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Debt Free

Debt Free on A Low Income Success Story!

This is the second interview in the Debt Free Interview Series.

I put this series together to show you that becoming debt free is possible and that there are lots of different people that took lots of different paths but all ended up at the same destination: Debt Free Living.

This week, I’m excited to share this story from Nicky. Nicky paid off $10,000 in debt in a year and a half on a salary of $20,000/year. She suffered some set backs but also has a really unique budgeting style that I think you’ll love. Check out her story!

Debt Free on a low income success story

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Angela Nicole Johnson but I go by Nicky most of the time. I’m 39 years old and I’ve been debt free for about 4 years or more. I write about becoming financially free at healthyasyoucan.com (as well as faith, health, beauty, and mental wellness). I work as a media assistant in a library and I make less than $20,000 a year.

How much debt and what kind of debt did you have before starting your debt free journey?

At one point I had $10,000 in debt. I had student loans, credit card debt and personal debt.

How long did it take you to pay off all your debt?

It took about a year and a half.

How did you budget? Excel? Budget Planner etc? How did it differ from how you were budgeting?

I wrote everything out on paper. I like to budget using sentences. For instance, instead of just saying on a spreadsheet “credit card-$6,000”, I like to put “I still owe $6,000 on my discover card. My payment is on the 15th of the month. If I pay $100 extra per month it can be paid off in this amount of months”. I like it all written out for me so I can understand exactly how much I have left to pay. It makes it more cemented in my brain this way since I’m a writer. It’s different than I how I budgeted before because I didn’t budget lol. That was the problem!

Related: This Family Paid Off $100,000 in Debt

Did you experience any setbacks while paying down your debt? How did you handle those setbacks?

Yes, so I fell victim to a scam in which I stupidly did a “mystery shopping” gig. I wired money (which came from a fraudulent money order) to a “company” (which of course wasn’t a company at all but instead were scammers) in order to “evaluate”their services. Long story short, because the money order was fake, I had to cover the cost of the money order to the tune of $1,400. My blessed mother covered for me but I had to pay her back. So this was definitely a setback but I just kept on doing my hoarding method.

The hoarding method, as I call it, is this: When I would get my check, I would pay all my bills and then I would put as much money aside as I could (in other words, I would hoard it) in a place where I wouldn’t touch it, like a bank account not associated with my debit card or take the cash and hide it. The purpose of this was to put this money aside and try as hard as I could to live without it for the next two weeks until I got my next paycheck. If I still had my hoarded money, I would put all of it towards my debt. For instance, if after paying all of my bills I had $300 left over, I would take $250 of it, hide it in a safe, a drawer, or a bank account that wasn’t very easily accessible (but not too hard to access) and see if I could just live on $50 for the next two weeks. If I could, I would then take that $250 and pay down my debt. If I did need to use the money for an emergency, it was still available for me to get to but I tried hard not to use it so I could pay my debt faster.

Share your best money saving tip!

Don’t look at sales… they convince you to buy stuff you weren’t looking for. Instead just use the app Flipp and search to see if what you want is on sale that week.

Related: 31 Simple Ways to Save Money

Did you do anything extreme to pay off your debt?

Not necessarily unless you consider the hoarding method to be extreme. Trying to subsist on as little money as possible in order to pay down your debt could be extreme.

What would be on piece of advice you would give others just starting to tackle debt?

Take the plunge and write down all of your debt, how much you can pay off per month, and how long it will take you to pay it off. Seeing all of it in black and white really motivates you to take action and as Dave Ramsey would say “get after it”.

What advice would you give to people about staying debt free?

Always have your next goal ready. As soon as you pay off your debt, be ready with your next financial goal. Either to save money or invest or whatever but if you don’t have a goal in mind you will start squandering your money again (ask me how I know!).

Is there anything else you want to share about your debt free journey?

It can be overwhelming to see how much debt you have and you may feel like you’ll never get out but I believe getting out of debt is always God’s plan for you and so if He is on your side , you will succeed!

Thank you Nicky for sharing your debt free story with us!

 

Would you like to share your own debt free story? You don’t need to be a blogger or a personal finance guru! Just send me an email at jill@organizationaltoast.com with “Debt Free Story” in the subject line and I’ll send you some questions so you can share your own story. 

Woman cutting up credit card
Debt Free

This family paid off $100,000 in Debt Including their Mortgage

One of the reasons I started this site was to share everything I learned on my own debt free journey.

