Hi, my name is Kara and I’m in debt.

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by Kara Fleck

Kara lives in a small town in Indiana. She is the editor of Simple Kids. You can also find her writing about creative living at K.Elizabeth Fleck.

“We’re debt free!” The words I long to be able to shout out loud. Hi, my name is Kara and I’m in debt.

Some of you know me as the editor of Simple Kids, but today I’m going to introduce myself to you as a person living in financial bondage. Or, to be less dramatic, I am a person trying to become debt free.

Our journey …

My family and I are in a significant amount of debt. Six figures significant, actually. That’s painful to write.

I won’t go into details, but we did some pretty dumb things with money in our 20′s, both as singles and as a young married couple.  We’re spending our 30′s trying to dig out of that debt.

That is how I came to know Tsh: I was inspired by her family’s debt free story.  Her straightforward money advice was helpful and relevant. That was pretty major at a time where my debt free resources were some library books on frugality that seemed out of touch with the current times and we didn’t know anyone in real life who was debt free.

Thanks to Tsh I discovered Dave Ramsey. I shared what I was reading and learning with my husband Christopher and we agreed there was some wisdom there, but we didn’t really do too much about it. Things sort of ho-hummed along for a while, with us throwing a little bit of cash at our debt here and there but certainly not taking things too seriously.

And then in 2009 we hit rock bottom.

You can read the full story on my Rockin’ Granola blog, but here’s the grim picture in a nutshell:

  • a sweltering summer day
  • it was 90 degrees INSIDE my house
  • two very little kids with the chicken pox
  • our air conditioning went out

We were hot, sticky, miserable, and sad.  Thanks to living (less than) pay check to pay check for far too long, we had nothing extra in the bank account. No money to fix the air conditioning, no money for extra fans, no money for a hotel room for a temporary respite from the heat, nothing.

Our family was miserable, our children were suffering, and it was a direct result of our terrible money decisions.

Something had to change, and it had to change radically.  That was the turning point for us, our rock bottom.  Since then, we’ve paid off over $90,000 in debt. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

debtfreepiggybank

2013 So Far …

That was 2009. What do things look like for my family in 2013?

Things are different: we have an emergency fund (so we sleep better at night), we’ve paid off several smaller debts, we now use a cash budget, and we’ve got our irregular income tamed.  Christopher works all of the overtime he can, I do my share by writing to earn extra income, and we both work to keep our spending down.

Things are the same: we still make financial mistakes, we still struggle, we still get discouraged. The debt we have remaining is our larger debt in the form of school loans and the mortgage. There aren’t as many celebrations the way there were when we first started to pay off our smaller debts.  Sometimes I feel like we’re going to be on Baby Step 2 forever.

Successes

So far 2013 has brought us a few successes:

  • We recently hopped back onto the cloth diapering bandwagon.
  • We have been able to do some home repairs ourselves.
  • Bringing the holidays down a few notches has been good for us on many levels.
  • We recently gave our oldest daughter a budget and let her do her own shoe shopping. I was pleased to see her scouting out the ads and comparing costs. I’m proud of her and what she’s learning from our debt free journey.

Challenges

It isn’t all carnations and cloth diapers around here.

Recently, we have discovered that two of our family members have health issues which require a special diet. The entire family has adopted this way of eating (gluten free, for those who are curious). Our grocery budget had to be revamped and, with our zero based budget, we’ve had to wiggle other categories.

Speaking of wiggling the budget, our son is growing like a weed!  The clothes he just received for Christmas barely fit him.  With my daughters, this isn’t a problem as we have hand-me-downs, but my son is our only boy and I don’t think he’d be pleased wearing something from the bins of pink and purple in our kid clothes stockpile.  So, back to tinkering with the clothing budget I go, staying one step ahead of his growth spurts, which are coming more frequently than I had anticipated.  Thank goodness yard sale season is around the corner.

We recently were surprised with a major library fine, thanks in part to my disorganization. Luckily we’ve found some of the missing materials and our librarian took pity on us and is letting us pay in installments, but the library isn’t such a great “free” resource when I let things like that happen.

During our early Dave Ramsey days, our too-expensive-for-us-anyway vehicle went bye-bye and we’ve been driving a used vehicle, which isn’t pretty but gets us where we need to be. We started a sinking fund for a replacement vehicle. Now our current steed hasn’t been so trusty lately, so it is time to take that sinking fund and go car shopping, a potential financial temptation mine field.

DebtFreeKara

Living with debt can be a scary, shameful thing.  I don’t have to tell you that. I bet some of you are right there in the trenches with me. My hope is that this column will give us a chance to encourage each other, one real person to another.

I’m thankful to Tsh for letting me share our journey as a real family struggling to become debt free. I hope I can inspire and encourage those of you currently struggling with debt the way that Tsh and her family have encouraged me.

I’ll be back in a few months to update you on our progress and our challenges.

What about you? What has your financial journey looked like? What successes have you had so far in 2013? What challenges?

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Comments

  1. Kara–thanks so much for honestly sharing your family’s experience here. I found Dave Ramsey a year or so ago, an although we have no debt to conquer, our income is a major problem. After thinking we were going to make a major dent in our 3-6 month emergency fund, we’ve started the year with several major medical expenses; so discouraging! We, too, have four kids who are growing like weeds, and although the two youngest can get by with hand-me-downs and my sewing, the two oldest are teens and want to fit in with things like $60 UnderArmor sweatshirts. We keep battling through every month, but our major goal this year is going to be to try and generate more income. Looking forward to hearing more about your struggles and triumphs; good luck car shopping!

  2. I also learned about Dave Ramsey through Tsh. I learned about it in 2009, but didn’t introduce it to my husband until 2011 when we were in a financial panic. After budgeting for 2 years, and my husband taking on a second job, we are ALMOST debt free, except for our house. We anticipate being debt free by June or July of this year. When that happens we will have paid off approximately $60,000 in a little over 2 years. It was hard, and when it started it seemed like forever, but I can’t believe the 2 years is almost done.

  3. Thanks for posting this. We, too, are on baby step 2 and I’m about to take my first Financial Peace University class this Sunday. I was feeling really defeated today about not being able to make much progress, but your post has really encouraged me. It will take a while, but we will be debt free eventually. {sigh}

  4. I can relate! We too, made bad decisions in our 20′s,and are still recovering in our 30′s.
    We’re making progress though. I just paid off 3. Credit cards today!
    This is our year of living like paupers if we have to, to knock out the rest of our debt :)

  5. Kara, you said it: Living with debt can be a shameful, scary thing. I’m so proud of you for putting this out here and telling it like it is: it takes away the shame and frees us up to cheer each other on.

    Now, next time I have an Amazon order to place I’m doing it through your Amazon links on Rockin’ Granola: conquering debt $2 at a time!

    I’m wishing you well on this one, sister. Give us an update sometime soon, mkay?

    • Anne, thank you so much! This has been one of the harder things to open up about, but I feel like I have a good cheering section on my side and I know that if I can help just one other family feel like they aren’t alone in this shameful, scary soup – well, that will totally be worth the embarrassment!

      Thanks for your kindness and encouragement! :-)

  6. Hello,
    Can I just say wow? It is really brave of you to put yourself out here like this. I wish you the best of luck in your journey.
    We make money mistakes also! We are debt free but I am guilty of not saving as much as I should.

