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My debt-free story-part 2


Welcome back!

Do you need to read Part 1 to catch up?

I thought we were supposed to have a Honeymoon!

Jeremy and I said ‘I do’ in 2008. The responsibility of being the only one working fell hard on my shoulders as Jeremy was focusing on school. I started setting up a budget, since that is the habit that I had been accustomed to doing…

Budgeting still carried the same feelings of stress and anxiety, but was now coupled with the uncertainty of a variable income and the weight of providing for my family.

I had $3,632 left on my car loan; Jeremy had $2,376 in school debt and $653 on a credit card giving us a total of $6,661 in debt. Within a couple of months we had almost $2,000 in car repairs and struggled through the summer, which is normally a slower period for interpreting.

The pressure of trying to take as many jobs as possible, being the only breadwinner and the one in charge of the budget (just trying to make it balance!) among other things was so intense that I did not know what to do and I felt like I was just barely surviving.  Welcome to life! No honeymoon period where we can just live off of love here (who does that anyways?).

As I write this account more than 6 years later, I feel the same knot in my stomach and tightness of my chest making it hard to breath. I will not ever put myself under that much money stress again if I can help it! 

Going to the grocery store was the worst! It would take me so long as I tried to get the best deal and always would end up spending more than I had intended, which made me so stressed about how I was going to pay for everything else. We fought quite a bit and I am sure that most of the arguments were caused by me being so stressed out about money.

I did know that I wanted to pay off Jeremy’s school loans by the time he graduated and I definitely did not want to take on any more debt in order to get him through school. Thankfully, for our newly-wed budget, Jeremy was able to attend the community college for the first few semesters.

Turning point

Roughly 6-9 months later, I was sitting at my computer desperate for anything that would help me save money (I had even started washing laundry with only cold water as a way to save a few pennies) and manage our finances better. I remembered that my dad had recommended that we should go through either Financial Peace or Crown Ministries together as a married couple.

I looked up Financial Peace, which is the financial class run by Dave Ramsey, and found out that Dave had a simple plan on how to get out of debt, common sense advice and a great sense of humor. All of those components definitely appealed to me and I realized that yes, it is possible to clean up our money mess.

Implementing the baby step plan gave me the structure, hope and motivation to intentionally clean up our debt much quicker then what we had been doing by simply paying the minimum payments. Dave’s website offered tips and tools on how to budget with an irregular income, the story of my life!

I stated to listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show and I read a couple of his books. I shared with Jeremy all of this new information and we were able to to set up a plan to start paying extra each month on our debt and be more specific about telling our money where to go.


Cash and extra payments

We transitioned to using only cash and the envelope system. This definitely helped a lot with buyer’s guilt and worry that I would not have enough money for other things as I could actually see how much money I had and knew when I needed to stop spending. Our communication improved and our money fights lessened as we worked together on a common goal.

My husband and I agreed about big picture of getting out of debt, the need to live on a budget, and to save more money. Having agreement in this area of finances certainly made the process so much easier and I am very thankful!

We cut back where we could, controlled our spending, stuck to a budget, said “No” to many things and I worked many extra hours.

These sacrifices allowed us to pay off everything we owed on March 17, 2010, just shy of two years into our marriage.

At first, it almost seemed surreal that we did not have any more debt. I especially noticed the lack of stress in my life as I went through the following summer. Work was still slower and money was tight, but I did not have to worry about payments anymore and there was such peace.

We paid off our debt, now what?

Since we have paid off all our debt and canceled our credit cards, we have continued to live on a budget. We are still renting, cash flowing Jeremy’s education, working on saving and able to bless others when there is a financial need to do so. The overwhelming stress has dissipated as well as most of our money fights.

I would not say that now I love budgeting, ha! Rather, I like knowing where my money is going and staying on top of our expenses which has allowed me to approach budgeting as a necessary thing to do, such as washing dishes, in order to accomplish a larger goal. The angst long associated with budgeting is now gone, however sometimes the balances still do not match!

I must give credit to God who has given me wisdom on how to manage the money that has been given to us, since it is all a gift from Him in the first place. He has provided all that we need through opportunities to sacrifice and work hard. God is the source of the peace that I now have with finances and budgeting. There is no way that I could have made it with out His help!

Living on a shoestring by choice

There have been plenty of times since paying off our debt that I have gotten sloppy with budgeting or cocky with being debt free, only to have something come up and knock me down requiring a couple of months to catch up again with our finances. Let me tell you, playing catch up is no fun either!

Though the last few years of being debt free, I have had opportunities to share my story and my mindset with friends and family. It has been an honor to be an encouragement to them and to be someone they look towards for financial advice.I finally realized that just because I do not have any payments, that does not mean that I can relax my budget or live lavishly at this point in time.

Instead, I now have an even greater responsibility to be diligent with my money, since people are now looking to me for financial answers. I do not claim to have everything all figured out yet, however I do have a passion to share what I have learned about getting rid of money stress and to tell others that it is possible for everyone to live on a budget and clean up their mess. There is one thing that I do know for sure, I will never go back into debt!

