In Debt? This Is My Personal Story


This post may contain affiliate links. Please see Full Disclosure Policy for more information.
In Debt? Here’s My Story

in Debt

I normally don’t share personal details unless you are an intimate friend, but I’m sharing with you because if you are in debt, you can do this too. I know you can because we are! Month after month I had to use the next paycheck to pay for the current bills. We lived like so many others do. We see it, we want it, we charge it. Sound familiar?

January 2011

We were $90,000 in debt with credit cards and loans. As of February 2012 (13 months) we should have a remaining balance of $59,144 in debt; meaning, we will have paid off $30,856 in 13 months! In 2 years or less we are hoping to be completely debt free except for our mortgage. How are we doing it? Read on. Did we have hiccups? Yes. Will we have more along the way? Yes.

Getting Started if You’re In Debt

In November of 2010 we paid our last car payment of $727.00 a month. As much of a relief as that was, it only brought us from being in the red to barely being in the black. In December of 2010 I discovered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program by accident. A friend pulled her “wallet” out and it was Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. I asked her what it was and she shared her story with me. That night I ordered the Total Money Makeover  book on CD  and the Deluxe Envelope System (you can use regular envelopes). If you have listened to David at all, then Dave Ramsey will sound very familiar to you. He teaches using the same principles.

I listened to those CDs day and night, in my car, while working around the house, every time I could listen I did, over and over and over again. I hadn’t talked to my husband about it until I fully understood the program and how to apply it to our own situation.

DebtFacing Our Debt Head-On

The first week of January 2011 I sat down with EVERY bill that affected my home. Phone, electric, cable, homeowners ins., car ins., XM radio, golf, car, pet, food, gasoline; you name it, I went through it. I called companies to see if they had any promotions. In a matter of two days I saved our home almost $2000.00 a year, $167.00 a month extra cash and I was just beginning! I also took the previous 3 months of bank statements and made a spread sheet. You can easily do it on paper. I listed every single item on the bank statement for each month. Food went in the food column, gas in the gas column. You get the idea.

I now understand the program and I have a real grasp on what’s happening to our money so I talked to my husband. I showed him what I found and when he was done looking it over he was speechless at what he saw and immediately jumped on board since he understood how much we were in debt.

Making Changes to Our Monthly Bills
  • I shopped for homeowners and car insurance and was able to get the same coverage at a lower price.
  • I called the phone company and made a couple of changes to our home and cell packages.
  • I called Direct TV and made a couple of changes to our service, plus canceled service on 2 boxes we weren’t using.
  • I stopped shopping. Do I really need another shirt?
  • We have a minimum amount of money automatically transferred from checking to savings with each paycheck.
  • We use our debit card for everything that does not have an envelope even if it’s only $1.00 so we can monitor where our money goes.
  • I took all of our bills and separated them as equally per paycheck as possible to balance our available cash between paychecks. Including 1/2 of the mortgage per pay period.
  • I use a regular calendar and circle each payday. I then write the name of each bill due for that pay period on the circled day. Each payday I pay every one regardless if they are due that day or not……period.

The changes I made in no way effected our standard of living. We simply cut out the fat and now we have a well balanced workable budget we can stick to. Keep in mind that every time you reduce bills like your phone or utilities, you reduce taxes and fees too.

Creating an Emergency Fund

Next I hit the $1000.00 a month grocery bill and I got back into couponing. The beginning of  2011 I found The Coupon Wizards. Within a couple of months I went from $1000.00 to about $350.00 in groceries. I had a good head start but Wizard David took me that extra mile I needed to be as successful at it as I have become.

We now have an extra $817.00 in our monthly budget and we didn’t feel a thing.  At this point we are only about (3) months into it. Actually we have more than that because…

  • We run errands more efficiently saving gas.
  • I cook more, rarely eat out and we take our lunches.
  • We rent from the $1.00 box instead of Pay-Per-View or buying movies.
  • We canceled the gym membership and exercise at home.
  • We met Dave Ramsey’s goal of having $1000.00 in savings in just 6 weeks. In the beginning I put every extra dime I could into savings after paying bills. The first couple of paychecks I had to use some of it here and there until the system started running smoothly for us. Learning pains.
Creating a Debt Snowball

For many years experts told us to pay off the highest balance first or the highest interest first. I did the opposite. I paid off the lowest balance first, not paying attention to interest rates. I applied that money to the next bill and so on. I saw results faster, which fueled me on.

We hope to have paid off 3 cards in 13 months as well as paying the minimum on everything else. Pay off the bill with the lowest balance first unless  it is interest free or the interest can be written off on your taxes such as a home equity loan. Paying an extra $20.00 here and $20.00 there, or sending an extra $100 to your mortgage, will actually slow you way down. Focus on one bill at a time.

Bumps in the Road to Not Being in Debt

We replaced the engine in my husband’s Tahoe = $6200.00, he went home for his Mom’s surgery, we had a cancer scare with one of our dogs and paid $1000.00 for tests. Not to mention we had to put $3000.00 in my car as well. Some expenses had to go on a credit card, which set us back a little, but we paid cash for as much as we could.

No matter what your personal situation is, YOU CAN DO THIS! You just have to take the first step which is making the decision to get yourself debt free. If you have a spouse/partner, it is very important that you do this as a team. Discuss everything before spending any money that affects your finances outside of your existing budget.

2013 Update

We are still chipping away one dime at a time. As of August 2013 we are down to 1 credit card and one loan. Our goal is to have the card paid off by December 2013 and the loan paid off by May 2014. Don’t be your own worst enemy! No matter how frustrated we got or how tempted we were to spend money on things we didn’t need, we managed to stay focused on the end game of no longer being in debt.

