How did we get out of $45,000 worth of debt in 3 years? Sacrifice. And understanding what got us there in the first place.
I'll start with the latter first.
What got us into debt? Ourselves.
What did we do to get there? Josh bought a truck. We bought things on credit cards. We overspent and didn't have money, so our family helped us out. We didn't plan ahead and save for a keyboard, which we knew Josh would need in order to play music (in order to make money). We bought a set of pots and pans on impulse. We didn't have a written budget.
No matter how great the pots and pans are (and they are really great), we didn't have the money for them at the time.
So that's what got us into debt. When you strip away the excuses, that's what got us there.
It's important to strip away the excuses. Here is the reason we got into debt (with excuses):
Josh needed a truck to drive for work. We didn't make much money when we first got married (true- we found that out looking at our tax return that first year!), and it's tough being young and married. I was in school full time and only working part time. We needed a keyboard for Josh to play music. We needed a lot of things to set up our household.
See? We can make excuses, too. But you have to strip those away.
Now, get rid of everything that led you those things that got you in debt (did you follow that?). For us, we had credit card debt. So we cut up the credit cards. Done. Cancelled them all. No turning back.
We decided that we didn't want to spend any more on credit cards because we saw where it got us. We had credit card debt, so clearly we couldn't handle the temptation. No crying like a baby. Get rid of those stupid things.
Josh did need a vehicle. But why did he need one with payments? We sold that truck and bought a car from a friend for $1. It was in a field and didn't work. But we put $500 into it to make it work. And Josh drove a Geo Storm. Sexy, I know. But it got rid of a lot of debt really quickly, and boy did that ever feel great!
That brings me to the second (first?) point. Sacrifice.
Again, there is nothing even a little bit sexy about a Geo Storm. I wish I had pictures. This thing was a sight to see. But it took that sacrifice.
It also took not going out to eat. Or to the movies. Or to the mall. If you go to the mall, you want to buy something. But even if you resist the urge to buy something there, you will likely at least buy something small and cheap somewhere else. So you still bought something.
No more window shopping. It feeds that materialistic part of us that wants more. And getting out of debt is all about wanting less. Less debt, less worry, less stress. Less stuff.
Sacrifice. No vacation. No weekend getaways. You already spent that money, remember? What did you spend it on? Pots and pans? A keyboard? A car?
((sidenote: We did go on vacation once while getting out of debt. It was with my in-laws, and you can ask them-- they had to beg and practically trick us into going. We basically only spent money on food-- groceries, not eating out-- and one day at Epcot. That was it. We did make one large purchase there that Josh made me promise I would never regret (my ring). I'm glad he made me promise that, too, or I would totally regret it.))
Ice cream dates were out the window. Eating steaks was also out the window (poor Josh). Lunch? That's what you make each night and pack into a bag so you can take it to work with you. Not in a fancy, cool lunchbox (unless you already have one), but in one of those plastic bags from the grocery store. And you reuse the plastic bag every day until it has jelly smeared down the side of it (cause you're packing PB&J-- or it's equivalent-- every day). Our food budget was $40 a week, combined, for the majority of those 3 years.
Your bedspread? Hope you like it, because you're not getting a new one anytime soon! Nor are you painting those walls. And those paper plates that you love because then you don't have to do dishes? How much do those cost? $3? Cool. All those cheap little conveniences like that definitely add up to a lot of savings. And those savings go towards debt.
Ladies, this also means that you actually use all of your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and makeup before buying new ones. And you probably won't need to go to a makeup counter to get your makeup for awhile, unless they're handing out free samples. You wouldn't believe how much of that stuff you have on reserves until you look for it. I think I bought one bottle of body wash during those 3 years of getting out of debt. And it was a huge bottle for $3 at Big Lots.
Sounds boring, huh?
It's actually quite liberating. But you don't know that until you do it. When there aren't 6 bottles of lotion crammed into your bathroom cabinets, you have a lot more space. And you start to enjoy the little things in life. You really appreciate birthday gifts. And if someone gives you body lotion, you get a little excited because that means you won't have to spend money buying that next month!
And, most importantly, doing these things start building habits that will keep you out of debt.
Now that's we're debt free, I'm not going out to replace the 6 bottles of lotion that I used up. And for my birthday? I asked for fingernail polish. I haven't even paid attention to my nails for 3 years (or more), and all the polish I had before was goopy and totally unusable.
And this is coming from the girl that had a cowboy boot box full of hairbows as a child. And a caboodle full of makeup in the 6th grade. And another caboodle just for nail polish.
When it comes down to it, no one can make you do it but yourself. YOU have to stop making excuses. When you stop that, you can start to change your financial future.