Becoming Debt Free & 6 Odd Tips That Helped Us

6 odd tips to debt free

This is the second post in an all about me series called Things You Might Not Know About Me. Yesterday’s post: My Real Name

We finally did it. I mentioned in last year’s goal post that we hope to be debt free this year. Both my husband and I were self-employed for all of our debt paying off years so we never make the same amount twice in a row. Figuring out an exact date to be debt free was always a little difficult. But we paid off our debt in October of 2012 right before the Big Sale.

how to pay off debt

I’ve written about our story here and here so I won’t bore you with the details. Here’s the one sentence round-up: Lost a business or two, ended up with over $150,000 in mostly business debt and also my car. The sad part, it wasn’t even fun debt like clothes and vacations, the good part, I never got used to an expensive lifestyle. It took us fiveish years to pay that off and the math really doesn’t add up. Along the way we had some super hard years where we had to settle a couple smaller debts and we even had a really generous family member who surprised us and  forgave a debt that equalled about 10% of our total. But it’s paid. I’m not an expert but I’ll share what worked for us.

paying off debt

1. I Helped However I Could.

Five years ago that meant I had a preschooler and one in half day kindergarten so I didn’t work but, I cut coupons like my life depended on it. And to this day I believe that my sly couponing skills really contributed to our family’s budget. It’s the first thing I tell moms when they ask me if they should start a blog “to make a little spending money”.  Blogging usually doesn’t pay–it took a year before I even knew blogs could make money, a second year before I actually did make money, and a third before it was more than a percentage of minimum wage compared to the time I spent. But couponing? Cutting coupons and cooking from the pantry is a great way to help out the family. Some of my favorite coupon websites are Southern Savers (if you live in the south) and Money Saving Mom. My stores of choice: CVS, Harris Teeter (double coupons!) and Target.

There was about a year when my trips to CVS were the highlight of my week because it was so fun to feel like I was beating the system, not to mention I got to have nice razors and shaving cream–sometime I still have a hard time spending money on things like that. I couponed until I couldn’t justify the time. Now I write blog posts instead. I have a friend who owns her own business but, she loves the idea of couponing so much that she hires someone to cut them and shop for her–the money she saves more than pays for the work done.  I think that’s a great idea!

By the end of our debt-paying-off-experience this blog was funding all of our debt payoff. Thankyouverymuch.

debt free

2.We STOPPED Going Into Debt

Once we moved to Charlotte and faced our debt we cut up the credit cards and did not have the option to go into more debt.

There were a few times we has small unexpected medical expenses of one or three thousand dollars that we had to add in and pay off over time. And one year we had a much bigger tax bill and had to pay that off over the next 12 months, but other than those, this is not a story of debt going up and down–just a story of debt slowing, steadily going down.  You cannot pay off your debt while you are continuing to go into debt.

paying off debt

3. We Snowballed

We followed Dave Ramsey and his baby steps for the most part. We looked at each debt separately and paid down the smallest first with any extra money while paying the minimum on the other debts. Once we paid off the smallest debt, we went to the next one and threw all of our extra money at that debt while paying the minimums on the others. It worked for us and helped us have little wins in the beginning which was good motivation.

But we were also flexible with some of our spending. I’m the tightwad, my husband is the free spirit. So we took a family trip to Atlanta a few years ago, bought season passes to a local amusement park last year and even sent our kids to a three-day a week private school. The school part was only made possible by this blog, something that afforded me more time to write more which in turn builds my business=tightwad approved. Other than Atlanta, our family trips were only possible because generous family members let us vacation at their beach condo or invited us to come on their vacations with them. I’ve even been known to bring my family along on a blogging conference and call that a vacation. Our boys loved going to Allume last year!

paying down debt

4. Calculate Progress Continually

When we were frustrated, I’d go back to the beginning and add up all the debt that we had paid off and then compare that to the number from six months ago. That always made me feel like were still moving, even if both cars needed tires and even if it was February or March–always our tightest months. I’d usually call my husband and make him guess the number and he would always underguess (I’m going to pretend it wasn’t on purpose) it was a great feeling to see the amount of debt we had paid off keep rising even if we felt like we were stuck.

