Meet Krystal. She is the co-founder of the website, Little Light on a Hill, where she writes about faith, family, and finances. I love her passion for helping others along their debt free journey. Be sure to check out her website where she is offering a free finance workbook if you subscribe to her newsletter.
Krystal & Josh’s Debt Free Story
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 name is Krystal and my husband is Josh. We live in Richmond, Virginia,
and have two of the best girls: McKayla, 10, and Shayne, 6. My husband
works in outbound sales, and I teach part-time. We have always been very
frugal and are careful not to spend on frivolous things. But we do love
We have a huge heart for missions work. My grandparents were missionaries
for years and years, and as a teenager I went on several missions trips
with my youth group. One thing that is really important to us is serving
in our local church, and giving to others in need. A life goal of ours is
to be able to go on a family missions trip. We want our girls to have an
appreciation for other cultures, and to see how truly blessed we are here
2. How much debt did you pay off? What kind of debt was it? How long did
it take you?
It took us four years, but we paid off over $80,000 of debt! We are debt
free except for our mortgage. It was a good (or not so good!) mix of
medical bills, a small credit card, both of our cars, and student loans.
Grad school ain’t cheap, y’all! We still have our mortgage, but bought
our home with a GREAT interest rate so we are okay with it. The biggest
burden for us at first were the medical bills. We decided to knock those
out and it gave us the momentum we needed to focus on all of our other
debts one by one. We tackled our small credit card balance, then our
cars, and finally our student loans.
3. What inspired you to become debt free? Was there a particular event?
When my husband and I got married, we were making hardly any money. I was
working full time at a low-paying job and going to grad school full time,
while my husband was working multiple jobs just to help us make ends meet.
We sacrificed for our first few years of marriage, knowing things would
get better once I had my masters degree and could teach full-time.
Eventually, my husband also got a better paying job and I started teaching
full-time so we started bringing in a decent amount of money. Not a ton.
Hello, I went into teaching! But more than enough to live comfortably.
About six months after I started teaching full time, I remember realizing
we still weren’t making enough money to cover all of our monthly bills.
When we added my grad school loans to our other debts and our regular
bills, I felt like our checks were spent the second we received them. We
knew something needed to change! So together we decided to make a very
strict budget. We cut out all of our nonessential spending, what little
there was anyways. And we started making small payments each month to go
towards our debt. Little by little, we paid off each loan before moving
on to the next one.
4. Did you follow a particular debt freedom plan or book, such as Dave
Ramsey or Debt-Proof Living?
We followed most of Dave Ramsey’s principles. We already had a small
emergency fund, so we started throwing what little extra we had straight
towards debt. We committed to using a cash budget, and we talked daily at
first about any money that was spent. Things were just that tight!! It
took a couple months to get in the swing of things. But once we did, one
loan was paid off and we had that much extra to go towards the second
loan. When the second loan was paid off, we used everything to go towards
the third loan, and on and on it went. When we first sat down, we thought
it would be five or six years, but due to our diligence (and God’s grace!)
and using all of our extra funds, like bonuses from work and tax returns,
we were able to pay everything off in 4 years!
5. What are the top 3 – 5 ways you found money to put towards debt.
1 – Set a budget. Not only did we write a new budget before the start of
each month, we also checked in with each other every day to make sure we
were still on track. Just a quick five minute chat was all it took! We
talked about what went out that day, what was coming up, or if something
came up that day that made us need to tweak some of our other budget
2 – Used a cash budget. For our fun money, miscellaneous expenses, and
grocery money we took out cash every pay day. It was only a five minute
errand every two weeks to stop by the bank, but the benefits far
outweighed the inconvenience. It made me rethink impulse purchases
because it was more painful spending cash than swiping the card. And when
the money was gone, it was gone. Using cash is the NUMBER ONE tip I have
for anyone serious about setting a very strict budget. The accountability
that comes with using cash is priceless!!
3 – As soon as our paychecks came in, I paid our bills and took out our
cash for our cash budget categories. Then with whatever money was left, I
sent most of it straight to debt payoff. The longer that money sat in our
account the greater the chances it would get spent. So we used it wisely,
right away! Pay your debt as soon as you’re paid so you don’t spend it
4 – I stopped going to Target. haha Kidding. Kind of. I have a bad case
of “I only needed one thing and I just spent 70 bucks!” So I protected
myself from myself and stopped going out to shop and peruse and just “pick
up one thing.” It’s amazing how much money was freed up when I stayed
away from that little bull’s eye.
6. What are your top 3 – 5 tips for saving money/pinching pennies to put
towards paying off your debt.
1 – Meal plan! When I make a weekly meal plan, it saves us money because
I only go to the store once a week. Not to mention all the money we save
because we aren’t eating out. I look at what’s in my freezer and pantry
and plan meals based off of that. Then for the other meals needed I see
what is on sale and plan meals based on those ingredients.
2 – Shop for meats that are on sale. Stock up and put them in the
freezer. Also buy produce as it is in season. Use all the food you have,
and freeze it if you know you won’t use it up before it expires. If your
fruit is about to go bad, chop it up and stick it in the freezer to add to
smoothies for breakfast on the go.
3 – Make time for fun! We knew it would take us years to get out of debt!
