Guest post from Kim of Kimz Kitchen
My family and I are avid followers of MoneySavingMom.com and Dave Ramsey. When my husband and I graduated from college, the only debt we had were some (relatively) small student loans to pay off. Our plan was to knock them out before we started adding children to our family.
Things were going well, and though we got pregnant before they were paid off, we had every intention of being debt-free before our first daughter arrived.
Then real life happened.
A deer hit our car, and even with good insurance, we had to replace our car. Because it wasn’t worth much to begin with, and it was our only vehicle, we had to take out a small loan to pay for another used one. This put our debt payoff on hold.
Then our daughter was born with major health issues — which meant big medical bills to pay.
A couple years later, my husband was out of work for several months, so our debt snowball was put on hold again and I sold everything I could on Craigslist and Ebay. MoneySavingMom.com was such a huge help to us during this tough time.
The next few years brought on more high deductibles that had to be paid each year — our daughter was bitten by a copperhead one year, we had another beautiful little girl the next, we had three pregnancies that ended tragically (and with big medical bills), and then my husband was diagnosed with a large (benign) brain tumor that needed an eleven-hour surgery to remove.
So, while our debt was small and easily manageable in the beginning, we were being stalled every year by big bills that had to be paid first. I would hear the stories of others who were paying off smaller amounts of debt on smaller incomes in a quarter of the time we were and I would get SO discouraged!
Some of you may be in a similar situation to us. You have every intent to dump your debt quickly, but life happens, and sometimes it hits harder than you can imagine.
If you can relate, here are a 5 tips that helped us stay focused (and kept us from growing our debt):
1. We always paid ourselves first and made sure our $1,000 emergency fund was available for short term emergencies. This came in handy when our hot water heater started smoking and a pipe burst in our guest bathroom!
2. We started using the envelope system to pay cash for budget busters like groceries, eating out, and date nights. Anything left over went straight to our current outstanding bill.
3. We used coupons to save money on our grocery bills and played the drugstore game for toiletry items. CVS was our favorite. Many times we were getting our milk and diapers free! We would even use extra free items to make up small gift baskets for gifts for our families.
4. We paid our bills first to avoid more debt. Whenever the big medical bills came due, we put our debt snowball on hold until they were paid. In a sense, we were cash flowing those medical bills, using our debt snowball money to pay for them. While it was hard to lose the steam on my student loan, it was still something that had to be done, and we were grateful to have the means to pay them.
5. We simplified our belongings and made money by selling our excess belongings on our local Facebook Yardsale page, Craigslist, and eBay.
We stuck to our goal, and the day before my ten-year college reunion, we paid the final payment to my student loan!
While it took MUCH longer than I had anticipated, it was still worth the effort. Plus, the lessons we learned about saving, living on less, and paying cash for everything have been invaluable.
Kim is wife to a brain tumor survivor and mom to two girls here and three kiddos in Heaven. She blogs about her adventures in homeschooling, cooking, and helping young children deal with sibling loss at her Kimz Kitchen.