If you are new to our story you’ll want to check out how our debt journey began here. Our total debt altogether totals $245,000 and just shy of 4 years we’ve paid off $145,000. That debt included two small car loans and the rest student loans. We’ve been able to pay all of that off while having our third child and reducing to a single income family. We share that not to boast but to encourage you that you too can meet your financial goals!
We started off barely being able to make the minimum payments on all of our loans and now we pay off an average of atleast $3,000 extra per month on them. That is not because we’ve suddenly become wealthy; it’s because we have decreased our lifestyle, cut our expenses, increased second incomes, and cut our expenses even more.
Take your own debt payoff journey one day at a time and use our timeline to help you see what actionable steps you can take today.
March 2011- Our first child was born
June 2011 – My husband graduated with his MBA.
June 2012 – I graduated with my MBA and Master of Architecture.
July 2012 – We were now out of graduate school so of course we had to buy a house. We furnished our new house with new furniture, replaced old appliances with stainless steel, and basically started living a ‘normal’ American life. Dave Ramsey says that young couples try to imitate the standard of living their parents have, even though it took them 30 years to build. This was definitely us.
2013 – Year of survival and getting started
2013 was the very height of our freakout and beginning to know how to go about paying off such a huge amount of debt. Before 2013 we knew we had some imaginary but huge debt total but had been too scared to actually calculate it.
Don’t wait to calculate your debt total. It may be scary but it is necessary to attacking your debt with intensity.
At this point we were not being very intense with our payoff, we were in more of a survival mode, trying to get out bearings. We were getting in a better habit of monthly budgeting and tracking our finances. It is so important that before you can really begin cutting your budget you have to know what you are currently spending and the ‘why’ behind your financial dreams.
March 2013 – Our second child was born
May 2013 – Bought a van because we hadn’t considered a cheaper alternative like new carseats.
June 2013 – OUR DEBT JOURNEY BEGINS
July 2013 – Saved $30 a month switching car insurance
October 2013 – Car #1 Paid off. This was our first month with consolidated debt.
2014 – Year of cutting expenses
2014 was the year that we became completely all in, gazelle intense, doing everything possible to get out of debt. It was the year that we reduced spending as much as possible to the point that coffee was a luxury not in our grocery budget. I sold everything I could around the houseand there was absolutely no miscellaneous spending.
Jan/Feb 2014 – Husband lost his job and was unemployed for 2 months. This propelled our debt journey even more and was the fuel for us to get out of debt quickly. Your job is never guaranteed and when you have debt you put yourself in a great deal of risk.
May 2014 – Car # 2 Paid off. We got rid of our whole life, life insurance policies and switched to cheaper term policies.
July 2014 – Cut the Cable!
August 2014 – Made the tough decision to postpone our 5 year Anniversary trip. We were always planning to go back to Ireland, where we got engaged for our 5 year anniversary. This was another true sign of commitment for us to delay it.
September 2014 – Started Financial Peace University. This class gave us even more gazelle intensity and a desire to think about increasing income, not just decreasing expenses.
October 2014 – Stop contributing to our 401K. I switched my schedule at work to work fulltime in 4 days to be home with my kids 1 day/wk and I watched a baby on my day off.
December 2014 – Student loan #1 Paid off.
2015 – Year of intense second jobs and life changing events
2015 was a year of intense second jobs and life changing events. I was working 3 jobs at the point I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. My husband was working a second job 2 nights/week and 3-11pm on Saturday and Sunday. We sold our house, I quit my job, and we had baby #3. We were finding as many ways as possible to eat rice and beans and got very good at meal planning to the penny on a $300/month grocery budget.
January 2015 – My husband started his second job valeting cars at a hospital. We finally cancelled our smart phones and service with Verizon. We began basic cell phone service with Ting and couldn’t be happier.
February 2015 – Decided to start the process of looking for a cheaper house to move to in order to save money.
March 2015 – I was working 3 jobs (main job as an architect 36 hrs/week, watched a baby on my day off, and cleaned a bank 3 nights/week). Found out we were pregnant with baby #3
We temporarily stopped debt snowball and went into ‘stork mode’. We weren’t making any payments above the minimum to save money for the birth of our baby and a down payment on our new house.
June 2015 – We sold our house and bought a cheaper one!
July 2015 – Saved $40/month switching car insurance again. I quit my job and became a stay at home homeschooling mom.
November 2015 – Our third child was born.
2016 – Year of hard work and contentment
2016 was a year of continuing the gazelle intensity with second jobs and finding ways to keep up the motivation. We again became much more regular with our budget meetings. Our extreme budget cuts and frugal ways of life have now become a lifestyle that we are extremely content with.
January 2016: Balance of $161,000. We began paying on loans again and were able to throw a huge chunk of cash at our loans.
March 2016 – Loan balance: $145,000. Meaning we paid off $100,000 in less than 3 years. I started this blog to document our journey.
October 2016 – Half way done with our debt! Loan balance: $122,506. Created our link chain for motivation in our front room.
November 2016 – We decided that after 2 years it was time for husband to stop working second job as it was making too much of an impact on family time. Especially on long journeys like ours it’s important to balance intensity with your values.
2017 – We can finally see the light!
February 2017 – Started Financial Peace University for the 2nd time for motivation.
March 2017 – We are FINALLY below six figures of debt. Loan balance $99,214.
Paying off $145,000 in 4 years has been a lot of hard work. In order to be most successful with paying off your debt it takes a combination of getting on a budget, lowering your expenses as much as possible, and then increasing your income through side jobs as much as possible.
You may think that you’ve cut your expenses as much as you can, challenge yourself to cut deeper. You may think there’s no time to have a second job, challenge yourself to make a way.
Now more than ever that we can vaguely see the light at the end of the tunnel of debt we are reminded as Dave Ramsey says that “If you live like no one else, you can live like no one else”. One day soon we will be able to live like no one else because these last 4 years we have truly lived like no one else.
Are you ready to live like no one else? To make the changes necessary to get out of debt? I believe you are!
**UPDATE: Right after I published this post we had a sewer line pipe back up and we found out that tree roots have completely cracked the pipe connecting our house to the main street line. We need to get it replaced which costs us $10,000 plus the original $900 bill for them to clean it out. Yes, this puts our debt back up over 100K! Read this post to see how we’ve dealt with this and other financial setbacks, like unemployment and car repairs during our debt repayment. **