George's 65000 Debt Free Journey-My Financial Hill (1)
Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Journey : George Paid Off $65,000 in 3 Years and 2 Months

I have another inspiring story for you today about George’s debt free journey. He paid off $65,000 in 3 years and 2 months living in NYC while also traveling the world.

Paying off debt doesn’t have to be a miserable process. No, you don’t have to live off rice and beans while trying to get debt free. Sure, paying off debt may not happen overnight but you can certainly get there, just like George has.

George, 34 years old, has worked in the financial industry and came to a point when he wanted to quit his job due to changes around the office.

It was then he realized he couldn’t quit. He was financially strapped with a looming $65,000 worth of debt holding him down.

It was then he decided enough’s enough, it was time to take control over his life and money. Let’s learn about what he did to get debt free all within 3 years and 2 months.

George Debt Free Journey Paid Off 65000 - My Financial Hill (1)

How much debt did you have to start with? How long did it take to pay off?

Around $65K.  It took 3 years and 2 months.  I became debt free in late May 2020.

What triggered you to start your debt payoff process?

In 2016, my employer laid off my direct manager and I did not agree with it.  I wanted to quit, but when I did the math, I realized I was living way above my means with $7,000 in an emergency fund. 

I was broke and needed to do something about it. 

In December 2016, I got an offer for a Financial Reporting position in the same company, which came with a lot of overtime.  I took it and as soon as I switched teams in April, 2017, I started paying off my debt.

What was your debt consisted of?

$26K car loan, the rest was owed on credit cards.

What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

2017 – $83K

2018 – $84K

2019 – $66K

2020 – $45K as of 7/31/2020.

Are there any specific things or tools you did/use to help pay down debt?

One day while I was looking for debt paying strategies, I stumbled upon Dave Ramsey

There was, this Evangelical Christian guy telling me that borrowing was dumb.  I agreed. 

I used the Everydollar app for budgeting and it was enough for me.  It is easy, available for free, and it helps me track my spending.  I still use it today.

I’m drinking the Ramsey Kool-Aid because it works for getting out of debt.

Did you use any debt payoff strategies? ex: snowball, avalanche, others?

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.  $1K emergency fund first, then pay off debt using the snowball method.

How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

I kept motivated by the support I received from my girlfriend, the desire to be able to leave an employer at a moment’s notice, rewarding myself after every debt I paid off, newfound belief that consumer debt (excluding mortgage) is extremely dumb, and the Dave Ramsey’s debt free screams (that was future me), even when I realized the show is extremely repetitive. 

I rewarded myself in various ways, after each debt I paid off, I would buy something for myself, including trips abroad as long as they were paid in cash.

How has your life changed from before and after paying off debt?

My life changed when I started using cash/debit, instead of credit.  I was able to manage my money better. 

The end result was becoming debt free and being able to be more generous. 

I’m able to tip more, I have given money to friends in need without the need for them to pay it back, and I experienced a weird boost in confidence when I realized that every purchase I make, I do not owe anyone anything and I can enjoy it.

Were there any setbacks?

I did experience setbacks, where I had to use my credit cards for a car repair which was above my emergency fund. 

I handled it by paying the minimum on my credit cards while I replenished my $1k emergency fund, then I focused on paying off the debt. 

Everyone should expect setbacks. 

And if the $1K emergency fund is not enough for them, they should increase it, but no more than $3K. 

Currently, I live in NYC, where the cost of living is extremely high and I was able to manage with $1K emergency fund.

Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

I’m not sure.  I could have been more focused, living on rice and beans, for a year and a half, however I would have been extremely miserable.

I did it in 3 years, while having fun. I left a job I despised and I was able to take a pay cut, travel and still stay on target.  At the end, it worked out for me. 

During my debt free journey I got to travel to India, Spain, Tenerife, Mexico and the Dominican Republic and it was so much fun. 

I wanted to do more of that, which put even more determination that I want to be debt free.

How does it feel to be debt free or close to?

Amazing.  Nobody can tell me nothing.

Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

 “Learn to live within your means.” & “The light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.” – Dave Ramsey (both).  Everyone has setbacks, stay on course.


We’ve all been at a point in our lives where we couldn’t stand our job but felt stuck because money just felt tight. It could be from never ending bills to living paycheck to paycheck. It doesn’t have to be that way.

George’s debt free journey shows us that we can all take control of our lives. By becoming debt free, it gives you room to finally do what you want. You can leave that job you hate because you don’t have to worry so much about paying a mountain of bills. Not having debt gives us choices in life.

We can also learn from George that starting your own debt free journey doesn’t have to be miserable. You don’t have to eat rice and beans every single day or never travel. It’s important to find the balance to be able to succeed in being debt free while enjoying life.

Thank you George for sharing your inspirational story with us, it goes to show that by using the right tools like budgeting or using the snowball method, it can help to pay off debt.

Paying off debt is a journey, it’s important to celebrate small victories along the way, treat yourself once in a while, and enjoy life.

Read More:

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How to Get a Free Cruise

How to Go to Las Vegas on a Budget With Free Flights

Are you ready to start your own debt free journey? Get started by grabbing this free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to pay off $500 worth of debt in your first month.

Read More
Lindsey's Debt Free Story: Paid Off Mortgage and No Debt-My Financial Hill
Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Story: Paid Off Mortgage and No Debt

We partner with some awesome companies that offer products which can help our readers. If you make a purchase through one of our partner links, we may receive a commission at absolutely no additional cost to you! Please see my Policy & Disclosure page for full details. 

What is the American dream? For many people, the American dream is growing up to be successful, having your own home, raising a family and pets, and to live happily ever after. In reality, to achieve the dream, it takes money and lots of it. Most people often borrow tons of money from banks to go into debt just to live that “American dream”. What if I told you that you didn’t have to do that? What if it is possible to still fulfill your dream and live happily without going into tons of debt? Well, meet Lindsey who was able to do just that. She and her family has a paid off mortgage with no debt since she was 25 years old. Her story will inspire you!

Lindsey's Debt Free Story: Paid Off Mortgage and No Debt-My Financial Hill

Hi! My name is Lindsey. I’m in my early 30s and I live in the beautiful woods of Arkansas with my husband and three sweet children. I’m a homemaker, homeschool mom, blogger of Big House in the Woods, and freelance writer.

My husband and I have been debt-free and mortgage-free since we were 25. We had a lot of fun on our debt-free journey and we’ve had even more fun living our debt-free lifestyle since then.

What was the turning point that got you to start your debt free journey?

From the beginning of our adult lives, debt has always made us uneasy.

However, unfortunately, I had to take out student loans to go to college. I remember a friend telling me not to worry about it. She said that after college, I could just pay $25 monthly for the rest of my life and there was nothing they could do about it.

I don’t know how much truth there was to that but I was not going to let that happen. Debt weighed on me heavily.

As a couple, debt was never in our game plan. We had a no tolerance plan for debt from the very beginning of our marriage.

However, we made a small exception for a mortgage. We knew that we could actually make money if we played our cards right. (That’s an interesting story. See below.)

We never wanted to be the people who were just ok with debt. We had no plans of ever making payments on vehicles, cell phones, or anything else.

I think it’s important to have a strong mindset about debt from the very start of your adult life.

