Three Tips to Get Debt Free …(and exciting news)

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Greetings from the Shoebox! These cracked walls have seen much rejoicing recently over the excitement of one very great accomplishment… We are officially debt free! Yes, that’s right. A couple weeks ago we paid off the last of our (relatively) small but bothersome school debt. Of course we are thrilled at the freedom of owing nothing to anyone (except, of course, the mortgage), but we are even more jazzed about the prospect of those payments being part of our monthly budget. ($300 will go a long way!!) It has taken us three years to pay off $10,000, so it seemed natural today to offer three very basic tips to get out of debt.

Go Lean

The first step? Trim that budget. Cut unnecessary spending. Look for areas that you might be spending too much and then direct those dollars toward the debt. How often do you use your gym membership? Is the Hulu Plus necessary? Could you get by with less in the clothing fund or buying fewer coffees out? Our budget was already a “skinny jeans budget,” (it took some wiggling to squeeze into each month). But one afternoon last fall I took a good, hard look at our expenses and found a spare $50 in an outdated line item. I didn’t run out to buy a new pair of shoes. (Not that I can find cute shoes easily anyways as a size 11.) No, that $50 went straight to the debt payment each month. So trim the expenses. Get focused. Channel any “extra” money you find toward your debt balance. It’ll be gone that much faster.

Go Steady

It is easy to get discouraged year after year, when the mountain of debt barely seems to be budging. Hang in there; it is diminishing! You can speed the process along by overpaying your due amount each month. Don’t just pay the minimumβ€”pay the maximum you can afford! Because the sooner you pay off that debt, the sooner you get to put that payment amount toward something else in your budget. You know that $50/ month that I told you about? It may seem small, but over a year it would have amounted to $600 extra taken off the debt. Every bit counts! “Go steady” means that you budget to overpay as much as possible. Do it one month. And again the next month. And the next. Be determined; keep at it. Eventually that debt will be gone.

Β Go Chunky

This is also my motto for jewelry, but that’s another story for another time. What do I mean by “go chunky”? Whenever you come across a large (to you) chunk of money, don’t blow it on a new wardrobe or an exciting trip. Put it toward your debt! Our tax refunds have been the largest bits of money with which we have paid off debt, and this year it was the tax return that finally closed it out. As good as going steady is with your debt payment each month, nothing is quite as satisfying as watching a large chunk of cash chop your balance away.

Oh and by the way, if you’re wanting to get serious about budgeting and getting out of debt but just don’t know where to start (or could use some motivation), check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We went through his training (it’s actually a good time!) and are working through the Baby Steps of FPU.

The advice I listed above may seem too basic to be helpfulβ€”elementary, evenβ€”but here’s the way I see it. Shedding debt is a lot like shedding weight. There are countless formulas and routines and pills and all sorts of people trying to tell you how to lose pounds and inches. However, we all know that there’s truly only one sustainable way to lose weight, and it is this: eat fewer calories and exercise regularly. The same is true with reaching a debt-free financial situation. It’s so basic it’s almost offensive: spend less money than you make. Exercise a well-balanced budget. And work hard at it. So go lean. Go steady, and go chunky. You’ll get there.

…Hey all! I’ve been LOVING all the comments and interaction you’ve been giving lately. I also know that many of you are way ahead of us in the debt-free realm (and many of you are working hard to get there!) If you’re living debt free, comment below and tell us. Let’s celebrate together!

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34 Comments
  • Sara
    April 8, 2013

    I’m not debt-free, am I still allowed to comment here? πŸ™‚ Just want to congratulate you, that’s so awesome that you are now debt-free. Way to go!

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Sara, you guys are close enough. πŸ™‚ Of course you can comment! Love you guys!

  • Anna Lockwood
    April 8, 2013

    I am so proud of you. We managed to get debt free (except for the mortgage) a few years ago. Yes, hard work and also yes, very very worth it. We took the Dave Ramsey course last summer and it was sweet to know we had the earliest baby steps finished, we are now working on retirement planning. I will say the whole monthly budget thing is really hard for me. Thanks for the nudge. I will get back to work on it.

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Well done, Anna!! Yeah the baby steps are great, but I’ve got to say that at this point even #3 seems impossible. Sigh, we’ll get there… πŸ™‚

  • Kari
    April 8, 2013

    We are completely debt free, including having no mortgage. And it’s a good thing, too, since we are helping to put two kids through university and saving for retirement (it’s all up to us as there are no company pensions for either of us). It is very hard as, like you, we are a one income family. But it is so worth it not to be worrying about what you owe. One thing that helps to trim the budget is to stay ignorant of what’s out there. I don’t even know what Hulu Plus is. If you don’t know about it, you can’t lust after it.

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      HI Kari, I LOVE that you don’t know about Hulu Plus. I’m sure it’s overrated anyways. πŸ˜‰ You’re an inspiration!

