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Dumping Debt Takes Hustle

dumping debt

Guest post from Jessi of The Budget Mama

“How did I let this happen? I know better than this. I swore I would never end up here again, what happened?” That was my inner dialogue a few years ago when I realized that I had allowed my family to sink back into the depths of credit card debt.

Back when I was twenty-one years old, I was in such financial trouble that I was near bankruptcy due to credit cards. I truly knew better than to allow the “buy now, pay later” game to suck me, but it did, again.

I am still not sure how it happened; maybe it was out of fear that we would not be able to afford all those “must-haves” when we became parents for the first time. Maybe it was because we desperately “needed” that vacation to Mexico, or maybe I was just turning a blind eye because that was easier to deal with.

We were not only slowly sinking deep in credit card debt, but that fully-loaded Tahoe that we just had to have because we were now parents (and apparently you cannot drive anything other than a four-door SUV when baby arrives) was putting us even deeper in the hole.

Yep, we were deep in the red and the inner accountant in me was screaming bloody murder at the foolishness I had allowed to happen. Something had to be done because we were going to be broke soon if we did nothing.

I pulled up all our financial statements – credit cards, checking account, savings accounts, Tahoe loan information, and my student loan information. I spent hours tediously combing through them in order to figure out how long it would realistically take us to pay off these debts with my husband’s current income and our current budget.

When I presented my findings to my husband, he immediately pulled out his credit card, cut it up, and told me that struggling was out of the question and we were going to have to figure out how to get this debt monster wrangled back in his cage.

We did just that.

We have paid over $25,000 in debt in the two years since we made the commitment to get out of debt for the last time. We still have more to go but we are not struggling and by the grace of God, we will have my student loans completely paid for by the end of this year.

It takes serious hustle to defeat the debt monster. We have had to apply every well-deserved bonus check, tax refund check, savings bonds, and we even had to give up that fully loaded Tahoe in order to dumped $18,000 of debt in one day. Downgrading is not easy in our consumer-driven society that places our value in what we drive, what we wear, and where we live… but sometimes it is the only option in order to live the life you truly want.

Debt is not forever and if you are battling the debt monster, remember you are not alone. It is possible to defeat him. It will not always be easy, but you can and will do it if you hustle.

How have you hustled to defeat the debt monster?

Jessi Fearon is a wife, mom of two little boys, and writer behind The Budget Mama, a personal finance site where she shares her family’s real life on a budget. She is devoted to helping her readers thrive on a budget while becoming better money managers.

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  • We did the same thing. For some reason we needed a minivan for 1 child? We finally paid off the van and the student loans. It feels so good now to just have the house payment. Can’t wait ’til we are done with that!

  • Jessi, you are such an inspiration to us and to so many more. Keep up the awesome work – you’ll be debt free before you know it.

  • Yes! Yes! Yes! I think that is the disconnect with a lot of people. We got ourselves into debt, we have to get ourselves out.

  • Ashley P says:

    My darling hubby is working 40+ hours of overtime a week to pay off our debt. That means he’s working over 80 hours every week!

    It’s not like we were fiscally irresponsible. We just had a lot of “emergencies” in the space of 2 years. Our car was totaled on the way to close on our house (which we had just sunk all of our savings into). The insurance of the lady who hit us refused to pay for my hospital bill (I was 8 months pregnant at the time) so I got stuck with that. Baby was fine, BTW. I gave birth to him a month later. The hospital bill wound up being way more than we thought it would be (we’re still paying that off). I learned from that mistake, though. I’m 7 months pregnant with #2, and we’re having this one at home with a midwife. I lost 6 weeks worth of pay because my company doesn’t pay for maternity leave. We invested over $6,000 on repairs to the house (the wiring was all fritzy, the air conditioner unit died in the middle of summer, the roof sprung a leak and we discovered that the trusses were rotted so the roof had to be partially replaced, you get the idea).

    So we’re hovering at a little under $15,000 in debt. God willing nothing else happens, between my husband’s overtime and my new (salaried!) position, everything should be paid off within a year or so. Except the car. We wound up having to get a lease because when our car was totaled, hubby’s credit score was lower due to it being checked so many times for the mortgage and, as I said, we had no savings, having sunk it all in the house. Being 8 months pregnant, sitting around and waiting for a good deal on a used car was NOT an option, but because of the credit score (and the fact that I have 0 credit history, save a student loan I paid off nearly a decade ago) we couldn’t get financing for a car. So we got stuck with the lease. We plan on actually buying the car once the lease is up. We like it, and it’s got enough room in the back for 2 toddlers (which is what I’m going to have on my hands!) and should last us…until we get a third kid at least.

    So, yeah. Getting out of debt takes SERIOUS hustle. Between all my creative cost-cutting and hubby’s ridiculous amount of overtime, we’re throwing money at our debt as fast as we can!

