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“We didn’t have a spending problem. We had an income problem.”

debt snowball

Testimonial from Tiffany of Wife.Mother.Teacher

In the fall of 2012 I was introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I found his book at our library and became a regular radio listener. With the purchase of our home, we were quickly realizing — we’d bit off more than we could chew. 

Between student loans and our new mortgage, our money needed to be told what to do if we were going to survive.

That realization led me to call in to the Dave Ramsey show seeking advice. By amazing grace, I was able to make it on air and Dave gifted us his Financial Peace University class.

Let the Games Begin

As predicted, money fights ensued. My husband and I learned that we weren’t on the same page with money, and fit the bill as personality opposites.

Within 3-6 months, we made monthly budgets and usually stuck to them. But it wasn’t until around month 9 that we really got the hang of the entire plan. We were working together creating our budget, and checking in with each other regularly. We were using the cash envelope system to follow through on our budget, and feeling successful, but that’s the point where we hit our next obstacle.

We had already cut our spending dramatically — cutting back internet and cable TV, canceling smart phones, and limiting our grocery budget. And although we were making the minimum payment on all of our debts, we were struggling to really get the ball rolling on our debt snowball.

With nothing more to sell or cut out, we had to get real.

Our financial problems were no longer a spending problem. They were an income problem.

If we ever wanted to get out of a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, and see the debt snowball in action, we would have to increase our income.

Entering Phase Two of Our Debt Snowball

I waitressed before teaching, but with my husband’s schedule, a traditional part-time job wasn’t feasible. We don’t have an evening sitter that we could count on to babysit on such a regular basis.

Instead my husband picked up extra hours at work and I started working after school activities to earn a little extra income. It helped, but we still needed to find something more consistent.

That’s when I started tutoring online. Since completing my first lesson, I feel like I have found the key to increasing our income for the time being. It’s not a perfect solution, but until we can find another avenue, it will work.

We keep counting down the numbers as we pay off our smallest debt. I know that if we continue to persevere, our debt snowball will really start to take hold.

Whether you’re in phase one, or two, it’s important not to loose sight of your goal. No matter how big your debt, you can achieve financial freedom. The hard work and effort are worth it, especially when you learn to live on what you make. I’m looking forward to what phase two of our debt snowball has to bring and guarantee we’re up to the challenge!

This post was written by Tiffany at Wife.Mother.Teacher. – a blog devoted to sharing a passion for home management with modern, working moms – where you’ll find posts on household budgeting, teaching & raising a toddler. In her free time, Tiffany enjoys reading, exploring the great outdoors and catching up with friends and family.

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  • The most important part of actually getting out of debt is not only the realization of the problem but taking action. No matter how small, take action. Then stick with it.

    • Carol Gridley says:

      I know of someone that is a CNA at a nursing home that can only work a certain amount of hours so that he can have health insurance for his family. he feels stuck! He can not seem to get ahead. What should he do?

      • MommaMo says:

        If they are a quick learner and want to stay in the healthcare field, nursing school might be a good option. I would say he should talk to his nursing supervisor and ask if they know about tuition assistance that might be available. Many places (I’m more familiar with the hospital side, not sure about long-term care) offer tuition assistance to employees who promise to stay or return. A CNA job in a hospital might also be better, I don’t know how the pay would compare, but there are always overtime hours available in the hospitals.

  • It took my husband and I awhile to get on the same page too! Once we did, we made much more progress towards paying off debt.

  • That first debt is so hard! You are scrimping and saving and it feels like nothing is happening. Once we paid off the first one and our snowball started growing things got much easier. Keep going!

  • Jessica H. says:

    We are in the same boat! This is truly encouraging! Thank you!

  • Linda says:

    Would you be able to share the name of the online tutoring company you work for?

    • Jacklyn says:

      I would love to know the online tutoring site you work for, as well. I would love to tutor math students as I work towards my degree in secondary math. It would really help get our snowball rolling too!

    • Ashli says:

      I would love to know too! I am investigating legitimate work-at-home opportunities as well.

    • Anna Mathew says:

      I am not the author, but I tutor through and have enjoyed the opportunity. The company pays well for a work-at-home job, provides chances to move up to higher levels and positions, and trains well. The downsides can be the long application process and the availablity of hours, which fluctuates throughout the school year and can tend to lean into late nights. For me this job has been a perfect fit for my experience, night owl schedule, and lack of transportation. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Ditto! This homeschool Mom wouldn’t mind supplementing our income.

    • Thanks ladies! I tutor with I looked into – but honestly was much happier with the ease of tutoring on Instaedu. In the long run I may look at tutoring on multiple sites – but for now I’m happy with just the one! 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    This is where we are at…coming to the realization that it’s time for me to bring in some extra income. With my husband’s job, it’s very difficult because he’s always on call and his schedule is so unpredictable. But I do believe that for many, when you have done everything else, God may be pointing you to work to bring in some extra income to get out of debt.

    • This is where we are as well. My husband is a teacher and there’s not much he can do to increase his salary outside of leaving the profession {he picks up extra classes when he can, sometimes works athletic events and proctors the SAT’s, and has a part-time job he sometimes works on the weekends}. I don’t want him to leave teaching just b/c of the pay, so I’m hoping to help ease the pressure by blogging. We shall see, but there definitely comes a point in time when there’s literally nothing left to cut and you just have to get creative to try and increase your income!! Good luck to you!

  • shelby says:

    I always look forward to these inspirational stories. They give me hope that I too can be debt free!

  • Amanda says:

    I understand! My husband and I are taking a leap of faith with our jobs right now and totally following the Lord’s leading…but after scrimping and saving and barely making ends meet for the moment, I’m doing surveys online and using those points for paypal or amazon gift cards to help pay for things we need (and eventually, the things we want as well!). Creativity is fun and we have seen the Lord bless us in sweet ways so far. It’s really been the motivation we needed to keep going! Thank you for your story…it’s inspiration and true “gazelle intensity”!

