We Were Tired of Being Broke So We Paid Off $52K in 7 Months

By Chris Peach   Updated 07/20/2022 at 2:15 pm

You know that feeling when your wife calls you at work and tells you she can’t buy groceries because there wasn’t any money left in the account?

It’s hard to believe this was our reality in the Spring of 2011. We were living paycheck to paycheck and only one major expense away from an absolute financial disaster. The worst part was we were too stupid to even realize how bad it had become because we were normal.

Normal is driving around luxury cars with 6 year notes, taking trips to the Caribbean on Visa’s dime, wearing fancy jewelry that we financed, and letting the world know how well we were doing.

We would spend three hours researching the best flat screen television to buy, and about seven minutes a year to decide on our investment strategy for our pathetic retirement goals. We were running on the treadmill, and every year the treadmill got faster and faster.

Then one day we couldn’t keep up anymore and we finally had that “Oh, $h!t moment”. We couldn’t buy groceries because we were broke. Who could have seen this coming?

I’ll never forget the embarrassment I felt inside because I knew we were doomed. I knew that we both had good jobs and we still couldn’t even pay for ourselves. How pathetic, right? That feeling of shame, embarrassment, and overall fear of the future caused something radical to happen.

The next few months would be a defining point in our marriage, for our life, and for our legacy. It started the day Andrea and I got on the same page with money together. One thing we agreed on with our money…we were tired of being broke.

First Things First: We Needed to Create an Actual Plan for Our Money.

The Budget

I happened to be pretty good with Excel, so I created our very own budget spreadsheet. It was the first thing we did to start winning with money, and it’s the first thing I still tell people they need to do with their money.

Creating that first budget made both our stomachs ache because it was when we first realized where all of our money had been going. We were one of the main streams of income for Target and Home Depot, because we literally paid the salaries for one employee at each store we visited.

The budget also allowed us to see it wasn’t her fault or my fault. It was our fault. We were doing dumb together and now we could actually see it.

If you think stepping on the scale for the first time in a decade is eye-opening, wait until you set up your first budget. However, looking back the budget was, and still is, the number one reason how we became debt free, how we remained debt free, and how we are now able to build wealth.

$1,000 Cash. Fast.

We were so used to spending $1.50 for every dollar that came in, that we never really had any kind of savings. Hmmmm, maybe that’s why we were broke!

We decided to squeeze everything we could out of our budget, sold most of of our crap on eBay, and hit $1,000 within 2 weeks. This was a huge deal for us because we were doing different things with our money. I remember thinking, “Holy crap, this might actually work!”

Credit Cards Meet Their Maker

Once we had that cash saved up, I opened up my wallet and threw 3 of them on the table, and my wife opened up her purse and threw 9 of them out there! Yeah, 9 of them.

We got out a giant pair of black scissors, and cut all the cards into tiny little shards all over our kitchen table. I remember thinking to myself that we were actually going to do this. I mean, it would take way too long to glue everything back together, right?

This was a turning point for us because we were not only talking the talk, but those scissors were causing us to walk the walk. That was in April 2011 and we haven’t carried a credit card since. Believe it or not, we now take vacations, rent cars, and buy stuff online…all with a debit card.

Note: You will be told over and over again that debit cards just aren’t safe. However, Visa and MasterCard both offer zero liability to anyone who has fraudulent charges on both credit and debit cards. They’re safe, it’s there in writing, and we continue to sell ourselves on the belief that debit cards aren’t safe. It’s another debt myth.

Once we had a little cash saved up and no longer had the ability to go further into credit card debt, something happened that would change our lives forever.

Here is the rest of our story:

We Went From Feeling Tired of Being Broke and Living Paycheck to Paycheck to Paying Off $52k in 7 Months

We created a form called the Debt Snowball that we had learned listening to Dave Ramsey.

The debt snowball focuses on your behavior with money and ignores the interest rates. What?! Ignore the interest rates? I felt the exact same way, but then my wife reminded me: (our way wasn’t working…in fact our way of handling money sucked).

So we decided to set up the debt snowball by listing our debts from smallest to largest owed, ignoring interest rates, paying minimum on everything, and attacking the smallest one with pure aggression! It looked something like this:

$500 Credit Card Balance (Debt #1)
$1,500 Credit Card Balance (Debt #2)
$5,000 Credit Card Balance (Debt #3)
$15,000 Student Loan (Debt #4)
$30,000 Car Loan (Debt #5)

We knocked out those first two debts really quick and closed out the accounts. It was two huge wins for us and we were feeling on fire. Then we got to the larger credit card and the speed wasn’t there.

We wanted this debt gone ASAP, so we decided to take our lives down to bare bones. We called it “scorched earth”.

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It went like this:

We called our friends and cancelled any and all upcoming vacations we had planned. You guessed it, we officially became the topic of conversation among the crowd we hung around because we were now officially weirdos.

It hurt a little bit to hear our names get trashed by people we called friends, but we were on a mission (and they would get over it).

We then started Ad Matching at Wal Mart. This allowed us to take our $1,000 a month grocery bill down to $550. It was HARD, but we didn’t care. We wanted our freedom back.

I started working massive amounts of overtime. It was tough to be away from my wife and my 10 month old baby boy, but I wanted him to grow up in a debt free household. It was exhausting at times, but so was being in debt.

I started a pool cleaning business in my neighborhood. To get it going, I went online and found out where all the pools were in my neighborhood. I made some simple business cards and went door-to-door. My wife would actually drive me to the house and I would hop out of the car, run up, and ring the doorbell. You can only imagine what our friends were really thinking of us now!

Meanwhile, about 1 out of 10 doorbell rings would equal a “Yes” and I started generating an extra $1,000 cleaning pools. I hated every second of it, but in the end it was worth it.

Then it happened.

In November 2011 we finally made the last payment on our car. It was to Bank of America. We hopped in the car we were paying off and drove up to the local branch. I remember both of us were giggling like two little school girls when the teller asked how she could help us. We got out our checkbook and wrote out that last payment right there on the spot.

As we handed the check over to the teller, we both literally felt the weight of the world lift right off us. The shame we once had was gone. The laughs and jeers from our friends were now all worth it. The look on our parent’s faces when we told them we were debt free was priceless. Cleaning pools in the 117°F Phoenix summer was now justified and it was officially time to shut down the business!