Obviously, this stance can be difficult with a house. It can be very difficult to have enough cash for a house. However, a large down payment is attainable for many Americans. We took that route and created a plan to get rid of our mortgage as quickly as possible.

As a whole, debt sounded suffocating. We had a deep desire to get away from it!

What was your debt consisted of? How long did it take to pay off? 

After college, I had student loans to pay off. I was a first grade teacher and I lived with my parents for one year so I could focus on paying the loans off. I managed to pay off all but $2,000 before my husband and I got married.

This was a huge accomplishment considering my low take-home pay! (I only taught school for 1 year.) After we got married, my husband paid off the final $2,000 of my student loans.

My husband had been saving for a house since he got his first job after college. He’s always been a saver and he’s never been tempted by “stuff.” He had a pretty big nest egg saved up by the time we got married. He had saved roughly $35,000-$40,000 in 2 years.

I quit teaching to be a homemaker once we got married so I was not contributing monetarily to our family budget.

However, I did everything I could to help us save money. I made a budget for us, cooked all of our meals from scratch using inexpensive ingredients, etc. 

A few months after we were married, the government offered a First Time Home Buyers Incentive. (This was circa 2009.) The deal was that you could get a rebate of up to $7,000 on your taxes IF you met certain qualifications.

The qualifications were pretty basic. One of them required that the home had to be your primary residence and you had to live there for at least 3 years. 

We decided 3 years was something we could commit to. We began considering buying a house instead of losing money on rent each month. We found a small, inexpensive house as our “starter house” and devised a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible.

We put $30k down on a $73,000 house. We took out a mortgage for only $43,000 and we paid it off in 13 months.

What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

13 months can seem fast but, before thinking we were insane, here is something important to note: Yes, my husband had a good paying job BUT I was and still am a homemaker.

So pay attention here… That means, I am not contributing monetarily to our family. On his own, he was making between $80k-$95k a year.  

There are many families that make that much because both the husband and wife work, so, we aren’t embellishing. We are number crunchers who are very frugal!

Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt? Habits, programs, tools?

Budget, budget, budget. And what we call “radical money saving techniques.”

To pay debts, you must first determine where you are currently spending your money and make a plan to cut back. We created a budget and posted it on the front of the fridge. We wrote EVERY expense on that spreadsheet and evaluated it each month.  

If we got a little crazy one month and spent unnecessary money on eBay, Amazon, at the grocery store, etc., we corrected the mistake the next month. We consulted our budget daily and corrected spending mistakes.

Always remember: your budget isn’t your enemy. Consider your budget your friend. It isn’t restricting. It’s actually freeing. It’s like a written set of goals that prevents you from having to continually repeat them in your mind. With just one quick glance, you can stay on track.

Many people are in the position to save more money than they do, or pay off debt they have but aren’t willing to make the sacrifices needed. If you have big goals, then you have to make big plans.

Here is what we did:

No Paid TV Service

You read that right. No cable, no satellite, no Netflix. We have never watched much TV anyway  since we consider it a huge waste of time, but when we did, we only watched what we could get with an antenna. We received about 13 channels with an antenna, and that was more than we needed anyway.

No Eating Out

Eating at restaurants is also a great way to waste money. In the past, people have tried to convince us that since they are single or have no children, that it’s cheaper to eat out than eat at home.

I say that’s a bunch of hooey. If that were true, then restaurants wouldn’t make any money. They are still in business because they are charging you more for the food than what it’s worth. Period.

Smart Date Night 

This consisted of renting a movie from the library and watching it at home…because it was free…and fun.

No expensive phone plans

We have always looked for good but inexpensive pre-paid, no-contract cell phone plans. Over the years, we have changed providers to get the best deal. We get the same service, from the same towers, with the same data for about 25% of what other people pay for the same thing. Currently, we are using Red Pocket. We have found that they are unbeatable.

Also, we didn’t buy cheese for a YEAR! We decided that cheese, along with other types of food, was expensive and completely unnecessary. Crazy, but true.

Related: 4 Things We Did To Save Money At The Grocery Store So We Could Pay Off Our Mortgage Faster

We’ve actually saved over $180,000 (over a period of about 10 years) by doing crazy things like that.

Here’s the interesting part… We never felt deprived, left out, underprivileged, sad, or any other word you can think up because we weren’t living like every one else. In fact, we thought it was fun! 

We liked being the ones accomplishing our goals. We didn’t mind seeing people drive by in their flashy new cars with their new iPhones because: (1) We aren’t impressed by flashy new things, and (2) We felt we were headed in a direction they weren’t, and we liked our direction better.

Related: 7 Things People Waste Their Money on That Decreases Their Savings and How We’ve Saved Over $180,000 By Swimming Upstream

So, to clarify, our only “habits, programs, and tools” were: crazy self-motivation, a longing to be free, a budget posted on the front of our fridge, a heavily studied amortization schedule, and a deep desire to say “I told you so.”

How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

Our biggest motivation was the calendar. We wanted to see how fast we could pay off our debt. It was a challenge to us.

We wanted to be able to prove to ourselves (and everyone else) that we were crazy determined and we could pay it off rocket fast.

We had something to prove to ourselves. As a side benefit, it makes a great story now!

Has your life changed dramatically before and after the paid off mortgage and being debt free?

After we paid off our debt (student loans and a mortgage), we started saving for land and our dream house.

We stayed in that first little house for 3 years. After that, we sold it and bought a house that was a little bigger with the cash from house #1 and money we had saved. We paid cash for our second house.

While we were living in our second house, we were still saving for our dream house. After 3 years, we had saved enough to buy land and build our dream house WITH CASH! We sold that second house and used the cash from it plus money we saved and we built our Big House in the Woods on 5 beautiful wooded acres. 

Lindsey's Debt Free Story: Paid Off Mortgage and No Debt-My Financial Hill

As a side note, we also bought 10 acres with cash in another part of our state after we paid off our first mortgage. We thought we were going to build there but plans changed. We still own that land too.

Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

No. Absolutely not. I would say we did everything by the book but, actually, I think we wrote the book (is that a saying?). We have always set high standards for ourselves and we’ve never backed down.

How does it feel to be debt free?

Being debt-free is amazing. We’ve been debt-free for a total of 10 years now. Since then, we’ve built our dream home with cash, we’ve been on 10 Caribbean cruises and many other vacations, and we’ve been saving for early retirement.

What is your next big goal in life now you have a paid off mortgage and are debt free? 

Early retirement. We want the freedom to travel on a whim while we’re still young. Currently, our plan is to retire around 45. 

What advice would you like to give for those reading this to encourage them?

It can be done.

A debt-free life is not out of reach if you make a plan and stick to it. We have accomplished a lot in 10 short years and we’ve done it on one income while having 3 children along the way. 

I can’t help but shake my head when I see people with debt (mortgage, car payments, medical bills, etc.) yet they are treating themselves to manicures, concerts, brand new cars, vacations, shopping sprees, UTVs, season passes to amusement parks, etc. These are bad habits.  

If more people took debt seriously and took considerable actions to pay it off, then they wouldn’t be in a bind when unexpected things happen. They would also have financial security.

You can live your dreams AFTER you have paid off your debt and built up financial security. For example, we have been on 10 cruises, bought 15 acres, built our dream house, bought vehicles we love, bought (and sold) two campers, bought two UTVs, etc. and we owe no one for any of it.