    • Tera says:

      Another way to earn extra income on the side, is secret shopping. Honest! I’ve been doing it since I was laid off (I’m now working again but I make a lot less) 3 years ago. You can schedule jobs that are nearby and fit your schedule. ONLY sign up for FREE companies however, since those are the only legit ones out there. I was interviewed on the subject on blog.

      • MommaMo says:

        I also do some secret shopping with several companies and would recommend that anyone interested look at the MSPA website (I can’t remember the address, but you can Google it). They list reputable companies and also have other related information great for new shoppers.

  • Stephanie says:

    Another option would be to downsize on the house. We are making plans to move to another state this summer and we will likely be purchasing a house that is smaller and at a purchase price less than the sale price on our existing house. This is intentional to free up more cash flow.

  • Vicki Guttridge says:

    Great blog, Tiffany. Dave Ramsey is so wise when it comes to getting out of debt. My husband and I need to do a better job of communicating on the monthly budget. I have also taken on a second job selling skincare with a reputable company and am thankful for the extra money it provides every month. My mantra is “I don’t have a spending problem, I have an income problem” and I am doing my part to increase the income side of the ledger.

  • Alicia Amborski says:

    I am also wondering what site you are tutoring with as I would like the opportunity to work in this manner. I currently teach online with a University and have my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Master’s in Psychology and Special Education.

  • Summer Maryanski says:

    This so my family!! We have followed Dave Ramsey over the years. But it isn’t a matter of cutting out any more, b/c we are living on the bare necessities (& we have been for years) & we have debt accumulated from our old business that needs to be paid off. It has been difficult to figure out what to do to earn extra income because we have 5 children whom I homeschool so they are always with me. I’ve thought about doing music lessons b/c I know the piano well, but I’m afraid my younger kids won’t listen to their older siblings during lesson times so that it will be distraction free for my piano students- & my husbands job is unpredictable as to when he gets off each day so I can’t rely in him in this area. I’m so tired of not only the mound of debt, but hardly making ends meet to begin with. I guess I’m just discouraged and maybe not ‘mad enough’ at the debt to do something about it, as well as, afraid of over extending myself- homeschooling 5 children, in top of everything else, is more than a full time job (one which I love doing & that my husband & I feel called by God to do). Any encouragement or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for the post! It was great to hear your story. I’ll be checking out your website 🙂

    • Lara says:

      Summer, could you hire a young teen to help watch your kids while you give lessons? Or offer students’ moms a discount if they offer to supervise your kids while you teach piano to her kid? Maybe that would be appealing if money is tight for them, too.

  • Angela says:

    If you truly have an income problem and you are not already working (but rather staying home where you don’t earn any income at all,) then it seems like a no brainer to get a job either outside or inside the home. I do realize there are barriers when it comes to child care and what your skills are worth in the job marketplace. Sometimes what you have the ability to earn just outweighs the cost of paying for childcare and paying for things like gas to commute. However, many retail jobs have you working nights and weekends when your spouse is probably home to watch the kids and those types of jobs require little education or experience. If you have an education or very valuable skill set, then you should be able to get a job that more than covers the cost of childcare and commuting, unless you are in an area that has a very high cost of living or where jobs are just very hard to come by. I sometimes think some women just don’t want it to work because they just don’t want to put in the effort it takes or take on the stress of being a working mother. Some of you will think I am being harsh and will assume that I work outside the home, but I don’t. I am a work at home mother. I know my situation is very optimal in a lot of ways, but I still see women turn their noses up at the opportunity to do what I do because they see that it is actual work.

    • jennifer says:

      I’m glad someone finally said this! It gets tiring to hear “we have no money, my husband works and I stay home.” Exactly as you said-there are evening jobs available, weekend hours, etc. Target, Wal-Mart, grocery stores, drug stores, etc may even offer a discount as an employee!

      For the last year, I have been working evenings as an RN at the hospital. This weekend, I am going back to working weekend package (Sat/Sun 7a-7p) because it is the best way to bless my family. Set hours, better pay and allows my husband to step back during the week and focus more on his studying and for me to get our son to his activities. My husband worked FT+ and also went to school FT while I was pursuing my nursing degree just a few years ago. It’s my turn to bless him and allow him the opportunity to finally finish his degree.

    • april says:

      Unfortunately,that’s easier said than done any more…I stayed home with my now 7 yo starting when she was 11 months old(my older children were already in school). I started looking for a part time day job a month before she started Kindergarten in 2012 and I havent even got 1 interview(and yes all im applying for is minumum wage jobs)

      • rose says:

        Have you thought about sub teaching as a part time job? I did that why I was trying to get on full time with my district. It allowed me to work around my children’s appointments. Good luck in finding what you need.

  • Krystle says:

    I would love to know about the free reputable secret shopper sites to register on.

  • Debbi King says:

    I am so proud of how far you have come and that you are sticking with the plan. Always remember one thing, wealth is a lifestyle, not a diet. Dave’s plan always works, but if you don’t change your lifestyle and thinking along the way, you could ease back into old habits. I believe that you want it bad enough and never want to go back so I know that you and your husband will be very successful in your wealth journey. I am so happy for you!

    Debbi King
    Wealth Coach

  • Lauren says:

    I think it takes a while to get accustomed to a budget. We’ve been loosely following Dave Ramsey’s principles for about a year now, but it took us a while to actually STICK to a budget rather than just writing it out every month and then moving money around to fit the places that we ACTUALLY spent. We love the idea of planning out our budget and telling our money where to go. It has made a huge difference in how we spend our money and also what we are prioritizing in our lives.

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