It was the next best feeling my wife and I have had together after the birth of our two kids. We were debt free. We finally had our lives back!

If a couple of financial idiots can turn their lives around, then I promise you can also. It’s not easy and you’re going to be made fun of. Your friends and family are going to think you’re nuts, and you may even agree with them at times. In the end, it’s worth it. I promise.

There are really only two choices with debt:

  1. Live in Debt and make Payments for the Rest of Your Life
  2. Get Out of Debt and Simply Live

The best part, you get to choose.

Chris and his wife are living proof that money problems and money success stories are based on your behavior with money. Be sure to check out more of what he has to say at MoneyPeach.com. And don’t forget to sign up for your Debt Mindset Reset.

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We were tired of being broke so we paid off $52K in 7 months

141 thoughts on “We Were Tired of Being Broke So We Paid Off $52K in 7 Months

    1. I look back and cringe just thinking about having all those cards. Boy, we were once pretty stupid with money! Having a testimony is a powerful thing….getting a testimony, now that’s the “fun” part :)

      1. God always help to these people which is honest, sincere and hard worker. It’s lesson for us that we can do everything if we are sincere about your goal.

      2. I feel so frustrated because my husband and I are both in human services and don’t have big salaries. Our only debts are one car (one is paid off), my student loans, and our mortgage. We spend around $500/month on groceries, toiletries, household items, and have not gone out to eat in 7 months. Not even a quick coffee run! But I just feel like we’re not getting anywhere financially.

      3. Congrats on having a paid off car and on not going out to eat! I get feeling frustrated. What I found helpful was to focus on small wins as much as possible. And maybe you’ve made more progress than you think? But really with things the way they are right now for so many people even just treading water is a success.

    2. I have over 10 credit cards… half are zero percent interest, some get the monthly card usage paid (so no interest) and some don’t get used. If you’re SMART with credit, it can work as a HUGE advantage and help. Yes, in the interest is the killer…. so be smart and good with credit and you never have to pay interest. I support a family of 3 have 6 cars, best part is I haven’t even worked all year and I just got my driveway done with a bluestone walkway.

      Credit cards have been helping me achieve my goals for over 10 years. If you’re smart with credit and managing money it’s a great tool. Credit isn’t the problem, it’s how you manage you money. Be smart.

    1. What about your mortgage and rent because thats not free for my wife and I. Its our largest debt by far.

  1. It’s amazing how caught up we can get sometimes in what others think of us and our situations. For the longest I would sort of revel in the fact that folks thought we were the “Joneses” and I didn’t even bother correcting them. I knew we were far from ever being a Jones so and so, but we were able to live comfortably because we always kept a budget.

    Little did they know about that mountain of student loan debt that is piling up. One thing that will be worth it is when I inform them all that we finished paying off the debt so we can continue to live like the “Joneses”, lol.

    Thanks for sharing your story, it truly is an inspiring one!

    1. Hi Latoya!
      The pain and sacrifice you put yourself through to win is worth it all in the end. When I was writing this article, I started reliving some of those same feelings. The reaction on our family’s face when we said “Yup, we paid off EVERYTHING but the house” was priceless. What I left out of the article was the same people who thought we were complete yay-hoos for living on a budget and saying no to fun (for a little while) were also the same ones who asked for help a year later. Be gracious to your critics, it will feel better later on when you’re able to help them out too :) Thanks for reading!

  2. And this is awesome! However, our life doesn’t work that way. Hubby is Active Duty Army and already works massive “overtime” – lol in the military it doesn’t get you extra pay. I have been trying to do extra online transcription as well, we homeschool and I’m not putting our son in public school to pay off debt, as it would come with a much higher cost for us. …. Not trying to be a downer just a reminder that not everyone works “normal” jobs and for most people it takes a lot longer to dig out of that hole.

    1. Hi Holly!

      You’re exactly right – everyone is in a different situation and different families will have different amounts of debt, different types of debt, different incomes, and different circumstances all together. What you need to tell yourself is EVERYONE has a story and debt doesn’t care what your situation is. You get to decide what you’re going to sacrifice, and how much of your life you’re going to put on hold so you can clean the debt mess up. You get to choose, so choose wisely :)

      1. I was thinking the same thing, we are military also. Only time they get paid more I’d to deploy. My husband has been gone to many times already

      2. I was active duty for 21 years and where there’s a will, there’s a way. It won’t be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

    1. Hi Aliciah,
      The good news about being single is you only have to control your own budget and the bad thing about being single is you only have to control your budget! Since you’re not going to be living with that “annoying” accountability partner, you are going to have to be disciplined – even when your friends are making fun of you. Just know this: if you find people are making fun of you, then you’re on the right track!

  3. It’s all well and good, but try being a single parent who makes half of what you owed and is chronically ill. If I had a husband and made $100,000 it would be easy to pay everything off. JS

    1. Even more reason for u to follow the suggestions above. Everyone has different financial situations, but I think the key here is taking responsibility regardless of our personal circumstances.

    2. Hi Amy!

      You make a great point – it’s a lot easier to pay off $52k when you have a dual income and someone to help out with the kids, family, etc. I have done financial coaching for many single moms and you ladies are unbelievablely tough.
      With that said, I did work with a single mom who had over $250k in student loans, credit cards, & a car loan. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. She also made $200k a year and believe it or not was still paycheck to paycheck and $200 in her checking acct. Often times you think, “If I only made more money….” 99% of the time, debt is a result of a behavior problem with money – not an income problem. Thanks for reading and the comment :)

    3. My hubby and I make $155k and still have $60k in debt. ..sometimes the more you make, the more you spend. ..

  4. So I am just curious, it seems like if you were price matching at WalMart – things were tough. But did you have a safety net in some sort of savings in case of an emergency so you wouldn’t have to resort to a credit card?

    1. They said they saved $1k before they cut their cards up. They were following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps method. The first step is to save $1K. You do this as fast as you can and then you cut up your cards. It’s all on Dave Ramsey’s website. I used to teach his courses.

