debt free story by

If you’re not hanging out on Instagram’s #debtfreecommunity, then I promise you’re missing out. Basically, an entire community has formed of people that are either debt free or working hard to become debt free.  It’s an encouraging environment where you can learn tips, tricks, and real people’s stories of hard work and determination. You are welcome to jump right in and share your celebrations/struggles, or you can quietly lurk behind your screen.  

As I have grown to know and love Instagram’s #debtfreecommunity,  I have had the privilege of meeting (well, kind of meeting.  We message each other, so I guess that’s considered meeting) some inspiring people who are in the heart of their debt free journey!  One person that I immediately grew to enjoy following was Debtkickinmom (check her out on Instagram HERE)!  She is not just a wife and mom to four littles, but she ensures that her family stays on track with their debt payoff goals!  I asked if she would be up for an interview and she responded with a very quick “YES!”  I’m so happy to introduce to you Debtkickinmom.

Hello! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a 32-year-old mom of four kiddos ages 10, 8, 5, and 3. I’m also a preschool teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education. My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years. We are both originally from California, where the cost of living is high and it was super hard to make ends meet. Then 8 years ago, after two babies and a mortgage, we decided we wanted something different. My husband wanted better career opportunities and I wanted MORE BABIES!  So we packed up and moved across the country to South Carolina–all by ourselves. No family, no friends, and a whole new world awaited us! It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done, and also the best thing we’ve ever done. Well, aside from starting our debt free journey! That is probably the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done!

So what made you finally want to become debt free?

Well, my husband and I both got married totally debt free! His parents paid for his education, and I went to college with a full-ride scholarship, so we didn’t have student loans. We racked up our debt pretty slowly at first. For the first 6 years of our marriage we went in and out of small credit card debts, various loans for things like furniture, home improvements, car loans, personal loans…but we could afford our monthly minimum payments while continuing to live comfortably, so what was the big deal? Then we got a mortgage, and that did seem like a big deal, but we could afford that as well. So our debt didn’t really bother me….we were SO normal!

Then 5 years ago I decided to go to grad school. Because we didn’t have student loan debt at that point, I actually felt good about taking out loans to get my Masters Degree. Again, so normal! Here is where it gets messy.  At the same time that I started taking out THOUSANDS to fund grad school,  my husband took a new job that paid a lot more money. We thought we were hot stuff with our new fat paychecks! But…that job had no benefits whatsoever, including no health insurance. Then we got pregnant and had baby #3 (with no health insurance). Then we got pregnant again and had baby #4 (with no health insurance). We didn’t have any savings, and we sucked at budgets. Do you see where this is going? Suddenly, within about a 3-year time frame, we went from around $18,000 in petty debts and a car loan to $77,000 in debt by adding massive amounts of credit cards, medical bills, and student loans. It wasn’t long before we had to start paying on that debt, and immediately we felt the effects of high interest rates.

We went from living comfortably for most of our married life to absolutely drowning in debt payments, with four small children, an incomplete Masters Degree, and not a clue of how to clean the mess up. It became crystal clear that the comfortable life we were used to could not continue now that we had this much debt. We were humbled real fast. Our choices and actions got us here, but now we didn’t know what to do to get out. We were clueless. And desperate. It was my mother-in-law who introduced us to Dave Ramsey. We took Financial Peace University and we were sold. We had a plan, we had hope, and it was time to get to work!

Fill us in on your numbers!  How much debt did you start with and where do you stand now?

When we started our journey we had over $77,000 in debt. Today we have just over $37,000. We have paid off $40,000 in two years, and obviously, we still have a way to go on our journey to becoming debt free. But every step we take, every extra payment we make today, puts us in a better financial situation than we were yesterday. It involves a lot of sacrifice, discipline, and intentionalism. We can’t slack on the budget, and we have to say “no” a lot…we say no to our family when we can’t travel to California to see them, to our friends when we can’t go out to eat or meet up with them for expensive activities, to our kids when we don’t buy new technology or throw them elaborate birthday parties, and to ourselves when we feel the urge to indulge. Our “why” is greater than any temporary satisfaction that blowing the budget might bring. In just a few short years we will be saying “yes” to a whole lot without the financial stress, chaos, and instability that debt brings. We should be DEBT FREE (besides the mortgage) in 2019.

I’m always so impressed with how you manage to keep your grocery and food spending in check.  What are your tips?

I have a lot of tips, probably too many to list here. But here are my two main tips:

  1. Shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer! Meal plan around what you already have and learn to love leftovers. Strive for zero food waste because when you throw food away, you are throwing cold hard cash away! Eat what you have first, always.
  2. Shop the sales ONLY! It’s easy these days to look up store ads and find the best deals on produce and meat. I personally love the Flipp App to look up local sales. If it’s not on sale, don’t buy it! If it is on sale, buy several and freeze it for future meal plans. Buying things at their cheapest price and having them on hand to meal plan with will save you so much money!

I share a ton of grocery budget tips and frugal meal ideas on my IG page so make sure to check that out!

Thanks for the tips!  What are 3 ways that you have cut spending other than with managing your grocery budget?

  1. I love finding FREE activities for the kids. We are huge fans of the library, and in the summer we take advantage of their reading programs. We have earned free pizzas, ice cream,  baseball and hockey tickets just by participating.
  2. I taught myself how to cut hair! I learned to use a pair of clippers on my son and husband and can give my girls and myself a simple hairstyle with a pair of scissors (and I color my own hair too), all for FREE. It took some practice and several YouTube videos, but I do a decent job and save us hundreds of dollars a year on haircuts.
  3. We don’t pay for cable. We love Netflix for shows, documentaries, and movies. My husband is a huge sports fan so we also have Sling TV where he can watch anything on ESPN. We share the account with a friend so we only pay half of the monthly fee.

I’m not sure if people know you have an Etsy shop!  I’m so excited to share your wonderful creations with people!  What made you want to open up your own Etsy shop?

I do have an Etsy Shop! I started the shop WoodWorkinMom on a whim after I made a few reclaimed wood signs as gifts for coworkers and friends at Christmas. I’m always trying to be crafty and frugal, yet thoughtful and personal when it comes to gift giving! I had so much fun making the wood signs and got so much positive feedback, I was inspired to make more! So I created a collection of simple, rustic debt-free inspo decor from reclaimed pallet boards and scrap wood! These handmade wood signs say things like “Live Like No One Else” and “We can do hard things.” These words are meant to be a daily encouragement to anyone who understands the struggle and hard work that goes into the pursuit of financial peace.  

Taking something that would otherwise go into the trash (like a piece of scrap pallet wood) and turning it into something beautiful and inspirational is so representative of this debt free journey! I also have an option for custom orders for those folks who would like something personalized. It has been an honor to create these wood signs and know that they serve as a source of beauty and inspiration in someone’s home!

I’m sure you as fascinated with @debtkickinmom as I am!  Follow her on Instagram for daily inspiration and check out her Etsy shop!