We are debt free! I can’t wait to share how we paid off over $20,000 in debt in less than 9 months.
Back when I first read about the concept of being “debt free” I immediately dismissed it. Ya right, there’s absolutely no way we’ll be able to do that on one low-income with one little kid and another one on the way. That’s great for them, but they don’t know how much debt we have and how small our income is!
At that point, I had pretty much accepted the fact that my husband and I would finally be paying off our student loans about the time our kids hit college age. There wasn’t even a tiny inkling of hope that our family would be debt free within ten years, let alone one! (In reality, we had about 6 years left on our loans, but I wasn’t even financially savvy enough to know that at the time.)
But that phrase, “debt free,” wouldn’t leave me alone. It seemed it was everywhere I looked around the internet. It popped up in conversations with people we talked to at church. Still skeptical, I picked up one of Dave Ramsey’s books, The Total Money Makeover, at the library to find out what the buzz was all about.
Throughout the book, there were stories of families making extreme changes to their lifestyles and even getting second jobs or earning extra money from home, all for the goal of becoming debt free.
Around this time, my husband and I both felt the call to get out of debt. We had over $22,000 left in student loans, and it was time to do something about it. In September 2013, we tentatively started our journey to be debt free.
We planned to reduce our debt by making an extra payment of $39 each month. There seemed to be absolutely no wiggle room in our budget, so even that small amount felt like a huge step. The cool thing is, even paying a tiny bit extra towards loans can really accelerate your journey to debt free in more ways than one.
After taking that first tiny step, God multiplied our efforts. Just 3 months later, we paid off the smallest of our student loans. Suddenly we were on track to have all of them paid off within 25 months. For the woman who thought she’d be paying off these loans for more than a decade, this in itself was amazing!
Being a total math nerd, I had always been a critic of the “debt snowball” method of paying off debt. It doesn’t make sense to pay off a loan with a lower interest rate first! That would be the first of many times I was humbled in this whole experience.
After paying off that first loan we were inspired to get even more extreme with our money saving measures to pay off our debt faster.
Here are 9 crazy things we did to save money to put toward our loan pay off.
When we were done, we had paid off $22,047 (and 93 cents to be exact) in debt on a household income that (at the time we started) fit under the government’s low-income category for a family of four. And we did it all in 9 months.
Update: Since publishing this article the question I get all the time is, how to get out of debt fast on a low income. After all, it does seem sort of crazy to be able to pay off almost as much as you make in a year! To help get you started, I wrote a super practical post that shows exactly what steps I would take if we were to do it all over again, with tons of resource to help get you started.
We are Debt Free!
I wish I could recount for you all the miraculous ways that God provided for us despite our relatively small sacrifices during this time, but at the risk of making this too long, I will finish our story.
After all that, and just 9 months after starting our journey to debt free, we made our very last student loan payment.
Since God is a brilliant storyteller, he just couldn’t let the chance pass to make His point with a flourish. We were able to make that last payment and be debt free exactly one year to the date that we had to sell our old home in a short sale. We could do nothing but stand in wonder at how far He had brought us both spiritually and financially in just one year.
Faster than I can even believe, we cut 5 years off our debt repayment, and along the way we have achieved a huge new sense of joy and freedom.
Our story isn’t unique. There are thousands of families across the country taking control of their finances. Just like us, they are determined to get out of debt no matter what it takes.
If you’re staring down what seems like a mountain of debt and a budget that already doesn’t add up, not believing that getting out of debt is even a remote possibility, I’ve been there.
Despite all odds, we did it, and I really believe that you can do it too. I hope our story of paying off over $22,000 in debt in just 9 months has been an encouragement to you. I challenge you to take that first step to becoming debt free! Every small step gets you a little closer to financial freedom.
Resources for Paying Off Debt:
- How to Pay Off Debt Fast on a Low Income
- How to Budget
- 9 Crazy Things We Did to Be Debt Free
- The Ultimate Guide to Grocery Savings