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Are you wondering how to live a debt-free life? Maybe your debt management plan is failing you. Do people really pay off debt with young kids? Here is our story of how we paid off our college loans, car loans, and credit card bills while starting our family, layoffs and more.
Six years ago we were nervous and exhausted waiting for the church service to begin. Our three-month-old baby was finally away from us, in the nursery. Attending church on Sunday was our ‘date” for the week. We were sitting in a section we didn’t normally sit in, and I love routine and it felt a little uncomfortable. Worship was moving in a way I didn’t expect and my soul was refreshed in a way I didn’t know I needed.
My heart opened to everything after. A short video played by a guy named Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of him. I didn’t even know that paying off debt was a thing or that it should be a thing.
It was one of the few moments when I knew God was saying, “Pay attention.”
My husband and I looked at each other at the end of the video our souls intertwined agreeing we wanted that.
We needed this and we were determined.
More than $55,000 in debt was dangling on our shoulders.
THE FIRST STEP TO OUR DEBT FREE JOURNEY
That was the first step. We committed to this thing together. We both had no idea about any of it. It’s funny to think neither one of our parents taught us to live debt free. It wasn’t something that was talked about. Credit cards are the norm.
We didn’t take Financial Peace University or anything. We are pretty motivated on our own. If you need an extra push I recommend taking Financial Peace University. It’s offered in many local churches. Search for one here.
Instead, my husband took the lead and boy did I need him to. I was knee-deep in dirty diapers, dog hair and staring at a computer screen for hours upon hours searching for deals to make pennies. I didn’t have the awesome How to Start a Blog guide.
He has anywhere from a 45 minute to an hour and a half drive EACH way to his job. He listened to Dave’s radio show for months. He would come home and share everything he learned with me.
The first thing that stuck out to me was – We need more money.
Listen though, more money wasn’t so we could spend more, it was to pay off debt quicker.
My family is a 12-hour drive from us and my husband’s family is over an hour. Of course, my in-laws were willing to help but still at an hour away, it wasn’t convenient.
Daycare was our only option if I was to return to work.
It was a mess. I’m sure there is something similar in your life.
We started to look at the cost of daycare and other expenses if I went back to work. I wasn’t in an amazing career I loved, I wasn’t making great money, $25,000/year in fact. If I stayed home it would actually save us money.
I knew I had to cut back on any and everything I could.
THE EMOTIONS OF GETTING OUT OF DEBT
I felt bitter at first. I wasn’t content with who God said I was. I wasn’t quite sure I believed he was who he said he is.
I wanted to be debt free. I felt my soul skipping in tune with my husbands when we would sit down and talk about how we needed to pay off our student loans.
I felt sick when I thought about the student loan payments I had to make. Especially when I was staying home to feed a baby that wouldn’t sleep.
Those days we didn’t have extra money to spend on date nights.
We couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t buy anything new.
We couldn’t watch cable. We couldn’t have a smartphone.
Notice a pattern there? My thoughts were consumed with couldn’t.
The truth is, we could. If we wanted to go into debt for a silly pleasure.
We cut cable because it wasn’t a need. We didn’t upgrade phones because it wasn’t a need. We stuck to prepaid plans for under $50/month.
We got the cheapest internet plan for $15/month and I still use it even with running my business.
We spent no more than $40 a week on groceries, toiletries, and household items.
I made every single snack or food item I could from scratch.
I added more veggies to my garden and only bought organic seeds when they were BOGO.
I saved seeds so I didn’t have to buy some the next year. I canned and preserved our food from the garden.
My husband even gave up drinking beer for six months.
We planned date nights at home after the kids were in bed.
That doesn’t mean it was easy, and that it will be easy for you. It was hard. It was painful but it was rewarding and today I’m so thankful.
If you want to get serious about living a debt free life you have to be all in- and all in until the job is complete.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH HELPFUL PEOPLE
You need to surround yourself with people who have already walked this journey. Or who are walking it and committed.
You need to keep the end goal in sight and remember THIS IS NOT YOUR LIFE FOREVER. In our culture we overshare everything. We have instant access to get others feedback. When you are starting to work towards a lifestyle change that leads you to a debt-free life- you need to be cautious.
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you towards your goal. Share your struggles with others who have been there. If you don’t know anyone, email me. I would love to share your journey with you.
When people start to look at you and think you’re odd, that’s when Dave Ramsey says you are on the right path. If you could take a glimpse into your future and see that in just three years you would be debt free how would you feel? How would you feel about that Disney trip you waited to take and paid for in cash?
