Our Debt Free Journey

Jan 21, 2016 | Essential Oils by dōTERRA, The Home Economist | 23 comments

How to Live Debt Free?

How many times have we rolled that question over and over again in our minds wondering if it was at all possible?

I remember when some friends came to us years ago and said they were going to get out of debt… I’m ashamed to say I thought it was the stupidest, most impossible thing I had ever heard. I wrongly assumed they had it easier than us. A better job. More opportunities to make it happen.

Cause that’s what we do with debt. We make excuses for it.

I didn’t believe it was necessary, I didn’t believe it was possible and so… I decided that the idea was stupid and we dug ourselves deeper and deeper into debt.

I’ll tell you what. To get out of debt you have to be so sickened by it. You have to be shamed by it. And you have to want it more than anything else. At least that’s what it took for us to wake up.

 

Each of us has a story attached to our debt. Some are victims.

Victims of real tragedy. But the truth is that most of us are victims of our own stupid decisions. Our own desire to keep up with the Jones’, our desire to project something about ourselves that isn’t true, our desire to live in a fashion we don’t deserve… you get the picture.

That’s a HUGE problem today don’t you think?

There is a huge variety of income ranges out there and yet we are all running around trying to project that we’re in the same class. And it simply isn’t true.

But it’s soooooo easy in this day of mass produced crap, easy to get cell phone plans, “no income no problem” car loans and more. In this day where three credit card applications show up in your mailbox like love letters from the devil.

Love letters from the devil indeed.

I’ll dial it back before I rant further.

Our Debt Free Journey - Angela and her 5 kids

Years ago we found ourselves with the desire to be debt free.

The day we realized we were “sick and tired of being sick and tired” was painful. It was excruciating. And for many of you, it will be the same.

We came to the cold, hard, conclusion that we were one huge car repair or one broken leg away from being totally financially ruined. We realized our desire to get out of debt wasn’t going to going to come without some major life changes and attitude adjustments.

It was a looooonnng, grueling process and probably took us about five-plus years… but here are some strategies we employed…

 

How to Get Debt Free:

1. We finally wanted it bad enough.

Yep. We were done. Debt is a monkey on your back. It ruins the fun of any good-sized tax return, It haunts any exciting purchases you make, It follows you on every vacation and it rides along in that car you’re still paying for like an uninvited hitchhiker.

 

2. We finally allowed ourselves to feel the shame.

Paradigm shift. We decided that if being debt free was the right thing to do… then being in debt like we were was just, plain, wrong. Shame isn’t something we invite in this culture. We excuse everything.

 

3.  We submitted to a plan.

For us, that plan was Dave Ramsey. The man you love to hate. We followed his Total Money Makeover. We didn’t do anything fancy. Nothing online. Just his book and a bunch of copies of his budget filled in every month with pencil marks and chicken scratch.

Our paychecks were different every week which made things “fun”… Not. We started to pay cash for everything. I remember saving MONTHS for a new mattress and shopping like a mad woman for the best deal. If you’re not convinced… If you think I’m being proud – I’m sorry. That’s not my intent. Tune into his radio show. Listen. Get converted. Allow your thinking to change.

 

4. We gave up what we could not afford.

OUCH. Over the course of those five+ years… We sold our beautiful, black, Silverado. We quit drinking COFFEE for a time. I got rid of my cell phone. Hubby kept his corny, outdated flip phone for $30 a month.  We cancelled cable (which coordinated with how we were looking to raise our growing family), We cancelled our water delivery service, We shopped at Aldi (a HUGE step for me). I cut out my BELOVED expensive haircuts. We dialed back our travel. Like NO vacations and limiting gas spent even driving around town. I even had to give up family traditions like homemade applesauce. The truth was… I couldn’t afford the apples, I couldn’t afford the ball jars. And when all that and more wasn’t enough we put a for sale sign in the front of our beautiful home and ended up, a little over a year later, practically GIVING it away.

This pain was lessened by finding our little rental farm (and the fact that we wanted to move). It was the Grace of God. But nonetheless, we left our neighbourhood in embarrassment… this process has not been a painless one. Hardly.

