Today’s Debt Free Story is from Acadia. She writes about simple living, parenting and her family’s foster story at Fostering Simplicity.
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 husband and I have been married for 8 years. We have a 5 year old son and are in the process of adopting our 2 year old and 4 month old foster sons, making us parents of 3 boys! My husband works as an architect and I teach art part time at my son’s school. We strive to be a pretty active family. My husband commutes by bike and is a runner. Our St. Louis neighborhood is within walking distance to the zoo and a couple of parks, so I enjoy walking with the kids each day to let them run off some energy and I get a little workout in too. We enjoy being outside as much as possible and enjoy to go hiking and camping when the weather is right.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
All of our debt was $97,000 in student loan debt. We had been paying on it our entire marriage, but could not afford to pay too much above the minimum payment requirement. We really did not see an end in sight. We ended up buying a house from a relative, which put us in even more debt. However, with my husband being an architect and an overall really handy guy, we decided that fixing up the house and selling it could give us enough profit to at least pay off a big chunk of our debt. It took us two years of my husband working full-time at his job and then using every other second to work on the house. We sacrificed a lot of time together and took on a lot of stress during this time. But in the end, we ended up making enough profit to pay off our debt entirely and still put some into savings!
The other part of this story is that we had to massively downsize. We sold the majority of our possessions and now our family of 5 lives in a two bedroom apartment in the city as opposed to our much, much larger home in the suburbs.
3. What inspired you to get debt free? Was there a particular event?
It wasn’t really a particular event, but more of a particular feeling. We felt really trapped. We felt like we couldn’t do a lot of the things in life we wanted to do because there was always the debt and the loan payments. Our loan payments each month were almost equal to our mortgage! Imagine paying for two houses at once! We wanted freedom more than anything.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
I did read about the Dave Ramsey method, however, I knew that for us, it would take something more extreme than cutting expenses and putting that money towards our debt. In order for us to really cut our expenses, we had to downsize and sell the house. Once we did that we were able to pay everything off at once.
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
- Downsizing. We are choosing to live below our means. We only want to live with what we use on a regular basis and what supports our lifestyle. We now live in a small apartment, which has greatly reduced our monthly expenses.
- Creativity. We used my husband’s gifts for architecture, design, and carpentry to our advantage. We found our strengths and came up with a way to use those in getting out of debt.
- Minimalism. We really started looking at minimalism. People who are intentionally living with less. We began to realize that each item we own costs us something, either our time to maintain it or our money. Having more of a minimalist mentality has helped us to buy less and to own less.
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
- We live beneath our means. We are living in an apartment that we can pay for out of one paycheck with money left over. The money that we used to spend on debt now goes into savings.
- Pay cash. In order to maintain our debt free lifestyle, we pay cash for everything. We rarely use a credit card and if we do, we pay it off right away. We do not take out loans, for anything. If we want to buy a car, we save and pay cash. We must have the money in the bank for every purchase.
- Give to others. This may seem like a strange answer to put in this section, but we believe in helping others when they are struggling and putting our finances towards caring for our community and others around the world. We trust that God will provide for our needs in the process. Not to say that we are unwise with our money. We save and try to manage our finances, but do so with an openness to give money away as well. We have been given money ourselves during our process of paying off debt and try to remain grateful and giving.
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?
My husband and I really do see eye to eye when it comes to debt. We had the same goal and are in agreement with living a debt free lifestyle. The tension came about with the stress of rehabbing a house that we were living in for two years. Just as others may struggle with staying on budget, we struggled in dealing with not having much time for each other or as a family during that time. We kept our eyes on the prize though and knew that it was only for a season.
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 handle paying the bills and managing the day to day spending. We usually talk to one another on a weekly basis about our finances to make sure that we are on the same page.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
Our big celebration came when we finally had the money to hire a weekly babysitter! My husband and I now go out together once a week. This is a huge celebration for us in living debt free!
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
We changed our whole mindset about how much stuff we wanted to own. We look at possessions very differently now. We do not live with access stuff, but spend our time and money creating memories with our family. Instead of buying gifts, for example, we may take our kids out for dinner, to a movie, or on a trip.We have really challenged to idea of the things we “need” to be comfortable. I think we live very comfortably with a lot less space and possessions that many Americans. We are able to save a lot less money by simply buying less, shopping less, and being more intentional with our money.
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
Nothing! We gave up a lot, but are so much happier for it. We gave up a spacious house, but will now be able to travel more and experience more. We are no longer tied down to a mortgage and student loan debt.
12. What are your financial goals now?
We would like to save each month, give each month, and spend our money on experiences instead of things.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
Be creative. Think about your talents and gifts and how you could you them to make some extra money. Consider changing your lifestyle. You may need to downsize, sell a car if you have more than one, simplify. Start to imagine how you could live that would cost less. Can you cut your cable bill? Can you reduce your monthly expenses in any way. Thing small changes, but also big changes.
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
The American dream, may not be your dream. Culture tells us to buy more, spend more, and if you can’t afford it, charge it! Don’t buy in to this. Remember to live below your means. We are very happy without all of the things that are being sold to us by our consumer culture.
Thank you, Acadia, for sharing your family’s debt free story.
For more stories like Acadia’s, go to Debt Free Stories. And if you like to share your real life debt free story, send me an email at email@example.com. Put “Debt Free Stories” in the memo line and I will send you a questionnaire. You do not have to be a blogger to participate.
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.