Last July, my husband Matt and I decided to intentionally tackle our total combined debt of over $43,451.13 together. LOL, yes, all the cents are counted. This debt was spread across credit card debt, medical bills, and school loans. We made a plan to pay it off in 17 months but God said, "I got you!" and helped us pay this in 12 months. As of July 15, 2020, we are completely debt-free!!!!
To listen to us talk in more details about our journey, tune in to my debt-free podcast episode here. Please don't forget to rate & subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!
After our wedding last year, we realized how fast we could save together. I was intent on setting a plan where we would buy a house within the year then pay off our school loans after. Matt was the opposite. We sat down to talk about our plans and he opened up about how his debt made him feel. I knew the feeling all too well (read my blog post about it here) but for some reason, I didn't feel that way when it came to student loans. It's because I've heard it and thought it all: "School loans will take forever to pay off anyway so why bother?", "You're going to be in debt all your life. It's normal.", "You could use that money to invest or save instead."
I was stuck on those phrases, but we finally agreed to tackle all of our debt together first before investing, having a family, or making any big purchases. I created two plans where we paid off our own debt or we combine everything. It was a lot faster to pay it off together. This was a huge, important step for us as a newly married couple. This idea of sharing every part of our lives together got real! Sh/t was weird at first if I'm being honest; but, combining our finances made our relationship and communication stronger. Once we both got on the same page, the journey began!
1. We started listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast.
We stumbled upon Dave Ramsey somehow and that's when we became heavy podcast listeners. I already knew about the debt-free snowball because that's how I learned to pay my credit card off back in 2017, but I didn't know about Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. We enjoyed listening to Dave because he doesn't sugarcoat anything, and he also states ALL the time how married couples should be combining debt and paying everything together. I love that he also ties in God with paying off debt.
2. We created a pay-off plan and kept track of our plan every month on Excel.
We laid out everything we needed to pay off and talked about how we'd attack the smallest debt (per Dave Ramsey) and had a timeline for each debt. Once we got paid, we immediately put in X amount into our debt. We didn't want to let that money rest in our checking account! We sat down at least once a month to revisit our plan, talk about the past couple weeks, and make sure we were on track. If you'd like to use my template, feel free to email me or chat with me! I'm happy to send it to you.
3. We found new jobs to generate more income and figured out side hustles.
As we kept listening to Dave Ramsey and all the people who would call in, we felt like the next fastest way to get rid of the debt was to get a job that pays more. We started listening to Ken Coleman who is also a part of the Dave Ramsey Solutions. I felt like I knew about the things he was saying already but because I was constantly listening to his show, his tips were always on top of mind. In September of last year, I switched jobs but in that month, I was working two full-time jobs. It was ridiculous, but it helped! Any money that was paid out to me because of my old PTO went straight to my debt. I also did event planning gigs on the side and it went to debt right away. I didn't see a penny of it.
4. We continued to find more inspiration to stay focused on the journey.
Would you believe me if I told you I listened to financial podcasts almost every day? I'd listen to episodes in the gym instead of music, I'd listen on my walk, and I'd listen every time I drove. My husband isn't a crazy listener like I am but I felt like that was my way of staying focused and driven. When I was a bit tired of listening to Dave Ramsey, I found inspiration in other financial podcasts:
Chris Hogan's Everyday Millionaire - This helped us envision our future goals so it would remind us why we wanted to become debt-free and we love the way Chris talks!
His & Her Money - It was easier to relate to a Black married couple than it was to a white man. We love the way Talaat and Tai McNeely hosts their show and that they talk about finance and faith hand in hand.
Clever Girl Finance - Bola is super sweet and I love that she has a lens as a woman of color. Her episodes inspired me a lot!
Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn - Pat is one of my absolute faves. Listening to him pushed me even more to start my own event planning company and gives me ideas on what to do. This one helped me figure out ways to increase my income to become debt-free.
Optimal Finance Daily - Very short, straight to the point and interesting finance daily tips!
I signed up for email lists and/or followed these Instagram accounts:
Ramit Sethi - He's so straightforward and I love it.
Hey Berna - I wish I found Berna sooner. She's a Filipino financial hype woman who makes finance more fun and more brown for young people everywhere!
It also helped to talk to friends who decided to go on the debt-free journey. It was easier to talk to them about small wins and exchange energy with each other.
5. We had multiple talks and disagreements with each other and loved ones.
It wasn't a perfect journey. There were so many times when we had to remind each other that we didn't need this or that, and would get irritated at those reminders. We had to tell family and friends we couldn't spend a ton of money on gifts or go on a certain trip because of finances. Some people understood, others didn't. It created a lot of tension and stressful moments, but we always got through it.
6. We cut costs and kept track of our weekly & monthly spending.
If you didn't know by now, I'm a spreadsheets person. That might as well be my full-time job - I excel in Excel. Hah. In addition to our pay-off plan, we kept track of our weekly and monthly spending so we can compare how much we're spending in each category month to month. Yes, there are apps and sites that can automate it for you like Mint, but I like to put that time and effort into it myself because I feel like I have more control and knowledge about our spending habits. I know, I'm kinda cray cray.
7. We celebrated our little wins and always went back to our why.
When we paid off Matt's credit card debt, we celebrated. When we paid off his medical bills, we celebrated. When we paid off his school loans, we celebrated. You have to celebrate each step of the way! This was the best way to keep ourselves sane. It reminded us that we were one step closer to our goal and we were almost there. It's also important to go back to your WHY individually and as a couple. It keeps you going.
Our why was for our future. We wanted to feel free. We want to live in a house that we own without worrying about having enough money to travel or do the things we love to do. Many financial bloggers and experts have said that family and friends will criticize your journey. We didn't believe it at first until we started hearing them asking us why we were doing this in a judge-y way. It'll happen, but don't let them sway you. You got it.
Hope this helps you stay motivated with your debt-free journey or get started! Celebrate our debt freedom with us with a drink in your hand as you listen to our full story on my podcast episode here!
With love & confetti,