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This financial success story is from Stephanie Gatewood with FinancialFreedomCrew.com. She and her husband paid off $270,000 worth of debt and grew their retirement accounts to over $1M. They made a plan to pay off their debt, and was able to pay it ALL off (even their mortgage).

Stephanie was able to achieve these goals by budgeting and sticking to her plan. Learn how she did it so you can too. 

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Stephanie’s Financial Success Story: How She Paid Off $270,000 And Saved Over $1M

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Stephanie Gatewood and live in the ‘burbs of Richmond, Virginia, with my husband, two kids, and rescue pup. I own two businesses and have a few jobs!

One business is a small commercial kitchen design firm that I co-own with three other partners. We design the kitchens in schools, hospitals, businesses, retirement communities, and on military bases. My other company is mine and my husband’s. He’s an editor for authors who are self-publishing and I’m the bookkeeper. 

And finally, I run my online business, Financial Freedom Crew, where I blog about our journey to financial freedom and financial independence. I get to do all these jobs from home on an extremely flexible schedule, which was my dream as soon as my first child was born!

Stephanie's Financial Success Story

  1. When did you start your financial journey?

When I was in my late-20s and started dating my now husband, I discovered that he was one of those odd people who are naturally frugal (yeah, surprisingly, they exist!).

On the other hand, I’d always felt broke and spent at least as much as I earned. I knew that money was one of the biggest reasons couples fought and split. So I figured that if I wanted our relationship to last, I needed to change how I thought about and behaved with money.

  1. What were your financial goals when you started? What are your financial goals now?

Honestly, I just wanted to not be broke! I didn’t do a great job of setting financial goals when I first started. 

My goal now is to spend money only on what I truly need or love (rather than junk) and be frugal everywhere else. Traveling with my family is my #1 fun goal. (We’re going to Australia next summer!) I track every dollar I spend and review my spending because that’s what works for me to keep me accountable and on track. 

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  1. What was the main thing that caused you to want to change your financial situation?

My husband (see above)! I had to change for the sake of our relationship.

  1. What was your biggest financial struggle? How did you overcome that?

My biggest struggle was, and still is, my mindset…how I think about myself and money. When I was just starting out in my 20s, I was stuck in a mindset of feeling like there was never enough money.

I seemed to overcome that and, with my husband, was able to pay off all our debt and grow our savings to over a million dollars. 

But I’m discovering that changing how I think about money is an ongoing process. And I still have work to do. I recently lost a close family member to cancer. She was young with two kids close in age to my own. We all know that life is short, but her death made me realize that I wasn’t just building up my savings, I was hoarding money out of fear. I feared the money would run out, regardless of how much I saved. 

How to Make a Budget

So I realized that I was stuck in the same money mindset that I had in my 20s! 

Booking the trip to Australia was really scary, but I’d always said I want to take the kids there when they were in middle school, so time is running out.

I’m already doing all the right things (budgeting, tracking expenses, saving for retirement) and we have zero debt (not even a mortgage), as well as emergency savings, so now I’m continuing to work on trusting that we can earn more money to replenish our savings and reach our other travel goals.

  1. What was the biggest change you made to achieve your financial goals?

The biggest change I made was budgeting and tracking expenses. Doing those things allowed me to see the big picture as well as the details of our finances. And then I could look for areas to make changes, like cutting expenses where spending seemed too high or didn’t support our goals. 

And when things didn’t go as planned, I made changes. I didn’t give up.

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  1. Have you done anything out of the “norm” or “extreme” to reach your financial goals?

No. But I hope people see that as inspirational: you don’t have to be extreme to reach your financial goals. You don’t have to live in a camper or eat only beans and rice. You just have to decide what you want, put a plan in place to get it, do the work, and be willing to not give up.

  1. 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 paid off about $270,000. That includes cars, credit card debt, and our mortgage. We are 100% debt-free! And our retirement savings has grown to over a million dollars.

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  1. How do you stay motivated to keep going on your financial journey?

I read other people’s success stories and personal finance books and listen to podcasts. And I track my net worth so I can see my progress.

  1. 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?

My advice would be to work on your money mindset first. It might sound hokey, but it’s the foundation of most money issues.

We know that life isn’t fair. The world can be cruel and unjust. Some people have it easy or have a huge head start when it comes to money thanks to their family or life circumstances. But don’t let bad luck or your current situation hold you back from changing. Don’t use those things as an excuse to stay where you are.

You have the ability to fix your situation and improve your finances. Belief in yourself and your ability. And surround yourself with people who want what you want so you can support each other.

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Summary
I hope Stephanies’s financial success story will motivate you. She was able to pay off $270,000 worth of debt and save over $1M by budgeting, getting her husband on board, and being persistent. Once you have a plan and your budget, you just have to put in the work and do it! 

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