One of the best pieces of advice we got before my husband and I married, was to read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. We became huge fans of Dave’s advice and because we both came from frugal families, we felt equally yoked for our financial future — even knowing my husband wanted to go to medical school.
About six months before we got married (going on six years ago now!), my husband was accepted to medical school. Because we had a goal of staying debt free, we immediately started to devise a plan.
I had been working for a few months at my first “real job” and was already starting to see savings build little by little. Neither one of us had any previous debt as we had college paid for by scholarships, and I had worked my way through graduate school as a Graduate Assistant. So we were already off to a good start.
We knew how much medical school tuition would cost, and added in some extra for books, equipment and miscellaneous items he might need. And we really started to pray. We prayed for God’s direction, for discipline, and patience. After all, I’d just finished school myself, and after working hard to get through it, it was tempting to want to splurge.
You know what? God provided!
First, we found out a few months after his acceptance that my husband had received a scholarship to cover the first semester — what a blessing! It gave us a little more time to save. Secondly, God blessed my work, and we saw little savings grow more and more into reaching our goals!
By staying the course and keeping to our commitment, at the end of my husband’s second year of school, we had already saved enough for all four years! After counting tuition, fees, equipment, National testing, and all the books he needed, we paid around $50,000. God is so good! We can look back and see His hand and blessing the entire way.
The Bumps in the Road and God’s Provision
Not everything came without some sweat — literally.
First, at the beginning of the third year of school, my husband’s car just went kaput. You couldn’t drive it over about 50 mph without feeling like you were trying to use your body to hold down the steering wheel. The tires were worn out, the engine needed some serious work and it had no air conditioning. And let me tell ya, here in Mississippi, that was a big deal! Rob had just started clinical rotations and was dressing up for work so he would leave before daylight, to keep himself from sweating too badly. Eventually, we were able to pay cash for a used car for him.
Secondly, and very sweetly, our first little bundle came into the world the middle of the third year (our second came a month before Rob graduated). I never knew I’d want to stay home with him so badly. I cried and cried, thinking in my heart that God’s timing was not right for me to stay at home — especially while we had no other income.
The month I went back to work, the company I worked for announced that, for the first time ever, wanted to hire someone part-time in my area! God was so faithful. He gave me the desire to be home with my son, and He provided the means!
So, I worked part-time until January of this year when I quit my job to stay home full-time. By saving up enough for medical school early and living frugally along the way, we were able have set aside enough money in the bank to supplement my husband’s income until he finished residency.
You want to know the cool thing? It’s been eight months, and we still haven’t used a dime of our savings!
And the Rest of the Story?
My husband is in his second year of residency now, and we stay committed to our goal. Rob doesn’t make much as a resident, and still has three years to go. However, we know that living frugally now gives us a peace about where we’ll be in the future.
We are so happy and so thankful to be debt-free! So many of my husbands friends and classmates came out of school with six-figure debt. God has taught us a lot through the past six years; it’s not always been easy, but it’s been so worth it.
Sara and Rob, with Rhett (2) and Colt (1), live in Jackson, Mississippi.
Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.
Wow! What a wonderful thing to not go into debt for medical school! I’m in a similar boat as some others who have commented. My husband’s private medical school costs 50k/year, not including books, etc. So, we’ve had to take out loans :-). But, we prayed very hard when applying for med. school and my husband was only accepted to one. We feel we were led to come here and feel that as long as we are frugal and don’t take out extra loans, that the Lord will bless us so we can pay off the debt. Fortunately, neither of us had any debt going into med. school – no credit cards, car loans, or school loans. We both paid for undergrad and we paid for my masters. I’m so grateful we were able to enter medical school with no other debt! We’ve have been abundantly blessed as we’ve tried to live with the small of loan money we receive for living. We have to children that I stay home with.
Please realize that we are BLESSED in the US to have a student loan program! My husband’s family immigrated to the US from another country because although his parents are well educated and were members of the middle class they would never have been able to send their kids to college for lack of cash upfront! People all over the work are shut out of higher education because they only have potential and desire but not the financial means at the front end.
