How We Paid Off Over $30,000 of Debt in Less than Six Months

If you would have told me six months ago that we would be $30,000 less in debt today, I would have laughed.

We were seriously tapped out. Unless I put in time at my etsy store, I thought that we had absolutely no money to squeeze out of our budget each month. Well, if you could call our method “a budget,” that is. We pretty much bought whatever we thought we “needed” and then wondered where our money went each month.

Out of a sense of desperation, I decided to look into Dave Ramsey and purchased The Total Money Makeover. I devoured it! I didn’t know if we could really make the debt snowball work for us, but we decided to give it a try. We started cutting back in small areas, and before we knew it we had saved $4,250…just enough to pay for the new heat pump that we needed. I was astonished. We had NEVER been able to pay for an item that cost this amount without going into debt.

With newfound determination, we decided to give it all we got. We are now $30,000 in debt lighter, and it feels so good! At the time of this writing, we are down to owing money on my student loan debt ($32,000) and our mortgage.

I thought it would be fun to share the things that have worked for us since we are basically at the half-way point, mortgage aside. All glory goes to God!

  • Get a good budgeting app. We personally went with the free version of Every Dollar, and it helped us really understand where our money was going at all times. For this to work, I had to be diligent to add every purchase. For a monthly fee per month the app can be linked to your bank account, but I was not willing to pay it!
  • If you don’t have the cash don’t buy it. Seriously. Stick to that budget. If a true emergency comes up, use the emergency fund. I’ve had to say “no” to many extras that just weren’t in the budget. It is difficult, but the payoff is worth it in the end.
  • Stay encouraged and motivated. After purchasing The Total Money Makeover, I started watching Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel. These short episodes kept me motivated when I was tired of our new lifestyle. I have the phrase “DEBT = RISK” written on the white board in our kitchen as a reminder to me each day.
  • Cut the grocery budget where you can. We started going to Aldi on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, and only purchase a few items at Walmart. I began meal planning for the first time ever, and utilized the Freezer Cooking Meal Plan from Passion for Savings. Our family of ten now has a monthly grocery budget of $650.
  • Cut extracurriculars. This was a tough one for me. One of my oldest daughters is really involved in ballet, and it was taking up so much time and money. We were gone 5-6 days per week sometimes. We found a less expensive school where she only goes three days per week now. She loves it, thankfully!
  • Cut your vacation budget. Dave Ramsey advocates for no vacations until debt is paid off, but we have gone camping one time. While in Savannah, we spent our time at either low-cost or no-cost activities, and we didn’t even visit a single seafood restaurant. This was tough for me, ha! We do plan on taking a few more camping trips before too long. The kids really enjoy it!
  • Shop at consignment stores. I have been doing this for awhile anyhow, but it is definitely a big help. I do tend to purchase my boys clothes new since boys are so hard on clothes and there really isn’t much for them at second hand shops in my experience.
  • Use your tax refund to pay down your debt. Our tax refund was almost $10,000, and we put all of it on our debt. It wasn’t really hard at the time, because I was so motivated by the books I was reading and videos I was watching.
  • Shop around for insurance. We realized that we were paying WAY too much on our home insurance, and we shopped around for a lower rate. We ended up going with a different company that saved us $200 per month, AND we received nearly a $2,000 refund from our escrow account, which promptly was used to pay down debt.
  • Make sacrifices. We need a new cooktop, but they aren’t cheap. Instead, we purchased a $30 countertop double burner from Walmart. It isn’t ideal, but it works until we are ready to invest in a replacement cooktop.
  • Cut cable and other similar expenditures. We were able to find a new cell phone plan that saves us $60 per month, and we cut cable only to have it turned back on one week later at a much lower rate and a $200 gift card offer. We used the gift card to buy groceries, so even more money could go towards our debt.
  • Be content with what you have. If it’s not broken, don’t buy a new one. Try to find ways to use what you already have. These are a few of my new mantras. I’ve also tried to become more content with staying at home. When I leave the house I usually spend money!
  • Use your talent to make extra income. If it wasn’t for my etsy shop, we wouldn’t have paid down our debt as quickly as we have. If you have any skills that you can put to use in your home, I suggest giving it a try. But don’t go into debt to start a new business. It doesn’t necessarily take money to make money.
  • Use the Debt Snowball. When you pay off one debt, put the money you were using on that debt on your next one. We have paid off our debts from smallest to largest, and it’s nice to wave good-bye as they begin to drop off quickly.
  • MY #1 TIP IS…Pray and give it to God. Give Him all of the glory for all He has done. If your debt is being reduced, He is ultimately behind it. Just last week we were $570 away from paying off our travel trailer, and then we received two checks totaling $580 in our mailbox. We had overpaid our oral surgeon nearly five months ago, and had no idea. God was definitely at work!

What are we going to do next?

Well, I’m not entirely sure. If we were to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan to a T, we would start attacking my student loans. I don’t like having only $1,000 in savings however. I think we might have our land surveyed and try to sell a piece of it to pay off my loans while building our Emergency Fund. If the sale of the land doesn’t work out, we will dump what we’ve saved on the Student Loans. That is our loose plan, anyhow.

While I do not know what the future holds, I look at debt in a totally different light now. While we hope to avoid it entirely, I know at least we will strive to only make purchases if we can pay cash, or have a substantial down payment in hand. I used to think I could afford an item if I could afford it’s payment. No more! We went from thinking we had NOTHING to use to pay extra on debt to having a decent sized debt-snowball to throw on it each month.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope this post has encouraged you. If we can do this with eight children, you can as well!

7 thoughts on “How We Paid Off Over $30,000 of Debt in Less than Six Months

  1. Katrina says:

    I have always been very interested in Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” — I keep hearing great outcomes from those who used his system. We, too, have a large family (me, my husband and our ten kids) and we always have credit card debt. I feel like once we get something paid off, we get another debt to replace it. Part of the problem is we don’t wait until we have the money before we make a purchase. Both me and my husband are the “we want it now” kind of people. THAT needs to change, for sure. And the no taking a vacation thing? until debt is paid off? I feel like our kids would be grown before that would happen! haha – I actually think that’s something we could work on, too. Just more camping trips, right? Thanks for sharing your experience with Dave’s program. Love your blog!

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks Katrina, we used to be in that same cycle. The Total Money Makeover helped us so much. The newest edition has testimonies throughout, and I read those first before reading the meat of the book. It was very inspiring!

  2. Christen Kieffner says:

    Thanks for sharing and the encouragement! After financial disaster we did DR, but then our youngest needed open heart surgery, so we got side tracked. We have been house hunting for a year and decided to wait and rent. We took a a large chunk of our down payment money and put it towards debt. Working hard to finish attacking the debt. It’s hard to give up wanting to buy versus rent, especially with #5 on the way, but I know it’s going about it the right way. God has been good to help bring in small “side hustles” while I’m pregnant.

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