How we tackled debt

Many don’t like to talk about money. Finances are seen as a private matter. I believe it’s important to talk about finances and learn from one another. Here in this post, I will share how we worked together to become debt free. Now, I must give a disclaimer – we still have a mortgage! This is the story of how we were able to pay off all card debt, student loans, and own both of our vehicles before our 4th wedding anniversary.  If we could do this on a very small to modest salary, so can you!  The following is what helped us:

1) a mutual desire to eliminate debt. it was essential that we were both on the same page!

2) sacrificing for the sake of the goal. as my mother often says, “short term pain for long term gain”. while engaged, I decided to forgo purchasing a vehicle and walk to work instead. as a result, I had extra cash at the end of each month that I applied to my student loan debt.

3) we desired to learn from others.  while engaged, we sat down with a business professor and early in marriage a financial adviser. they both helped us to prioritize what to tackle first. crown financial money map was helpful too: http://www.crown.org/

4) becoming debt free took priority over acquiring nice new things. we took the money given to us at our wedding and paid off one credit card. since finances are often seen as the #1 reason for marriage break-down, their monetary presents were helping us on our road to financial freedom.

5) we didn’t put our goal of being debt free on-hold until we had decent earnings. we were slowly chipping away at our debt even when money was tight and one of us was in school.

6) when purchasing our first home, we heeded the advice of my parents. they recommended that we take out a mortgage based on one of our salary – not both. we decided we did not want to be house rich and life poor. this was one of the best financial decisions we have made to date. purchasing a house under our means was the key ingredient to finally becoming student loan debt free.

7) we are working towards putting safety nets in place so that we don’t need to go back into debt again. emergency savings as well as a life insurance policy were added after eliminating our last student loan.

8) we don’t view giving to others as something to start doing when a person has “arrived” financially speaking. it’s a habit that we chose to practice while deep in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.

The last thing that I’d like to add is that I believe the key ingredient to financial freedom is contentment. Being satisfied with less, with old things (from clothes to cars), with a smaller house, and waiting to do house projects or travel until its all paid for in cash are not easy things! We live in a “me” and “right now” society. I believe that contentment is the killer of consumerism. With contentment crawling out of debt is given fuel.

I don’t want this post to come across as if we have arrived financially. Did I mention that my husband is a pastor and I’m a social worker? haha. We are not rich by North America’s standard. Yet, we are grateful for what we have as only 8% of people in the world even own one car. I hope that you too will see yourself as rich and as capable of financial freedom. If you have any tips/experiences or any thoughts about this post, please leave a comment below!

10 thoughts on “How we tackled debt”

  1. Andrew and I are also chipping away. We bought a house on his income, got life insurance, and are just chipping constantly. A house has many money pits, but it feels more rewarding slowly making it the dream house. Plus, with a house, we rarely go out to spend money. Lol. Going to have a very thrifty party when we finish paying off our student loans.

  2. Marrying an “older guy” meant he already had a house AND a mortgage to go with it, but we also learned to live with less for a long time and make hammering the mortgage and my student debt a huge priority. They’ve both been gone for some time now, and it is so great for the health of our marriage to not have the money worries that so many do. Not having children definitely makes a difference – I know they cost a lot of money – but perhaps having no money strain on our marriage is why we are among the few in our friends & family circle who are still together (and thriving) after 15 years together…!

    Great blog, R! I’m your newest follower! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Erin! You raise a valid point – children. We had a financial advisor tell us that the greatest thing we can do financially speaking is to not have children! The person who said this has 4 grown children. It certainly would have made it much harder to get out of debt if we had children early in our marriage. Congrats on being mortgage free! We look forward to that day. thanks for following!

  3. Honour God with the firstfruits of each pay cheque and He will help you manage the remaining as a good stewart. Getting out of debt is His will for you!

  4. Well done! We did the same thing back 4 years ago now when we bought our home for $265,000. We took the mortgage out based on one salary and today while using a budget and many tips you suggest we have the money to pay the mortgage in full. We are debt free and under 40! Great post! Mr.CBB

  5. We’re kindred spirits in this area 🙂 We used the debt snowball tactic and were able to pay off two student loans, two car loans, save for a big down payment on our house, and save for all our adoption expenses in 5 years. Some days felt like it was useless and neverending, but looking back now I’m so proud of how much we were able to save in that time. Something we also did was every time one of us got a raise at work, we put that extra money right into savings instead of increasing our standard of living. Some might think we’re nuts for how little money we still make ourselves spend on things like groceries and clothing, but it has worked for us. It helps so much to be on the same page and to also have friends who think the same way and can motivate us and not think we’re strange 😉 However, we’re also learning to loosen our grip just a tad and have fun once in a while. Otherwise we’re living all our lives hunkered down with blinders on, and I’d rather take some time to enjoy a trip or a great steak, or extra giving every now and again to keep a healthy balance.

    1. Kristen, good for you guys! congrats + thanks for commenting. Nice to know others passionate about paying off debt + also not forgetting to live life at times too!

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