I have told our family’s debt free story before, but it’s been requested a lot lately. And I have to admit, in recent years, I’ve almost been resistant to share. I guess it’s because I’m worried that people will think I am bragging or I am trying to point fingers at other people for the choices they make. I promise I am not trying to do either of those!
I’m just telling where we’ve come from, where we are now, and how we got there.
We’ll call this the new and improved version – but it’s really the same old story a lot of you have probably already heard. And this may come as a shock, but we weren’t born into wealthy families and we didn’t get here by chance or luck. No, our family is debt-free thanks to hard work and dedication.
I was raised by very frugal parents who always followed a budget.
Barry got a lot of his frugality and budgeting education from his aunt who is way in to Dave Ramsey. We both graduated from college without debt. My parents had saved for years to be able to help pay my way thru college and, with the help of some academic scholarships, I graduated debt-free. Barry worked his tail off all of his college years, at multiple jobs – and with work plus a bit of scholarships, he was also able to pay for his schooling, books, etc., and graduate with no debt.
Barry and I have been on a budget since the day we got married.
We actually took the Dave Ramsey course before we got married. We went on our honeymoon with our cash envelopes. But before we got married, we made a really stupid mistake. Since we had our college degrees, we thought we needed to go do something fancy that told everybody, “Hey. Look at me! I have a degree!” So…we bought a Mercedes. And we didn’t pay cash for it. We didn’t have the money to pay for it, but by golly, we had a Mercedes.
This was a turning point for us.
There was a point after we purchased the crazy Mercedes that we realized it wasn’t a good idea and that a debt-free life was for us. We knew what we had done in financing that car was a mistake. Even though we had the head knowledge that debt was not a good thing, it was almost like we had to find out for ourselves how NOT good it really was – we had to experience it. I had some savings from when we first got married, and Barry had some from working as well. To make a long story there short(er), we scraped together all we could to pay the car off as quickly as possible, and from there, we committed to never have another car payment – and we’ve stayed true to our word. We don’t drive fancy cars, but they’re paid for.
When we first got married, we purchased a brand new “to-be-built” townhouse.
And the construction process from start to finish ended up taking almost a year! While we were waiting for it to be built, we lived in an apartment that Barry’s parents had attached to their house. Thankfully, we were able to save up some money during this time. We lived in a townhouse in Bristol, Tennessee, for 8 years and overall, it was a good choice for us. We learned a lot during our time there.
We learned the we definitely didn’t (and still don’t) want to live in the city.
Now, if you’re from the actual “city” – like Chicago or Atlanta, you are probably laughing right now because Bristol, Tennessee, is hardly the city. But for us, the townhouse community in the middle of “city” was not our jam. After we had been there for 7 years, we had about $23k left on our townhouse mortgage. It was then we started to feel extremely burdened by our home debt. We decided that we didn’t want to carry that mortgage load any more and wanted to become 100% debt free.
In 8 months, we paid off the remaining $23k of our home mortgage.
We didn’t magically find $23k in the couch cushions to pay our mortgage off. We worked HARD. We sold everything that we could think of. Barry worked his regular job, as well as any extra side jobs he could. I worked hard to cut expenses, and I had started teaching classes and blogging at that time. We literally put every single penny that we possibly could toward whittling away that debt.
We paid it off and we haven’t gone back.
We used the proceeds from the sale of our townhouse, along with some additional savings, to buy our current home with cash. Our house is not huge. Our bedrooms are small. The house is older, but we’ve made it ours by remodeling, decorating, and doing things that make it our HOME.
There are lots of sacrifices that we’ve made to get to the point where we can say we are debt free. But we’re okay with that. The freedom of not having debt payments each month is worth it because it’s unlike any other thing I’ve ever known.
What we did was not supernatural; we had the Lord’s help!
We believe that the Lord honors our desire to be debt-free. He honors our desire to owe no man any debt except to love one another (see Romans 13:8). We believe that! But hear me when I say that we do without a lot of things that most people don’t do without. We learned that having no debt is worth not having things other people have.
We don’t buy new cars. We don’t have many of the latest gadgets or take fancy vacations. When we take a vacation, it’s usually go visit friends or we have people come here and visit us. We’re willing to make the sacrifices today so we can enjoy the benefits tomorrow.
My point is this: You may have to do without for a little while so you can have what you want later.
I can’t say enough good things about Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University. And I suggest that everyone goes thru the course and then sticks with it. Once you have the kit, you can go thru it as many times as you’d like – I’ve done it 4 or 5 times! Like Dave says, “If you will live like no one else now, later you can live (and give) like no one else.” We are just now getting to the place where we are starting to taste the reality of living and giving like no one else.
You might think that the only people who are debt-free were born with a silver spoon in their mouth or worked at a really amazing job. This is a myth! Did y’all know Dave Ramsey wasn’t always a millionaire? He filed bankruptcy with the help of a bankruptcy attorney and came literally from NOTHING to where he is now! For us, it was hard and painful at times, but it was definitely worth the sacrifice.
If you have more questions about budgeting, becoming debt-free, or Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, Barry (often referred to as the husband) is our resident “expert”. He regularly provides financial coaching, and is more than happy to answer your questions. Or you can also check out his book From Debtor to Better for some details on debt and how to get out of it.