    2. Hi Kate!

      Great question and Yes, you should set aside $1k -$2k for emergencies before paying down Debt. If you skip this step, you’ll be end up going right back into debt when the hot water heater goes out on you :(

  5. I don’t understand the negative comments on this article. Nowhere does the poster state that his family’s experience will be the exact same for every other person in the world. It’s a remarkable story for him regardless of anyone else’s personal experience. With that being said, my husband is active duty in the military and we are in the process of paying off around $45,000 in a year. We are simply doing what works for us and we’re happy with that. But we will definitely be happier when we have no debt!

    1. Thanks Charisma!

      I understand the negativity around paying off debt because when talking about debt, it causes a lot of emotions to stir up. I appreciate you sticking up for us! Congrats on kicking your debt to the curb as well and thank you to you and your husband for serving our country :)

      1. Yes, of course, it causes emotions to be stirred up, just not necessarily for the reasons you think. Because of our Puritan heritage, Americans tend to judge the poor as being lazy. We make value judgments on debt. And, honestly, I can understand why people do that if they’re so sheltered that the only people they know who are in debt are in debt due to purchasing fancy jewelry, clothing, and cars.

        It’s actually very expensive to be poor. I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of people who don’t have $1,000 worth of “extra” stuff lying around that they can sell. $52,000 is more than double what I make in a year. I’m lucky compared to most people bc I have the luxury of being able to live with my parents who do pretty well. Many people don’t have that luxury.

        Then, you get into things like the just-in-time workforce where people who want to work either full time or work a second job are unable to do so bc they are required to be available to work at their minimum-wage job.

        There are the unbanked who can’t actually afford a bank account due to fees.

        There are people who have medical bankruptcies, the leading cause of bankruptcy. That $1,000 extra you have put aside won’t pay for the cancer drug that can cost over ten thousand a month.

        This stuff makes me mad. When I made enough money, I actually had three months expenses in savings and no credit card debt because I didn’t spend money on things like fancy jewelry and cars. Ugh, this just makes me so annoyed.

        Just got some medical stuff under control, and I’m looking for a better job. It will be easier for me because I have skills and education that will make that easier, and I’ll get out of debt and back on my feet again. Other people aren’t so lucky. (And it is luck. They work plenty hard.)

      2. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. There are a lot of reasons that people are in debt, and a lot of reasons emotions can get stirred up relating to debt and money.

        Chris was just relating his particular story, not talking about people who are poor. There’s a big difference between being broke as Chris describes it (due to overspending) vs. being poor as it happens with generational poverty (which is a systemic problem that can be very hard to understand) and vs. temporarily living below the poverty level (which happened to me for a few years.)

        There are a lot of people in all 3 situations, so I’m hopeful that this post at least helps the folks who are in situations similar to Chris. I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to get a future story from someone who’s experienced generational poverty and overcame it.

    1. Own, but renting is a GREAT idea when you’re paying off debt. However, rent as affordable as possible and throw everything you can at your debt!

    1. That’s a really good question. When we paid off our last debt, I didn’t want to clean a pool ever again. I looked into selling it, and to my surprise, not too many people were interested (no one at all actually). I figured I could keep cleaning them until I found a buyer, or just move on and get back to life without the pool biz. I chose to get back to living.

  6. My dad once told me when I was in my 20 s lamenting over financial debt… that everyone has there share of challenges…I had 1000dollar issues he had 10 000 dollar issue… it does not matter how much you don’t make rather what you do…take personal responsibility people You got yourself into debt figure out how to get out! I am sure pool work sucked in az heat and may have been “below” the image they were trying to live… but live for who? Image doesnt amount to anything when you can’t sleep at night worrying about bills! I applaud anyone who steps up and accepts responsibility for where they are at and adapts a whatever I can do attitude! Great job!!!

    1. Hi Carol!!

      Thanks for the nice words. Looking back on it, I really didn’t like cleaning pools in the 115°F heat. It did teach one thing though – to despise debt. Working in that heat in my own neighborhood brought a lot of humility into my world as well. Knowing that every penny I made was going to pay for suff we borrowed years ago just plain sucked – but learning the hard way is often the best lesson in life :)

    2. Agreed! And as far as living to look like the “Jonses”, will the Jonses turn your heat back on or pay your mortgage when you can’t, from living outside of your means?! Nope! Who cares what others say. And besides, they’re only nay Sayers because they wish they were as brave!

  7. This is amazing and so encouraging. After several years of getting myself into debt and dragging my credit through the dirt, I have finally decided to take control and responsibility of my finances. I’ve even gone as far as to move back in with my parents so that I’ll have even fewer bills to worry about while working on my debt strategy. (Talk about embarrassing!!) but just like you said, it will make it all worth it when I get everything paid. Thanks for this article, it was great :)

    1. Good for you Amy! The best time to start is NOW. Stay focused, be determined, and don’t give up. Someday you’ll pay it forward and you’ll be in a position to help someone else out just like your folks are helping you right now :)

  8. Wow.
    I am kind of going through the same ‘cleansing phase’ with my boyfriend. We started a little after mid this year. I have been struggling to follow my budget though I have had a few slip ups here and there :-( but I am so determined to especially since we plan to get married next year. This is the kind of motivation I needed! Cheers to a debt free 2016!

    1. Hi Angie,

      The budget was the #1 reason why we were able to do anything right with our money. It’s one of those “have to’s”, meaning you HAVE TO do one of this whole money thing simply won’t work. If you need a budget, click on the link ” budget” above in the article. Thanks for reading :)

      1. Hi Chris its over a year later and dont know if you will see this. Your testimony has really made me fill like I’m not a complete failure. I will try this and with prayer I think I can do it. It is very brave for you and your wife to say “forget what other people think, we’re doing this”. Thanks again

  9. Getting divorced from a compulsive spender is a great jumping off point to clean up your debt also :) I have one credit card for emergencies and I only charge on it to keep it open and I have to be able to pay it off the next month!

