In 2012, when we got serious about paying off our student loan debt, we were at $40,000 (down from the original $58,000). According to the debt snowball calculator, it would take us until 2016 to pay this off. This looked bleak to me. Now that we’re in 2014, 2016 doesn’t seem so bad, but in February of 2012, it was far.
I can get psyched about this now, because against all odds, we paid off our debt two years ahead of schedule. More than TWO FULL YEARS. We are debt free. At age 27. Less than five years out of college. This is just an overview of what the last 28 months of gazelle-like intensity have looked like for us. It’s a long-ish list. And it’s not anything you won’t find other places. But it’s REAL. It’s what we really did in those 28 months to pay off 40k on one full time income.
Relentless focus. Willpower. Push.
- We had just decided that my husband and I would change roles and he would work full-time outside of the home and run his business on the side and that I would help him, but focus on raising the kids. We discussed the difference it would make if I were to work even one year and decided against it. **
- As my husband looked for a new job, we took the opportunity to move back closer to grandparents. Since we didn’t know exactly where we’d end up, we decided to move in with my parents “short term – 3 months max” while we figured that out. For a lot of reasons, we ended up living with them for 18 months. Yes, living with them was invaluable as far as paying off our debt. We paid rent the entire time we lived with them as well as bought groceries and divided chores.
- After (literally) a year of discussion, we became a one-car family. When we moved out of my parents’ house, we made a conscious decision to live as close as possible within our budget to my husband’s work so he could walk or ride his bike. There are still days our one car sits in the driveway untouched. We certainly don’t need two right now.
- I cashed out my retirement. I didn’t have enough years in to the State Teachers to be able to get retirement benefits. And we chose to take the money in cash to put toward our debt.
- We live in a house trailer. We live in an extremely high cost of living area. We were having a hard time finding an apartment we could afford let alone something with a yard for the kids. So when the opportunity came up for new trailers to rent with a small yard, we took it.
- Our car is old. In fact, when we totaled our other car, my husband purposefully looked for the same make, model, and year as our previous car. We had parts. We had knowledge of what could go wrong with it. We were used to the gas consumption and mileage.
- My husband owns his own business. We count on that income to make up some of our budget.
- We say no to things. Not as much as I thought but maybe that’s because people don’t ask. Everyone knows we’re paying off debt and keep our budget tight.
- Tithing has always been a priority. Even as one of our largest line items, we have never decreased it (even if our income has gone down).
- Plan on saving for things that you want to do. We travel-hack and save money and points to go on an overnight trip. We use groupon and ask for gift cards for Christmas.
- Sell stuff.
- Re-evaluate your budget all the time. 6 months ago you may have thought it was impossible to get any tighter. Then you saw an area where you could. Keep going back and keep looking it over.
- Buy in bulk 🙂 I save more money shopping at Costco than I could have ever imagined (or cared to admit!) was possible. And while you’re at it, Aldi.
- Have a budget meeting at least once a month. If you have to do a weekly or bi-weekly budget, you may need to meet more frequently. As much as I fought against this for more than 2 years, this was literally the driving force in keeping us motivated. I hated the idea of being accountable for what I had spent even if it fell into the budget. But that was selfish. And silly. My favorite meetings were the ones where my husband would say “hey look we just knocked two months off our projection”. And if we didn’t have the meetings, we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate those together or even really know what our progress was.
- Pray about your debt. This really shouldn’t be so far down the list. But think about it – if you care about this, God cares about this. And he wants to talk to you about it. He wants to hear what’s in your heart. So pray it out.
And in case you checked out of that list – WE PAID OFF $40,000 in 28 MONTHS. We had set backs, like a 2 week hospital vacation, 2 emergency surgeries, a baby after a complicated pregnancy, a totaled car, two moves, a blown tired, and more “little hiccups” as we neared the finish line than I can remember. But God is faithful. We saw Him time and time again as we considered things that “made sense” like buying a house since it cost less than rent or getting a new car when we totaled our last one.
You can also check out the other posts in the series by clicking here.
Do you have unique or cool things you did in your own debt-free journey? Would you share below?
This is the book we used to start our debt-free journey – The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I also recommend Financial Peace University which is a class teaching the same principles.
**links to Amazon are affiliate links**
Check out the rest of the series here.
**This does not mean this is what I advise you to do. This was our decision after much prayer and much conversation. Our situation is not your situation. You may have more debt. You may live in a higher cost of living area. You may not have some of the options available to you that we had to us (see above). You may be in a situation where one spouse chose not to go to school so they wouldn’t have student loan debt and so s/he is resentful of having to pay off the other person’s. You have to do what’s best for your family and you can only decide that through prayer and conversation. You may really want to stay home, but you may really need to work for a year or two to get your debt under control. You may need to relocate, sell stuff, and figure out how to spend less, all of which Dave Ramsey covers, and I’ll talk about my own journey. I’m not discounting being home with your children, but when there is still debt to pay off, this needs to be a decision that is made together as a couple.