Becoming debt-free isn’t easy, especially when you’ve got a family to raise. The thing is, it’s super easy to accumulate debt. After all, you need that big SUV once you bring home your newest bundle of joy and you need that in-store financing offer to purchase all the furniture to fill up that new home.
Oh, and let’s not forget that you need to take out those student loans in order to get your dream job so you can afford to provide for your family.
Our story is no different from most. Even though we were able to avoid going into debt to afford our wedding ceremony in 2009, that didn’t stop us from accumulating other debt.
How we tackled $55,000 of debt in 2 years
Our grand total of consumer debt was $55,365 in March of 2013 — and in comparison to most of the late twenty-year-olds we knew, we were doing really well financially.
The only problem was that we were a one-income family, pregnant with our second child. After running the numbers, I realized that we weren’t going to be able to afford for me to continue staying home with our children with the current amount of debt payments we had every month.
After a lot of late-night discussions, my husband and I finally decided that we were done with relying on debt — and that the only way to keep our dream life a reality was to get aggressive in paying off all the money we owed.
In the months that followed, we managed to pay off two of our four debts — the two credit cards — but we still owed more than $30,000 when we welcomed our second child into the world.
And not going to lie, it was a struggle after he was born. Even though we had more money in our budget since we had paid off two debts, we only had a few hundred dollars in our savings account after a medical emergency drained the rest of our funds
Making tough choices
This resulted in us living a completely different lifestyle than we pictured.
I had to make our own bread, and we ate more rice, beans, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I care to remember. We had to make some serious changes and sacrifices — like me walking dogs while hugely pregnant in the sweltering heat of Georgia summers. My husband had to work every side job he could find — everything from changing out light bulbs to building cabinets.
For months after our second child was born, I tried in vain to figure out a way to pay off our Tahoe loan (which stood right at $18,000) as quickly as possible, but I finally had to admit defeat in March of 2014.
Through our various side hustles, and by cashing out a few of my childhood savings bonds, we finally had enough money set aside to pay for a car in cash.
Read more: 33 ways to make extra cash each month
The last payment
Even though getting rid of our fully-loaded and super nice Tahoe for a well-used Sequoia without all the bells and whistles was hard, it freed up more money in our budget than we could ever imagine.
And through even more hustling and throwing every extra penny we had at my student loans, we finally paid off the last of our $55,365 of debt in 2015 — just before our third child was born.
Making this happen wasn’t easy, and I wish I could tell you that there was some magical checklist we followed to accomplish what at times seemed impossible.
The truth is, it took a huge commitment to get out of debt — but it was absolutely worth it.
If you want to become debt-free, here are a few things you will absolutely have to do:
- Agree to stop using debt: You will literally never become debt-free if you keep racking up new debt.
- Make a plan: It doesn’t matter if you decide to follow the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method. Just pick one and make a plan to follow it.
- Figure out WHY: Write down why you want to become debt-free, so when the hard sacrifices are required, you’ll remember why you’re doing this.
- Track your progress: This will not only keep you motivated but also help keep you organized.
- Give grace: It’s not easy becoming debt-free — so remember to give yourself grace if things move slower than expected or mistakes are made. Just pick up where you left off and keep going!