Becoming Debt Free Was No Piece Of Cake
About five years ago I started zero-based budgeting. It wasn’t just a casual “oh I should give budgeting a try”, but more like "I can either figure out my finances or have a nervous breakdown”. I decided to go with plan A and figure out my finances. Plan B, having a nervous breakdown, just didn’t sound like the best option for me.
I’d heard Dave Ramsey a few times, and the stories on his show just sound slightly outrageous, but I needed outrageous. A part of me couldn’t imagine being able to pay off twenty thousand dollars worth of debt, but I gave it a shot anyway.
My first step was creating a budget. I used the budgeting tool on Dave’s website. I realized immediately that I was spending about 30% of my income on eating out. The amount I was spending shocked me. I remember feeling sick to my stomach that night, but in a way it was good because it pushed me to change things.
To avoid plan B I knew that I needed to create momentum because this “crazy” new way of life was going to be a painful adjustment. Seriously there were tears and moments of utter frustration involved. So, I sold most of my stuff, moved into a one bedroom apartment with Hannah and Tai and started putting every extra penny towards paying off debt. I felt guilty for dragging Hannah and Tai through this craziness, but they learned so much from this experience.
I created my budget and started funding my $1,000 emergency fund. It was hard, and it took a while, but I did it. When I’d get a raise or get a bonus, I’d immediately pay down my loans. My eating out budget went down to twenty dollars a month for the three of us. That was tough. We had many rice and bean nights. I also didn’t really buy clothes in those two years. I mostly survived on hand me downs that Marcia, my lifelong gal pal, gave me. Plus working for Phillips, Painting, Gutters & Roofing made not shopping for clothes easier since I had to wear a uniform anyway.
It took me a little less than two years to pay off my debt, and although two years is a long time, it’s better than the ten year plan that I started with.
Now fast forward to April of 2016 and I’m still at it. I’m debt free, I have a fully funded emergency fund, and I’m stashing away 15% towards retirement and saving for college for the kids. My next big debt free step will be paying off the mortgage in 13 years. I’m hoping to pay it off sooner, but for now staying home with the kids has taken precedence.
I still struggle with wanting to spend more than I’ve budgeted for. It’s usually food related of course. It’s especially hard writing a blog about eating and not being able to just run out every day to try a new restaurant or new recipe. I use the term hard quite liberally, though, I mean, not being able to go out to eat daily isn’t one of life’s real struggles.
There are so many details about my budgeting that I just couldn’t fit into one blog, so maybe later I’ll blog about how I manage with a $216 yearly clothing budget and how I manage to feed a family of five on $340 a month.
I’m hoping this particular blog encourages you to start working towards becoming debt free. Let me know how your journey is going. I love to hear works in progress as well as success stories.