Also, don’t discourage yourself from med school if you can’t make it without student loans (realistically most people can’t….we had no TV, a tiny freezing apartment (in an extremely cold northern state), didn’t eat out, didn’t buy ANY new clothes for 6 years during med school and the first two years of residency…and we have student loans.) It is important to consider your pre-education earning power and post education earning power. It would have taken us about 4 years of saving as much as we could for us to pay for medical school in cash but we will be able to pay our loans off in about a year post-residency. I does sometimes make sense to take out educational loans…and sometimes you just have to to get your life rolling!
This is really great story!!..Everytime i read stories like this made me think that I can also do it!.Thank you guys!..Keep posting!..Thank you for a wonderful site.
What an inspiring story! My husband and I made alot of bad choices when he was in school, but now (praise God!) I feel like we are finally on the right path. Sara, I love what you said about asking God to take over your finances. He has done everything from showing me how I can save money on food and clothing, to taking away my desire for things that I used to love before. I try not to be discouraged when it comes to our debt, because I know that He will get us through each tomorrow like He did for us today!!!
What an awesome story. I was able to save half of my teaching salary (28k that first year) to pay for my first year of law school. I was able to graduate with very few loans. I’m so impressed with your story. Thank you for sharing!
This story is inspirational, but I would like to make another comment that perhaps some do not see. This story would not have been possible without a supportive spouse. Those of us without supportive spouses/families must go into crushing debt for higher education. My higher education limited my work to 20 hours per week. If I were to go beyond that, I would have been forced out of school!! So while this story is one of discipline and hard work that should be rewarded and applauded, it is also a story of someone who had the good luck to marry before graduate school, something not all of us are lucky enough to enjoy.
@Julie, That is a very good and valid point and one that is often forgotten. And that emotional, as well as financial support, from a spouse/partner is also not to be discounted.
Wow 50,00o for 4 years of medical school. We paid about 50,00o EACH YEAR for medical school!! We tried very hard to stay debt free but now have a six figured loan to pay off. We had 1 car, no tv, no cell phones, nothing extra, and rented an old small home for $800 a month yet still fell in deep debt. We did start medical school with 3 kids and ended medical school with 5 kids so I couldn’t work. It’s amazing what your family did and I congratulate you!! That’s wonderful!!!
Martha Artyomenko says
What an amazing story!
This is an unbelievable story… thank you so much for sharing!
I’m like a lot of people, learned a lot later in life! I went through graduate school with loans and am slowly paying them off. We are committed to getting out of debt – so I know it will happen. I’m very proud of those of you who know the importance of saving – early!! WONDERFUL!
Wow! That’s an awesome accomplishment!!! Congratulations!
My husband’s medical school tuition was also much more than the $50,000 mentioned here, and since I was a poorly paid teacher in a rural school district, we were unable to make it without loans, though we did try for a semester. My annual gross income wouldn’t have even been able to pay for the year, let alone allow us to live ever so modestly. We started out our relationship committed to be debt-free and cash-only, but this was just too much to bear.
In the end, we decided that rigors of medical school and residency were strain enough on our young marriage without adding the pressure of money woes, so we went for the loans. And I’m so glad we did! We still had to be extremely frugal just to make ends meet but taking out loans gave us a little more breathing room. I agree that each family has to do what is best for them, and being financially aware and responsible from the get-go is an invaluable tool for everyone.
The one great thing about those lean years is that we continued to live frugally after he was a paid resident, so we saved that extra income for 3 years, which allowed me to stay home after my daughter was born. What a blessing!! And now that my husband is finally done with residency and fellowship, we plan to pay down that ol’ med school debt in a hurry!
@Grace, Grace, this is a great story too! Medical school – except for a few exceptions like the inspirational story here – demands loans and there is no shame in taking them. I know a lot of folks who go into the military to pay for school, but that is just another kind of debt. I think that taking the loans can be a very wise move, especially if you’re sticking w/ the Stafford loans. People sometimes think med students are living like royalty on borrowed money, when in fact it shakes out to be about $12K/year to live on if you’re taking the basic federal loans. Good luck attacking that debt!