5. Have Two Separate Banks One For Everyday, One For Savings & Sinking Funds

After reading a post Tsh wrote about her online banking at ING Direct I opened an Ing savings account in 2009. That’s when our debt paying seems to have taken off because for the first time in our lives, we had a place to squirrel away and group our money.  We used a different, main bank for our living expenses but everything else went into the ING account. Before I created a separate account at a different bank, I’d deposit all of our money into one bank, make a big plan, but if I didn’t follow through in the next few days, somehow the “extra” debt paying off money and future car repair money that I deposited would shrink. So now I try to only put in what we need to actually live. Money for bills and gas and groceries go into our main bank and everything else goes into the secondary account at a different bank. Direct deposit and photo-snapping checks on my iPhone make that a no-brainer.

At ING Direct you can have a checking account and up to 25 savings accounts so we opened a slew:: debt pay off, car repair, hockey, emergency fund, clothes, braces and kids accounts. It was the first time I had a real place to ‘hide” our emergency fund money. It was still easy to access, I had a debit card for the checking account, but since it wasn’t in our main bank it felt different and I wanted to protect it. So we’ve kept an emergency fund of $1000 since 2009. A huge feat for us. Have we used it? Yes, of course, that’s what it’s for, but we’ve always replenished it within a month.

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ING has recently changed to Capital One 360 so far I like it just as much and their online program has been great. My parents also recently opened up an account with them and love how easy it is to use. I’m sure it’s more about having a separate bank than WHICH bank you use. But there was something about logging on to ING and seeing the words “Welcome Saver” that made me feel like an adult. Also, you can set up savings goals and it makes a neat little graph to encourage you.

 

manly

6. A Debt-Free Controlling Meanie is Still A Controlling Meanie

As wonderful as it is to be debt free, it’s even better to become debt free as a couple. Out of pride I’ll tell you that with my mathy skills and ability to eat leftovers like a jailed maniac, I could have had this debt paid off sooner if I were making all the decisions by myself. But, my husband, with his laid back personality, made it fun. Instead of years of nothing extra and a house on complete lock-down while we paid off debt, he reminded me that it’s worth it to go out to dinner, to buy the bottle of wine, to go on a little overnight trip. Paying off debt in agreement as a couple and taking longer is better than paying off debt by a bureaucratic tyrant and doing it quickly.

That’s what worked for us. I know some of you use credit cards and then pay them off every month and that is great for you. I will never do that because I will never have a salary. I think that’s a much easier option when an employer pays you exact same amount every month, guaranteed forever. Unfortunately, the problem with having a salary, like any form of income, is that you don’t control if you lose your job or if your business unexpectedly hits trouble. We had a secure job too, before we got into debt, but the employers didn’t follow through like we were all so sure they would.

I hope this story is encouraging to you, especially those still paying off their debt and feeling like it’s never going to happen. I felt like that for a long, long time. Remember, when it comes to paying off debt, even standing still is better than going backwards. And sometimes going backwards is out of our control, and sometimes it’s not.

Phew, that was a lot of words. Your turn. Comments. They are there for you, they are the best part. Share it up….

*that Capitol One link is a referral link, if someone clicks on it and opens up an acct and deposits $250 I get $10 for referring them, it’s open to all Capitol One customers, you can refer your friends too!

 

** Lastly after a few questions in the comments, I want to make sure you know that for the first year or two my husband was working his franchise, then for the past 4 years, this blog has been a source of income (teeny tiny at first but growing every year) so I worked too and most of the money I made went directly to debt pay off. The last year of our debt payoff my husband worked at his franchise AND part-time at our church. I wouldn’t recommend it forever but we knew it was short term so it was okay.

Also, people are asking about our percentage of income going to debt. But remember, we were paying our car payment and minimums anyway but yes, those are included in the debt we paid off. Say you make $1000 and you pay a $100 car payment and $150 in credit cards, then you are already paying 25% of your income on debt payoff! (assuming you don’t go into more debt this will add up). So part of what we were paying was monthly bills we had anyway that were debt.  We just tried to up that as much as we could to pay off our huge debt as quickly as possible.

