buy like cars or other big-ticket items and we’re focusing on those goals. We’re also fighting the norm in our consumer-driven society to keep up with the Joneses. We’re just putting our heads down, budgeting like crazy and working hard to save our hard money responsibly.
What advice would you give anyone reading this looking for encouragement?
Start today!! Take the leap and get started. It is no accident that you’re reading this so if you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom. Take control of your finances, do the work, educate yourself and before you know it, you’ll be achieving your goals. We’re regular people who simply set goals and focused on those. You can certainly do it too!