Next Tuesday, we will appear live on the Dave Ramsey Show to scream to the world that we are debt free. If you don’t listen to his show, this is something called, “the debt free scream.” We are making a special week-long trip to Tennessee to celebrate our new-found freedom from the chains of debt. It’s been a long road and we are so ready to celebrate. If you are curious, listen to the show! We will be on at 2pm Tuesday, May 5th (find a station in your area).
Our journey into freedom started on our wedding day. A good friend, actually Kristy’s boss at the time, gifted us with the best present you could give two newly weds: Financial Peace University. This is Dave Ramsey’s 12-week class on how to become debt free and build wealth. It took us almost a year of looking at the box before we actually got moving.
At that time, Caleb was working on starting Bearded Brothers and Kristy was working full-time at a non-profit. We were living off Kristy’s income, paycheck to paycheck. We were surviving, but not thriving. We knew something had to change if we wanted to start a family someday.
So we signed up for a Financial Peace class at a local church. The class was amazing and inspired us right away to start a budget. This was tough, as both of us were 30 years old when we married and had plenty of time to get set in our ways as to how money should be managed. But God was good to us and we were able to each make sacrifices to live on one income.
Once we got on a budget, then it was time to tackle our debt. Together we had over $60,000 in debt! About $40,000 of that was Kristy’s college tuition. $10,000 was Caleb’s 2009 Subaru Outback and we owed about $10,000 to Caleb’s dad. At first our progress was slow and torturous. We could only scrape together about $100 each month extra to put toward the Subaru. There were days when we felt like giving up and just going out to eat (our biggest temptation). But somehow we muscled through.
It took us just over a year to pay the car off. Oh, and in that time we had our first child! And we paid cash for her birth! We felt like we were finally seeing some traction. But this was also a time of testing. We had decided that it was a priority for Kristy to stay home and raise our daughter, but she was the only wage earner. Caleb was working diligently at getting the business off the ground, but it was an uphill battle and he still was not earning a paycheck. Kristy’s maternity pay came and went. She quit her job in faith that God would provide. We lived on savings for 3 months. Just when Caleb was considering taking a night job, we saw God’s provision. The business got some major promotion and took off! Soon Caleb’s salary replaced Kristy’s. God is so good!
Next, we tackled the student loan. At $40,000, it was a beast. But Kristy’s midwife had taught her an inspirational saying during childbirth, “push harder than it hurts!” So we leaned into the pain and didn’t shy away. We continued cutting corners and living on as little as we could. We created handmade Christmas gifts instead of buying people things. We invited people over for dinner instead of going out. It was tough to say no to things our friends were doing, but we knew this was short-term pain for long-term gain.
Soon we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We found out we were pregnant with our son AND paid off the student loan, less than a year after paying off the car! The biggest contributor to paying off the student loan was the sale of Caleb’s house in Denton, that had been rental property for the previous four years. At this point we were high on paying debt. We only had $10,000 to go and we threw every extra dollar at it. Things moved very quickly at this point, as our debt snowball had reached $900 per month. We paid cash for the birth of our son and were nearly ready to pay off Caleb’s dad when Kristy had some major medical issues postpartum. An ER visit and surgery cost us around $5,000 after insurance. But thanks to Dave Ramsey’s plan, we were not discouraged. We put Dad’s payments on hold and put our entire debt snowball toward the bills.
Now here we are, less than one year after our precious son’s birth we are completely and totally debt free! Heck, we even had enough money to buy our first home! We are so thankful to God for giving us the strength to persevere and for the support of our friends and family. We are blessed indeed.