My husband and I left school with $71,000 in student loan debt. During our repayment period, we funded a wedding and honeymoon, purchased a home, made a $9,000 repair on the foundation of said house, moved twice (once cross country), switched jobs, while giving and saving 15% of our income.
In November 2015, we made our very last student loan payment. We were so relieved. We’ve often been asked how we became debt free. Our secrets are revealed here!
First, let’s be clear that debt was not God’s design. In Proverbs 22:7 it says, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” Debt is not only a financial problem; it’s a spiritual problem because it enslaves you.
Are you in the trenches right now – wide-eyed and terrified? Are you wondering how to make your house payment or pay for food or utilities? Let’s look at what to do.
Get the Full Picture
Get a understanding of your finances. This starts with everything you owe.
If you have student loans, find out who your lenders are and how much you owe to each. The best way to do this is to visit the National Student Loan Data System and login in or create a new account.
Compile all of your loans into a spreadsheet that shows how long it will take you to pay off debt, putting your credit cards and high interest rate loans at the top of the list. We used this one.
It’s a scary word – budget. It seems complicated and confusing.
However, having a budget is one of the most liberating resources you have? In 2013, a Gallup poll released showed that only 32% of Americans have a defined budget. On the other hand, more than two-thirds of Americans did not maintain a monthly budget. This is crucial to getting out of debt.
I’d recommend using Mint to set up an online account, define a budget, track your spending and bills when you download their mobile app. If you like another app or tool better or prefer a spreadsheet, great! Just set it up somewhere to figure out what you make, what you spend, and how you’ll track it each day.
Types of Expenses
It’s important to separate fixed expenses and variable expenses on your budget.
Fixed expenses are the same each month (ex: rent, car payment, insurance, cell phone, etc.).
Variable expenses can change from month to month (ex: groceries, utilities, gas, entertainment, clothing, etc.).
Once you’ve set up your budget, look at how much money is left over. This will be your baseline dollar amount that you will have to put towards your debts each month.
Spend and Save Like No One Else
This step is where you reveal your grit and determination. It’s where you go to the mall and buy NOTHING! It’s the one where you cook at home instead of going out to eat. It’s also the one without cable.
Some people don’t have as much of a jealous spirit, but when I saw my friends jetting to a Caribbean island, buying the latest phone, or buying expensive homes, I wanted to give up. I wanted to say I should just pay the minimums and enjoy my life while I’m young.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
Sticking to the budget meant spending and saving like no one else. It meant going out less, having a boring Instagram feed, and finding free entertainment.
But it was so worth it.
If you can commit to your debt pay down goal, you will be able to decide where you want to travel to, what you want to buy, who you want to give to, and what you want to save for without regret, consequences, or obligations.
Most importantly, it will give you freedom from the lender as God intended. The best part about being free of debt is that you have created a space for God to use you to bless others with finances where He calls you to. It’s a spiritual discipline worth working on!