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.



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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  1. HOORAY–congratulations!!!!

  2. 8 years ago, my husband and I were in the same boat. Over $100,000 in debt (most of which was consumer debt; credit cards, small loans, etc), not to mention our home we had just purchased. Things went south with my husbands job in the real estate market. Now, 8 years later we are down to $35,000. We lost our home unforunately, but our loans are good ones. School loans from finishing college when we got married, one small CC, a family loan (no interest) and a new car we were able to purchase this past year. Ours has been slow and steady especially since my husband was out of work for several months at a time throughout those years. But it’s soooo awesome to see how far we’ve come!!

  3. Very encouraging post M! We racked up a bit of credit card debt when my husband was basically not working for a year. He applied and got a job with a steady income and slowly over the past few years we have been consciously making decisions to help pay down the debt. We couponed and bought our kids clothes second hand on Facebook. We have been a one car family for several years which alleviated one monthly bill but also meant I HAD to work from home if at all. With our tax return this year we can finally say we are debt free!!

  4. Congrats! Such an amazing feat you accomplished! We did Dave’s program too and paid off $51k in 23 months. I agree whole heartedly that it has to be done as a COUPLE. Both reaching for the same goal. Our relationship is so much better now. There is no fights about money. Happy happy!

  5. Awesome!! Your diligence and thriftiness paid off. Just as a heads up to others not only seeking to get out of debt, but also save and live ahead of the game there is budgeting software available that’s awesome– YNAB. It stands for you need a budget and within it it has the same idea you use by having all the separate accounts, without having all the separate accounts. It also teaches to live on last months income, which is particularly helpful for people who have variable income. It’s not just a budgeting tool, there are free online classes to teach the program and to teach the rules of getting ahead.

  6. Congratulations!

    This is an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing your tips and how wonderful that this blog has helped you pay off the debt, and how lucky for us!

    Have a happy Easter!


  7. I love this post. We are paying off our debt for the second time ( following my husband being under-employed for two years) working Dave Ramsey’s program we paid off $58,000 and better yet built our 3-6 month emergency fund…. And then basically stretched it and lived on it for TWO years! I hate that we now again have debt, $ 27K, but i know we can do it again! I was so encouraged to see your post ths morning and I know its doable. I love your thrifty tips on your blog, thanks for being so transparent M.

    • I am so happy to read that others have to go back into debt because of being under employed. It makes me feel less alone. We were almost completely debt free and then we lost a big client. We saved as much as we could for the storm, but still 6 months later the savings is gone and we aren’t back up to our past salary. Being back in debt is terrible because my mind set has changed so much that I hate debt with a passion. I know we will weather the storm, but it is nice to know I’m not alone.

  8. I am going through a divorce, my husband, soon to be X was a huge spender and used credit cards, has over 100K in debt. In CA. it is community property. I love the plan that I read, so there is hope to pay off these and to get an emergency fund going… THANKS for the positive postings. k

  9. This story is indeed very encouraging to me. In fact, when reading this post you pretty much reminded me of myself xD but yeah, it is good, really good, to look at the big picture and enjoy life regardless of what issues we have to face and deal with. Thank you very much for reminding me of that =)

  10. Wow! I am envious of the progress you’ve made. We use a similar strategy for paying off debt but still have a long way to go. ING/CapitalOne360 is also my bank of choice for saving and separating funds into different pots for specific functions. Still an awesome bank after the name change but I do miss the big orange ball. :)
    BTW, I found you thru Julie at The Family CEO.