Know that it’s good to stand out from the crowd.

Just because everyone else is doing something, doesn’t always mean you should. When you have a goal to pay off your debt, it’s okay to say no to things or events that will end up costing you money.

It’s okay to swim upstream

Everyone has different incomes, expenses, and situations, but saving and paying down debt should still be a priority. Based on your income and expenses, it might take you more time to pay down your debt, but in the end you still PAID. DOWN. YOUR. DEBT.

That’s a huge deal and it’s something you should be proud of no matter how long it took you. Always remember to keep your head up and your feet pointed in the right direction.

Along the way, make plans for what you want to do when you are debt-free. It’s good to dream! I wrote an article titled 5 Things We Did AFTER We Became Debt-Free. You’ll love it!

What are you doing now since being debt free and with a paid off mortgage?

We still practice many of these money saving techniques today. It’s a habit. We just can’t help it. However, we also enjoy it! We love dreaming about retirement in the near future. 

We are enjoying our Big House in the Woods and watching our three sweet babies grow. And we jump on a cruise ship anytime we get a chance. 

Something to remember…

We have the same “stuff” as everyone else.

We have a house, 2 cars, land, and a UTV.

The difference?  Ours is paid for even though our household income is about the same as a lot of people.

Because we practice all of the money-saving techniques that I have now shared with you!

Related: 14 Things We Did To Pay Off $43k On Our Mortgage in 13 Months

What an incredible debt free story by Lindsey! It goes to show that being debt free starts with a mindset. You have to decide to make changes in your life and take control of it. She and her family had a paid off mortgage and were debt free by 25 years of age, what an accomplishment!

We learned from Lindsey that in order to take control over your money and life, you need to budget! There are many budgeting tools out there that are free to use like Everydollar, Personal Capital, or Truebill. To keep track of your monthly income and expenses is such an important part of gaining control over your finances. Budgeting gives you an idea of how much money you have to work with to track your expenses, pay off debt, work towards getting a paid off mortgage, or invest.

Being in debt takes freedom away from you. The freedom to live the life you want without the constant stress of money pressure sitting on your shoulders is the ultimate goal that Lindsey and her family was able to achieve.

You can still live the “American dream” without going into debt. Lindsey showed us that it is possible to have a paid off mortgage and to be debt free just as long as you set clear goals, take control of your money, and live a frugal life while still having fun.

Stop by Lindsey’s blog Big House in the Woods to find out more useful tips about how she got out of debt and her debt free lifestyle.

Are you ready to start your own debt free journey? Get started by grabbing this free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to pay off $500 worth of debt in your first month.

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Debt, Debt Free Story, Lifestyle, Money

How This Couple Was Able To Retire Early In Their 40s To Travel The World

We partner with some awesome companies that offer products which can help our readers. If you make a purchase through one of our partner links, we may receive a commission at absolutely no additional cost to you! Please see my Policy & Disclosure page for full details. 

Let’s be real here, working can be very stressful at times. Following directions from superiors, managing employees, dealing with office politics, keeping up with deadlines, appeasing customers, I can go on and on. The worst part is that people often get stuck working for decades and well into their 60’s or 70’s to make ends meet. What if you didn’t have to settle for that lifestyle? Meet Eric and Katie who broke that stigma and was able to retire early in their 40’s and live a nomadic life traveling the world.

Eric-and-Kate-Retired-Early-My-Financial Hill

Meet Eric and Kate who retired April of 2019 to follow their passion-Love of Travel. They live a life full of adventure, traveling the world and experiencing different cultures. Currently, they are in Danang, Vietnam and will most likely be there for 6 months before moving on to the next new location.

Eric and Katie shares helpful tips on how they were able to retire early. Eric retired at 42 and Katie retired at 41. Truly amazing! That’s more than 2 decades worth of work they were able to shave off. They saved up $1,000,000 which they fund for their nomadic lifestyle. Eric and Kate shares how they were able to do just that. Check out Eric’s site Bonus Nachos where he documents all the countries he’s been to during his retired nomadic lifestyle.

Eric and Kate’s Early Retirement Story

Eric, 42, Retired Accountant made under $50,000 a year

Katie, 41, Retired from the Hotel Industry made around $50,000 a year

Resides: Previous residence in Silicon Valley now lives in Danang, Vietnam

Saved: $1,000,000

Retirement Age: Eric, 42 and Katie, 41

1 | Was there any specific moment that motivated you to retire early?

We had recently moved from the Midwest to California and I had to find a job during the Great Financial Crash.

While I was happy to be able to find work, the job only offered 2 weeks of paid vacation. I previously was spoiled with 5 weeks.

Work suddenly felt a lot more oppressive.

I knew that there had to be a better way. It wasn’t too long after this that I discovered popular early retirement blogger Mr. Money Mustache.

I had always thought about early retirement as an abstract concept, but until this point hadn’t realized how accessible it really was.

2 | What was your income range? Did you do any side hustles?

I never earned more than $50k/yr until I was 37 years old.

Katie always earned a little more than me, except for a couple of glorious months in 2015. 🙂

But neither of us ever made 6 figures, so our early retirement is much more a product of low spending than high earning. We never earned any other money, preferring to savor our time away from work.

3 | When did you start saving and investing?

We both started contributing to our 401k accounts immediately upon getting our first professional jobs.

This was before we had even met, so the idea was independent of one another. And from there, we would each increase our contribution percentage with every raise that we received.

Later we opened up IRAs and stashed money into a taxable account as well, but we mostly just focused on our 401k accounts until our early 30s.

4 | Did you have any debt? If so, what did it consist of?

Not really. Some minor credit card debt as young adults, but nothing much to speak of.

We were careful to avoid it. This certainly helped us get to early retirement more quickly.

5 | Were there any programs/tools that helped to achieve early retirement?

As a former accountant, I love Excel spreadsheets. I use them for everything from tracking expenses to retirement projections.

I have always preferred to track my finances manually as opposed to using automated trackers like Mint or Personal Capital.

I felt it gave me more control and allowed me to customize it to my personal situation. Which is somewhat ironic because when it comes to investing, I’m completely hands off.

I think it’s much, much more likely that an individual investor will make a mistake and suffer a setback than pick the next greatest company.

As such, I believe the best way to go is to invest solely in index funds.

To help explain why, I’d recommend two books. The first is The Bogleheads Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore. The second is The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein.

Both are excellent books that are written for the non-professional investor. They are also popular enough that they’re likely available at your local library.

6 | Were there any habits that helped you retire early?

Most of our habits were developed to spend less money.

We focused our spending on what brought us the most happiness and tried to cut out the rest.

We cooked at home almost exclusively.

We split one older car, so one of us was always commuting by public transit or by bike.

We lived in a small cheap apartment.

On the flip side, travel was something that we have always loved so we made sure to take as many vacations as work would allow.

By not living in a fancy place, driving a new car (let alone two) or eating out often, we were still able to do the things we liked best while also saving lots of money

7 | Do you think you had to sacrifice a lot in your life to retire early?

I don’t think sacrifice is the right word.

Instead, I prioritized. Not spending every dollar shouldn’t be viewed as a sacrifice.

I would actually argue the opposite, that spending all of your money is a bigger sacrifice because you’re giving up compound investment gains that only increase over time.

