Debt Diaries

Getting out of Debt: A Staff Writer’s Story

The Frugal FarmerHello, Debt Roundup readers!  I thought that for my second post here as staff writer, I would give you all a little introduction into my life and The Frugal Farmer family, for those of you who don’t yet know our full story.  One of the reasons Grayson thought it would work out well to have me as a staff writer is that we are currently in the process of paying off debt – and lots of it.

It’s important for Grayson to be able to provide his reading audience with a wide variety of tips for people in all walks of their financial life.  Grayson and his family are done paying off consumer debt and now on to the wealth-building and investing aspects of their walk toward financial freedom, but Grayson remembers well what it’s like to be in the throes of paying off a large amount of debt, and he wanted to make sure he could still offer his readers who are working toward getting out of debt – or considering getting debt free – a fresh perspective and real-time encouragement for their debt payoff journeys.  I’m honored to have been chosen as that person, and believe me – I’ve got lots to share in that area.  So, on with our story.

Our Journey to Debt Mountain

My husband Rick and I are in our mid-forties and have been married for nearly 18 years.  When we got married in 1996, we were in our twenties and carefree.  Rick and I both came from broken homes, and were excited to begin a solid, stable family of our own.  That, of course, included all of the material items that “successful” people had.   For the first 16 or so years of our marriage, we did all of the things that “normal” people do:  We bought a townhouse, bought cars, and traded in and bought more cars, and financed every bit of this stuff with little down.  After our first child came along, we wanted our “forever” house, so in 2001, we bought a bigger house – for almost double of the price of our townhome – in the affluent suburb where we lived.  Ahh, we were living the good life.  I was working at a good job, and Rick wasn’t doing too badly either.  In 2003 we welcomed our second child, and at the end of 2003, I was laid off due to declining business at my former company, which was fine by me because I wanted to be home with the kids anyway.

What followed for the next 7 years were 2 more kids and a life of spending, spending and more spending.  We would occasionally pay off our debt, or refinance it into the mortgage (I know – YIKES!), but we’d always wrack up more debt again.

In the beginning of 2010, Rick called me at home one afternoon.  “I got the pink slip today”, he said.  His company hadn’t been doing well, so we knew this call would come eventually, but we did nothing to prepare for it financially, still telling ourselves the old lie that “everything would be just fine”.  At this point we had “only” a few thousand in credit card debt.  We weathered through Rick’s 7-month unemployment hiatus okay, but then he took a new job – at 80% of his prior salary.  The way we handled this was to continue living on what we viewed as a strict budget, and charged everything over and above his income on credit cards.  We figured that eventually he’d catch up income-wise and we’d be able to pay cash for everything.

In 2012, we had had enough of our keeping up with the Joneses’ life and traded in our mini-mansion for a small but more expensive hobby farm.  The payment was the same, we told ourselves, so it would be okay.  By that time, the credit card balances had gotten pretty high, and we brought them with us to the new house.  We also added another $4600 in credit card debt for purchasing things we “needed” to live in the country.

The Wake-Up Call

It was after this purchase, in the beginning of November 2012, that we finally woke up to the mess we had created.  We sat down, figured out the numbers, and faced up to the fact that we were in deep – real deep.  Along with the debt numbers, I figured out our debt-to-income ratio, and it came in at a whopping 65%.  Yeah, it was bad.  Add that to the fact that we were only 20 years away from retirement, and we got scared real quick.

I’d never done much in the way of visiting blogs before, but I was now in a place where I realized what a desperate situation we were in, so I started Google searching terms like “how to get out of debt.”  Through Debt Roundup and some other great blogs, I found stories of people who had been deep in debt like we were, yet, by various means and plans, had managed to work their way out.  When I read stories like Grayson’s , I knew we could – and had to – get our financial life together.  So we made a plan.  In January of 2013, we wrote out our first real budget, started tracking every dime we spent, and set limits for the first time in our lives about how much we would spend in each area every month.

Thirteen months later we’re still going strong.  Due to the sheer amount of debt we have and the high debt-to-income ratio we had when we started, it’s been going slow, but it is going.  We’ve learned of and settled the reasons why we spent like we did, and are now on our way to debt free, and eventually, to financial freedom.

