I want to be raw and real with you for a minute. This particular post is going to give a lot of information into how we reached the point we are in today and how the past 9 years of marriage lead to this particular moment and this blog. Our debt free journey started the day we hit rock bottom with my husband’s career.
In 2008 my husband and I purchased our first house. Well, really my husband purchased the house. We were not yet married and only engaged for a few days when he signed the closing documents. At this point, the recession in Florida had already begun and we thought we were getting a steal for the house. However, we were in over our heads and just didn’t know it.
While we were both working full-time we were not bringing in large enough income to sustain our lifestyle. Buying a house and moving in together was really our first taste of freedom. It was the first time we both truly lived on our own and we were not equipped with the knowledge of budgets and bills. Each month we were going further into debt. We charged everything from gas and groceries to cruises and vacations. We truly believed we needed the credit cards to survive.
In May 2009 we were married and used the wedding money we received to fill our home with beautiful new furniture and enjoy our honeymoon. We honestly thought we were doing okay.
We were living the American Dream – a happy marriage, owned a house and even had a dog.
Then two months later my husband’s career finally took off. He was promoted to assistant manager for the corporation we both work for.
Our income exploded overnight.
If you know anything about the corporate culture you may be thinking — why would you do that?! We were young and saw a bright future with the company. We knew plenty of people who worked in management for this particular corporation and retired multi-millionaires.
This was our ticket to the good life. It was for a while. Until it wasn’t.
The hours were long and the days turned into weeks. I rarely saw my new husband and learned to deal with the demands of the corporate life. The job was the most important thing and they made you know that.
The promotion to assistant manager came with a hefty pay increase for our young family. You would think we would have started our debt free journey at this point. I even read The Total Money Makeover at this point and told my husband we could pay off the debt we had and even pay off our house. He didn’t see the vision.
Instead, we decided it was time to increase our lifestyle. We each had two weeks vacation each year so of course, we actually had to go on vacation. It was the way of life. We rarely stayed home. We were always out to eat, shopping or going on trips.
Here is the thing – This good life was just a facade
We were charging all too much of this lifestyle. We actually couldn’t afford it. At this point, we still didn’t know how to budget and we still didn’t know how to manage our money. There was more money in our bank accounts so naturally, we spent more.
Let’s fast forward a few years. The demand for corporate management started to become too much. It was taking a toll on our marriage and my husband was getting burnt out. However, at this point, we had already racked up over $50k in consumer debt and had no way out. He had to stay in his position even though he was miserable. We weren’t ready to face the debt and start our debt free journey.
This went on for a few more years until it all finally became too much. One conversation with our district manager regarding moving for more opportunities turned into heartbreak and the need to leave the corporate management scene. (I don’t want to get into too much detail because we both still work for the company!) We needed to find a balance in our marriage again and regain our happiness. It was all too much at this point.
If we were going to make this big decision and reduce our income by almost half we needed to make drastic changes. This was it. We had over $80k in consumer debt plus our home mortgage by this point. It was either sink or swim.
We had to figure out exactly how to get out of this mess we were in that we had become comfortable with. We paid our bills each month, we just weren’t making any headway with paying down the debt.
Finally, we owned our mistakes and began our debt free journey
In July 2015 we made the difficult decision for my husband to leave his corporate management position. He turned in his notice and two months later he was back into an hourly role working only 40 hours per week with a significant pay cut.
It was time to start our debt free journey. We dusted off YNAB (You Need A Budget) and signed up for Financial Peace University.
We put our travel trailer up for consignment at the local dealer and sold it within a weekend. Then we canceled storage for the trailer and began to breathe again. In one weekend we reduced our monthly payments by almost $500. It was a sigh of relief and gave us a bit more wiggle room to continue with our debt free journey.
We then began saving our starter emergency fund and paying down our credit card debt.
We were making headway but we knew we needed to do more in our debt free journey
In December 2016 we made the decision to sell my GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab. I miss that truck and still think about it! However, it reduced our monthly bills again by over $400. We bought a small SUV for cash to continue on our journey.
2017 was a whirlwind year for us. We were still in the same home from 2008 but the neighborhood was shifting. It was turning into more and more rentals and the quality of life was declining. A house fire in the neighborhood was the last straw for me and we made the hard decision to sell the home.
It was a hard decision because we were still in debt. We weren’t where we needed to be but the market had come back enough that we were finally had equity. We could profit from the home and move into a home that actually worked for us.
In June 2017 we purchased a larger home in a neighborhood we love. While a lot of people will not see this as a wise financial move it was the right move for us. It did delay our debt free journey but that is okay. We are in a much better place and this is where we want to be financially.
While we were not as intense in 2017 with our debt payoff we did make a number of big financial moves that set us up for the future including the move and getting one month ahead on our budget.
In 2018 we put our heads back down and started paying down debt again. We are still working toward financial freedom and my husband even took on a second job to help accelerate the process.
Our debt free journey is just the beginning of a brighter future
While our journey has been slower than others we have paid off over $50k in roughly three years bringing home less than the average household income for the USA. Yes, we net less than $60k yearly.
As I look back on the past 10 years and where we started as a young engaged couple I know that the decision for my husband to leave his corporate management position is really what put us on our debt free journey. We were comfortable before then even though we had numerous credit cards and loans. We were living what I thought was the American dream and we were happy.
I am here to share our struggles with you and share with you that is okay to get off track a bit as long as you have an end goal in mind. While I do discuss Dave Ramsey principles a bit on this blog I am not going to preach to you that is the only way to debt freedom. We are doing this journey on our own terms.
What was your rock bottom moment to propel you on your debt free journey?