I like the saying “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything.”

While I may not have been buying a million dollar house or driving a luxury car like many of my neighbors, I did get my passport stamped a lot.

Prior to retirement, I had been to Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Aruba, and Mexico multiple times. There was lots of domestic travel too, including Hawaii, NYC, and many national parks. Travel has always been my priority.

8 | Did you ever receive a large sum of money that helped to propel you financially?

Well, the S&P 500 did go up over 20% in 2017 when we were already well on our way to early retirement. Does that count? But no start up windfalls, inheritances, or other things like that.

9 | What does your retired life consist of?

We now get to travel the world, experience different cultures, and eat lots of local delicacies. It’s not like our previous vacations though.

Prior to quitting, our longest stop in any one location was 10 days. So far, our shortest stop has been two weeks, but we prefer to stay longer. That really allows us to soak in the flavor of the area.

We get to frequent local markets and eat exotic produce. We swim in the ocean, explore cities and neighborhoods, visit temples and museums, and watch birds. We have nearly mastered the art of the leisurely breakfast.

I even occasionally write a blog post. And the best part is that it’s way cheaper than our previous life. We spend about half of what we did when living in Silicon Valley. I report all of our spending on the blog as well.

Things have been a little different since COVID-19 became a pandemic. However, for the moment, we’ve paused our travels as we wait to see how countries will deal with opening their borders and when/if a vaccine will be available.

We are currently waiting it out in Danang, Vietnam and will likely live here for at least 6 months. It’s a pretty nice city and there are definitely worse places that we could be. Vietnam as a whole did a great job handling the outbreak so there’s little risk of infection here.

10 | If you could offer any valuable advice to readers to retire early, what would it be?

Track your expenses. There’s nothing more powerful than that.

Once you know where all your money is going, it’s easy to figure out what spending is worthwhile and what is not providing value.

Then you can redirect that less than optimal spending towards investing. And once you get that investing ball rolling, it will pick up a lot of steam over time.

Einstein once called compound interest the most powerful force in the universe. Make sure it’s working for you.

Eric and Katie fulfilled their dream of being able to retire early. Their journey teaches us that no, you don’t have to earn a six figure income to achieve early retirement.

Compound interest is very powerful indeed and they used it to their full advantage by investing when they first started their careers.

They also focused investing primarily in index funds without the stress and hassle of handling single stocks. They read books like The Bogleheads Guide to Investing and The Four Pillars of Investing to familiarize themselves with how investing works.

Everyone dreams of the ability to retire early but often times we don’t implement the right steps to help us achieve the goal.

Eric and Katie is a prime example that it is possible simply by investing early, keeping track of your money, not comparing your life with others, set aside funds to still enjoy life, spending less money, and saving where you can.

Thank you Eric and Katie for sharing your inspiring story with us. Through your story, we see that it’s possible to retire early by implementing the right steps and having the right mindset to achieve a goal.

Don’t forget to check out Eric’s blog Bonus Nachos to see how they’re enjoying retired life traveling the world.

Are you ready to start your own debt free journey? Get started by grabbing this free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to pay off $500 worth of debt in your first month.

Read More
Debt, Debt Free Story

Brett’s Debt Free Story of $67,000

In our society, debt is prevalent. People often incur debt to attend school, get a car, buy a home, just to live a “normal” life. Debt is so ingrained into our American culture that there is no emphasis on the significant financial harm that it causes people. Without proper awareness to the issue, people often spend thousands or hundreds of thousands over time in interest fees. Debt truly is the biggest detriment to our financial well being. Sometimes, people do break free from the mentality of complacency. Today, we will be talking about Brett’s debt free story of how he conquered $67,000 worth of debt in under 3 years.

Bretts Debt Free Journey My Financial Hill

Meet Brett, 31 years old, and works as an Aerospace Technician in Indianapolis, IN. Just like the many millions of Americans, Brett took out loans to get himself through school and also got himself a car. What sets him aside from most Americans is that he decided to get debt free and pay off all $67,000 worth of debt he had in under 3 years.

Brett’s Debt Free Story

Brett Burton, 31 years old

Brett’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Resides: Indianopolis, IN

Occupation: Aerospace Technician

Total Debt: $67,000

Total Time to Pay Off: Under 3 years

1 | How much debt did you have to start with? How long did it take to pay off? 

I paid off a total of $67,000 in just under 3 years.

2 | When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?

I was very anxious upon graduation, in 2015, to have this burden of debt on my shoulders.

I was actually thinking about it as I was applying for more and more loans to get me through college, so the anxiety really came to a head once I was finished with school and hit the workforce.

I’ve always been very financially motivated, but this really lit a fire under me.

3 | What was your debt consisted of?

After graduating with my bachelors degree, I had about $60,000 in student loan debt (interest rates ranging from 3% up to 8.5%), and soon after graduation, I needed to replace my car, so I ended up with about $7,000 (3% interest rate) in auto debt.

4 | What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

I started out making about $29,000 per year, and by the time I had paid off my debt entirely, I had made $60,000 per year (a lot of which was voluntary overtime).

5 | Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt? 

The biggest factor in my situation was having great parents that provided me with a home without collecting any rent.

My parents know me as well as anyone, and they knew I was tremendously determined to pay off my debt as fast as I possibly could, so I really owe so much credit to them since they facilitated an environment that was prime for achieving this goal.

During my debt-free journey, I may have sounded ungrateful or frustrated at times due to the stress, driven by the debt scenario, but I can easily see now that I wouldn’t be in such a good situation now if they hadn’t been so gracious in their parenting, helping however they could.

I also worked as much overtime as my employer would allow me; I recall semi-frequent 80-hour work weeks.

Other than that, I was very conscientious about my spending habits, opportunity cost, and compounding interest.

6 |  Did you use any tools to help pay off debt?

It’s funny because I didn’t use any tools or look at my situation very technically until after I had already paid my way out of the mess.

I was very aggressive since my money didn’t need to be allocated to any other bills (aside from cell phone). This unique situation allowed me to be very intense with my payments.

7 |  Did you use any debt payoff strategies?

I didn’t even know the two methods existed during my payoff, but I can easily identify that I used the Avalanche Method.

It made so much more sense to me to eliminate higher interest rates first since they would be compounding more rapidly. I recognize the value in the snowball method, but I wasn’t lacking any motivation in keeping consistent, so I paid them down like it was scorched earth.

8 | How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

I think everyone at any given time, mentally, can be found on a spectrum somewhere between anxious and depressed (thinking too much about the future vs. thinking too much about the past).

I can usually be found closer to the anxious side of the spectrum, although finding the balance in the present is something I strive for every day through meditation.

Paying off debt is difficult. Being disciplined and keeping focused on your goals is challenging.

Knowing yourself & your habits and tendencies can be very valuable when you begin to feel that you are making compromises on important goals.

Social pressure was a massive challenge for me during my journey, and meditation & conscious visualization kept me motivated, focused and prepared.

Taking the reins and choosing to deal with my problems head-on was an easy decision for me to make, understanding the lifestyle change that would come with the achievement of becoming debt-free.

After all, choosing to work so hard for your future is quite different from living with stress and having your hand forced, living how your lender determines you will live under your debt to them.