It was unrealistic to expect ourselves to become hermits for five years.
While we said no to eating out and going to the movies all the time, we
were not about to give up a summer vacation! We learned to travel with
friends or family to save on housing costs, and we put a little bit from
each check into a savings account. By the time summer rolled around, we
had a small amount already saved for a tiny vacation. It was never
anything grand, but it was enough to get us out of town for a long weekend
and soak up some rays.
4 – The biggest thing is finding like-minded friends. If you are always
surrounded by people who spend, spend, spend, that’s exactly what you will
be tempted to do more of. Find friends who have some of the same
priorities. Instead of going out to eat every Friday night, take turns
hosting a dinner party where every one brings a dish. Have everyone over
for a game night.
5 – Make time for creative family fun! You don’t have to spend an arm and
a leg to have a fun day with the family. Instead of seeing a movie, rent
a new one you haven’t seen and spice it up by having a themed dinner. Our
Family Movie Nights are legendary!! Over the years, we have introduced
our girls to the classic Disney movies. Each movie has a themed dinner
and dessert. Sometimes the girls even get artsy and decorate the living
room. Our first one was Dumbo and we did a circus themed dinner. So fun!
They prefer our Family Movie Nights over seeing a movie in the theater
any day. We still did things like go bowling, but they were a treat, not
an everyday occurrence.
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 originally brought it up to my husband, but once I shared my heart he
was 100% on board. It was a group effort in every sense of the word. The
only thing that he was hesitant about was switching to a cash budget. I
asked him to let me try it for two months just to see if it would work.
He reluctantly agreed, but after two months we were both astounded at the
amount of money we saved!
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
I do the actual bill-paying but we both know how much goes out and when,
and how much is left in our account until payday. It is OUR money in OUR
bank account and we BOTH know what is there so we can BOTH use it wisely.
We are very open about money and talk about it regularly so we stay on the
same page. Something we started early on in our marriage that I am SO
glad we stuck to, is setting a spending threshold. For us it’s $50. We
never spend more than $50 without calling each other and talking about it
first. Communicating well and communicating often has made talking about
money a positive thing in our marriage. There are no secrets, no hiding
purchases, no insecurities.
9. How did you celebrate when you became debt free?
First, I cried! Ha! It just felt so stinkin’ good to be done paying
other people. When I got the official letters saying we had paid off
every loan, I had a little dance party with the girls in our living room.
Then I wrote a series about it on my blog.
We also celebrated by taking our girls on a surprise trip to NYC for my
daughter’s tenth birthday. We were still very frugal! We stayed with
family, and traveled with my in-laws who were gracious enough to help with
transportation expenses. But we said yes to more things than our girls
were used to. We made so many memories and it was the best trip for so
10. What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick
with you for the long term?
1 – I think the biggest thing I will stick with is checking clearance
racks FIRST when shopping for clothes and shoes. I am still mindful to
buy things marked down at the end of the season so we have a good
selection of clothes at a fraction of the price before the next year.
2 – I also will continue meal planning and buying sales for groceries.
“Shopping” from my freezer and pantry first saves us so much money still!!
3 – The last thing is our “fun money” budgets. We take out a small amount
of cash for my husband and I to each have some “fun money.” It’s our
money that we can spend however we want. Eating out, buying shoes,
whatever. It isn’t even a lot of money, but it has been a game changer.
11. Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that
you are debt free?
When we first started paying off debt we really didn’t have anything to
cut out because things were already so bad! One thing I would like to
start doing more of now is travelling. I would love to visit family in
other states. We are also saving up for an anniversary trip! We usually
never splurge on ourselves, so it has been a little weird planning it. I
feel like I’m cheating on my budget a little.
12. What are your financial goals now?
First, we will save our six-month emergency fund. Then we will be looking
into investing more for retirement. We also want to start some type of
savings for college for our girls.
We would also love to use our money to give back to others! Missions
trips, donating to our church, helping friends in need. We have always
done those things, but freeing up our income to do that even more has been
13. What advice do you have for someone that is paralyzed by their debt
load, but wants to be debt free?
Don’t let where you are now stop you from getting where you want to be!
Even if all you have is $20 extra each month, use it strategically and
after a few months, you will maybe even be able to pay off your first
debt. Spending your money purposefully will help you to reign in your
spending. By saying no to extra things, wants not needs, you will be
surprised at how much money can free up each month.
Write down your goals, change your mindset about debt-free living, and go
for it! If you think “it will never happen for me,” it won’t. But if you
decide that it will work out no matter what it takes, get to work. Make
some goals, write up a budget, cut out everything you can at first, and
just start. Track your progress each month and when you get discouraged
(because you will at some point) read back through the goals you set and
the progress you’ve made. In my debt-payoff story on my blog, I shared
how bad things were for us at first. I promise, if we could do it anyone
14.Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think would help the
readers who want to become debt free?
Read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. You can buy it pretty cheap on
Amazon or rent it from the library. This book shares debt-free stories
and is packed full of wisdom and advice that will get you out of debt. I
promise you will not regret it!
Congratulations, Krystal & Josh, and thank you for sharing your story. For more of their journey, Krystal wrote extensively about their journey on website, Little Light on the Hill.
For more stories like theirs, 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.