Tara C. says
@Grace Congrats on being done with residency and fellowship! My husband is in his fourth year of an orthopedic surgery residency and because we live frugally I can also stay at home with our 3 kids. The plan is to continue to live like this even after residency/fellowship (3 years from now) and pay off those loans as quick as possible. It makes me so excited to think that one day we will be debt free. Wahooo! 🙂
@Megan I agree with everything you said. 😉
Marlene W. says
What a great story! My husband and I both graduated from college with no school debt, and we both attended schools that weren’t exactly cheap 🙂 When he wanted to enter grad school for his MBA, he presented that idea to his boss and supervisor with several points of how it would be beneficial to the company for him to have grad school – and that they company should pay. THEY AGREED! MBA – paid! Then he got a corporate job and they moved us across the country – paid! And he recently accepted a new job with his company, but asked that we be relocated back home. He would take the job, but it had to be where we wanted to live. Done! And then the company even moved us back home – paid our moving expenses AGAIN! It is so exciting to look back and see how God has provided. Yes, it definitely hasn’t always been easy, but God has always provided so generously. It is exciting depending on God for your present and future and it is a thrill to look back and see all that He has done.
That’s awesome! Praise God for his provision, and to you both for seeking God’s help, and for making the most of it! Continued blessings to you both!
Marilene Hunzeker says
Beautiful story! I really needed to read something like this today, I was feeling so down. I need to trust more in the Lord, he never let me down before. Thanks, thanks a lot:) By the way I love Dave Ramsey.
I love these stories! Please keep running them! They are encouraging me to keep being frugal even when I’m tempted to spend.
Congrats!!!! That is such a great story.
I love hearing all of these stories! It is so inspiring and keeps me going every day knowing there are people out there that are able to achieve their goals of being debt free! I’m working on it!
Wow! That’s amazing! I made it through my bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate with out debt, but there were lots of scholarships in my field. To do that with med school is really inspiring!
What medical school costs $50k for four years? How do you save up $50k in two years working a part time job? My husband only makes $30k working full time.
Jan, I may not have done a great job explaining! 🙂 I didn’t start working part time until my first child was born, which was my husband’s third year. So, by this time, we had it all saved. To keep saving at the rate we wanted when I did go part time, we made sure our budget was lean – no cable, no eating out, etc. We lived BENEATH our means. As Dave says, “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.”
Thankfully, too, Mississippi’s only Medical School has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country. Combine that with a low standard-of-living, we were able to hit our goals!
Ultimately, we know that God orchestrated the whole thing. And we’re so thankful that He did – we didn’t have the strength on our own.
Tara C. says
As a wife whose husband graduated medical school in 2007 I would have LOVED if tuition was only $50,000 for 4 years. LOL His tuition was about $35,000 a year, which doesn’t include books, medical equipment, boards, traveling expenses for residency interviews etc. We live frugally though and will continue to do so until the loans are payed off. This is a great story though and kudos to them for going through medical school without any debt!! I just want to know where he went to medical school though and tell my husband he should have gone there. 🙂
@Tara C., Tara, we’re in the same boat as you! We’re at about 30K/year and that’s at one of the cheapest (private) schools in the country. Sadly, unless you’re MS residents it would have been virtually impossible to get into their reasonably priced program, so don’t give your husband too hard a time 😉 $35K/year is still pretty reasonable for medical school!.
Sara – it is so great that your family was able to accomplish this! Really great work! We’re doing our best to stay debt-free in med school too, and this is great encouragement.
that’s incredible and so good to hear. i have friends in med school who are seriously in debt and don’t really care (except for the stress when they think about it). i am in grad school and have been blessed for years 1 & 2 (currently in yr 2) paid for + a stipend, and even though it’s a year away praying about how to pay for yr 3 (the end) without loans. my husband has some from undergrad and we’re working to pay those off now. love reading these stories, how inspirational!
Becky @ Our Peaceful Home says
That is so amazing! Congratulations!
Shannon Runnels says
WONDERFUL story! Very inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing!
I love stories like this!
On the flip side, as one of those families graduating from school soon with school loans to pay (our only debt.) Our big step of faith was following God’s voice when he told us to TAKE the loans in faith that he will provide in due time. By provide I don’t mean a free ride, but lots of hard work on our part. I love how everyone has a different journey. I am one of the most frugal gals I know but it’s not always how much you save, but how much you have to work with. And what we have to work with does not pay for flight school without some loans.
We do stay within our limit of loans with only me cosigning as a spouse… Which limits the amount we can receive. But it puts the responsibility fully on our own shoulders to repay. Currently about $1000 short this semester and hoping he doesn’t have to drop classes and graduate a semester late ):
This is such an inspiring story…definitely not the norm in our country. It’s always a blessing to hear about the Lord providing for His children.
