This debt success story is from Rachel with BudgetWithRachel.com. She did a home renovation and cash flowed the birth of her two children since starting her financial journey. She plans to pay off $500,000 of debt and be debt free in the next 3-4 years.
Rachel was able to achieve these goals by budgeting and putting in the work. Learn how she did it so you can too.
Rachel’s Debt Success Story And How She Plans To Pay Off $500,000 Of Debt
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a 32-year-old wife, mom (of two), veterinarian and personal finance blogger at BudgetWithRachel.com. I am a Midwesterner, born and raised. Coffee keeps my sanity; I love donuts probably more than I should and reality TV is true entertainment. My life is crazy and messy, but I am completely in love with it!
When did you start your financial journey?
I started a downward spiral into a massive pit of debt upon graduating high school. I had zero education on basic budgeting skills or how to handle money appropriately. This led to some pretty bad financial decisions from age 18-28.
My financial journey to repair the damage began in 2015. I finished my internship program following graduating from veterinary school the year prior. It was time for my first “real” job.
I graduated vet school with $240,000 of debt. I had an additional $40,000 from undergrad. My husband had $20,000 of school debt and $20,000 of car debt.
We had just 100% financed a home we couldn’t afford and were living in a hotel for a month (we had to borrow money from family to pay for the hotel), while we were waiting to close on our financed home.
In total, we had $500,000 of debt. Half a freaking million dollars. We weren’t even 30 years old yet.
I remember sitting in our hotel room and being completely terrified of our situation. I was finally going to be making “real” money and I knew it was going to just “disappear” if we didn’t make a plan for it.
I didn’t even know how much debt we had until that day when I sat down and faced everything.
We needed a plan, so I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and we started to work his plan.
What were your financial goals when you started? What are your financial goals now?
When we first started, my husband was really not on board for budgeting. He thought it was a terrible idea, and it just meant he was going to hear, “No.” an awful lot.
My first goal was just to help him see that budgeting was going to be a game-changer for us. Our new home needed a complete cosmetic facelift, and our first goal was to cashflow everything.
We got our budget set up, cash flowed all the renovations room by room and started working our debt snowball at the same time.
After a year of this, we found out we were expecting our first child. We put everything on hold and were able to cash flow our first born. Then we picked up with our debt payoff.
Without budgeting, we never would have been able to accomplish what we did.
What was the main thing that caused you to want to change your financial situation?
It may have been something Dave Ramsey said, I can’t remember, but it was a statement that really just hit me.
“Ten years are going to pass whether you are paying off debt or not. In ten years, you will be ten years older. No question. So, do you want to be debt free in ten years? Or do you want to keep doing what you’re doing and be in exactly the same situation? Ten years will go by, it is your choice what you do with them.”
My husband and I didn’t want to be living with $500,000 of debt in our 40’s. That is not the life we wanted. So, we decided to start sacrificing now so the 40-year-old version of ourselves would tell us good job and thank us for putting them in a better position.
Once we had kids, that just became an additional motivator. We don’t want to have to be stressed with debt as they grow up. We want it to be a story we can tell them of something we took care of when they were really little.
What was your biggest financial struggle? How did you overcome that?
When you are facing a huge amount of debt, I think you just want to be able to throw huge chunks of cash at it all at once to make it seem significant. Making an extra $100 payment doesn’t seem to really make a dent.
When you feel that way, it can make it difficult to fully commit to throwing every last penny at debt because you have this second guessing voice asking, “is it worth it?” Then you get led down a path where you do spend that extra $40 on dining out because what difference is $40 really going to make versus a $300,000 debt?
This is a trap. Adjusting our mindset to every single penny does matter was a challenge for us. We want so badly to throw $10,000 at this every month to knock it out, but we know it will be those small, consistent payments we make that will get us out of debt in the end.
What was the biggest change you made to achieve your financial goals?
We started budgeting every single penny. I became borderline obsessed with budgeting and tracking our expenses. At first, my husband found it super annoying, but then he realized it was working.
In addition to budgeting, I have become educated on all things finance. Instead of burying my head in the sand and hoping the problem would go away, I started researching everything about it to figure out how to conquer it.
Have you done anything out of the “norm” or “extreme” to reach your financial goals?
I don’t know if it is extreme stuff, but we have drastically cut our expenses in every area. We have become extremely frugal. I have learned to live with less and think of possessions just as they are…possessions.
We have probably sold at least 50% of our stuff over the past 3 years. The more we sell, the happier I am. It’s just stuff. I was pretty materialistic growing up, so that was a huge change for me.
How much debt did you have? Are you still paying it off? If so, when do you hope to be debt free? If not, how long did it take you to pay it off?
We started with $320,000 of debt (not including our mortgage) in 2015. My husband and I have done a home renovation and cash flowed two children within that time thanks to budgeting.
We are still paying off the debt and plan to become debt free in the next 3-4 years give or take, depending on how many more children we have.
How do you stay motivated to keep going on your financial journey?
My husband and I have “dream dates,” pretty regularly where we talk about our debt free dreams. This helps to re-energize us when we are tired of the journey. I have a debt free vision board with goals that I look at daily. I also have motivating scripture and quotes posted on my bathroom mirror to look at every day. In addition, my husband and I have a debt payoff chart to color in as we pay down our debt.
I also listen to financial podcasts almost every day. Something I didn’t think I would do is start a financial blog to help others get started with their journey to become debt free. Helping others has actually been a really good way to keep myself going too.
I find that I really need to be immersed in this every day to keep up my motivation and drive.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting their financial journey, or feels like you’re a unicorn and can’t achieve their financial dreams?
It. Is. Possible. It definitely won’t happen overnight, but does anything truly worthwhile, just happen overnight? All true victories in life come with trial, struggle, and perseverance. If this journey were easy, everyone would do it.
I have stared at $500,000 of debt in the face and decided to take it down! You can absolutely do this. There is no debt so high, it can’t be paid off. You just have to be willing to put in the work, and that’s how I plan to pay off $500,000 of debt.
I hope Rachel’s debt payoff success story will motivate you. She has a plan to pay off $500,000 of debt in the next 3-4 years by budgeting and being persistent.
If you need help putting together a budget, sign up for this FREE Monthly Budget Printable. Once you have a plan and your budget, you just have to put in the work and do it!
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