  11. We did most of the same things years ago…I am older than you and I will say out of experience you hit the nail on the head. Opening the account in a separate bank was not something we did and I wish we had. It gives you a safe but not as easily accessible place to put the extra funds you need. I now have a separate account for household savings and it’s nice for me to know it’s there but not a part of the family budget that can be spent way too easily if we are not careful.
    The other thing you said that I think is so important is to note the differences between you and your husband. I am like you. I could live off leftovers, stale bread and ramen noodles if it meant saving something. My husband, not so much. The differences in personality are important to note. I also need a little bit more accessible savings than my husband does. He is a great long term (retirement) saver, no problem. But he is fine with little available emergency savings. That makes me nuts! I think it is a safety and security thing. God is definitely dealing with me in that are to trust Him more and not trust myself. But because I pay the bills, I know unexpected things arise (two kids in college, 4 cars, one at home in numerous sports). Learn your differences and work through them together. While I can’t be a tyrant, he realizes that he can’t be a free spirit and just hope it all works out. Working at this together has been a real blessing and i can honestly say we rarely argue over money. We make a plan and work it out…together.
    Congratulations on your hard work. You are passing on great lessons to your children!

  12. That’s awesome. I SWEAR you could take those exact pages from my spiral-bound notebook! We paid off $96K in 5 years—and had one in a small private college for the last 2 of those years. I know—private college is un-Dave like, but I believe in them anyway. One of the very few places we differ from Dave!

  13. I loved reading this. I listen to Dave Ramsey every day and love to hear all the success stories. Helps me keep focused and know that we can do it to. We didn’t get on board until Nov 2012. That was when I finally sat down and looked at all the statements we had paid through the year and realized that there wasn’t one single month that we hadn’t charged on our cards. Wow! That was eye-opening. I love how you said you can’t get out of debt while you are still getting into it. It was always stupid stuff like I’d overspend in the beginning of the month and then have nothing left for goroceries for the final week. We have to eat don’t we? So charge card it had to be. We’ve always had a budget but apparantly never stuck to it. I couldn’t figure out why for 6 years we always had a 2 year plan to be out fo debt and 6 years later it was still a 2 year plan. Crazy stupid! Now we are finally making traction. A couple of weeks ago our stove broke and had to be replaced. Instead of charging it like we would have prior to November I sold all my good silverware and anything else I could get my hands on (evening opening my Etsy again). I made all by $100 of that new stove. We had savings for the rest. It felt amazing to not go into debt any deeper. Unfortunately we owe half of my husband’s salary but I have no doubt now that when our plan says 2 years, we will actually be done in 2 years. Yay!

  14. Congratulations.
    But I’m thinking… paying that off is like (I’m bad at math, but I think I’ve got it) $30,000 a year!
    That’s a lot of people’s entire income. (mine is only a bit higher than that) and I have a hard time making ends meet with just my salary, not to mention trying to squirrel away the majority of it.

    Just wondering how on earth that’s possible without earning at least $100,000 a year?

    • yep, that’s about the average of what we paid off per year. And obviously we made more than that but there were years when half our income went to pay off debt. Also, we BOTH worked. and my husband worked part time in addition to his regular job the last year of our debt paying off.

  15. Saltytexan says

    Congrats! I cannot yet imagine how great that feels. My family are just starting DR’s plan and feel so so hopeful that we’ll be able to say the words debt free in 3 years. I would so appreciate it if you could post/comment at some time on how you ‘budgeted’ for making your house a home. We moved into our home about the time that all things went south. We’ve endured two layoffs since 2007. We did some things to our house (contributing unfortunately to our debt) but know that anything major will come after Baby Step 2 and 3. But our house isn’t a home. It doesn’t reflect us, our family. Dave would say tough, wait 3 years, and I have thought that ‘doing without’ a home that feels more like home is the only way. But you seem to have managed to build that in your budget. How did you do it, did you feel guilty about it? I would luv to hear your perspective. p.s., I will definitely be using my weekly ‘woo-hoo!’ money to buy your book!!

    • I shopped the house, used what I had and yard saled like a crazy person! BUT, starting about 18 months ago, the blog was bringing in enough money to help pay off debt and allow me to do a few things in the house, plus I could talk about it on the blog. But if you look at my projects and house much of it is every day items (book pages, plants, white painted walls, dishes hung on the wall) repurposed and repainted old or yard sale furniture and slipcovered stuff. I still have my $12 slipcovered chair with one leg being held up by books.