    Kate

  7. Good for you!! I agree that living debt-free isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it! We are a family of 6 living on a lower income, I homeschool my kids but we do what we can with what we’ve been blessed with & I’m so very grateful! I earn some side income with my sewing & photography which allows us to bulk up our savings bit by bit. It can be done & done well! We used to live (barely) paycheck to paycheck as well… not ever again! Good luck to you in this journey!! :)

    • Thanks, Carla! Doing what we can with what we’ve been blessed with and learning to be grateful haven’t always been my strong suits, but I’m so glad that I’m growing up and learning (even if I didn’t “mature” until my 30s ha ha!)

      Living less than paycheck to paycheck … scary how one can get used to living on the edge like that, isn’t it? Never again!

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement!

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey! I find myself in a situation where we should “know better”, but a remodeling project spun out of control and ended up costing way more than we anticipated. (All much-needed repairs, but cost way more than we budgeted for the project.) Now I’m in the uncomfortable situation of telling my husband, “No, we can’t buy a playset for our son this year. We can’t afford it.” Ugh. Back on the bandwagon! I worked on a basic family budget yesterday, and today I am making a list of all of our debts so we can start snowballing them. We will beat this!

    • I agree: know better, do better, but sometimes life happens. If we aren’t prepared … well, I know I don’t have to tell you.

      Saying no is hard, but we can do this! Here’s to getting back on the bandwagon and all of those small changes that add up to a big difference!

      Thanks for being so honest and open. It helps to hear others’ stories.

  9. Hi, I’m Michele-Lyn and I’m also in debt. It’s nice to meet you, Kara.
    I’m inspired already. We “used” to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice, envelope system and all. We even hosted a class series at our home. I’m not even sure what happened to get us off track, but it’s time to get back on and work toward financial freedom again. It’s past time! Thank you for sharing your honesty in your struggles and successes. Thank you!

  10. It so awesome that you’ve shared you’re story, Kara! I think part of what gets us all so far I to debt is pretending we’ve got lots of money. We’ve been there! We’ve never shared our into debt story (despite our theme), you’ve inspired me to.

    I read Simple Kids all the time (love it!), I’d be aok with putting my eyeballs on a few more ads, if that would help.

    • Robin, you are so kind :-) Thanks!

      I agree, pretending we had a different set of financial circumstances got us into BIG time trouble. It hasn’t been easy to make changes and there have been some humbling lessons, but if there’s one thing I know it is that change IS possible.

      I’d love to read your story sometime, if you feel comfortable sharing it.

  11. Hey, Kara! My husband and I are also DR followers!! I always love finding someone else who is because people like you and I are few and far between in today’s society…so I want to encourage you because I get the gist you feel a bit alone in this. BUT take heart! One day, you are going to be “living like no one else” and everyone around you will be “not living like you”! I also want to encourage you, as our story is very similiar to yours. We messed up ALOT in our 20s and decided to remedy that with Dave’s advice in our 30s. And now we are on baby step 4–you WILL get there too! And remember, the house is baby step 6, so try not to add that into your goal number for baby step 2. I think that will encourage you!!! Please come back and update us so we can cheer for you again!!!
    :-) Karen

    • Karen, thank you so much for your encouragement. It really helps, especially when we’ve got some folks in our lives who think we’re crazy for not having credit cards, not just going out and getting another car loan, etc.

      Yeah, the house is in baby step 6, but we’ve got some big time school loans to pay off before we there. It is comforting that our “stupid tax” (personal loans, credit cards, an over priced van loan) are already paid. Every victory toward winning the war, eh? :-)

      I’ll certainly be back :-) Thanks for the cheerleading!

  12. This is my first month using a cash envelope system inspired by Simple Mom and others. Every month I was overspending, it is so easy to swipe the credit card and so much harder to part with cash. I am thinking about the Zero Based budget, but just don’t know if I can part with the miscellaneous category!

    • Good for you Aimee!

      Our zero based budget gets re-evaluated ALL the time, especially when we first started out. Life changes, so needs change.

      I know some people who don’t need to be on the cash envelope system, but I’m like you: it is all too easy to swipe that card when the cash is gone. That has made for some scary months at our house. :-(

      Here’s to baby steps! We CAN do this!

    • Our zero based budget has a miscellaneous category. It has a defined limit like the other categories. And it doesn’t get filled until more important categories have what they need. Occasionally I look at what we’ve called “miscellaneous” to see if it works better in a different category.

      A budget is a plan. A zero-based budget is a plan in which each dollar has a job. If the job for a finite number of dollars is “sit here and wait until you need to cover something I don’t know what else to do with” that is legit.

  13. This opened up a conversation with my husband as to our next baby step. We got debt-free except for the mortgage in January and although that is a huge relief, I know we can end up there again if we don’t save the 3-6 months of living expenses. We have felt relieved, but also haven’t made a plan to move forward on that. This post is causing us to talk and make a plan! Thanks!

    • Go Aimee! Good for you for being debt free, that is awesome!
      Yeah, I know how much just a small emergency fund helps us to sleep better at night, so I’m eager for the days of saving a larger fund, though I know that isn’t going to be easy either.

      In these uncertain times, it is very good to have a plan! Good luck!

  14. avatar
    Kym (Coffeemomma) says:

    Thank you so much for talking about this…..it’s so brave. I paid off 5 figures of debt before getting married ten years ago, and my husband and I have lived debt free ever since. I know how hard it is to stare those numbers down, and what it feels like to admit it. Good for you, and I wish you a speedy journey to financial freedom. :)

    • Thanks, Kym!
      Oh, how I wish Christopher and I had cleaned up our debts before we got married, or even (gulp) not put our wedding and honeymoon on the credit card (oh, I cringe just thinking about that). Imagine where we’d be as a family today if we had?

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, it really is nice to hear from someone who has “stared down” debt and beaten it. Thank you! :-)

      • As someone who had to learn the hard way about credit cards I applaud your honesty and courage to admit your mistake publically. I was fortunate enough to get my debts mostly paid off ($8K of credit card debt at a time I earned only $11K a year) before I got married to a guy who had the good sense not to dig himself into a similar hole. The humiliation of having my new husband pay off the last $3K of debt right after our wedding (instead of waiting the six months it would have taken me to pay it off on my debt reduction plan) was enough to motivate me to never, ever get myself in that situation again. I know how crappy it felt to be in such a mess when I was single to I have enormous empathy for those in that situation with a spouse and kids. You’ve paid off a huge amount of debt in the past few years while raising a family. Good for you!!!!

  15. avatar
    Brianna says:

    I always enjoy these posts because although I don’t have any debt, my husband and I (and our daughter) are living off of $25,000/yr for a short period (2 yrs). My hubby is finishing his Masters and a Youth Pastor Intern. I didn’t realize how difficult life would be when we agreed to live way below the poverty line (in expensive Canada, to boot!) We buy all our daughter’s clothes at garage sales & online, we do cloth diapering, homemade everything…but it’s okay. It teaches us to appreciate what we have and to learn to save. In a few years when our income doubles, we’ll be able to save so that we can eventually buy a house. You’re doing a great thing, and it will all work out!! Think how fast your precious babies have grown and although the time to pay off these debts may seem to take forever, the time will pass quickly too (and you’ll be glad to be rid of those babies!)

  16. “Think how fast your precious babies have grown and although the time to pay off these debts may seem to take forever, the time will pass quickly too (and you’ll be glad to be rid of those babies!)” Excellent advice, Brianna! Thank you!

    It can be hard to have big picture perspective sometimes, can’t it? But it really is necessary to look at the big picture when fighting the daily battles :-)

  17. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story. I don’t struggle with debt, but I do have a modest family income and financial goals, so your story inspires me in that area. As well as other areas of my life. Because there are a lot of parallels with non-financial issues that need makeovers.

