theworstbandever » Tony and Stevie

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If you know Tony and I closely you probably already know that we have been on an intense get out of debt journey for the last 3.5 years. And if you don’t know, well then here’s your chance to learn something very personal about us.

In Spring of 2014 Tony and I had an ‘I’ve had it!’ moment and decided to focus all of our energy on getting 100% out of debt. At the time we owed $125,000. Yes you read that right. One hundred and twenty five thousand dollars!  But I’m extremely proud (and some might say bragging) when I say that, almost 3 ½ years later, we now only have a little less than $8,000 left.

I think it’s generally taboo to talk about money and/or debt because we all feel ashamed of it and feel like we are the only ones that have a problem with it. But that’s silly because I know with confidence that soooo many people are in the same boat.   I don’t even need to list a bunch of statistics because a 30 second Google search will show you that ½ of Americans have at LEAST $25,000 in debt and that’s not including mortgages. And 1 in 10 say they have more than $100,000 in debt (and that was us!).

So now we have established that most of us have debt .. and I’m guessing you do too. If you don’t (or just don’t want to read about it) then you can stop here and continue on to this video of goats that scream like humans.  But, if you do have debt or know someone that does, please keep reading.

So back to our debt … We had a LOT of debt. It was primarily made up of several student loans, followed by a decent size business credit card and a small personal credit card.  All totaling up to a whopping $125,000.

Tony had read a lot of books on finances and getting out of debt and was moving in the direction of wanting to pay it off for awhile .. But honestly, I did not want to pay it off… I just wanted to keep paying the minimum payments. We were young-ish, newly married, and had a brand new baby. I wanted to live life NOW .. I wanted to travel, to go out to eat, to have fun with our friends and family. I did NOT want to have to skimp and save and suffer. Because obviously I thought it would take FOREVER to pay off $125,000. But then 2 things happened that made me change my mind.

First, Tony showed me a debt repayment calculator online and introduced me to a little thing called interest. He showed me that if we made minimum payments now that it would take us about 15 or so years to pay off all of our student loans and would cost us $47,000 or more in interest. I couldn’t believe it! It was bad enough to have to pay $125,000 in the first place and I would be damned if I was going to pay an EXTRA $50,000 on top of it! No way! That was absolutely infuriating to me. (There is a link to the calculator further down in the post)

And secondly, I had to reach my pain point … We are both self-employed, small business owners so our income has always been pretty sporadic. I would work a ton during wedding and portrait season and would sometimes hardly have any work over the winter months. Tony’s furniture business was still relatively new and was slowly progressing but could also be sparse over the winter holidays. Usually we could build up a nest egg by November that would carry us until work really picked back up again in February / March.   Which worked ok .. until one year it didn’t. We never budgeted so we overspent on normal things over the winter (restaurants, groceries, going to Target.. it all adds up!)  Then Tony had an eye injury so we had some unexpected medical bills on top of the hospital bills that came in following the birth of Rosie.  All of that resulted in us not having enough money to cover all of our bills and expenses. We were sitting there with a bunch of bills having to decide what got paid and what didn’t until more money was available. The financial stress and the stress of having a newborn really weighed us down and that was our breaking point.

Not to mention our minimum payments for the student loans alone totaled up to $1,000 a month .. That on top of all of our regular living expenses was suffocating on it’s own.  So paying only the minimum payments really wasn’t sustainable long term.

We believe in order to make drastic change you have to reach a point where the pain of staying in your current situation is greater than the pain of making real changes.

And this was ours.

To us the pain of feeling weighed down by debt and not having enough money to get by was our tipping point. We were now ready to do the hard work to get out of debt so we NEVER felt that pain of not being in control again.

Sooo.. if you have any amount of debt and it’s weighing on you and causing you anxiety I would recommend starting with 3 little things…

  1. Play around with this debt repayment calculator .. Put in the amount of debt you have and the interest rate and plug in different amounts of time to see how much interest you would pay if you pay it off in 10 years vs 2 years for example. See how much you will pay in interest if you just make the minimum payments .. Get mad! Get fired up over how much wasted money that is!  How that money could be spent to go after your dreams!
  2.  Read ‘Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey.. It’s the only finance book I have read and it’s really what pushed me over the edge into thinking this was really possible.  It’s an extremely easy read and very motivating.  We have gifted this book to others many times!
  3. Start with Why: (Why would you want to get out of debt?) The best way to make a change is to not get overwhelmed with HOW you are going to do it.. That makes it seem really daunting .. Instead think of WHY you want to do it .. It gives you something to focus on.  Once you know ‘why’ the ‘how’ will come to you on it’s own.I’ll share some of our why:We want to own a house one dayWe wanted to not have to always depend on 2 incomes so I could be at home with our kidsWe wanted to be able to save up to foster and/or adopt in the futureWe wanted the flexibility to homeschool if we chooseWe want to be able to travel moreWe wanted to be able to invest that money into retirement instead of just throwing it away on interest.

