The first step in our Livin’ Lightly Plan was to to get our finances in order. When we were in the planning stages we laid out specifics financial goals that would need to be met in order to move forward with our plan. (You can get the background story / plan here.)
Among these goals were:
- Finish Paying Off-Debts
- Fully Funded Emergency Fund
- Save to Cash-Flow Business Expenses
- Save to Purchase a Tow Vehicle for the Trailer
- Save to Complete Repairs on the Land Yacht
So basically we needed to knock out our debt so we could free up our income to fully fund our savings (emergency fund) then invest in our business and lifestyle transition (buy a big truck and remodel trailer). Easier said than done. To meet these goals we: trimmed the fat from our monthly expenses, gave every dollar a name with a barebones budget and implemented emotional synergy with the debt snowball. Before I touch on each of these tactics here is the debt we had accrued:
Breakdown of our Debt
Student Loans $12,500
Credit Cards $6,000
Car Loan $6,500
Considering the national average for student loans and consumer debt ($25K Student Loans, $15K Credit Cards & $20 Auto Loan) our totals were not all that bad. Shae was fortunate enough to graduate with her degree from a private college without any loans. Despite our totals, “not being too bad” we still had a mess to clean up that was keeping us from living the life we wanted. Here are the tactics we used to attack our debt:
Trim the Fat from our Expenses
- Cut Gym Memberships
- Adjust Tax Withholding’s
- Cut the Clothing Budget – Buy Second Hand
- Minimal Food Budget
- Stopped Eating Out
- Cut Gas Budget – Ride our Bikes
- Made Detergents, Deodorant & Shampoo from Scratch
- Every Dollar Counts!
Make Every Dollar Scream through a monthly Budget
- Get on the Same Page
- Intentionally Make a Monthly Plan
- Stick to the Plan
- Use a Cash Envelope System
Debt Snowball – Early Wins Make a Difference
- List Debts in order from smallest to largest (regardless of interest rate)
- Pay minimum payments on everything but the smallest ATTACK!
- Roll that minimum payment to the next one then – ATTACK!
- Sell Stuff / Extra Jobs
Our journey to debt freedom did not happen overnight…it took us our first 5 years of marriage to payoff all our debt. Our journey was almost a constant roller coaster of focused intensity mixed with brief spending detours. Detours included: Nick going back to school, business start-up expenses, that sailboat and mountain bike that were great deals, Nick’s trip to India, vehicles repairs, travel and medical expenses.
It wasn’t until we started thinking about starting a family that we got our act together and began making some serious traction. We made a simple graph that showed each debt, what we had paid and what we had left. We made a plan by plotting out our income, assets we could sell and time frames for each. Each month as we did our budget we got out the red pen and filled in our graph. Tax returns, extra jobs, selling random possessions on Craigslist – all went towards debt. It took about 6 intense months to complete our debt snowball.
So it took roughly 60 months to payoff $25K (average of roughly $400/month)
If only we could have maintained the same focus & drive from the start we could have paid off our debts in about 2-years instead of 5. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.
If you are reading this and working towards debt freedom – keep moving! Momentum = focused intensity over time. Keep making steady consistent progress. I have laid out a proven plan – get to work!
Would love to hear where you are in your journey with financial freedom…whether you are working towards freedom or have attained freedom we would love to hear your story! Comment below!