jump over a debt with a pole

When my wife and I got married, we combined our finances and we realized that we had $52,000 in debt outside of our mortgage. This seemed like a huge number at the time and that it would take forever to pay it off, however, that wasn’t the case. If you want to change, you have to put yourself in an atmosphere where you can change. So we decided to study people who were successful with money. We read books, met with people and even decided to take a personal finance class together. We put together a financial game plan (aka a “budget”) and then we would review it once a month. We also kept a chart on our fridge that helped us track our progress which was helpful in keeping our eyes on the goal. What was the goal? It was to pay off all $52,000 in debt in 18 months.

One of the biggest debts that we had was my car loan. I had bought a brand new Nissan Altima right before we got married and it was a sweet ride. It had a push-button start, a booming sound system, but it also had a hefty car payment. I knew that if we were truly going to hit our goal, the car had to go. Like most people who buy brand new cars, we were upside down in the vehicle; we owed more than it was worth. Thankfully it was only a $1,000 more and we were able to sell stuff around the house to come with the difference. Once the car was gone, it felt like there was no stopping us. We had the money that we were throwing at the car payment to start chipping away at our debt.

Since I had a job that required that I have a vehicle, we decided to sell my wife’s car that was worth $5,000 and buy two used reliable cars. I bought a nice Lexus ES300 for about $2,500 and my wife bought a Honda accord for $1,250. Yes, we had to spend money on repairs every now and then, but it was infrequent and definitely less costly than the new car.

The cars were not the only thing we had to sacrifice. We had to learn to tell ourselves ‘no’ on a regular basis. We both love to travel and to eat out at restaurants, but we knew that these things would hinder us from achieving the freedom from debt that we so enthusiastically desired. Plus we knew that once the debt was paid off that we would be able to travel more and that we could increase our budget for eating out when we wanted to.

18 months after we decided to tackle out debt, it was gone, all $52,000. It has been almost four years since we paid off that debt and a lot has happened. We were able to travel to Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia. We were able to give more to worthy causes than we have ever been before. We were able to eat out more often and enjoy the fruits of our labors. But most importantly, I was able to quit my full time job to start my own business and help people achieve the same freedom that we now have. Remember, debt doesn’t have to be forever. If you want to get out of debt, you can do it. You will have to sacrifice and change the way that you are living, but let me tell you this: it is definitely worth it.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by debt and then decided to pay it all off? How did you overcome it?