4 Drastic Steps We Took to Pay Off $22,000 in Debt

My husband and I finally woke up, smelled the coffee and hustled out of debt.  Now I’d like to share the ups and downs of paying off our $22,000 with these 4 steps.

Photo Credit: Mike Kline (Creative Commons)


Picture that couple that everyone knows is great with their money.  They have this impenetrable compass that always steers them to financial safety.

Well, that wasn’t us.

When D and I got married, we ate Hot N’ Ready pizzas and went to the movies.  Regularly.  We dropped everything the minute someone mentioned eating out.  In fact, the minute they said, “I’m hungry” we locked eyes on them and waited, with bated breath.

Newlyweds.  Sheesh.


I’m painting a bleak picture because you need to see that we didn’t have all the answers when we got out of debt.  We’re still not pros, but we learned some stuff that changed the game for us.

You can too.

In 2011, we got married with $22,000 in debt.  At Financial Peace University we learned 7 baby steps to financial peace:

  1. $1000 saved for emergencies
  2. Pay off all debt (non-mortgage)
  3. Save 3-6 months expenses as emergency fund
  4. Invest 15% of household income
  5. College funds for children
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Build wealth and GIVE


Once D and I finished Baby Step #1, we took these 4 drastic steps to pay off debt:

  1. Switched from smart phones to “dumb phones”:  Yep.  We unplugged.  Our phones were dilapidated.  But they challenged us.  Like saying, “Can you do without, if you have to?”
    • NOTE:  You probably don’t have to ditch your smart phone to save money.  Ask your friends or ask around on Facebook.  There are a lot of ways to reduce your phone bill.
  2. Paused our 401k contributions (TEMPORARILY):  You’re giving me a funny look.  I know.  Both of our employers offered a 401k match.  FREE money.  Pausing these contributions truly held our feet to the fire.  We got way more intense about paying off debt AND living on a budget.
    • NOTE:  If you’re paying off a large debt (i.e. student loans) that will take longer than 2 years, even while paying aggressively, I do NOT recommend pausing your 401k contributions.
  3. Lived on one income:  We used my entire full-time paycheck to pay off debt.  Pretty drastic?  You better believe it!  I worked hard for that.  It showed us how awful it was to hand over OUR money to someone else.
    • “…the borrower is slave to the lender.”  – Proverbs 21:7.
  4. Didn’t buy a house:  $22,000 in two years.  That’s a hefty down payment.  We wanted a house.  Especially after we found out Baby #1 was on the way.  But we continued our debt-free journey instead.

This is the best part.

We paid our last debt in November of 2012.  It was two months before our daughter was born.

Laura and Elizabeth - Jan. 4 2013

There is nothing I would change, not one thing, to give up how it felt to bring our baby into a debt-free home.  

I wish that feeling for you.


And guess what?

Today we have smart phones.

Today D is contributing to his 401k.

We still overspend sometimes.

But, when you are intentional with your money long enough, awesomeness follows.

[Tweet “When you are intentional with your money long enough, awesomeness follows.”]


Stay the course.

Find your true grit.  Like Jeff Bridges.

You’ve worked too hard to hand over your paycheck to someone else.

ACTION STEP:  List 5 things that you could TEMPORARILY stop or reduce to pay off debt.  For example, cable, magazine subscriptions, manicures, online shopping, etc.


Join the conversation:  What’s one way you’ve sliced away at your debt?


Share and Enjoy !

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10 thoughts on “4 Drastic Steps We Took to Pay Off $22,000 in Debt

    • Areself – Yep Financial Peace University was a game changer for us. I even teach it now because I believe in the message so strongly. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing! I just added your page to my feedly blog reader and am looking forward to following along!

  2. This is a great post! I really like that you included an action step at the end. 🙂

    To pay off our debt as quick as possible, we have put a lot of things on hold, but what has made the biggest dent is when we’ve brought in extra income. We are a single income family so when my husband has an opportunity to work overtime, he jumps on it. We have made great progress by selling things. We have sold a car, a workout gym, a laptop, a Kindle, iPhones, furniture, and anything else that we don’t need, use, or love. We’re focused on paying off our debt as quickly as possible!

    • Those are great tips, Monica. Your income is such a powerful tool – I never knew that when I was single and working full time. Doh. But you guys get it and I can see that you’re benefiting from it. Kudos.

  3. This is a great article, you need to get a hold of your finances so they do not hold you.

    My wife and I spend a couple of years getting out of debt, the Dave Ramsey way (i.e. make a budget, cut costs, make every penny SCREAM) and I can tell you after 10 years of debt freedom it is great.

    • Brian, I like how worded that – “make every penny SCREAM”. Ten years of being debt free is phenomenal! Seems like a lot of people are nowhere close or just now getting out. How much did you pay off?

  4. We paid off about 40K total (student loans, car, unsecured loan). Unlike most we were not buried in credit card debt. Both my wife and I rarely use credit cards, both then and now.

    What really kicked our butts in gear was wanting to buy a bigger house and going from dual to single income family. We used Dave’s method but use the budget template from Crown Financial. (http://www.crown.org/Portals/0/docs/downloads/PGI01%28FamilyofFour%29.pdf) The budget percentages seemed impossible but really were a HUGE wake up call for how much we should be spending on cars, entertainment, etc.

    • I took Crown in high school – lots of great stuff there. So glad it worked out for you both. I love hearing about people who are financially pretty solid, then they take FPU or Crown. Their behavior is already disciplined, so they just thrive!