  10. Thank you so much for the inspiring story! My husband and I are just about to dive into tackling our debt. It’s scary to think about how much money we are wasting on interest. Our student loans are relatively small, but we do have credit card debt, car loans, etc., etc. Reading your story is great motivation! : )

  11. My husband and I are going thru exactly the same and it’s also driving a wedge between us. Some days it seems so hopeless that I can’t get out of bed. I’m am truly miserable and would appreciate any advice. I love your story and understand how it is keeping up a certain lifestyle. I never had this happen to me and I’m truly scared to death. I’m mostly afraid about what it’s doing to our marriage. Such a great article, any advice on the stress of the relationship? :(

    1. Hi Robin, I just wanted to jump in here and say that I’ve been there too with feeling hopeless about living paycheck to paycheck and like I was never going to get out of debt. But Chris’ story (and mine, and many other’s) are proof that it can be done. Sometimes you just have to get through one day at a time, and keep focusing on taking steps toward where you want to be.

      It can be SO stressful on a relationship, but you can also use it to work together and become closer if both of you are up for it. (Here’s a post about getting your spouse on board: https://www.jackiebeck.com/having-trouble-getting-your-spouse-on-board-start-with-why/ )

      You may also be able to get discounted or free marriage or personal counseling from organizations in your area. I’ve definitely benefited from that too over the years! I’m not sure where you’re from but there’s a site call 211.org that may be able to direct you.


  12. Congratulations what a good job you did! You can be very proud of yourselfs. Why did your friends laugh, they should be supporting and take an example by it. And help you where ever they can thats what friends are for!
    Well done.

  13. Hi!
    I read this article through a few times First, I can’t believe your friends were not supportive and they actually trashed you. I’ve never heard of anything like that in my entire life. Next, the math is what I am struggling with. You earned enough money in 7 months to pay off 52K in a little over half of a year? By cutting your grocery bill in half? And getting a second job? This doesn’t really add up, especially to someone who is trying to read an article to help themselves out of debt. If starting a pool business, paid you at least….48K in 6 months, then that is an incredible business. Because you only saved a few thousand cutting your grocery bill for a few months. Can you please help explain the math? This would be amazing if you shared the rest f your methods.
    Thanks for taking the time to write the article,

    1. I can’t say for sure what he they did but it seems that the other major thing they did was stop doing all the things that got them into debt in the first place. They stopped eating out so much, stopped taking vacations on their credit cards, worked overtime which usually pays time and a half, also think about it if you had an extra $500 a month just to pay off debt by cutting grocery bill in half, you would be paying straight to the premium cutting out interest build up which is half if not more of the battle of debt. Also it’s not just the $500 as soon as you pay off one debt you use the money that you are using to pay that debt and put it on the next debt. So say you paid off one credit card whose minimum payment was $50. You now take that $50 add it to the $500 you are saving on groceries plus whatever the minimum payment of the next debt is that you already have budgeted. As you pay off each debt you apply the monthly payment to the next and it starts to add up real quick. And then if you can add an extra $1000 a month from a side business and spend less over all that makes it happen even faster. If I didn’t explain that well enough I’m sure the author can correct or further explain something I might have left out. If you want to find a good plan go read up on the Dave Ramsey approach. This is basically what he teaches but so much more.

      1. That was very kind of you to take the time to get back to me and help me understand. You really put together a lengthy reply and I really appreciate it,
        Have a lovely day!

      2. This is all well and good if you have the money in the first place to take the debt.

        My wife and I are behind on every major bill. We don’t buy groceries, we don’t eat out, don’t by lattes or take vacations or any other extravagant expenses “normal” people have. We’re even driving one car currently, because the other is parked in the driveway, waiting to be fixed, and the one we’re driving needs 3k of work done to it. There just isn’t anything to cut out or back on. The bills are all last due, except the house, I don’t even make enough each month to break even . My wife showed me this eve that we are actually $60 in the hole each month.

        The only saving grace at the moment is our tax refund that is going to pay off a couple debts, and put a small chunk on the two credit cards we have, thus paying off one and able to lower the interest paid on the other. Not the best system, but it’s all we’ve got. And this is with ONE income of not even 20k a year, and no overtime allowed!

        And taking a second part time job is not possible with only one vehicle.

        This all started with a missed cell phone bill, and snowballed, collecting more and more debts, and past due bills, each month.

        Heck I never even spent a dime on this past Christmas.

        There’s got to be a better way.

      3. Hi Rob, I understand your frustration. (Really, since I lived WAY below the poverty line for a few years.) So I hope what I’m about to say will be helpful.

        Taking a second job with only one vehicle can still be possible. HARD, but possible, so don’t automatically rule that out. However it might be easier for you to try to get a raise at your current job and/or then find a higher-paying, better job, while both you and your wife work extra on the side. It’s a lot easier to do work for yourself on your own time than to try to deal with transportation and an employer’s schedule.

        $60 a month would not mean that much extra work to make up, to eat least bring you guys even so you can start to get a tiny bit of breathing room. That could be a few hours of baby sitting or dog walking, writing a single blog post for someone as a freelancer (which you could actually get paid more than that for), trimming some people’s shrubs, etc.

        Also, if you’re not driving one of the cars right now and you have a garage to put it in, you may want to talk to your insurance company to switch it to being insured while in storage. That can save you a little too. You guys are probably already either doing many of the things here, or don’t have the things it talks about, but you may want to check this post anyway to see if there are areas you may have missed: https://www.jackiebeck.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-money-saving-tips/

        I do think your best bet though is earning more, and that it could be doable. Once you start doing that, it will be SO MUCH EASIER to pay things off, because you’ll probably feel rich in comparison. At least that was my experience.

  14. Good job on taming your inner brad! :)
    But as someone who has always been debtfree I’m curious – now what? I mean, you are out of debt and I suppose your spending habbits have changed and you probably spend a lot less for the same amount of value. Is that right? If so, what do you do with “extra” money? Do you invest? Where?
    In Russia we don’t have many reliable higher than bank interest paying options to grow the savings. So I’m looking for a opportunities to invest. Sadly many reliable brokers don’t work with overseas investors :(

  15. Great Job! I wish my and my boyfriend could get our lives in order. We have no credit cards, two kids one person who can work and no money ever. I’m beginning to think we will never get our lives in order. I don’t want my kids to grow up with nothing. What can I do? Help

    1. Hi, if it were me I’d look for ways to earn extra money outside of a job. Maybe things like babysitting, petsitting, cleaning, etc — things that don’t require much (if any) start up costs. Tracking your spending also helps immensely. You can also check this link: httsp://www.thedebtmyth.com/start-here/

  16. Wish we could pay off some debt! Our savings is great but 83K in debt to school, car payment because our other car was totaled out and insurance on,y paid out 3K on it, my husbands credit card from college with 3-4K on it. And I work 2 jobs to make and save money. While he works a well paying job. We would be great if college didn’t screw us over, pay all that money to get a job making 45K/yr if your lucky. Did you by chance cancel all ammentities such as cable, Internet, home security etc? Does that help? Also the money from taxes at tax return, did you throw that into savings or paying off a debt?

