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How to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt
9 years ago, I was six months pregnant. I hadn’t gotten the mail in nearly a week. I didn’t want to. I was dreading the bills that were going to be in there. We made good money but we were living paycheck to paycheck and the amount of money we owed was growing, not getting less. I had no idea if there was going to be enough money to pay it all.
Maybe you’re a wife or a mom. Maybe you dread looking at your checking account too….opening mail when you know there are bills to pay and maybe not enough money to pay them?

Do you think to yourself, I can not pay off this mountain of debt with my income or other financial obligations?

Been there too! With baby number one on the way, both my husband, Scott, and I were working full-time jobs with a good income. We purchased a perfect starter home in growing area and I started to feel the pressure to continue to keep up with the “Jones”. We ate out, A LOT! We bought new furniture! We bought what we wanted. We used credit cards for nearly everything.
That’s what you are supposed to do, right?
We needed a bigger car for the baby, so why not buy my dream SUV. Then, since I had my dream car, my husband should have this dream car too, right? Of course! It was at this point that I started to have “that bad feeling” that something wasn’t right.

Something Felt Wrong

My husband assuring me that taking out a second mortgage to get a better interest rate for the car was a smart idea. I continued to feel “that bad feeling” every time I viewed our checking account online or paid the second mortgage.
Even more than the feeling of all the debt we had created, I dreaded every single morning. I dreaded getting up and rushing my baby out the door to leave her in someone else’s care and then give them ¼ of my paycheck every month. I loved my job but I loved my baby more!
Fast forward 18 months and lots of car and 2nd mortgage payments, I was depressed. The overwhelming feeling of the debt growing stronger by the day. Scott and I didn’t talk about money. I harbored some ill feeling towards his car. I knew every month that we didn’t have enough money to pay for everything we were purchasing, let alone pay off debt. To top it off baby number 2 was already on the way and I counted the days until I could stay at home with my two babies. But I also even more dreaded the days when I would have to leave ½ my paycheck and my two babies with someone else for the day.
Add that to the fact my husband was not happy with his job and commute of almost 2 hours one way to work. The tension between us and the scary feeling of not knowing how to change kept getting stronger.

We knew something had to change!

I just didn’t know how to talk about it without blame or any idea of what to do about it. We “needed” the cars, the house and all the stuff. I wanted to stay home with my two babies but I couldn’t see how. There were too many expenses and not enough income. We were sinking and we knew it.
At the same time Scott was given the opportunity at work to transfer. We both thought, “OK, it gets us closer to our family, lowers our cost of living and we can sell the house.” Then I would start thinking, “What if I can’t find a job?” We had 2 mortgages and by this time it was 2008 and housing prices were falling fast. I was also 34 weeks pregnant.
We finally made the decision moving was better than sinking farther in the hole we were already in, even though we still had no idea how to get out. I was thrilled to be closer to family but the timing was still awful and I was scared out of my mind about finding a job.
We made the move and Scott commuted back and forth on weekends for about a month. It was close to a 4 hr extremely boring drive. So… he downloaded an audio book that unwittingly changed our lives.

We Found Our Path

If you read Anna’a post 15 Ways to Pay Off $80,000 of debt, you know she started with The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and so did we! It gave us the pathway that we couldn’t see for so long. Scott called me on one of his car drives and said, “You need to listen to this. We are getting out of debt.”
The next phone call from my husband was when I was at the hospital having a baby monitoring test done. As my doctor finished telling me I I had to now be on bed rest for the next 2 weeks Scott said, “I am selling my car when I get home this weekend.” It’s a good thing I was already laying down. I am pretty sure the baby jumped too! He was selling his dream car?
I didn’t believe him yet, but I finally agreed to read the book. He did end up selling his car as well as most of the furniture in the house before we moved 6 weeks later. I began to see we didn’t really need any of it. The expensive car, house or furniture. I knew in that moment if he was willing to sell his dream car to pay off debt, I had to at least try.

The Hard Part Of Getting Out Of Debt

It was not easy to part with everything. If you have heard Dave Ramsey you may have heard, “sell everything but the dog.” We did! We sold down to the bare minimum, going from a 1,600 square foot house to a 3 bedroom apartment. We did keep the dog for a short time, but eventually gave her a better home too!
We knew that we had to start big or we would never get there. We had 6 figures in debt on cars, personal loans, student loans and credit cards. Most people told us we were crazy and it was ok to have car loans and mortgage payment and credit cards. I could only think, “How is this Ok?” These debts were eating us alive and once we made the commitment to get rid of all of them, we had to have some bigs wins to keep us going.
I will not say this process was easy. It wasn’t. It did give us a safe and non confrontational avenue to talk to each other about our money. It gave us a clear picture of what we wanted.
Once we figured out budgeting, also not easy but doable, we were able to make small wins and watch them add up. I said to Scott probably 100 times during this process we don’t have enough money to pay off everything fast enough.
Fast enough, I learned is a relative term. Everyone has a different process and goals. Yes it did take us longer than we had originally planned.

The Setbacks

There were setbacks along the way. The hardest but ultimately most rewarding was selling our house. We had to take out 2 loans to write a check for $72000 at closing. We still have those loans on the wall as a reminder to never go back to someone or something owning us. They were the last to pay off before freedom and as much as it hurt to take them out it felt so good to make the final payment and close the account.
Another setback was my husband leaving a job with no other job in place. While we didn’t pay off or save much during that period, we were able to live on my income alone until he found a job.

The Finish Line

Fast forward again, we ARE finally DEBT FREE! We even flew to Nashville to scream it on the Dave Ramsey Show.
It really doesn’t matter how long it took to pay off or how much we paid off. What you need to know is that no matter your situation, income, or amount hanging over you, if you feel like you are sinking there is a way out. I knew I wanted to be at home with my babies more than I wanted that nice house or fancy car. My husband wanted the flexibility to be with his wife and kids and call his own shots instead of reporting to someone. Now we work together.
[RELATED: How to Attack Debt as a Couple]
We wanted to help people build a better life for themselves. We knew we could not do any of those things with debt hanging over our head. There have been many times when I wanted to just a get a loan to get that car or just take vacation and put it on a credit card. Then I see those two loans and think of that $72,000 check I wrote to sell a house and all those heavy feelings of desperation come back and I look the other way.
I would have never dreamed 9 years ago of paying for a trip to Nashville to scream “We’re DEBT FREE!!!!!!!!” with cash. I would never have dreamed of going to Corsica to celebrate my father in law’s wedding with cash. Another dream come true is to be able to stay at home and help my husband grow a business where we are totally in control of our schedule.  We are also planning a trip to Europe soon taking all 3 kids for 4 weeks. 

To summarize our steps to paying off six-figures, here’s what we did:

1. We were honest with ourselves about how debt made us feel (that “bad” feeling every single day).
2. We opened our lines of communication and talked about how we felt and what we wanted our life to look like.
3. We made a decision to not sink any farther in the debt hole we were in.
4. We moved to a more affordable (and smaller) house.
5. We sold anything and everything we could (including the dog).
6. We listened to podcasts and books like Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover for motivation and inspiration.
7. We started budgeting.
8. We focused on small wins to give us motivation.
9. We made career decisions that were right for us in the long-term, rather than the short term.
10. We rewarded ourselves at the end with a trip to tell Dave Ramsey himself so we knew the goal we were working towards.
When you don’t have debt, your money can do anything you want it to. Yes, we still make choices and yes we still sacrifice, but I get to choose where to spend it and it’s not my BILLS!!!!!

your money can do anything you want it to

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