I would sit on our bed in receipts and notebooks writing out how much money was coming in and how much was going out. I would cry. I would ask God why?
Once we paid off one bill my tears of hopeless vanished. I started to believe God is who he says he is.
I started to feel like God saw me. Little old me and I am worthy. I started to believe that my marriage is meant for more.
Now we know that can’t be where the story ends. Of course, there were MANY more storms. I started extreme couponing to give us the extra room in our grocery budget and use that money to pay off debt. Any extra money we would get would to our debt.
That meant any of my husband’s overtime. Money from cashback apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51, any little penny went to our debt.
It was possible because we lived BELOW our means.
We sacrificed vacations, trips, eating out, etc. But guess what? Today we can do any of that, debt free, without a stress of will we have enough?
Was it worth it? Again and again.
You can say that I got a little obsessed with couponing and getting an extreme deal on things. My husband and I decided together to be all in. Once I mastered extreme couponing I could never pay full price again for ANYTHING.
Our daughter was 15 months old and I had cut back expenses as much as I could. Heck, I was even digging in paper dumpsters for coupons. I was that determined to get everything free or cheap.
Personalities will play into effect here. My husband and I have never cared too much about how we look to others. Even know driving around my rusted up the car that is 17 years old, I choose it. Sure people may look at it and think we are poor, or don’t have enough money for a car. I know the truth. I know the value and my car is a good car. I’ll drive it until it can’t go anymore.
We all are self-conscious about certain things. Don’t let the opinion of others stop you from achieving your goal. Their opinion won’t save you from your debt.
This is a life-changing decision that will benefit your entire family. In ways, you couldn’t imagine.
WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES- DEBT STILL LURKS
When my daughter was 16- months old we wanted our debt gone faster. I knew I couldn’t possibly cut anything else back. The only option left was for me to work part-time.
I also was ready at that point in my life to test the waters of my self-worth. I have always wanted a career and staying home without many friends or any of my family was lonely. It completely tested my faith.
I started the painful search of looking for a job.
I found one I felt like God had his hands all over. A week after I started I found out I was pregnant. How could this be? We were doing so good and I needed this money to pay off our debt.
I thought I was going to find my self-worth at work. Not as a mom.
I knew these were tests from God. Would I still believe he was faithful?
I did. I ended up returning back to work after 5 weeks off from maternity leave I loved the job so much and they needed me back. I’ll mention the job was a non-profit, not a super awesome wage. I made $13/hour.
For 18 months I worked this job and ended up paying off our debt except for the mortgage. We knew we were already used to living on my husband’s income. When I started working we just took the money from my check and put it right on our debt. We didn’t change our lifestyle because we had a little more money. We lived below our means to meet our end goal.
Then something happened. Things got chaotic and out of control. The job became overwhelming and I left it.
To stay home. I wasn’t sure what was happening.
I wanted to know Why God wanted me to stay home. I felt angry at times, but we all know anger is a just the start of a burning fire. It was through my second daughter’s birth I surrendered completely to Jesus.
God had a different plan in mind for me. One that I had to be home to do.
He stirred up starting a coupon blog in my heart. I remember thinking it sounds awesome but to follow through on it is a whole different story. I was so excited that we were paying off our debt and it all started because of couponing.
Then I saw a $20 class to teach you how to get started with a blog. I took that as my sign.
I won’t go into details here about my blogging journey- it’s quite a crazy one and one that only points to God.
My blogging money now is going to pay off our mortgage in less than 6 years. We desire and hope to bring my husband home so we can begin our next dream- a petting farm- or whatever God leads us to. The truth is we continue to learn that God’s plan fulfills our hearts desires, but it’s usually not in our time, but his perfect time.
We don’t know the timetable of all this of course. We know that God gives us the desires of our hearts. Yet, we have to trust and obey what he is telling us to do. We have to be ready to hear and then react.
We can’t miss out on opportunities God is calling us to because of fear.
We have to pray and go to that place where our soul is exposed to contentment.
Are you ready to go there? Are you listening to what God has been saying to you? Sometimes I even find myself praying for God to give me an obvious sign. One that I can’t deny is him. It’s okay to ask for those things. It’s hard in the beginning to discern the voice of God or where he is leading us.
It wasn’t an easy journey to pay off our debt. It was the most rewarding one.
What steps are you taking to pay off debt right now?