When Jack and I were young, man oh man, did we make a lot of bad money choices. We didn’t even know how to budget. We were only 19 and 20 years old when we got married in 2007 and moved away to our first place together in Montgomery, Alabama. We thought having credit cards were normal and just a part of life…but no, sorry to break the news to you, it is not normal. Looking at our credit card debts in writing just made me wish it can disappear, but reality is, we had to deal with it.
How much debt did we have and how long did it take us to pay it off?
We had about $9,000 in credit card debt, $8,000 in student loan debt, and a combined $20,000 in car debt. So all together: about $37,000 in debt we needed to pay off. While hustling and making smart money choices, it took us about 6 years to pay off, and another 3 years to save enough for a home down payment.
While living in Montgomery, Alabama, we hustled hard to work on eliminating our credit card debts. I was working two jobs barely making anything, Jack was an airman barely making anything, and he was a full-time student! Montgomery, Alabama was a struggle, a real hit in the face of some reality. But during that time, Jack got deployed to overseas while I moved to California to live with family and worked two jobs, and that really helped us, we ended up saving a bit, enough to eliminate the credit card debt completely by 2010.
While living in Anchorage, Alaska, we still had our cars and student debts to pay off. Living in Alaska was a blessing; we made the most money there. It was a nice change to have money coming in versus barely bringing in anything. And this is where we first discovered Dave Ramsey (I’ll talk more about him later). But we also took advantage to save even more and made a lot of sacrifices; like living in a tiny apartment to save more money, at one point I was working 50 hours a week, and we barely saw each other. Jack even took a one-year tour to Korea, which helped the most. By 2013, we finally were able to pay off our car and student debt (hallelujah). All while I finished my AA in business, and Jack finished his BS in Information Technology.
Now that our bad debts were eliminated, we started saving. And we saved, saved, and SAVED! There were so many times I wanted to go shopping and splurge, or take a trip around the world. But we had a goal, and that goal was to save money to buy a house and start a family. And we did just that. I even kept an excel worksheet to keep track of our spending (yeah, we were serious).
This was a very slow process and it did not happen overnight. Being money cautious and budgeting became second nature to us. We always said no to outings (unless it was necessary), we barely ate out, or never went to the movies. We got to fit in a travel once a year to San Francisco to visit family. And we donated and gave to family or friends when they needed it. We had our priorities set but that didn’t stop us from having fun, we enjoyed ourselves in moderation.
Fast forward to 9 years, I am so grateful that Jack are I are now financially stable. We now have great money skills, and we listen to Dave Ramsey to guide us along the way. If you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, I highly suggest you do your research; he is a big reason why we are so financially stable. We’ve now become homeowners 9 months ago, life has slowed down tremendously for us, and we are growing our family. And we are still in our 20’s! I even chose to be a stay at home mom. I don’t have to work, and I don’t need to work to prove I have good work ethic or prove I can financially provide for my family. I know I have good work ethic, and I know I can provide financially when the time is right. But since we planned ahead, my current goal in life right now is to be the best stay at home mommy and wife that I can be. Life is good when you and your spouse work as a team and are both on the same page, especially when it comes to money.
Paying off our debts was not fun, and it was not easy, it took a lot of will power and dedication. My biggest advice would be to PLAN AHEAD! We made payments more than the minimum the whole time to knock it out fast. Now that we don’t owe any debt (besides our home, but that’s good debt) we can breath. It is such a good feeling to not make any payments on things we’ve bought a long time ago that we probably don’t even have anymore. We’ve became very minimalistic with our material things. And we’ve been making updates to our new home and we pay everything in cash, it’s really a great feeling.
And it’s possible for anyone, whether you’re a doctor or work at McDonalds, anyone can become debt free and buy a house, as long as you make the right money choices. If you want to tackle your debt, I suggest following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, that’s a good place to start.
Hope this helped, or inspired you to tackle your debts! Thanks for reading.