 

5.  Hubby did what it took.

Our business had taken a nose dive. So my hubby sucked up his pride and took a job he did not want delivering groceries in Chicago… nights. In his spare time, he took every side painting job he could. He was always busy, our stress level went thru the roof and there was still never enough money but the backward momentum began to slowly cease.

 

6.  I dove in to help however I could.

I learned to grow food, I learned to can, I made soap, I had garage sales, I sold whatever I could and I conceded to driving a 97 rust-bucket of a Suburban. With pride. The backward momentum continued to slow down.

 

7.  We got our kids on board.

Yep. We confessed the sin of our mismanagement to our kids. Little as they were. Now, these years later they are total converts. They love to make money, save money, they laugh at car commercials (when they see them) and are thrilled to find a quality, gently used item, fully understanding the concept of depreciation. My little nerds.

 


 

So… we’ve been a little over three years with no debt. It was painful. There are still scars. But our heads are above water and we are getting ahead. Finally.

I shake my head when people whine about debt with their iPhone in their hand and their new car in the drive.

In my heart, I wonder if they are really ready for what it takes. (If we’re friends and you’ve got a swanky phone and a new car… I’m not passive-aggressively singling you out! It’s just so common these days it’s a relevant example!) If they are really sick and tired of being sick and tired. If they are really ready “to live like no one else does today so they can live like no one else does tomorrow”.

How to Get Out of Debt - Angela and her 5 kids

How are we going forward?

1. We are committed to living without credit cards and driving vehicles we can pay for.

I’m now driving a 2002 beast of a truck, complete with mid-west rust and hubby is driving what we lovingly call his 97 rickshaw.

 

2.  We keep our ear out for opportunities.

Which is how, after many other opportunities we decided together upon my Essential Oil biz. It’s been a total blessing for our family and is how we are saving for our “big farm” which we plan to buy God-willing either late this fall or early next year. We’ll see what He has in store.

 

3.  We still work like fools and try to make the best decisions we can.

I spent a year and a half writing a book (while launching my oil biz), we drive vehicles we hate, we say no to vacations we really, really want to take but know we shouldn’t. Overall, it sometimes kind of sucks. Really.  I’m just being honest. Sometimes it’s hard to watch people “living the life”. But that’s just coveting and stupid. We’ve been blessed with a beautiful life and Disney vacations and Paris will be in our future again but they are going to be based on hard work and probably a lot of sacrifices… not off plastic.

 

4.  We try to make wise decisions… even if they are more expensive at first.

Most recently we bought a top of the line water filter (our well water is horrible and we were buying 3 gallons a day). It was terribly expensive but thanks to my oil income we can finally afford to not be penny wise and pound foolish.

 

5. We are still learning.

We live in an expensive, crazy culture and anytime you try to swim upstream it’s going to take every bit of energy you have. But it’s so worth it. After all the pain, I feel very blessed indeed. And I pray we can pass this baton on to our children and save them from a world of hurt in their lives and marriages.


Are you ready?

Can you be in it for the long haul?
I wish you well and pray God’s hand for your success.

Thanks for reading. Angela Parisienne Farmgirl

 

 

 

23 Comments

  1. Carol Blanchet

    This is a great testimony to what can be done when you work at it! I appreciate your practical advice (the specifics you gave up) and how it didn’t matter that the specialty coffee drink – was “only $4” – but instead the mindset of “every little bit counts”.

    I feel like debt is a lot like getting fat. It’s so painless and enjoyable to eat (charge) but it’s such hard work to lose the weight (get out of debt) and it takes every ounce of self control!

    Reply
  2. Julie Niccum

    What a very good subject you bring up! People have to want to be debt free more than they want “stuff.” My husband and I have been debt free for many years. We bought a tiny house and paid it off in 3 years, 8 months even though the mortgage guy tried to get us to go bigger. Now when a car craps out on us, when the house needs a new roof, when the washing machine dies, etc., we pay cash because we save and don’t have debt strangling us. People don’t understand us. They can’t understand how I make it through life without a smart phone. I’ve even been asked what do I do since I don’t have cable television. People confuse their needs and their wants. Even our nation has an obscenely immoral amount of debt because we don’t know needs from wants.