When we were still in debt and working hard to pay it all off, I found inspiration and motivation from hearing how other people were successful. Through these stories I was often reminded that the steps to becoming debt free were simple but that it was never easy. 

Every debt free journey is different and provides opportunities for us to learn and apply new tactics to our own debt free journey. 

So, today I’m sharing a debt free story from Sara Conklin who paid off $100,000 in debt including the mortgage! She is also a Financial Coach and now provides coaching services and shares her best tips on her site Frozen Pennies!

Cara from Frozen Pennies Sharing Her Debt Free JourneyTell me a little about yourself.

My name is Sara and I am 46. I am a wife of 22 years, a mom of two boys, ages 20 and 18. I am also a bonus mom to an amazing man and his wife. We are expecting our first grandchild in May – we are all SO EXCITED! It’s a girl!! I am a writer over at Frozen Pennies.

 

How much debt and what kind of debt did you have before starting your debt free journey?

We have paid off over $100,000 including our house. Our debt besides the house were two car loans, student loans, and a family loan.

 

How long did it take you to pay off all your debt?

It took us about three years to pay everything off except the house. Then my dad passed away and left us almost the exact amount we still owed on the house. We took that as a gift from heaven and paid it off.

This family paid off $100000 in debt

 

How did you budget? Excel? Budget Planner etc? How did it differ from how you were budgeting?

I love a budget binder. I am a total pencil and paper nerd. I love adding up the numbers and creating budgeting sheets to track everything I may need. I have tried all the apps and computer programs but none of them work as well as my trusted Budget Binder.

 

Did you experience any setbacks while paying down your debt? How did you handle those setbacks?

There always seem to be set backs. The car needs a new alternator, the hot water heater dies. Preparing the best way you can always helps. Having an emergency fund and keeping up with sinking funds makes all the difference. Facing those set backs can be discouraging but remembering why you are doing this makes everything just a little easier. Knowing that soon you will owe no one and that you are changing your family tree really matters.

 

Share your best money saving tip!

As a Financial Coach, the BEST advice I can give anyone wanting to get out of debt is to prepare. Preparation is the secret. Prepare for those unexpected happenings to come along, because they will. If you have money set aside for household expenses, it won’t hurt as much if the microwave dies. You won’t have to put your debt elimination plan on hold to buy a new one because you will already have it set aside just for this purpose.

 

Did you do anything extreme to pay off your debt?

I wish we had! It would make for a much better story. However, if you call camping every summer our only “vacations” and sleeping in a used camper (that we bought cheap) extreme, than that would be the best of it!

 

What would be on piece of advice you would give others just starting to tackle debt?

Educate yourself. Face your debt head on and know your numbers. This will go as fast (or as slow)as you want it to go. And its only temporary. Living on less doesn’t have to last a life time unless you want it to.

 

What advice would you give to people about staying debt free?

Cash. Is. King. Seriously. If you don’t have the cash in hand, you do NOT buy it. Bottom line. You do not need it. It will eliminate the urge to ever have another credit card.

 

Is there anything else you want to share about your debt free journey?

I run into people often who feel they won’t be able to survive without credit cards. We have been doing it for years. Even before we started our Debt Free Journey. I was in so much consumer debt in college that it took years to dig out. I checked my credit a few months ago and I am proud to say, my credit score is zero. We are doing just fine without it!!

 

Thank you Sara for sharing your debt free journey with us! 

Related: Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

Would you like to share your own debt free story? You don’t need to be a blogger or a personal finance guru! Just send me an email at jill@organizationaltoast.com with “Debt Free Story” in the subject line and I’ll send you some questions so you can share your own story. 

 

trees growing out of money
Debt Free

Dave Ramsey Baby Steps: 4 Things We Did Differently

I am a Dave Ramsey fan.

BUT we did not follow all of his advice when we were paying down debt. Instead, we only adapted some of what is outlined in his 7 Baby Steps.

Sure, many people follow Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps exactly because he breaks down personal finance in an understandable way and provides a structured road map for paying down debt and building wealth.

As much as I agree with Dave Ramsey on many points, I will tell you he is not the end all and be all of personal finance.

The truth of the matter is you don’t need someone like Dave Ramsey to tell you debt is bad. Or that you need to decrease your expenses and increase your income to reduce your debt and reach your financial goals.

When we started our debt free journey, we read Dave’s Total Money Makeover and there was a lot of it that spoke to us.

While his advice was good, we only adopted some of it and searched out additional information to build a strategy that worked for us.

Check out these 4 Best Books For Your Debt Free Journey.

Today, I’m sharing what we loved from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and his famous Baby Steps, and the things we did differently.

