Getting out of debt can be extremely difficult and there can often be some discouraging moments that will make you want to quit.
I wanted to detail a little bit of my journey in the hope that it will encourage you to 1) get started if you haven’t and/or 2) stay the course if you have.
Successful debt elimination is a combination of knowledge, skill building, behavior change, accountability, community and having a guide (real or virtual) to lead you through it.
I want you to use ALL of our free resources to help get you to where you want to be. I promise you it’s AWESOME being on the other side!
Come join us!
Do you Pinterest? Sharing this pin on your favorite board might help someone struggling with their debt.
If you think you can accomplish full debt-elimination without a zero based budget, think again. You MUST make your money behave.
It was a hard lesson for me, but once I "got it", I was on fire.
I was giving every dollar a job in my budget every month and making sure I was tracking every penny.
So, as you read this, please keep that in mind.
Here's a great free resource to help you start budgeting successfully.
You can learn more about how to actually budget at this blogpost and/or by watching the video below.
I never get tired of sharing the story of my journey to zero debt. It actually NEVER gets old. And, I remember all the details of it, as though it happened yesterday.
May 8th, 2007 and I was at the closing table selling the condo that had me economically pinned down for the previous 8 years.
The $10,000 in profit from the sale of the condo, enabled me to immediately pay off the 2nd mortgage, which was a “HELOC" - Home Equity Line Of Credit. This was my, you know, (cringe) “emergency fund"....
Words cannot even begin to describe the joy and peace I felt that day walking away from that closing table and into an entirely new and debt free chapter of my life.
The weight that had been lifted from my shoulders coupled with the exuberance I felt about the future really are hard to accurately convey. I’m writing this because I want you to experience that very same thing.
And, even though it “only” took two and a half years to pay down all of my debt, it was definitely a roller coaster ride getting there.
Part of that ride was trying to unload that condo. It was a major source of overhead for me and I wanted to be rid of it ASAP!
I tried to sell it three different times (pulling it off the market twice) and sometimes wondered if I would ever be able sell it and…
Finally, after 5 years of trying, it sold!!
Yep, this is what happened on more than one occasion. But it was totally worth it!
The path to that moment was paved with a lot of work, work, work and often utter and complete exhaustion to the point of passing out in my clothes upon arriving at my bed (or even couch sometimes).
But that two and a half years of work and exhaustion was such a welcomed state of affairs in comparison to that prior 5 years of worry, fret, dread, terror and the resident exhaustion that comes with it. Once I discovered Dave Ramsey’s plan, I was off to the races.
The plan, the framework, the program itself gave me vision, hope and a step by step plan of execution.
I honestly can’t even remember exactly when I was introduced to the baby steps or exactly the moment I discovered Dave.
The immersion experience of ingesting the concepts and seeing how I could replicate them into my life, is really what I remember most clearly.
Getting an injection hope of the possibilities that arose from following a little, logical and powerful program called “The 7 Baby-Steps” gave me all the permission I needed to go "spider monkey" on my debt.
A combination of reading Dave’s book, “The Total Money Makeover”, listening to his daily radio show, self studying FPU (Financial Peace University) and working with a financial coach (like me).
You’ll sometimes hear me say “we did it”, even though I was not yet married to my beautiful wife, Angelica yet.
I sometimes say “we” because, had I never paid down that debt, I probably never would have met her.
Paying off my debt meant that I could embrace the opportunity to leave the corporate world and embrace my dream-career of being professional musician.
It also meant that I had more freedom to travel and with this freedom, I was able to meet my wife as I was touring with an a American Christian singer/songwriter who wrote Spanish-language Christian music. Wow, that's a mouthful, right?
Yes, I'm completely aware that I married up.. :)
It was during a South American tour with this artist that I met my wife who worked a giant church we were playing at in Bogota’, Colombia.
So, I give you all that detail to explain why I say "we". I say “we” because I certainly feel like she was a huge part of my “why” long before we ever met.
You see, being debt free opens doors that you probably can’t imagine in this moment in time. I know I couldn't.
It's hard to possess the imaginative capacity to dream about what you'll be able to do when you have no debt, when you're still in survival mode just trying to keep up with it.
That’s okay, in terms of helping you imagine what debt freedom will be like, you’ve come to the right place! As financial coaches, we have both the desire and the tools to help you imagine and attain a life after debt.
