How we paid off $18,000 of Debt in 18 months

After I wrote this post, Brad and I got questions about how we paid off $18,000 of debt so fast. Honestly, it's been about seven years since we've done that. It took me some time to really think it through.  A stressful season combined with limited income left our finances in a wreck. Thankfully, we were both on the same page in terms of paying off our debt. We were determined to pay all our debts off as fast as we could. 

Here are 5 things we did to pay off $18,000 in debt in 18 months:

1. DEFINE THE GOAL

Before you decide to pay off any debt, I think it is important to decide "why". Why are you doing this? If you are married, are you both motivated to do this? What is the goal after we pay off this debt? If we don't think through our goals, then when the journey gets hard - and believe me it will - you will give up. You simply won't have the motivation to finish paying down all your debt.

For Brad and I, we were DONE with our current state of living. We wanted to travel with our kids and give more. This dream motivated us when things looked bleak. It motivated us to take extra jobs and not buy things we didn't NEED. We had this crazy big dream to pay off our home and take our kids overseas for a trip of a lifetime. That big-crazy-dream is now 22 months from happening. The dream pushes you. The dream motivates you. What's your big crazy dream?

2. GET A PLAN

We followed Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Plan for getting out of debt. His philosophy really spoke to us. His plan is simple to follow and broken down into 7 baby steps. When you complete baby step ONE, you move on to baby step 2 and so on. We read his books. We listened to his radio show. We focused on his plan and did the work. It works and I would HIGHLY recommend it. 

3. MINIMIZE YOUR MONTHLY BILLS

Once we decided to pay off our debt really quickly, we realized that if we minimized all our monthly bills we could put all our extra monthly income at the debt. This may sound obvious, but think through all your monthly bills. Are they all necessary? Remember, this is only for a season. Once your debt is paid off and you can afford things, add them back into your budget! Do you have some monthly expenses you could pay yearly at a discount? What could you do away for this season? Monthly gym memberships?  Cable bill?  Could you lower your food bill by using coupons or using a meal plan? 

We got rid of all the automatic payments that were not necessary. We cut our food bill by 1/2 and used coupons to buy our household cleaning supplies and other needs. We only bought clothes we NEEDED. We didn't take any vacations during that 18 months and we stopped eating out regularly. Yes, it was difficult but our goal was to keep all our monthly expenses at about 2/3rds our income. There is no magic to this formula. Throwing 1/3 of our income to our debt was a HUGE stretch but doable. Some months, we could live on less. Others, we needed to live on more.

4. MAKE PEACE WITH THE ROAD BLOCKS

The fact is, once you decide to pay off your debt you will have set-backs. The car will breakdown and the baby will get sick. Termites will eat your porch and your income will unexpectly get cut. Decide ahead of time that these setbacks will not derail you from your plan. Make the commitment to NOT use credit cards to deal with the unexpected. Push through with cash, it is worth it. I promise. 

Simple math would tell you that if we paid off $18,000 in 18 months that we paid off $ 1,000/ month, but it didn't work that way. Life happened to us to. Some months we were able to put $1200 or more towards our debt. Other months, we would only be able to do $500. At times, I was super tempted to give up. We stayed focused and eventually reached our goal. 

6. DON'T LOOK BACK

We paid off all our debt so we could be out of debt forever. In our minds, this wasn't a short term thing. Once you work this hard, keep moving forward. We permanently changed our minds about debt. There is a freedom to life once you pay off everything you owe. So when your tempted to take payments again, think about how much more you can give and be generous when you don't owe anyone a dime. Don't go through all that work for nothing. The journey is hard, but worth it.  Someday you'll be able to give that big donation to your favorite charity, start that business you always wanted to have, or pay cash for that trip you've always wanted to go on. You can do those things and MORE. Don't look back. 

What's your biggest obstacle in paying down debt?

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