  18. We did this back in…2008. It was hard to and a lot of big pills had to be swallowed. It was hard but so worth it! Keep it going Katra! :)

  19. Hello, ooh this is a dream of mine, we really arn’t that far in debt but I would love to only have the house payment again like I did before….We are working on it though, we just paid off the small student loan, next is the car! Thanks for your inspireation!

    Amber

  20. Your words are so comforting to me. We are in financial panic mode here. It is definitely so scary and embarassing. I feel bad that and guilty that I haven’t been honest with many people, but as you said, it is painful to admit how low and almost down and out I have become. We have cut cable and gotten smaller cars. My husband just recently stopped contributing to his 401K. I know, some may think this isn’t a good idea, but when you don’t have enough money to pay bills, drastic measures have to be made. I have even thought about going back to work, but my younger son is autistic, so getting a nanny would essentially take all the money I made in a full-time job.
    On the bright side, my husband just got a small raise. We are hopeful that we will work it out, and pay off our hefty debt. I have heard great things about Dave Ramsey. Maybe it’s time to check him out.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • My husband really downgraded his 401K contributions at work, which means giving up a significant company match. So I know where you are coming from. It’s discouraging to do because after taxes the money doesn’t look like much. There are weeks when I want to feel really bitter about it all. We’re in debt because my husband financed his undergrad degree. As a result he now makes twice what he was making before. The problem is it took him five years out of school to make that much, and we still owe more than he makes in a year (after taxes of course). It is easy to feel judged too. Maybe we didn’t follow a magic formula. We didn’t wait to save up a large amount of cash for down payment on our house. If we’d waited until we could afford for my husband to go back to school then he never would have gone back. If I had returned to work full time after our children were born all most of my income would have been taken up in childcare payments. I’ve had people tell me that we both should be working two or three jobs (on opposite shifts so that we don’t need childcare of course) so that we can pay off our debt faster. I agree with the basics of Dave Ramsey’s methods (which in fairness aren’t that different from Larry Burkett’s from my parent’s generation), but I think you have to assess your own life situation. My children are 1 and almost 4. They will only be young for a while. We pay our bills and learn to do without a lot and have thus far avoided additional debt. But we aren’t exactly flying towards being debt free. For us it will be a long slow process. Because of that I’m not willing to give up everything. If living a bare bones life for a year, maybe two, would get us debt free, then I would do it. But it’s not worth eating rice and beans and working nights and weekends for 10 years and missing out on my kids entire childhood. My husband and I do go on dates a few times a year and this year we set aside a chunk of our tax return to go on a short trip for our 10th anniversary this year. (That being said, we only have student loans and a mortgage, which is different from credit cards and other kinds of debt). Other than the major rule of thumb “spend less than you earn” there is no one size fits all system. Best of luck to all. We’re all making the same journey to debt free. But it will look a little different for each of us.

      • avatar
        Kourtney says:

        Bethany-
        Thank you for sharing this. I also think the DR is really hard to do with little kids… I understand the hard-core Dave Ramsey fans that do it with littles but I just can’t make myself drop all of their activities. We’ve dropped down to just one activity (soccer) for our 7yo girl and nothing for the 4yo boy and I feel the mommy guilt. For a while, we pretended to be ” better off” than we actually (or at least I did) but this caused too much friction between the hubs and I. He wants hardcore DR and I want kid stuff.
        I am contemplating the final frontier… we have a nice house and the hubs and I are thinking about selling it and moving into a double-wide. We would make enough to pay off our mortgage and all of our debt and end all of these arguments. I know what DR would do but I don’t know if I can make myself do it.
        Thanks for sharing.

        • Kourtney and Bethany, Let me give you some advice from an older woman that I wish someone had given to me. Get yourself out of debt now, while your kids are young. This is the EASIEST time you will ever have to do it. Your children’s wants and needs are much less expensive now. And they can live without most of the stuff you think is important. It is harder for you to give up than them. Do not mortgage their future for today. Start off slow, take those baby steps. You have tons of time – but it’s less time than you think. You will enjoy your life so much more later if you sacrifice a little (or a lot) now. And if there is one thing (besides credit cards) I can warn you to avoid it is car payments. We have no credit card payments, but have 3 big car payments and they are strangling us. Also, put away “something”, no matter how small for your kids education. It may not pay for college, but all the little stuff adds up so much. Applications, travel to visit colleges, gas, books. Having just a little for these things will be a huge help later. Then pay off your house. I’m not saying pay it off early. Just don’t re-mortgage it and add years to the payoff. If you just make the monthly payments now, you will be paid off while you are still (relatively) young. Please do not be offended by this advice. I offer it with love for young moms in hopes they avoid the mistakes I have made.

      • avatar
        Theresa says:

        Do what is best for your family and marriage. Working yourselves ragged on opposite shifts is hardly conducive to a happy life. Try to find what works for you.

  21. My story is very similar! We just finished a Financial Peace University class, and we have a long road in front of us. We have credit card debt, student loans, and a mortgage…a very long road! But we are determined, using the envelope system, and knocking it out bit by bit. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s good to hear that we are not the only ones with embarrassing amounts of debt hanging over our heads!

  22. I love this! Thanks for sharing your journey! We were so there! I can gladly say we are now debt free! We have been following Dave Ramseys teachings and it made such a big difference in our life my husband went to Tennessee to take the class to become a trained financial coach to help others. We love it. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Kara–I really applaud you for putting this out there. Your article was an encouragement to me in knowing that we’re not alone. We, too, are in a high amount of debt (not even counting the mortgage). It’s embarrassing, shameful, and very lonely as our family and friends have no idea what we are battling. On paper, we make good money on an annual basis but got ourselves caught up in not managing cash flow well (I have my own business so irregular income) and not communicating and it just spiraled out of control over the past several years. Thankfully, my husband and I are communicating much better about money these days and we are taking steps towards turning this ship around. The past few weeks have been incredibly financially discouraging due to cash flow and some extra big expenses and sometimes it feels as though it will never end but I know God is faithful. I love Dave Ramsey too and share a lot of what I’m learning with my husband. The Lord has always provided and seen us through but there are days when I can’t see the forest for the trees. But I refuse to give up and we will win this battle!

  24. avatar
    C.M. Cole says:

    Thankfully you tried t o deal with it before you reached our point.
    We did an “orderly payment of debts” back a while ago (probably around the same age as you are now), but in 2009, like you, things again hit rock bottom. Apparently, we hadn’t learned so much by paying off the other debt – perhaps we are just slow learners?
    Well, first it was suggested we talk to a bankruptcy counsellor, but we couldn’t afford their hefty payments, and obligations (long story; not necessary to elaborate). I told her we didn’t have a cardboard box big enough.
    Then we found out about a service that consolidates our debts and handles the repayments, for just an administrative fee (above the monthly payment). We still have mortgage, vehicle and another payment; but the remainder (poor decision type) of debt is handled by them. It will be another year before our obligations to them are fulfilled, but it has been a bit better, and we have a little put aside in accounts that are less than accessible. With my income being the only one via employment (hubby has pension, and has now returned to school); it is necessary to be careful. I do hope this time the lessons stick, because we don’t want to repeat the process in the future.

  25. Back in 2006, two years after we got married, we took Dave’s class. It was life transforming and now we recommend any engaged couple to take the class early on. Our family had a major growth last year when we added three precious kids to our family. It was only because of God and taking that class that I could even wrap my mind around how we were going to make it work financially. I love your honesty in this post. You are doing SO good!

