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We are back with another installment of the Aha! Moment debt series! So far we have heard from Jessi, a work-at-home mom who tackled over $75,000 in debt, and Krystal, an ex-teacher and homeschooling mom who paid of $80,000 in debt.
Today, I am over the moon to bring you the third interview in the series. Today’s guest, Jamie, is a stay-at-home mom and blogger with 5 kids! She and her husband started out with great money habits, but after transitioning to Jamie staying-at-home and then buying a new house, things started to get out of hand. We all know what it feels like to fall into a bad cycle, right?
Well, check out Jamie’s story to see how she and her husband turned things around with the power of “no”!
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Let’s get started…
Aha Moment Interview: How Real People Get Out of Debt
Tell us about yourself!
I’m Jamie from Southern Ohio. My hubby and I have 5 kids that range in age from 4 to 14. When we were first married, I was an elementary music teacher. But even then, I taught flute lessons on the side. I’ve always preferred to have multiple streams of income!
When our third baby was born, we were finally in a good place for me to become a stay-at-home mom. We were doing pretty well with our money at the time. Then we decided to move to a new house, which unfortunately started a snowball of debt that was hard to escape.
Becoming a blogger pushed me to get back to my beloved SMART goals, which started another snowball. (This time it was the good kind!) Now we are wrapping up the last of our credit card debt thanks to the accountability I get from my readers and the blogging community.
How much debt do you have today and where did you start?
We have already knocked out $24,000 in credit card debt. We are nearly finished with credit card debt at this point.
Paying all of that money back while raising 5 kids on one income was not a picnic. Our story isn’t as impressive as people who pay off that kind of money in a few months time… But most of those people seem to be DINKs (dual income, no kids) and that makes life look very different.
I like to think that our story might inspire people with a larger family size that they can do it, too!
We do still have car payments to tackle but have decided at this point that it makes more sense for us to focus on building up a contingency fund to keep us from falling back into credit card debt. Once we have that built up, we’ll get back to working on that debt.
What was your “aha” moment that made you realize you had to get out of debt?
In January of 2016, we were putting together our goals for the year. We always write “pay off debt” at the top of the list… You know, out of obligation. You’re supposed to get out of debt.
But as we looked over all of our plans for the year, we suddenly realized that we were making so many debt payments that we couldn’t gain traction on any of our goals. So Hubby crossed everything back off and sarcastically wrote #yearofno on the page.
And so our #yearofno began.
Changing our attitude from “we deserve this/that” to “no extra spending of any kind” was a shock to our whole family. But the motto pushed us forward, and we eventually began to enjoy the simplicity and freedom of this way of living.
What lifestyle changes did you make while paying down debt?
So our #yearofno meant that we refused to spend money on anything. Unless it was necessary for living, it was a no. We cut out our bad fast food habits, our “obligatory” spending on everything from school pictures to vacations to time out with friends.
It was a pretty huge lifestyle change. We no longer “deserved” things because we had a hard day.
But it made us realize which things were most important in our life. I’m not sure we’d understand the value of our dollars if we hadn’t used our scorched earth method.
Did you have a side hustle (side job) to help you pay down debt faster?
My blog was bringing in some money, but most of my “extra” money (as a stay at home mom) came from freelance writing.
We sold a few things, and every bonus and unexpected check went straight to debt.
What was the biggest setback you’ve faced while tackling your debt?
Our van broke down in February 2016, and that felt frustrating. Especially because it happened in just our second month of the plan!
But instead of letting it derail us, we took it as a sign that we needed money security more than ever. How good would it feel to have cash at the ready for problems like this?
Most of the time, it was a mental game. We might feel peer pressure to spend money or want to cave in to pizza on a crazy day. But every time we reinforced our “no”, it made us stronger.
After collecting so many months of doing well, you get to a point where you don’t want to spoil it, and you’ll do just about anything to “win” against debt.
Did you and your spouse have any differences of opinion on how to get out of debt? How did you get through it?
We’ve been married for 15 years, so after the first 10 we reached a place where we have similar views on money. We both want more out of life than having debt around our necks.
The good thing about having a partner in this fight is that when one of us was down, the other could pull him or her back in and encourage them.
For those of you who don’t know, you can read about both methods here. But the short story is that a debt snowball means paying off your debts from the smallest balance to the largest. An avalanche is paying off your highest interest debts first.
Neither! I actually started with the credit card with the highest balance but a middle of the road interest rate. I call it the “scary monster” method. I knew if I could get rid of that behemoth of debt, I could do anything. It worked really well for us.
What financial mistakes did you make while getting out of debt that other families can learn from?
I almost overlooked the last payment on the scary monster debt. Remember that there will always be one more bill after you pay off the card! You wouldn’t want to work your tail off paying down thousands in debt only to be hit with a late payment fee on an $8 bill.
Now that you are debt-free, do you have a new financial goal you are working towards?
This year’s big goal is fixing up the exterior of our home – new roof, new windows, replace/repairing the rotten siding and porches. Since our home was built in 1979 and was a foreclosure when we purchased it, it still needs a lot of TLC to get back in shape so we’re holding off paying off the mortgage this year to love on our home a little.
Finally, where can readers find you and follow your story?
Check out my blog, Medium Sized Family. I love to share small wins and simple ways you can save money in your own life. And for people who can’t get enough money saving tips, I share special ideas in my weekly newsletter that I don’t talk about anywhere else.
Mama Fish’s Thoughts
Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story! Paying off $24,000 in credit card debt while raising 5 kids is fantastic!
- Jamie and her husband are proof that just because you have a large family, doesn’t mean you can’t get out of debt. Kids don’t need to be expensive, and you set a good example for them by showing them smart financial priorities early on.
- I love that Jamie and her husband took on a massive lifestyle change overnight and rocked it. Switching to a “no” mindset is incredibly hard, and could cause a lot of people to backslide. But by setting a time limit on this strict rule (one year!) they were able to conquer so much.
- We often talk about debt paydown as the snowball vs. the avalanche. Jamie and her husband proved once again that personal finance is personal! Their “scary monster” debt strategy might be my new favorite. If you can pay off the debt that scares you the most first, the rest will seem achievable and much less stressful.
- Definitely, love on that home, Jamie! You guys have done some hard work on your debt and fixing up your home moves you towards a great long-term goal as well. Buying a home out of foreclosure usually means some serious work to be done (but potentially a rocking investment in the long-term). Just remember that not all home improvements are investments as you set your priorities!
Thank you again, Jamie!
What did you think of Jamie’s story? Any thoughts you would add?
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