Our family has felt the bondage of debt. We have determined to wipe out the existing balance and never allow it to return. While we have not experienced or accumulated credit card debt or a mortgage on our house, our family has inherited the school loans I adopted for college. I did pay for some of my schooling upfront, and worked throughout my college years to save and pay as much as possible once the loans came due. This allowed me to pay the majority of my 4 years, plus some summer classes in Italy, off within a year of graduating (my parents have helped with some of these). We still have a little less than a year’s worth of university expenses to go. Our goal is to pay this off by the end of the year (using some of our current savings along with what we can spare in the coming months), even though we are currently living on one part-time salary.
**UPDATE: As of 2014 we became DEBT-FREE and purchased land for our homestead with cash using the following principles! Read more on that here.
How we Tackle Debt and Save
Budget – discovering what you can live without
There is no easy way to pay off debt. Feeling the pain of financial slavery is the key. We try to live on the bare essentials and maintain a strict budget. Absolutely no extra spending money. No cable, no tv. Only the slowest and cheapest possible internet. We do spend a little extra on organic groceries, but mostly stick to whole foods and the things that are in season and on sale. This allows us (a family of 4, although technically one is exclusively breast-fed) to eat for about $350 a month (lots of soup and beans!). We do not eat out unless we have guests and they want to go to a restaurant. When we have time and are looking for some fun entertainment, we choose the free options (reading a book, gardening, going for a walk). We do permit one tv show that Cora is allowed to watch, so I use Swagbucks to purchase these on Amazon. My husband usually bikes to work, and we collectively try to avoid driving much to conserve gas money. We only own one car. We buy items in bulk to save in the long run. If we need clothes or other essential items, we usually check thrift stores or try to find the best deals. We don’t pay rent or a mortgage, but we do have some home renovation expenses. I cut everyone’s hair in our family (including my own), and clean my hair with baking soda and water to reduce costs.
These are just some examples of how we have decided to modify our budget, and how we approach debt and saving. What works for us may not be something that is right for your situation. Take an honest look at your expenses and set up a budget to maximize your savings and debt repayment each month.
Look for extra income
Selling items and making good investments has allowed us to increase our income and savings. This may include creating something for payment, or downsizing possessions and exchanging the unnecessary items for cash. We have been blessed by a few opportunities that allowed us to invest our savings. Our home is one of them. We bought it as an investment property, and hope to someday soon cash in on that expenditure.
Set goals and strive to make them a reality
It is easy to look at a mountain of debt and become discouraged. Often, if something seems impossible or extremely hard, the tendency to resign oneself or give up is strong. It is important to set goals and dissipate discouraging thoughts. If you are serious about wiping out debt, this will become your reality as you implement the steps to achieve financial freedom.
Be thankful and satisfied with what you have
We truly are blessed. While we may not have a lot of extras, we have more than is really needed. So many live with far less than we do. It is easy to get sidetracked with chasing some idea of an American dream, and forget that there are millions who could never dream to have what we take for granted. This is why we have decided to give back 10-20% to the One who has given everything, and try to cultivate a servant’s heart in our own lives. As we eliminate debt, we hope to have the ability to give more.
Immerse yourself with inspiration
You truly become what you surround yourself with. The people you spend time with and the activities and information you allow in your life will change you, for the better or worse. This includes how you spend money.
**UPDATE: As of 2014 we became DEBT-FREE and purchased land for our homestead with cash using these principles! Read more on that here.