What We Did Right When We Went $238,000 In Debt

What We Did Right When We Went $238,000 In Debt

I talk a lot about all the things Brad and I did wrong prior to reading Dave Ramsey and Crystal Paine in 2010, but I don’t talk a lot about all of the things we were doing right during those first four years of our marriage.  Despite the fact that we entered our first year of marriage with $70,000 in student loan debt, a new house (with two mortgages) worth $150,000, and a used car loan for $18,000, we were doing a lot of things right.  Now, once you’ve finished laughing at that statement, you can read on!

  • I paid off my car one month before we got married, only two years after I purchased it for $13,000.
  • Brad’s parents covered his first four years of college, and my parents covered a significant portion of my Bachelor’s degree.
  • Brad and I applied for and received a lot of scholarships and financial aid throughout college.
  • I lived with my parents for the 2 1/2 years between college and marriage.  Although I had a long commute, I saved significantly on housing costs.  Brad also lived with his parents for a year, and then for a few more months right before our marriage.  During the summers between semesters in China, we lived with our parents and worked as lifeguards at a summer camp.
  • Brad often supplemented his income with acting at a local dinner theater, coaching soccer, tutoring math students, lifeguarding, and buying and selling items on eBay and Amazon.
  • When Brad and I got married at the end of 2005, we qualified for a house that cost twice as much ($300,000) as the one we bought ($150,000).  We opted to buy a house that we could afford on one income so that if I became pregnant, I could stay home with our kids.
  • Since we only needed one income to support ourselves, for the the first 1 1/2 years of our marriage we put the entirety of our second income into paying for my Master’s degree up front each month, incurring no interest.
  • When we couldn’t sell our house in 2007 for anywhere near what we paid for it, we rented it out.  We’ve been renting it out to the same renters ever since.
  • When we received tax refunds, we used them to pay our mortgage ahead by a month, and then by two months.  This was very helpful in 2010 when we suddenly found ourselves unemployed.
  • While we were in China, we used our tax refunds to pay our loans out a year in advance.  We still incurred interest using this method, but it gave us a year of relief from that debt.
  • We always paid our bills on time, and we never carried a balance on our credit cards.  We paid up front for everything, from large purchases to vacations.
  • We communicated openly with one another and others about our financial situation.  We were always seeking input and sharing with others what we were doing to pay off our debts.
  • From the time we got married, we lived frugally, cooked from scratch, meal-planned, declined cable TV, and set aside as much money as we could to cover our debts.  When Brad wanted to buy a treadmill, he sold his CD collection to pay for it.  I have packed my lunches since I was in the third grade, and we’ve always packed our own food when we travel.  I shopped for household items at Goodwill and yard sales, and often used gift cards for purchases.
  • The $18,000 pick-up truck we bought has been a very reliable vehicle for us.  We’ve had it almost 8 years, and it has only rarely needed maintenance.  I owned 3 different cars prior to our truck, and it’s been the most reliable of the four.
  • We have always chosen to live close to work, saving on fuel expenses.
  • I had a purebred Shetland Sheepdog for 15 years who passed away just after we left for China.  Although I love animals and grew up in a house full of animals, we’ve held off on getting any more pets since then.  Pets (especially large pets) can be very expensive.

Starting off our new marriage by going deeply into debt was not wise, but year after year we have chosen to tackle our debts head-on.  Although it may seem like we have paid off a lot of debt in the last four years, we began with a strong foundation of frugality, hard work, saving, and team work.  Our parents also gave us a great foundation on which to build a debt-free life.  In hindsight we can easily see the mistakes of the past, but it is also good to remember our successes along the way.

Now it’s your turn to brag!  What did you do right when you found yourself in debt?  What choices do you look back on with relief and gratitude?

 (Today I am linking up with Thrifty Thursday…I mean Friday!)

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8 Responses to “What We Did Right When We Went $238,000 In Debt”

  1. Yolanda says:

    Hi Jessica,

    The title of this post had me do a double take! You’re right even in the midst of bad decisions there can be some good ones that can be highlighted, too. Here are some of our good decisions:

    (1)We asked God for wisdom on how to get out debt. We could not do this without His guidance.

    (2)We stopped spending money that we didn’t have and learned to use cash.

    (3)God blessed me with a PART-TIME job with very flexible hours at my church (90% work hours were from home).Income from my p/t job went directly to pay off consumer debt/personal loans and to build up an emergency fund.

    It took 3 years to pay off $35k of debt but it was so worth it to have peace of mind. During these years, we learned how to use a budget and live within our means. Once the debt was paid off I was able to quit my part-time job and focus on being a stay-at-home mom.

  2. Karilyn says:

    You do a lot of things right! You’ve got the heart of a lion in you as you listen to God, mother those little ones, and live out life the best you know how. I’m so glad you all are reaching the finish line with paying off that debt. You’re gonna sigh such a great sigh of relief. 🙂


  3. Jerusha says:

    I am encouraged by your blog because we are going through something similar. We are working towards paying off debt and have definitely made some mistakes over the years. We wish we had cared about it sooner, but at least we are doing something about it now! There’s no sense in beating yourself up about these things – the most important thing is to move forward, and do what you can. 🙂

  4. […] almost 8 1/2 years of marriage, it is so satisfying to see the end of our student loans in sight!  We began our marriage with $238,000 in debt ($70,000 in 3 student loans, $150,000 in 2 mortgages, and an $18,000 used […]

  5. […] bought a house with two mortgages for $150,000 and a used truck for $18,000, for a grand total of $238,000 in debt.  We learned about Dave Ramsey‘s methods in early 2010, and began snowballing our debts.  […]

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