Meet Angela. I watched her and her husband’s debt free scream on The Dave Ramsey Show. When I heard her mention that she had a You Tube channel, I just knew I had to ask her for an interview. I was thrilled that she agreed, and I think you are going to love this couple’s story.
You can find Angela at her You Tube channel, Our Life…on a Budget, where she vlogs about getting out of debt and staying there!
Angela & Jeff’s Debt Free Story
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.
My name is Angela and my husband’s name is Jeff. Jeff and I are complete opposites, but have made it work for our 13 years of marriage. He’s your typical outdoors man who loves to camp, hunt, and fish. My happiest place on earth is being able to spend time in downtown Toronto. We have two daughters, Emma (11 years old) and Brooklyn (9 years old). I’m a Grade 7 teacher and my husband is a Mac Tools distributor. We’re typical Canadians that spend most of our free time in the fall and winter months inside arenas. Jeff plays hockey and badminton and we take turns running the kids to their figure skating lessons. When I’m not working, I enjoy running and creating content for my YouTube channel.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
When I sat down and added it all up, we were facing $58,704.10 worth of debt. We owed money to just about everybody. We had two student loans that still had balances, even though we’d already been paying on them for 10 years. We also had four credit cards, two lines of credit, and a car loan. Other than the student loans, everything else was consumer debt from 13 years of trying to “keep up with the Jones’ “. We finally managed to get the debt paid off two years and two weeks from the time we started this journey.
3. What inspired you to become debt free? Was there a particular event?
Coming home from a trip to Disney World was what started it all. Before we left I was already feeling stressed from juggling 8 payments on top of our regular household bills and expenses. Now we had yet another payment to add to the mix, and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it all work. I knew that we had to do something different because we made a decent family income, but had nothing to show for it except for the mountain of bills that I had laid out in front of me. At that point I knew something had to change.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
We used (and currently still follow) Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. We had tried other methods in the past, but found this one suited us best since it forced us to focus on one goal at a time, rather than trying to do it all (pay off debt and contribute to savings and retirement).
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
1. The first thing we did was to review our spending and create a budget. By reviewing 6 months worth of spending we could see where the money was being wasted, acknowledge that this behaviour needed to stop, and then create a realistic zero-based budget. Once we did our budget, we found that we could put all of that money that once disappeared towards our debt.
2. The other way we found money to put towards our debt was selling unwanted items around the house. I chose to sell things on free and local websites and Facebook groups.
3. A third way we freed up money was to do a no-spend month. This is where we cut out any extra spending, such as personal money and clothing money, as well as trying to cut our grocery budget for the month, and add the money we saved to the debt payment.
4. The last thing we did was to find other ways to create an income (the side hustle). Jeff was able to get on with the city on an on-call basis to help set up and tear down equipment for local events and concerts. I started my YouTube channel, not with the expectation of making money, but this has also provided a small monthly revenue.
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
1. If you can make it from scratch rather than buying it – do it. We started making our own bread, pancake mix, hot chocolate mix, “Swiffer” dusting clothes, lunch snacks (cookies and muffins), bread crumbs, pizza crust, etc.
2. Meal plan and cook from scratch – I’ll do a weekly meal plan and then only go to the grocery store once.
3. Shop with a list, and not just for food. When it’s time to get the girls new clothes, I’ll inventory what they have, and then create a list of what they need. The list helps keep me focused and prevents me from buying other items.
4. Be a homebody – I only go out unless I need to and when I go out it’s usually for something specific. Not visiting the mall or my favorite stores has saved me a ton of money since I’m not tempted to purchase items that I didn’t even know I “needed”.
7. If married, 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 one that approached Jeff with the debt free goal after doing some research online. Luckily my husband is pretty easy going and wanted to get rid of the debt as much as I did. It did take some adjustments at first when we started the budget and all of a sudden couldn’t spend money on what ever and when ever we wanted. I think communication and being on the same page really helped out.
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’m the one who handles the day to day finances in the home. I’ll also create the draft copy of the monthly budget and will review it with Jeff before the beginning of each month and make sure that the budget suits both of us.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
We kept the initial celebration pretty low-key and just went out for dinner to our favorite sushi restaurant. We later did the big celebration during our summer vacation by heading down to Nashville to do our Debt Free Scream live on Dave Ramsey’s radio show.
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
We still make things from scratch and work as many extra hours as we can to continue to earn more income. The work ethic definitely hasn’t eased since becoming debt free. In fact, I feel as if we’re more determined than ever to continue our “side hustles” as we found we really enjoy what we’re doing outside of our regular day jobs. We have also stuck to the cash envelope method to help us control our variable spending. I also don’t think we’ll go back to the time when we weren’t creating a monthly budget. There’s something about checking in with that budget on a weekly basis that I find satisfying (yep, I’m the nerd in this relationship)
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
We’re looking forward to going back to our annual trips to Florida, except this time we’ll be saving up and paying for those trips with cash rather than putting them on the credit card, and hope and pray that we can find a way to pay for it later.
12. What are your financial goals now?
We are currently working towards fully funding our emergency fund. We’re hoping to have that completed by the end of this year. After that, we’ll be saving up and paying cash for a “new to us” car as both of our vehicles are getting up there in mileage.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
One of the most common things I hear from friends that are in debt and hear what we’ve done is, “that’s great for you, but we could never do that. That would never work for us”. The biggest thing that determines whether or not the debt will get paid off is your mindset. If you firmly believe that you can pay off the debt, then you will. When you have finally decided that you are sick and tired of this debt and want it gone as quickly as possible, you will find that you will do anything to make sure it happens.
The other piece of advice I would give is to try to make, even just small extra payments towards your debt each week, I’m talking as little as $5 or $10 dollars. Each time you make an extra debt payment regardless of the size, you’re making progress.
The other thing we did to keep us motivated and stop us from feeling paralyzed by the amount we were facing was to keep a visual chart. There’s a lot of great “Debt Free” charts on the internet. Each time we made a payment, we got to color in another line, and that really helped us to acknowledge the progress that we were making rather than focusing on how much farther we had to go.
The last piece of advice I would give is to join debt free communities on social media (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube). It does wonders for the soul to surround yourself with like minded people, people who are going through or have gone through the same struggles of paying off debt.
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
Becoming debt free doesn’t happen on it’s own, with a wish and a hope. In order to reach the goal, you have to want to be debt free more than anything else and do everything you can to get there. Working hard and sacrificing for a short period of time is the way to go. It is a journey that isn’t always easy, and filled with plenty of ups and downs, but it is so worth it at the end.
Congratulations, Angela & Jeff, and thank you for sharing your story. For more of their journey, check out Angela’s You Tube channel, Our Life…on a Budget.
For more stories like theirs, 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.