It took us six years, but we’re finally 100% debt-free which includes the house! The truth though, is that it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice in order to get us here. We made a lot of mistakes on this journey and honestly, those are the things I don’t want to share. I don’t want to share them because I wish I could tell you that we just perfectly maneuvered this and bam! We’re debt-free.
But that simply is not the truth. We made sacrifices and mistakes in order to achieve the success we now have. Since I get asked all the time about what our debt-free journey looked like, I’m sharing with you the timeline of our debt-free journey and what our last six years have looked like.
Way back in March of 2013, I was a terrified pregnant mama because I realized that we weren’t going to afford for me to continue staying home with our children once baby number two arrived. And so, we decided to embark on the debt-free journey. Our first debt on our debt snowball was my credit card. This was an easier debt to pay off because it had such a small balance, however, it taught us a lot in budgeting that month.
We had to really tighten our bootstraps and cut out all the fun stuff in order to pay off that credit card in just over a month. I hated every second of it. And my husband hated it because he couldn’t buy lunch and kept forgetting to pack his lunch. It was a tough month, but we survived.
P.S. I have a free budgeting course that you can sign up for here.
After paying off my credit card, we set a goal to have my husband’s credit card paid off before our second child arrived. His due date was in August and right before his birth, we succeed in our goal of paying off my husband’s card. In order to pay off his card we had to sell everything – we sold off the original appliances that came with our home that had been sitting in the garage for years.
We also sold off clothing we didn’t need anymore by the lot and even sold my husband’s hunting camper. We sold all the inventory I had purchased when I was selling Thirty-One. But even all that selling wasn’t enough. We were still coming up short. So right before my second child was born, we cashed out several of my savings bonds.
The hunting camper (and yes, she smelt as bad as she looked)…
We took a hit on our taxes for that year because of it, but those savings bonds helped us pay off the remainder of my husband’s credit card balance before Collin’s birth. Trust me, I didn’t like cashing those out just to pay off debt. I would have rather cashed them out and invested the money instead.
This is also when my husband started working in corporate America. He took a pay cut but we got health benefits and a steady paycheck – which was a blessing at this time in our lives.
This was our first ever debt-free Christmas. It was hard – I hated seeing everyone’s photos on Instagram of their trees with gifts piled high to the ceiling. Our trees had four gifts under it – two for each child. It was a hard, hard time for me and my husband. We didn’t like how sad our Christmas morning felt but we also realized that 1) we were the ones making it sad. Our two year old didn’t care at all about the number of gifts he got and 2) come January, it was incredible not having to pay off a massive credit card bill. That alone made everything worth it!
P.S. Sign up here for the Debt-Free Christmas Challenge so you can make this the year you go debt-free!
This is where we committed the financial cardinal sin – we cashed out my 401(k). After months of not working towards our next debt payoff goal – my Tahoe. My husband came to me pretty upset because I was the one that was all about living debt-free but I was holding onto a car that was costing us a small fortune.
My husband wanted to cash out my 401(k) in order to take the money to pay for a car outright. I was completely against it and tried for months to figure out a way to pay off the Tahoe quickly. It just wasn’t going to happen due to the pay cut my husband had taken.
So, I reluctantly cashed out my 401(k) and on my 28th birthday, we traded in my fully-loaded Tahoe for a very well-loved Sequoia that we paid cash for. Would I recommend that you cash out your 401(k)? No. Would I do it again if I had to? Yes. Even though it weighed heavily on to cash out that 401(k), the reality was I didn’t know anything about investing and my 401(k) was earning pretty much nothing. By cashing it out, I lost my “future security” and it forced me years later to educate myself on investing.
This is when we officially became consumer debt-free! I was pregnant with our third child and the last of our consumer debt was my student loans. We had to do a lot more selling off of things and working side hustles to make this happen. I walked dogs for nearly three years to earn extra cash in order to pay off my student loans. I did this in addition to growing my blog which at this point has finally started earning an actual income.
Because I was deep in growing my blog, I spoke at my first ever conference, FinCon alongside other members of my mastermind group.
This was taken right before Charlotte’s birth…
Beginning of 2016
At the beginning of 2016, it had become very clear that my husband was beyond unhappy with the corporate job he had. This was made even more clear when I had to rush our 3-month-old daughter to the hospital because she couldn’t breathe. My husband was working out of the state on 3rd shift. That poor man was sleeping as I was blowing up his phone.
I remember having to leave Charlotte at the hospital because I had not packed anything for my boys to spend the night with my mom as this was obviously very unexpected. It was so stressful, but God’s grace is always amazing because my husband called to say that he was on his way home and since he had been working 3rd shift for months this was his “morning” time… 11 pm.
He stayed at the hospital with Charlotte while I went home and slept. It was the blessing that I needed during one of the hardest seasons of my life.
Ummm…where did these two sweet babies go???
The problem though is that my husband’s boss expected him to come back to work – while his daughter was in the hospital. That was truly the beginning of the end. When that project was completed and my husband came back home, we decided that we were going to aggressively save up our 6-month emergency fund so he could quit his job and start his own business.