    ~Sarah

  26. avatar
    Carol M says:

    Bravo for having the courage to share your story! We are debt-free after following Dave Ramsey’s teachings, you can do it! No need to keep looking back, look forward. Also, Freecycle is a great resource (you probably know about it already). Go Kara go!

  27. i had to give up my private gyrotonics lessons to help us pay back taxes. it’s been hard to feel like i get to take care of myself less, but i know it’s the right thing to to for my family.

  28. Thanks for sharing this. We too are in debt. I have been reading about financial freedom and wanting to get started but haven’t yet. I would love to hear how you changed some of your habits. It seems so easy to fall into old patterns (just ordering it on the credit card because we need it instead of waiting till we have the money). And it is both of us (my husband and I) who make bad decisions sometimes. We have paid off credit cards with our tax returns many times, but then we charge them up during the year all over again. We have even closed credit cards but then we got offers for new ones — bigger ones, and wow…what were we thinking?

  29. Thank you for sharing your experience. Sometimes so many mom blogs tout being debt free as though anyone can do it. (As in “We paid off $100,000 in debt in just one year, plus our mortgage! Buy my e-book to find out how!”) I’m not knocking it, if you can do it. But for some of us, it just isn’t an option. It encouraging to hear that not everyone is perfect and not everyone gets out of debt over night. Our journey to debt free will probably take a decade or more unless God intervenes in a huge way. Every time my husband gets a raise our expenses increase (child with food allergies means expensive food and more doctor’s visits), and we feel like we make little progress. You can’t worry about what other people think. (I’m terrible at taking my own advice in that area, but I’ll say it anyway). You can only move forward toward your goals and do the best you can.

  30. avatar
    Carol F in New Mexico says:

    Nice to know I’m not alone! We hit our crisis moment in 2011. Thanks to a very helpful and generous loan from my brother, we were able to pay off a huge amount of credit card debt and now we are paying him back (with interest) at a more reasonable rate. However, a huge money-suck for us was my husband’s insistence on having a ton of expensive life insurance (payments of $1,600/month!!!). I had asked to do something about it when I started to see the strain, but when the real crisis hit in 2011, I demanded it be changed! He was worried about not having any savings (he used life insurance policies as savings, we had no “real” savings), and not having life insurance “just in case”. I told him we needed to live for WHAT IS and not for “what might be”. So, he canceled all of those policies, we took out the cash, and paid off another huge chunk of debt, including our car and a chunk of the loan from my brother. Now we have less than $200/month in life insurance policies, and we have an emergency fund in the bank. Plus, not having that $1,600/month payment, and no more car payment was like getting a huge raise. I feel so stupid for allowing the life insurance issue to go on so long. It is what created our huge amount ($60K) of credit card debt. My husband used to be in charge of finances, now we share the duties and I’m now aware of everything. Every purchase is discussed and (even though he hates it and doesn’t see the point since we’re “on a payment schedule”) we make extra payments to my brother as often as possible. We eat at home almost all the time now (have been for over a year); cut our cable bill in half; went from haircuts every 4 weeks, to every 6 weeks; dropped the housekeeper; the business started paying half our cell phone bill (since hubby used it for business anyway, WHY were WE paying the whole bill?!); canceled the pest control service; and made many other changes back in 2011. The only thing we’ve added back is the pest control service just this summer. We now have a special savings account for our dream trip to Scotland in 2014! We learned to live on a tight budget because of this, and now we are finally seeing the rewards. We still have a long, long way to go before we are totally debt-free (another car, the house, a home equity loan, my brother), but there is hope now. We are no longer drowning, it’s deep water, but we are swimming!

  31. This is so brave of you to bare all like this to us! And it’s a wonderful gift to those of us who tend to put mom bloggers on a pedestal. My husband I have have 3 young kids and one income and have been struggling to get started on a debt free plan. Your story is inspiring and makes me want to head over to Dave Ramsey’s site right away! Thank you!

    Also, I don’t know if there’s a Kid to Kid used clothing store near you but if there is, or something like it, you might want to check it out. It’s not as cheap as yard sales but it comes close. And they have fantastic sales. And the quality of cloths available, at least at the one here in New Orleans, is far better than I’ve seen at most yard sales (not stained and not too worn or outdated). Plus you can sell you cloths to them for cash or store credit. I’ve sold plenty of things that we get as gifts and never get around to wearing or maybe just wore a few times.

    Good luck and keep fighting the good fight! And thank you so much for sharing your journey!

  32. avatar
    Kourtney says:

    Thank you for sharing about this.
    We are right there with you – cash envelopes, worrying about clothing children, scaling back on holidays. It has been very reassuring to me to read your posts. While I wince at my own grey roots and not-quite stylish goodwill outfit, having to hold back on buying clothes for my children just hurts. Watching my sister-in-law spend more on toys for her children every Friday than I did for our entire Christmas just hurts. I can handle my old vehicle but arguing with my husband about whether or not to let my seven year old play soccer ($35 per player fee plus the gas money to drive to practices and games)… emotionally painful to me.

    There was a “Small Notebook” blog post sometime in the last year, and she mentioned the phrase from Mary Poppins – “Enough is as good as a feast” – and that has become my mantra. Also, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” One extra hard day, I had to write it on my hand.

    Again, thank you so much for writing this. Best wishes to you and yours.

    • I love your mantras – I am definitely going to be using them daily to keep life in perspective.
      Thanks.

  33. Thanks for sharing your story Kara!
    I grew up living (under) paycheck to paycheck and it was hard to see that my parents never seemed to adjust their money management – or teach it to me. As a result when I got my own jobs I had the huge mountains and valleys of spending more than I should and then living off ramen until the next payday.
    My husband and I have been working on paying off our debts and the DR system worked really well for us after years of “we’ll pay more on the highest balance”. We put it on hold to cash flow our kitchen remodel and new baby, but I am SO itchy to get back to it. Getting rid of debt is kind of like decluttering for me: addictive!
    The hardest thing I’ve found is trying to explain to *other* people why you aren’t going to whatever dinner or event or trip. I think living with debt has become so ingrained in Americans’ lives that people are just confused by anything else.

  34. I also have student loan debt and a mortgage to pay off, but it’s very difficult to get ahead with extra payments when living below the federal poverty line. When I see that someone paid $60,000 in two years, that’s great! but we don’t even make that much in two years for our family of five with special dietary needs. I know I can still cut spending, and am trying to, but it’s not always so easy.

  35. Thank you for sharing your story – I know you sharing will influence others to take control of their finances and experience the freedom that comes from living within our means and enjoying life without that added stress. I accumulated a lot of debt when I was a single mom, but I slowly took control and managed to pay it off too. Now, for the past 7 years after remarrying and being blessed with a hubby who is very good at setting boundaries around money, we’ve really buckled down with a very strict and limited budget to save for a big purchase we have dreamed of making. Today is our reality day as we make our dream happen. Worth all the meals at home, second hand clothes, bargain hunting, craigslist list shopping and working extra! You go girl – I pray for strength and courage to move boldly forward!!!

  36. As already evidenced by the plethora of comments, you are not alone in this! My husband and I did Dave Ramsey’s class through our church and it was a major turning point for us. We aren’t completely debt free yet (student loans) but we are in a MUCH better position than we were. The work actually works. When we needed a “new” car in 2011, we were able to save and pay cash for a 2008 light green minivan. It isn’t the car I “wanted” but I love it because it is reliable and there are no monthly payments. Totally worth the humble pill I had to swallow by saying Yes to this choice. Keep up your good work!

