I’m Debt Free!

August 2, 2012·

You guys, I’m debt free. And I will never, ever, ever, be in debt again.

[Below: THAT. THAT right there… is my debt free face.]

Well, I’d be lying if I said to you that being debt free is a new thing. It’s not. I’ve actually been debt free since the end of March of this year, but for some reason I’ve been afraid to write this post. I don’t know why, but I have.

I can honestly tell you, that it has been one of the most freeing things ever. But getting there was one of the most difficult things. Ever.

I debated how much I wanted to share with you and what I wanted to keep private. And this is not to be braggadocios or anything. However, I figured that if I at least shared some of it with you, that maybe, just maybe, I’d help someone or anyone out.

This will probably end up being a series of sorts… maybe a financial series. How to set and maintain a realistic budget. How to become debt free. Etc. etc. Would you guys be interested in something like that?

I’m, by no means, a financial expert. Not in the slightest. But I made some major mistakes in my past that I have since learned from and maybe I can help someone to NOT make those mistakes. Thoughts?

My story in a nutshell:

In June of 2008, a year after I graduated college, I was suddenly so far over my head in debt that I could barely make the minimum payments on any of my cards.

I was $36,000+ in debt. Credit card debt, no less. And that debt was 100% MY debt. Not my dad’s debt, not my sister’s debt, not my friend’s debt, not the government’s debt. No one caused me to get into debt but myself.

It could take me hours to explain how I got there, but needless to say, I was young, naive, and had poor financial education. For some reason, a part of me thought credit cards were free money and so I just kept racking up the charges. Needless to say, I spent my years in college and my first year after college being extremely financially irresponsible. And I have myself to blame, 100% for that.

There’s a lot more to it, but all you really need to know is I was in deep bull poop.

I was a public high school teacher barely making $32,000 a year and I was over a year salary in debt.

The process I went through to get out of debt in a little less than four years was simple, but extremely difficult.

When I realized I needed help and couldn’t pay my bills, I went to my bank. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done that, but whatever.

I consolidated my debt through a non-profit organization called NovaDebt. They bargained with my creditors, got my interest rates down, and I started paying NovaDebt directly.

I paid NovaDebt $808 a month. That’s a second rent.

So my rent, which at the time was about $800 a month, plus my debt fee which was $808 a month, was essentially my monthly take home salary. That left little to no money for food or gas.

But I wanted to be out of debt more than anything.

So, for the next four years, I buckled down. I cut up all of my credit cards. I had no money in savings. I was broke. Literally.

But as Dave Ramsey always says, “You have to live like no one else, to live like no one else.” I certainly lived like no one else.

So I ate rice and beans. Beans and rice. Ramen noodles. Sometimes, I’d take home extra food from the cafeteria at the school where I worked. The cafeteria ladies knew my situation and would often save food for me, box it up, and I’d pick it up at the end of the day. When my friends wanted to go out? I didn’t. When my friends went shopping? I didn’t. But no one knew. There are a lot of really embarrassing things I did to get by that I’d almost rather not share. But I did what I had to do.

For four years I made a TON of sacrifices and spent MANY a month overdrawing my account, bargaining with my bank to get out of overdraft fees, and worrying how I was going to afford lunch the next day.

But very, VERY few people knew my situation.

I was embarrassed. Ashamed. And I felt alone.

Every bonus I got? Every extra penny I got? Went straight to pay off my debt. Little by little. I never got to enjoy a PENNY of my hard work over those four years.

When I first moved to North Carolina and was unemployed? Man, that sucked.
When I had four jobs? Man, that sucked.

But, through commitment to myself and my finances, being EXTREMELY disciplined with my money, and experiencing God’s favor beyond my wildest dreams, this March, I was able to send in that final check and finally become debt free.

I will / can speak more to the Favor part in a separate post… but if you ever wanted to know hear testimonial to what faithfully tithing can do? I am your girl.

I don’t know what, ultimately, my goal is in writing this post, if for no other reason than to tell you that you, too, can be debt free. And how freaking AWESOME it feels.

In approximately 44 months, I was able to pay my bills, eat food, support myself, give generously, AND pay off $36,000+ in debt – all while making a very modest wage.

When I consolidated my debt, my credit score was around 530. Bad. Now? My credit score is over 700.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to get that ^ sucker in the mail.

And what about now?

My husband and me? We’re not wealthy. We still make modest wages, we’re saving a LOT (trying to build that emergency fund!), but overall, we’re comfortable.

We have two paid off cars and no debt (minus our mortgage). We tithe 10% of our gross income every month to our church and beyond that, if we feel led to give, we give. And if we want to eat dinner at a nice restaurant, we do. We’re frugal. We live within our means. We live on less than we make. And we have ZERO credit card debt. We only pay for and buy things we can afford.

And we couldn’t be happier.

So, all this to say that I’m not perfect, I’ve made a ton of mistakes in the past, but those mistakes led me to where I am today. And it is my hope, my prayer, and my wish that if even just one person reading this learns from a mistake I made, then I’ve done my job.

But, all in all, I PROMISE you, you can and should live on less than you make. You DON’T need a credit card to get by. Trust me. I lived four years without one and I am still breathing.

If you have ANY questions, PLEASE ask them. You can post them anonymously in the comments (or publicly if you so wish), or you can email me. I want to help.

Again, I’m no expert, but I’ve learned enough in the last four years that I can help. I want to help. If you need it.

And what do you guys think about a financial series? A series on budgeting? Credit card FAQs. Building up your credit. Tithing. Taxes. Debt management. Etc… obviously it would be like maybe once every other week or something like that. Depending on what people want…

Thank you guys for listening. Reading. Whathaveyou. I just needed to get this off my chest.

I’ll be back to your regularly scheduled fancy awkwardness tomorrow.

All for now.