My Debt-Free Journey | Part 4

July 15, 2016

My Debt-Free Journey | Part 4 (& Debt-Free Scream!)

This is the final post in the series, My Debt-Free Journey. If you missed the previous posts, catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Debt-Free in Six Two Years

It was evident that things were moving along faster than our calculations indicated. We continued paying off the debt with intensity and passion. My husband’s hours resumed to full-time during that time as well.

Because we had gained some sense of discipline, the increase in income didn’t disappear into thin air, as it certainly would have in the past. Every penny of the increase went to the debt.

Twenty-five months. It took us twenty-five months to pay off the $74,000 (and fifteen years of financial wandering and overspending)!!

A New Passion

My journey to debt-freedom resulted in something unexpected…a new passion. During the two years of paying off our debt, I became extremely passionate about sharing with others what I learned about money.

I wanted everyone I knew to find freedom and peace in their finances and to discover that they didn’t have to live a life saddled with debt. I would teach co-workers how to budget during our lunch breaks and started helping friends put together a plan for their situations. Each time I helped someone, I became more and more energized and excited.

After becoming debt-free, I trained to be a financial coach and have been working one-on-one with people on their finances since then.

The Unexpected

Just three months after becoming debt-free, my husband lost his job. The reasons were unrelated to the previous reduction of hours, so the job loss was a complete surprise. What was amazing, though, was that we didn’t panic.

We definitely needed my husband’s income, but because our debt load had been eliminated, we knew we would be okay until that income was replaced. There was a lot of emotion tied up with the job loss, so we were able to focus on working through that and on my husband securing a new job.

It would have been an entirely different story had we still had all of our payments.

Our Debt-Free Scream!

The job loss came just a couple days before our trip to Financial Peace Plaza (now Ramsey Solutions) for the financial coaching training.

While we were there, my husband and I did our debt-free scream. If you’re not familiar with what that is, listeners of the Dave Ramsey Show call in or go in person to celebrate their debt-freedom by screaming, “We’re Debt-Freeeeee!!”

Here’s our debt-free scream, live from Financial Peace Plaza!

Doing our debt-free scream live was an awesome way to cap our two years of sacrifice and to celebrate our new-found freedom.

On the Move…Again

The $74,000 represented our consumer debt, and we were elated to have it out of our lives! We still had our mortgage — the one that was over 40% of our net income.

Throughout the entire process of coming to terms with our debt, working to pay it off, and dealing with sudden unemployment, we always managed to pay the mortgage on time. As I mentioned, we were house poor, so prioritizing the mortgage came at the expense of so many other things.

After just six weeks of being unemployed, my husband was offered a job. But, this new position was out-of-state and would require a move. Talk about not on the radar! Moving was not something we saw coming (especially now that my eldest was in high-school), however after much thought and consideration, my husband accepted the job. We decided to move and to sell the house.

Becoming Completely Debt-Free

We bought our house with no money down in 2006 and needed to sell in 2012, so like millions of Americans, we were severely underwater. Because of the job loss, and the relocation being over 100 miles from our home, we qualified to sell our house via short sale.

This was not how we envisioned selling our home, nor how we would become 100% debt-free, however being able to sell it under these conditions was a blessing in disguise. We had bought too much house, mortgage-wise, and this process allowed us to come to terms with that and move on from it.

Freedom in Debt-Freedom

Becoming debt-free brought unexpected freedom in other areas of my life. I was growing out of my career choice. While working in fashion for fifteen years brought AMAZING experiences, travel, and relationships, the care and passion I once felt for it began to wane. I had no passion for fashion. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

When we moved I had two choices: continue in a career in which I no longer saw myself long-term, but now with a 2 ½ hr commute each way, or I could transition towards another career. I chose the latter. My passion for helping others achieve their goals in their finances was beating loudly, so I pursued a path that allowed me to incorporate coaching others as a part of my full-time job as well as independently on the side.

Because we were debt-free, I was able to leave a career that became just a job and transition into what I was meant to do. This would have never been an option before. Our lifestyle, when we had debt, was tied to the salary of my fashion career.