    Reply
  3. Mary Lou

    Wow! I’m really happy you and your hubby have gotten this far. Years ago we had to learn some of these same lessons, as my husband was thrown out of work for about seven years because of the downturn in the homebuilding and real estate industry. We were headed down the same path, with lots of grand plans. God stepped in and slammed the door in our faces, and we are so glad.
    We live in a culture of more and more, with no thought to the consequences. Credit is so easy to get, and that is such a temptation.
    It cqn be hard to swim against the current, and this is an area of continual struggle for me, but I hope never to go back to lusting after what the “Jones” have.

    Reply
  4. Rachel

    I admire what you did to get out of debt. We’ve been debt free for quite awhile now and our house has been paid off since 2013. But I wish I knew then what i know now. I don’t think Dave Ramsey goes far enough. There’s some bad language on the site, but I really like Mr Money Mustache for putting it bluntly and making me think quite differently about money. He retired VERY early by living very frugally.

    Reply
  5. Karen yourchak

    We decided to get out of debt ten years ago. We went opposite of the Clampets, from a big fancy house to a triple wide in the country! Our vacations were to see family. Drove old cars, used coupons, used the library for homeschool internet with dial up is crazy to try to school with! Been 100percent out of debt for four years, the best thing we ever did. No stress, no worrying about how we were going to pay for a repair. But the best thing about debt free living is being able to bless others that the Lord puts in our paths. Getting out of debt and staying out is hard, yet so worth it!

    Reply
  6. Angela Muller

    Angela, THE BEST writing on money management, and what it truly means, I’ve read. I’ve been in and out, and in and out of that world so many times, I can attest to every single word you’ve just written. There are so many things to admire and respect about you…this is just one more!

    Reply
  7. R

    “Shame isn’t something we invite in this culture. We excuse everything.” You are so right!! When my husband & I first married, we owed about $100k in student loans and had bought a house we had no business buying. Then we learned about Dave Ramsey and decided we could sleep better at night without debt suffocating us like a pillow over our faces. We now are debt free, and though I am tempted from time to time to want what our friends have, I just have to keep turning it back over to God. We have so much to be thankful for already. Shame on me for acting like a spoiled child who can’t be content with what blessings she already has. Now we are saving for our kids’ college, our retirement, & a house we can afford (& saying no to lots of other opportunities in the meantime), but it’ll be worth it.
    Love this post! Keep it up!

    Reply
  8. Lori

    Thank you for your post. This was very timely for me. Our family has been on the debt free journey for a little over a year now. I needed to read your story as I have been feeling tired and discouraged recently. I haven’t given up but just tired. Through this journey, God has allowed my eyes to be opened to some lies I believed regarding debt. The main lie I believed was that living on one income is really hard and the sooner I accept that we will always have debt, the better. Yes, living on one income is hard, especially in our current culture but it can be done debt free. Everybody’s story is different. And I’m sure that there are people out there that truly can’t help having the debt they do, i.e. medical debt, etc. So, please don’t read this as a judgement on any family not living on one income. I know a lot of people who are two income families who for various reasons can’t make that change right now. In our case none of the debt was due to life circumstances that couldn’t be prevented. It was just really poor decisions. The second BIG thing for me was redefining what an emergency is. For example it’s not an emergency when the microwave or dishwasher breaks. It’s not an emergency when I need some new clothes and I neglected to budget for that. In those instances we now pray first for God’s provision for the things that truly are needs and wait expectantly for His provision. Sometimes that is finding the needed items at Goodwill or a garage sale. And other times the needs have been met through friends, neighbors, and co-workers. However, most of the time it takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work saving for the needed item. Whatever the means, God has always provided for our needs and has also been gracious to provide some “wants”. So again, thank you for sharing your story. It is encouraging to read about another family in a similar situation. And a good reminder that the hard work doesn’t stop once the debt is paid off. It’s just the start. God Bless!

    Reply
  9. Nita Hiltner

    I grew up with a dad who paid cash for everything. He built our house, so no mortgage. He bought a new car every other year, back in the day, and paid cash for it. I have never been debt free, living in southern California, but I am working on it. My dream was always to design and build my own house, but now I am too old for that, so I will just always do my best to owe nothing but a mortgage payment until I have none.

