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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Debt Free New Year!

Seasons Greetings,

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 12/24/2014:  $0.00

Total Debt Paid Down:  All of it baby!

Well, in the words of the Grateful Dead, "What a long, strange trip it's been."  We started this journey two and half years ago the day we got married.  I wish we could tell you that we had this planned to be done the day before Christmas, but we didn't.  There was actually a time not too long ago that we weren't even sure that we could make it by January 1st (which was our goal).  Check out this picture Em took on the student loan website after our last payment!

This has undoubtedly been an incredible experience for both us.  It has taught lessons of money, savings, wealth, what success really looks like, humility, and faith.  Looking back on this two plus year long lesson, this was the right step.  No matter where life takes us. The lessons don't end here. We have new goals and challenges we are working on now.

We hope that, if nothing else, our story gives you hope. We understand the despair of debt and finances. However, we also understand that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Two teachers paid off almost 100,000 dollars of debt in two and a half years. Anything is possible with hard work, determination, sacrifice, and faith. Know that you can do this. Know that there is always hope.

We also hope sharing our story publicly with you will help you and your family with your own money goals.  In the meantime, if you have a question or just need some support, please don't hesitate to contact us through this email:

"God must have loved ordinary people, because he made so many of us...but everyday ordinary people do extraordinary things." - Coach Jim Valvano

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Back to Basics

Season's Greetings,

Debt as of 06/09/12:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 12/12/14:  $1,981.19

Total Debt Paid Down:  $90,663.81!!

When Bryant and I were about to get married in the summer of 2012, we decided it would be a good idea to total our debt and see what our financial future would be shaping into. I can clearly remember the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness when we sat in my parent's basement and came up with the number $92,645 as our total. I can also remember this small glimmer of excitement in what a challenge it would be to pay it off as quickly as possible. Call us crazy, but we like a challenge.

Yesterday morning, as we made a debt payment, I can't quite explain the amount of HOPE we had in reversing our numbers. We no longer were facing over $90,000 dollars in debt...we had now paid that much off. I also cannot tell you the amount of joy and excitement shared between us as we realized we are almost done. We have almost finished this. 

While this has all been hard, it has been a blessing in our marriage to accomplish this together. If nothing else, it has helped develop us into a solid team. We have so much hope and joy about what our future holds. We also are filled with excitement because, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we will have this done by the end of 2014. 

So many people ask us how we did it. It all started with prayer, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and a budget. While we think the Financial Peace course is beneficial, we have never completed it. We purchased Total Money Makeover for $3.99 off eBay and we went from there. So today's post is a simple back to basics. We are giving you the steps of how we paid off our debt and how you can do it too. 

1.  Hard Work, Sacrifice, and Determination – You could put a lot of other things in this one as well. Team work, commitment, setting goals, etc. The purpose of putting this one first is that in order to pay off large amounts of debt, you have to be committed to working hard. There is no quick fix to debt. If you are going to pay it off quickly, you have to be willing to sacrifice things you want and say no a lot of times. You also have to be focused and committed to following through.

"You must plan your work and then work your plan."

--Dave Ramsey

2.  Make a TIGHT budget and STICK to it – The greatest payments we made on our debt came from the budget. Once your snowball gets rolling, you can really tackle your debts. However, that requires saying no to a lot of other things in the budget. We don’t eat out and we don’t buy new clothes. That works for us, but wouldn’t work for people with growing children. You have to make the budget that works for you and your family. We also do a new budget each month to account for that month’s expenses.

3.  Pay with Cash and Use the Envelope System – It is much harder to give your cash away than to swipe your debit card. That emotional attachment to your cash will make you less likely to spend it. The envelope system also allows you to really control your spending. Once an envelope is empty, that line in the budget is done for the month.

4.  Sell ANYTHING you don’t need - We have sold a lot of things. Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon are excellent resources for selling things. Between big things like furniture to small things like CDs and DVDs, we have made hundreds of dollars selling things. It has all gone towards debt.

5.  Find extra ways to make money – We have both found ways to make extra money on the side. There are so many options out there. One great way to do this is to pick up any extra jobs on the side. Look into extra income opportunities and use that money towards debt. It can be exhausting to work after you get home for a full time job, but it is worth it in the end.

6.  Roll Change – If you pay with everything in cash, you will have a lot of change leftover. Save it in a jar and deposit it once it accumulates. Put that towards debt.

7.  Use EVERYTHING extra towards debt – If you really want to pay debt off quickly, use everything towards it. Tax refunds, birthday money, Christmas money, etc. It all goes towards debt.

8.  Pick Up Extra Jobs – Bryant is the music minister at our church on top of his full time job as a teacher. That is a part time job plus a full time job.  His teaching job could be two full time jobs!  He has done whatever he needs to do to accomplish our goal. It takes hard work and determination every day.

9.  Find out if you qualify for federal debt forgiveness programs - $5,000 of our debt was taken away because of a government loan forgiveness program. If you are a teacher, check to see if you work in a Title 1 school. They will forgive up $5,000 or more of debt if you work in certain jobs.

10.  Accountability – For us, we had that in each other. We held each other accountable and did this as a team. Find people to hold you accountable. You will need it. This isn’t easy.

11.  Know this isn’t easy, but you CAN do it – So many people have said to us, “I could never do that.” Yes, you can. You may not do it as quickly as we did, but it is possible for anyone who puts their mind to it. It just takes commitment and hard work. If you aren’t satisfied with where things are in your life, do something about it.

12.  Prayer –For us, we couldn’t have done this without praying through it over the last two and a half years. Hear us when we say that this is hard. However, also hear us when we say that this is ABSOLUTELY worth it. It has strengthened our marriage and taught us great lessons in goals, discipline, ambition, and hard work. Praying through this process and leaning on the Lord is what has ultimately sustained us through this journey.

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rockin Around The Christmas Debt Tree

Season's Greetings,

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 12/06/2014:  $4,469.77

Total Debt Paid Down:  $88,175.23!

We haven't posted in awhile, so we wanted to give you a quick update on our progress in the debt journey.  Not much longer in 2014, so we're cracking down as we get into the holiday season.  We have a big push to get to our New Year's Day goal of $0.00!!

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."

Vince Lombardi

Merry Christmas,
Bryant & Emily