Even though I make significantly less money than I used to, I am beyond grateful to be doing something that I love. The career transition also brought a healthier work-life balance — no more 17 hr days!! I was more than willing to trade in salary for that!

What’s Next?

It is tempting to look back on the past with regret and list all the things that would be different if (fill-in-the-blank). Honestly, I do succumb to that temptation sometimes, but only to remind myself that mistakes are learning opportunities — and not just for ourselves.

I also remind myself to think about where we would be now if we didn’t get things together when we did. Who knows? Bankrupt? Divorced?

We are very much still on our financial journey. And by the way, everyone is in some form or another. I don’t believe you are ever done; you just enter different stages.

We are facing challenges that so many others are facing like cash-flowing a college education, and figuring out retirement. Plus we will be among the 1.5 million boomerang buyers slated to re-enter the housing market in the next three years.

Our plan is to purchase within our means, with patience, and without house fever this time. We will secure a mortgage at that time — one that still allows us to meet our other goals — and we plan to pay it off early and as quickly as possible.

While we have a lot on our plate, I no longer feel the hopelessness I once felt for our financial future. Instead, I feel contentment, peace, and of course, hope!

What About You?

Okay, so this ended up being part life-story and part debt-free story, but money and life do go hand-in-hand, right? If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. My goal and hope in telling this story is that others (you) will be inspired to take action and take that next step in your finances — whatever it may be for you.

I also hope my story serves as a cautionary tale for those who are not proactive in their financial lives. You will very easily “find yourself” in trouble as a result of not paying attention and not having direction.

I do realize that sometimes hearing debt-free stories can be equally discouraging as they are inspiring. It’s easy to hear them and dismiss them because your situation is different. If you just read my story, and if that’s how you feel, I hear you, but I want you to know that we’re not different.

You Can Do It (No, Really, You Can)

Our numbers and our circumstances may not be the same, but everything that I had inside of me that led me to pay off my debt, is inside of you too. One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Your actions are going to line up with your thoughts — whatever they are. If you want to make and see progress in your finances or any area of your life for that matter, then you need to believe and think that you can.

That may sound strange, and please know I’m not saying you’re going to “think your way” out of debt, but I have seen both first-hand and through coaching, the tremendous impact your thoughts have on your progress. Wanting the results is not enough. Believing you can attain them is key.

So Long, Farewell

I hope you enjoyed the peek into my journey. Again, thanks for reading this far. As I continue on my journey both financially and personally, I wish you blessings, hope, and peace as you continue on yours.

I would love to hear from you — about your journey and your thoughts on mine. Chat with me in the comments below!


My Debt-Free Journey: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

20 Comments

  1. Christi D Johnson

    This is such an encouragement to read. Congratulations on getting debt free and on being able to do your Debt Free Scream. That must have really felt awesome!! I’min the middle of taking on debt for my daughter’s college education while simultaneously increasing my income as a writer. It’s fun and stressful at the same time, but I know the Lord is helping me. 🙂

    Thanks for this article. It reminds me not to ever get discouraged. If you did it, so can i!

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Thanks, Christi. Yes, if I can do it, so can you. There are so many encouraging stories out there of people tackling HUGE amounts of debt. If you have a plan, you stay focused, and believe you can do it, then you CAN!

      Reply
  2. Danielle

    Alaya. Thanks for sharing your AMAZING story!!! I really love hearing stories from other about getting out of Debt.

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Thanks so much Danielle. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  3. Bri

    I think this is the most inspiring sorry I’ve read. I connected after your first part and didn’t intend to comment again, but you are amazing. I want this to be the story of my husband and I in two years. You inspire me not just to want that, but to believe I can do it. Finally, a story that starts like mine and I hope it finishes like yours. Thank you again for sharing.