Jenny B. says
WOW! Praise the Lord! Thank you so much for sharing your testimony. Your family is such an inspiration and reading your testimony here touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. God IS good.
What an awesome story. Love all of the testimonials! Hope to read more.
Caroline Grossman says
What a blessing to hear your journey thus far as partners for life. I love hearing how God has provided and guided you and will continue to do so. Blessings abundant!
Thank you for all the testimonials!!! They are so inspiring. We are currently digging ourselves out of a $24,000 hold we dug ourselves. We were in deeper at the beginning of the year. I am still in school finishing my B.S. in Criminal Justice. I paid out of pocket for my first 2 years, while I was living with my parents. I did take out a couple student loans after got married while I was at UoP (big mistake!). I have been fortunate enough to find a DoD program that pays for my tuition, but not books or student fees. I do qualify for Pell and will cover my student fees.
Our goal is to be completely debt free by December 2011 (minus the student loans). Hubby is up for rotation this year and will be heading to Afghanistan towards the end of the year. The extra money and tax returns will help pay everything off. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And will never dig ourselves this deep again.
How inspiring! I just started medical school a myself few weeks ago, and I have been struggling to live as much of a debt free lifestyle as I can. I saved considerably before school, and took out only enough loans to pay tuition. I’m paying all my living/book/travel/instrument costs myself, but unfortunately I don’t have the security of another person’s income to help pay any of my tuition. Do you have any advice or encouragement you might think to send my way? Congratulations to you and your husband for making it through medical school debt free!
@Chelsea, Chelsea, that’s so great! I know it looks like a hard road ahead, but you can do it! The only advice I could give would be to pray for God to take control of your finances. He is a part of even the details of our lives. Pray for him to show you opportunities to be a good steward with what you’ve been given.
I believe that if you are following the God given desire of your heart, He will honor you for it. God provides – read Matthew 6:25-34!
Every little bit you can save or not go into debt for will be helpful. We know some people whose philosophy was “oh well, i’m going into debt, i might as well get XXX amount more and go on vacation every year, have cable, etc.” Whatever you can save by not tacking on more debt will help!
That is unbelievable. I am so impressed.
I find it unbelieveable that med school was only $50,000. My husband just finished optometry school and tuition and fees alone were way over $50,000, plus books, equiptment, national testing, etc. That’s great that y’all were able to pay cash. I’m pretty jealous, because we have loans.
@Sarah, Sarah, you’re right to be surprised. There are only a few schools that charge that little and they are the state schools of TX and a few other southern states. My husband is a first year med student and we’re paying 30k/year in tuition alone at one of the least expensive (non-southern-state schools) in the country. Unfortunately, if you’re not a resident of a state with a highly subsidized school, you have very little chance of getting into one of the their programs b/c all state schools prioritize in-state students. I’m not complaining about the 30K/year, though, as some schools charge 45K/year or more! The costs really are getting out of control, especially as we’re desperate for primary care physicians in this country.
Can I be nosy and ask where you are at? This sounds like our life…we actually left TX for medical school b/c even with increased tuition out of state the money we saved in health insurance more than made up the difference!
@Melissa, No problem, Melissa! We’re at LECOM in Erie, PA. It’s wild that the health insurance costs made leaving TX more reasonable for you – sometimes I can’t get over how crazy this whole process is.
Heather Matthies says
Great story! My husband is also a resident that spends part of his time in Jackson, Mississippi–and we are on the coast the rest of the time. He entered the military to have his medical school paid for, and, is now in his fourth year of residency…one more to go! I stay home with our three kids!
Thanks so much for these stories of inspiration. My husband is getting ready to start working on his M.Ed in Special Education. We did not have this widsom when we were single and entered our marriage with tons of debt from my grad and undergrad and his undergrad… We want so bad to be debt free but in order to really help he is going to have to get his M.Ed so that he can make more money.. I am convinced that by God’s help we can pay cash for graduate school! Thanks so much ladies!
I firmly believe it is worth it for most teachers to get a Master’s degree. Unlike other professions, if you are under contract, it is almost a 100% guarantee that you will be rewarded financially for your degree, having it paid for in a couple of years, and then being able to reap the benefits for every year your husband teaches. This is why I went back to school. I paid cash for it by being very careful and only taking one class at a time.
