Debt to Wealth: 3 Years into Our Journey

Are you struggling with your finances? Perhaps you are just beginning your paying off debt journey, but struggling with staying motivated. Just three very short years ago, we were in a similar situation. We worked too hard not to have anything to show for it. We were sick and tired of debt payments and wasting THOUSANDS of dollars in interest. Every. Single. Year.

This month marks our third anniversary of beginning our debt freedom journey. Most days, I cannot remember what life (or finances) were like before we started managing our finances and applying Dave Ramsey’s principles. Most days it feels like we have always been on a written budget.

There have been some unbelievable great moments in our journey, such as the moment we hit the “SUBMIT” button to my very last student loan payment, to taking advantage of traveling Europe without worrying about finances, and the several occasions when we have been able to bless others with our giving.

Of course there have been a few not so great times when we had to dip into our emergency fund on several occasions, or when we were sick and tired of budget friendly meals. Some times we just wanted to throw in the towel and give up on our debt freedom goal. But we did not, we kept pushing forward and I am AMAZED at where our finances sit today.

Benefits Beyond Financial

The unexpected thing about this journey is the dramatic difference in our marriage and happiness.  This journey has improved our communication in our marriage, which has eliminated all most disagreements. It has helped us define our priorities and dreams. Through living a frugal lifestyle, we have learned how little it takes for us to be completely content. It turns out we are a lot happier with less “stuff” and a simpler lifestyle.

Finance Differences

***I have a few extremely supportive friends and family members who read Budget Loving Military Wife, so I was slightly hesitant to share actual numbers with you. However, I discussed it with my husband and we decided sharing actual numbers may provide hope or inspiration to someone. That was enough in itself to ease our minds.

Background/Income

We began our debt free journey at the ages of 27 and 29 years old and were a two-income household earning a gross income of approximately $95,000. We had a couple months of a $50,000 income during the moving process, when I had quit my job but my husband’s overseas pay had not kicked in yet. Today, we live on a single gross income of approximately $72,000.

Spending

How and where we spend money has dramatically changed over the past three years. There were some growing pains the first few months but as the time passed it became easier. We now make informed decisions of where we spend, rather than wondering where it  all went at the end of the month.

Our two categories that we were notorious for over indulging before we had a budget, were eating at restaurants and the here and there mindless spending. Three years ago, in an average month we would spend $400-$600 at restaurants. Now our average is $50/month.

Savings

In December 2011 we had $14,000 in savings. We had a house purchase and a wedding in 2011 so our savings was just beginning to recover at this point. This would have been equivalent to about a 3-month emergency fund.

Today, our savings is $25,000. This includes our emergency fund and our sinking funds for things such as car repairs and vacations. Fortunately, we have our spending under control and know how to stretch a dollar, so this is easily a 6-9 month emergency fund. We nearly DOUBLED our savings in three years!

    

Debt

Dave Ramsey’s plan is notorious for eliminating debt, so I bet you are thinking we got rid of some serious debt. I hope we do not disappoint!

Three years ago we had $171,500 of DEBT!!! Oh MY, it is still hard to believe we had this much: $48,000 of that debt was consumer debt ($10,000 for 2 cars & $38,000 student loans), leaving $123,500 in mortgage debt!

We paid off the first $48,000 in SEVEN MONTHS!!! YEAH, we killed it! Check out Our Story to find out how we paid it off so fast.

Today, three years later, we now have $59,700 left on our mortgage. We have PAID OFF $111,800 in THREE YEARS!!! Averaging over $37,000 EACH YEAR! That is AMAZING, I even have a hard time believing it! It is crazy how a little bit of focus and determination can pay off in a BIG WAY!

Retirement

I have to come clean. We did NOT follow Dave Ramsey’s recommendation to STOP investing in retirement plans while paying off consumer debt. We continued to invest $500/month while paying off consumer debt. The Reason: We knew it was not going to make a huge impact in our Consumer Debt Free Date. Plus, my 401K had a guaranteed 7% employer contribution, if I contributed anything to my 401K. We could not leave FREE money on the table!

Three years ago, our retirement accounts totaled $32,500. We only increased our retirement saving after our consumer debt was gone and we had a 3-6 month emergency fund. So for the last 2 years we have been investing just slightly over 15% of our gross income into retirement accounts.

Our retirement accounts now total $105,000!!! We have more than TRIPLED our retirement accounts! How crazy is that?

Net Worth

Many people gauge how they are doing financially based on their net worth. Three years ago, our net worth was approximately $79,500. Today, our net worth sits around $246,000!!! Our net worth has more than TRIPLED!

Finance Differences

Concluding Thoughts

Perhaps now that you have seen how dramatically our numbers have changed you may understand why I am so passionate about personal finance. It is amazing how a little bit of knowledge, a lot of focus and dedication and many sacrifices can change someone’s financial future so dramatically.

Was it difficult? Absolutely!

Is it fun to tell yourself “no” to most of your “wants?” No!

Is it easy to live on a rice and beans budget? Of course not!

Is it worth it? OF COURSE! My only regret is not starting sooner!

If you haven’t started your financial journey, I beg you to pick up Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover” from the library! Do the hard work NOW so as Dave Ramsey states “you can live like no one else” later.

This experience has been a life changer. Not only has it made my husband and me into future millionaires. But our marriage has changed for the better. Our hearts have changed, they are not so run down by financial stresses and they are a lot more selfless to allow us to be happy givers.

 

Do You Not Believe YOU Could have Similar Dramatic Changes in Your Finances?

Are you telling yourself: “our incomes are not that high,” “we have three children,”  “our mortgage/rent is just too high,” or “we live paycheck to paycheck and do not have an extra dollar to put towards debt.”

