Donnie and Emily’s Debt Free Journey

Donnie and Emily’s Debt Free Journey

Dave Ramsey, Donnie and Emily's Debt Free Journey, Following the seven baby steps

Donnie and Emily’s Debt Free Journey

First Married

Mine and Emily’s debt free journey began when we got married in June of 2009. We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon maxing out our credit card at $5,000. When we came back from our honeymoon we knew we had to pay it off quickly.

At this time in our life Emily was the only one working full time making $42,000 a year as a nurse. I was still going to school for my bachelors in political science. My income came from student loans, the Army National Guard, and part time painting. I was making around $10,000 per year.

Emily and I were always people who were debt averse but never followed a plan on becoming completely debt free. We also weren’t the die hards who said all debt is 100% bad.

We went through the next year to June 2010 maintaining our debt until it was time for me to deploy to Iraq for the Army. At this point we started piling on the debt because we knew we could use the full time military pay to pay it off. We thought this was ok, but realized it was a big problem. We had racked up credit card debt of $7,000 with a three week trip to Europe and I didn’t work the last two months leading up to the deployment so I could spend as much time as possible with Emily. Our total debt at the time was around $70,000. Which included two car loans, student loans, and credit cards.

The Deployment

The funny thing about the deployment was people talked about how awesome it would be to have it canceled. But I was in a terrible financial position. I remember thinking to myself, I have to deploy to Iraq or I won’t be able to pay my minimum debt payments. This was a real wake up call and truly began the journey of getting completely out of debt.

During the deployment we were able to pay off around $40,000, because I threw all my earnings towards our debt. I avoided all the new gadgets people bought during the deployment. As well as avoiding the brand new car people bought when they came back home.

I continued to focus on how mine and Emily’s life would be if we had no debt. And how we could travel the world because we would have no financial commitments holding us back. It was frustrating living in deprivation, but it really wasn’t deprivation. We truly couldn’t afford things like new cars or routine meals out to eat. I kept reminding myself that if you have to borrow money to buy something then you really can’t afford it.

After the Deployment

Once I made it home in October 2011 Emily and I continued to pay down the debt, but at a slower pace as I finished up school. During this time Emily also went back to school working on her masters for nursing. Once I graduated in May 2013 I was finally working full time. However, we were once again on a single income because Emily was a full time student as she finished her masters program.

On the single income we were earning around $42,000 a year again. The $42,000 per year was fine because that is what we lived on when I was going to school full time and Emily was the one working.

Finally a dual income household

Then an amazing thing happened. Emily graduated with her Nurse Practitioner degree and began working full time in January 2014. This was the first time in our marriage that we were both working full time. We decided to not go crazy on our lifestyle with our new household income. We bought a few frills but put the remaining cash towards our student loans.

Not living on a plan

However, when we were paying this debt down we were not following a specific plan. We basically threw whatever “extra” money we had towards debt. We didn’t use a budget and we did not follow a debt calendar that would show us when we would have everything paid off. But finally in April 2015 we paid off all our debt except for our home we had just bought the year before.

Today, How a plan can really propel you to success

Finally, after following a written plan for the last 19 months we are weeks away from paying off our mortgage. We have made mistakes during the 19 months like still having money left on our 0% credit cards, but we pick ourselves up and kept going. Not stopping is the key. I promise you you’re going to make mistakes, but a mistake becomes a lesson if you perceiver. Emily and I are excited to be done with all our debt in a few short months.

Tips on how we did it

My tips on how to make it through this journey are generic and simple, but that’s how life goes. For some reason we tend to bypass the simple answers on how to solve our problems.  People, myself included, some how believe the only way to fix our issues is through a complicated magic key, but it isn’t. Here are my tips:

  1. Collaborate with your spouse on your debt free goals. Both of you need to be on board to make this work.
  2. Budget. You must tell your money where it is going to go every month. And track where it went so you know your on track.
  3. Pay down your debt first. Make your debt payments the musts in your budget. Meaning whatever payment you need to pay to hit your goal, pay it!
  4. Create a road map to your debt free life. Create a plan that shows you the exact day you’ll pay off all your debt. This will help you by providing lite at the end of the tunnel.

I hope this post helped.

Please comment below with additional questions.

About Donnie Gardner

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  1. Great blog Donnie! Motivating and gives me encouragment. As I shared I just added a huge next to my name (new home) I’m going to make this a happy experience instead of a heavy, sick to stomach feeling. As a banker and seen first hand too many people hurting but still asking for more debt, it’s made me aware of what’s really a necessity. I might still lease a BMW, once in my life, haha but that’s later on. Paying off debt first!!

    1. Thanks Alisa! I appreciate it. A house is definitely a “next” big step! You also want it to be a happy pain free experience…Leasing a BMW, hmmm. How about a nice used lol

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