Debt Free Story

Originally written May 2010.

Susan: Three years ago, on Memorial Day weekend, Josh and I went to spend some time with our friends, Jason & Sarah.  We had all gotten married around the same time and got along quite well.  During our stay, Jason shared with us about this financial planner named Dave Ramsey.  Josh seemed pumped about it.  I was frustrated as all get out.  Everything that Jason talked about were things that I had talked about the entire past year, but felt like Josh didn't listen. I didn't know who Dave Ramsey was, but I totally agreed with everything he said.  And suddenly, Josh was on board.

Josh: I'd really never like Dave Ramsey before because I'd heard that he was an arrogant jerk.  Jason really started explaining the baby steps before I had the chance to say no.  I thought, "Well this is brilliant, and this is doable.  We can do this."

Susan: We went that same week and bought his book, some envelopes, and made a budget.  Within the next 6 months we got rid of $25,000 worth of debt and had $1,000 in savings.  That was about $950 more than we'd ever had in it before.


To be honest, I'm not quite sure we made $25,000 within that 6 months.  How did we manage to get rid of it?  We had a yard sale.  We sold everything but the dogs.  It was so freeing to get rid of it all!  Having less junk sitting around the house just made life a little better!

Then we sold Josh's truck.  His baby.  The truck that, before I ever met him, I said, "I want to marry a guy who drives a Toyota Tacoma."  It was 4 wheel drive.  It was his baby.  He loved that truck.  I loved that truck.

But it had a payment.  And it had to go.  Josh didn't complain.  I think it was his idea, actually.  I was relieved.  I think it's the #1 way to get out of a lot of debt, fast.

We sold the truck for more than we owed and suddenly, we didn't have a monthly truck payment, and we didn't have that extra insurance coverage to pay.  The drop in insurance bill was a nice surprise we hadn't thought about!

We made about $2500 between the sale of the truck & the yard sale.  $1000 went to savings as our emergency fund.  Another $1000 went to pay off a credit card that was a total thorn in our side.  We veered from Dave Ramsey on this one.  Normally we would pay off the smallest debts first.  The idea is that we had around 7 debts.  With that $1000 we could have totally paid off 4 of those.  Then we would only have 3 debts.  And although we would owe the same $$ amount, psychologically, it makes you breathe a little easier.  Maybe we shouldn't have done it, but having a $1000 credit card with 29.99% interest gone made me have less panic attacks.

Here's the convo I had with the credit card company:

Me: I want to close my account.

Rep: Why?

Me: Because my interest rate is 30%

Rep: Okay.

End of story.  He didn't ask any more questions.  Quite hilarious!

Remember the extra $500 from the yard sale?  It went towards fixing up Josh's new car.  An electric blue 1992 Geo Storm which we bought from a friend for a grand total of $1.  The car had been sitting in the middle of a field for years and he offered it to us.  The car was... well... it had seen better days.  A LOT of better days.  But it was the best thing that could have happened to us!  $500 got that car up and running.  I remember riding for the first time in it.  The smell was... different.  It was really loud.  The dashboard was cracked to pieces, and we were driving up a mountain to see if it could make it to the top.  Literally.  We weren't positive it would make it!

Did people laugh at us?  Not to our faces.  I'm sure plenty did behind our backs-- thought we were crazy and such.  But most people were incredibly supportive and proud of us.  It's not that often that a 20 year old and 22 year old take hold of their financial future quite like we were.

Gazelle intense, as Dave Ramsey would say.

We were blessed many times over during this process.  For a year, my brother lived with us.  We shared the bills and house work.  Imagine only paying half of your rent and utilities.  It makes life easier.

I'd like to say that we stayed on the straight and narrow.

But we didn't.

As we were moving to Georgia we realized that Josh would need a keyboard in order to play gigs, which would be his full-time income.  Although he had played since he was 5, he'd never owned a keyboard.  And the one he was using at the time belonged to the church we were at.

So we financed a keyboard.  Duh.

Looking back, I honestly don't see how we could have done anything differently other than having saved up ahead of time for it.  We just didn't think about it early enough to save for it, and were in a bind.

Horrible excuse.

Then we had tons of car issues in Atlanta.  By this time, the Geo had broken down and we sold it (for $500) and bought a teal 1993 Honda Accord. Practically sexy, compared to the Geo.  The Honda was $500.  It was in a fender bender and died a death which we won't talk about on this blog.  Did I mention we had been delivering pizza this whole time?  Well, as a one car family, only one person could do that after the wreck.  Finances were tight, so we bought Josh a sweet bicycle.  Not really... it was $50.  He drove my car to gigs, but I needed it for work during the day.

That is what we will call tough times, ladies & gents.  But the only choice was to keep going.  Getting in more debt at that point to buy a car would have been stupid.

After a few months, there was an opening at the company I worked at and I went to my boss to tell him about the best guy for the job... Josh.  My boss agreed, and at the end of 2009 we moved to South Carolina to help open a similar company. After spending nearly $1000 a month on rent in metro Atlanta (hey- I was scared to move from a small town to the big city - so we picked the safest neighborhood possible- Alpharetta!), we found the cheapest apartment in South Carolina- $500 a month!  That's where our snowball turned into an avalanche.  You can guess where that extra cash went!

When Josh's great aunt passed away in April 2010, she left us $7500, which paid off the rest of our debt and kick started our savings.

Over the past 3 years, most of our family and friends have been really supportive, except when it comes to us not going out to eat, or driving the car I've had since I was 16.  That car has carried us through a lot, and has been our only car for the past year.  It's currently at 260,000 miles.  People still poke fun, but we're debt free!

When we got out of debt for good, we did take some cash and buy what we had promised ourselves for the past year-- new suits for Josh (he only had hand-me-downs & has to wear one every day to work), and a new camera for me.  

Josh is 25; I am 23, and we are debt free!!!


UPDATE: March 2012
We still have that car... it now has over 300,000 miles on it!  And the camera?  Well, that turned into a career for me-- definitely a great investment!
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