I hesitated even writing this post. It doesn’t even seem believable that 2 people could pay off that much debt in that short of time. I certainly don’t want this to ever come off as bragging because that is not what this is about. This is me sharing our story of how we thought the impossible task of paying off debt would never happen.
We never really set a goal of how much debt we wanted to pay off in a year. Once we got started with our debt payoff, we just stayed committed to the process as we knew it would work. We knew in our hearts that we had to change and go in another direction. We knew this wasn’t what God had in store for us. We knew there was more to life than just paying off debt. I still feel the sense of being overwhelmed so clearly.
Just to be completely honest, we are not debt free. We still have debt to repay and we are still working as diligently to pay off our debt as we did before. We still hold weekly budget meetings and we are still laser focused on our goal.
Our story really isn’t any different from anyone else’s story. We decided to make a change. We decided to take control. We were tired of being controlled by our finances and we decided to leverage our income to put towards our debt to pay it off as quickly as possible. This is not some overnight success of how things got paid off. This is the sum of very hard work and dedication to our goals. As I said above, we had no idea how much we were going to accomplish and actually, we both didn’t even realize we paid off that much until we sat down the other day to talk about it. We both are amazed how quickly that much money can come and go.
As you may have read in my introduction, I work as a Physician Assistant. I still work about 30 hours a week, give or take few hours. My husband works as a Flight Attendant and we have a side business in real estate. We both have jobs and we have “side hustle” money with the rentals.
We quickly realized, after our trip in October, that we were not managing our money well. We decided to change that after reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.”
The number reflected above is our personal debt and our business debt that we paid off from October 2014 to March 2016. I wasn’t sure I would ever post numbers because that is a personal thing, but I have seen other bloggers do it and I realize that for you to get a grasp on where we were to how far we have come, you need some facts. Yes, this is all real stuff. No I am not fabricating any numbers here. I do think you should talk to others about debt and money so this is our real breakdown of how we started to leverage our income and put it towards debt.
Related Article: 5 Proven Steps to Managing Your Money Well
Here is the breakdown of how of how we went about paying off debt:
Sold the Acadia: We owed in the ballpark of $23,000 and we got around $21,500 for it. We were $1,500 upside down on the car (we owed more than what it was worth)
Bought the Durango: Paid just over $10,000 and bought it in October. In addition, we rolled the $1,500 of negative equity from the Acadia into the loan for the Durango. We paid it off in February 2015.
Toyota: Paid off the Toyota in January 2015. In October 2014, we owed just over $8,900 for it.
Paid off Credit Cards: $11,000. Yeah, I know crazy. We ended up paying this off first due to higher interest rates.
Medical bill from Joey’s surgery: $2,000. This was the second bill to go
Loan #1 on 401K: $5,000
Loan #2 on 401K: $12,000
One of our properties: $28,000. We still owe about $17,000 on this property.
Grand Total: $78,400 of debt gone 17 months
If you also add the debt that we erased from trading in the Acadia, it comes out to $89,900.
It is crazy to think we have reduced our debt this much. Honestly, it all starts with the decision to be intentional with your money. We still fail…, but we are actively working to achieve our future goals because we know the plan works. We know that if we tell our money where to go, it will go where we tell it. We don’t have to find the money to pay something and we always know we will have what we need.
The Action Plan: The first 3 things we did to start paying off our debt.
So how did we come up with this money? We worked our butts off and basically lived off Greg’s paychecks and put mine toward our personal debt. We put all of the profit from our business back into our business because we want that debt gone as well.
I know the number at the top seems ridiculous and I know it probably isn’t average to pay that much off in 17 months, but I want to just stop and reflect on the process in which we got there.
First, we started praying right away. We made the decision that we wanted our financial future to be different so we spent time each night in our son’s room praying about how we could change our financial situation. We knew that if God wanted our lives to be different, He would lead us to the right path. We asked Him to take control and to put it very simply, He did.