Before I dive in let me be clear. We were still able to pay off $40,000 in debt on one income despite not following Dave Ramsey exactly.

Download my Getting Debt Free Tracker for your Debt Free Journey.

It’s hard to say how our debt free journey would have been different had we followed every piece of financial advice laid out in the Baby Steps to the letter, but I can say the path we took worked for our family.

You should also check out this Master Your Money Super Bundle, 45 resources to help you pay off debt, manage your money, and reach your financial goals. Click here to see the books and resources that are part of this bundle!

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps: 4 Things We Did Differently While Paying Off Debt #debtfree #personalfinance

What We Did Differently

We Didn’t Use A Cash Only System

One pillar of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice is the use of a cash only system. He recommends using cash envelopes to manage your money. 

For every category in your budget,  you add the budgeted amount of cash to that envelope. When the cash runs out in your envelope, you have run out of money for the month.

In theory, it’s a great way to curb your spending if you have a tendency to swipe away with a credit card.

When we were in the debt pay off phase of our financial journey we did not use a cash system. We did switch to debit cards and tracked our spending meticulously.

Tracking our expenditures was a little bit time consuming. I used a good ol’ fashioned spreadsheet and wrote out every dollar we spent. Honestly, with apps like Mint and Everydollar it’s easier and easier to track your spending.

Since we didn’t use a cash only system, we avoided having to split envelopes between me and hubby. We were also able to take advantage of reward features from our cards.

Now that we are debt free, we use a credit card but the expense tracking system is the same. I still track our spending for each category on a spreadsheet (it drives my husband crazy because he thinks an app can do it better) and when the money runs out in a category we know we cannot spend anymore. (This type of discipline took time to develop!)

We pay the credit card in full every month. And we’ve racked up enough points to pay for at least 2 airline tickets a year for our family vacations.

We Kept A Larger Emergency Fund

Dave Ramsey recommends a $1,000 emergency fund when you are paying down debt. At the beginning of our debt free journey we had about $5,000 in an emergency fund.

Why?

Because we were a one income family and felt that if my husband lost his job we would be out of luck.

We moved to a $1000 emergency fund when we were towards the end of our debt free journey. We felt since we were close to paying off our final debt, those extra dollars in the emergency fund would move up our pay off date and we could quickly rebuild our emergency fund. And that’s what we did.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, you need to check out the importance of an emergency fund.

We Did Not Reduce Our Retirement Contributions While Paying Off Debt

Dave Ramsey also recommends reducing other types of savings while you are paying off debt. And while I understand the reasoning, my husband and I both agreed that continuing to grow our retirement accounts was a priority.

We Continued Saving For the Kids College Accounts Before We Were Out Of Debt

This was another category we were committed to sticking with because we felt it was important. We only had one child while we were paying down our debt so the contributions were not too hefty.

What We Learned From Dave Ramsey

Personal Finance is Mostly Behavior

When it’s all said and done the only person that will get you out of debt is YOU.

You can read all the personal finance books, take all the online courses in the world but you have to do the hard work.

You have to be motivated, fired up and committed to improving your financial situation.

What Dave Ramsey did for us is he got us fired up. We got angry about our debt. We moved out of our comfort zones so we could grow and move forward.

And we learned to better decipher between a need vs. a want.

This lesson resonated with us the most and motivated us to stay committed despite the hardships and failures we experienced while paying down our debt.

"personal Finance is about 80% behavior. It is only about 20% head knowledge" Quote by Dave Ramsey

Saving

We learned the importance of saving for expected expenses using sinking funds.

A sinking fund is a small savings you build up for an expected expense such as Christmas or routine car maintenance.

By putting aside a small amount each month, when the expense came along we were prepared to pay cash for that expense. We also already had a budget in mind for that spending.

This method made us more thoughtful of our purchases and forced us to plan better and consider these irregular expenses that always seemed to “surprise” us.

Related: 31 Simple Ways To Save Money Each Month

Debt Snowball

We used the debt snowball method and it was amazing.

Essentially, you work towards paying of your smallest debt first. Once you pay off that debt, you apply that monthly payment to the next debt. Each time you pay off a debt in full, you add that debt’s monthly payment to the next and larger debt.

When our first debt was paid off it felt so incredible. It was $1,600 for furniture we had purchased and the monthly payment was something like $25.  It wasn’t much but it was an incredible motivator. Being able to take that $25 a month and make a principal payment on our car loan was so exciting.