9 | How has your life changed from before and after paying off debt?

A big motivator during my payoff was the goal of owning a home of my own & experiencing the lifestyle change that would come with moving out of my parent’s house. Our relationship has always been good, but I think this has made it even better.

The stress of debt can really make you into someone you don’t want to be, and I recognized the danger in that for my relationships.

Now that I’m out of debt, money doesn’t stress me out, and I have freed up mental space for things that I find more valuable and productive. I put in my time, now I can begin to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Home ownership has been a blessing & I’m experiencing freedoms I’ve been chasing for a very long time. I’m still working like a crazy person because I still have some “habit-carryover” from paying so aggressively on my loans; now I’m paying down my mortgage with similar intensity.

I have learned so much about investing (retirement, stock market, real estate, etc.) and I think I will benefit significantly later in life from educating myself on these things early on.

I could very easily choose to relax at this point in my life, but I choose to keep the momentum I gathered in order to position myself for the future.

Soon I plan to “let off the gas” and begin to let myself enjoy this life I’ve worked so hard to earn, but for now I will continue the grind, understanding that the early dollars are so powerful (compound interest!).

10 |  Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

Not particularly. If I had the same amount of debt today, I think I would treat the situation very similarly.

I had to tell myself, “You borrowed this money. Now it’s time to pay it back.” Taking responsibility is underrated; it’s what my parents taught me, and it’s how I live to this day.

I did find myself compromising on my goal a couple of times and I had to correct my path and remind myself to keep disciplined, but I think those challenges forced me to make decisions that made my conviction stronger, so I wouldn’t say that I regret any of that either.

Finding the balance between staying the course and not absolutely killing yourself (taking the time to enjoy simple pleasures, but not living lavish) is a real hurdle, especially when social pressure begins to get to you.

11 | How does it feel to be debt free or close to?

Aside from my mortgage, I am 100% debt-free.

It is truly an amazing feeling. I know many don’t include mortgage debt in their net worth, but I do.

For that reason, I still feel very much in debt, although I understand this is a very long-term investment that will take quite a while to pay down.

Having the freedom of choice to invest my income however I wish is something special though, without a doubt.

My mind isn’t always concerned with money like it was during my pay-off and I can focus that attention on things that matter more to me and those around me.

12 | Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

It can’t be understated that acting early is of such significant importance to becoming debt-free, regardless of individual situation.

The longer you wait, the more interest will stack up against you. The quicker you can pay it down, the quicker you will feel the momentum tip in your favor.

There will be major challenges along the way.

I wish I had known about such great YouTube channels like Dave Ramsey, Chris Hogan, Rachel Cruze, The Money Guy Show, etc. during my debt-free journey.

They can be great resources, communities, and sources of inspiration to keep you focused and remind you that you’re making the right decisions as you chase freedom from debt.

There are plenty of ill-advised financial decisions that you can make (getting yourself into debt in the first place is a great example!), so having free resources to keep you in check is absolutely a plus.

Having relationships in your own life that will help to hold you accountable can be powerful too.

The most effective source of motivation for me was getting fed up with being broke. Life doesn’t have to be so stressful, and getting your finances in order is a game changer.

Brett’s debt free story shows us that paying off debt is possible especially if you’re determined to achieve your goal. Yes, social pressure can often be difficult to overcome but staying focused on your future goals and having the help of supportive loved ones will help you get there.

Why was Brett so adamant about paying off his student loan and car loan? Let’s do some simple calculations to see how much interest would be paid if he just held on to his loans over time.

According to CNBC, people usually take 20 years to pay back student loans.

Let’s say, Brett took 20 years to pay back his student loans at an average interest rate of 5.75% and 5 years to pay back his car loan at 3%, how much interest would he pay?

According to Bankrate:

LoanTermInterestTotal PaidTotal Interest
Student Loan $60,00020 Years5.5 %$99,055.77$39,055.77
Car Loan $7,0005 Years3 %$7,546.85$546.85

Over time, Brett would have paid $39,055.77 and $546.85 in interest alone! To prevent this from happening, Brett’s debt free story shows us that it’s important to hunker down and get serious about paying off debt to prevent wasting money on interest fees.

There were times when Brett worked 80 hour work weeks to make extra income to pay off his debt. Everyone’s debt free journey will be different and ultimately it will be your decision on what pace you want to go for your own debt progress.

Brett’s debt free story shows us that hard work, determination, having supportive loved ones, beating social pressure, all amounts to becoming debt free. Thank you Brett for sharing your debt payoff story with us. Through your story, we can see that a little bit of hard work now will only provide financial benefits in the future.

Are you ready to start your own debt free journey? Get started by grabbing this free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to pay off $500 worth of debt in your first month.

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Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Story of Erin and Steve’s $110,427 Debt

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We live in a society where it’s normal and encouraged to use borrowed money to sustain our lives. We often learn that it’s okay to get what we want NOW and pay it back later. This kind of mentality ultimately hurts us in the long run. What we often don’t realize is that the money we borrow accumulates interest that ultimately makes the lender richer not us! It’s time to flip things around by getting out of debt so that we keep more of our hard earned money back in our pockets. Today’s debt free story of Erin and Steve’s $110,427 debt journey shows us exactly how they were able to turn things around.

Erin and Steve at their favorite place in the world Empire, MI

Meet Erin and Steve! Erin, 35, is a Business Intelligence Manager and also behind WholeFitPlantBased on Instagram. Steven, 36, is a Brewery Cellarman. They are huge outdoor enthusiasts who love to camp, hike, mountain bike, kayak, paddleboard, and Steve is even learning to kiteboard right now. They are also both Vegan and very passionate about their health. Besides loving the outdoor life and being health conscious, they defeated over $110,000 worth of debt!

They were like any average American with loads of debt ranging from student loans, credit cards, and car loans. Having a whopping total debt amount of $110,427.87 cents to be exact. They didn’t look at that number and just give up, they decided to make a change and become debt free. Learn more about the debt free story of Erin and Steve’s financial journey and how they became debt free!

Debt Free Story of Erin and Steve

Erin Wisneski, 35 years old, Business Intelligence Manager

Steven, 36 years old, Brewery Cellarman

From: Spring Lake, MI

Total Debt:  $110,427.87 of debt not including the mortgage

Total Time to be Debt Free: 4 Years and 2 Months

1 |  How much debt did you have to start with? How long did it take to pay off? 

In March of 2016 we had $110,427.87 of debt not including our mortgage. This took us 4 years and 2 months to pay off. 

Debt progress chart provided by Erin and Steve

2 |  When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?

We officially started throwing extra money at the debt above the minimum payments in March of 2016. 

Someone at work had told me to look into Dave Ramsey’s method about 4 years prior to this when I told them about how much debt I was in. 

I looked at it but couldn’t find the right way to start.

After we got married and my husband changed careers I started looking at budgeting for the first time

We had so many dreams we wanted to accomplish for our lives and this debt was a huge hindrance to those dreams. 

We finally decided to focus on paying off our debt in March of 2016 after reading The Total Money Makeover

Using the Ramsey principles we quickly saved up our $1,000 Emergency Fund and then started throwing as much money as we could each month to the debt.

3 | What was your debt consisted of?