Some school districts offer $ to teachers getting graduate degrees (but not too many in this economy). Another option to look into is the federal loan forgiveness program:
If you teach for 5 years in a Title 1 school, you can get a good chunk of your education paid for!
It may depend on your geographic region. In my area, it’s pretty common for teachers to be paid on a sliding scale based on years of experience and education. At my school, getting a Master’s degree was an automatic $2000 pay increase/year. If the school is on this system, it is a very good payoff, particularly if the teacher is fairly young since the teacher will continue to make $2000 more per year than his peers without the advanced degree.
@Rachael, Oh oops, I didn’t mean to insinuate that certain school districts wouldn’t increase your salary if you have more education. I think they all do. Sorry if it sounded like I said you wouldn’t get a pay increase. I meant that some schools/districts will pay for your continuing education, meaning they’d pay for all/part of your tuition.
Several years ago, my district offered tuition reimbursement, but they don’t offer it any more. That’s why we were especially glad to hear about the federal loan forgiveness program!
Wow, that is so impressive! You will be so far ahead of most doctor’s when they graduated and you can be choosy about a job because of it. My sister’s husband is a doctor and because of all the debt they had to move to a small town in NE to make enough money to pay everything off. They did and have since moved back home to OH.
Joanna @ Starving Student Survivor says
So wonderful! My husband is a year into graduate school. We’ve borrowed some for his tuition, but each semester we’re able to pay out-of-pocket for a little bit more and borrow a little bit less. I hope we’ll be in the situation by his last semester to pay cash for all of it.
The amazing thing: our income keeps going down, but we’ve been blessed to stretch our money more and more to cover our expenses and save for the next semester.
Way to go, Joanna!
How inspiring! I’m applying for a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, and just today was praying for answers. How can I live and pay our expenses while attending classes full time? My husband doesn’t make enough to live on and we have little savings due to mountains of medical expenses not covered by insurance. But we’re working on it. I will continue to pray for solutions because this post was the first answer and I know there will be more.
Good for you!! Our future daughter in law is headed for med school next fall. Here in SC the state will repay your loans if you stay here and practice in a rural area for a period of time.
What an amazing story! I am really loving these “We paid cash” testimonials–so inspiring and encouraging.
Way to go Sara! I and my husband both chose to get student loans for college. I received a number of scholarships so I graduated with less than $15,000 in debt. This was not the case for my husband. But we never thought there was any other way to pay for school. Now, we are having to find ways to pay our loans off faster. Good for you for figuring it out from the beginning. And for med school even!
I’ve made it all the way through my Ph.D. with only about $6000 in debt. I would be debt-free except a tution waiver fell through at the last minute. My husband, however, wasn’t so lucky, so we’re still paying for his law school–fifteen years later!
@Rachael, The debt free inspirational stories are good to read about.Sometimes no matter what you do as I can see in your case things don’t work out.We moved to North Carolina debt free unfortunately 3 months later my husband lost his job.We ended up with more medical bills without insurance and will be paying these off I feel until we die!
Your story is so inspirational – congrats!
These stories are all so inspiring!! Awesome job! I hope to be able to submit my own story next September for paying cash for our wedding 🙂
Woohoo! Good for you!
@Natalie, You can do it!! We paid cash for our daughter’s wedding almost 3 years ago. It makes me sick to hear about some recent celebrity weddings that cost a million dollars when so many are hurting now.
@Natalie, I had 3 months and $2,000 cash for my wedding 2.5 years ago so I know you can do it too. 🙂
My wedding cost 3,000, 4 years ago and thought I did pretty well comparing what people waste on weddings. Back then I did not know nothing about coupons. Now that I think about it, If I knew back then what I know now, I would NOT had spend that much money. 🙂 lol
@Natalie, You can do it! My husband and I paid cash for ourwedding also (going on 6years ago), and although it was very simple we are just as married as someone who spends tens of 1000’s! Remember that the relationship is what is the most important…not the ceremony! God bless you!
We spent about $1500 on our wedding almost 20 years ago. In the last 20 years we’ve seen many of our friends who got married around the same time end up in divorce. You are right; the relationship is the priority. Having an expensive wedding does not guarantee a successful marriage. And having your finances under control is a great way to alleviate some of the stress that comes with being married. Many blessings to all of you planning weddings. I’m sure some will spend less than we did, even with 20 years of appreciation! God will honor your sacrifices and putting Him first in your marriage.