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If you love never having money and drowning in debt stop reading now!  This post is for those who are sick and tired of worrying about how to pay for bills and debts they hate.  It is for those who have reached the end of their rapidly fraying financial rope.  If you can relate, stick with me until the end.  I want to offer you hope. 

Do you have credit card debt, car loans, school or medical bills?  Are you drowning financially?  Have you ever cried while paying bills?  Yep, me too.  Hang on though!  Maybe my story can inspire you to see that YOU CAN change your life! 

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Had you met us in 2009 you would have found an all American family.  My  husband Jeff, had just finished post graduate school.  Our two daughters were in a small private school in a town near by.  I was a stay at home mom.  Life was good until a small change in our financial picture sent a tidal wave through our lives. 

Although we were thrilled post graduate school was over, it was now it was time to pay for the loan we took out to finish his degree.  We were able to cash flow a lot of his education but the last $20,000 we just didn’t have. Not only that, we had other debt that needed to be addressed.  That included medical bills, a credit card and the dreaded car note.

We knew the loan payment would be coming.  I think we just didn’t realize the impact it would have on our finances.  The payment for his loan hit within one month after he graduated.  Although it was only $260 per month that small payment totally threw our budget out of whack leaving me stressed about how to make that required monthly payment.  

Out of desperation and an effort to “fix” the problem, I began to buy books on money.  I read two and felt I had learned little to nothing that would help in our situation.  The third book was Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover.  I picked it up at the bookstore and could not put it down for the next 3 days.  As I read it, the principles he taught began to change the way I looked at money.  Suddenly, I felt hope rising and knew that we could defeat this monster called debt.

 

So, we began our debt free journey in June of 2009.  We formed a strict budget, ate at home, picked up extra side jobs, followed our budget to the letter, didn’t go on vacation, and our entertainment was renting movies from Redbox.  Day by day and month by month those debts started to come down.  We kept our heads down and kept writing those checks to pay things off.  When one felt discouraged, the other would be the cheerleader.

Full disclosure on our journey, we did sell a car that we owed $25,000 on.  That was a big portion of this journey.  (Side note:  If you are serious about going debt free you won’t hang on to ANY of your stuff.  You will be driven to dump it all!)

During this time I was a stay at home mom to our two very small daughters.  One of my contributions during this process was to budget for groceries, clipping coupons for haircuts, clothing and oil changes, and I worked towards cutting things like cable and lowered our cell bills as much as I possibly could.

My husband took on a second job several nights a week at a mental hospital and I picked up a house to clean several times a month.  About half way through this journey I also found a part time job working several Saturdays a month in my former profession, dentistry. 

Those side jobs proved to be the key that put our debt free journey in supersonic mode.  Without side hustles, we would have never achieved our goal as quickly as we did.

Seventeen months later, in early December of 2010, we paid the last bill in full.  In FULL!  Gone!  

There are not words to tell you how it felt when that debt was finally gone.  I felt like I walked with a lighter step and life just seemed easier. We could breathe again! We even started to dream of our future living debt free, with an emergency fund and paying cash for things like cars and vacations.  It was a euphoric time and season for us.

Was the journey getting there easy?  Nope!  It was very hard.  It was challenging and difficult.  However, it taught us a lot about money, each other, relying on God, and determination.

Two things we learned during this journey. 

  • First, we don’t need a lot of things.  We “like” things and have been able to buy what we want since.  We realized during this season of our life that the “things” would be there later.  The debt had to go first! 
  • Second, we would never (and I mean never) go back to that place again.  There is nothing out there that I want bad enough to go into debt for. 

I am glad to say that having gone through that journey we are now able to pay cash for cars, furniture, vacations and anything else we want.  We love our lives and don’t really feel restricted.  We feel freer than we ever have and would never go back to that place that felt like a jail! 

Now, 9 years later, our girls have grown up watching our family pay cash for everything.  They will be paying for their first car when they turn 16 and we have been able to take some amazing vacations together.  Life has never been better!  All of this because of one bill that sent our finances over the edge.  All of this because we looked for an answer that once found, ultimately changed our lives.

What about you?  Are you interested in going debt free?  Here are few suggestions to getting started.

First, I highly recommend getting Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover.  This book will give you immediate direction and put you on the right track.  Jeff and I would not be where we are today without the guidance this book provided!

Second, take time to read my post on Eight Tips For Paying Off Debt Fast!  These are things that are super important in helping you achieve your goals and staying on track.

Third, I suggest you try to lower some of your bills. Read my post How to Lower Four Monthly Bills and Save Hundreds Per Month.  This post will help you with ideas on how to get those bills as low as possible so you can funnel more money into your debt snowball. Note:  There is a lot more information on the debt snowball in Dave Ramsey’s book. 

Fourth, commit to the journey and don’t give up!  It will be tough at times to stay the course but in the end, it will be worth it.  One of my favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar: 

There is no elevator to success.  You have to take the stairs.”

Come on!  You CAN do this!