      Lovely limitations, that’s what allowed me to make a house a home.

      great question, the best. my favorite one!

  16. I don’t believe this story. Your husband would have to make at least $100,000 a year for this scenario to actually work.

    • It IS possible. You live on less than you make. Don’t charge anything. Sell stuff. Don’t go out to eat. Buy clothing at the thrift store. And what if he DID make 100K?

      • I don’t understand why people are having a tough time “believing” this. What is to gain with a lie? Husband is part time now. Perhaps Nester was the breadwinner. Blogs… Books… Selling things. Why is that so difficult to get your head around? I’m sure it was a challenge but I believe it happened and I say good for anyone who has accomplished this.

        • I’m totally not surprised, because in a way it seems impossible. It really taught me how much money we let slip through our fingers. Yes, my husband is part time NOW, but last year he had a franchise AND a part time job at our church, I might have been unclear about that, I should go back and check.

          And yes, this blog is totally my job, I’m not getting rich off of it but it for sure has helped us pay off our debt much faster.

    • he doesn’t make $100,000 but both of us work, this blog is my job and he made pretty decent money, although after the first year it went down every year, mine grew a little bit every year. And the last year he picked up a part time job too. He worked really hard but it was doable because we knew it wasn’t forever.

  17. Nester, my hubby and I paid off $38,000 in 7 months back in 2007 working 5 jobs simultaneously thanks to the teachings of Dave Ramsey. :) Isn’t it great to be debt free???Anyways, we’ve gotten lazy with savings the past year as we started our own auto repair shop and that business sucked all our cash. We’re doing better this year and are kicking our savings habits back into gear starting this weekend, actually. I’d love to open up some savings accounts on Cap One 360 but the link didn’t work for me. Can you post another referral link? I’d love for you to benefit from us opening some accounts. Thanks!

  18. This is for the non-believers… My husband and I too have been doing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. I’m disappointed to say we are very much on again, off again though due to my husband being in the military. What I do want to share is that the 3 months that we did Financial Peace University last spring we were able to pay off over $8000 of debt and save close to another $1500. That was all on a salary of about $40,000/yr. I am a stay at home mom. We did it by using a budget, making snowball payments and selling stuff/working extra in any way we could. We have about $25,000 more to go and are on par to be debt free by 2014. Dave’s program is kind of like using a spatula to get the remaining batter out of a bowl… there’s always more leftover than you think when you tie up all those loose ends and scrape your financial “bowl” clean!

  19. very proud of the hard work of discipline and self control that you and your husband mastered in order to do this together.

  20. Congratulations and thank you for the encouragement. I was foolish with money in my single years and early years of marriage and the last 6 years have been us climbing out of all of that…. with one set back after another, so many out of our control. But I know that God is in control and we are pushing through with faith and slowly and surely it is getting better, and God is definitely growing us through it. I appreciate your tips! Several are very timely for us!

  21. RE: “My mathy skills and ability to eat leftovers like a jailed maniac. . . .”
    Nester, you crack me up! I think you are my long-lost soul sister. I too have “mathy” skills and the ability to deny myself nice STUFF. . . . but you and your family seem to have achieved a nice balance between frugality and an imperfectly beautiful life. I love your blog – have been following it for years – and wish you many blessings as you enter your debt-free future.
    For those of you who don’t believe the Nester’s story, click on over to Money Saving Mom (referenced above) or for more information on becoming and staying debt-free while living in a hyper-consumerist society.

  22. You get it so right! Thanks for a great post and for referencing the balancing of personalities. The moments of obsessive saving can become silly and contrary to the big picture of creating intentional, grateful and productive lives..Thanks for always keeping it real and giving quality , useful information with cheery motivation…in Australia

  23. Love this post! My husband and I are FINALLY getting serious about our Dave Ramsey program, and I’m so excited about it! My question for you is this: did you create a category in your budget for decor? Or did you use your blow money for that stuff? I love making our (rental) house feel like a home, but I’m not sure where to budget in little things like fabric for curtains or the supplies for crafty decorating projects. Help! :)

    • I think it boils down to what you really want. How quickly do you want to be debt free. I think it also matters how much money you’re bringing in. For the author, (especially her husband) it was important to still have fun while chunking off the debt.