Steve’s Student Loan$ 1 K
3 Credit Cards + Private Loan
(Private Loan used to pay off a CC)
$ 17.5 K
Car $ 11 K
Erin’s Student Loans
(5 Private + 1 Federal Loan)
$ 81 K

I also need to add in that life happened during this time. 

We were able to successfully cash flow the following items in the past 4 years during our debt payoff

Vehicle Repairs

* Note this didn’t all happen at once. 
This “lemon” vehicle kept having issues
and seemed to always cost us
$1k or more to fix each time. 
We finally threw our hands and
gave up and replaced it in 2018
$ 12 K
Replaced the “lemon” vehicle with a used vehicle $ 15 K
Replaced Water Heater $ 500
New Washer and Dryer$ 400
New Roof (enforced by our condo association)$ 2 K

4 | What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

We started at about $90k in household income in 2016.

Last year (2019) we had $125k in household income.

5 | Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt? 


First, we tracked what we were spending money on.  This was eye opening as we really had no idea what all of our money was going to each month. 

After we tracked our expenses for a couple of months, we identified areas we could cut down or take out of the budget.

I also found a great spreadsheet template that allowed me to list all of our debts and based on our average monthly snowball payment, could predict when we would be out of debt. 

Originally the spreadsheet told us it would take 3 years to pay off this debt, but life happens and we had some unexpected expenses along the way, so it took us 4 years instead.

6 | Did you use any tools to help pay off debt?

For the first 3 years we used the Every Dollar App

This was a great starting point for us but it wasn’t perfect. 

Last year I discovered the YNAB app and this app really helped us make our final push. 

We paid off a lot more this year using the YNAB app than the Every Dollar App.

7 | Do you like the Snowball or Avalanche method to pay down debt?

At first when we had 12 separate debts to tackle I really liked the snowball method

This method allowed us to get some emotional wins that we desperately needed to stay motivated.  But when we were down to the last few debts we changed our method a little to what worked for us. 

We had to replace a vehicle in 2018 and I decided to shift paying off our car loan sooner so that we could more easily sell the old car.  

8 | How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

I would listen to the Dave Ramsey Podcast almost everyday on my commute to work. 

The debt free screams were really motivating, especially when people had similar incomes/debt as us.

We would focus on our future dreams and goals whenever we said “no” and remember the reasons we were doing this.

9 | How has your life changed from before and after the paying off debt?

Our lives have changed drastically

This debt free journey has really taught us that experiences are worth more than materialistic things. 

We have learned patience and simplicity. 

We don’t compare ourselves to others and try to focus on doing things and buying things that truly make us happy and add value to our life.

10 | Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

There were 2 things I wish we had done differently and differ from the Ramsey Principles.     

1 | I wish we had built a larger Emergency Fund first before paying off debt instead of only the $1000.  We thankfully have been very lucky to have never had to dip into those funds, but based on the current climate (COVID-19) I would feel less at risk than I do now.   

2 | I also wish we had been contributing to our 401ks during this time to at least get the company match.  We missed out on some free money and valuable compound interest time.

11 | How does it feel to be debt free or close to?

It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. 

I feel like we can accomplish anything we set our mind to. 

We are so excited for the future.  

12 | Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

Paying off debt is not easy and there is no miracle pill to fix this. 

It probably took you years to accumulate the debt you have, it’s not going to go away overnight. 

It takes time, patience, and a lot of willpower. 

I encourage you to just take one day one step at a time

When life happens don’t throw your hands up and give up.  Move through the bad times and focus on your future life goals. 

You can do this.

And most important, try to surround yourself with people that support your dreams and goals.  Don’t waste your energy on other people’s opinions.  

It is truly amazing what anyone can accomplish as long as they put their minds to it and persevere. This debt free story of Erin and Steve shows us that anything is possible. They were able to dig themselves out of $110,427 worth of debt, how astounding is that?!

What we can learn from Erin and Steve is how important it is to set a clear goal, budget, and use the proper debt payoff strategy to accomplish the debt free life. Two key factors to keep in mind is to save a larger emergency fund before throwing everything you have at debt. Secondly, take advantage of compound interest and free money by investing in your company’s investment account (especially if they match).

Erin and Steve shows us that no matter how bleak things may seem financially, hold your head up and focus taking it one step at a time. Thank you both so much for sharing your awesome debt free story with us! Hopefully it will provide us with more encouragement and motivation for each of us to get through our own debt free journeys.

If you want to reach Erin or Steve, connect with them at WholeFitPlantBased on Instagram!

Ready to start your own debt free journey? Today’s the day to make that change in your life. Start with this free gift – Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to begin knocking out debt ASAP.

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My Financial Hill-Debt Free Story of Ben and Julia's $20,000 Journey
Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Story of Ben and Julia’s $20,000 Journey

We partner with some awesome companies that offer products which can help our readers. If you make a purchase through one of our partner links, we may receive a commission at absolutely no additional cost to you! Please see my Policy & Disclosure page for full details. 

In our society, we often may think that having debt is absolutely normal. We may also think having mortgages or even student loans way into our elder years is normal because our parents may have lived that way. That is not the way to live. More and more people are waking up to the fact that having debt actually is a huge downfall. Usually, when people take on debt whether it is student loans, car loans, credit cards, even a mortgage, there is interest applied. This makes paying off loans take years or even decades to pay back. Especially by applying only minimum amounts may cause us to pay hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands to banks in interest fees over time. This debt free story of Ben and Julia shows us that it’s time to get serious and take back control of money.

I had a great opportunity to interview Ben and Julia. They decided to get serious about paying off their student loans because they wanted financial freedom. Their debt free journey took them 2 years and 4 months to pay off $20,000 worth of student loan debt. Most amazingly, they paid off $15,000 of the $20,000 in only 4 months. The debt free story of Ben and Julia can show us what it takes to get serious about debt and take control over money.

Debt Free Story of Ben and Julia

Ben, 24 years old, Mortgage Servicing Industry

Julia, 22 years old, College graduate

Total Debt: $20,000

Total Time: 2 years and 4 months ($5,000 paid off in 2 years and $15,000 paid off in 4 months)

1 | When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?

My wife and I started out in 2018 with a total debt of 20k. We payed off a little extra each month using the Dave Ramsey Snowball Method but we weren’t taking it seriously. This past January we still had 15k in debt and we were tired of it. We wanted freedom from student loans.

2 | What was your debt consisted of?

The initial 20k was 18k students loans and 2k medical debt from an ER trip.

3 | What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

Our income went from 25k in 2018 to 40k in 2019 to a projected 50k for this year. I switched jobs half way through 2019 and my wife started working part time at a local school.

4 | Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt?

We followed the Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. We took advantage of the tools provided by Financial Peace University, mainly the Every Dollar app.

We had no credit cards and kept a tight budget. In addition to an aggressive snowball, we saved money on things like going out to eat less.

We sweated the small things like switching between Netflix and Disney + every few months instead of paying for both at the same time.

Another really important factor in keeping the budget was having a set “fun money” for each of us. It was a set about of guilt free money we could spend on whatever we wanted each month.

Having a budget feels very restrictive but having a set amount of fun money is more freeing than not having a budget in the first place.

5 | How did you pay off $15,000 in 4 months?

We payed a total of 15k in 4 months when we were taking it seriously. So with the initial 20k, it took us 2 years to pay down 5k and 4 months to pay rest (15k).

