How Two Teachers Paid off $92,000 in Debt

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Tell us a bit about yourself

Our names are Bryant and Emily Adler. We are both teachers in Tennessee. We have been married about 2.5 years. We love to travel, cook, and spend time with family and friends. We have a passion for helping people find hope in the midst of debt.

How did you acquire $92,000 in debt?

Most of that was made up of student loans. We both went through school twice. Bryant has his Bachelors in Music Education and his Masters in Administration. Emily has a Bachelors in Child and Family Studies and went back to school for her teaching license. We took out student loans to pay for all the degrees. We also had some credit card debt, car loans, and a medical bill. The credit cards were just foolish spending before we got married that added up.

What did it feel like to have that much debt?

Completely overwhelming and hopeless. We still remember adding up our debts right before we got married in Emily’s parents’ basement. When we saw a grand total of $92,645, we felt hopeless. We had so many goals and things we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to travel, we wanted to buy a home, start a family in the future, and save for retirement. We felt like we would never accomplish those things with this huge debt hanging over us.

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

2.5 years total. We started the day we got married. That was in June of 2012. We made our last payment on Christmas Eve 2014.

What resources did you use to help you through this process?

We went with the Dave Ramsey method. We did not take the Financial Peace course. However, we used his book, “The Total Money Makeover”, to guide our journey. We saved an emergency fund up and then attacked the debt.

Did you face any challenges along the way?

There were definitely times we wanted to quit. It was difficult to sacrifice so much and work so hard all the time. As far as the budget, the grocery budget was a huge challenge. We love to eat healthy and that is expensive. We had bumps in the road with finances as well. Unexpected things like new tires or brakes would come up. Thankfully, we had the emergency fund in place to take care of that.

We used The Debt Snowball to pay off $52,000 in debt in 18 months!

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How did this affect your marriage?

We think one of the most important aspects of this process is that we were both on the same page from the beginning. We leaned on each other for support and accountability. Honestly, it only affected our marriage in positive ways. It made us stronger. We worked together towards a huge goal and accomplished it. We talk openly and honestly about money. We had monthly meetings to discuss our debt plan and progress. It really helped us develop into a solid team. We never fight about money and did not through this entire process.

What were you doing for a living while you were paying off the debt?

The first year, Bryant was a high school band director and Emily was a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school. The second year, Emily got hired as a full-time teacher. Bryant picked up an extra part time job as a music director at our church.

How did it feel once you paid it all off?

Incredible. It was such an overwhelming day when we made the final payment. We were filled with such joy and hope. This debt no longer defined our finances. The first time we went shopping after we finished, it was the weirdest experience. Just to feel the freedom to buy razors that cost more than $3 was so joyful.

What practical tips do you have for people looking to pay off debt?

Know what you owe. Make a budget and stick to it. Use cash whenever possible. Sacrifice anything you can to put it towards debt. It is possible. However, it is not a quick fix. You have to be determined and committed to the process. Have people hold you accountable. Remain hopeful and positive. Celebrate the small victories along the way. Don’t let debt become your idol. It is hard enough without it consuming your life. If nothing else, at least know where your money is going and make a plan. It doesn’t have to be as radical as ours. Having a plan is better than living paycheck to paycheck.

What steps are you taking now to stay out of debt or to build wealth?

We are continuing to live within our means. We have stayed on a tight budget so that we can save money for a house. We have given ourselves more allowances than before. However, we still know where every dollar goes and we are saving for the future.

To learn more about Bryant and Emily’s story, you can find them blogging at The Adler Debt Project.

Note: This is part of a series called “Debt Success Stories” which features people who were able to pay off a significant amount of debt. If you have a Debt Success Story I would love to hear about it. Please visit the contact page to let me know the details.


5 responses to “How Two Teachers Paid off $92,000 in Debt”

  1. Marie says:

    Congratulations! $92K is a substantial sum of money to pay off in such a short amount of time. The options you’ve given yourself are fantastic, especially compared to all of the people out there who haven’t paid off their debts. Nice work.

  2. Felix Money says:

    Wow, congrats! It’s hard to pay off so much debt with teacher’s salaries. My spouse is student teaching right now, and getting a masters to hopefully be a full time teacher in the fall. It’s a shame what they pay teachers. But your example shows that it can be done! Great job!

  3. Brie says:

    There are 2 student loan forgiveness programs teachers qualify for.

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      While that is true, you still have to qualify for them and this couple decided to just pay back the money they borrowed, which I think is very admirable.

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