  • Martina says:

    I so can relate, being debt free and having savings…and things just keep happening. Sometimes it does not matter how much savings you have… Murphy just keeps coming around

  • Harmony says:

    Hustle is the name of the game if you want to escape from debt. Last year, by being super frugal and earning side income we were able to pay off approximately $12,000 in credit card debt. It really does creep up on you though, because this month, I finally totaled up the amount we still owe . . . we have a lot of work left to do 🙁

  • Carre says:

    EVERY little bit counts. There were weeks I think I only put a matter of a few cents to our loans, but I refused to let even one week go by without doing SOMETHING to get rid of them. Every Friday I have a link posted with everything we did to put money towards one of our loans! Come check me out Recipes and other fun stuff will follow in time 🙂

  • Layna says:

    With baby #3, we looked into bigger vehicles, but financially it’s just not the way to go, so amid the looks from others, we load all three into carseats (our 4 year old is small so still needs one) in the back of our car. And you know, it still works.

    • I love it Layna! I have a friend that did the same thing! You are so right, it does work once we stop the comparison game. 🙂

    • Christy Carden says:

      We bought a used SUV. Only have 2 kids, but now have room for kids and dogs (which saves us money when we can go out of town and bring the dogs with us) and also have room to tote friends, friend’s kids, etc. For our lifestyle it was practical, but we were sure to buy used! My commute is only 2.5 miles, so gas was not too big of an issue except on trips. Our other car is small. No need for 2 large cars.

      • Christy Carden says:

        I guess what I’m saying is bigger (not Tahoe big), but Pilot size was a practical buy for us, but we still didn’t keep up with the comparison game, since it is older!

  • I think so many people struggle with debt, but refuse to talk about or face it. I know, I was one of those people. For several reasons, we have about $65,000 in credit card debt. I’m hustling to pay off $20,000 this year. It’s a daunting task, but I have to believe that I can do it! I’m starting small – my goal for January is to pay an extra $31 per week. I’m blogging about my goals (and lots of other stuff) at

  • This was a great read! Jesse was so transparent and honest. Such a great reminder. Thanks for sharing.

  • tamara says:

    I personally don’t have much in debt, only about $4000 in credit card debt But with being a single mom, I couldn’t get myself out of it. I would pay it partially down then use it again. But summer of 2014 I went to a bank to get a debt consolidation loan to pay it off and got a good deal. I pay $105 per month for 4 years but I can pay it off early without and repercussions. So I’m planning on putting green some extra money to that this year to try and pay it off quicker.

  • Suzanne H says:

    We became credit card/student loan debt free in 2007 and paid off our mortgage in 2009. We bought a new house in 2013 and carried a small mortgage for a little less than a year so we are now debt free again but it still requires hustle and a willingness to forego the “must needed” vacations and new vehicles. I have a 4 year old vehicle that was bought with cash, used. Hubby’s vehicle is over 10 years old. When people give us grief for being “cheap” or for not “living in the moment” we just say “we choose to buy peace of mind.”

  • L Ols says:

    When we took another job in another state (closer to family) we knew it was the right thing to do — however a series of events during the move (house fixes to sell, car issues, and moving expenses themselves) led us into about $10,000 in credit card debt. We were already planning to live temporarily with family but when our family extended the offer to stay in order to pay down our debt, we took them up on it. Living with family can be extremely trying at times, but it was about the only way we knew we’d dig out. We paid off that $10,000 in debt, cut up credit cards, and finally feel like we can breathe again.

  • Jennifer says:

    Congratulations on your achievement and on dumping the Tahoe 🙂 I can’t think of anyone really who needs that much vehicle.
    We paid off several thousands of dollars of credit card debt a few years ago, debt that was accrued before our son went to preschool and we were essentially living on one income.

  • I like this post because it shows how you can recover even after “backsliding.” I love Dave Ramsey debt free screams, but that gazelle intensity is not everyone’s story (although I agree it’s the best method!) We went back and forth for TEN LONG YEARS playing around on our debt free commitment. We finally got serious a few years ago and paid off all our debt in 2013. Even though we went back and forth, I’m glad we stuck with it until the end. Thanks for being honest in this!!!!

  • Shelly says:

    Credit card debt is the worst. When we were first married my husband and myself were making so much money. We were making good money, double what we have now, but we were spending faster than we were bringing it in.

    It seemed like suddenly in a blink of an eye, we were deeper in depth than we would have liked. Knowing that we wanted to have children soon and I wanted to stay home at least part time, we needed to change. It took three years but we got it down then after our child was born by the time she was two we were out of debt except for the house.

    I quit my job by the time she was 4 and we never looked back. Now we live on half the income and have extra to save each month. It was a hard climb out and I don’t ever want to go back. Being debt free is true freedom, indeed.