    1. I can tell you, from my own current experience, canceling unnecessary amenities definitely helps. My husband and I are in the middle of paying off all of our debt. We lease, not own, and we JUST moved into a 500 sf apartment from a 1300sf house because it cut our rent almost in half (I’m not gonna lie, it sucks, I hate apartment living). We also opted to not have cable which was running us just under $100 a month and chose netflix and hulu instead. We do have internet as I’m in school and need it frequently. Between the hundreds of dollars we are saving in rent and cable as well as strictly cutting back our grocery bill we are able to throw a large chunk each month towards our debt.

      1. My husband and I cut out all extras too, land lines, cable, getting nails done, I started coloring my own hair, not eating out, we also got netflix, which helped with spending more time together as a family, not watching tv ;)

    2. Canceling or getting less costly versions of expensive amenities can definitely help. Personally I think building at least a minimal emergency fund is a priority over paying off debt, but once we did that we put our extra money toward debt to get that GONE. This is the basic process we followed: https://www.jackiebeck.com/start-here/

  17. Good article – i am hoping to do the same in a month or two when i can get a grip on some of my finances. did you pay with all cash while you were doing this? set aside money for each bill, groceries, clothes, etc? (no debit card is what i meant) – every penny accounted for? also, i can’t believe your friends were being negative about this. no support or encouragement? wow. some friends.

  18. I am a new grad, and I don’t have my credit built yet and I have a family of 4. I’m scared to get a credit card because I do not want any more debt. On the other hand I need credit if I want to buy a home someday. What should I do?

    1. I would suggest 1 credit card. Most likely you will end up with a $500 limit and over time they will increase it. Don’t put more than $100 a month on it and be sure to pay in full every month. That is how I rebuilt my credit after a divorce.

    2. If you’re scared to get a credit card, there’s nothing wrong with not getting one! I didn’t have one for YEARS until I felt confident that I could absolutely pay it in full before it was due each month. My rule was that I could only buy something with a credit card that I already had the cash for. Also, I know it sounds crazy, but it’s possible to buy a house with cash (I did) or to use manual underwriting so that financing isn’t dependent on FICO scores.

  19. 1k a month in groceries? With a family of what? 2, maybe 3? Family of 6 here and we don’t even spend their halved 550 a month. How they spent that much is beyond me… and I was so excited to read this article.

    1. I’d love to feature a story on how you feed a family of 6 on less than $550 a month. Seriously, email me at comments@thedebtmyth.com if you’re interested :)

      That said, while I don’t know what kind of groceries they were buying, it’s EASY to spend a lot on groceries (or anything really) when you’re not paying attention. Most of us have some expense that we’re paying an amount on that would make others shudder. (For me those expenses are eating out or travel.)

      On the other hand, there are many people with expenses that I don’t have at all. I suspect we’re all like that in some areas.

      For folks who have truly cut back everywhere possible (which I had to do when I had less than $4000 a YEAR in income to work with), the answer is usually to find a way to earn more money.

  20. What are your thoughts on credit, and buying a new home? Do you believe you need a score or that you should always pay cash…or a rent to own?

    1. Hi Veronica, personally I haven’t worried about my credit score in a very long time. If you’re planning to borrow money to buy a home, manual underwriting should be a possibility. (Or of course you CAN pay cash too; it is possible — and a lot easier to do when you don’t have any debt.)

  21. I use my credit card like a debit card because the bank doesn’t charge you per transaction on a credit card like the debit card system does. I square off my credit card in full every month. When I can, I also put surplus cash into my credit card so the bank pays me interest and I spend my money and not theirs.
    I also have a store account for groceries. I buy everything from one store. In this way I can monitor my spend and know exactly what’s available at any time of the month. I also pay this account in full at the end of the month, so the account remains interest free and I get to minimize my bank charges.

  22. With all due respect to the military families (and I have family in active duty currently deployed) don’t knock someone else’s struggles or joy’s. I completely respect their honesty and HARD work that they put into fixing their mess, they owned it and it was admirable. Blessings to your DEBT free family and life!! If you don’t have anything nice to say then stop reading the article!

  23. This might be too personal, but do you mind sharing what you made together in salary as a couple to pay this off so quickly? If you don’t want to share I completely understand.

  24. Several years ago my husband and I were on the verge of divorce because our debt was so bad. Someone shared the envelope system with us and it completely changed our lives, and we were ready for the change! Our friends said it would take a few months to get used to and most likely be difficult initially. Let me tell you, we were so relieved and excited to have a plan, that it wasn’t difficult for us at all! We stopped fighting (they were always about money), and I didn’t have to have an anxiety attack every time he needed to look at out checkbook ledger.

    My in-laws and my husband and I had some land we were planning on building on in the future. They were ready to build before us, but due to city planning, etc, we still had to pay for property improvements, etc. In three years, we had over $50k in debt again! Well, we knew what needed to be done, so we put renters in our house, moved in with his parents, he worked A TON of over time, we even had to live in our travel trailer for a summer in a camp! But in 17 months we were debt free again and ready to build on our property debt free! It has caused our priorities to change, if we don’t have the cash, we don’t get it. I’ve learned the difference between want and need. When I do have some spending money for myself, I consider my purchases now, as opposed to buying something on a whim, and usually having buyers remorse. Our kids only know this way, and through working for an allowance to buy things they want, they’re learning how to implement this way as well. We have been blessed by being able to share this way with others that are willing to drastically change how they spend money. It is freeing, and we know we are being good stewards with what the Lord has given us. No matter how much money my husband makes, we will always have a budget and use cash!