  37. Thanks for sharing your story Kara!

    Boy, I know exactly what it feels like to hit rock bottom and start the rebound. It’s humbling, scary, and you feel like you’re alone. We are working on cleaning up $60,000 of debt and finally have a good debt snowball rolling!

    My wife and I have had an irregular income for the past 5 years since I quit my job to start working for myself. We have just this year tamed the irregular income beast in similar ways to you and Christopher.

    Thanks for being transparent with your story. It’s motivating to hear people scream “I’m Debt Free!”, but it is very motivating to hear stories of people in the middle of the journey.

  38. What a great blog, and one I needed to read today! We are about to embark on baby step# 1. As silly as it sounds, I haven’t wanted to spend the money to buy the materials to get started. I’m so tired of living check to check with bad credit. Thanks for being so honest!

  39. I am right there with you. We were unemployed for two years, so all of that selling everything but the kids went to keeping a roof over our heads and feeding the kids. We now use cash only and are making a very slow progression. That in itself is progress I guess. It is nice to be able to relate to someone else. Boone else we know us battling this.

  40. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! We’ve been struggeling to get the ball rolling on our enormous debt!!! I hear other people talk about their overwhelming debt and I’m like oh honey we’ve got 4 times that not including the mortgage! I like to hear others debt free stories, but at the same time just feel overwhelmed that we messed it up forever! Thanks for sharing similar realistic progress! It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones fighting triple digit debt.

  41. Kara, it’s so great you shared this to encourage and inspire everyone else. Congratulations on all the progress you’ve made.
    We didn’t have much money for a while and we had to make every penny count. As our children have grown, we’ve made a point of talking to them about the choices we’ve made so we can be home more with them consequently not bringing in as much money for stuff they see their friends getting. At this point, they share this perspective with proud, learning about the advantages of living on less. I’m proud to say my 16 y.o. with her clothing allowance is a ferociously careful shopper. She just asked me to take her to the Goodwill to get some spring clothes and she usually goes shopping with a calculator in hand. Take heart, because not only are you freeing yourselves up, you’re giving your children an invaluable perspective and skills that will empower them as well. I wrote more about this here: http://fitfamilytogether.com/healthy-home-biz/frugality-secret-to-a-richer-life.

  42. Hi,
    I grew up in a family that experienced bankruptcy more than once.
    Iam now an over 40 single mum who has just spent or commited the majorityof our meagre savings to starting a business in a rural town but yes I am (so far)debt free.
    The simple life has been not only a choice but a necessity. I am thankful for the lessons from my parents’ experience and hope that at some time the dream of true financial freedom is realised. Congratulations on making the mental shift. Once you have things it is difficult to let them go.

  43. Wow! You go, Kara and family! You have made strides in getting your debt paid off as well as with the change in attitude. I understand how you feel, because we’ve worked hard for a few years to finally get our debt paid off (debt free since December 2012!) via the Dave Ramsey method also. I felt like we weren’t making any headway for a while there, because I kept paying the “stupid tax” for things like late fees, etc. But I’m grateful that our local bank offered its members the Dave Ramsey FPU at a discounted rate so we could finally get out of the hole I was ashamed I had gotten us into. (http://reddparty.blogspot.com/2013/01/free-at-last.html)

    Cheering you and your family on! You can do it!

  44. I know a lot of people love Dave Ramsey’s methods, but I have to disagree for one important reason:
    “Living with debt can be a scary, shameful thing.”
    Ok, you made mistakes. We all do. That’s what life is all about! Making mistakes, learning from them, cleaning up our messes, and moving on. Shame gets in the way of that process. It makes us fearful of trying anything new because we might fail. It paralyzes us from learning from our mistakes because we’re too ashamed to face them dispassionately.
    Debt isn’t shameful. Sometimes you do what you have to do to survive, even – gasp – borrow money. Use a credit card. Better to use a credit card at the grocery store than let your family go hungry, right?
    I’m right there with you. I’ve made my fair share of money mistakes and stupid moves. I’ve made desperation moves, and paid for them several times over. It isn’t fun, but it’s reality. In the last year, I’ve found a system that – for me at least – is a much more positive way to manage my money, without the heavy burden of shame and guilt that Dave Ramsey seems so fond of:
    You Need A Budget (http://www.youneedabudget.com) has helped my family get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, and we’re even able to save for a family vacation to Disney World – something I thought was out of reach a year ago. I highly recommend it!

  45. We love Dave! In fact, my niece is getting married in a few weeks, and we just got their gift: the Financial Peace University box set. We’re so giddy about giving FPU away! And a smaller gift for you, Kara, and anyone else who has library organization issues: http://www.libraryelf.com. It’ll let you know when things are due, and when items you requested are ready for pickup. (It probably does other stuff, too, but this is the main goody.) High hopes for you and Christopher as you continue your journey!

  46. Kara,

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to many of us.

  47. Thank you so much for sharing. I know it takes a lot of courage. We also have a 3 figure debt (from law school and not being frugal enough while the schooling was happening) and with three young kids it can feel so overwhelming. We throw as much money as we possible can at it, but even so it’s going to be years before we’re debt free. Sometimes I feel like it’s a loosing battle and we should just give up (or at least be less frugal- go on trips, see friends and family that require plane trips etc) I’m always struggling between the desire to become debt free and the things that cost money NOW that seem important to me (visiting family; eating healthy, local, organic food) I really appreciated you writing about this and it has given me renewed confidence. We WILL become debt free; and we will NOT miss out on life while doing it. We just have to give up some of the smaller and less significant things!

  48. Congrats on working towards being debt free. We became debt free in 2009 (except the house) and it felt awesome. It takes a huge weight off your shoulders. We did just purchase a car, but it’s 0% financing and it will be paid off in 2 years. I don’t like having debt again, but we are comfortable with how things are right now.

  49. We’re about 6 months away from finishing off Baby Step 2 and calling Dave to celebrate. We’ve been working to pay off debt hard core since we got married. And we have a new baby too. Some months are harder than ever, this month we’ve loosened the purse strings slightly on personal money because the past three months were so stringent. But I love that my husband and I are on the same page financially and are changing our family tree one step at a time!

  50. Thank you for sharing your story!! I am encouraged and inspired. My husband and I took the Dave Ramsey course a few years ago…at the time we were saving for a new house but that course made us realize we couldn’t really afford a new house. So instead we put all that money toward our school loan debt. That turned out to be a great decision because a year or so later I was able to leave my job and stay home with our kids. Now besides our mortgage we just need to finish paying my husband’s school loans and we’ll be in good shape. I’m so thankful for the Dave Ramsey program; I only wish I’d taken it earlier…

  51. avatar
    Kathryn says:

    Thank you so very much. I am often overwhelmed and discouraged by financial debt free posts because I feel we will never get there! I’ve never read a story with someone who’s had close to as much debt as us! (also 6 figures:() I really needed to hear from someone in a similar situation. It takes courage to talk about this. Thanks again!

  52. My name is Kara too.. and I discovered Dave about 7 years ago which completely altered how I thought about and handled my money.. in December 2010, I paid off my “small” house! Bottom line.. his program works! I just wish I could get more friends and family on it! Good luck, keep after it, the peace you will have once you are debt free will make all the struggles worthwhile! Plus you’re changing your family tree – that’s priceless!