 

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Comments

  1. Leigh Anne Watts says

    Oh, number 6 speaks to my inner tyrant. Seriously, I could eat ramen 3 times a day to save money. My husband, he can only eat ramen once a day ;-)

  2. You guys are rockstars, seriously! Congrats on the debt payoff! :)

  3. Yay for y’all!! Congratulations! I’m a big fan of ING Direct/Capital Whatever, too. That’s actually a good reminder–I want to open some more savings accounts for specific house projects. Otherwise, the money seems to get eaten up for other things.
    It’s encouraging to see how you and your hubby worked together on this! My Hubs and I are both frugal, just in different areas. While that sometimes causes conflict, being married to someone with a different perspective does help me grow.

    • yes, we certainly weren’t without conflict at all. But that’s kind of fun too!

    • Leigh Anne Watts says

      Yes! Being married to someone who is extremely loose with money and my being an intolerable tightwad helped our marriage. We were on both ends of the spectrum but to function at a happy medium we had to both move toward the middle. Now we both like to save money but we also see how necessary it is to enjoy our lives in a responsible way.

  4. Enjoyed that! Congrats to you! Here is my story, if it will help anyone understand that they are not alone. We have had similar situations – married and had a surprise baby within a year while my husband was finishing up law school and I had just finished college- only to open up the mail and realize he borrowed $100k and our monthly payments were $1358.00 – which left us no money for rent, baby stuff, medicine, etc. Shocker. Not an easy way to start a marriage/family. That was 19 years ago and we have 3 teens, now. We then focused on saving up to buy a house and make all our payments, but he borrowed a ton to run a private practice which failed – and I went five straight years unemployed. I am working again. He has a job. Our debt is slowly decreasing, but our savings plan for college was a rental house that we had to sell for a loss because it was such a drain – and she is a sophomore in college, already – the second one will be in college in a year and a half. Not easy – but we are closer to God and depend on Him to meet our needs, not our wants. He often blesses us with our “wants,” too. We believe He wants us out of debt.

    I like your tip for reevaluating every six months. I am going to start doing that. That will keep us going a little better.

    My 13 year old goes to bed at night listening to Dave Ramsey – I would rather him learn his ways instead of ours!

    -Trish

  5. I especially love #6 too! I am more of the free spirit in the relationship (my husband is a financial planner) and let’s just say we haven’t always seen eye to eye on finances. But, after 14 years, we’ve kind of figured out what works for us and we just paid off all of our debt (except the house…working on that!) and that feels SO good to work toward something together and actually see it happen. Congrats to your whole family~so wonderful!!

  6. Your debt story is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  7. LOVE all of this – my husband and I moved in to an apartment under my parents house (rent free!) for the past 2 years so we could work on paying off student loans. I was able to leave my all-consuming teaching job and am now self-employed & almost 6 months preggo with our first baby! We just bought a small house – and we have worked on saving a little over $30,000 in the past 2 years :) We still have a long way to go, but it’s SO rewarding to see that “big number” go down!!

    Congratulations to you & your family – I’m SO happy for you!!

  8. Thanks for sharing this! We too are huge Dave Ramsey fans and are currently trying to pay off student loans and then mortgage. We just recently sold our first home to buy a much cheaper one to contribute. It’s such a hard road, but we’re trying. Especially hard with my love of home and design and I’m the “free spirit” a.k.a. “spender” in the family. It’s a constant struggle, but I know it’s worth it. Thanks for your advice and loved hearing your real name!!!

  9. You rock! We’re on the journey too. Three years with no credit cards is amazing and wonderful and not as scary as we thought. I hope we can get some traction on the debt soon, there are things we want to do!

  10. LIKE.

  11. Living debt free has been the most freeing thing we have ever done for our marriage. Debt should be illegal. It’s a trap people! Don’t buy it if you don’t have the money. Save yourselves! :)

  12. Yay! Congratulations! While I don’t feel like my husband and I have a big pile of debt, we do. We’re both finishing our master’s degrees (last semester!) and then after that 6 month grace period those student loans will be calling. I was feeling pretty discouraged about them, but your tips have helped encourage me. Thanks!

    • oh yes, I should have included that we had a graduate degree loan lumped in there too. Two of you finishing up your Masters at the same time?! WOW!!! way to go!

  13. Such good stuff. We’re debt free (except house & one car) and this was so good to read. Some of these principles can be applied to losing weight too, which I just did and still do and is hard to do. ok…just love this! Well done.