We took FPU (Financial Peace University) this January and had 15k and change left in student loan debt. I work full time and my wife was in her final semester of college. She also works part time at the school to help supplement our income.

Prior to Covid we paid off about 6k with some savings and our tax return and that left us with a little over 9k left. Then this pandemic hit full swing and we went into “pause and pile cash” mode. We got this idea because Dave typically advises people expecting kids or other major expenses to do just that. We thought both of our jobs would be at risk but we’ve been fortunate so far.

We did the math and realized we had enough to pay it off. We felt confident in our job stability now and thought it was time. Making a 9k payment was nerve wracking but it feels great now.

5| How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

Staying motivated was tough. My wife and I created a “debt chain” made out of construction paper. Each link represented $100 or out debt. I hung it up in our bedroom so we would see it everyday. We’d cut some off every time we made a payment and it felt great. We also made a debt thermometer. It kind of looked like a fundraiser prop but it was another way to visualize our journey to being debt free.

6 | Has your life changed dramatically before and after the process?

We’re saving more money and our emergency fund is set. Julia and I hope to have kids in the next few years and we are saving up for that as well. Since Covid started, we’ve had opportunities to help local charities and people we know with financial needs. I mention that because it’s an incredibly exciting and fulfilling experience.

7 | Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

I wish we started earlier. Life is so much better when you have a financial plan.

8 | How does it feel to be debt free or close to?

Life feels great. We don’t have to worry about financial emergencies. Some things like small car repairs can be absorbed into our budget. Larger emergencies can be covered by our emergency fund.

9 | Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

Don’t give up! Have a plan for every dollar and you won’t wonder where your paycheck went. Saving money now prevents disaster later. Be a blessing to others!

Thank you both for sharing your debt free journey with us. This debt free story of Ben and Julia shows us how important it is to create a financial plan and budget to reach our financial goals.

They got serious about the debt paying process in the last 4 months of their journey and paid off $15,000 of their final debt. They learned to save money where they could, budgeted properly, and still managed to set money aside for their “fun money”.

Their debt free story shows us that paying off debt doesn’t have to be a miserable process. You can still have fun in life but now you can properly plan for it and be responsible about it. They are young and now have their whole lives ahead of them DEBT FREE, how AMAZING!

Ready to start your own debt free journey? Today’s the day to make that change in your life. Start with this free gift – Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to begin knocking out debt ASAP.

Read More:

Kaleb’s $110,000 Debt Free Story

Paul’s $50,000 Debt Free Journey

How to Get Out of Debt With These 5 Tips

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My Financial Hill Debt Free Story Paying $50,000 of Student Loans
Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Story Paying $50,000 of Student Loans

We live in a society where we’re taught that education is everything. Unfortunately, in most instances we have to pay for our education. The worst part is, even if we graduate or not, our student loans haunt us for years to come. With interest rates applied on thousands of dollars worth of student loans, even making minimal payments can often get you no where. That’s what Paul didn’t want. His debt free story is about the steps he took to make sure he got rid of his $50,000 in student loans.

I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Paul (alias name-requested to remain anonymous). He is in the military, 29 years old from Allentown, PA and wanted to share his debt free story. After college he wound up with $50,000 worth of student loan debt. He decided that he will not carry it for the rest of his life. He enlisted in the military after college which helped propel his debt payoff since he didn’t have residency expenses. The military provided free board in the barracks. Without huge living expenses, he was able to knock out all $50,000 within 4 years making $24,000-$36,000. Truly amazing! Learn more about Paul’s debt free story of how he got himself out of $50,000 worth of student loans next!

Soldier facing American flag-My Financial Hill-Debt Free Story Paying $50,000 of Student Loans

1 | When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?

I pretty much decided after college. There never was a I’ll just live with these for the rest of my life, that never crossed my mind.

2 | Was there a specific event or situation that led you to decide to start getting rid of all your debt? 

Nothing major I just wanted to get rid of the debt as soon as possible. The debt just felt like an annoying nag. 

3 | What was your debt consisted of? How long did it take to pay off?

My debt consisted of about $50,000 in student loan debt. It took me four years.

4 | What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

So to make a long story short, becoming an officer in the military, didn’t work out so I enlisted instead.

My first duty station was taxed free and I was an Private First Class (E3.) No car was allowed over there so didn’t have to worry about that.

Next duty station (it was taxed) I eventually got promoted to specialist (E4).

Third duty station got promoted to sergeant (E5). Mind you this whole time throughout my career so far at this point I’ve been living in the barracks (meaning I had no extra money that the military gives you to live off base.)

This was from 2014 to 2018.

My income varied throughout those years. Started with making about 2k a month at my first duty station, then got about 300 more when I got promoted.

At my second duty station I also got about 300 extra a month due to there being no dining facility for the lower enlisted.

Third duty station when I got promoted I made about 3k.

5 | Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt?

Before I started, I researched the best way to pay off my loans.

I decided to go with the avalanche method (paying them off by highest interest loan first).

I looked at it as tipping the band-aid off first. Once I paid off the most expensive one first I thought, “Okay, the ones after this will become easier to pay off after this.”

Also, in the army we have this thing called charge of quarters. Basically a sergeant and a soldier have to watch the barracks for 24 hours. I would take other people’s shifts on Saturdays who didn’t want to work and got paid $100 for it.

Any extra amount of money would go straight to my loans. It didn’t even matter if it was only twenty for driving someone.

During my second duty station I researched credit cards and felt I was ready and financially mature enough to handle one. All the cash back I got went to student loans of course. It was very important that I made a budget and stuck to it.

Budgeted for food, groceries, emergency fund, going out, and for loans.

6 | In regards to budgeting, were there any particular tools or programs that helped you out?

I tried different apps, but what worked for me was just writing it out and revising via paper or by using a note app on my phone. That’s what I’ve been the most consistent on and obviously it worked for me.

7 | How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

At one point my going out money was too low for me and I reminded myself that it’s okay to enjoy life. So I allowed myself to add just a bit more to that and not make myself feel guilty. I know I was still going to be on track to pay off my loans in less than five years.

There were times especially in the beginning when I would feel annoyed by how much student debt I had, just constantly logging in to look at the debt, and constantly do the math over and over.

I would read successful student loan pay off stories for motivation.

Mind you, at my second duty station that’s when I really started to take saving for retirement seriously as well. My motivation was really the freedom that it would bring me and the options as well.

Before, certain things I would not allow myself to buy. At my third duty station I got myself a junker to drive. The window was cracked, it made horrible noise, but it was about $1,000 and it got me around.

After, well funny story, but after I paid off my student loan debt, I actually to reward myself got a car loan, but it was $8,000 and I paid it off in like ten months. $8,000 is nothing compared to $50,000. And being debt free from student loans has made it nice to actually pick out a car that I wanted, the cheapest thing!

Currently at my fourth duty station and got promoted to staff sergeant. I’m at a point now where I can easily max out my traditional savings plan (military version of the 401k) and my Roth IRA, and live by myself.

I started saving for my next future car, a vacation fund and a splurge fund as well. I started taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu too. Not a cheap martial art, but worth it to invest in myself physically.

It hit me the other day like wow I have TWO TVs. I still have my simple flat screen 32 inch TV from college, but it was so nice to treat myself and get a 55 inch for my living room. The next goal financially is to get in rental properties and save up for a dog.

