Today’s Debt Free Story is a guest post from Chris Peach. He and his wife paid off $52,000 in just 7 months. That’s crazy, right? How is that even possible? Keep reading…
We Were Normal
In 2011, Andrea and I were normal. We had been married for 3 years and we both had great jobs. She’s a television news anchor, I’m a firefighter, and together we made great money. Our income allowed us to travel, it allowed us to buy stuff, and it allowed us to do anything and everything we ever wanted. We were the fun couple who always said yes to trips to the Caribbean, said yes to buying the nicest cars, and said yes to dropping a few hundred dollars on dinner in the blink of an eye . We lived our lives as if the money was never ending and we truly believed we were immune to ever having to worry about our finances. We were officially stupid with our money.
Then one day it all came crashing in on us in February 2011. That was the month we finally went broke.
When you fail to manage your money eventually your money will go away. We just kept spending and spending, and we didn’t pay attention to how much was coming in or how much was going out. We were one of those people that believed if we didn’t look at our account balance, then all of our problems would just go away. Instead the opposite happened – the money went away and the problems started to stack up. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the phone call I received from Andrea: She was checking out of the grocery store with our 10 month old on her hip and our card was declined – insufficient funds. It was official – we were out of money.
I remember asking myself, “What the hell was going on?” We both went to college, we both worked hard, and we felt like we were fairly intelligent human beings. How in the world did we fail at simple 5th grade math? How could we be so foolish to believe that the money would just last forever? Why did it seem like we were the only ones who were broke and everyone else had life figured out? What would our family think when they realize we are broke? Even worse, what would our friends think? I mean, from the outside looking in…we were rich!
That was the moment that it all changed. That was the moment that we decided we are going to take our life back….No. Matter. What. We sat down at our kitchen table, took out a simple white piece of paper, and penned out a contract to ourselves: It was our Get Out Debt Contract.
We took that contract and we hung it up in our medicine cabinet as a daily reminder of our goals together. It wasn’t me telling her we are going to get out of debt, or her telling me it wasn’t in the budget. This was the first time in our marriage where we were working TOGETHER with our money. Our goal was simple: Pay Off Our Debt and Never Go Back Again.
We Rolled Up Our Sleeves and Got to Work
The first thing we had to do was cut back our lifestyle. Anything that was a luxury item in our life had to go away. No more shopping, no more random Target trips, no more Home Depot weekends, and no more cable television. Our Starbucks Fourbucks barista soon became Andrea’s husband (your’s truly), who brewed coffee from our kitchen. Date nights consisted of a $2 bottle of wine and a movie rental from the $1 RedBox. My wife started finding clothes for work on the clearance rack and our cleaning lady became the same lady I shared a bed with at night! I started changing the oil in our cars, I became our landscaper, and we both cut out any monthly bill that wasn’t a requirement for living. We were living on scorched Earth.
It didn’t stop there. We knew what we had to do in the back of our minds, but it was tough to even think about. We played around with it for a few months and finally decided enough was enough – 11 months after buying our luxury car, we sold it and bought a used Kia. Ouch!
Disclaimer: Remember, my wife is a television news anchor. We originally bought the luxury car to fit her role as a television news personality. I mean, what would people think of her if we didn’t have the latest ACURA RDX with Navigation and leather interior? The day she pulled up in her used lawn mower, her co-workers officially said it out loud: “Andrea, you’ve lost your damn mind!”
Beyond selling everything we owned and living on scorched Earth, we decided to take it a few steps further. We decided to use this little word that has somehow become a cuss word in today’s society. It’s a word that we had always been afraid to use, and it was a word that would also set us free. You ready for this?
“NO, we can’t go on vacation with you this summer”
“ NO, we can’t afford to buy 152 gifts for Christmas this year”
“ NO, we can’t go out to eat with you this weekend”
“NO, we aren’t cheap…just frugal”
When you’re in debt and are willing to do whatever it takes, you will get radical. We had just about sold everything we could on eBay and Craigslist, cut out everything we didn’t really need in our lives, and now we were even saying “no” to friends, family, and most importantly – ourselves.
Time for Side Hustlin’
Now it was time pay off our debt from the other direction – increase our income.
I worked as much overtime as I could for the fire department, and I even picked up a pool cleaning route of my off days. I made some business cards and had Andrea drive me door-to-door until I had enough people tell me “Yes”. Between the pool routes and the overtime at work, we increased our income $2,000/month!
If people didn’t think we were crazy before, now they thought we were absolutely insane. Our parents thought we had joined a cult and our friends called us those cheap people. We started to even wonder if we were out of our minds as well. For the first time ever, we were doing everything backwards from what we were taught…. and it was working.
The Last Payment
Finally in November 2011, just 7 months after we started, we looked down on paper and realized we were one payment away from debt freedom. Andrea and I jumped in the car and drove down to pay our last payment to our local Bank of America. We walked in with our checkbook, walked up to the teller, and wrote out that last check for the last payment of our entire lives. We officially were finished. We paid off $52,000 in seven months!
As I tell this story, a lot of those same emotions come right back. The initial shame of when we went broke, the disgusted feeling of having to go clean another pool in the 116°F Phoenix, Arizona summer, the mumbling from friends and family of how weird those Peaches are, and the feelings we had if we were doing the right thing or not. It was tough, it was a lot of work, but it was also 100% worth it. If you are right there on the edge of jumping into a life of financial freedom, I encourage you dive in. The bible says the borrower is slave to the lender. The day you make your last debt payment, is the same day you’ll truly realize what that exactly means 🙂
Fast forward to present-day and we are truly living that cheesy American Dream. We haven’t taken out a penny of debt since November 2011 (nor will we ever), we don’t have a credit card (and we are still alive), and we are saving money at an incredible pace. We are paying down our mortgage as fast as possible and should have it all paid off in a few years while we are still in our 30s! We invest heavily into our retirement accounts and also into our kids’ college savings accounts. However, the absolute most important thing we still do every month – we do a budget.
Get Started with Your Own Monthly Budget
If you would like the same Budget we created in 2011 to help us get out of debt and the same budget that is now helping over 10,000 people every month, it’s all yours!
Imagine a life where you no longer have debt, you have $10k in the bank solely for emergencies, and you have hope for your future. It’s out there for you and anyone else to grab. You just have to start, and you’re ready whether you think so or not. It’s time to take your life back. Do it.
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your story!
Chris and his wife have set themselves up for financial success. Debt freedom is possible! For more stories like Chris’, 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.