  25. Wow sounds amazing. I would love to be able to pay off all my debt incuding my 2 home loans. I am a 49 yo single mum to 2 uni students who live away fom home. We live in Australia. Does the snowball method = dave ramsey system work for us too… or do you have any other suggestions for us aussies.. ps congratulations to you both .. woohoo

  26. I am a big saver. i literally stress over everything i buy. my fiance on the other hand spends money like crazy. He is a smoker so every time he goes to the gas station he spends $7 on cigarettes then another 5-10 on a drink or snacks. i have added it up and he spends about $500-$700 a month at gas stations and thats not including gas because his company pays his gas. I have tried showing him everything so he knows but still not doing anything about it. I am going nuts over here wanting to pay things off but he spends it faster than he is making it. I am a stay at home mom and he has the mentality that he makes the money so he should get to spend it. any advice to get this guy to slow down at all??

  27. Me and my husband have been doing this but I was advised not to close my credit card accounts. Did you close the accounts once they were paid and did that hurt your credit ?

  28. This is such a great story!!! Thank you! My husband and I are completely separate as far as finances go. He pays mortgage insurance & electric & gas bills. I pay college tuition & car cell cable & groceries. I’d like to be debt free by August any tips for a girl working alone. Total debt is 30,000.

  29. I am having the “same” struggles i dug myself into a hole and got laid off from work. Currently got a job but seems impossible trying to balance everything out.

  30. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this article. Wow. This is eye opening. My husband and I owe around 27k with Student Loans, a small car loan, and 1 credit card. It’s time to start seriously paying them off. It needs to be done. I’ve always been told it’s better to have a credit card to build your credit. Is this not necessary? Should I cancel the card??

  31. Great article. Really impressed with how you managed to overcome this financial situation. I am currently a college student and trying to be a smart spender while working on weekends I can when I don’t travel for tennis matches. I live about two hours from home and work when I go home spending around $20 each time I go home on gas. I get enough hours on the weekend for this to be worth it but it doesn’t leave me much for spending on things like food for my dorm or air fresheners, etc. I’m trying not to rely on my parents for money and I’ve been thinking of the student loans I’ll have to start paying off once I graduate. I need to find some way to make more money and save for in the long run.

  32. My husband and I did something similar a few years ago. We started cancelling TV cable, home phones and others small things that really helped a lot. Restaurants? Once a month. Clothes? We really don’t need that much, and they don’t have to be brand name. Credit Cards? We canceled all of them. No more debts.
    Good for you guys. We all can do it, not easy, like you said.

  33. Hi,

    I’m a recent graduate and have only $16k in student loan debt (that’s great compared to my fellow graduates). I plan on going back to school to get a Masters and then a doctorate degree. Should I pay off my undergraduate loans before I go back to school or after I finish all my degrees? Also in consideration I do have 7 more payments left on my car loan (And I got it December 2014!) and about $500 in credit card debt.

    Thanks for the great article!

    1. The sooner you pay things off, the less it will cost you and the sooner you’ll be debt free :) So if it were me I’d pay them off ASAP. Congrats on your progress so far!

  34. I’m wondering. ..I have a few small balances on some 0% interest cards. ..should I be paying the min instead of the amount in currently paying? I have 4 cards total about $25,000 and 2 car payments equaling $700 a month. We make a lot of, money $155k a year but or mortgage alone is $2500 without household expenses.

    1. Hi Liliana, if it were me I’d work to pay them all off as quickly as possible. (But obviously you know your individual situation best, so you’d have to decide what’s right for you.) My Pay Off Debt app (https://www.jackiebeck.com/pay-off-debt-app-info/ ) lets you play around with the order and effects of making payments of varying amounts, so you may want to check that out.

  35. This is a fantastic article. I am on the snowball small debt part. It’s hard cause I’m single and I don’t make much and I go to school. So I will keep trying. I’m supposed to be finished at the end of this year. Hopefully I can make it. I start doing well then a bill comes up that was unexpected so I have to replenish it agsin. I have about 1,000 dollars saved. I’m trying to keep it and pay off 3 more small bills. Then onto my big bill my house. I owe around 60,000. I want to pay it off it 7 yesrs. I’m getting a teaching degree so I may be stretched to do so. However I’m gonna keep trying.

  36. i never knew this about my local news anchor Andrea and husband…Interesting.I have a lot more respect for her. Kudos

  37. My wife and I have about 20k in debt, for one car and her college loans, I was lucky enough to graduate debt free. Our plan is to live frugally until we pay it off, then start to enjoy our life, thanks to your post that we found, but our question is, how much were you bringing in monthly to make this happen? We definitely do not make enough to put that much money anywhere in 7 months, so I’m curious what percent of your wages went to debt?

    1. Hi Tori, hopefully Chris will stop back and chime in, but I imagine that with 2 jobs + starting a side business specifically to go toward debt + cutting back on spending they were able to put a good percentage toward debt. But even if you can’t knock out the same amount in 7 months, you can probably still make progress! Here are the steps we followed if it helps: https://www.jackiebeck.com/start-here/

  38. I’m just about done also, just got a few grand to go. Be zeroed out this month. The thing I still haven’t embraced is continuing to live without spending. It’s definately great not owing anybody, but it’s also nice going out to eat, driving a nice (although not new) car, going on a family vacation. Haven’t figured out the endgame. What is the “win”?

    1. Hi Todd, I don’t think people who get out of debt then continue to live without spending. (At the very least, I sure don’t, and I didn’t live without it WHILE I was getting out of debt either.) Instead, it’s a matter of only spending money you already have. The win from that is getting and doing the things you want WITHOUT debt :)

  39. I am recently widowed and limited on how much I can make as I receive some of my late husbands social security, therefore I am only allowed to make $15,000 a yr plus the $820 a month I receive. I have a house payment of $520, car at $313 , and all other bills. I owe over $60,000 on my house, have about $15,000 in credit card debt. How can I save more. I have money taken out each week and month for Christmas club and savings.

    1. If you have an emergency fund already, I would suggest focusing on reducing the credit card debt first, because once that’s gone you’ll have more money available to save. (Both because you won’t be paying back credit card debt and because you won’t be paying interest….)

  40. When you said you sold everything online, what do you mean? Like extra furniture and televisions, jewelry….? I’m just curious how much and what you sold.
    We currently have $1k saved and have started the snowball thing but we’ve sort of plateaued.

