How we paid our debt...
I’d like to share the story of how Laura and I paid off $54,000 in debt in about 10months. We’re sharing the story because we love sharing our lives, but also to inspire and encourage you in your financial situation. Here’s how we did it:
When Laura and I got engaged in August 2011 we became extra proactive in paying off her student loans both private and subsidized loans and remaining car debt totaling to $54,000. Post college, Laura was only able to afford the minimum monthly payments on the loans and was living very simply to make it from month to month. By making the minimum monthly payments, would have been debt free in 2042 at age 57! I told her that I believed we could get it paid off in at least 2 years. She was a little skeptical at first, but soon her mind was changed. I thought that 2 years was more than enough time as long as we lived simply, worked hard, trusted God, and continued to give generously. We got married October 23rd, 2012 and were able to pay off $10,000 in the first 3 months. This happened through radical SAVING. For example, once we got engaged Laura chose to move into my parents house during the engagement period. She was able to get to know my parents and family on a deeper level and also save money by not paying rent. We lived simply and planned a budget-friendly wedding. We also used ALL of our wedding gift money towards debt. We also created a “once used registry” and warmly welcomed used items and second hand furniture as wedding gifts. This was a huge blessing and allowed the Body of Christ to come together to fill our house with everything that we possibly needed. It also gave us a surplus of items and furniture in our garage. (Going from having nothing to having a surplus of nice things in only a matter of weeks ignited an idea in my mind for a few months down the road).
After marriage, we merged two people onto one income. We were able to live on my income and put all of Laura’s full time salary towards debt. It was a tight squeeze, but we were able to live on one support-raised income. Laura challenged herself to plan meals and keep the grocery bill at $40 a week. I challenged myself to scavenge for lunches. With a $2 allowance I had to “scrounge” or eat leftovers. You could always find me circling around the free table at the office! One important principal we lived by was to budget every dollar that we earned. We would try to stick to our budget and not have any “free money” that didn’t have a name on it. Knowing exactly where our money was going allowed us to not take for granted the money that we had earned.
My role at the local church is what provided our basic means. It is a one that depends on me receiving monthly donations from my support team. Most months we received all we needed but hardly ever did we have any cushion. Also, with my support raised salary, I am restricted under Federal Law to use any support raised money to pay off school loans. Any money that I wanted to contribute to pay off our student loans would have to come through other jobs. Having been a Registered Nurse since 2006 I found a flexible job with a Home Health nursing agency. This allowed me to see as many or as few patients as I wished while seeing them at the times that I wished to do so. I was able to maintain my full time job at Antioch and see a few patients on the side.
THEN! About 4 weeks after being married, Laura and I find out we are pregnant! We were shocked, excited, and nervous all at the same time. Within 24 hours the sobering thought of having another mouth to feed while barely making it each month begin to really sink into my mind. I looked Laura straight into the eyes with determination and said “Ok. You are pregnant. I can handle that. This just means that I will need to work harder because I don’t see our 2 year plan of debt free living as an option any more. Our new goal is to get out of debt before the baby comes.” Laura chuckled a little and said “Well I didn’t think we would have such an enormous amount paid off so far, but God has provided in abundance so far. If you really think it can happen, go for it! I think it might take a lot longer but we will just see what happens.”
Knowing that I would be taking care of my wife, my child, and I put the fear of God on how I was living. Laziness was never really an issue for me, but I did see where I wasn’t using the full potential that God has graced me with. God has put a grace on my life to work hard. I mean really hard. With this in mind, I knew that for a short SEASON I needed to push hard, if I wanted to see a large amount of debt eradicated.
I looked at my schedule to find out how I can effectively pour out 45 hours to my job working as the Inner City Children’s Ministry Director. In a resolve to get out of debt before my child was born I made my schedule a little more tight as I took on twice as many patients with the home health agency and also started a second nursing job teaching nursing students on Thursdays for 12 hours in the clinical setting. Now my nursing jobs averaged 20 hours a week on top of a 45 hour a week job at my church.
Sixty-five hours a week of intense work allowed us to make extra debt payments and by the grace of God another opportunity came our way, a garage sale! We found that our friends in Waco were so thankful to both get rid of old furniture while also blessing a new young couple. Some people’s junk is another person’s treasure. A dream formed of starting my own “junk collecting business”. It didn’t seem too glamorous at the time and honestly neither I nor Laura thought it would actually pay off. I was hoping that maybe we could make $500 to $1000 selling items that people donated to us. What I didn’t initially realize is that there are A LOT of people that wanted to get rid clutter. I ended up initiating with about 1000 of “my closest” facebook friends letting them know I am collecting stuff for a garage sale to pay off school loans. About half of the people I initiated with never responded back. The other half responded either with a “yes” or a “no”. This left us with about 150 people who gave us their unwanted items. Our two car garage can handle about 50 people’s unwanted items. Laura was great with me putting stuff in the garage but also said that putting people’s random stuff all over our home will not be tolerated! I kept my limited space in mind from the very start of this “junk collecting” business so any time something large or of value entered the garage I would immediately try to sell it on craigslist, consignment of ebay. If I was pressed for time and was running out of space in my garage then I would hire out friends to help me sell the items online. All of this work allowed us to make $3000 even before having our garage sale!
After 3 months of initiating with people, collecting their items and literally packing it all to the ceiling of our garage we had our Mega Yard Sale. Our big sale required about 30 people to help set up from 4am to 7am. That Saturday and Sunday sale brought in $3,600! More money came after the sale as we would hire senior citizens that we met on Craigslist to sell our left over items at the Flea Market with them keeping 50% of the money they made.
To pull off working full time at the church, part time home health nursing, part time nursing instructing, and part time “junk dealing” was a taxing effort. I worked about 80 to 90 hours a week from January 1st to April 1st. This brought great wear and tear on my physical and mental well being, but I knew that this stretch would only be temporary. Both God and Laura were gracious to me. J
Working really hard, receiving the grace of God expressed in a nice tax return and receiving a few miracles donations we went from about $30,000 in debt to about $4,000 in debt in the first four months of 2012. The remaining amount was paid by Laura’s salary, extra nursing side jobs and the remaining items that were sold through the end of May as we continued to work diligently, give generously and live simply. Praise God!