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…
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.