After nearly eight years of stops and starts, forward progress and steps backwards, we did it. Over $100,000 in consumer debt has been paid off to get us debt free (minus house), including student loans, two new cars, 3 international trips, a wedding, furniture, and other various expenses that come with having two kids.
We did it by creating a debt payoff plan, tracking our progress, and most importantly, working together. We initially used credit card consolidation to pull those bills into one bucket which relieved some stress. Then we paid it off like crazy.
We stopped treating each person’s debt as a separate problem. “My” debt became “our” debt. We combined finances and efforts. We paid off debts from smallest amount to largest to build momentum. We’re big believers in debt consolidation now if done right.
Enjoying our debt free vacation. Trsat, Croatia
We even did it despite my wife losing her job and taking a lower-paying one.
Even though some told us that debt was normal, that it was okay to keep some around in order to free up cash-on-hand, we saw the writing on the wall in 2008 and no longer did we want to be slaves to large banks, entities that seem to become more threadbare as each year passes. We wanted to be debt free.
We had grown tired of renting our life, and although we made a decent salary, we had nothing to show for it (besides the Stuff we bought). We had no money saved up for retirement and no plan. The only option seemed to be that we must always continue to earn the same amount of money each year, and more, lest we fall behind.
We weren’t looking to get ahead, we were trying to stay afloat.
You Have to Get Serious (and Mad)
To become debt free, you have to get mad. Mad at yourself and mad at the system that makes it too easy for people to get in over their heads.
Once I saw that the rich would get a bailout, the poor would get a handout, and the middle class would be left out, it was the last straw. No longer would I buy things I could not afford, and no longer would I be beholden to a bill statement that comes in the mail each month.
The key is to be just mad enough that you stay motivated, and not so much that you give up out of anger and the crushing feeling of inevitability that comes with a lot of debt.
I now have a strong feeling of independence. If I want to take a lower-stress, lower-pay job that is more rewarding, I can do so because I’m no longer dependent on my paycheck being a certain amount.
You Can Be Debt Free, Too
I started writing these articles for a few reasons. One, to track our progress and give me an outlet to express all the lessons I learned from trial and error, and countless hours reading books and the sites of other personal finance bloggers.
The second reason was to show married couples (with or without kids) that they too can harness the power of lifestyle design, and start to live more intentionally. Building a family doesn’t have to mean that you sacrifice your financial future to provide the best life for your kids. You can do it all debt free.
If everyone sacrifices everything for the next generation and their kids end up having to care for them, did we really get ahead? It’s okay to break the cycle and put your own retirement first, while still preparing your children for a solid future.
This is a place to ask questions, and question the answers. Nothing is sacred. The more conventional the wisdom, the bigger the target on its back.
Some have asked me what’s next for this site, now that we are debt free (minus house).
I don’t really plan to aggressively attack our mortgage debt, since we have equity and a home is something that can be paid off more gradually.