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Hi Bri. So glad you enjoyed reading my journey! I hope you see that what might look impossible, doesn’t have to be. You and your husband can definitely achieve the results you desire. I look forward hearing from you again as you make progress in your debt! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Dee

    Hi,

    I stumbled across your website while on another website. Saw your story and clicked the link to learn more. So encouraged by your story, moral support, teamwork, and a made-up mind to “do something” that seemed impossible. After reading your story entirely and now a follower of you on Twitter, I am going to do better than what I am already doing.

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Hi Dee. Welcome! I’m so glad to have you as a new reader. I’m thrilled my story provides you some encouragement. We’re all so capable of doing more and than we realize. I hope you continue to receive inspiration and motivation as you continue on your journey!

      Reply
  5. Anne

    Amazing the amount of trouble we can just wander unthinkingly into – like having it not occur to you that the car would be repossessed if you didn’t keep paying for it. You probably look back and wonder how you could have been unaware that there would be consequences of not paying. But that’s what we humans do. And then we have to clean up the results of not thinking. What an amazing story you tell! How encouraging it is for others! Thank you so much for sharing all the pieces! And congratulations for a wonderful job!

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Thanks so much Anne!

      Reply
  6. Elizabeth | eLIZABETH BURNS DESIGN

    Hi Alaya! I am SO impressed with you and your husband’s dedication to eliminate $74,000 of debt in just two years! That is INSANE (in the best way possible). 🙂 Congrats to you guys and I am so happy to hear you now are able to follow a profession that you love. We just became debt free this year, but I am still trying to find a way to transition into a job that I enjoy, so thank you for the encouragement on this Monday morning!

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Elizabeth, thanks for your kind words and congrats to you too on paying off your debt! It really is an amazing feeling that brings unexpected freedom. I’m sure that you will find the right job to transition into. I encourage you to focus on one that strikes the balance between meeting your passion, meeting your monetary needs, and meeting your skill set. Are you reading any books regarding career change? I highly recommend Quitter by Jon Acuff. Also, 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  7. DebtPlow

    Alaya, your story is amazing. I am still working on paying off $82k and could not imagine the things you had to sacrifice in 25 months in order to pay off $74k! How does it feel now that you are debt-free?

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Thanks so much, for reading. Yes, I did sacrifice a lot! Looking back, even though there are some things I would do differently, the sacrifice was 100% worth it! Congrats on paying off your debt!!

      Reply
  8. Michaela

    Hi, Alaya! Thank you for your inspiring story to being debt-free. I can see one of your major factors was how you and your husband were on alignment and how both of you supported each other in life’s ups and downs such as unemployment. I am still working with my husband on how to work together on financial goals. Do you have any tips or reading resources to learn about this more? Congratulations.

    Reply
  9. Ron

    Just read your article with much interest. Recently my wife and I have experienced the same thing. After being debt free for many years we recently retired and of course you feel as though at this time in your life you “deserve” many things. The problem is they cannot be purchased on a steady basis without saving for a particular item(s). We did not. We blindly charged a lot and of course never looked at the bills and kept up with our small monthly payments. As you have said, the mountain grows and grows. Now we are inundated with credit card debt. We have already enacted our own “bailout” but we have to start at the beginning. I needed a word of encouragement and you have provided me with that. It is just amazing that you have paid off that amount in such a short time. It gives me great hope. Thank you for the talk and the resources to help educate us. It is greatly appreciated! I have to add that it is very embarrassing to be older and not have a dollar in your pocket.

    Reply
    • Alaya

      Hi Ron. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my about my journey and to leave a comment. I’m so pleased that it provided you hope and encouragement. You can achieve debt-freedom again! Focus on what it felt to be debt-free the first time you did it. You had enough discipline and desire to make it happen once; you have enough to make it happen again. I wish you and your wife all the best as you work through paying off your debt! 🙂

      Reply
  10. KAtie

    I know this is an old post but it was so honest and beautiful I couldn’t pass it by without commenting. I hope you are your husband are still doing well. Congratulations on all your hard work! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  11. Felicia

    Your story is very encouraging. Its my mission to be debt free in 5 to 6 years

    Reply

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