    Question for this week: what do you long for decorating wise? Like deep down, what do you wish was “perfect”? When magazines photograph your house, do you secretly wish you were in “your next house” that was your own so that you could really show your style? You seem pretty ok with everything that you’ve done and everything that your house is, but does even the Nester want something more?

    • I think that came off a little sassier than I wanted it to. Sorry. Pretend like I’m handing you a krispy kreme donut and pouring you more coffee while I ask that.

      • OH my word it wasn’t sassy at ALL, I actually LOVE this question. I’ll kind of go into it in tomorrow’s post (if I ever get it written) but, yes, of course, everyone has wants, and when the magazines come, they can never show my kitchen or bathrooms and never will because when you are renting, there’s not much you can do to those rooms if the cabinets and counters aren’t your style–and truly, in this house they are NICER than my style, we have wonderful granite but I’m not a granite fan as far as looks go. I definatly long for a farmhouse with a lot of character, windows and real, wood burning fireplaces.

        But, I also recognize that not being able to get what I want is the exact thing that has pushed me to be creative in my home. Lovely Limitations, right?! http://thenester.com/2011/09/31-days-day-1.html

        • Hey Nester-Myquillin :) … what do you suggest when the rental house just isn’t nice? Not just “not-your-style.” I think you’ve said that some of your rentals weren’t that nice. I’d love to see a post about that!

          • Soooo sorry Myquillyn … I thought I spelled your name wrong and it was bugging me, so I just double-checked yesterday’s post. So I came back to spell it right. :D

        • Yes! Very true…”pushed me to be more creative in my home” I might have to quote that and tattoo that as a tramp stamp on my lower back. Good stuff. Can’t wait for more of this week.

          If you get that house, then I might just have to move in with you. That look + your style = too much goodness.

  14. Thank you for pulling away the veil of what you actually did to become debt free. It’s inspiring and motivational. Great writing, too.

  15. Congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment! Surely you and hubby celebrated? I’d love for you to follow this post up with a “What’s Next?” financial post. What are your goals from here, financially? I can guess since I follow Dave Ramsey too, but I bet there’s lots of people out there that are wondering what you do next once you’ve paid it all off. Just a thought…..

  16. Congratulations! Your second step seems obvious but it actually trips up a. Lot of people. If you stop adding debt you WILL eventually get it paid off. Continuing to add more just digs a deeper hole.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I know you will inspire lots of others to realize they too can be debt free.

  17. My husband actually got really upset at me for opening another bank account. I explained to him that ING has a higher savings percentage and that its linked to our main account, he still didn’t like it. I told him I would change it all back, but I haven’t yet. I am trying to leave it as long as possible so he can see a change before he puts his foot down and makes me close it for good. I would love to learn more about how to make money blogging, do you have a post about that, that I could read?
    Thanks for sharing these things with us :)

  18. So awesome and inspirational. We are working towards being debt free, starting with downsizing our home 2.5 years ago. You give so many great morsels of advice here but the one that really speaks to me, that we had to learn, was to stop adding to our debt. Credit cards are just bad, bad, bad news for anyone. The only thing I use now is cash or my debit card. Being almost debt-free is worth the fact that our wood floors are in desperate need of refinishing, our kitchen has bologna colored countertops, and so on, and so on…:) thanks for writing about this topic.

  19. We are debt free as well. We wanted to be that way by time hubby was 50 and we have been debt free since he was 48! He will be 50 this June. Even our $350,000 house is paid for! Yeah! It’s so freeing and it can be done.

  20. Allison Hodgdon says

    My story… Do I give the long or short version? Tap tap tap… Think. Had a great job that paid well. Lost that. Man that I had planned to marry and have kids with was in a motorcycle accident. Persistent vegetative state. Lost that. Became the ostrich and buried my head in the sand. Ran from life and debt that had been accumulated. But my big girl pants on and am only now making adult decisions to take responsibility. Amazing how many lawyers contact you when the debt gets thrown in front of you. I made the debt so I refuse to BK. instead I’m slowly paying off that stuff. Only a few more months until the car is paid off which will allow me to take that and allocate to the important stuff… bills. I don’t like “Bill” and I’m not a huge fan of “Jim” aka gym either. Hanks for sharing. I just had an aha moment.love that…

    • yes, I had some numbers in my phone labeled as “Bill” and I didn’t like it when they called. I still screen my calls something fierce, it wasn’t that we didn’t want to pay but we had about a year where it was simply impossible. Inspired by your story Allison, thanks for trusting us with it.

      xo

      • Allison Hodgdon says

        Isn’t it funny how we all pick our battles. When I spoke to the attorney representing the “Bill” side of the world he asked of my intention. All I could say was that it was my responsibility to pay it. I had no intention of trying to find a way out from under the debt. I set up a frugal payment plan but the idea is that I “own” that one.