  41. I am 60 and on a fixed income and not very good health. When my husband died I was left with more debt than I can control plus what I have tried to use to live and cover payments.
    I don’t know where to start and am very embarrassed. Is there help for me since I am in fixed income? Any advice is appreciated.

    1. So many people feel embarrassed about debt, but try not to let that get to you since it’s also very common to be in that situation. I’m sure there IS help for your situation, but I can’t give specific advice without understanding your financial situation (and I’m not a financial advisor anyway; just a person who has paid off a LOT of debt.) But these are the steps we took: https://www.jackiebeck.com/start-here/ so maybe that will help.

  42. Quick comment on your choice of wording… I realized at the end of the article that I knew that the man’s name was Chris and his wife’s name was “my wife”. The article and website are written using the words I, we, Chris, my wife, and his wife. Might want to pay attention to your word choice because I feel like she is probably a little bit more important than you are making her sound.

    1. The article was written by Chris and he chooses to put his full name out there on the internet. I rarely refer to my husband by name on my site (and when I do I ask his explicit permission first) for privacy reasons. I assume the same is true for Chris. Although it’s likely that some people will recognize her from her picture, that’s not quite as easy as having her name to Google.

      1. Oh, I was referring to his writing, not yours. I doubt that’s the case, but it would be better to not make it so I-centric if you (he) are trying to reach a married audience. If he’s speaking to husbands only, then fine. If he’s trying to show married couples how to succeed in this together, this sends a poor message.

  43. This is a great article. My daughter became a financial advisor for Dave Ramsey when she became a widow at the young age of forty one. She was determined to not only help herself but others. Did you go to Nashville and do the debt free scream? 😊😉

  44. My husband and I paid off 50k in debt in the span of about 2 years and although our friends weren’t quite as mean we did get a lot of eye rolls once we started to openly say we couldn’t attend events that were expensive. I don’t mean like weddings or big events like that but a concert with $200 tickets or a vacation at a hotel that i wouldn’t have chosen based on the collective budget.
    Interestingly although friends and some family who had judged us in our 20s, now see the value in what we did in our 30s.

  45. My husband and I are currently working on our testimony, and boy is it NOT fun! We also took the Dave Ramsey class, and after completed it, wondered why we haven’t done so earlier!! It’s been a little tougher on us with 4 children and 1 income, but we are currently down 3 CC and are chiseling away at the rest! Its also hard for our family and friends to wrap their heads around when we say “well we’ve already budgeted and I can’t squeeze any more!” Thank you for sharing your story!

  46. We have done this! Back in 91/92 the interest rate on our mortgage was a crippling 18.5%!!!!! So we sucked it up and spent NOTHING except our necessities: utilities, insurances, fuel, mortgage and food (everything home-cooked, no takeaway). There were no movies, no shopping trips, no new shoes or new clothes. Every cent we could find we threw at that mortgage. We paid off $47K in 11 months and were debt-free and owned a block of land. That was quite a lot back in ’92 for a couple in their early 20’s. We then borrowed just enough to build a house to lockup and moved into it, unfinished. As we earned the money we would work on the unfinished areas of the house. We finished our home just in time to have kids who trash it, but that’s OK … it’s ours. We own a second home which we paid off last year and have almost a year’s wage in the bank for backup in case of unemployment.

    It is doable … no matter where your starting line is, anyone can do this. Reduce your spending to less than your income and start paying down that debt!!!

    I am free 😆

    1. Really? 1991 or 1981? I took out a mortgage in 1992 for 8.5%. Yours was 18.5%? Was it left over from the 1980s? Then in 1994 I refinanced for 6.5%.

  47. Love this! We are a military family with a single income. I stay at home with our 3 kids (none are school aged). I was going to join as well but it us cheaper for me to stay home with the kids than work. I am taking a career break so we can come out ahead. With 3 kids in diapers, 1 on formula…groceries and diapers etc cost our family of 5 approx $600/mth. We use hydro at cheaper times when doing laundry. I make a lot of cleaners and we rarely buy baked or prepared foods.

  48. Thank you for this. I actually watch Andrea on the news and I love the little jokes that her and Rick use to make about her budget. Was not sure how you did it so when this showed up on my Pinterest feed, I am excited. Recently, divorced. Moving out on my own in a long time (when did 1 bedrooms go up to $1000+, wow and not in Scottsdale :-) )Have major debt and ready to tackle it!

  49. If you can pay $52G debt off in 7 months then you should never have been in debt in the first place. The lavish lifestyle you were living is unthinkable to me. Any articles for the ACTUAL working poor? I have 3 jobs, senior care, house cleaning and driving for uber using my used 12G Kia. I live in a plain apartmentno dishwasher, no cable or nonsense like that, my entire wardrobe can fit in a grocery bag, my shoes have cracks in the souls. My credit cards accumulated with medical bills, car repairs etc. I have NOT been on a vacation in 25 years, own zero jewelry, have 2nd hand furniture … Zero extravagances. My entire life revolves around paying bills and making sure my kids have what they need (key word “need” no name brand anything. Goodwill and walmart clearance rack clothes etc.) So really, any articles for people like me? Rather than pampered 1%’ers who are in debt for frivolous reasons???

    1. Hi Beth, I know from experience that it can be super frustrating to read about all the things people cut out of their budget that you’ve never even had, or haven’t had for a long time, so I get where you’re coming from there.

      It’s very common for people with decent incomes to be in debt in today’s world. The article you read here is about Chris & Andrea’s wakeup call and how they then took action, which anyone can do. Meaning we can ALL take action.

      To answer your question, while I don’t have an article (yet) that is specifically targeted at ONLY the working poor, you may find the answers to the questions under the “Practically speaking…” section of this post helpful: https://www.jackiebeck.com/debt-and-suicide-killing-yourself-over-debt/ (They’re useful for anyone, not just people contemplating suicide.) And this article as well: https://www.jackiebeck.com/had-enough-of-living-paycheck-to-paycheck/ – especially since you mention that part of your debt is due to car repairs.

      I’d recommend doing everything you can to make additional income (like Chris & Andrea did, like my husband & I did, and like so many other people have done while getting out of debt.) When you’re barely making ends meet (or constantly falling behind) that’s often the single biggest thing you can do to change your situation. I also highly recommend tracking your spending AS you are spending.

