Today’s Debt Free Story is from Jessica. She writes about living naturally and intentionally at Jessica Munday.
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.
Hi, We’re the Gann Fam! We live in a little small town outside of Nashville, Tn called Columbia better known as muletown 😉 We are originally from Chattanooga, Tn and moved to the Nashville area about 2 years ago. I am a stay at home mom to 3 kiddos and a cockapoo named Otis. My husband and I own our wedding photography business called Blue Vinyl Photography that we have been running together for the past 5 years! Along our part-time business my husband is a senior web designer for Ramsey Solutions aka Dave Ramsey 🙂
We live a pretty busy lives and when given free weekends at home we love spending time at home on our little farm.
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did it take you?
Total, we paid off $175K in 2 years!! A large portion was our house that we sold. $130K in mortgage debt. $10K in car payments, $35K in credit card debt. We made the decision to tackle our debt back at our home church in Chattanooga. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and thought ” we will never be able to do this” but sitting here on the other side…man, I can’t even imagine if we would have never committed to dumping debt. Our lives have been forever changed and our opportunity to financial success in the future are greater than they could have ever been!
3. What inspired you to get debt free? Was there a particular event?
We weren’t really active looking for it actually. My husband has always been the one who has felt the full weight of our debt. He was always trying to put us on budgets, help us look for ways to save and not spend so much but we never found a system that worked for us and continued in spending behaviors that didn’t help advance goals. 2 years ago we were noticing our family was accumulating a lot of bad behaviors with our health, financial and quality time as a family. We decided to declare it our year of health and align our diets and become more healthy, invest more in our community at church and clean up our finances. Soon after making that decision we found out our church in Chattanooga would be hosting Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
We followed FPU which was a 9 week course. We met Sunday evenings at our church with a group of other people. At first, I was annoyed that my Sunday evenings would be taken up by a financial class but I began to really look forward to that time with my husband working on one of our goals that we set out at achieve!
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
At first we did it anyway we could find! We saved any that we could from my husbands checks, we sold things from around the house on craigslist and ultimately we started taking everything we earned from our photography business which was a normal part of income for us and used it all on debt. We had become so accustomed to living off both incomes that we really had to re-adjust a few lifestyle choices so we could live off just my husbands income. This ultimately is what put us on the fast track for paying off debt in such a quick amount of time.
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put towards paying off your debt.
- I remember one of the first things we did was to look through what we were spending monthly. Boy, what a reality check. We had been spending so much when we didn’t even have it for so long. One of the first things you learn with FPU is to quickly start acting your wage!! We began to follow Dave’s zero based budge that fit our income that also allowed us to save. Granted, we didn’t make a lot so it wasn’t a tremendous amount but anything was better than nothing and not going into any further debt was great!
- Sell anything and everything that you don’t need or that’s just sitting around your home! You’d be surprised how much money you could make on things that are just accumulating dust in your home! Have a yard sell, put valuables on Craigslist you’d be surprised how quickly you could make some fast cash to dump on debt! WE found especially in the beginning of our debt journey that it encouraged us so much to put any money towards debt. It helped us see debt go down and excited us to see progress!
- If you’re able, picking up any kind of part-time work really advances your goal or if you live off 2 incomes try and live off 1 and put the rest or as much possible to paying off debt!
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 was definitely the one who encouraged us to get out of debt. I wanted it just as much but I was fearful of how much I would have to change my comfortable lifestyle. That was the GREAT things about FPU, there is a whole chapter dedicated to your marriage and allowing each other to talk through your concerns and fears with one another. Dave also explains that in every marriage their is a free-spirit and the nerd. Both are equally important and both need to be heard and respected in our finances. This was HUGE for us and helped us to always respect and listen to each other. We rarely ever got in fights because we had a new understanding! Before FPU we fought constantly and always ended with hurt feelings which is why it was so important for us to walk through this journey together!
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?
In the past my husband was the only one who ever went through and paid bills and accounts. FPU sets you up for doing budget committee meetings around 1-2 times a month or whenever you get paid. We take time to sit down together go over our zero based budget and discuss any expenses we may have. It’s so important for both of us to know what’s going on in our finances every months. Keeps us aligned together with our finances.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
HA! I felt the celebration went on and on! One of the first things we did is buy a swing set for our kids with cash! That was fun! After 2 years of determination we decided that we would take a month off and with any of our extra earnings splurge fun activities with the kids, eat out and go on lots of dates:)
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?
We always discuss big purchases together! We named our price at $100. If either of us want to purchase anything over $100 we always call each other or talk it through to make sure its a good decision.
One of my favorite things we still do together is sit down and discuss cash paid vacations or splurges we want to do as a family! Those are my favorite:)
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?
Yes, to help save more money while we were in debt we decided to move from a rental house that had 2000sq ft to 1000st ft. It enabled us to save almost $500 a month!! We lived there an entire year a family of 5! Still to this day it was a wonderful year but I am so happy to have our new home with much more room:)
12. What are your financial goals now?
After we got out of debt we spent the rest of year saving up on a down payment for a house. We bought our house a little over a month ago and now we are working on one of Dave’s baby steps to save up 3-6 month worth of income! Once we have our savings nice and full we will begin the next baby step to start investing.
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?
Debt is a behavior and like any behavior you want to change it takes work and action. Even if all you do at first is throw the credit card away you at least will no longer go into anymore debt!! I highly recommend Dave’s FPU. It will give you the tools and confidence you need to slowly start killing the debt! His program will guide you through every aspect of finances including how to deal with collectors!
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the readers who want to become debt free?
When you are in debt you don’t realize the bondage it holds over your life. It’s so easy to think that there is no way you could ever get out of debt when you are heavily engulfed by it! But with determination, a behavior change, and acting your wage you will find that it comes much easier than you thought. Sure, there are some months we had to share a car because we didn’t have the cash to repair it but we saved up and a month later I had my car fixed! I look back now and that time seems like nothing in comparison to where we are now. We live by the idea that if we don’t have the cash we don’t buy it and that has changed everything for us. It puts life into perspective and help us live more simple. Which we love!
You can read more about Jessica’s debt free story on her blog.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your family’s story. For more stories like Jessica’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.