Let's talk about how to pay off debt. I remember reading in one of Dave Ramsey's financial guidance books that if people are making fun of your car, you're probably in the right spot with your debt payoff.
Well, the ‘ol van is broken down and sitting in our driveway (in true trashy fashion). It's got a mouse living in the dashboard somewhere and in a few more days, the studded tires on it are going to be illegal and there aren't any regular ones to put back on it. The doors no longer slide and it has dents in the door from when my frustration about said doors has been too much for my unholy heart to handle.
… and this is a big but, my friends…
WE DID IT.
Two years after committing(ish) to following the principles of Dave Ramsey (yes, I moaned and groaned about “Dang Dave” a few times over the years, haven't I friends?), we are finally, completely, totally, 100% DEBT FREE.
OH HECK YES. HECK YES, BABY.
Sorry, forgive the enthusiasm. But if you've ever paid off debt, you know that it is the most life-sucking way to ever spend money in the history of the world. And even though every month I wanted to buy lambs… or tractors… or a new Suburban… or piles of good food… I didn't. Instead, I put the money towards debt.
Let's just face it. That sucks.
“Head down.“, I said to myself.
“Don't covet that person's car doors that actually shut.” I murmured under my breath.
After all – and I really do believe this – comparison is the thief of joy.
And so, we faithfully continued on. Cash was paid for everything or it simply wasn't purchased. Thanks in part to the sales of From Scratch (thank you ALL!) and my essential oils income (thank you ALL… again!), we've been able to apply more and more each month to the last of our student loans.
(By the way, is it just me or is school INCREDIBLY expensive? I might as well just gild my firstborn child and give that to the University instead.)
How To Pay Off Debt
How We Paid Off $30,000 In Debt
Yes, you read that right. $30,000 of student loans. Two years ago, that included a few thousand on a car, a few thousand to a local clinic, and a few thousand on a credit card from our move to Alabama. The smaller amounts were paid off with a hefty tax return, which left us with the student loans.
1. We planned accordingly.
We sat down, ran the numbers, and prioritized a few things. We knew that we wanted to keep growing and expanding our farm. This feeds our bodies and our souls. So we calculated how much it would cost to keep us expanding and functioning here on our land and allotted ourselves this “extra.” It kept us from resenting our debt and our lifestyle.
2. We minimized expenses.
After that, we kept expenses to a minimum. And though we never went hardcore with any lifestyle changes (I just couldn't do the Top Ramen and Saltine diet), we did try to be conscious of our purchases and how that would affect our debt payoff.
And boy did it snowball!
At first, our loan payments were $250… $500… $700.
This month, we were able to put more than $10,000 towards them! HI-YA! Take that, you stupid student loans. I curse the day I met you.
3. We found a source for extra income.
Stuart's a teacher. And while it's an incredibly rewarding profession, let's be honest here folks – we surely ain't in it for the money. We kept our lifestyle such that we could get by on his income alone. And having three littles, it was essential (and a priority) to us that I continue to stay home with them.
10 months ago, I got started sharing essential oils here on the blog, as well as locally. I'd been looking for some high-quality essential oils to share here on the blog, as many of my DIY recipes included them. Joining the essential oil family was one of the most life-changing decisions I've ever made. As my work-from-home business slowly grew and grew, I began to fall in love with the relationships it enabled me to build with readers, friends, and strangers alike. Blogging can create a very introverted environment, and after four years of it, I was beginning to feel a bit secluded from the world. I love that essential oils enable me to interact and share with others. It's given me lifestyle long friends, natural solutions to many of our healthcare problems, and significant extra income to boot. What an incredible answer to prayers this was!
(By the way, don't think it's just me and my little ‘ol blog that has found success with essential oils. I spent last week in California at a Leadership Retreat in a room filled with thousands and thousands of other people who have found the exact same success as I have. It just takes drive and determination.)
4. Commit. COMMIT. For the love of all things holy, COMMIT!
There's no way this would have been possible without intense commitment. Dave Ramsey, I'm afraid, is not for the faint of heart. When I tried to start my van the other day and instead heard the dreaded click as I turned over the key, I almost lost it. I loaded the kids into the truck (legal? probably not.) and drove into town to get Stuart's car. As I called to vent out my frustration to him, he encouraged me to not drive to the car lot (yes, I was on my way there… literally!) but instead to “STAY THE COURSE, HONEY! STAY THE COURSE!”
I didn't want to. I wanted to finance a shiny Suburban. I wanted doors that shut and locks that worked. I wanted a car that would start. I wanted to drive to the car lot so damn bad, I could almost smell the pretty leather seats.
But I didn't. I drove home and prayed for patience and grace and perseverance.
As difficult as it was to break ourselves of habits and shell out that money we worked hard for each month, it's incredibly rewarding to be sitting in a different seat now. We have, cliche as it may sound, financial freedom.
5. Stay The Course.
Now that we're out of debt, we have a few priorities. The first is to stay out of debt continually. Every single time I get something at Target, they offer me a credit card. Same for Lowes. Even Costco is offering them now.
LEAVE ME ALONE, people. Don't you know that I'm trying to stay strong here?
Our second priority to staying debt free is saving up to buy our property. We love this farm – it's home. It runs through our veins. And though we probably won't be able to pay cash for the entire thing, we'll continually follow Dave's principles of home purchasing and work on saving up for that day.
Lastly, we're focusing on the big picture by finally getting around to purchasing life insurance, opening retirement accounts, etc. Even though I want that dang Suburban, I'm trying hard to remember it's not the most important thing right now. If there's money left after the bigger priorities are met, in time, we'll get it. But I want to be smart about having things in place: this includes Stuart and I know that we'd be okay financially if something were to happen to either of us, that we'd be able to care for the children adequately without working right away, that we have a good amount of money stashed away that we can access in the event of an emergency, and that we're paving the way for eventual retirement.
It's not the most exciting thing in the world.
Not nearly as exciting as a new tractor would be.
But important, nonetheless. Sometimes being an adult is booooorrrring.
So when it comes to how to pay off debt…well, we didn't do anything magical to become debt free. It was slow and painful. I hope that encourages some of you who feel like getting there is IMPOSSIBLE. I felt like that, too. Lots of times.
But I've never been one to let impossible things deter me. And you shouldn't be either.
Onward and upward to debt-free living, my friends!