My husband and I have been working our butts off these past 3 years to pay off $72,000 of debt. We know what it is like to carry the heavy burden of debt and now we know the freedom of being debt free! We want that for you too, so we are sharing our journey to give you hope and motivation to start your year off right.
Our debt free journey has been mostly based around Dave Ramsey's method. We read his book The Total Money Makeover and that is what helped get us started. I would definitely encourage you to read his books.
We started by funding our $1,000 emergency fund and then we put our energy towards paying off debt. Between the two of us, we have worked 4 jobs for most of the last 3 years. I built a business (this blog) from the ground up (resources below if you want to start a blog). We hustled. We shed tears. We wanted to give up. There were definitely times of struggle. But believe me when I tell you that it is worth it. Sending in that final payment is something you will never forget. It will absolutely change your life.
This journey is not easy. Just like a lot of things worth fighting for, there will be a lot of ups and downs. But you can do it.You have to make that decision that you no longer want to be shackled by debt and find your motivation for making that lifestyle change. For us it's saving up to buy our first home, traveling as family and giving generously to causes we care about. I am sharing the main steps that we took to pay off $72,000 of debt, because I believe it will help you get started.
1.) Have Support in Place
This is so important. If you are married, you need to be on the same team. You will need that support and encouragement. If you are not married, find someone you can trust to hold you accountable. Not everyone will understand why you are doing this. And everyone has a different opinion on the right way to do it. Find your people and lean on them for support when you need it. Ignore the rest of the noise.
I know this seems obvious, but without a budget your hard work is in vain. You need to be in control over where your money goes or it will control you. We do what is called zero based budgeting. This means that we account for how every dollar of income will be spent until it is zeroed out. We use the free EveryDollar app to do this, which makes it so easy. We sit down at the beginning of the month to write out our complete budget and then we check in once every week to make sure we stay on track.
This also means cutting out unnecessary things and reprioritizing how you spend your money. It's not easy but you will have to cut things out. We also use the cash envelope system (resource below) as a form of built in accountability.
- How to Set Your Monthly Budget Using the Envelope System
- 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Grocery Budget
3.) do the debt snowball
The debt snowball is the debt payoff method from The Total Money Makeover. And it might seem counter-intuitive at first but it works. Write out a list of all of your debts from smallest to largest (regardless of interest rate). You will continue to pay the minimum payments on each of them, but all the extra money you have will go towards paying off the smallest debt first. Why? It's about the positive momentum that comes from completely paying something off. You need that motivation!
4.) be willing to work
My husband Ryan spent most of these past 3 years working a regular 9-5 job and then coming home for a few minutes before heading out the door to deliver pizza. I started out doing 16 hour shifts as a nurse on the weekends, then I switched to nights so I could build The Bettered Blondie (my side hustle at the time) during the day and on every work single work break. This has been hard. It can take a toll. We do have to be very purposeful of how we spend our time when we finally do get a moment together.
To be 100% transparent, we also received a $20,000 inheritance from my grandparents. This was an incredible and un-expected blessing. It is also a huge motivator for me to be able to do the same some day for my own children and grandchildren.
5.) family comes first
I really wanted to add this section in because it is so important. You may have moments where you need to slow down. Moments where your family needs to rest and recover a bit before you jump back into it. There is no shame in this. This doesn't mean give up and stop budgeting, it means to pay attention to the health (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional) of your family. We could have paid this off quicker if we had not taken little breaks, but the needs of our family had to come first. And like I mentioned above, you have to be purposeful with your time together. Make it quality time engaging with each other (this includes your children too). Find ways to include them too! You can make a color chart to color in every time you pay something off. Teach them how to budget with Financial Peace Jr (we do this with Abby).
These are just a few basic (but important) steps, but I believe they can help you get started. I believe you can get rid of this burden in your life. I believe you can be deft free!
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