      In our reality, we have only brought in about $180,000 in the last five years so we have to make different priorities. We have a kitchen that we’ve been working on remodeling for almost 7 years. It was gutted down to the studs for a couple years of that, but we just couldn’t make the decision to spend more money on it. We now have painted walls and a beautiful floor that my husband refinished but we are living with a laundry tub for a sink (which I’ll actually miss when it’s gone…it’s so big!) and 2 stainless counters with a shelf underneath that we bought at Sam’s Club. We hope to get counters and cupboards by the end of summer but it’s a good chance that we won’t be able to. Before we spend the money on that we want to have a $10,000 bumper in case we need to replace our aging vehicle.

      So, it boils down to priorities. Do we have enough money to FINALLY get our kitchen the way it’s supposed to be? Yes. But, that would put us in a strenuous position if anything else out of the ordinary happened. So, we wait a little while longer.

      • two things.

        1. this blog is my job, so I might do something that a non house blogger would do. so I only justified it if I loved it and could talk about it on the blog, therefore making money from what I do to our house (fun, huh?)

        2. I LOVE decorating. I think everyone needs an outlet. So, I think everyone needs a little blow money every month. For coffees or magazines or manicures–for me, I cut my own hair for years (true story up until last year) and used my ‘blow money” at yard sales for housey stuff and it was money well spent! My husband would go to a guy movie with a friend once or so a month.

  24. This is a great post! My question is this – without knowing the Dave Ramsey program at all – does paying off debt mean paying off a mortgage and car, too? Just wondering if he considers that “good debt” or if he believes you should be completely debt free, even from those things.


    • he separates them. actually he separates the house, the cars would be part of the debt you pay off (our cars are paid off but also old) I think he would say ideally the goal is to pay off the house as quickly as possible. I think my husband agrees with Dave Ramsey through the debt payoff part of consumer debt and cars and such but then after that I think maybe they think a little differently about the best way to move forward. I havent’ given it much thought myself just because for so long our purpsose has been debt free, I can’t believe we are moving forward from that

  25. I love the thought, think it is a great plan and have read Ramsey’s information and the snowball plan. Here is our dilemma – during a time of maintaining two households, having two bad business partners and raising four kids we incurred a lot of bad credit — we have no “credit card” debt, as we have never had credit cards. However, we have old debts that we haven’t been paying on because we maintain almost paycheck to paycheck, and have to pay the Musts before we can go back to fix the old problems. Ramsey says in his plan — do not use this plan unless you are current in your payments… we are struggling just to get to that point, let alone get rid of the debt. Very frustrating — especially when it is only about 10k.

  26. .

  27. Your husband is my new beardspiration.

  28. Thank you so much for your post. My husband has had his own business as a contractor for 8 years and though I still work part-time (steady income but not enough for us to live off of) his income fluctuates. Its so encouraging to see how you have paid off your debt in that situation. We have done the same things and gotten out of debt but have now once again racked up the debt (mostly because of the business). Its time to organize once again – Thanks for the tips!

  29. This seems more like a post bragging about your accomplishment (which is awesome and great for you!!!) than any actual real tips that can apply to others, especially since a large chunk of your debt was to a relative and you didn’t actually pay it back. Settling a debt isn’t paying it off, so that’s misleading, too. Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just pointing out that your post is misleading especially when someone clicks through from Pinterest. :/

    • Paid off 150k! So what if 10% was “forgiven” by family. It’s not like they’ve been sitting on their arses looking for handouts!