        Thanks for posting this. I’m a strong treader in the water. I had the “aha” moment in response to setting up a secondary savings and now I feel like the plan is being executed in the beginning phase. What a flipping concept.

  21. Congratulations! I remember your blog from day one and early on you talked about the debt. I really am privileged to witness this come to fruition! Very encouraged after reading this.

  22. Thank you!, (Amy) : )
    This was a good read. I am trying to reinvent myself after some financial changes in our home and still keep my art for my work. That’s why I started a blog last year. It is a great marketing tool.
    I always enjoy your posts!
    Deb@LakeGirlPaints

  23. Congratulations!!! That’s a great accomplishment! I paid off my debt this past November (I wrote about it here: http://cosycarolina.blogspot.com/2012/11/debt-free-decorating.html). Your line about “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” is very inspiring to those of us paying off or rebuilding after debt.

  24. I SOOOO admire you for not declaring bankruptcy but paying off all your debt. Our society would be a much better place if we had more people like you!

  25. Ha, I am so the tyrant type you speak of being. I could eat leftovers (or ramen like one commenter said) for every meal, wear the same clothes and shoes until they fall apart and pinch pennies until the cows come home, but not the hubby. Too funny. I say congrats to you and your family for paying off such an incredible amount of debt in such a short time. I know it was not easy for you. Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. Awesome post!! My husband and I started Dave Ramsey’s Plan in September. It has been awesome! We can’t believe how much money we were throwing away each month. So thankful that the Lord led us to get control of our finances! We are on our way to being debt free!!

  27. Does it bug you that I think your husband is really cute? Unless he’s super into old women, that statement is probably not so threatening.

    • nope, he is super cute. handsome. and things of that nature–and you should know since you’ve seen him in person. Nice seeing you around June! xoxo

      • Oh, I’m around. Usually I shut up, though. But sometimes I have to cougar your spouse. I like this idea! The things-you-don’t-know idea! The Nest. Brilliant since whenever she started being brilliant.

        • I’m around your place too. But your commenters have taken commenting to an entirely new level that makes me feel like none of my comments are worthy.

  28. My husband and I just made a commitment a month ago to do almost the very same thing you guys did. Set up different accounts, snowball the payments, STOP EATING OUT (point finger to myself), allow ourselves JUST ENOUGH to live on, and throw the rest at the debt. He thought I was crazy at first…too drastic of cuts, unrealistic. But it’s validating that a real person followed all the steps that we had come up with and was successful. We have about half the debt that you had…figured it would take us just over two years to pay off. Thanks for sharing your story! It helps to know that it can happen in real life, not just on paper! *high fives*

  29. Great post! We love ING too. Congrats and thanks for sharing!
    The hubs and I are debt free too, well sort of. No car payments, no credit card debt… the only thing is our mortgage, but it doesn’t stress me out because we saved a ton bulding it ourselves and we live in a nice neighborhood -so i know if we needed to, we could sell it in a day for what it costs us.
    What we are trying to deal with now is teaching our kids about money. With our two oldest being teenagers, even though we talk openly about money and why it’s important to save and not spend on everything you want… they still have a hard time understanding. What doesn’t help is some of their friends who have the latest gadgets like $200 head phones. Example: my son came home from skiing the other day and asked if we were “posers”!! Apperently some of their friends think we are rich and don’t understand why my sons don’t have an Iphone or why we rent them ski’s for the season or why they aren’t sporting $400 ski jackets. My answer was “why would I purchase ski gear when you’re growing like a weed? It would be a waste of money. And I would def buy the $400 ski jacket if I could get it for the same price as the one I snagged at Sears for $59.99 as for the cell phone – I am a stay at home mom, your dad works from home … we are either with you or we drive you and pick you up from everywhere, the ski hill has a pay phone, here’s some change, call me when you’re ready to get picked up”
    LOL!
    Take care,
    Julie

