Our Debt Freedom Journey

Sam and I have always been very responsible with our finances. We paid our bills on time and made sure to pay off our credit cards. If the only debt we had was “normal debt” then we were doing just fine, so we told ourselves. These days it’s normal to have student loans and a car payment because, of course, a person needs to have good credit, right? Growing up we had this mentality that having a credit card was like a badge of honor as long as you are responsible about it. There were times that we thought “Is this what life is really about? Go to work to pay the bills?” You only live once so we might as well enjoy it with the best stuff. We would talk about things we wanted to do and dreams we had until reality hit us like a wet blanket, realizing that all the debt, including what we considered to be normal, is actually holding us back.

After moving out of state twice in one year, our finances took a hit which became our rock bottom. We told ourselves, “we’ll be ok after we get our security deposit from our last apartment.” Until then, things were tight and we felt stuck with the weight of our financial circumstance overwhelming us. That’s not to say our situation is worse than someone else’s, but this was our now-or-never moment. We found an apartment with all our expenses from our move back to Minnesota spent on credit cards. Although we had them paid off by the end of January, we suddenly realized that we were not being very wise with our money.

When our two credit cards from our move were paid off, we decided to try Financial Peace University. We had known about it and knew the success that it brought. We talked about following the steps, but never moved forward from there. When we decided to do the program, we agreed to follow it to a T. We watched the videos and implemented a budget. Dave Ramsey spoke a lot of truth that debunked so many lies that Americans believe regarding debt. He talks about how Proverbs clearly states that we are not to be slaves to debt and it is foolish to do so but Americans normalize it.

We listened to him talk about how important it is to use cash instead of a card and that it is vital to stick to a budget. Starting out this was a bit of a stretch for us because we always used a card. Implementing a budget together was challenging because he sees things differently than I do, neither perspective was bad, but we needed to agree. We were wondering how in the world was this plan going to work. Once we were on the same page and working together towards the budget we got started on Baby Step 1, which was to create an emergency fund.

We were amazed by how much we could squeeze out of our budget. We had a washer and dryer from our previous home and sold it to build our emergency fund. By the end of February, we were hitting Baby Step 2 with hard intensity. We started looking around for more things to sell. We sold a Fitbit that hadn’t been used in months including a PS2, an Apple Watch, and various other items. We also worked a ton of overtime. This allowed us to pay off Slumberland, Paypal, Best Buy and got started on our US Bank credit card. Meanwhile, as these credit cards are paid, we cancelled them out one by one and cut them up. It felt so good to be free.

By March we paid off $11,119.41 worth of debt. Which officially brought us under $100,000. We were not sad to see that US Bank card off our backs. I honestly didn’t think we would get that paid off until the end of April but Sam was determined and somehow, we were able to squeeze just enough out of our budget to pay the rest. We also cancelled our extended warranty on my car which brought that down significantly. Sam had talked about selling his truck a time or two. Since that was the next debt to go, it was becoming more and more clear to him. I knew it would be a hard decision and I’m so proud of him for doing it because we now only have 3 debts to pay. He is now driving a car that is fully owned and we no longer have a truck payment. That means our car insurance is lower as well as our gas bill.

Now we are approaching May and are considering selling my Honda Civic. If you would have asked me 3 months ago if I would sell my car, I’d say there’s no way. But after seeing my husband give up his dream vehicle, I know now that I am willing to sacrifice a car for the sake of getting out of debt. Since the days are growing warmer and drawing closer to summer, I am considering riding my bike full time to work and riding the bus when it’s cold. I also just started working a cash job just washing dishes at someone’s house which is easy money to flow into our debt snowball.

Our motto quickly became “How bad do you want to get out of debt?” Whenever I would have an opportunity to work overtime, and I really didn’t want to, this is what I would tell myself. Talking about finances has become a normal conversation for us now and it no longer feels like a chore or a potential argument. It is now something we can both agree on to work together. What was once a topic that I dreaded and avoided with my husband, now feels like we are finally on the same page and working on the same team. I’m hopeful for the coming months as we continue to chip away at our debt. We are living like no one else so later we can live and give like no one else.

Love,

The Leal’s

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