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$45k Paid Off And A Saved Marriage

“Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.” ― Simon Sinek

"Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not when disaster may happen on earth." - Ecc 11:2


I met Mike & Mandy a year and a half ago when they reached out to us for coaching. They were not a happy couple. By that time, financial problems were contributing to a major downturn in their marriage. I think it's fair to say they were in a crisis.

Our first coaching session was tense but productive. I think there were just still a lot of realities about their financial situation (like how much deb they had accumulated) that were just starting to sink in. As a coach, I was concerned but hopeful.

It's always a good sign when people actually reach out for help.

Fast forward a year and half and they're in a COMPLETELY different place, which is what we'll get into in the interview. I couldn't be more proud of them and the fruit of their hard work, dedication and commitment have truly paid off.

They will reach debt-freedom with authority!

This kind of story 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 Mike & Mandy Dillard!



Introduce yourself, Mike & Mandy.

Michael and I have been married for 10 years. We live in Dallas, GA and we are both educators in Cobb County, GA. We have 2 young kids and a bad dog.


Give me a little bit of background about your financial situation and your decision to "tackle it". Tell me about how much debt you've paid off so far and in how much time. What is your debt made up of?

We had about $26,000 in credit card debt back in 2016. Instead of working to pay it off and changing our lifestyle, we refinanced our house and poof! It was gone! Fast forward three years later and it was all back....plus more.

Our marriage was in shambles because neither of us were honest about money nor were we willing to change. We had finally hit our breaking point.

We met with Brad (Zero Debt Coach) in April of 2019. We have now paid off about $45,000 in about a year and a half. This includes personal loans, consumer credit cards, and both of our vehicles.

This month we will finish paying off our largest credit card debt (it was over $25,000!) and will begin tackling our student loans, which is the last thing in our "debt snowball".


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.



What was "the moment" you decided, "enough is enough" and what actions did you take or resources did you use to get the process started?

Michael went to buy a $3 snow cone on his credit card (!!!) and it was declined. He called me because he was completely unaware of how high our balance had gotten. This was mostly my fault because I was not honest about our situation.

It caused a HUGE fight and for us to really reexamine our marriage. We decided that we had two choices-sell our house, pay our debts off, and divorce, OR to really work at this thing and figure out a better way to live. I have to be honest, it was a hard decision at first.

But we really took time, talked it through, and realized that our marriage and our family was worth working for. We went through our church and got connected to the Dave Ramsey program. Brad contacted us and we made an appointment with him ASAP.

We had our first meeting with Brad on via Zoom. I think he realized what kind of distress we were really in.

He was so calm and really helped us see that we could do this...and that there was an end in sight.


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?

Our family is our why. We have two really smart, precious little ones. We realized that we could never afford cars, college, or leave them anything once we were gone if we lived in debt.

We honestly haven't wanted to quit. We realized how easy it is to stay on a budget and save money once we really committed to it. Don't get me wrong-there have been months where we've struggled and even come up short, but we have stayed the course.

We keep each other motivated. We have friends who not only paid their debts off, but built their dream home with cash. We want to do that too!!


Describe your "belief system" about money and (if/how) has it changed? Maybe even talk about how you were brought up to think about money and how that changed as you progressed through the process.

Neither of us grew up with a lot of money. Our parents always "made do" but now that we're older we see that they probably just scraped by. Mike's parents were constantly in debt. He learned bad spending habits from them.

My dad was always my safety net. Whenever I'd screw up with money, he would just send me some, whether he had it or not. I never learned how to be responsible with money.

Now, we know how important it is to budget and to live within our means. We didn't do this before. If we wanted something, we bought it. Now, we plan and save when we know we have a big purchase to make.

We set long term goals for ourselves and our family. If we want to take a trip, we do. We just plan for it, maybe work an extra job, and don't let it interfere with our debt goals. And we DON'T USE CREDIT. For ANYTHING.


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

We have both worked extra jobs. I worked at a booth at the fair last year (that was interesting!) and I proctor the SAT on the weekends. We've both taught summer school and

Mike has worked extra jobs both during the year and during the summers. This sacrifice is time with our family, but we don't normally work at the same time so it works out.

We sold a lot of items, such as TVs and furniture, when we first started. However, once we saw how much money we saved just by budgeting we didn't need to do that as much. We don't feel like we've made extreme sacrifices.

The biggest difference is that now we know how to say no. If our friends ask us to dinner and we've met our eating out budget, we say no. Our kids do extra curricular activities, but now we've limited that. But that isn't a sacrifice. That's all common sense that we just didn't use before.


Describe how it feels or how it feels to be "on your way" to debt-freedom. 

It feels awesome. We are more of a team and every time we reach a big goal we celebrate. We are really proud of ourselves. Besides our gorgeous kiddos, this is our biggest accomplishment together.


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 some pieces of advice you would give to someone who's ready to get serious about tackling their finances?

1.  Make a budget and stick to it.

2. Say no when you have to.

3. Don't be afraid to WORK.



Call To Action

Now that you've heard Mike & Mandy'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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