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How my husband and I paid off $62,604 in 26 months

Photo credit: Aaron Ottis Photography

Growing up, my parents were pretty diligent about teaching my sisters and I about money - how to save up for something we really wanted, how to balance a checkbook and pay bills. So it was no surprise to me that when Bryce and I got engaged, my parents wanted to have a conversation with the two of us - it was a bit of a surprise to Bryce, however. As a gift to us, they were sending us to a nine week course called “Financial Peace University” created by Dave Ramsey. They asked that we take the course as a sort of pre-marital counseling. I left the meeting with my parents feeling excited and ready to get started - Bryce was a little unsure. Mostly because his take-away was “if you don’t take this class, you can’t marry my daughter.”

We signed up for a local class, here in Columbia, and after the first session, Bryce was hooked.

Our initial evaluation of our financial situation looked like this: We each had a credit card, but thankfully no credit card debt and both of our cars were paid for (yay!) I had $8,000 in the bank that I had saved since graduating college (and was pretty proud of it!) and Bryce had less than $1,000 in his bank account and over $50,000 in student loans (booo!) It’s something I was aware of, even before we were engaged, but now I saw it in a new light. Getting married meant his debt was now our debt. My money was now our money. I’m not going to lie - this was hard for me to accept at first, but it was a crucial first step in our debt free journey as a couple.

We finished the nine week course and were off and running…although sometimes it felt like we were trudging through mud. Getting out of debt is not a quick fix. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline, day after day, and there were so many opportunities to fall off the horse! When one of us felt down and defeated, the other was strong and optimistic and reminded the other why we were doing this - for our future family.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

-Hebrews 12:11

Each month we made a budget, together, and threw as much money at our debt as possible - usually around $2-3,000 which came out to be between 50-60% of our monthly income. Still today, we look back and think “That’s crazy! How did we do that?” We had to say no to a lot of things like going out to eat, going out with friends and we didn’t get to travel or vacation. We had to postpone things that we really wanted to do, and what everyone else our age seemed to be doing, like adopting a dog, buying a new car, buying a house and starting a family. We used cash for many things like groceries and clothing where we had a history of overspending. We worked extra jobs when we could: dog sitting, baby sitting, printing t-shirts and freelance graphic design projects.

We kept a white board in our office that had two numbers on it: one was the amount we owed and the other was the amount we had paid so far. This was very motivational to us as a visual reminder of what we were trying to accomplish. It was really exciting to see the numbers grow closer and closer together until we had paid as much as we owed, and then finally, over the hill, when we had paid more than we still owed.

Flash forward to May 2016, after 26 months of hard work, we had finally reached our goal. We had paid off $62,604.02 and we were officially debt free! And let me tell you - it felt AMAZING! We scheduled our debt free scream at the Dave Ramsey studio in Nashville - click here to see our interview with Dave!

Bryce and I with my parents on the Dave Ramsey Show

Bryce and I got to do our Debt Free Scream on live radio and meet Dave Ramsey at his studio is Nashville. My parents, Paul and Cindy went with us because they were the reason we started this journey.

But our work was not done. While that was an impressive accomplishment, the reality was that our bank account said we only had $1,000 - not so impressive. We had used the $8,000 I had before we got married to go towards the debt and our honeymoon. We were on to the next goal: to save 3-6 months worth of expenses as an emergency fund - learn more about Dave Ramsey’s baby steps here.

It took us about 6 months to save $10,000 for an emergency fund - a slightly slower pace than when we were getting out of debt as we took some time to celebrate our hard work with regular date nights, a family vacation and moved out of our apartment to a great rental house. I left my full time corporate graphic design job the summer of 2016 to take on my dream of freelancing full time from home. We adopted our dog, Nyla and found out we were pregnant in February of 2017. God was blessing us in so many ways and I full heartedly believe it was because of our debt free journey.

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

- Proverbs 28:20

Today, we are happily and comfortably living on one and a half incomes (I only work part time since we had our son, Owen). Being a stay-at-home mom has always been my dream. Don’t get me wrong, the creative work I do as a freelancer and owning my own business is something I’ve always wanted to do too but being a mom is what feeds my soul.

Our current goal is saving up to buy a house! We are working on a juicy down payment because we will have to jump through a few extra hoops in order to take out a mortgage as we no longer use credit cards. Stay tuned for how that process pans out…

While we still budget every month, it’s not always perfect. Our current weaknesses are ordering groceries online (which I’m telling you was a Godsend in the first few months with a new baby!) We definitely spend more online than when we use cash in the store so we are trying to figure out what will work best for our growing family. Right now, it’s online groceries and we are ok with that. We also eat out more since Owen has been born because there are just some days that I don’t feel like cooking! But being out of debt means we can allow ourselves a little bit of wiggle room which to me is what financial freedom is all about.

It’s true that we are making less money than when I worked full time, but we are both doing more of the things that we love and still working towards our financial goals.

This journey has made us stronger as a couple and made us feel like we can take on anything, if we do it together.

xoxo Sara

sara + kate
we're just a couple of goofy gemini sisters who love paper, parties and personality tests.
here you can read our story about design and photography, our best wedding planning tips and the occasional family-favorite recipe along with lots of free stuff to make your life a little more beautiful!
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