  50. I am so tired right now that I need a pep talk.
    House 3,000
    Truck 20,000
    Tractor 20,000.
    My plan is to pay off the house in February with the tax refund. February seems so far away. I’ve been scrapping by for a while now. I use to be 140,000 in debt 2 years ago. Income is 53,000 a year. House payment is 650. If I can get the house payment off my back I’d breath easier. Just tell me I can do it for two more months.

      1. Update
        My house bought in March 2016 is paid for summer of 2018.

        With overtime my salary went up to 68K

        I only owe 15k on a truck and 18k on a tractor.

  51. This is not remotely connected with the real world. If you pay off $52K of debt in 7 months, that is about $7,400 toward the principle each month. The average person/family) does not even gross $7,400 a month (nearly $90K a year), let alone bring home that much, let alone bring home so much that they can squeeze out that much extra out of income, especially when so much has to go to required debt payments. “Massive amounts of overtime”? Really? What if you are on salary and don’t get paid overtime? Now don’t lecture me. I make more than $7,400 a month; I work in I.T. and gross six figures. Also, I’ve never had a penny of debt in my life, other than my mortgage and student debt (without which I would not have a degree and thus not the good income). I just think it’s absurd to state that “anyone” can pay off debt at that rate.

    1. Yes, that is a large amount of debt to pay off in a short amount of time. I didn’t say that “anyone” can pay off debt at this rate, nor did Chris say that as he was telling his family’s awesome personal debt payoff story that has inspired many people. I did say in a comment though anyone can TAKE ACTION, and that’s absolutely true. So while you don’t consider the money you owe lenders for a mortgage and student loan to be debt, other people may feel they owe various debts and want to pay them off faster than normal. I want those people to know that there is HOPE, even if their situation does not exactly match one of the many debt free stories found here and elsewhere. People can and do work extra outside of their current salaried or hourly jobs (like Chris & I both did), they do get raises, they do get better jobs, and they do tackle debts at varying speeds and with varying amounts of income. They can take action, and it IS possible to pay off debt. That is the point.

    2. For the curious, there’s quite a difference between the “average person” and the “average family”, income wise. According to IRS stats from 2014 (the latest stats I could find organized) the average adjusted gross income for married filing jointly was $117,795. For head of household it was $35,876. For single it was $34,940. Adjusted gross income is LESS than gross income. But, it doesn’t really matter what the average is in any case. What matters is how you choose to work with what you do have, and the actions you take to change your situation if you’d like to do that. As someone who at one point lived way below the poverty line, I know it can be very hard. Especially for those experiencing generational poverty. It’s stressful and exhausting. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.

  52. Thanks for your encouraging story here. I, too, have reach a point in my life where I am sick and tired of living so poorly. I am working hard at the thought, as Dave Ramsey would put it, of ” enlarging my shovel”. I am gaining ground but still have a ways to go. I am open to any and all thoughts and/ or ideas that might be helpful.

  53. I only have 2 credit cards and the amount owed is $6800 total. I need to devise a plan to get from under this weight. I’m tired, frustrated but determined to neb free. Any suggestions specifically with the credit cards?

    1. Hi James, I suggest using the debt snowball method and focusing on one of them until it’s gone (while still making minimum payments to the other one.) That way you can put all your effort toward knocking one out, and the remaining one will go faster after that. You may also want to check out the basic process we used to pay off over $147K: https://www.jackiebeck.com/start-here/

  54. Having a credit card does not equal debt! If you get cards that give you points or reward miles you are able to spend on things you usually do and nearly free flights that continue to allow you to live your life. I hate reading these with the take away that using credit is terrible. Only credit what you can actually pay off that week. Simple as that. I have 5 cards I use regularly and each one I pay off before the end of the month, voila, no interest obtained.

    1. You’re right, you can use credit cards and pay them off in full each month. But they had 9 credit cards and WERE carrying a balance. When you’re in that situation, you’ve proven that using credit cards is not a good thing for you. Some people are definitely better off not using credit cards.

  55. Good job on debt free, my husband and I are debt free also will never have a loan ever again, we also build a good saving account that will be your next step work hard for another 7 months and have the same amount in your saving as what your debt was furgal living is ok

  56. Good job Chris!. One thing to bear in mind is if you’re married, you’ll almost certainly need to get your partners buy in for these kinds of life changes.

  57. Wow, Love to see people who got off their A$$ and actually did something about it.
    Your story echoes mine in a lot of ways and proves whats I’ve been saying for years, “it’s not easy, you’ve got to work for it.”
    Congratulations on breaking free from the crowd and putting your life on a better path.


  58. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s great to read about people with serious debt problems. I come across the ones that don’t have a mortgage, student loans, or any other large debts that they are trying to pay down. Your debt story is relatable. My husband and I are moving forward with paying off our debts so we can start a family and not have to worry about this “issue”. Thanks again!

  59. Awesome story, well done people! I had to laugh at the “spending $1.50 for every dollar that came in” phrase. That was me as well – in Euro’s that is – and it’s sad that this is how lots of people live. Or I think it’s sad and also rather live a simple life without debt.

  60. This article is so out of touch with the average person/family that it is hilarious. If you paid off $52K debt in 7 months, that means you paid off about $7400 in extra payments each month, beyond normal living expenses and required minimums. Since most people don’t gross more than about $4K month, I don’t see how the average person can relate to this story. By the way, I am a recently-retired software developer who never had debt other than mortgage and student loans…both of which I paid off early. But thanks for the belly-laugh.

    1. You’re right that the average person probably can’t relate to paying off $52K in 7 months. But I’m wondering if you read the article or just found the headline funny, because there’s a WHOLE lot of action steps in it that many people absolutely can do. Taking actual action vs. just feeling broke, working extra on the side, selling stuff, saying no to new debt, cutting up the credit cards, focusing on one debt at time, cutting back on unnecessary things, etc.

      And many households are two-income families, so that doubles the average gross wage to $8K a month. Maybe the average person isn’t WILLING to do those things or doesn’t see how they could, but many people can and do get it done. Those folks often find success stories inspirational along the way.

      Btw congrats on paying off the mortgage and student loan debts you had!

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