  30. Annie Hayes says

    CONGRATS to you on paying off your debt!!! We have been following Dave Ramsey for a couple of years now and have stopped using credit cards and paid off about $24,000 in debt so far. We are close to paying off our car and then on to our last debt!! Can’t wait to get it paid off. We love Dave Ramsey- would recommend it to anyone. It is amazing once you look at what you are spending money on and come up with a budget how much more money you actually have. Thanks for sharing these tips and I can totally relate to the tight wad thing- my hubby is the free spirit!!

  31. The Dave Ramsey & debt snowball are THE way to go! We are currently working our snowball right now too. Congratulations on being DEBT FREEEEEEE!!!

  32. Nester, I love your story, your willingness to put yourself out there, and that you’ve given us all the nuts and bolts, those practical steps you took.

    And speaking of practical things we can do, I’ve seen big things happen with $5 bills. Really. And the good news is, it works, it really does.
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2010/01/got-5.html

  33. Great advice, and congratulations! Your story is an encouraging one to hear.

  34. Super inspiring! We live minimally on one income so that I can stay home with our young girls and our numbers aren’t going down as quickly as I would like…but I like the idea of being debt free before he turns 50! We haven’t accrued any new debt in our 6 years of marriage and both our cars are paid off. We rent a small apartment, which helps our budget (house upkeep is too much of a variable for this tightwad) and buy everything used. (Well, not underwear. Or food. But you get my point.)

  35. Thank you for such an encouraging article. I am 50 years old and embarrassed to be in the debt we are in. Hearing others tell their story really helps me realize we aren’t the only ones and gives me the motivation to dig ourselves out! Thank you.

  36. Nester- You are just so inspiring!! Especially the part where you talked about how it does not even make sense how much you have been able to throw toward debt. One question I would like to ask you is do you think that God used the debt to kind-of propel you into doing what you are able to do today? Not sure if that makes sense. I guess I am remembering that awesome post you did about how your hubby is now able to homeschool your boys, do you think that you would have found out that is what you would like to do (like blogging, speaking at conferences, etc) had you not have to buckle down and fight like crazy to get rid of this debt? Did it make you creative and explore who God made you to find little ways to make $, whereas maybe had you not ever been in debt you may not have made that soul search? Just wondering. :)

    • short answer? absolutely.

      Lovely Limitations. Instead of hating them and wishing them away…I’m slowly learning to embrace all the junk, even debt, because God seems to use those for really great things, even when we’ve made idiot decisions it oftentimes he can turn it into something kind of amazing.

      • I like that “lovely limitations”! Sometimes I am just in awe at God and how He takes my dumb decisions and turns them into something good- for His glory! Oh, and I just did Ann Voskamp’s Bible study (after reading her book a long time ago when you first mentioned it on the Nesting Place!) and I have been praying for a heart of gratitude, even when the circumstances look bleak. Thank you so much again for this post!!

  37. Thanks for sharing your story and what works for you. So encouraging! We have always been conservative with our spending, but like ya’ll, a failed business has strapped us with debt and bills that we can’t afford to pay. It’s so frustrating, but we’re still trying to figure out how to get everything paid off. I’ve taken some part-time jobs to try to help, and planting and eating from our garden last year really helped with food costs, so doing it again this year! I just keep peering ahead to find a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel, though! :O)

  38. So encouraging. Thank you. I needed that.

  39. A friend sending me your goals post was what brought me to your blog. Now you are on my favs list so that I read new posts as soon as they are up. You have been such an inspiration to me/us (I talk about your debt reducing prowess a lot). Four years ago, we went from never carrying debt (other than house and car) to being deeply in debt. Now we are slooowly paying our way down. Our goal is to pay off our debt (approx $50,000) AND save enough that we can move without going back into debt. Thank you for making our dream feel possible.

  40. Melissa P. says

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    You’re awesome :-) Thanks for sharing so much about yourself, it will help so many people. Please keep up the great work. I’ve learned so much from your blog!!

