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18 Things We Did to Become Debt Free With Normal Jobs + A Family

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Are you drowning in debt? Are you skeptical to believe that it really is possible to become debt free while in your early forties? I will show you exactly how we did it, and you can, too. These are the debt free ideas you need to get your life on the right track.

I will also tell you that we did it with a growing family that now includes nine children. Furthermore, for seven out of the past ten years, my husband has also been in school of some kind while still working. And no, we don’t have a rich uncle who has paid off all our debts 😉

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I encourage you to read through these 18 things slowly. There is a lot here. This is a tremendous amount to digest. You may even need to read it more than once and to revisit this post as often as needed.

We have come alongside mentoring others who are looking to do the same, and these are the principles we share with them.

Here are the things we did to become debt free, and you can do them, too!

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First, realize that becoming debt free it isn’t easy

From the day we walked down the aisle nearly 20 years ago, my husband and I were both committed to carrying minimal debt. Our finances have always been something that we have managed very carefully and with a fine tooth comb.

Everyone’s financial income and expenses, needs, struggles, desires, and plans all look different. But, these are the 18 things we did to accomplish being out of debt before we were 42. Our goal was 40, but 41 is still something we can be proud of.

Here are the things we did to become debt free:

1. From the get go, we made financial goals, both long term and short term, and we never lost sight of them

We adjusted as things came, but the overall goal of getting out of debt as soon as we could never wavered.

2. We made a budget – and then – we lived by it

Again, we adjusted this as needed, but we had a budget on paper that we were both in agreement with.

3. We paid ourselves first with every paycheck as in putting money into savings

We had a long term savings for things like a down payment on a house. And, we also had a short term savings for things like a new freezer. But we paid ourselves first just like any other bill.

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4. We tithed

I wish I could say that we never stopped tithing, but in all honesty fear got the best of us at times as things were so very, very hard for a time. However, for most of our married lives we tithed, first, even before paying ourselves.

5. No matter how small, other than maybe a pop or something like that, we discussed purchases

Every purchase is at least discussed on a small scale. For example, my husband doesn’t really get involved in what curriculums we use for homeschooling, but I will tell him that I need to purchase something and how much it costs for his approval.

6. We were serious about being frugal

We used many of the tips I talk about in 10 Money Saving TipsMake It, Make Do, or Do Without, 15 Essential Grocery Tips That Feed Our Family of 8 for Only $250 a Month, and 15 Frugal Tips for Feeding a Large Family throughout our entire married lives. My husband complains about the heat only being set to just above 60 degrees all winter long. But, he does enjoy the savings that doing so creates.

7. For those super small purchases, like a pop for my husband at work, we have allowances

 Mine generally gets saved and then spent on larger items like a book. This means that if the allowance is gone before the week is over, we simply go without whatever it is.

8. We lived within our means – all.the.time. 

Never once did we splurge on something that would set us behind. That’s not to say that we never gave in to our “wants” but our wants were planned and budgeted for…and then we paid cash for them.

9. We said NO to a lot of things

In fact, we still say no to a lot of things.  A lot of things. Let me illustrate exactly what that means, we spent a few years living just above the poverty line with three and then four kids. Yep, we said no to a lot whether it was dinner or drinks out with friends, a family vacation, or a Christmas tree when we had no money. We just said no. Before you think this is easy for us me read this post over at Money Saving Mom called How a Yearly Facebook Hiatus Help Me Maintain Frugality. It’s not easy at times. At times, it stinks. Big time stinks. But, being focused on the end goal like a laser beam will keep you on the path.

10. We worked hard, and we still do

Both my husband and I work long days, we work long weeks, we work weekends, we work holidays, we work at the drop of a hat, and we do the things no one else wants to do. We have both pulled 24 hour days for work, more than once, and we do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

11. Even when we both worked full time, we lived on one income

We knew I would be cutting way back once we had kids, but we also wanted to plan for the “what if.” No matter if one of us lost our income, we would be ok if we were used to only surviving on one income.

12. We paid cash for everything

Now, we do use credit cards in order to get cash back or air miles, but if the cash isn’t there to cover the purchase, we don’t buy it. Period. And the credit card gets paid off in full every month.

13. In 20 years, we have never once paid interest on anything aside from our mortgage

Not one penny.

14. Several years ago, we got serious about building up a fully funded emergency fund

This has carried us through hard times. My husband made a living in retail sales for several years, and for many of those we both worked strictly on commission in our jobs. An emergency fund is essential in jobs like this when nothing is guaranteed. Just within the past six months, we have had rather larger medical expenses come up when my son needed to have extensive testing done after suffering a seizure. You can read more about that in Love. Here’s Why, and although I hated writing the check to cover all of these bills, it was a painless, stressless check to write because we had an emergency fund in place for this very sort of thing.

15. We did read, and we continue to read, books and information from financial experts we respect and admire like crazy

We apply how others have done this, altering it to fit our needs and abilities. To this day, we seek the advice of those who are well versed in financial matters that we are weak in. Even today, we never stop learning how to be financial wise because what worked ten or even five years ago, doesn’t necessarily work today.

16. No matter what it was, we researched everything we bought in order to get what would best fit our needs

This covers everything from health insurance plans, purchases, scholarships for my husband’s education, and everything in between.

17. We bought houses we could afford, renting or staying put until we had enough money to put down in order to keep our mortgage payment low

We have always had nice homes, but we have built every home we have ever lived in, and we have always had practicality and affordability in the forefront of every decision we made regarding the house we built.

18. The mortgage matters

We have held a few different mortgages over the years whether it was because we moved or because we refinanced for a better rate, but the majority of the time we have held a mortgage, it has been a 15 year mortgage.

The difference in interest paid is astounding.

Whatever your financial goals are and however you achieve them will be personal to you, just as our journey is personal to us.  But, set your financial goals, and design a plan to help you reach them.

The road can be steep, the road can be long, and the road can be exhausting, but I can say from experience that the blood (I worked as a hairdresser for years and shears are sharp!), sweat, and tears are so worth it when you get there! You, too, can become debt free using these same principles.

Ready to struggle with less debt, starting today?

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  1. We have not been on the frugal quest as long as you have, but the one thing we do faithfully is pay ourselves first. Watching the small contributions become a major and respectable retirement account has been very satisfying.
    Thank you for this article.

    1. You’re welcome! Watching those savings grow can even be a bit addicting, I find 🙂

  2. This is SO good! And what an accomplishment! Thanks for not glossing over how difficult it was. Becoming debt free was one of the hardest things we’ve done- it took so much determination and hard work and intentionally focusing on the end goal. But it was also so worth it! And I am grateful for every sacrifice and every hard thing that we did.

  3. Jennifer ,

    You mentioned you both worked long hours.. what did you used to do workwise ( outside the home/blog)?

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