  • karen says:

    After all the dust had settled on a failed restaurant, my husband and I found ourselves more than $250,000 (yes that’s not an extra 0) in debt. We vowed to not claim bankruptcy, but living on a teacher’s salary doesn’t leave a lot left over. We did everything, including my working full time in a job and putting every single cent of my income into debt payoff. It wasn’t always easy, given that we were already living very frugally. Sometimes I really just want to slurge and spend just one of those paychecks on something we wanted. But we were diligent and after a year and a half of hard work we paid everything off! Ironically I lost my job the day after I paid off my last debt! Since then, we have been able to fully fund our emergency fund and live debt free even on one not so large income.

    Debt is a monster to avoid at all costs. Cash only keeps us living to our values.

    Good luck – I know you can do it. Thanks for sharing

  • denise says:

    By paying a little extra each month last year we paid off around $4000 in credit card debt. I’m tormented by how much is left bit thankful we made a good dent! We’re on a 4 yrs plan to be all but mortgage and student loan debt free!

  • It’s because of our own journey learning to save money in hard times I started Frugal Living Mom to help people find things that they could get for free and put “frugal strategies” into their everyday lives. And I get even more inspired when I read stories such as this. Awesome!

  • Ronni says:

    Oh gosh, I never thought I’d be one to let ourselves get into debt too, but it happened due to job loss and also just poor planning. A little over a year ago we were in a really bad place debt-wise and though it’s a bit shameful to admit, we too were starting to near to bankruptcy being a possible option. We ended up slowly settling some of our credit card debit as we got little bits of money here and there (my husband worked and got paid only sporadically, but often in large chunks at a time). It was such a hard place to be and I spent a lot of time on the phone with credit card companies….and also ignoring their multiple phone calls a day.

    Someday, when I’m feeling braver and ready to share our story, I plan to write a blog post about our experiences being in debt and settling credit card debt.

    But we are now thankfully credit card debt free (still got those student loans, but we rent our house and lease our car) and it is such a HUGE HUGE HUGE weight off our shoulders. We only have one credit card now and it is for gas only (for the cash back rewards) and gets paid off every month. Nothing else is allowed to be charged to it.

    Debt is so hard. But it is so worth it to find a way out from under it.

  • Kristie says:

    I sure do love your honesty! Good job on getting that debt down! Thanks for being willing to be transparent. Great post and wonderful advice!

  • Joy says:

    We’re struggling with this right now. It’s a hard place to be in, but we’re working to be debt free. We have a medically fragile child and thankfully have fairly good insurance, but everything is so tight, especially this time of year. I’ve been feeling discouraged about our finances lately.

  • Deb W says:

    Debt conversations always make me nervous and feeling condemned. There are those of us struggling to get out of debt, but have it not necessarily from living high on the hog or from using credit cards unwisely. We have a modest house, not filled with furniture, no large screen tvs, few vacations in the past 25 years of marriage. We’ve largely NOT had cable, magazine subscriptions, fancy food/eating out. We are eating frugally, clothing the 6 kids frugally, have had only one vehicle for 23 of the 25 years of marriage, been on maybe 5 vacations…but our family lives 900 miles away and they’ve had medical emergencies and we have needed to go there. We’ve had two major house events uncovered by insurance that we needed to pay out of pocket if we wanted HEAT in our MI wintered house. We’ve had three kids that needed vision therapy in order to perform well academically–not covered by insurance. We’ve got orthodontic issues. We have not had a pay raise in over 10 years, plus we took a sizable cut in pay after a job loss. Insurance rates are climbing faster than any cost of living raise we do get. And in our hope to not go into debt, we drained our emergency fund. So much for that. We are both working and digging ourselves out…but it’s not necessarily bad choices as much as it is bad circumstances mixed with normal ones that would be easy to take care of if there wasn’t debt. There is no way to do it quickly when the lifestyle was frugal to start with and there are so few non negotiable places to make cuts. Our children already don’t do activities/sports/music lessons. We make our gifts for giving or buy on clearance, we use hand me downs. We eat beans, bake our own bread…grow a garden in the summer…recycle/reuse/repurpose.

  • Kristen says:

    What a relatable story! Credit cards can be such a trap. Missing the days of unlimited chequing with no huge bank fees – because you don’t overspend – but then they just try to sell you on overdraft. Think I need to start a little hustling.

  • Heather says:

    We started our Dave Ramsey journey after lots of financial changes and realizing that my husband made a pretty decent living if we didn’t have to pay all of these credit card and student loan payments. We sold my car (for profit!) And bought an old used minivan and have just started chunking away at our debt. It’s frustrating sometimes when we look around our house and want matching furniture or a new tv…but we got ourselves into this mess and will get out! 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement from Budget Mama and Money Saving Mom!

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