Today’s Debt Free Story is from Brian. He writes at Debt Discipline about about how his family of 5 deals with money, budgets and debt.
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?
We’re a family of five, including, me, my wife and 3 children: 15 year old fraternal twins and a 12 year old son. We live in New York. I work full time in IT and my wife works part time in retail. I started my blog Debt Discipline to help keep us accountable while paying off our debt. We are a close family that likes to laugh. We have involved our children in our money discussion once we decided to become debt free.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
We have paid off $109,000 in 50 months. It was all consumer debt spread over 5 credit cards. It was many years of over spending and not having a plan for our money that led us to that point.
3. What inspired you to get debt free? Was there a particular event?
In June of 2010, we hit our rock bottom point. We were planning our family summer vacation and came to the conclusion that we had no money to pay for it. After trying to extend credit to finance the vacation and we were denied (best thing to ever happen to us) we realized we made too much money to be living like this and something had to change.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
I found as much information as I could on line about personal finance from personal finance blogs and I read Dave Ramsey’s book “The The Total Money Makeover” which really made sense to me. I was looking for a get out of debt free card, but quickly realized managing money was really all common sense: having a plan for you money in a form of a budget and spend less then you make. With those principals in mind, we enrolled in a debt management program (DMP) through our local credit union and reduced our interest rates on all of our credit cards and began paying them off. We used the debt snowball technique to help build momentum. We cut up our credit cards and never used them again.
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
The first step is to understand how much money you have coming in and going out. So we got a budget together in an excel spreadsheet. We evaluated it and began to make cuts. By prioritizing needs over wants, we freed up cash to help pay down debt. My wife also took a P/T job to increase our income, which allowed more cash to be thrown on the debt.
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
If you track your spending for 2-3 months by saving every receipt you get a good idea where every dollar is going. Little things like coffee, lunches, fast food etc add up and can kill your budget. We tried to avoid these things by packing our lunch, cooking meals at home, and shopping with a list to avoid overspending and wasting money.
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 initiated the get out of debt wishes in our house. It was difficult at first, because it required a lot of changes for the entire family. The key is communication. We included our 3 children in the discussion immediately because we wanted them to understand there was good reason when we said “no” to things. The short term sacrifice was for the long term goal of being debt free. Once we all understood what debt free meant for our family it was easy to work toward it.
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 used to handle it, but today it’s a joint discussion. We make decisions together about our money. We discuss money every day!
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
The family went out to a nice dinner and ordered anything they wanted. The bill was paid for in cash!
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
We learned that we don’t need to borrow money. If we want something today we save for it and then buy it. In the past, we would charge it and then try to figure out how to pay for it.
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
We cut way back on entertainment and vacations during debt repayment. We have a budget item for those things now. As long as we can save for it we enjoy it.
12. What are your financial goals now?
We are now building wealth and would like to help our 3 children fund college if that’s the path they choose. Having a plan with our money gives us better choices in the future.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
Stop accumulating new debt immediately and begin working on your plan. They call it personal finance for a reason, what worked best for us may not work for you, but you have to start somewhere. I’m more then happy to help anyone that has any questions.
14.Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
My goal with sharing our story and maintaining Debt Discipline is to hopefully help someone else out there in need. Since becoming debt free, I have been involved with our local community, school district, as well as my company to help spread the financial literacy word. So if you need help please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can find Brian on Twitter @DebtDiscipline.
Thank you, Brian, for sharing your family’s story. For more stories like Brian’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.
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