    Reply
  10. Cheryll

    Wonderful story. It is a lot of work. I grew up in that environment and survived just fine. I am a very purposeful spender and have been my entire life. As a result, our retirement is comfortable. Fortunately, I have never been competitive, love to garden, cook, can and sew. I think it came more easily to me. As your children grow other expenses and responsibilities will test your resolve but I think you are well grounded and will do well. Great photo. Still reading your book, it is lovely.

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  11. Denise Watson

    Thank you Angela!!! What you wrote needed to be heard by sooooo many of us and you are so right! To all who commented I’m with you all the way! My husband and I made an agreement with each other to payoff all our credit cards and put our house up for sale and move to the next town over which is not as upscale as ours but oh so much cheaper!!!! Home is where the heart is no matter where that may be!!! Debt is the perverbial monkey on your back and there are way to many of us who are one paycheck away from disaster!! Nothing in life that is worth anything comes to us without some kind of sacrifice and hard wrk let’s face it and it may take time, because we live in a world of instant gratification we want everything to happen yesterday!! I feel the time and effort it takes to get to be debt free and live a simpler life will pay you back ten fold like nothing else!! Good luck to all of us out there who are on this path and with a lot of hard work and faith we will make it to the other side!!!

    Reply
  12. Alicia

    I so enjoyed reading this and can relate to your story. My husband and I are fairly frugal but we can always do more. We have a few hundred dollars on a credit card that we are paying off soon and then a mortgage. With the mortgage, we worked to be able to drop our mortgage insurance and refinanced for a lower payment and shaved off several years. We still would like to get it paid off lots sooner or sell and downsize. But everything else is paid for. We’ve always driven much older cars and pay cash for them. We shop garage sales, Good Will, online swap shops, make ourselves, or trade. Our smart phones are set up as go phones and we pay as you go for under $30 a month. My husband has a plan that is paid for through his work or he wouldn’t have it. Our savings is what we really need to work on at this point. We do have money automatically put in an account for retirement and another savings acct. Currently working on a Christmas savings club to help me save for Christmas and not be in a bind at the end of the yesr. We are very frugal with Christmas but it still adds up. So even though I know we do lots to live simply, I’m not satisfied with where we are. Always more that can be done and mind sets to be changed. God bless on your journey!

    Reply
  13. Our French Oasis

    What a fabulous article. I have to tell you the very best and most liberating thing about moving to France a couple of years ago, it wasn’t starting and writing my blog and it wasn’t all the fabulous French foods and markets – it was without doubt, and still it, the fact that no one tries to keep up with the Jones’s and it is so fabulous. People are not judged on material things, a new iPhone or an ancient flip phone, no one cares, my husband and I both have second hand cars, they are fully paid for, they are not gleaming new and shining but no one cares. People are neighbourly, people care about each other, they love to share fruits and vegetables, a bottle of wine, but there is never that feeling of competition, that need to impress, there is just a need to be oneself and to be friends. When you do finally come to France again, let me know, you can come and stay with us 🙂

    Reply
  14. Lori Wiebelhaus

    Loved the honesty of this post… Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  15. mandy

    I’m laughing , we literally ordered a berkey a couple days ago after factoring the cost of the small filters we were going through. We have always been fairly good with money {thanks more to my hubby than me}. But this move has sent us into debt for the first time ever with credit cards, It’s not bad, but it still sucks. Good for you girl. Your like me in that you want the best of everything. Good organic food, etc. It’s hard being an adult 😉

    Reply
  16. Cindy

    Wow! This was such a timely post. We are paying down our debt now, too. We’re driving two cars that have between 185,000 and 210,000 miles on them, and we’re determined to drive both until the wheels come off. When my husband lost his job unexpectedly, it was a huge tightening of the belt. Now, he is working again but not nearly close to what he was paid then, but we’ve found our life to be so much happier. We feel much more grateful for what we have, and we are much better stewards of our money. Do we still have a lot to do and do we always do it the right way? Absolutely not, but we just keep on trying. Thanks for bringing attention to this. I believe you are so right about the shame. We really have to sit with shame to accept our responsibility in how we got here. Thank you for such a thought provoking post.