Once I discovered Dave’s material it ignited a fire inside of me. It "clicked" almost immediately.
I instantly connected my brain and my heart to this external plan that gave me a giant rush of hope about my situation. It was a hope that my situation had all but beaten out of me.
As a result of ingesting the plan and internalizing the idea of a future with no debt, I quickly decided that I would need to put my music career on pause and reenter the corporate workforce for a time.
I was so full of hope that I didn’t mind the otherwise loathsome prospect of reentering the corporate sales world.
I had worked so diligently to exit just a few years prior to escape a very bad situation that I swore I'd never return to.
In fact, my lack of trepidation was surprising even to me, especially given that my last corporate job turned into an absolute nightmare (a subject for later time).
Suffice it to say, this new hope gave me everything I needed to conquer whatever fear attempting to block me from killing my debt. I was ready to slay!
So, I applied for some inside sales positions on “Monster.com” and I believe the first two applications (one with Sage Software and the other with AutoTrader.com) yielded two interviews and two job offers! What?! I could hardly believe it.
By the way, I don't mention this to set an unrealistic expectation that this will happen for you in the same way it did for me.
No one can honestly predict that. But I will say The Lord definitely delivers mercies in times we may least expect.
My time of need and desire to eliminate my debt, intersected perfectly with my new company's requirements. It was on like Donkey Kong!
I signed on to my sales position and was off to the races. I was never this motivated.
In fact, I was practically unstoppable. Within my first year in that positions, I became the number one sales rep in my division.
I went on to win several awards that year including “rookie of the year”.
The plan was working and I was on fire, writing some fat checks to pay down my debt!
Concurrently, I was still accepting and playing music gigs as a both a singer and as a "sideman" guitar player.
My schedule usually went something like this: Wednesday through Saturday night, found me playing music in a restaurant or club to earn extra money and Sundays found me playing contract music gigs in various local churches.
So, I was working 40-45 hours per week in my corporate job and then working another 4-5 hours per night, Wednesdays-Saturdays and then another 8 hours on Sunday.
Conservatively, I was working 65-70 hours per week.
Was I exhausted? Yes, but I was also more full of hope than I had been in many years. That made ALL the difference.
My dream at this point was to get completely out of debt, leave the corporate world a second (and hopefully last) time and continue my tireless pursuit of a substantive music career.
It was during this period I developed my ninja-like budgeting skills. I got turbo frugal and completely rejected eating out or spending money on anything that was not absolutely necessary.
It was all beans and rice, rice and beans as Dave Ramsey says.
I was focused and on fire for this debt freedom and I was not going to allow any competing interests derail me.
These are the 8 steps I followed to eliminate $43,000 in debt in 2.5 years. Trust me, they work!
It was during this time I also discovered selling stuff on Craigslist. This phase really kicked in toward the end of my zero debt journey, especially as I had an inkling that my condo was going to sell.
I had a fantastic mahogany bedroom set, replete with a California King sleigh bed, two gorgeous end tables and a rather majestic mahogany armor (that I bought for $3500 plus interest, with credit several years before).
Yeah, it was one of those purchases I "deserved” when I bought my condo back in 1999 with virtually no emergency fund.
I also had various musical instruments and “gear” (i.e. amplifiers, guitar pedals, recording equipment) that I’d collected over the years (13 total, mostly guitars and one bass guitar). People find that stuff on Craigslist and show up with cash!
Here's my video on some of the things we do to save money like actual millionaires do.
At one point, I believe I counted over $20,000 worth of “stuff” I had sold. What do you have lying around that could be sold and the funds put either toward your starter emergency fund ($1000) or at your debt snowball?
So, a lot of the process was an unglamorous grind of work, work some more, sell some stuff, cut some more expenses, wash, rinse and repeat. That’s likely how it will be for you as well.
It’s okay, that’s how it is for everyone. It’s the only normal part of becoming a debt free weirdo some of us have become. Come and join us in our weirdness!
This is obviously a brief history of the process. As you follow the blog, you’ll continue to get more insights from both my story as well as friends and clients of the blog.
We share our stories in the hope that you will connect with some of the details and see yourself in there somewhere. The main thing is the main thing. We want to help you, encourage you and equip you to “kick your debt in the teeth”.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)6. College Funding (if applicable)7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!
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