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How Shannon Is Paying Off $625,000 (Part 1)

“Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you’ve got.” - Jim Rohn


Getting out of debt is extremely difficult for most of us. Many times the though of even sitting down to "add up" what you owe can be completely overwhelming. 

Debt-elimination takes conviction, a strong "why", a plan, a budget and LOTS of encouragement. And as a coach, 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 our friend Shannon Cairns who is in the middle of paying down over $625,000 in debt!

This interview will inspire you and challenge you no matter where you are on your personal finance journey.

So, join me in welcoming Shannon Cairns!


Introduce yourself, Shannon.


I'm Shannon, and I live in the Fort Worth, TX area with my husband Daniel and three kids (2, 4, & 7). My husband and I are podiatrists and own a practice together.


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?

After the birth of our 3rd child, we were struggling to pay the bills at home and at our business. We were drowning in debt and felt like we worked so hard and had absolutely nothing to show for it. It was exhausting!

I started to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety due to the overwhelm of the debt. I knew of Dave Ramsey, but thought it was something we would do once we had money...but when was that going to be?! I convinced my husband to take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University with me, and we were ALL IN from there.

We have currently paid off $133,000 in 15 months! We still have about $450K left to go...started at $625K in June 2019. We ACTUALLY had closer to $800K when we started our practice in 2016, but we didn't start intentionally budgeting and paying off debt until 2019.

Our debt is mostly student loans and business debt, but we also had car loans, credit cards, and medical bills.


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?

I felt so hopeless after we had our third child that most days I struggled to get out of bed. I knew it was mostly the financial stress.

I started to resent my career and was angry! I didn't want to live that way anymore.

We knew we had to make a drastic life change, or things would get worse, and we also knew we were well on our way to bankruptcy and losing our business.


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?

We want to buy our first home, and have it be a blessing!

I dream about buying a home, and having the money to furnish and decorate it. We also never want our children to go through what we went through, and know how important it is to be good examples of personal finance for them.


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.

I grew up in a single mom household, and watched my mom work all the time and worry about money.

I've always thought about money as a topic of stress. I think I pursued medicine because I viewed a doctor as this amazing unattainable goal when I was little.

We didn't know any doctors and to me that was the ultimate symbol of wealth and success. I thought becoming a doctor would somehow make me financially invincible.

It never occurred to me that even having a larger income, requires budgeting and intention!


Do you "get down" with Pinterest? Would you consider pinning this to your favorite board? 


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

We've done it all! We moved our family of 5 from a 3,000 square foot home to a 1,000 square foot house. It feels really small with 3 extremely loud kids!

We turned in a lease and sold our other car and took the $13,000 that we received from that and used it as a budget to purchase 2 paid for cars. A 2006 Toyota min van and a 2005 Toyota Scion (which then got totaled a year later, but we were able to take the insurance and again buy a cheap cash car).

I started working part time to save money on child care since all of our kids were not in school when we started this journey.

We got rid of traditional health insurance and switched to a health sharing ministry (which saved us thousands!) Outside from being full time owners of a medical practice, my husband works a second job as a physician for another practice where he works 2 days a week plus every other weekend on call, and still finds the time to DoorDash and do UberEats most nights of the week!

I found the motivation to grow my blog to a full time income! It's something that gave me a lot of hope, when it seemed like we would never dig our way out of this mess.


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

Feels amazing to be on our way! I can see the end so clearly now.


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?

You have to START. Even if it's the middle of the month, or week. Don't keep putting off until next month. Start a budget today! It's not going to be perfect, you will adjust and learn as you go.


Thanks so much for sharing your story, Shannon. Where can we find you for more of your content and to follow your journey (website, social media, etc.)?

Blog: http://thefrugalfootdoc.com

IG: thefrugalfootdoc

FB: thefrugalfootdoc

Pinterest: thefrugalfootdoc

TikTok: frugalfootdoc


Call To Action

Now that you've heard Shannon'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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