People are always shocked when I tell them that our family is completely debt free. We paid off all of our debt when I was 28 and my husband was 29. The most shocking part is, that we pretty much did it on ONE income.
That income was not a very big one either. My husband is active duty Army. He’s enlisted – and lower enlisted at that. I’m a stay-at-home-mom, for the most part. I haven’t worked full-time since I was pregnant with my oldest daughter back in 2010.
I want to point out that I am NOT a financial adviser. I’m not even good at math. Seriously, it was my worst subject all through school. And this is going to blow some minds, but YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE GOOD AT MATH TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE YOUR MONEY.
I said it really loud for the ones in the back. Budgeting and managing your money is the most simple math – the kind we were taught in first grade. You ADD what you earn and SUBTRACT what you spend.
It’s.that.freakin’.simple. And yet millions of Americans are thousands of dollars in debt and willing to take on more.
This is how we became debt free before we turned 30:
Huge disclaimer – we do NOT own a house. Due to the Army, we move around a lot and it makes more sense for us to rent. However, we can’t wait to be homeowners one day and we have started a little nest egg for when the time comes!
1. Paid Off Our 1st Vehicle
When we first married, I was driving a Jeep Liberty that I bought during college. I still owed around $9,000 on it and the monthly payments were $212.
In May of 2010, my husband received orders for a year-long hardship tour South Korea. Since, I was living with my parents until he returned and didn’t have many expenses, we were able to make more than the minimum payment on the Jeep. There were probably 8 or 9 months, where I mailed in a $500 check instead of the usual payment.
Checks? Mail? Say wha??? Let me tell you, when it comes to finances, old fashioned is the way to go. Sure, I check my bank balances with an app on my phone, but when I pay my bills, I write out checks and mail them in. There are so many benefits of seeing your finances in black and white on paper, but that’s another post for another day.
I know making double or more than double payments on vehicles isn’t possible for many people. It wasn’t possible for us in our normal situation, but if you ever CAN afford to make higher payments on something – DO IT! You will never regret getting out of debt sooner.
After he came back from Korea, we still owed roughly $5000 on the Jeep and went back to making the minimum payment for the next 10 months.
It was difficult sharing one vehicle, but since I stayed at home it wasn’t impossible. I’ll admit that it got really old and we had more than one fight about it, but we both made it out alive.
By the time our income tax check came in the spring of 2012, we owed around $3000 on the Jeep were able to pay it off entirely!
2. Paid Off Our Furniture
When my husband and I first moved in together, we had NO furniture. And I mean none. We had a bed frame, a mattress, and a box spring. That’s it. We married young (21 & 23) and moved out of our parents’ houses and into a small apartment in Tacoma, WA.
We bought a brand new couch and bedroom set, financed through Pioneer Military Loans with an astronomical interest rate. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I believe it was over 30%.
My husband had NO credit. I had a tiny bit of credit from co-signing on the Jeep with my mom and from having a cell phone in my name. We could have gotten a better interest rate by putting it in my name or bought used furniture for cheap. But how were we supposed to get his credit started? It made sense to start building his credit on this small loan that would be paid off soon.
We put $300 down on the furniture and financed the other $1300. Making the minimum monthly payment every month for 18 months, we ended up paying over $2000 for the it because of the high interest rate.
Was the furniture really worth that much? Nope, but we made the payments on time every month and it started my husband’s credit off on the right foot, so it was worth it.
Moral of the story: Settling for a high interest loan sucks and is not recommended by anyone, BUT sometimes it’s your only choice. Don’t let it set you back, use it increase your credit score by paying it on time, every time.
3. Paid Off Student Loans
Student loans are the devil. As a naive 19-year-old, I had no clue what I was signing up for. I didn’t understand them then and I don’t completely understand them now.
However, due to my frugal parents and all of their support, my student loans totaled less than $8000! A drop in the hat compared to others’ student loans.
The minimum payment on my student loans was a whopping $88 per month. And trust me when I tell you that sometimes it was all we could do to make that little payment with 2 kids in diapers. But we made it, every.single.month.
A lot of the time, we sent in $100 at time. I know that extra $12 may not seem like much, but ANY chance you get to pay down on your principle amount, DO IT! You will save yourself so much money in the long run.
I received my degree and started making monthly payments on my student loans in 2013. In 2016, my husband left on another hardship tour and I found part-time work cleaning beach houses and tutoring 6th graders. I increased my monthly student loan payments from $100 to $300 and when we could swing it, I would send in $500 (although this only happened 2 or 3 times).
In 2017, I was able to completely pay off my student loans! That meant we only had one payment left between us and a completely debt free life!
4. Paid Off the Truck
In the spring of 2013, we bought my husband a new (to us) truck! For 22 months, we had shared one vehicle.
When my husband was at work, I did not leave the house unless I could walk to where ever I was going, with a baby and a toddler in tow. If the kids or I had an appointment, I had to drive him to work in the morning and pick him up when he got off. IT.WAS.NOT.EASY.
This is the reason that so many people are in mountains of debt. Becoming debt free means doing things that are NOT fun. It means doing things that you don’t want to do. Getting out of debt requires sacrifice.
But during this time, we were able to save up a decent down payment for a new vehicle. We found a truck that he loved. After paying the taxes, tag, and a down payment, we financed $21,000 for 6 years.
5 years later, the truck was paid for and we were completely debt free!
We were able to pay the truck off a year early by making extra payments on it after I started working and by putting our income tax return towards the final payment.
Even though I only worked part-time jobs, most of the money that I made went towards paying off our debt. We did splurge on a vacation in 2017 (You can read about our trip to Roatan here!) and sometimes we had to use the money for things that we needed (i.e new appliances, vehicle repairs, etc.), but for the most part, we paid off debt with it. And we don’t regret it at all!
5. Paid Off Credit Card Debt ASAP
We have 2 credit cards between us. One in my name and one in his name. We mostly use them for on-line purchases (because I do not trust the internet with my debit card), for emergencies, and for Christmas shopping.
We never have never had more than $3500 on the credit card at one time and we usually don’t carry a balance on them at all.
If we use them, we pay them off when the statement comes the next month. Unless, it’s Christmas time. We usually pay for our Christmas expenses with the credit card and pay them off by April.
We know so many people that have gotten in wayyy over their heads with credit cards, so we have always been SUPER careful with ours. Our theory is that if we can’t afford to pay for something outright with our debit card, then we don’t need it.
Becoming debt free takes consistency and sacrifice, but it’s SOOO worth it in the end. Since paying off all of our debt, this past year has been one of the easiest for our family when it comes to finances. We were able to take FOUR vacations.
- glamping in Shenandoah Valley
- family trip to Pigeon Forge
- camping at Stone Mountain
- camping in Asheville
They were all ‘mini’ vacations, 2 of which were camping, but still….that is something that we could have never afforded while making car and loan payments.
We also were able to put the kids in more after-school activities since we had extra money. They have enjoyed dance, Girl Scouts, soccer, and t-ball! (Check here for my tips to surviving busy ball seasons!)
It took us 9 long years to become debt free. We still haven’t bought a house, so we know that we have debt in our future. For now though, we are saving up for our forever home and enjoying life without all the payments!
A debt-free life is in reach for EVERYONE! You don’t have to make a lot of money to pay off debt. Trust me when I tell you that if we can do it, then you can too.