28 “Extreme” Measures We Took to Stay Out of Debt

After reading Frugal Granola’s post on the extreme measures they took to get out of debt, I thought it would be fun to think of a few “extreme” measures our family took to stay out of debt. Now, for many of you, probably none of these things are very extreme, but compared to the average American, they are pretty counter-cultural.

The 28 items listed below each saved us at least $100 per year — if not much more! And it’s because of being willing to make sacrifices like this that, by the grace of God, we stayed out of debt while Jesse was in law school and lived on around $12,000 per year.

As our income has increased, we’ve relaxed a bit on how extreme we are (I think there’s plenty of room for occasional “splurging” if you’re out of debt and living below your means!), but we still do many of these things.

1. We lived on a very strict zero-based budget.

2. We were almost 100% cash-only.

3. We lived in a small apartment.

4. We didn’t go out to eat, except a few times per year — and then it was usually a fast food restaurant where we’d use coupons and eat for less than $7!

5. We cooked from scratch.

6. We had one car – an older, used car.

7. We readily accepted hand-me-downs.

8. We shopped at thrift stores.

9. We got books and DVDs at the library.

10. We stayed home alot.

11. We didn’t pay for a cell phone.

12. I cut my own hair.

13. We used cloth diapers.

14. We used coupons to get the majority of our food and household items for pennies on the dollar — feeding our small family all 21 meals per week for $30-$35 each week.

15. We played the Drugstore Game.

16. We bartered — from car repair work to clothes, we weren’t ashamed to ask if an individual would be willing to barter with us.

17. We negotiated discounts on necessary purchases and regular bills.

18).We used a birth center, instead of a hospital to have our first baby thus significantly lowering our out-of-pocket costs.

19. We reused and made-do as much as we could.

20. We pretty much didn’t buy anything for our baby for the first entire year.

21. We stopped worrying about what other people think.

22. We worked really, really hard — constantly looking for more ways to pinch pennies and creative ways to bring in a little extra money.

23. We only ate meat a few times per week — and only then as a “condiment”.

24. We didn’t pay for internet — we got a free AOL three-month trial and when we called to cancel, they kept voluntarily extending our subscription!

25. We kept our home pared down to the basics and sold anything we didn’t use.

26. We didn’t use a babysitter. Since we weren’t living close to family, the first time we left our daughter was when she was over two and a half years old!

27. We didn’t exchange Christmas or birthday gifts of any sort until about four years into our marriage.

28. We prayed a lot. And God was always and has always been faithful!

What about you? What “extreme” things do you do or have you done in order to get out of debt and/or stay out of debt?

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