Welcome to Debt Free Stories. Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Tracy. She paid off $41,587 in debt in 14 months! She blogs at Happy Healthy Mommy.
1. Tell us about you and your family. Where are you from? What do you 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.
I am a single mom who lives in the Greensboro, NC area with my 6 year old daughter, Emme and 9 year old mutt, Belle. I just moved to the more rural area to enjoy time gardening and cooking with real foods. My daughter and I are gluten free due to celiac and changing to a healthy grain free sugar free way of cooking has become a big passion of mine over the last couple of years. I have enjoyed belly dancing and pilates the last several years, but time and budget reduced from my schedule. I will be working one back in after the house project.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
$41,587.03 in 14 months. The debt included overdraft protection, mattress, car, and a credit card (post divorce stress spending, clothes to accommodate the yo yo diets and weight for 2 years, a trip to Disney World & I’m sure several things that I don’t remember because I was spending without a plan)
3. What inspired you to get debt free? Was there a particular event?
I was inspired to get debt free for 2 main reasons:
1. The company I had worked at for 12 years when I started my journey in January 2013, announced it would be making significant job cuts summer 2013. I had enjoyed a great salary working in Pharma and been far too irresponsible with what God had blessed me with to provide financially. I knew that if I was laid off, I would most likely take at least a 1/3 of a cut in pay, no matter what industry I chose, more if I left pharmaceutical sales.
2.The guy that I was dating at the time & I had come to a point in our relationship where we were planning for our future and a marriage. We wanted to enter into marriage debt free. (He didn’t stick around and that could have derailed me, but I decided to focus on the future for my daughter & me instead.)
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
I followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and did the Financial Peace University class twice, once at home last spring and I enrolled again at church this past spring to stay focused. Since it’s a lifetime membership. Round 2 was already paid.
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
Since I’m in sales, I get quarterly commissions (previously wasted on wants versus needs), getting laid off provided a severance (saying no to a trip to Disney the summer before my daughter started kindergarten & when I had 2 months out of work was ridiculously hard), and
I had good tax returns due to high with holdings (lesson learned).
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
- Start by categorizing where you have been spending money. Use this to develop a budget & determine where you will cut back. (If you do a budget without awareness of your blind spots, you don’t know where you need to cut.)
- Meal plan based on dietary needs and whatever your hot buttons are for foods. (I was spending the same on groceries as my mortgage because we’re grain free sugar free & there were way too many quick stops at the store on the way home, while hungry). Cook meals ahead of time and freeze or prepare extra to freeze so late days don’t turn into excuses to blow the budget on dining out.
- Use cash system with envelopes for your over spending areas. When the grocery envelope is empty, it’s empty till the next pay day.
- Put your kids on commission & practice telling them no. They can save up for that plastic toy made in China by working for the money, just like you do, but age appropriate.
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 initiated the debt free goal. It was a deal breaker with my ex-boyfriend. I learned an important lesson from my marriage. Be on the same page from the beginning. You both come to the table with baggage. Talk it out & work out a plan together. At the end of the day, the ex boyfriend was kicking and screaming over my crazy debt free goal, but it proved to be indicative of his general behavior pattern. While things didn’t work out, I was blessed to know this ahead of time and the importance of this for when I hopefully will get married again.
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?
Since I am a single mom, that would be me. What I learned from trying to work through this with a partner is that I can’t expect to approach it as me teaching him, but a journey we take together. I will go through FPU with him (whoever he is) before marriage and we will decide on a plan together.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
My daughter and I finally took a vacation over Mother’s Day weekend to Nashville and did our debt free yell the following Monday live in studio with Dave Ramsey.
Watch Tracy’s Debt Free Scream.
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
Budgeting ahead of time, “telling my money where to go, instead of asking where it went.” Cash for groceries, meal planning, cooking and freezing to be prepared for tough or long days. It’s ok to tell friends no.
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
Having my house keeper back has been a blessing. She cleans every other week and frees up time for my daughter and me to spend together.
12. What are your financial goals now?
I’m working on baby step 3 (3-6 months emergency fund) while paying cash for my new home projects.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
Just like any other life changing goal, you have to want the long term result to make the short term sacrifices. Celebrate your successes. Find ways to motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable. I make posters with goals and why I’m working for them, as well as write down how I will feel when I accomplish these goals. Blogging about it helped hold me accountable. Watching Dave Ramsey’s live show daily pushed me through those days I thought it just wasn’t going to happen and wanted to quit or just go shopping. I heard stories of people with situations way harder than mine and if they could push through it, I needed to do the same.
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
Life will happen. You will have obstacles thrown in your path on your journey and they will at the time, seem like insurmountable challenges, but find a reason and motivation to push through. If I can make it as a single mom who was laid off, dumped, told my daughter might need surgery as I was losing health insurance and my dog had cancer, I promise God will provide you the strength and focus to get through it too. Know who will propel you towards your goal and run from those that will pull you away from it.
Thank you Tracy for sharing your Debt Free Story! It is truly inspiring. I wish you luck with all of your goals in the future.
For more of Tracy’s story, read her blog post about her “I’m Debt Free” scream at Dave Ramsey’s studio and watch it on you-tube.
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 familybalancesheet at gmail dot com. Put “Debt Free Stories” in the memo line and I will send you a questionnaire.
This post is linked to Thrifty Thursday.