Second, we decided to track where all our money was going. Again, very easy to look back over the last 30 days to see where the money was going. If you need help with this, use this starting a budget sheet to help you track your expenses. We wrote ours on paper and I recommend you do too. At this point, I was amazed at how much money was just slipping away. I think I became a little more anxious at this point. Then, we came up with a plan.
Third, we created a budget of what we thought would be typical for our spending. We calculated what we spent the prior 30 days and plugged some numbers into the budget that we felt were reasonable, but would allow us to at least save some money. We have had to revise the budget several times since then, but that is ok. Budgets will not be the same every month. We quickly realized how important it was to go over the budget often and make changes that were necessary. If you need an example Budget sheet here is the one we use. Everyone’s brains are a little different so if this doesn’t help, Google some other free budget sheets.
During this time, we have gotten bonuses and tax refunds which were all put right into our debt. It was extra money we were not planning on, but it helped us reach this massive number.
Let me just say that these 3 steps, anyone can do. Truly and honestly, anyone can do this.
You can learn more by signing up for the free email course on Managing Your Money Well where I walk you through step-by-step the process we took to paying off debt. Click here to sign up.
The Sacrifices We Made
We knew that in order to free up as much money as possible to tackle our debt, we would have to really cut down on the money going out each month for bills. We went over our budget and realized there were several areas in which we could reduce our spending (cable, cell phone bills, gas bills, eating out). We slashed as many bills as we could and this freed up extra money to pay towards debt. It doesn’t happen overnight, and at times, it felt like we could not pay as much as we wanted, but we just kept going.
In starting this process, I knew there would be some non-negotiable sacrifices. I am not willing to sacrifice time with my family, buying healthy food, or spending cherished time with friends. I am not willing to do that, but I am willing to cut down the number of times I get my hair done. I am willing to cut down on buying clothes and luxury items. I am willing to sacrifice a nice car until I can buy one with cash.
Related Article: How to Leverage Your Money to Create the Life You Want
How we stay motivated
Motivation is one of those things that will come and go. We are not perfect and we certainly struggle at times. Greg and I act as each other’s accountability partner. When we get off track, we talk about it and discuss what we need to do to get back on track. Just like dieting…. you know what you should eat, but sometimes it is just easier to eat the wrong things. Same with budgets. Sometimes you get off track when you know you shouldn’t, and sometimes you spend more money than what you would like to.
That is life! We have learned not to beat ourselves up about it. We just move on and don’t waste emotional energy on why we got off track.
I have found a few things that really work for me in staying motivated- writing in a journal, meditating/praying and reading something motivational. What helps you stay on the right path when you feel like you just don’t want to do what you know you need to do? What is that thing that pulls you out of a rut? Is it an accountability partner? Is it prayer? What is it? In order to stay motivated in any aspect of life, it is important to spend a little time figuring out who you are as a person. Take a little time to do just that if you need to.
If you are at the turning point where you feel you are ready to make a change, I promise you that it is possible. It won’t be easy, but it will always be worth it. A year goes by so quickly and I want you to look back a year from now and be proud with how you spent your money and not wondering where it all went.
UPDATE: We have now paid off over $100,000 in debt in under 2 years! We actually sold one of our properties and made money back which was something we really didn’t expect to do, but we are very glad we did. You can read more about our real estate investing lives here. We owed just over $16,000 for that property and we obviously paid it off by selling it and we also put $94,000 in our pockets with the sale. We have decided to invest that money into a property that we own outright and will not have a mortgage on. It just makes sense since our goal is to be debt free. We tend to like rental properties and long term investing instead of other types of properties like flips and wholesale deals. You can read about the 3 Most Common Types of Real Estate investing here. Beyond paying off our one rental property, we have also paid down our mortgage by $10,000. We decided to refinance our mortgage into a 15 year mortgage probably 3 years ago and we pay it down so much quicker as the interest rate is lower. Once you decide to really buckle down and pay off debt, you won’t believe how fast it goes. If you are interested in getting started, you can join the FREE Managing Your Money Email Course. You will learn why you need a budget at any income level, how to set up a budget, how to stay motivated to budget and so much more! You can sign up here.
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