  53. Kara,
    I feel your pain. Personally I say let your son wear some of those purple outfits as long as they do not seem too frilly or “girly”. I am still in debt but, I hope to have at least one student loan paid off by early next year. I no longer use my credit card so no rising debt there let alone the interest of 18% or higher if I keep a balance. I have brought my spending down a lot and have only decided to spend money on food, clothing, shelter, books and gifts. Granted the food does include the occasional latte from the local coffee shop as a small treat. It has helped a lot in keeping things down. I no longer buy things just because or whatever. I hope that what I have decided to spend my money on helps others. I also spend some money on paying down my student loan usually about $100 a month more or less depending upon where I am sitting and how much I spent the previous month on things.

  54. Hey Kara – Just wanted to say that I think you’re really brave for being so open and thank you for that. We paid off around $80,000 in debt over two years (won’t bore you with our story) and now have only a mortgage. We feel SO very blessed and appreciate the mental as well as financial freedom that comes with that. Best wishes as you continue to rock the debt free journey!

  55. Thanks Kara for sharing your story. My husband introduced me to Dave Ramsey 6 years ago a few months before we got married. I had already been working two jobs to pay down my own debt from stupid choices through my twenties and thought that I would be a more attractive candidate for marriage if I didn’t have to tell someone I had thousands of dollars in debt that they would have to incur by marrying me. This realization hit me at age 28, quickly approaching 30 and still single. Anyways, I had most of my debt paid down by the time I met my husband and he had already been well into his debt reduction journey also. This made the financial aspect of marriage very easy for us. We were on the same page from the beginning! We have lived within our means, finished paying off everything except our land loan, built a small vintage cabin from cash, salvaged materials and our own labor. We have been on track to pay off our land within the next 3 years and then were hoping to sell and pay cash for a small farm and begin a journey of working at home together. BUT – he just lost his job last week. Discouraging to say the least and our plans have been changed. We have decided to take the plunge head first and begin working together at home now and continue to try to pay down our loan as we can. I am experiencing first hand the peace that comes from having 6 months of living expenses saved, having been fully funding our 401ks for the last 5 years and knowing that they are still growing even as we are unable to currently contribute to his. (I work part-time at a restaurant still). I’m bummed that things seem to be delayed at this point and maybe we won’t get to take the vacations we’ve been putting off for even longer now, but it’s okay. Those are bonuses. We are not in fear of losing our home or our vehicles or scrambling to find work to keep the lights on. We’re also not fighting because the stress level is not overwhelming. Heading into my forties next year has an entirely different look than heading into my thrities had!!! It can be difficult at times to live this way, especially when close friends and family have fancy cars, clothes, jewelry and homes and take extravagant vacations while we plug away at our simple but paid for life. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to check out your blog! I’m hoping to get back to mine again soon.
    Sincerely,
    Adina

  56. Kara,

    We were where you were for years, Dave Ramsey being the beginning of our epiphany that led us out. I wish I had time to tell our story here, there are so many unbelievable things that have happened. (Our biggest financial break was due to a beastly tornado that devastated our home and community 2 years ago, and then ANOTHER storm that just hit our still-under-construction home 2 weeks ago…both brought answers to prayers we never imagined).

    Some of the greatest blessings were born out of our direst adversity (including my blog), so I just wanted to encourage you to keep pressing on, “living like no one else now” and not missing the valuable nuggets that adversity brings.

    I have a lot of details on my blog (including an ebook I published about our journey) if you are interested.

  57. Kara,

    We were where you were for years, Dave Ramsey being the beginning of our epiphany that led us out. I wish I had time to tell our story here, there are so many unbelievable things that have happened. (Our biggest financial break was due to a beastly tornado that devastated our home and community 2 years ago, and then ANOTHER storm that just hit our still-under-construction home 2 weeks ago…both brought answers to prayers we never imagined).

    Some of the greatest blessings were born out of our direst adversity (including my blog), so I just wanted to encourage you to keep pressing on, “living like no one else now” and not missing the valuable nuggets that adversity brings.

    We invented a whole new brand of frugality, I think. (One year I collected the toilet paper someone rolled our yard with so we could use it ;-))

    I have a lot of details on my blog (including an ebook I published about our journey) if you are interested.

  58. Ok, so as someone who is DESPERATE to pay down debt, be able to pay monthly bills, AND maybe somedayyyy have a savings ;) HOWWWW do you start w Dave Ramsey if you literally don’t have anything left at the end of a week?? Hubby works 7 days a week, and I stay at home with our 4 kids since we can’t afford daycare. On paper though, we look better than it seems in reality every week- I feel like I don’t know where to start!

    Your story is inspiring though- leads me to believe there IS Hope ;) Theresa

  59. You have a great story, Kara! I also found Dave Ramsey fairly recently, almost 2 years ago. I started off with $140,000 (give or take) in summer 2009 after college graduation…mostly student loans but also a new car loan and I eventually racked up about $2,000 in credit card debt as well. However, in May 2011 I read “Total Money Makeover” and realized that I had to kick this debt payoff thing into high gear. I was able to quickly finish off my credit card and cut that up; I also paid off my smallest student loan (federal) right away. I made my first budget in June and have lived on one ever since! This month, I will be halfway through paying off my debt!! And next year I will be getting married, everything cash flowed of course! :) I cannot wait to call Dave (or better yet, travel to Financial Peace Plaza) with my future husband and scream we’re debt free!! :)
    Keep up the great work, I will definitely start following your blog!
    ~Malori~

  60. avatar
    Jessica G says:

    Thank you for sharing Im 26 and me and my husband are trying to contain the debt I have been reading about Dave Ramsey and little by little trying to get rid of our debt taxes help pay some stuff but also fix the family car and with 4 boys it is just non stop…. but If you could do it I know I can if we put all effort in…

  61. It’s pretty crazy how debt has become a normal part of life. To spend what you don’t even have and not think twice about it. Do you know the Mr. Money Moustache blog? I find it really inspiring. It also is all about living simply and moving away from consumerism. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com

  62. We learned about Dave Ramsey from my husband’s men’s bible study group. We bought Total Money Makeover, and realized that there just might be hope and peace for us after all. Within a couple of months, we joined FPU, became facilitators, are debt free, our oldest daughter and her hubbie are also now debt free, and youngest is working towards it.

    When Dave says it will change your family tree, you can’t begin to know how serious he is about that. I get tears in my eyes thinking about how the trajectory of our lives have changed, and how we have helped others find hope and peace in theirs, too. Have courage, keep the faith, just keep getting back up after you fall down, and YOU WILL MAKE IT! You go, girl!!!

  63. Wow Kara, you’ve touched a lot of people with this post.
    My heart goes out to anyone struggling with financial debt. You’ve done so well already with the steps you’ve made to pay it off, even if it may not seem like you’ve made much progress, but every bit helps, right?
    You mentioned that a new-to-you car is going to have to happen soon. My husband’s created a site that might be helpful to you. It searches different used car sites all in one go. It’s autotempest.com Also, he’s got some helpful essays on there for tips on buying a used car. I’ve read them all, even! :p Those are at http://www.autotempest.com/advice/
    Hope that helps! Keep up the hard work, it’s worth it!

  64. avatar
    Melanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing about your journey. My family and I are also struggling with debt and making ends meet, and it is so refreshing and heartening to read your story. It is very encouraging to know we’re not alone!

  65. Brave woman! I just called yesterday to get the payoff quote on the last of our (non mortgage) debts. Hooray! It’s very excoting to think about where the money for monthly debt payments can now go. We haven’t followed Dave Ramsey’s steps, but we feel like we finally have a budget system that works for us and is allowing us to set aside money for the things that normally throw off our finances.