  41. Just wanted to add my two cents. Everything was going fine, I’d just moved out of state after a divorce in late 2011. Then in July 2012, I fell while outside photographing for my blog. I broke both sides of my ankle and had to have surgery to have hardware put in to stabilize it. Long story short: you can be doing fine financially, and then you have an accident or get sick. And suddenly life is so different. My 45 minutes in the OR cost $43,000. I was on Cobra insurance, but was told it wasn’t good enough to allow me to spend the night at the hospital. So home I went as soon as I woke up. It is now March and I have had stress fracture after stress fracture, can barely walk still, and the medical bills are mounting. I am going to have to make some decisions. Life hands you all kinds of stuff. But I will say this: Everyone thinks they have good insurance until they get sick. That was what a patient advocate said who deals with insurance companies for patients who have been handed medical debt they cannot pay.
    Brenda

  42. Hi Nester-I’m so happy for you and your family.

  43. Huge congratulations! It’s so inspiring for everyone I think, especially for young couples that are tempted by credit cards. I’m older and only use cash or a debit card. What you’ve done is incredible and sharing will help so many!

  44. I came here today feeling down. My husband is self employed and though he is busy and has plenty of work, the money owed to us never comes as quickly as it should. It’s frustrating. Anyway, I’m trying not to freak out, came here to see pretty pictures of your house and your recent decorating journey to take my mind off my problems. (aka stick my head in the sand…) Instead I found that it’s possible to lose a business, pay off debt, and keep a roof over your head. That was such a timely and inspiring post to read today. (I have no intentions of losing our business, though! Just good to know that if the worst happens, we don’t have to be living in a van down by the river, which is what I think on my bad days)

    Thank you.

    • “van down by the river” yes. laughing but isn’t that idea the worst?! We’ve totally joked and secretly worried about that one too!

  45. “Paying off debt in agreement as a couple and taking longer is better than paying off debt by a bureaucratic tyrant and doing it quickly.”
    Amen to that! Congratulations to you both. It’s hard work but so worth it. I remember a time long ago….not wanting to answer the phone or get the mail… those who have been there, know!
    A great post to inspire! It can (and should) be done!

  46. Congrats, Nester! (Even though I now know your real name, you’re still THE Nester!) :) What an accomplishment. God bless.

  47. Nester, congratulations!! I remember you mentioning your debt way back at the beginning of your blog. And one of my favorite posts was when you were talking about the deposit time cut off at the bank & overdrafts – because gosh, I have felt that frustration so many times!

    Back in 2009 when you graciously offered for me to share our story here, we’d just lost our home to foreclosure. We have fought tooth-and-nail to keep the house we are in now, and we are finally on the other side of that journey. Hubby finally got the job we’d been hoping & praying for last year, and so far this year we’ve gotten our house refinanced to a reasonable payment, paid off one debt, and are seriously starting to attack our debt.

    So THANK YOU fo always being so open with your journey. Always an inspiration to me! xo

  48. Thanks for the encouraging post! We are getting ready to go from two incomes to one when our baby boy arrives in May. While I know staying at home is the right decision for us in this season of life, it kills me not to be able to contribute financially to our family – especially since the only non-mortgage debt we have is $45,000 in my student loans. The hubs sees it as “our” debt but I feel such a heavy responsibility since I brought it into our marriage. It is encouraging to know that you started this debt snowball while you were a SAHM. I feel so overwhelmed that we will ever pay this off if I’m not working!
    The hubs and I are both thrifty, but we define our splurges very differently! I love to find good deals on stuff for the house or way cheap clothes. He would live on Ramen and give the rest away – super generous! We still struggle navigating this one. As other’s have commented, it is teaching us to find balance in the middle. I’m pretty sure God puts people together who are opposites on money issues to teach us both that it’s not about us and that it’s all His anyway :)

  49. Thank you for sharing your story. You have inspired me to start my debt snowball.

  50. It usually just seems so overwhelming. Like we’re never making progress. We weren’t smart about paying taxes quarterly and so then every year there’s this huge thing we have to add to our snowball. The little things continue to get paid, but like you said, it’s so hard when you are self-employed and have no idea how much money you’ll make each month. But we do the bill paying together and make choices together. It’s super hard for 2 free spirits to keep each other on track.