    Reply
  17. Cheryl

    Changing the paradigm is important to be financially responsible no doubt. I went through a difficult divorce from a man who put buying toys, going on trips with his buddies above paying bills. He was furious when he found I paid the electric bill and mortgage with money he had set aside for a fishing trip with his buddies. He told me I did not understand what was important to him. We eventually lost the house and the marriage ended badly. I met a new guy who is financially responsible, owns his own home and believes in saving money and not spending foolishly. He buys good quality and firmly believes you hire out only when you cannot do it yourself. He grew up in a home where he had chores and had an after school job to earn money. Paid for his first car and insurance, was not just given to him. So he believes in personal responsibility and doesn’t expect anything to just be given to him. So we are enjoying doing things together, and I am improving on being more aware of saving money. We cook meals of real food, not fast food or prepackaged frozen junk. My mother and sister think it is a control thing that he does so much himself, but they are both poor financial managers and are constantly crying they are broke. My sister spent over $200 to get her hair done and then complained she could not afford new sneakers for her son to play basketball. She felt she deserved the pampering. So it will take something more to wake her up, if ever.

    Reply
  18. Dore @ Burlap Luxe

    Angela,
    It truly could not be said any better then this…. Your rawness speaks to my heart and mind, your eagerness to get out of debt was the drive to a better life-style. Exposing your children to hardships one might say how dare you? I say how dare you not? This is what parenting is all about, good parenting, showing our children at any age money does not grow on trees, in your case apple trees 🙂
    You have no need to ever feel embarrassed for loss, and giving in to giving up!
    Your sacrifices you made showed your kids the best side of your strengths, bravo for taking this brave journey to be debt free and yelling your story bravely and honestly.

    This is a real wake up call to living life to its fullest, debt FREE!
    I could tell you a few stories of my life full of the material wants, not needs but wants. And the choice to do without, cutting back in areas that built character in my daughter and myself. It was the best lesson in life I could give my daughter, she is on the right path as to daily cut backs.
    We went on a journey much like you, gave up the extras to better a more simpilar life, a freedom of not being a slave to debt. It really is like being locked up in prison for life, or feels like it when one has debt hanging over their heads like a blaxk cloud, you just can’t see clearly until the grey has cleared.

    I have to say, your talents go much further then you take claim to…. Your a testimony in relying on faith and strong work pulling you through hard times.
    This post has to be the best post I have read I’m such a very long time… And inspires more then you could imagine.

    Looking forward to your new farmhouse and how you build a wiser life there.

    Will read you soon,
    Grace and beauty days ahead of you.

    Xx
    Dore

    Reply
  19. Kim

    Oh thank you for your post, I too have been on this debt free journey for over a year now and it is getting a little tough but we are so close to paying off all of our debt accept the house. The best part about getting out of debt is that we have been able to give to our church more now than ever before. I can’t say tithing because we are still not tithing 10 percent. Oh how I hope it is sometime this year. Like you, my husbands income fluctuates every month some months are good and some months are really tight. Thank you for the time you put into this blog it truly inspires and motives me. I truly appreciate it. Take care of yourself and your young beautiful family.

    Reply
  20. At Rivercrest Cottage

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It’s so important for others to here that it can be done. We got debt free with Dave in 2010, except for our house. We paid off our house fully in 2012 and it has been a blessing. Dave Ramsey podcasts are free. Of course the radio show is free too, but we can’t get it here just north of Dallas any more so the podcasts really help keep in touch.

    Reply
  21. Donna

    Yes it can be done! But you need everyone involved to be in it. My ex-husband didn’t come from a conservative family, spent every penny, and then took every penny out of a credit card. He left me with all that debt, and two kids going into college. I sold our home, we built, to pay everything off, two kids in college and to start new. I am driving a new car, well it’s four years old, I had cash to buy it, but am using the 0% interest free loan. New husband, 15 years…we are debt free, use cash and save lots. The stress of being in debt has always been an issue with me. From the time I was a teenager right out of high school, with a good paying job, ex-husband, then boyfriend, wanted me to buy a new car, had it all picked out, and I went home and talked it over with my Dad, who always drove used cars, couldn’t do it. Bought instead a 67 Mustang for $1200 cash (late 70’s)…wish I still had that car, guess what ex-husband sold it to buy another car. Sigh. So my point in all this is make sure that both parties are as dedicated to this process, or otherwise it’s going to be an endless struggle.

    Reply

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