I am always inspired by debt payoff success stories! I love reading about the sacrifices people are willing to make to get out of debt. I especially love reading the success stories of my blog readers because I feel like you are all “my people” and we get each other.
Today, while I’m unpacking boxes in our new (and internet-less) house, I bring you the debt-free story of Megan and Colten! Take it away Megan!
Our debt payoff “project”, as we like to call it, started when I asked my husband when we could start our family and, thus, quit my job and stay home.
At the time, we had $120,000 in student loan debt that cost us a $1300 payment each month. That payment was more than our mortgage and was a big bummer when payday came around!
My husband, Colten, responded that we could start a family at any time, but I was to remain responsible for my $600/month payment.
I immediately put a pen to paper and tried to estimate what that meant for a debt payoff timeline. I hoped I had approximately ten months (Lord willing we would be able to get pregnant) to get my debt down as much as I could!
It wasn’t long before I realized we could cut our spending in both major and minor ways!
First to be eliminated were clothes shopping, eating out, and impulse spending. I remember the beginning was so easy because we were so excited and quickly realized how much we could save right off the bat.
We saved $50 a week just in restaurant bills! That number will haunt me forever.
Then, we began forming weekly grocery lists and purchased only the necessities for the week at our local Aldi. When I say necessities, I mean even coffee and orange juice were cut!
I perused the local Dollar Tree and began buying soap, shampoo, conditioner, dishwasher soap, and any other necessities I could find there for $1.
Next, we tried to avoid spending. We stopped using our dryer, I kept my old phone, and quit expensive gym memberships.
We went without paper towels, we consolidated errands to avoid wasting gas, and we stayed in our older (and often faulty) cars.
At this point, it would pain me to spend any money that we didn’t absolutely have to! We started saving birthday and Christmas money for gifts we would need to purchase later on. If I found something I thought I had to have, I would wait a week and re-evaluate if I really needed it. (I don’t think I ever needed it!)
Once pregnant (yay!), I borrowed maternity clothes. We avoided spending so much that I once asked Colten if we could start using cloth toilet paper and/or avoid flushing our toilet except “when necessary”. (You guys, I really wanted to stay home!)
Colten and I thought we really had something going, but the best was yet to come!
I found at-home employment that eventually bolstered our take-home pay by about $1,000 a month! Colten also worked part-time as a consultant at his day job for another $1,000 a month!
Since that wasn’t money we needed to live on, that went right to our debt payoff. On average, we were able to pay $5,000 a month towards our debt. (A side notes for future stay-at-home parents: Monitoring our budget so closely allowed us to see what it would be like to live off of one income in the future!)
Was it fun?
Am I making it sound like we were really having a great time paying off our debt?
I didn’t always enjoy staying up until midnight doing my part-time work when I had “real” work in the morning. And it wasn’t easy to have the weekend come, only to have Colten go into work Saturday.
But, our debt was going down and we told ourselves to be patient. And we made it a point to thank each other for the hard work we were doing. What could have potentially been a real bane on our marriage became a great exercise in teamwork. I would avoid buying coffee over my lunch hour because I knew how hard Colten had worked to earn that money for us. And I know he felt the same.
What We Learned
Colten and I learned a lot throughout the two years it took us to pay off our debt.
Foremost, whenever our payoff process and spending, or lack thereof, were discussed, some people would praise us as though we were doing something extraordinary. They would make statements about how they wish they could pay off their loans, but, instead, they have eight more years to pay them off. The thing was, we were not doing anything that somebody else couldn’t do! Anybody can find ways to save money! We were not special!
Furthermore, and sadly, we did not always feel supported by friends and family (luckily I followed several blogs of like-minded people!) People close to us would often get irritated when we wouldn’t join the baby pool, didn’t go on a shopping trip, or, didn’t have much to add in a discussion of building houses. For some reason, talking about a budget really made people uncomfortable!
Lastly, I think we realized what was important to us. We quickly discovered we didn’t need to go out to eat every Friday to treat ourselves. I don’t need a new dress for every wedding I attend. And we can have a starter home and old cars right now even if our friends don’t.
We did it!
Colten and I welcomed a son in January 2016. We managed to pay off our $120,000 in student loan debt in 26 months.
When I initially sat down that first day with my pen and notebook, I had estimated that we could have my part of the loan ($60,000) paid off in October 2016. Boy, was I wrong! Our last payment (on both loans) was August 2016!
We were shocked by what we were capable of doing once we put our minds to it! You bet I quit my job as soon as I could and have loved staying at home with our son. We’re even adding another one to the mix in May of this year!
Thanks for reading our story and I hope it inspires you to take control over your debt!
How about you?
- What’s the most extreme sacrifice you’ve made to pay off your debt?
Megan is a 30-year-old married, stay-at-home mom with a 1-year-old and a baby due in May. She’s a resigned mental health therapist. Her husband Colten is a mechanical engineer. They live in Wisconsin.