Our Debt Story: Learn How We Paid Off $106,00 and How You Can, too!
Money problems are the number one cause of divorce in America.
While we are by far one of the richest nations, our nation carries an average of $38,000 per citizen of personal debt, and this excludes the mortgage.
There is nothing good about debt and Scripture tells us that the borrower is a slave to the lender. ~~Proverbs 22:7
As a slave to debt, we are in bondage and the chains of debt are heavy and difficult to shake. (You can learn more of why debt is bad for you, here.)
If you are struggling with money and are over your head in debt, you don’t have to stay there.
I want to offer you hope by sharing our story of how we got out of debt and the guidelines and tips that we followed.
We did it!
It took us ten years total, but we paid off $106,000! The first time we paid off $43,000 in 2013 and just as we began to celebrate with a trip to Tennessee, we learned some terrible news that changed our family forever.
2013 was a wretched year for our family on all levels. We experienced so much loss and in our grief, we made some bad decisions that put us right back into debt a second time.
(You can read more of my family’s story here.)
Yet, through our struggles with money, God proved to be faithful over and over. He was the one who sustained us, soothed our souls, and offered His endless grace.
Below are the five concepts that we learned and followed the hard way.
These are the underlying concepts that permeate how we handle, save, manage, and communicate on money.
Ultimately, these five concepts are what enabled us to save our emergency fund and get motivated to get out of debt.
And at this time of writing, we are currently saving up for our 6-month emergency fund before we go further on the baby steps.
How you handle money as a couple can have a huge impact on your marriage.
Learn these five concepts when handling money in a marriage.
Learn the baby steps:
We followed the baby steps and stayed motivated by teaching and attending Financial Peace University classes, reading Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and listening to his radio program.
Learning how to respect each other in a marriage is so important for a healthy relationship and effective communication to occur when discussing those tough financial decisions. And when you have respect for each other, you tend to respect the same goals.
Money problems are the number one cause of divorce. With stats that report 50% of marriages ending in divorce, regardless if it is a Christian marriage or not, it is time that married couples learn how to communicate better when it comes to money.
Some 47 percent of millennial couples argue about money occasionally, according to a 2015 Money poll, while 17 percent fight about it often. Overspending, miscommunication over the household budget and not having enough emergency savings are the top sources of disagreement.
Financial infidelity can simply wreck a marriage when it is uncovered. (The Simple Dollar)
A couple cannot be one if they separate their lives by separating their finances…. No viable marriage can survive a “his or her” relationship for long, because it is totally contrary to God’s plan. (Crown Ministries)
Learn why that every married couple should have a joint account.
Get out of debt tips
Below are the top tips that my family stuck to when we were getting out of debt.
The number one thing to do is to pray.
Secondly, set aside $1,000 for an emergency fund.
Follow the baby steps in Dave Ramsey’s plan.
Learn my family’s top 8 guidelines to staying out of debt (the second time).
Stop using credit cards.
Don’t be an impulsive shopper.
Kiss cable good-bye. Use Netflix instead or movies from the library instead.
Stop eating out.
Celebrate birthdays on a budget on a budget.
Create a monthly menu. Plan shopping list accordingly. Stick to it. Make homemade food as much as possible.
Grow a garden.
Go hunting of fishing
Make homemade gifts and cards.
Only buy the necessities. This one is a key concept because if you only buy what you need, you will automatically save a ton of money.
Have a garage sale.
Don’t worry about a credit score.
Shop thrift stores for clothing and household items that are needed.
Tithe regularly. Now is not the time to be stingy with God’s money, and we all know that it is His money anyway.
Turn your heat down in the summer and air conditioning down in the summer.
Consider taking a simple vacation. Or even more radical-no vacation at all.
Say no to all of those fundraisers that your kids, relative’s children, and neighbor kids try to sucker you in with. Be strong-you can do it and say no!
Make do with less in all areas of life. The concept is simple. Make do with less of everything: food, travel, fun, entertainment, books, clothing, cars. Simplify.
Encourage each other.
Pray for each other.
Keep a team mentality when tackling debt. It helps to know you are not in this alone.
“Don’t take advice from broke people.” Dave Ramsey
However, do take advice from those who are debt-free, manage their money well, or are well off. You can learn a thing or two.
Learn how to be content.
Tell your kids NO.
And since we’re on the topic of children. Learn why we are not making our children to attend college. If your child chooses to attend college, encourage them to avoid student loans.
Teach your kids self-control. They don’t need everything they want or see on television, this goes for all ages of children.
If your children really want something, make them earn it by getting a job or saving up their allowance.
Set financial goals as a family. Post these goals. Hold regular family meetings to discuss these goals. Every time you pay off some debt, make it a big deal, and get each other excited!