Related: The Easiest Way To Make A Monthly Budget

Final Thoughts….

As with any journey you embark on, you need to do what works for you. I know many people who followed Dave Ramsey and were very successful.

I also know many who disagree with Dave Ramsey but have been successful in paying down debt.

The most important thing is to be open to making changes if you aren’t reaching your financial goals or if you continue to have issues with overspending.

Remember, only you can get yourself out of debt.

 

We love Dave Ramsey but we did a few things differently when we were paying down our debt. Find out what worked for us and help us pay off $40,000 in debt in one year on one income! #debtfree #babysteps
best debt free books #debtfree #personalfinance
Debt Free

Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

When my husband and I first decided I would leave my job to become a full time stay at home mom, we had to take a good hard look at our finances.

I knew we would have to make some adjustments but I thought we were doing pretty darn good. We were able to make minimum payments on everything and we weren’t coming up short at the end of the month.

During nap time, I started looking online for ways we could cut down our expenses to give ourselves a little more wiggle room. I found an awesome and super active getting debt free board on babycenter (I think this makes me old).

That board was awesome and everyone shared their money saving tips and financial struggles. I learned so many useful tips for managing our expenses better at home and some really awesome tools I still use today, like meal planning.

This is also where I was first introduced to Dave Ramsey and the whole concept of becoming debt free.

It turns out that I had gotten a lot of bad financial advice over the course of my lifetime. And most of that bad advice came from marketers and companies that were selling their “great deals”.

I also never even considered that having car payments or financing furniture was even debt. No, seriously.

It was like a light switch went off and I realized I needed to relearn how to manage our personal finances.

4 Personal Finance Books Every Adults Needs To Read #debtfree #budget #finances

So, I headed down to the local library and started reading all the personal finance books I could get my hands on.

Friends, I was shocked.

So much of my thinking, and the financial advice I had gotten, were the exact things that were keeping us in debt. I started to hate the fact that we owed other people so much of our paycheck and it was enough to make me seriously commit to becoming debt free.

Armed with the new knowledge from these books, along with an excel spreadsheet and my new financial BFFs over on the debt free board on babycenter, we were able to tackle our debt and create a financial foundation and strategies that we still practice.

Here is a list of the books I read back then, along with some newer ones. When it comes to our personal finances, I’m still learning and growing but I’m confident in the direction we are moving now.  

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

This is the first book I read and it opened my eyes to so many things. In this book, Dave outlines 7 baby steps to becoming completely debt free. This plan outlines exactly what each step entails and provides some serious truth bombs that force you to take a good hard look at yourself and your spending habits. While I took a lot of advice from Dave’s book, I didn’t prescribe to every single thing he suggested. It still worked.

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

This is an oldie but a goodie. This book was originally published in the 1920s but so many of the financial lessons in this book hold up today. This is a series of biblical style stories that introduce and explain the concepts of thrift, financial planning and personal wealth. A favorite lesson from this book was that we will all continue to struggle financially no matter what our income is if we continue to spend on our wants rather than simply fulfilling our needs.

I will admit it is a bit hard to read because of the style it’s written in, but the lessons are solid.
The Richest Man in Babylon

Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide To Financial Freedom by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

If you are serious about becoming debt free, this book will motivate, inspire, and give you the push you need in order to reach your financial goal. Lynette Khalfani-Cox shares the exact strategies she used to pay off $100,000 in debt in 3 years. She provides a step-by-step 30 day plan to encourage better personal finance practices. She covers the best ways to pay off debt, how to eliminate student loans, and how to negotiate with credit card companies (among other tips).

Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom 3rd Edition

Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit by James Scurlock

I like to think of this one as a personal finance thriller. James Scurlock travels across the country to talk to real people struggling with debt in order to expose our flawed financial system. It’s a real eye opener (and a bit of a sucker punch) about the myth that credit is a good thing.

Maxed Out

 

On the Road to Becoming Debt Free

Friends, no matter where you are in your debt free journey, it’s always important to continue learning from others and to try new and better strategies to reach your financial goals.

I also have a few other resources that you might find helpful:

Download My Debt Repayment Chart Here to track your success!

31 Simple Ways To Save Money Each Month

5 Simple Steps To Creating Financial Goals

3 Simple Steps To Reach Your Financial Goals

How To Earn Money with Ibotta

 

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Who knows? Maybe you’ll help someone find the tools they need to help them move closer to their goal of becoming debt free!

Best Books for your debt free journey | Debt Free | Personal Finance | money

Must read books for your debt free journey | Personal Finance | Debt Free | Money