  • Athena
    April 8, 2013

    I have been debt free for more than two years now. It brings such a feeling if peace to my life. Welcome to the club!!!!!!!!!

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Athena! That’s amazing! And thanks… do we get t-shirts or something? πŸ™‚

  • Kim
    April 8, 2013

    Congratulations, Evelyn! We are debt-free. However, the weight loss tip is good for me. Less calories, more exercise. Go lean, go steady, lose the chunky. πŸ™‚

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Hi Kim. Hahah! Yeah, I guess I could take my own advice there too… πŸ˜‰ Thanks for chipping in!

  • SarahWesonga
    April 8, 2013

    YOU GO GIRL!!! So proud of you guys. I am inspired. The monthly budget is a mystery realm to me, and every SINGLE time I go to REI I end up spending more than I should have πŸ˜‰ BUT this is encouraging. We aren’t debt free yet, but we are forecasting that event to occur by July of this year! SO exciting πŸ™‚ Thanks for the inspiration-you guys are a great family and we are honored to know you

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Yeah well REI is a different case. Did you know it actually stands for “Require Extra Income”?! It’s true. πŸ˜‰ And… wow… July would be REALLY fast for you guys. You can do it!

  • Michele
    April 8, 2013

    We’re currently on baby step #2 and it can seem like you’re making so little progress (even when you are). We’re using our refund to pay off one of our debts and it’s such a great feeling. Congratulations on your accomplishment!!! It’s inspirational for me cause we still have a ways to go. Time to tackle that school debt once & for all!!

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      You can do it, Michele! Yea for refunds, RIGHT? πŸ™‚ Glad to have you here.

  • Tina Joiner
    April 8, 2013

    You guys are such an inspiration! We are hoping to get our student loan debt paid off sometime in the next year while building my photography business so that I can have more flexibility with the kiddos. It is so encouraging to see what you two have been able to do. Congrats!!

  • sustainablemum
    April 8, 2013

    Wow, brilliant now to get the mortgage paid off!

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Hey SustainableMum… I know. Gosh that seems so far off! πŸ™‚

  • Dee Jacobs
    April 8, 2013

    FPU saved my financial life. I am now at step six and making six payments at a time on the mortgage That will do it. Just remember, if you are still sucking wind, you are not too old to benefit from killing your debt. Congratulations on your success.

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Another FPU fan! Yes, it feels good to be as in control as we’ll ever be of our finances. πŸ˜‰

  • Lois
    April 8, 2013

    I too am debt free. It’s so freeing, no more worrying about when a particular bill will arrive and need to be paid. The extra money is worth so much more to me than the stuff I could have spent money on.

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Hi Lois, way to go! The freeing feeling is amazing. Love to have your comments. πŸ™‚

  • aunt marion
    April 8, 2013

    very proud of you both! my rule is do not buy anything unless you can pay with cash.

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Hi Aunt Marion! What a wonderful rule. It definitely keeps you out of trouble! πŸ™‚

  • Sue
    April 9, 2013

    It’s such a wonderful feeling owing nothing. To know that your cash is your own from now on and you can choose exactly what you want to do with it.

    Relish this moment, you’ve done so well πŸ™‚

    • Evelyn
      April 9, 2013

      Hi Sue,
      You’re so right, it is a lovely feeling. Now to reevaluate that budget… πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

  • Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca
    April 12, 2013

    Yay! Congratulations! πŸ™‚ We only have our mortgage and student loan debt, and we’re working toward selling our house, so that we will no longer have the mortgage. Discipline with money is, admittedly, not one of my strong suits, so I’m always happy to read posts from people who are successful in that area!

    • Evelyn
      April 15, 2013

      I would hardly call us successful in the money arena, Bethany… haha, but we’re working towards financial responsibility just like you. πŸ™‚ We’ll all get there! Just think what it will be like to not have a mortgage… ahhh. πŸ™‚

  • Betsy
    April 14, 2013

    Congratulations. I have set my goal to paying off our mortgage in 11 years instead of the 19 left on it. If I can do it sooner, I will. The sooner I pay it off, the sooner I can retire.

    • Evelyn
      April 15, 2013

      That’s great, Betsy! You can do it! πŸ™‚

  • Stephanie
    April 23, 2013

    I love that you guys are debt-free but also worries me because I am a sophomore in college still racking ON student loans. It kind of scares me that one day I will have to pay this off- but I will print this off for Future Stephanie:)

    • Evelyn
      April 26, 2013

      Haha. You’ll get there, Stephanie! Just enjoy your schooling for now and do everything you can to pay off what you can, when you can. πŸ™‚

  • Nick @ Livin' Lightly
    July 29, 2013

    Nice work! For me the biggest challenge was having the discipline to say, “no”.

    Its amazing the freedom that having no payments affords! Paying off our debt has allowed my wife to stay at home with our daughter and our expenses are low enough we can travel full-time in our vintage Airstream. We LOVE having no, “payments”!!!

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