Have you ever asked yourself what normal is?
Lots of things are normal, right? I could write a long list of things that are normal and so could you!
But what about debt? Would that be on your list?
Well, when it comes to America, sadly, debt is normal!
I did a search on Google for “credit card debt” and this is what showed up:
What I discovered: In America, Debt = Normal
Are you ready to go beyond normal when it comes to debt?
If you do want to get debt free, READ ON:
The story of Holly and Greg Johnson’s journey to debt freedom could be yours as well!
We’ve included their action steps which anybody can take…including you!
Greg and Holly’s debt freedom journey started on a typical evening
Greg and Holly’s debt freedom journey started on a typical evening, but led to them paying off $60,000 in debt!
It wasn’t some dramatic crisis like the roof crashing in. There was no big tragedy, nothing unusual whatsoever, yet for Greg and Holly this one evening would change their lives forever.
It happened about 6 years ago, at a time after they had their first child and their second child was on the way.
They were going through some bills like all couples do.
Up to this point, Holly and Greg were like a lot of us in many ways.
They were living a more or less “normal” life, making the “normal” money choices so many of us make with the same kinds of results.
Making a nice income and absolutely going nowhere with it.
At that time, they both had decent paying jobs, yet something wasn’t right. There was the normal stress when unexpected things came up.
But that really wasn’t what frustrated them. The main issue for them was that they just weren’t getting ahead.
They worked. They paid bills. They worked some more, they paid more bills, but they never seemed to stop living paycheck to paycheck. They weren’t making a dent in their debt.
Holly describes it well: “We both made a decent living and we weren’t going anywhere. It was depressing, frustrating. When you have a good job, you think you should be getting ahead, and we couldn’t figure out why we weren’t.”
$60,000 in debt and no end in sight.
Their “normal” habits had given them around sixty thousand dollars in debt, comprising of 2 car loans, some student loans, and revolving credit card debts for home repairs.
Sadly, for many of us, this is normal.
Holly put it beautifully: “I know so many people who have been talking about saving for their children’s college education for ten years and now their kids are 3 years away from college and they have nothing saved up. Or people who complain about their car payment, but then they go and trade that car in for another one.”
Unfortunately for many of us, as Holly suggested, as our financial standards lower, it becomes normal to not have money for our kids’ future. It becomes normal to be a burden on them in our old age. It has become normal for us to settle for less.
For too many people, debt will be part of their lives until they die.
A lifetime of debt very well may have been the destiny of Greg and Holly except for an evening that changed their lives completely and put them on a new path.
Previous to the evening in question, they lived in the moment, never thought about retirement or what they really wanted for their lives.
They even had no idea how much they were spending month to month.
Finally! The evening evening that changed everything.
As they were going through some bills one evening they both had the same realization.
“Normal” was just not good enough any more.
Holly explained the conversation that got it all started: “We were like: ‘What are we doing? Let’s get this together. We don’t want to be poor. We want to retire. We don’t want to be a burden on our children. We want to have the money to help our kids with college. Take them on vacation. And do all these things and if we didn’t make changes, we weren’t going to be able to.”
They looked in the proverbial mirror and realized that nobody could do it for them. They had to do it themselves.
They begin taking action IMMEDIATELY.
After they got clear on why they absolutely had to make changes, it was time to roll up their sleeves and TAKE ACTION!
Thankfully, they didn’t do what so many of us do and put off for some imaginary “tomorrow.”
They got going right away.
First Action Step – Adding up the bills and comparing the total to monthly income.
The first thing they did was add up their bills. They had never done this before. Says Holly, “Before you start budgeting, you just pay the bills as they come in, but on this one evening we sat in front of our bills and added them all up.
We didn’t know how much our bills were together. We just knew what they were. So at one point we just wrote down what our bills were and what our monthly income was and and we were like ‘where is the rest of it going?’.”
Second Action Step – Tracking spending
“The next thing we did, which was the most important thing, was to keep track of our spending.”
When you are no longer spending over a thousand dollars on groceries, you can take $500 of that and allocate it to debt.
By tracking their spending Holly and Greg found lots of wasted money that could be going towards debt repayment without impacting their lives.
Third Action Step – Realizing where they were overspending and allocating that money to a debt using the debt snowball method.
“We just used a simple old snowball method of debt repayment.”
That was really all it took: Tracking our spending, realizing where we were overspending and allocating that money using the debt snowball method and then, all of a sudden, the debt is gone and all that money coming in is yours!”
Debt Freedom Key – Having a Partner on the Debt Freedom Adventure
Being together on a debt freedom journey helped a lot. It helped a lot that they were there for each other along the way. It is urgently important, when you want to get out of debt, to have people around you who are going through the same process.
Holly explains: “It helped to get out of debt together because we helped motivate one another. It’s just like working out – it’s harder to fall off the wagon if you have a partner. Going through the journey together gave us a reason to stay accountable.”
Accountability, motivation, sustained inspiration. These are the ingredients the Johnsons used to become debt free in only 2 years from that fateful evening!
Their Debt Free Life: The benefits go beyond the financial
The biggest financial change for the Johnsons was that all that money going to pay off debt could now go into savings and investments for the future they wanted to create. On top of the financial benefits, there were some other benefits as well.
1. Getting debt free strengthened an already strong relationship.
“Working together to become debt-free definitely brought us together. It gave us yet another joint goal, and once we started making progress, it helped us dream together, too. And since we went through it together, we were able to come out the other side with a new appreciation for money that we both share.”
2. Getting debt free opened the door to new possibilities.
“Three years ago I was able to quit my job and start working freelance as a writer full time. Being debt free enabled me to make the leap. If I was in debt, it would have been much harder for me. My husband quit his job and started his business this last year.
Being debt free allowed us to take some risks and live without as much money for a while. When we were in debt, we couldn’t afford to make these changes. Suddenly you are seeing possibility. I think a lot differently now. I didn’t think about retirement, or my goals. I was just living in the moment. Now I just think about all kinds of things because I have the means to do them.”
3. By getting debt free, they learned to value their time more
“We became a lot more aware about how valuable our time is here.”
4. They discovered how little actions make BIG differences.
“After a while, we realized how the little steps make a big difference. We didn’t know this when we started. The little things combined become everything.”
Now it’s your turn
What is your big why? Why do you want to get debt free? Imagine it is 10 years from now: What will you have missed out on if you continue making the same money choices you are making now? Please share in the comments below.
The author Alan Steinborn is Co-Founder of Destination Debt Freedom. Holly and Greg Johnson are the Co-Founders of Club Thrifty.