From Drowning in Debt to Financially Free

drowing in debt financially free

Sometimes people ask me how I got this way. HOW did I become such a crazy money-saving lady?

I think all stories start with parents. Most kids don’t learn much, if anything, about financial management in school, so the bulk of their money education happens at home.

My own parents lived a typical life in the 90’s. They had a mortgage, credit cards, little savings and nothing for retirement. So when I got out on my own at 18, I joined the Army. Not long after those paychecks started rolling in, I had a credit card and a big fat car payment. In less than a year, I racked up about $20,000 in debt.

Soon after that, I met my husband, and we got engaged. Our parents helped a little with wedding expenses, but we still put most of it on credit cards. Add to that a new truck, a new credit card, and furnishing our new home (we both had almost NO belongings). We had only been married about 6 months, and between the credit cards, car loans, and student loans, we had about $100,000 in debt.

About that time, I was browsing the internet (on my laptop which I bought on a credit card). I found an article about Dave Ramsey. His debt snowball plan sounded revolutionary to me, but also SO smart. I considered myself an intelligent person, and it made sense. Get out of debt? Of course! Why pay interest? Why hadn’t someone told me this before?! 

So we laid out a plan and started paying off the debt. We started with an eating-out freeze. We didn’t eat at a restaurant for a WHOLE year! We also did spending freezes along the way – where we didn’t buy anything except gas and groceries. We sold things. I constantly looked for new ways to cut expenses. We threw our tax return at the debt. Byron re-enlisted in the Army and got a bonus, which also went toward the debt. Even though we were only making about $40,000 a year, we paid off the debt in about 3 years. 

Even after the debt was paid off – we didn’t stop there. We started saving like crazy. We opened retirement accounts, investment accounts, and savings accounts. We started throwing extra money at our mortgage. By the time we got orders overseas, we had paid off over 1/3 of the house. That money went into savings. We were determined to pay cash for our next home. We also wanted to travel and see Europe debt free.

Those years were hard sometimes. I would see my friends going out to lunch all the time, their kids’ extravagant birthday parties, the fancy houses and cars and boats and toys that they all had. It took me a long time to figure out that the key to happiness is contentment where you are, not placing your joy in anticipation of what could be.

key to happiness

When Byron said he felt called to enter the ministry – and that he wanted to leave the Army (and thus, our paychecks) for 5 years, I’ll admit, I was scared. But I also felt that we were probably better equipped for this than most people, and this had to have been God’s plan all along. Because of our frugal ways, we didn’t need much for the day-to-day expenses. We had enough to pay cash for a house, with savings left over. I was able to continue homeschooling, and neither one of us needed to work full time on top of kids and school and seminary and life. Byron is still in the Army Reserves, so he does his one-weekend-a-month-two-weeks-a-year, which pays $450 a month, and we also bring in a few hundred a month from other random sources. (I teach tax classes online, sell crafts, and Byron helps a friend occasionally with his tree trimming business.) We wouldn’t be where we are if not for Dave Ramsey, our commitment to living frugally, and God’s abundant blessings.

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So that’s how we got here!

17 thoughts on “From Drowning in Debt to Financially Free

  1. whimsymum says:

    Love the story! The last few nights, our youngest has asked to pray for you at bed time, so we have been!

  2. What an awesome story!! Thank you for sharing. I just love Dave Ramsey. My husband and I watched a series of videos (seminars on debt) and I was blown away. We’ve had some things happen that made it impossible to save for a while (my husband got injured at work and his pay was drastically reduced) but now we’re back in business and it feels great!
    We homeschool as well. 🙂 Have you seen Dave’s series for high schoolers? http://www.daveramsey.com/school/foundations/ We are getting it for our daughter for her senior year (she has just finished 9th grade).
    Anyway, thanks for more motivation to “live like no one else, so we can live like no one else!!” 😀

    • That’s so great Valerie! You are definitely setting your daughter up for success! I teach FPU classes at my church to adults, and have taught the high school version to homeschooled teens in our co-op. I love that he is so funny, it keeps them engaged!

  3. Your story really struck a chord with me. My husband had the same financial ideas as you and he was able to retire aged 45. It really can be done. It’s all about getting rid of debts and investing wisely.
    We are now hoping to have children and looking to be two stay at home parents like yourselves!
    The main expense for us in the UK local taxation (council tax) which costs around $350 per month and bills of around $250 per month.

    • Wow, those taxes are really high! But I’m sure that since you guys are thinking on the right track, you will be able to afford all you want and more. Like you said, it just takes wise planning 🙂

  4. Thank you for such an inspirational story. We are a two-income family with two good incomes, but we are coming to the end of my husband’s military career and it blows my mind that we are sitting with the amount of debt that we are currently have. We are just now starting our journey towards debt freedom with our family of 6 (3 of them being teenagers) but I look forward to the day that we can be sitting as you are now, with no debt hanging over our heads.

    • ourcozyden says:

      With two incomes, you’d be shocked to see how much headway you can make in a short amount of time with focused effort! Just knowing about the problem is a huge step in the right direction. I really recommend taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University if you can {and take your teens!!} And from one military family to another, thank you for your service! 🙂

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