  30. My husband and I don’t have that much debt, just school debt and other minor medical debt. But those debts combined with poor money management really does a number on our financial situation. However your story has inspired me!! I even printed it out and hung it on my fridge to keep us motivated! Thank you for writing about your financial situation!

  31. Wonderful! I’m so overwhelmed and as one person don’t know how I’ll ever get out of debt. But very happy to have your story as inspiration. You should be so incredibly proud.

  32. I am LOVING this post. I am having a hard time getting my husband on the same page as me. I am wanting to shut our cable off. It is $150 a month and I do not think we watch $150 worth of t.v. when we spend most out time flipping through channels. I see where he’s coming from though. He is the one working all the time and if he wants to watch tv or flip through channels when he comes home, he should be able to. So, how do I make a start? We both are impulse spenders. IF it says its on sale, we think we have to have it. I am getting better about it but I just can’t get him to agree to and sort of “plan” to help us get started. I would love any advice :)

    • Courtnay says

      We got rid of our cable. We bought a Roku, which cost a one time purchase of $50, and we can watch TV from that. I think Hulu is only $8 a month, so you can still flip through channels. Not quite as many, but we haven’t felt like we were missing out. And much less than $150. You can also stream netflix through it as well. We haven’t had cable in well over a year, and haven’t even noticed a difference.

  33. You encourage me. And I am so appreciative of that. Thank you for putting this all out there. Financial junk has hit is squarely on the jaw and there have been times I’ve thought, it’s never going to be better, EVER, and boy if that isn’t the most depressing thought, I don’t know what is. also… just the part about the occasional meal out, bottle of wine, etc. THAT was a big help to my heart. I tend to feel like it’s all or nothing (does that make sense?) and we can never do ANY fun thing EVER again until it’s all better. Which may in fact be never… so I needed that reminder badly.


  34. My husband works as a freelancer, and we use a program called YNAB (You Need a Budget). We like it because you are always a month ahead on budget. So, what you earn in March is what you use to budget for April. We like it because his income does vary widely, and we are able to spend based on what we know. (We also usually save any money that isn’t budgeted for a few months in a savings account, and then after a few months put that amount toward our lowest debt. This allows some wiggle room for months that his income results in us being a little under budget.)

  35. Congrats!!! Welcome to the debt-free club! :)
    Thank you for the inspirational story, I LOVE reading about people WINNING with money!!! My husband and I also are on the Dave Ramsey plan. We paid our consumer debt off last June, $48,000 in 7 months, with a take home salary of $75,000 annually. Its amazing what you can accomplish when you whole heartedly believe and put your faith in God… not to mention work your tail off. :) Congrats again and enjoy your financial freedom! :)

  36. Congratulations! This is so amazing. I am sure that so many people will benefit from your experience. By the way, I live in Charlotte too. :)

  37. Blessings and congrats. This gives me hope for our country. Keep sharing and postings to inspire this generation to be producers and not just consumers. You are a role model :)

  38. Thanks so much for this post. My ex-husband and I tried and tried to pay off debt and were on again off again with the DR plan. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons (including his spending habits), our marriage didn’t work and because I was the bread winner, I am stuck with the majortiy of the debt. Even more than you paid off, believe it or not. I am blessed to make very good money, but I am raising two boys almost on my own and every penny is accounted for. I have been so discouraged by the amount of the debt, the times I have fallen back on the plan and the ridiculousness of how much money I make with nothing to show for it. BUT, I recently added up what I have paid off in the past two years and I couldn’t believe it. It was great to feel like I was making progress. I am always encouraged to see that someone else managed to conquer what seems like an insurmountable dollar figure and that they did it less than perfectly (I love Dave Ramsey, but I don’t agree with every single thing he says . . ). I am on a mission to create a life for my boys that is as free from financial stress as it can be and to set a responsible example for them. Thanks for the encouragement!

  39. I’m just starting on the debt payoff, but am excited about it. There is a website called that helps you put together a plan to pay off debt. It works exactly like Dave Ramsay’s program, and it allows you to print up your payment plan, etc.