    We want to free up our money to be able to help others and give generously

    And over time we really started to value consuming less and owning less


    *It’s not just about money .. it’s about what you want out of life.  And having the freedom to go after it.


Starting out we guesstimated that it would take us 2 ½ years to pay it off and here we are almost 3 ½ years later .. but we are sooo close! At the beginning it almost felt impossible. $125,000 is an unbelievably high amount of money to pay back. But we kept pushing, and put everything we could towards it every month. There is some cliché statement that says “A year ago you will wish you had started today” And that’s what I kept thinking about in those first months. That it seemed hard now but that a year from then we would look back and see how much progress we had made and be so proud of how far we had come. And I was surprised how fast 3 ½ years could fly by.

And yes there were sacrifices .. I won’t pretend it was easy .. but I’m being perfectly honest when I say that having a strict budget actually made us feel like we had more money than before.  It’s amazing how cutting all the crap spending that you don’t need makes it easier to afford the things that you really value.  I think Rumi said that.

We are currently $117,000 lighter (and that’s not including interest that we have paid and all of the things we have cash-flowed over the last couple years (moving to a different house, car repairs, the birth of another baby) and I can honestly say we feel so much free-er. We are in control of where our money goes and we (almost) don’t owe anybody a single thing. I’m not writing this to brag .. honestly .. I just truly want to help someone else let go of some of their anxiety over money. I want debt to not be something we can’t talk about because we feel ashamed. I have had several friends approach me privately over the last year or 2 and admit to feeling intensely overwhelmed and anxious over their money situations and ask questions about how we got started. And it’s been wonderful to hear how much free-er they feel now that they have a plan of their own and are making changes to pay off debt. So I just want to say that Tony and I are an open book and willing to share anything about our journey and what worked for us. So if something in this post stirred up something in you and you want to hear more, or ask questions please don’t hesitate to reach out. And if anyone wants to hear more I could certainly do some follow up posts with more of our ‘how’.

Ok you’ve made it to the end .. now you can take a break and watch that video of the goats.

Or if you if you are anything like my husband and you already watched the goat video up at the top of the post when you weren’t supposed to here is another one for you.

  • Mom - You always make me so proud… and teach me at the same time! Love you bunches!! MomReplyCancel

  • Kim - Wow…you’ve inspired me. As a newly divorced mom, I too still have student loans and credit card debt. I probably shouldn’t have put my loans in deferment for right now but I did. I am going to buy that book and I may be contacting you for tips!

    Thank you Stevie♡ReplyCancel

  • Denise Zucco - Thank you so much for sharing your experience!ReplyCancel

  • Yari Garcia - Inspires me to start and go debt free also! Debt piles up soo easily. I found you because i read your post of your child having an extra thumb. My daughter was also born with it, but shes a couple weeks old(too young to have it removed). I am loving reading your postsReplyCancel


I don’t really know what I’m doing or what direction this is going to go in so if you happen upon this don’t feel like you have to read it. But for the last month there has been something inside of me screaming to get out. And since I don’t know exactly what that ‘IT’ is I really don’t know how to release it.   After a series of events over the last few months (most prominently being the passing of my grandmother) I am left questioning how to live a more meaningful life .. a life where I feel more things. I have ideas, theories, things I want to try etc but I was having a little trouble actually starting them. While I was rambling to a friend the other day I realized that I keep saying things that I want to do / should do / know I have to do .. but I seem to get hung up on the actually doing them part. And I found myself annoyed at myself and as soon as she left I vowed (to the notes section on my iphone) to make some changes.

But my problem is some of the things I want to do are big tasks that aren’t easily completed with a kid hanging on each leg. So instead of trying to do them at once I felt like I needed to break them down into tiny bits that I do each day.   For example I want to purge so much crap from our house but was overwhelmed and my friend suggested getting rid of 1 item on day 1, 2 items on day 2, 3 items on day … you get the idea. And I have a years worth of papers to file but don’t have 3 hours to sit and do it all at once so I thought maybe I could do a little bit each day.

So I decided to make a daily checklist because I can only do things if it seems like a competition with myself. So I searched for a blank daily check list on Pinterest. Side note.. you would NOT believe the ridiculous to-do list/  checklists that are out there! A 30 item weekly checklist on how to clean your house?! A 20 item daily checklist for social media. My stomach hurt just looking at all of the things people think they should be doing.

Anywho, My list started out well with things I really want to do to improve myself … meditate, journal, that getting rid of one+ item each day thing … As soon as I started the list I began to lose focus and put stupid things on there like pick up my house at the end of the day and respond to emails , deep clean 1 room, or prepare for the next day .. Then I realized I was missing the FRICKIN point of what I was trying to accomplish. A meaningful existence. And I can promise you a meaningful life of feeling isn’t found after cleaning my toilet once a week!!!!

