My Journey to Paying Off Debt

Paying off debt

Why I decided to start paying off debt

Let me just start out by saying that I seriously hate debt. Yes, hate it. But I didn’t realize how much I hated debt until recently. Let me break it down.

I am a millennial. I graduated high school, went straight to college and got a job right away. I worked hard. I knew that I wanted to work as a Critical Care Nurse at a Level 1 Trauma Center and I knew what I had to do to get there. My parents didn’t pay for me to go to a University so I worked hard on my grades to earn a scholarship to a junior college. While at junior college, I continued to work hard on my undergrad courses while holding a part-time job to pay for my books, gas, and food while at school. I also volunteered, a lot. I earned a scholarship to go to the University of Arizona College of Nursing, one of the top colleges for nursing at the time. I focused on my courses while I held a part-time job at a hospital. I didn’t party, I didn’t have a wild spring break, I didn’t have time or money for that.

Once I graduated college, I still had student loan debt, $15,000 to be exact. But I didn’t have to start paying until 6 months after graduation! Sweet! Well, that’s where I began to get into trouble.

Bare with me, I’ll get to the good stuff soon.

How I got into Debt

I moved out with my boyfriend (now my loving husband) soon after graduating once I knew I had the job. Shortly after moving in, and a few weeks into orientation, I found out that we were expecting! Whoa! While it was semi-planned, it still was earlier than I expected. All of a sudden, the future new mom in me decided that I needed NEW everything. New couches, new TV console, new dishes, new car. Yikes! I didn’t have money for all these new things but I DESERVED them! I mean, I worked hard all those years, why not treat myself to a shiny new TV and living room set, amiright? There I was, digging myself into debt. I applied for an Ashley Homestore credit card and I was approved, go figure. Credit card companies LOVE new grads! When my son was born, I financed a brand new car. More debt. A new TV on the Best Buy credit card? Yup, more debt.

More Debt

Fast forward 3 years, I found myself scrunched for money. I made a lot of financial mistakes because that’s what “normal” people do. They take out loans and put it on credit when they don’t have money. We bought a house, did the standard 30-yr fixed rate and there I was again charging that Ashley’s card for a new king sized bed. Add that to a brand new 60-in Smart TV on the Best Buy card. For Christmas one year, I bought everything on my Best Buy credit card because I was lazy and didn’t want to shop around. I stopped paying my main credit card in full like I used to. And I started to miss payments causing me to waste more money. One month in particular, I didn’t have money for groceries! I had to wait for my next paycheck. I never thought that I would be living paycheck to paycheck, but I did and it felt horrible. It seemed like once I let the debt start piling up, the more freely I started spending without knowing that I really couldn’t afford it. It seemed like my money was spending me. I wasn’t poor, but how the heck was I broke? I knew I had to take control.

What I did to start paying off debt

I googled and went to Pinterest to search for tips for saving money. I came across Dave Ramsey. If you’ve never heard of this man, I highly recommend you look him up. He has a book called The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. It’s a good read and very encouraging. Basically Dave takes you back to the basics of finances and budgeting. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Period. As easy as it is to say and write, it is VERY difficult. It takes a lot of discipline which most people lack these days because everyone thinks they “deserve” something. Stop it.

Dave gets very detailed about his baby steps in his book and he offers a ton of resources in his Financial Peace University. If you don’t have one available in your town, you can purchase the DVDs and watch them at home here Financial Peace University DVD Home Study Kit.  I haven’t taken his course but I hear great things about it. I will summarize his baby steps below to get you started and then I will post about how I managed each step as I complete them in a different post.

paying off debt

So without further ado… How I am Paying Off Debt

Baby Step 1: Save $1,000

This will be your emergency fund when you know, emergencies happen like you need new tires after a blowout or something similar.

Baby Step 2: Pay off all your debt except your house

I am using the debt snowball method recommended by Dave. Pay off the smallest debt first, then apply that payment to the next largest debt.

Baby Step 3: Save 3-6 months worth of expenses

This will be your cushion if you or your spouse happen to lose a job or have unexpected medical bills.

Baby Step 4: Invest 15% into Retirement

You want to retire comfortably right? Do you really want to work when you’re retired? Read his book or take his class to learn more about when, how, and why to invest.

Baby Step 5: Save for College

If you don’t or won’t have children, this won’t apply but if you do, and you want to pay for your child’s college education then look into investing in a 529 savings fund or something similar.

Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early

By the end of my loan, I will have paid over $400,000 for my home!!! That is crazy considering the original loan amount of $160,000. Interest. Interest. Interest. Paying your house off early can obviously save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Baby Step 7: Build Wealth and Give

With no house payment, no debt, and a large cushion to pay for any emergency, you have way more money left at the end of the month to do whatever you want! My goal is to be more giving and travel. By living debt free, I will be able to give my time and money to people who need it.

There you have it. Now Dave Ramsey talks about how you need to go all in, I will admit that making certain sacrifices is a lot harder than you think. I still “cheat” here and there but life happens right? The success stories in some testimonies are almost unreal but they happen. I’m here to show you MY success. Take baby steps if you need to but know that you could be debt free a lot faster if you dive head first.

So if you are serious about paying off debt or even just interesting in budgeting for a little cushion, come follow me. Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss anything. Learn how I am paying off my debt in this real world, as a real mom. I’m not going to sugar coat anything, I’ll be real and honest so you can be debt free too. Let’s take this journey together dear readers. I will encourage you. Let’s celebrate your successes!

Paying off debt
Paying off debt

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8 Comments

  1. I love this post. Sounds like a pretty similar process to what I am doing with my finances, only we’re trying to save for a down payment on a bigger house (my littles are outgrowing our little house!). What is your #1 tip for finding money to save? Mine, at this point, is having round-up investment account that I also put an added set amount into monthly.

    1. Thank you Marissa! Awesome name by the way! My #1 tip for saving would be to allocate a certain amount of money each paycheck (not month) after bills are paid. Make it automatic so that it’s just like paying a bill. Investment accounts are great as long as early withdraw isn’t going to rip you off. What is the time frame for your new house?

      1. I was hoping before my son started Kindergarten, but that’s September. So I’d say before he starts 1st grade. My daughter will be in 3rd, and will DEFINITELY want her own room.

        1. It’s doable! Write everything down and try to pinch every penny you can. 6 months can feel short but keep your goal in sight. I have my goal on my refrigerator, it’s right in front of me every morning, lunch, and dinner.

    1. HI Marcy! That’s great! Good to know I have a rooting buddy to tackle this debt with! Looking forward to your journey as well!

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