  40. This post was a great find on Pinterest! Very motivating. Props for all your couponing and self discipline. I need to tuffin up and snowball, that’s for sure. Also, I think I am going to open another bank account, and maybe I will look into your suggestion.

    Something I am especially interested in is how blogging has helped you. I absolutely love blogging, especially educational blogs for teaching kids. I have put so much into it that I am starting to feel like maybe I should stop and write a book to sell or something, since educating others feels like my calling for work sometimes. But then I read this post and now you have me thinking about something I never considered– Could it be possible to turn my blogging into a job? If you are willing to share some steps you took to make this blog your job, I would love to hear more! I really have no idea where to start, and would I have to start a whole new blog with a different site? Most of my blogging is at and I am a little familiar with Adsense, but could use any advise. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration and I look forward to reading more!

  41. THANK YOU so much for this post!! Have been feeling hopeless about our debt and this really, really helps:)))

  42. This is great for you and your family. I read your blog but rarely comment. I, like you, am an introvert and always feel intimidated by your popularity. You have made quite an accomplishment in paying off this debt. I wish someone would pay me to coupon and shop for them, I love it.

    • thanks Ruth!!! you know, if my husband were working full time right now, I’d probably consider hiring someone to do my couponing, ask around, many MANY of us LOVE the idea of couponing but don’t know how, it’s SO worth it to pay someone to do it for you!!! thanks for the comment!

  43. This is amazing and very motivating. My husband and I have about 70K in debt. That includes one car, one credit card, and my student loans. Funny how it adds up so quickly :(

    We’ve recently taken big steps to get out of debt and i feel like we’re making progress. The next things to pay off are the bigger items. I hope we can keep up the motivation.

  44. Great post. I really like the part about a debt-free controlling meanie still being a meanie. My husband and I have paid off $100k so far with just a little more to go. We maybe could have paid it off faster but we have still enjoyed having a life and occasionally treating ourselves to a dinner out or special date night. The important part has been being in agreement on how we spend AND how we get out of debt together. Congrats on being debt free!

  45. I had to laugh about the couponing part. I started off that way, too. I still have enough free shampoo to last another five years! And Angel’s comment about making a payoff plan and, two years later, you’re still nowhere! That was me! But a year ago May, I realized I was at the end credit-cardwise, and had to finally bite the bullet and get serious. A year later in my debt repayment, I think what comes to mind most prominently is that debt repayment is tedious and boring. DR says you need patience, and it’s so very true. Right when I was in full swing in January, my car was totaled. Are there any good cheap used cars out there? NO! They’re all gone! So I used the insurance money to pay off a couple of 15% cards and then financed the new used car with the credit union at a low interest rate, but adding another $11,000 to my debt. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, October 2014…gasp! It’s so far away, it makes you want to bolt and run, but you know you have to stick with it, because the thought of starting all over again is too much to bear. Thanks for your encouraging blog.

  46. Hi,
    May I ask: if you don’t have credit cards, how do you order online? And make hotel reservations, etc.?
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  47. Wow!! I am so impressed that you guys were able to pay that off, way to go! :-) The only debt we have right now is our house (and we only have about $105,000 left). We have talked often about really tightening up so we can snowball it, but we can’t seem to take the plunge. I’m going to show him this tonight and maybe we can come up with a plan!

  48. Found this off someone’s pinterest and you have no idea how much motivation you just gave me. My husband and I are self-employeed, same business so we save by only have one vehicle, but we did get into some debt during the recession period when it was imperative to pay employees before ourselves. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to keep up with all the debt payments and my husband had incurred medical bills over the last several years as well so we are definitely struggling. I’m going to make a plan today on getting everything in order and I love the idea of separating the accounts so I know exactly how much spending money I have vs money for bills.

  49. Did your debt include your mortgage? We don’t even have a house yet, but have so much student loan debt and not even sure where to start?

  50. Thank you