  66. I keep seeing folks who follow Dave Ramsey. Maybe I need to check his advice out. We are doing so-so with debt, but could learn to budget much better.

  67. You truly rock Kara :) Your honesty always encourages me!

  68. I just, just, just published a post this morning where I “came out” about our family’s debt. We, too, feel like we will be on baby step 2 forever. Thank you for sharing your story. For anyone reading this comment interested in how another family is trying to make their financial dreams a reality one frugal month at a time, I hope you’ll swing by and check out the post {Debt Sucks}. Best of luck to you! We WILL get through this! http://thedrumgoolefamily.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/debt-sucks/

  69. We are living financial peace! My husband taught the class for many years. The journey was painful at times but as we’ve come out the other side and are debt free it was insanely worth it. In fact had we not been debt free we would have not been able to make some of the choices we had including an awesome stint with an organization that allowed us to travel Europe for years! Stick with it, hold on for the ride and write about it as much as you want! It may be just what you need to stay sane through it all!

  70. I commend you for going for a debt-free life! I have to confess that it’s very hard to stay there even after you get there! We became debt-free years ago, but little by little I started using my emergency credit card again. The numbers slowly crept up till we were stressed out again. Last year, I gave my husband a zero-debt credit card balance for his Christmas present – which meant our family did not buy Christmas presents for each other. For me, nothing was harder than not gifting! However, it’s become more meaningful as time goes on and now that I know we can do it, I’m not even stressed about gifts anymore. Good luck!

  71. Very inspired!!!! Congrats!

  72. Thank you for sharing your story, Kara. Your words were the right words at the right time for me. Thank you–

  73. avatar
    Carol White says:

    How did you pay down the $90,000???
    We have been to FPU and have been on a budget now for a couple of years, but we need to pay off over $30,000. Would love to hear more about HOW you did it!
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  74. In college my husband delivered office supplies and listened to “The Dave Ramsey Show” driving around. It’s been one of the major blessings of our lives. We had many chances to spend our money recklessly, but because of the stories we heard on the show we knew the trouble it could cause. Our only debt is our mortgage and we’re working furiously to pay it off. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very inspiring.

  75. We love Dave Ramsay over here! We are also in major debt from school, and there have been frustrating moments, but there is finally a little more money left over at the end of the month instead of more month than money :)

  76. Kara–thank you SO much for this. Your honesty is refreshing. We are in deep debt and no one seems concerened enough yet. I hope your message can help us. Thanks.

  77. oh, i love this. i just sent the link to my hubby to read. i KNOW that rock bottom … know it in my gut with too much familiarity. like you, we have irregular income … it’s been a wild faith-ride and i wouldn’t change it for anything but boy, we’ve had some scary financial times. rock bottom. no diapers. almost out of gas. and no reserves. the timing of reading this is so beautiful and i thank you, for your candor. as you said, SHAME surrounds so much of our financial thoughts and so we don’t share; we keep our struggles secret. one thing that’s been such a beautiful learning lesson of these lean years for us is that when we DO share, with close trusted friends … we can help each other. so we’ve given and received; we’ve brought groceries and received groceries. and being able to help and be helped so practically speaks of such deep, real love.

  78. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    Congratulations on paying off $90k! That is an amazing accomplishment. We were fortunate to discover the virtues of the debt snowball in our twenties when there were two incomes and no kids. That allowed me the privilege to stay home with my kids. And while hugely pregnant with number two, my husband decided it was time for baby step 6. I thought he was crazy, but four years later, we will be paying off our house in 35 days. My husband moments ago asked me how do we talk about this to others as a blessing from God (and Dave Ramsey) without bragging. Our friends and family know we are weirdly frugal (still selling everything but the kids, no cable, no dinners out, postponed swimming lessons,etc), but we don’t want to sound preachy. We want our (in debt) family to know it is possible with perseverance. Is it helpful to see this hope in others while you are in the trenches?

  79. Thank you so much for sharing your story! This was so timely. Sometimes God just has a way of saying, “Hi, you need this. Love, God.” My husband and I just had the budget talk. Ugh. I handle all the money and I’m not very good at it. Most of our credit card debt is mine from bad habits that were developed in college. Add to that school debt and a car payment *sigh*. It’s so overwhelming and no one talks about it. Thank you so so much for sharing your journey. We are about to embark on some major life changes (mostly me). Plus I need to be able to budget for my organic diet as health has become extremely important for me. So here goes!
    Thanks again!

  80. Thanks for sharing your story with openness and honesty. We’ve been DR fans for the past year or so, and although we don’t have any debt, our challenge is income. Coupled with major medical expenses already during the first few months of the year, we’re just plain struggling to increase our cash flow. It’s so encouraging to read your story and others in the comments–both those of success and those that help me know we’re not the only ones with financial struggles. I’ll be looking forward to your next post.

  81. So glad to hear how Dave Ramsey’s wisdom helped you too. I am a single mom and went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in 2006. I got debt free except for my mortgage in 1.5 years. My daughter and I experienced our first all cash vacation the following summer and I can’t tell you the piece I had when we returned home and there was no bill to pay. My daughter wanted to attend a private high school in 2008 and I know it was because of my being a better steward of what God gave me that she received an amazing scholarship to one of thae best private high schools in Oregon. I am so glad I didn’t have to tell her no because of finances. As I have been working to pay off my mortgage, save more for retirement and help my daughter through college I still utilize the principals I learned. What is most exciting is my daughter learned those principals by watching me during that time. I am amazed that she hasn’t asked me for a dime (except money I already saved for tuition) since she has been away in college almost 2000 miles away. She is managing the money she makes on her work study job so well that she is able to take care of all of her own needs and many wants. Your family will be blessed for your efforts and you will create a legacy of debt free living. Keep going!!

  82. My hubby and I were convicted a little over a year ago to live debt-free. We’re doing everything we can to re-vamp our budget, take control of debt, and not take on any new debts. I feel so much more in control now! But we have a long way to go. I like Dave Ramsey’s material, but we’re also working on our own plan, too. :)

  83. I am so glad that you posted this. I write a blog called pleasantlypoor. It’s relatively new for me so I haven’t even started trying to make money from it, yet, but I’m getting there. My husband and are also dealing with debt of our own. In reality, it’s not as much debt as you are claiming, but some days it feels like it might as well be. We’ve made some real successes with our debt, but there is still a long way to go.

    Your post reminded me why I started writing in the first place. I think it’s time I got back to that, and would like to reference your post. It takes a lot of courage to admit that kind of debt.

  84. Hi Kara and Tch. I loved this post and love this website in general.

    I’m in my early twenties, and am working my way through learning finances (it took me months to figure out what exactly a 6% match on my 401 k meant!). I had a question – it seems like many times, people make mistakes in their twenties about money. Kara mentioned that in her post. I’m sure many of us who are in an earlier season of life would benefit from hearing the top mistakes you’ve seen people make about money! I know I would!

    Annie

  85. avatar
    lisa anne says:

    I have struggled for the last four years. The economy destroyed me. I already lived by Dave Ramseys rules but there was not a cent left. I read a two sentence quote by Susie Orman. Basically it said you cannot continue making financial decisions based on your income from a couple years ago. I needed permission to make changes and I did. I ditched my mortgage. I realize not all people have this oppurtunity but I had unusual circumstances and my credit was not ruined. I was upside down on the property and could not get it refinanced. Mt husband was dead and you can’t ruin a dead mans credit. We moved into a dump and have stabilized our budget. Thats easier without a 1300.00 mortgage. I will add that I have no debt. We have always been frugal. I am the proud owner of a new foreclosure purchased at auction this week. I paid 4100.00 for a 3 bedroom built in 2005. Its a decent house and will require about 5000.00 in self repairs. It took me 11 months to turn my life around. If we had stayed and continued to keep that mortgage up, our life would have continued downhill until I lost everything. The uncertainty was a huge stress but my determination has paid off.

