Today’s Debt Free Story is from Jen. She is a speaker, author, and volunteer firefighter. Her website is The Iron Jen.
1. Tell us about you and your family. Where are you from? What do you and your spouse do for a living? What are your hobbies? Include anything that you’d like to add to give the reader an idea about your personality.
In my roles as a motivational storyteller, engaging Amazon Top 100 author, and Internet radio show host, I am passionate about motivating, encouraging, and inspiring people overcome their obstacles to become their greatest selves. My family and I are most known for paying off over $212,000 worth of debt and medical expenses in four years. Our story has been featured in local, national and international media. In addition to paying off a ton of debt, I am also a 8-time national weightlifter and 2-time US Olympic Festival medal winner as well as an Ironman triathlete.
Because of the journey we have been on, my passion also has spilled over into not only my work life, but also my volunteer…I was excited to recently obtain my firefighter 1 and firefighter 2 certifications, however I still struggle with fears around tight spaces, heights, and fire.
I live in Lindstrom MN with our 4 awesome kids, 1 handsome husband, 2 naughty dogs and 1 ugly mortgage.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
Over $212,000 worth of debt and medical expenses. We were slated to pay off $48,000 in four years, which seemed impossible and seemed like it was going to take forever. Know we look back and go wow, it was ONLY 48 months. Perspective is so powerful in this stuff.
3. What inspired you to get debt free? Was there a particular event?
Our son was diagnosed with a lifetime medical condition. When this happened we not only were devastated emotionally, but would end up going to have our finances basically implode a few weeks after this.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
Dave Ramsey’s FPU (Financial Peace University)
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
- Sold things we didn’t need
- Defined our wants versus our needs
- Worked extra jobs
- Tracked every penny out and every penny coming in
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
- Be intentional and tell your money where to go.
- See your time, money and energies as finite and choose how you will spend it – for example, we all have 168 hours in a week, choose how you will spend that time versus only looking at how busy you are
7. Who initiated the debt free goal? Were there arguments during the time you were working on your debt? How did you resolve the tension and arguments?
I was the driver on becoming debt free in the beginning. While our story really does have a fairy tale ending, it was a nightmare beginning. Bob and I were on total opposite ends of the page for 5-6 months. I wanted to take all the fun out of life and nagged him constantly about the budget. He only saw what was being taken away and tuned me out. We were also dealing with stress around our son’s medical issues. Because we have a marriage of respect, we worked to really see each other’s sides, but it took a while. I quit nagging and began to talk about where we were going through hopes, dreams, and goals versus only talking about the things we were going to eliminate. After a few months, he began to see this wasn’t some get rich quick scheme and could see the success we were having, this coupled with my change of how we talked about it got us on board – once that happened, things really changed for the better.
8. Who handles the day-to-day finances in your home or do you work on it equally? How often do you and your spouse discuss your finances/budget/spending?
I do the overall budget and daily tracking. We both see the overall goals and where we are going together. I spend 5 minutes a day on our budget and it is great.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
Our family of six drove 17 hours in a van with no air conditioning to do our debt free in Dave Ramsey’s office. We had several of our friends with us during this very special time. As a treat for the whole family, we also took four stops at Six Flags along the way.
Watch Jen and her family’s Debt Free scream on Dave Ramsey.
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
- We really changed our language – this includes being intentional about how we use the words “want” and “need.” By doing this, it really has helped us gain a lot of peace and contentment in our lives as we have found we really don’t “need” much at all.
- We spend 5 minutes a day on our budget.
- We use money as a tool to create the life we want versus expecting that life will just turn out.
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
Going out to eat as a family – this was something that we really missed while on our debt free journey and really appreciate now.
12. What are your financial goals now?
Paying off our house.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
We all want the quick fix in life – whether it be our finances, health, relationships, or careers when we run into obstacles, however, it is really the baby steps out of our problems that will get us to win.
Take a step of courage and face your reality. While this first step can be the scariest step of all, knowing that you will save so much pain in the long run if you decide to pierce through that initial pain point as this is where you will begin to create the life you want.
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
Know that you do NOT need to be good at anything to be great. Our family was the WORST when it came to money – we really were. Our story just goes to show that you CAN overcome your greatest obstacles however it takes you getting off your butt to:
- Embrace your reality.
- Move it incrementally forward.
- Surrounding yourself with great things (podcasts, blogs, coaches, mentors, friends, etc.) to help you stay resilient.
For more of Jen’s story, read her post, We are FINALLY Debt Free! Thanks, Jen, for being so open about your story.
For more stories like Jen’s, go to Debt Free Stories.
Would you like to share your real life debt free story? You don’t have to be a blogger to share. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Debt Free Stories” in the memo line and I will send you a questionnaire.
Please note, I AM NOT A FINANCIAL PLANNER. This series was written based on the experiences of others who have become debt free. If you feel you need additional advice, please consult a certified professional.
This post is linked to Thrifty Thursday.