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How To Not Let Your Debt Own You

“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or to accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Dennis Waitely

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison


Paying off debt is not an easy task. It takes conviction, a strong "why", a plan, a budget and LOTS of encouragement. Coaching students through their debt-elimination processes over the past decade, I've seen that one of the best ways for our students to stay motivated is to hear other people's stories, listen to their struggles and live vicariously through their wins.

This is the whole reason I started this "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series. I wanted to curate a reservoir of personal stories that will help you "find your own story" and keep marching forward toward your personal finance goals and ultimately to debt-freedom and beyond. 

Along those lines, if you have a "debt-free" or "on-my-way-to debt-free" story, I'd love to share yours with our audience. It's always such a gift to our subscribers and fans to hear your particular story AND will help you, especially if you have a a blog/platform/YouTube channel you want to promote (although that's not at all necessary).

Next up in our "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series, meet Gary Smith! Gary's story is a bit of an anomaly for me... Why? Because he never actually had any consumer debt to get out of. Rather, he maintained a particular mindset and attitude toward money throughout his entire adult life that hopefully where most of us land once we've gotten to the other side of debt.


Gary, if you would, briefly introduce yourself; where you live and a little about what you do.  

My name is Gary Smith. I live in Southington, Connecticut with Martha, my wife of 45 years. I have three grown daughters and four beautiful granddaughters, ages 2 weeks to 3 years. I've been in the business world for 45 years and have been working as a business consultant, life and financial coach for the past 22 years.

I love traveling and have a huge bucket list of places yet to visit. I'm also an avid amateur radio operator and shortwave radio listener with an impressive collection of both vintage and new radios. I also enjoy writing and have published 4 books in the business and personal development arena.


Looking for a way to get started on your own debt-free journey? Check out my: 

 “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through this 30 day challenge.



Give me a little bit of background about your financial mindset and situation and how that’s developed over the years. Most of our students aspire to be where you are and I think it’s important to outline how you got there.

I think I'm an anomaly in this category. My wife and I have never carried any debt except the mortgage on our home, and we paid that off 13 years ago. We live a comfortable, but not extravagant lifestyle. We've always been savers and investors -- disciplined with our money. We put all three of our girls through college and grad school, and we're now preparing to do the same for our granddaughters.


Tell me about "the lightbulb moment" you observed in your family/financial background where you decided, "I think this can be done differently" and what actions did you take or resources did you use to make sure you were financially sound?

I grew up in a family of spenders. My mom and dad were good people and they made decent money, but they pretty much lived paycheck-to-paycheck. That was the lifestyle I was used to until I met the man who would eventually be my father-in-law. Even though he had faced many adversities in his life, he came out on top and built a multi-million dollar financial base. He was willing to teach and I listened and have been able to do the same for my family.


Looking for a ways to live more frugally and address your debt? Check out my: 100 Frugal Ways To Save Money And Get Out Of Debt.


What was your "why"? What kept you going when you wanted to quit? How did you stay motivated?

I think there are three why's that continue to drive me to this day. 1. I believe that God wants us to be good stewards of the resources (the money) he entrusts to our care. 

  1. I believe that I have a responsibility to take care of and provide financial security for my family. 
  2. I have a mission to pass on that legacy and learning to as many people as I can.


Something I had to really address when going through my debt-elimination journey was my belief system around money.   Describe your "belief system" about money and (if/how) has it changed as you’ve progressed through life? Maybe even talk about how you were brought up to think about money and how that changed as you progressed through the process.   

Growing up, I never thought much about money. It was just something to be spend for my enjoyment. That all changed when I wanted to go to college and realized that I was on my own to pay for it, because my parents couldn't afford to help me very much. I think that's when I began to realize that money was a tool and, if I could learn to use it effectively, it would benefit both me and others. Then, I met my father-in-law. He taught me the finer points of the money mindset. Not rocket science, mind you, but basic, easy to use philosophies that will guarantee anyone financial success.


What have been the biggest/toughest sacrifices you've made in your personal finance/debt-elimination process?

For me, I think it was learning the process of delayed gratification. As one of my mentors, Dave Ramsey, says: If you are willing to live today like others are unwilling to live, tomorrow you will be able to live like others are unable to live.


So, you’re in the enviable situation of being debt free, describe how it feels or how it feels and why you’d say it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

I've been completely debt free since 2008. The only debt my wife and I ever had was the mortgage on our home, and we erased that in 2008 as part of our Christmas present to each other. We've never had credit card debt and have always paid cash for our cars. We've also built enough wealth, that we have no financial worries for the future. It feels wonderful to wake up every morning knowing that there are no financial obligations hanging over my head. It frees my mind to focus on the really important things in life.


This “$1000 In 30 Days Challenge and Resource Pack” is designed to help you find, cut and/or earn $1000 inside of 30 days so that you can: pay off debt with it, save it or invest it.

Here's the free downloadable/printable PDF.


What are 2 (or 3) pieces of advice you would give to someone who's ready to get serious about tackling their finances?

  1. Success with money begins with changing your attitude about money. Money is a tool and if you learn to see it and use it properly, you can accomplish anything. 
  2. You get what you measure. You cannot control what you don't understand. Therefore it's critical to have a budget and a plan for tackling your finances. 
  3. You need to invest in your financial education. Whether it's hiring a coach, taking courses, or reading books, plug into people who are in life where you want to be. Study what they have done and follow their example.

One of my critical missions in life is helping people achieve financial freedom. Seeing people become debt free is one of the greatest joys in the world!


Thanks so much for coming and sharing with our audience today, tell us where people can find you.



Call To Action

Now that you've heard Gary's story, maybe you're ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to start your own "journey to debt freedom". And, if you’ve hung out on this platform for any length of time, you’ll know I’m all about helping you to take action. And here are two very easy next steps to keep you moving in the right direction:

  1. Download our free PDF guide that goes along with this series: “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This has a very comprehensive and dedicated video on establishing your “why”.
  2. Head over to YouTube and start with the “Day 0” video. You can totally binge-watch the whole series if you want. That “first pass” will give you an idea of where you are and what it’s going to take for you to get to the next level with your own personal situation. And again, starting with your “why” is the absolute most important step.

I want for you to capitalize on any and all emotional momentum you’ve gotten from this piece of content by committing two just getting started by completing those two actions I mentioned above. If you’ve done that, congratulations, you’ve started! Now just follow the breadcrumbs and please let me know what’s helpful and what you might need more detail around.


What To Do After That

After you complete the "quick start", maybe you'll be ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to continue your own "journey to debt freedom". So, I want to offer you another completely free resource that will help you map out your money with even more confidence.

Ready to get total control over your money? Introducing My FREE 8 Steps To Erase Debt Guide

These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years

Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.

  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!

I’ve created a simple, easy to follow “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever. 


Here are some additional options to help you accomplish your personal finance goals:

  1. Check out our YouTube Channel for "how to" video guides.
  2. Join our Zero Debt Tribe Community on Facebook, a group of friendly, like-minded personal finance enthusiasts, budgeting nerds, debt-eliminators and “FI-ers” who are there to help each other succeed? Click here to request to join for support and encouragement!
  3. Our library of Free Products & Printables.


What do you need help with the most right now?

And finally, I want to encourage you and challenge you to get started in this process. You can do this by downloading this blogpost as your guide. The downloadable pdf contains all the printable forms and instructions you need to get this process started.

So, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,


Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.


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