I know I need to keep my budget on a tight leash and be more diligent about saving for several large financial goals that we have while avoiding any unnecessary financial stress. Will I go into debt again? No thank you!  I have experienced enough stress in my life that I am willing to work hard at going down a different path so that I can keep the peace that comes from living on a shoestring by choice.

I would like to broaden my influence and come alongside more people providing encouragement and motivation to change their finances. If my story can give you hope and a reason to start taking charge of your money decisions, then that will be reason enough to share how and why I continue to live a frugal life on the other side of debt.

I will be honest with you, this way of life takes a ton of hard work, sacrifice and discipline, but I am here to show you that it is possible and so very worth it to take charge of your finances. I’d love to have you join me in living on shoestring by choice. Are you ready?

One easy way you can join me is to sign up for my newsletter. That way you will never miss a thing!

This post was shared at Simple Lives Thursdays, Thrifty Thursday, and Friday’s Blog Booster. 

About the Author

Hi! I'm Charissa. I was able to pay off all my debt, pay cash for my husband's education, and build up my savings-all because of using a budget. I love to share all the budgeting tips I've learned with you so you can have a successful budget too! Read more...

Holly Craw
2015-01-03 15:37:40
Living debt free is totally worth all the work and the sense of "deprivation" that is needed until you push past the corner of overwhelming debt and start to see the mountain getting smaller in front of you. I quit working just before my first child was born, and my husband's take home was $800 per month. With a house payment of $500, there wasn't much left for anything, and sometimes I even found a way to use birthday money to pay bills. (This was fine when it was my own, but NOT a good thing if I tapped into DH's cash!) Fortunately, for the most part, DH and I agreed on living frugally, but it is very stressful to know even then the outgo is more than the income. Thanks, Charissa, for sharing your heart and your experiences.
Charissa Q
2015-01-03 21:49:04
How on earth did you manage everything with just $300 left each month, Holly?? That is incredible! Uh, oh...using your DH's birthday money to pay a bill, that sounds like a good story.
2015-01-10 05:30:05
Thank you for sharing the way that God has blessed you to learn to be financially responsible. We are blessed by learning to live without all the wants in this world, and by making mistakes that we can learn from if we choose to! Thank you for sharing your good choices!
2015-01-10 18:59:16
Hi Ileah, thank you for your very kind words. You are right, there is blessing found when your life is not crowded with things that you want, but provide no satisfaction. I am seeing more and more how I can make do just fine with less, rather I prefer it.
Angi @ SchneiderPeeps
2015-01-27 19:36:21
I love the part about living on a shoestring by choice. It is a choice people make as pretty much anyone can chose to live beyond their means in our debt ridden culture. I'm excited to see what God has for you and your husband as you continue seeking him. Thanks for sharing at Simple Lives Thursday; hope to see you again this week.
2015-01-31 21:17:00
Hi Angi, Thank you! I am starting to see the tipping point in those around me where it is no longer ok to live beyond their means and realize that it is time to do something about it. I want to encourage others to live on less than they make to minimize financial stress in their lives.
2015-04-17 19:40:28
Welcome Mylien! That is great that you are thinking about living on a budget, you've come to the right place. One tip with talking to the other members of your family is to talk about the 'Why' you want to get on a budget. Share what your family could do if you had extra money saved. What would your life look like if your spending was in control? If you need some ideas on how to start up a budget, check out my <a href="" rel="nofollow">Budgeting page</a>. You can do it! Stop back any time and tell me how getting your family on a budget is going, ok?
2015-04-17 18:20:14
Wow your blog booster post appeared just before mine! Just finished taxes barely by the April 15th deadline and while I was entering in our deductions, I was thinking about the same thing- how to live on a budget. We are NOT living paycheck to paycheck, but we are spending WAY more than we should. On things we can't even see. Pray for my family, I hope to get everyone on the same page so that we can save more.
2015-04-18 05:48:54
That was powerful Charissa, God is our provider and our source of wisdom. You guys did an awesome job getting and staying out of debt. I trust that you can help others to reach for the same goals. Thanks so much. Kathleen Fridays Blog Booster Party
2015-04-18 16:10:06
God<strong> has</strong> provided all we have needed and I give Him credit for giving us the wisdom to remain debt free. I would be thrilled if He uses me in someone else's life to help them get out of debt. Thanks for stopping by!
2015-04-22 06:56:47
typo -- "..if you….ARE NOT in agreement…" :)
2015-04-22 06:55:34
You are so right about communication and agreement -- if you (i.e., both husband and wife) in agreement about what and how to spend/save, it is SO much harder to accomplish any financial goals. I feel we are closer to Mylien's situation than to yours, though I have been much more diligent in the past few months. I will be exploring your website for more tips -- thanks for the good information!
2015-04-22 14:47:51
Hi Wendy, welcome! You are right, it is difficult if you and your spouse are not on the same page regarding finances. Even though my husband and I share the same big picture regarding money, we don't always see eye to eye on the smaller things. I will write a post soon to address talking money with your spouse.
2015-06-23 01:03:28
Great advice! God is so good &amp; so faithful! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #HomeMattersParty. Hope you join us again next week! The door opens Friday EST.
2015-06-23 11:12:10
Thank you Kristi, yes He is so good and faithful. I have to wonder at the times I doubt.