So I made a new checklist .. a LIFE checklist.. It does not include no brainer things that I would do eventually like emails and work … and it does not include cleaning or catching up on filing. It includes quality things that I think will actually make my life better and lead to a more meaningful, fun, fulfilled life .. well that and vitamins .. because I can never seem to make myself take those.

Here it is ..

Meditate – because everywhere I turn someone is recommending it so it must be like coconut oil for your mind.

Journal / Write .. I used to hate journaling for various reasons but I’ve been doing it lately and have been really enjoying it

Purge something – I’ll start with one item on day one, 2 items on day 2 and so on .. Resulting in hopefully getting rid of a ton of crap by the end of 30 days.  I kept this one on there because I do think purging clears mental space and I’m in desperate need or more mental space.

Take vitamins –just because I keep forgetting .. like since March

Get outside

Do something silly .. I take life way too seriously sometimes

Be brave / do something scary – this isn’t as hard as it seems. I’m scared of a lot of things

Feel something – as easy as standing out in the rain .. assuming it’s raining

Read (something other than Dr. Suess)

Share something real – I’m ready for some more real talk and less surface stuff .. this post is todays 🙂

Quit something every Thursday.. I stole this one from my hero Bob Goff .. If you haven’t read LOVE DOES stop everything and order it on Amazon .. or get it from the library.  But now that I think of it he doesn’t talk about quitting things in that book at all.  But still get it, read it, live it!

Play .. just another reminder to stop taking life so seriously.

I recently took a quiz (obviously I was procrastinating something else) from Gretchen Rubin (you know, author of the Happiness Project) It was a quiz on what she calls the Four Tendencies. The short explanation is that the quiz helps determine how we individually respond to expectations (inner and outer) which helps us figure out how we can best change our habits.. You can be an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.   I knew before taking it that I would be an Obliger. Which in Gretchen’s words means “I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.” Which I interpret as .. I do what others tell me to do but I’m not motivating myself to make changes in my life that I want to do .. which is kind of lame in my opinion and also explains a lot of my issues.  Obligers are externally motivated so it’s best to share goals with others that will keep you accountable. So I choose to share my list publicly with the 2 people* that read this blog to hopefully make it stick.

I’ll report back.

Feel inspired to make your own list? Do share it with me!!

And in case you don’t care about my to-do list but still somehow made it this far .. here are a couple photos of my kids playing boat in a cardboard box to make you smile.
*And by 2 people I mean that my mom usually reads it twice.

  • Cat - I’ll be your huckleberry Ringo
    (See liner notes for the film, Wyatt ErppReplyCancel

  • Kathie Lucero - I know exactly where you are at. I’m on the meditation bandwagon myself and yes it is great. Your list sounds like you are on the right path. I love your style and your outlook. Most of all I LOVE your kids. Keep taking pics of them.
    I took a ‘solo’ road trip about a month ago and ‘found’ myself. Not for everyone but I recommend it to all my friends. For the first hour I was ‘brave’ but for the next 2932 miles I had a blast. I mixed doing things alone with visiting family in different states. I took pictures and stopped wherever and whenever I wanted. I posted each night on FB so no one would get worried about how I was doing.
    Be silly, be brave and sometimes you will do both at the same time.
    xoxo KathieReplyCancel


In keeping with our anniversary tradition we donned our wedding clothes for the afternoon .. Despite the fact that one of us has clearly gained a bunch of weight since last year and couldn’t fit into said clothes .. 3 years in and it just keeps getting better!!!

Tradition of wearing wedding clothes on anniversary

You can find our first anniversary here and our second anniversary here.


This news is WAY overdue so most all of our family and close friends or (anyone that has actually seen me in person) already knows this but the Oliver family is growing by 1.  That’s right!  Rosie is such an amazing tiny human that we decided we would take our chances with another one!

Baby Oliver #2 is due to arrive mid July.    (These photos are a 2 months old already so I look drastically different now a days .. But I’ll post an updated photo soon.)

It’s still so surreal to think we will be adding another baby to our family and there have been sooo many thoughts, feelings, emotions and fears surrounding the last 4 months.  In some ways it still doesn’t feel real.  I think that may be why I haven’t shared too openly yet.  Or maybe it’s because I have a toddler to run after and I just don’t have the same free time for blogging, daydreaming or even showering regularly.

Tony and I are absolutely thrilled for this growing baby and can’t wait to see what adventures await us.  Rosie is very excited and is going to be the most amazing big sister ever!!  She is practicing daily on her baby dolls (and her friends).


  • Terry oliver - Congratulations Stevie, Tony and Rosie! You are an absolutely awesome circle of love to bring this new miracle into….may your joys multiply even as your free time shrinks!!ReplyCancel