The end game is us being debt free! ~Valerie

See More Inspirational Stories Here




Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! It is very encouraging for others to hear that.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article… It is encouraging to hear others are in the same situation and are coupling for the same reason we do. Manage your Budger was the first webinar that WE took with David and we have taken every other one he has offered. I saw WE because my husband is right beside me every step of the way with couponing! We weren’t in horrible debt, but I had received a new job unexpectiedly so we did not have a large down payment to put on a new home. We were renting before and bought a new foreclosured home- it was cheaper than older homes in the area. A lot that came out of savings and daily living was put on the credit card so we could put our full pay check towards our down payment. We also had a baby in October ’10 so of course there were a lot of cost and ‘we have to get this for him’ spendings. Before we knew it we had 20,000 on credit card and we were trying to finish out our basement in the new house. So we stepped back from finishing the basement to get our debt under control. The biggest thing that we realized during the webinar was how using coupons could really help us cut our debt. Cutting back on the grocery bills, the eating out, wanting a Starbucks every time we walked into Target, etc. would help us get our debt under control. You think it is only 5.00, but it adds up to a lot of fat. My biggest fear is what you see on Extreme Couponing, buying a lot of dry goods and not shopping the perimeter of the store for things that would really feed your family. Couponing can and will help you decrease and eliminate your debt, but as all things you must have self control or you will be ‘one of them’.

  3. Emma Pfanner says

    I think many more people carry credit card debt than don’t. I am in the same boat – but since I started couponing 2 years ago and taking David’s free webinars (including the budget one) I have been able to reduce our debt by over $20K, manage to keep $1000 in our emergency fund and still have spending money for fun on MY terms. The last few months were tough on us – we needed to buy tires for 2 cars, replace a truck battery, replace the brakes, rotors and bearings on 1 car, replace our furniture, replace a windshield and are now dealing with a breach in our basement waterproofing! We are still above water (no pun intended) and paying extra down on our cards. I have paid off 2 of them and will have the 3rd one paid off in 5 months. What a fabulous feeling of freedom….and I owe it all to David’s guidance! Thanks David!!!

  4. Did this debt include student loans? That seems to be the bulk of our debt and I have been trying to get a hold of lowering them quickly. This is the hardest part for me. I knocked out our credit card debt super fast years ago and the mortgage is moving along as well as a mortgage can move, but I feel like the students loans will be paid off just in time for our son to go to college. Any advice on that would be great!

    • Valerie Amoroso says

      Hi Eileen,
      Our debt is all credit cards and a home equity loan. Snowballing any type of debt works the same. Just keep paying as much as you can one bill at a time and you’ll get there!

  5. Thanks for sharing but what do you do when almost all of your income is spent on debt and you have even more debt you can not pay at the moment that is accruing interest? I have turned off the DirectTV, and all the “little things” like eating out, and kids’ extracurricular sports, etc., but we are still treading water every month because we have car payment, house payment, lot rent, utilities, school tuition, credit card debt, and student loans. Also we have a broken front door, roof leak, and home repairs that need to be made.

    The only stores that take coupons we have in town are Walmart and Kroger, and since I don’t ever buy brand name items or have storage available for stock piling, coupons do not save me money as I can get generic for the same price or cheaper than a name brand with a coupon.

    • JC, I know how it is with home repairs–we had a micro-burst (which is not quite a tornado) drop a tree through our kitchen roof in July & Hurricane Irene dropped a tree, just 5 weeks later, on the other side of our house. I quite literally just paid the final bill for repairs this morning (thank God for insurance, even though it’s taken nearly 6 months!) but we still had to pay our deductible 2x, plus emergency tarps, and then our furnace broke. By learning to do a lot of home repairs ourselves and/or having friends & relatives who know, we have saved huge amounts over the years. While I can’t help with the rest, I DO have a suggestion for the leaking roof. If you know where the leak is coming from, go to Home Depot or a hardware store and get a gallon of Gardner Asphalt Corporation’s Wet/Dry Premium Roof Cement. (I copied it straight from the can.) All you need is a spatula to apply it. We used it several years ago & 1 application stopped the leak permanently (well, except for the tree crashing through it!) Also, you can negotiate a zero-interest repayment plan with some credit card companies (I have done this with 3 over the years.) Don’t give up! You will make it! And a tip for Wal-Mart I learned from a friend who works there: if you hae a BOGO coupon, company policy is to give you he maximum value listed on the coupon (but most cashiers don’t know this so you have to point it out to them.) 2 weeks ago, I got 5-4 packs of batteries and 15 boxes of tissues for only $3.08 (stack those coupons!)!

  6. I love reading these success stories!! It is so funny every time I hear about the ‘envelope’ system (had never heard of Dave Ramsey if he was even doing that back then) as I started doing that when I got divorced at 21 with a 1 year old child and had to start making sure every single penny was counted and accounted for. At 51, I still use the envelope system. Over 23 years in banking is probably the only thing that kept me on the straight and narrow on credit cards. Seeing people having to get mortgages to pay off high credit cards helped me to know I wasn’t going to live that way. So I’ve been frugal forever. Or so I thought until I found the Coupon Wizards back in January of 2011. Funny now how excited I would get to get things on sale and a coupon here or there… I’ve always kept a ‘budget book’ and every expenditure is written down for that paycheck (bills, insurance, Christmas, vacations, birthdays, savings, allowances, etc). Whatever is left is written on the budget sheet for that check and every single item we may get is subtracted and from what store to keep track… Once that money is gone, it’s gone………no getting into anything else. I do keep a higher emergency balance than $1,000 it’s just my personal comfort. I love seeing how many of us have learned to save more in this last year all by ‘finding’ Coupon Wizards 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*

92d3fe425d250a07f0690e7b9446fd75d36d34df8c1539a41f 92d3fe425d250a07f0690e7b9446fd75d36d34df8c1539a41f