  86. avatar
    Allie H says:

    Kara,
    It was great to read your story, a hard one to tell no doubt. I am so happy to hear about the progress you have made so far. Dave Ramsey is great, and I see a lot of the comments point to him, but I only saw one other comment about Mr. Money Mustache, which I would also like to point you towards as a resource. He is a great simple living/financial blog, and he is def. an outside the box thinker. While some people may find his writing style hard to swallow (he sometimes feels that a curse or two helps prove his point), his blog is a wealth of information. I read the entire blog from the beginning, and have found so many wonderful ideas on there, but one you may find particularly helpful are his reader case studies. People will write in a say essentially, it’s all well and good for mr. money mustache on his high horse, but how about us in debt, and he will take their breakdown and offer options to help get out of debt faster. There is also a forum style community of mustachians that offers even more helpful advice.
    Just something to look into. You’ve done a great job so far; good luck with the rest of your debt free journey!

  87. Kara, just a note of encouragement to keep it up! Being debt-free has truly given us a sense of peace, and it is worth every budget meeting, heated discussion, clipped coupon, bad cheap haircut, etc. Every “no” right now makes a better “yes” possible later. There is such freedom in being able to tell our money what to do, instead of the other way around. Congratulations on how far you’ve come, and thank you for your willingness to share your story!

  88. Kara,
    Thank you so much for being open and honest in sharing your story! We went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace classes about 5 years ago and it truly transformed our lives. We have been debt-free for about 3 years now and it is FANTASTIC. We are working hard on paying off our house now! These things truly are great, and we are so thankful to be at this place. However, the best payoff is one that you’re already seeing–a new attitude toward money and possessions. We truly feel released from having to get a new car every 3 years; and from having to have “the best” of everything. We are content to get older stuff, drive our cars until they die and live happily with what we have. THAT is priceless.
    I just completed writing a blog series for my website (thevintagecreative.com) that talks about ways to eat healthy but still live within a budget (and will publish it in a few weeks). I now feel compelled to share with other how they too can happily live within their means and experience true financial peace. I hope you can check it out! I’ll send you the link when it’s posted.
    Be encouraged today, sister!
    Alicia

  89. Hello from Mozambique! I love reading testimonies of people getting our of debt or on the journey to do so. I recently really listened to and read Dave Ramsey’s teachings and I am now debt free and living on a budget (trying to figure that out with my irregular missionary income) and so excited about being on top of my finances in what feels like the first time in my adult life. I think you hit on something, noting that the successes are fewer (in terms of the final accomplishment) with only the big debtors to pay off. Perhaps think of ways you can celebrate the mini-milestones so you remain inspired. Blessings, Laura

  90. avatar
    Bethany says:

    I will admit i didn’t read through all the comments so this might have been asked already but how did you start paying debt when you are not even able to live paycheck to paycheck .

    That is where my family and i are now. I have taken Dave Ramsey’s class at out church and i want to get that first $1000 in the bank but as we don’t have enough income to cover all of our expenses HOW DO I DO THAT? We rent our townhouse. I shop at thrift stores and welcome all hand-me-downs. :) One vehicle, my husband commutes by train, his company pays for our internet and his cell phone, we don’t have cable or any other TV service, we don’t have a home phone and my cell phone is a pay as you go (no contract). I just started staying home in September of 2012 because my part-time job wasn’t going to balance out financially with our youngest in 1/2 day kindergarten and the daycare he would need. Honestly I am at the end of my rope. I don’t know what else to do. Any help is appreciated.

    Bethany

  91. Thank you so much for this post! We’ve been through Dave Ramsey’s FPU twice, and I want to be debt free so badly, but I still feel like we’re drowning. All of our debt is my student loans, so we don’t have any credit card spending to cut back, we don’t have any credit cards. But we don’t even bring in enough money to budget for everything Dave says we should, and we can’t even afford the minimum payments on all the loans. I’m trying right now to find a way to earn income from home while I take care of my two toddlers, because in my area, the cost of daycare would outweigh or eliminate the extra income if I went out and got a job, not to mention there’s not a single daycare around here that I trust. We already get some government assistance and I’m afraid we may have to apply for more… And I feel like it’s all my fault. They are my student loans. After I graduated, I was supposed to get my master’s and be a teacher, and paying them off would have been easier. But I got pregnant instead, and now we have two kids and one income and a degree that’s going to waste but still costing us… and I don’t know what to do. Unless I can figure out a way to bring more money in, I just don’t know.

  92. Simple life is not always so … simple. Social pressures for one. Hubby and I have been living “simply” for the last 5 years… it lead to moving to our home town to be near family. Moving into a small (2 bedroom/converted livingroom) farmhouse. Buying everything we need second-hand. Having me stay at home with our 2 small daughters…

    But it is certainly NOT easy. we are stretched monetarily every month. We have been on “step 2″ of the snowball for the past 4 years and everytime we seem to be making progress, something explodes (appliances, car, house… our health….). Our families do not share our viewpoint on “simple living” and the view of the life we wanted to create by moving home just isn’t realistic…

    I guess more than anything, I’m looking for some rah-rah motivation here Any tips on getting out of the uncomfortable 2nd step snowball blahs? Esp. when there is NO understanding or support from family around you?

  93. thank you for being so transparent here. it is really refreshing to read someone’s struggle where there is hope but they’re not out of the woods yet….we are a one income family and Tsh’s blog has been such an encouragement to be more intentional, not just in what I have at home, but in what I bring home- it has really changed the way I shop, and in my devo’s I have been convicted to be a better steward and giver of the resources God has blessed us with.; as such- I am finding that we can never out-give the Lord. :) Good luck seems so paltry towards a debt free journey but I look forward to reading your update of success!

  94. I’m so excited to read about your journey, Kara. You are an inspiration to me. We just started with Dave and are getting super pumped about where it will take us. I’ll always remember your comment on what actually constitutes and “emergency” back when your fridge gave out. Love you!

  95. Thanks Kara for being open and sharing your story. Man, digging out of debt is HARD. I wished someone told us this in college or before that! I wonder what are teachers for sometimes. We are on the last leg of getting out of debt and it is like a snail, so I understand where you are.

  96. avatar
    Aleksandra says:

    Thanks Kara for sharing this… Yes, we are in a huge debt, too and I’m trying to get an extra income for our family…. but sometimes I think that it is impossible. I have a teenage daughter (everyone knows how expensive is that) and a 6-year old son, who has grown a lot for the past year. Also, there are my husbands parents with lots of health issues to solve and very low pensions. I work full time in a bank, but in my country bank officers are paid 3 times less than a supermarket cassier from Germany. Sometimes I lose faith and I feel like my whole life is a pile of stones that will crash in a moment on my head… but you and all of you gave a hope today and, what is more important, a bit of courage to fight. Thank YOU!

  97. avatar
    Dana Owens says:

    I’ve really been trying to watch my budget, which isn’t always easy with the kids growing as quickly as they do. We just did our spring shopping. Luckily, I was able to get some great deals at Burlington Coat Factory. I love the fact that I can quality clothes that look great and save money on it. It really helps with my budget.

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