We took our very first family vacation this month! We had never taken one before because there was no money to do so, but now that we were debt-free we had the money to go to the beach! Tybee Island has been our favorite for years now and is like our second home!
P.S. you can read all about our beach vacation for under a $1,000 here.
My husband quit his corporate job and started his remodeling company, Southern Craft Remodeling. To say that I got my husband back is an understatement. This is also when started using our Healthcare Sharing Ministry in lieu of regular insurance. The best part was that right after my husband finished working his notice with the corporate job, he took two weeks to recoup and took our boys on the most epic camping trip.
My husband is from Portland, OR and grew up camping among the tall Cypress trees so for him, this was like returning home. I truly loved seeing my husband back in his element doing things that he loves.
I finally opened up a Roth IRA and started contributing to it every month. I started reading everything I could about investing including Unshakable by Tony Robbins (which inspired me to open said IRA) and Investing Made Simple by Mom and Dad Money.
I also set the goal that I was going to get my Roth IRA up to the balance of my old 401(k) in half the time it took me to save that 401(k). Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to do this as investing scared the crap out of me. But this is why it is important to 1) scare the crap out of yourself with your goals and 2) educate yourself on what you want to achieve! Ignorance is not always bliss.
April 2017 – January 2018
This was kind of like limbo – we didn’t really have any goals and weren’t working towards achieving anything. It was kind of like the “messy middle” – where you don’t really know where to go. Then sometime in January, I realized our mortgage was right about $27,000 and it hit me – “Jessi, you paid off over $55,000 of debt in 2 years – why don’t you pay off the mortgage!”
And so, we started planning to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible…but then…
The most beautiful snowfall I’ve ever seen in Georgia…(trust me, this type of thing is rare here.)
This was one of the coldest months Georgia has ever had. It also rained like crazy. Our 30-year-old roof that had leaked before had finally leaked, leaked. It was bad. And the original single-paned windows from the ’70s did not keep the -15 degrees cold out. I had to tack up blankets around our windows and we all slept on an air mattress in our living room by our wood-burning fireplace to keep warm.
We decided to pay to have the roof and windows replaced. It took us a few months to save up and we even took money out of our emergency fund to pay for it. We hated having to pause our mortgage payoff but we desperately needed the roof and windows and I’m so grateful we did it.
The new roof!
This is also the time where my husband decided on a whim to rip the rotting front porch off my house…if you haven’t read about my husband’s project fund, head here to read how we combat his tendency to start random projects.
This was when we realized that my husband’s truck (who we affectingly called “Edna”) was no longer going to work for my husband and his growing business. His truck couldn’t tow the mobile workshop that my husband built and thus, we needed to buy my husband a new truck. So, this is the month that we took out $5,000 from our emergency fund and purchased my husband a new-to-us truck in cash.
We did it! We finally paid off the house! This was such a bittersweet moment – I loved that we had achieved it but it was strange no longer having to pay to live somewhere. I mean I’ve been paying either a landlord or bank to live somewhere since I was 18. We started paying ourselves the mortgage payment in February to our “home fund” that we opened up with CIT Bank.
My husband is really the one to thank for this amazing feat because he was the one that came to me in November of 2018 and said “I’m going to hustle as much as possible to pay off the house for you.” Seriously, I love that man. 💚
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So this happened yesterday… We are 100% DEBT-FREE!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 I was so emotional yesterday after I got off the phone with Wells Fargo. This is such a dream come true that it’s one of those “is this real” moments (Queen pop up in anyone else’s head just now? ❤). 6 years ago this March we started our journey towards becoming debt-free. There were many people that told us “you can’t survive without a credit card-what about emergencies.” But we haven’t had a single credit card since 2013 and we’ve THRIVED. There were also many amazing people that loved us, encouraged us, and prayed over us as we battled this journey. And I can’t believe I get to say we WON! Actually that’s not true. I knew that by God’s grace and providance we could in fact achieve this goal and I knew that if we were willing to make the sacrifices necessary we could do this. So at 33 and 32 years old, my husband and I officially outright own our home of 8 years.🏠 Thanks be to God and thank you to everyone that inspired us when things got tough! @catherinecalford @hisandhermoney @natalierbacon @thriftylilmom @kalynbrookeco @thebusybudgeter @alliworthington thank you my “internet” friends for giving me the encouragement and sometimes kick in the pants I needed! ❤❤❤ #debtfreecommunity #reallifeonabudget #daveramsey #everydaymillionaires #mortgagefree #catholicmom #momlife #woodstockga #sheworkshardsavingmoney #myhgtvlife #weownit #lifebyabudget #budgeting #100percentdebtfree #goaldigger #goaldiggerpodcast #marriedlife #happy2019
Our debt-free journey has been many, many years in the making and I wouldn’t trade a single second of it! I have loved all the ups and downs, messy middles and hard times. The beautiful parts of this journey have been well worth all of the sacrifices that we’ve made. I would love nothing more than for you to join me on this journey! The debt-free life is an amazing life!
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