All these opportunities that I mentioned have become available to me since I paid off my student loans. It took sacrifice, but so so so worth it.

8 | Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

It felt great when it was over! Now I almost forget about the days about paying off my loans. I can’t imagine having to deal with an annoying $300 bill each month.

But now I’m so used to being debt free and my focus has really been to continue to max out my TSP and Roth IRA.

9 | Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

In the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming.”

Thank you Paul for your service and for sharing your debt free story with us. Paul was able to save a significant amount of money by living in the barracks. He also did side jobs on base for any extra money he could get to throw at the debt. After paying off $50,000 in 4 years, he is now free from debt, what an awesome situation. At 29 years old, his future is looking so bright! Anyone can follow in Paul’s footsteps, anyone can pursue their own debt free story. All it takes is perseverance and never giving up!

Ready to start your own debt free journey? Today’s the day to make that change in your life. Start with this free gift – Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to begin knocking out debt ASAP.

Read More
Debt, Debt Free Story

Debt Free Story Kaleb’s $110,000 Debt Journey

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Being in debt can be overwhelming. Especially when all your hard earned money flies right out your hands as soon as you get paid. It’s bad enough that you may be swamped in bills, interest rates tacks on even more money to your bills. Sometimes there just seems to be no end in sight. That’s why it’s time to get serious about your money and take control. Start your own debt free journey like Kaleb has with $110,000 of debt.

I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to interview Kaleb Schumann from The Future Millionaire Teacher. He had roughly $110,000 worth of debt which will take him right under 4 years (47 months) to pay off next month (June)! Kaleb is an inspiring High School Band Director from Fort Worth, TX. Wanting to lead by example he started a YouTube channel to track his debt free journey for many high school and college aged students. It’s definitely kept him motivated throughout the debt free journey especially when his students ask him about financial advice and money matters. Find out more details about how Kaleb got himself out of $110,000 debt next.

Photo from Kaleb Schumann from The Future Millionaire Teacher. He is a High School Band Director from Fort Worth, TX. He has paid off $110,000 in just under 4 years (47 months).

When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?

I started my journey in September 2016, after graduate school. I had read the Total Money Makeover a few months before, after some classmates recommended it. I didn’t have a salary at the time, and couldn’t wait until I graduated and started making money so I could start.

What was your debt consisted of?

Basically, rounding +/- a few thousand:

$110,00 total

$60,000 – Student Loans ($20k undergrad, $40k graduate)

$15,000 – Interest on Student Loans

$10,000 – Used Car

$10,000 – Medical Bills (settled for $4k)

$5,000 – French Horn

$5,000 – Credit Card

$5,000 – Loan from “The Bank of Mom and Dad”

What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?

$60,000 – $72,5000

Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt?

I worked a summer activity called Drum Corps International. It’s basically a summer marching band for kids. I was on the admin team for a group. They travel the country over the summer. I was able to see the country for free, had all my meals paid for, and made a few thousand bucks on top of all that. It minimized my expenses to almost zero over the summer in addition to providing extra money. Those summers *really* accelerated things. 

Do you recommend any particular debt repayment plan?

Surprisingly, my sole source of information that shaped my opinion was Dave Ramsey. I’m the type of person that goes all-in and becomes an absolutist. There are multiple ways to tackle debt, but it helped me to stay singularly focused with Dave’s plan, philosophy, podcasts, videos, etc.

Do you like the Snowball or Avalanche method?

I was a big debt snowball person.. Except when it came to the loan from the Bank of Mom and Dad. The Chief Loan Officer (aka Dad) agreed to provide the loan interest free and let me put the $5k loan in “forbearance” until my other interest bearing loans were paid.

What about budgeting, are there any particular tools or programs that helped you out? 

I used the EveryDollar App, and I tried to compartmentalize all the items in my head as much as I could.. For example, there was a huge difference between my internet bill and my Spotify bill.. Both were drafted monthly, but the Spotify bill always went under “Optional Subscriptions”, giving myself permission to cut it if necessary. 

Related: How To Budget Your Money For Beginners

How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?

Paying off debt became my singular goal. Every decision I made, I made it through the lens of paying off my debt. From big decisions like not going on vacations with my friends, to little decisions like not being afraid to bring left-overs with my co-workers when they went out to lunch.

Has your life changed dramatically before and after the process?

I now consider myself a minimalist. Last summer, I moved from Houston to Fort Worth. I sold everything I could: mattress, dining room table, dressers, TV’s, game consoles… With the extra cash, I was able to buy “matching adult furniture” and still have extra to put on my loans. I was able to monetize every material possession that I didn’t need.

I feel like I have much more control over my finances. I’m no longer overwhelmed thinking about all the bills, or if I can buy that new shirt I want. Since I have complete control, I can make informed decisions about picking up extra work or not, eating at a restaurant or not, etc.

Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?

One of my side hustles was teaching English lessons online. It was the easiest money I’ve ever made. From the comfort of my couch, I have Skype conversations with English learners from across the world. I wish I would have started that way sooner. The money I made from teaching lessons was able to pay for my own Spanish lessons and still have a few extra bucks each month to throw at debt.

How does it feel to be debt free or close to?

I’ve been free from consumer/interest bearing debt for a few months. I only owe my parents a few thousand dollars that I’ll be able to finish off in June. It’s a moment I’ve been dreaming of for over four years. I can’t wait to take a vacation and do more than just go to the beach. I can’t wait to donate to my favorite podcasts and give to NPR. I can’t wait to sponsor students to their summer camps or church fundraisers. I can’t wait to buy my friend’s lunch to say thanks. I can’t wait to buy the next round of drinks at convention. I can’t wait to invest. I can’t wait to enjoy my money.

Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?

This is a mental game. It boils down to two parts.

First – Build the habit of tracking purchases, sticking to the budget, saying no… Figure out how to build those keystone habits that will affect every financial decision that you make.

Second – Focus on one area of your budget at a time: Income/Expense/Surplus. Some months I would focus on increasing my income by selling things, teaching extra lessons, etc. Other months I would figure out how to cut my utility bill, or save on groceries. And some months I would re-prioritize the leftover money… Although, mostly the surplus money just went to the smallest debt remaining. I found that I was most effective when I was only focusing on one area at a time. It was too overwhelming to try and make more, work extra hours, sell this, limit that, cut here, cancel that all at the same time. 

Thank you Kaleb for sharing your debt payoff journey. Kaleb had $110,000 worth of debt straight out of Graduate School. That must’ve been very overwhelming to confront and take control of that enormous amount of debt. Kaleb became inspired after reading Total Money Makeover and also staying focused on Dave Ramsey’s teachings. He literally crushed all $110,000 worth of debt in right under 4 years by next month, what an amazing story.

Let Kaleb’s story inspire you to realize that paying off debt can be done. No matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. It’s all about taking small steps and in Kaleb’s case-just focus on one thing at a time. Being debt free is the ultimate goal. It provides financial freedom, taking control of your money, and just being able to enjoy your own money.

If you would like to reach out to Kaleb, visit his YouTube channel The Future Millionaire Teacher.

Ready to start your own debt free journey? Today’s the day to make that change in your life. Start with this free gift – Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to begin knocking out debt ASAP.

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