Listen to Dave Ramsey’s show. You will find encouragement with others going through the same struggles and be inspired by their stories of getting out of debt.
Plan shopping trips and limit those unnecessary trips that are ‘just because you’re bored.” Boredom costs money.
Work overtime or get a second job. Even if this is temporary, it will pay off in the long run.
Learn how to do your own repairs. Watch YouTube for tutorials on almost anything. Sewing, vehicles, clothing, appliances……
Learn the power of bartering for services. We make maple syrup and often barter for services that we do not want to do. We have a neighbor that has bartered their produce from the farm for other items. A win-win situation for all families involved.
Sell anything that you do not need.
Use the library for books and magazines.
Stop buying such extravagant gifts or buying gifts at all. Not everybody in your immediate family needs a gift, nor does your child’s teacher, or the mailman. It is more important to pay for the necessities and keeping a roof over your head, than making sure everybody in your life gets a gift.
Make your own toys for your child instead of buying them new.
For fun in the summer, choose affordable activities to do with your children.
Cut and haul your own wood for heat during the winter.
Shut off the television and encourage children to play outside or use their imaginations.
Limit technology. Keep your phone plan simple. Turn off the cable. Turn off the gaming systems. Play games as a family instead. Read books. Hang out together.
Don’t make any major decisions the following year after a tragedy, such as a death or divorce.
Attend a Financial Peace University class if at all possible. This is a game-changer. We have attended and taught these classes. The support and encouragement are priceless.
Get creative. You may hit a plateau during your debt-free journey and often need to think outside the box. Try these ten ways to find, save, or make money when struggling.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, it may be a good idea to learn how to make money from home.
Use a crockpot to have a meal ready for when you arrive home from work.
Use portion control and eat less food.
If you are pregnant, think about what you really need. Talk to older seasoned mothers and ask them what they really could not live without.
Breastfeed your child. By far the most frugal and healthiest way to feed your baby.
Use an old backpack for a diaper bag.
Babies don’t need much to keep them entertained. I used to play with a set of wooden spoons and measuring cups as a baby. And when children preferred kitchen utensils over toys, too. Keep it simple and your child will not know what they’re missing.
Make homemade baby food and snacks. YouTube is a great resource for tutorials and quick tips on how to do this.
Stop smoking. Your life is more important than feeding your addiction.Not only will your pocketbook thank you, but your heart and lungs will as well.
Skip the gym. Go for a walk, bike ride, or run for exercise. Play with your children at the park.
Wear your clothing more than once, if it is not dirty. Pajamas, blue jeans, and some shirts can be worn a few times before they need to be laundered.
Make a debt thermometer. Keep it posted. We needed to pay off $63,000 this last time, so my husband created a thermometer with lines on them. Each line represented $1,000 and each time another $1,000 was paid off, we colored it is in red. The thermometer was three feet long and posted visibly in our bedroom. You can find these free on the internet or custom-made on Etsy.
HARD WORK and DETERMINATION: I won’t lie and say this was the most exciting thing to do. It took us ten years (off and on) to do accomplish this goal.
Additional Encouragement for Tough Times
Getting out of debt is not an easy path. There were times that we were angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. At other times we were encouraged and extremely motivated.
It involves rethinking all that you have thought about money. It involves communication, honesty, and a willingness to work together. This is all for the common goal of getting out of debt.
There will be times that one of you may become discouraged, but stay focused and pray regularly about getting out of debt. Pray for strength, clarity, and God’s blessings in your life.
When we found ourselves in a tough time or that our debt snowball had stalled, this caused us to dig our heels in deeper.
My husband worked all the overtime he could get his hands on. Instead of going overboard on our grocery budget when we ran out of a certain ingredient, I would get creative on recipes.
When the debt thermometer did not budge, we held garage sales, sold more of our stuff, and did odd-n-end jobs for others. My husband would fix cars and I would clean businesses or homes for those who needed help.
****When we got discouraged about our financial situation usually all we had to do was pray, encourage each other, and be patient.
Patience is going to get you through those tough times when all seems impossible while climbing out of the mountain of debt.
Know that Rome was not built in one day, and chances are that you did not accumulate this debt in one day either.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
But you cannot do it alone: You need God, each other, a goal, prayer, and patience!
My husband and I have learned so much about each other, marriage, how to manage money, setting and achieving goals, establishing boundaries, creating and sticking to a budget, and overcoming obstacles in our debt-free journey.
The lessons were invaluable and changed the course of our lives forever.
Our children understand how to handle money better than most adults, and have self-control, and know how to follow a budget.
By leaning heavily on each other, praying without ceasing, and digging our feet in hard we were able to pay off $106,000 on one income! If we can do it, so can you!
I would love to hear from you. How did you get out debt? What are your debt struggles? Have any frugal tips to share?