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Budgeting and Digging Graves to Pay Off $72,000 of Debt

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Hi friends! Today I have an awesome debt free interview with Christine from Home Sweet Hectic. She and her family paid off $72,000 of debt in 22 months by budgeting, sacrificing, and working – a lot! I love hearing her story and hope it will be encouraging to you to see that every day people really can get out of debt. Enjoy!

1. What kind of debt did you have? How much was it? And how long did it take to pay off?

In the words of Dave Ramsey, we were “normal”.  Our debt was spread amongst a window replacement loan, credit cards, a car payment and two student loans; one belonging to me and one belonging to my husband.  When we began the process of paying everything off, we had $72k in debt.  Initially I thought it took us 34 months. But I somehow added a year to the process and realized that it only took us 22 months!

2. Why did you decide to pay off your debt?

In June of 2015, I found out I was going to be laid off from my job.  I was scared at first because we had a 13-month-old baby. But I had also wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since I was young.  We thought this may be a blessing in disguise because it would give me the opportunity to do so.  We figured we would “try it out” financially and see if we could make things work, since we would be saving on daycare expenses.  

It was February of 2016 when we realized that we weren’t just living paycheck to paycheck. But we were behind on our mortgage payment and creating more debt by using credit cards and only paying the minimum!  It was a scary moment to realize that we were in deep and weren’t sure we could get out.  We were not providing a financially stable home for our son and that was the biggest motivating factor for us.

It was at that point that we decided we needed to tighten the purse strings and work toward getting control of the debt so we could (eventually) get ahead financially.  

3. What strategies did you use to pay off your debt?

First and foremost, we listed all of our debts on a giant white board and hung it up in our laundry room.  In addition to our debt, we also had a list of our monthly expenses. There, we could see where the money was going and at which point in the month it was being paid.  

We had projections on the board of when we would be able to pay off each debt and once we paid it off, we were able to record that as well.  Seeing progress from day to day and then month to month really started showing us that it was possible. And that we didn’t have to live like that forever.

We were still struggling to stay disciplined, so we started using the Every Dollar app so we could be budgeting and track our expenses better.  Seeing how much we were spending in certain categories each month showed us that we really had to cut back in those areas.  We had to learn how to say, “No.”  I think this was the biggest lesson for us because it helped us to separate wants from needs.  

For me, the biggest strategy I used to keep me motivated was to listen to The Dave Ramsey podcast daily.  Hearing people do their debt free scream on the show gave me so much inspiration.  It made me continue to push toward our goal.  I knew I was on the right track when I was able to start answering callers’ questions before Dave did.  I realized we were starting to get a hold of our situation.

4. How did you generate extra income to pay off your debt so quickly?

In addition to sacrificing wants, we also each picked up extra jobs.  My husband is a teacher so he started tutoring on the side two nights a week.  During the fall, he coached football at the high school he teaches at and he also helped his dad out at the local cemetery digging and filling in graves (I know! I couldn’t do it, either!).  I found a job that I could do from home and then coached soccer in the spring.  

We both worked at a local golf course to create extra income to throw at the debt. And we planned our schedules during the summers so we could take turns watching our children. That way we didn’t have to pay for childcare.  We sacrificed a lot of time together in order to work toward our goals.

The big ticket items for getting things paid off so quickly, though, were cashing out our stocks and selling our home.  We had around $11k in investments that we used to pay off big chunks of debt.  

We had also purchased our home on a short sale and it appreciated quite a bit over the five years we lived in it.  Thankfully, we were able to sell our home and make a really large profit.  With the equity, we were able to pay off the remaining consumer debt. We then still had enough left over to put a 25% down payment on our new home.  

5. How has your family been impacted by your financial journey?

Since the debt free life is so recent and has hit during the holiday season, I don’t know that we will fully see or feel the impact until the New Year hits.  I can’t speak for my husband, but I feel a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.  I have always known that I wanted to give my children the gift of a paid for education when they reach college age. And now that is more than possible for us.  With our debt payments gone, we can now start investing in our future for retirement, and our boys’ future for school.  

Although planning for the future is so important, I think the biggest impact has been on our marriage.  We no longer need to fear having conversations about finances because it is no longer a source of stress.  Instead of trying to plan how we are going to get by each month, we can now plan how we are going to spend our future together.  

6. What was the hardest part about getting out of debt?

The hardest part was holding each other accountable without sounding like we were accusing each other of spending money where it was not budgeted.  We were so used to spending frivolously that it was difficult to ditch those bad habits.  When we were ahead some months, it was hard not to treat ourselves for doing well instead of applying the extra money to debt.  

It was also really scary to throw all of our savings at the debt.  I was so afraid of having an emergency come up that would cost more than we had in our emergency fund.  I did not want to have to start the process over.  Dropping our bank account down to that $1k amount really had me on my toes for several months until we finally saw progress being made.

7. What are your goals now that you’re debt free?

Now that we have no consumer debt, we plan to invest for our children’s college. We also want to pay off our home so we can prepare for retirement. While we were paying off debt, we did not have the means to contribute to a college savings plan for either of our children. So now that is our main priority.  We also want to update our home a bit along the way, but will only use cash to complete those projects.  

8. How has your life changed by being debt free?

Our lives have changed because we no longer feel the pressure of owing multiple people money on a monthly basis.  Now, at the end of each month, any money that is left over will go to savings to develop an emergency fund and then we will work toward investing and paying off our house.  Knowing that we have financial freedom and that we can now tell our money where to go instead of lenders telling it where to go is such a relief.  We can now properly plan for our future and build wealth along the way.  

9. Tell us about your blog!

When I first started my blog, it was to update family and friends on the progress we were making with our new home.  My husband’s grandmother passed away a year ago and we bought her house in August.  It had not been updated at all in over 50 years so we were taking on quite a project.  I quickly realized that what we wanted to do with the house was not going to be possible without paying off our debt and budgeting very carefully.  

Since making that realization, my blog has taken a turn toward our personal story of getting into and out of debt.  I want to be able to help other young couples and moms and show them that with a little bit of sacrifice and discipline, a debt free life is highly achievable.  In addition, I want to show that budgeting time and money can allow full-time working individuals to still enjoy time with their family and friends while keeping their budget in check.  


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