You will be amazed. Once you start managing your money and being accountable for every dollar spent, you will find wiggle room. You may have to sell a couple of things around the house on craigslist to get the jump start you need. YOU CAN DO THIS! Where there is a will, there is a way!

Subscribe to Budget Loving Military Wife

 

You May Also Enjoy:

The Most Critical Trait of Your Debt Free Journey  Tips to Plan a Budget on a Low Income   Budget Loving Military Wife

 

Shared at: Thrifty Thursday, The Thrifty Couple, Frugal Friday, Financially Savvy Saturdays,

27 thoughts on “Debt to Wealth: 3 Years into Our Journey

    1. Definitely Anne! When we’ve had a “rough” month or two or three… I like to reflect back on how far we have come. At times it has been the only thing pushing us forward and not allowing us to give up.

    1. Thank you Femme! Yes, it is difficult to believe how far we have come, even for my husband and I who have been living on a rice and bean budget the entire time. LOL. We are so close to hitting that 100% debt free finish line, and I can’t wait! 🙂

  1. Thanks so much for this encouraging post! I’m sure it took a lot of courage to share those real numbers, but I need to encourage you that it really helps to see real numbers. Our income is much, much lower than yours and very inconsistent. That being said, we are very committed to paying off our only debt (our mortgage). We live as simply and frugally as possible and put every extra cent towards the mortgage. Even though we are pretty close to that poverty line, we are still making a dent in the debt. It isn’t easy, but it can be done with dedication. Thanks for encouraging us!
    Heather @ My Overflowing Cup recently posted…Why We Kissed Costco GoodbyeMy Profile

    1. Thank you Heather for stopping by and leaving an inspiring comment. Congrats to you for your mortgage being your only debt and congrats for living as frugally as possible to put every extra cent to your mortgage to pay it off early! You are an inspiration and proof that anyone, at any income level, can extra towards debt to pay it off early. Keep up the focused, hard work and best wishes to you in 2015. Merry Christmas!

  2. I have read a couple of your posts with interest, I am always looking for ways I can save a little to get us out of the hole we are in. I have just read the income levels you have (Today, we live on a single gross income of approximately $72,000.) I am sort of a little pissed. Yeah I could live on half of that income no problem at all.

    We (my husband, myself and 3 inherited dogs) currently live on S20,000 – 25,000. Trying to scrape together a few cents, never mind dollars to put on one side is a daily struggle. One vet bill wiped out a whole year of scrimping and saving to try and get us an emergency fund. Now we are back to where we were before and praying that it is a whole year before the next emergency. My husband is a doctoral student and I am an immigrant from the UK (recently got my green card). Living frugally is normal for me as you pointed out in one of your posts. However, my husband has a harder time of it, while he accepts that we are doing what we need to while he is a student he has been brought up on the American idea of having it all.

    I appreciate that your posts will be inspirational for many Americans brought up the way my husband has been and with similar income levels to yourselves, but for myself right now (I know our situation will improve), and many of the the very poor Americans I work with every day (where it probably won’t), It is Yeah right dream on!. While they will probably not have college loans, even one emergency can have the same impact on their debt levels, but they are already cut to the bone, their daily lives already lived at your cut back levels and they are still living hand to mouth. Just how do they find none existent funds to cover a potential emergency.

    1. Hi Avril, thank you so much for reading a couple posts! I’m not sure why you are pissed that my husband works hard and provides for us. Yes, we are extremely blessed and we do live on half of our take home pay, even with an equivalent of $1800 rent payment each month. I’m sure anyone who is financially conscious and semi-frugal could do the same. Unfortunately, as you and I both see in today’s world, that’s not “normal.” Today’s normal is to spend every single penny you earn, plus some.
      I can reassure you our current salary is no where near our true starting points. While I attended college for those 6 years my average income and expenses was a mere $1000/month… hence, the outrageous student loans I racked up to pay for school. Although I did not know my husband at the time, he also started his career making very little. He joined the military and so his housing in a dorm was taken care of, but his pay was a measly $1105/month. We worked hard and sacrificed to get to where we are today, over a decade later. We just didn’t have our “financial awakening” until we were established in our careers with great incomes.
      The good news is you and your husband have an extremely bright future. For your co-workers and other Americans who are poor and struggling… well the good news is even the poorest of the poor in the U.S. are still among the richest 1% in the world. We live in one of the greatest countries where you can arrive in the country with the clothes on your back, work sun up to sun down, make many sacrifices, and retire millionaires. Yes, it takes ambition, dedication, and getting rid of the “poor me” attitude. But it IS possible! One of my best friends is a first generation American. Her parents arrived in the country with literally the clothes on their back and two very small children. They sold/traded absolutely everything to escape their war-torn country. Neither of them have a degree and when they arrived in the country spoke very little to no English. They worked extremely hard, many hours at factory jobs and worked their way up the company. Just last year, her dad retired a MILLIONAIRE!!! We live in one of the greatest nations where we simply have the OPPORTUNITY to change our situation. Unfortunately there are too many countries in the world where that opportunity does not exist.
      I wish you the very best in your financial journey and I can’t wait to hear from you in a few years when things have turned around for you and your husband. May God bless your journey!

      1. Awesome job, Nichole! You are a gracious person 🙂
        I have a pretty low gross income in comparison (approx 20k), but still live a blessed life. I am debt free and own my small home. Sacrifice? Yes. Does it get any better than living in America? No! Oh. And a fully funded emergency fund. Thx Dave Ramsey.

        1. Thank you for such a sweet comment Beth! Congrats on being DEBT FREE! I love hearing from other Dave Ramsey fans! Best wishes to you! 🙂

  3. Your story is awesome, I miss our military days but we are happily settled. I’m with you in wishing we had started our journey sooner, but at least we are now! Awesome article!

Comments are closed.