The reason I wanted to share this all with you is to let you know that, no matter how deep in debt you are right now, you can find a way out.  There are so many different plans and options, and you can find one that fits you and your particular situation.  No matter how “hopeless” your situation may seem, know that there is a plan that will work for you, and that you do have support in this wonderful world of personal finance bloggers and readers, even if you don’t have support anywhere else.  I hope that our story, along with Grayson’s story, will inspire you today to work to reach your own financial dreams, whatever they are.

What are your financial dreams?  Have you taken any steps to reach them yet?

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Laurie

Laurie

Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

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33 Comments

  1. February 19, 2014 at 8:23 am — Reply

    Your story is an inspiration Laurie. You’ve stuck with it despite some very difficult circumstances. You are a great example that no matter what the circumstances, we can all have hope.

    • February 19, 2014 at 8:44 am — Reply

      Thanks so much, Brian. I love sharing our story in hopes that I can encourage others, no matter how deeply in debt they are, that there is a way out.

  2. February 19, 2014 at 9:06 am — Reply

    What a wonderful story- one that I totally recognize with as we are in the middle part of our debt repayment story.

    • February 19, 2014 at 9:16 am — Reply

      Thanks, Michelle! You guys are doing awesome at your debt repayment – isn’t it great to see the progress?

  3. February 19, 2014 at 9:25 am — Reply

    Thank you SO much for sharing your story Laurie!! My husband and I made similar mistakes early on in our lives for similar reasons. And now I have dedicated myself and my company to help prevent others from making similar mistakes. We always say we wish we had a “me” 10 years ago. The only thing worse than financial regrets, though, is not changing your ways and fixing them. So good for you two!

    • February 19, 2014 at 10:04 am — Reply

      Shannon, I just love what you’re doing with your company. And, totally agree about not changing your ways being worse than making mistakes in the first place. No matter how many years we spend making a mess, it always feels great to start cleaning it up. :-)

    • February 19, 2014 at 10:29 am — Reply

      Thank you for being around and helping others get their financial lives together Shannon!

  4. February 19, 2014 at 9:39 am — Reply

    “no matter how deep in debt you are right now, you can find a way out.” I LOVE this Laurie as it’s so spot on! Thanks so much for sharing the backstory and for being an inspiration to others.

    • February 19, 2014 at 10:05 am — Reply

      Thanks, John. :-) If there’s one lesson we can share with others, this is it. Aside from Grayson, I’m not sure that many people have been in as deep as we were. :-)

      • February 19, 2014 at 10:27 am — Reply

        I can’t say that I am happy to be in that boat with you Laurie, but I am happy to show others that it is much nicer on the other side.

        • February 20, 2014 at 7:31 am — Reply

          Grayson, I think that is such a testimony to the magnitude of your success. Your story shows that even the biggest of messes can be cleaned up.

  5. February 19, 2014 at 10:09 am — Reply

    Your story sounds familiar, Laurie. :) We built a new house even though our spending habits were terrible and we were already racking up debt. Oh, if only we could go back knowing what we know now, right???

    • February 19, 2014 at 10:26 am — Reply

      I hear you there Travis. While we didn’t build a house, we bought one that we shouldn’t have. We should have continued to rent more until our finances were in better shape.

      • February 19, 2014 at 11:16 am — Reply

        LOL, ignorance is not always bliss, is it. :-) I guess the good news is that the three of us have our PF eyes opened now. :-)

  6. February 19, 2014 at 10:26 am — Reply

    Thank you for sharing your background with my readers Laurie! I appreciate you taking the time to show them where you were and where you are going.

    • February 19, 2014 at 11:17 am — Reply

      Gladly, Grayson! It’s not always easy showing the world your financial underwear, but if we can help somebody, it’ll be totally worth it. :-)

      • February 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm — Reply

        It can be a little scary to pull your “financial” pants down online, but it does keep you more accountable!

        • February 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm — Reply

          LOL, yes, it surely does. Knowing that we have to “report in” at the end of the month has kept us from spending LOTS of money in the past year. :-)

  7. February 19, 2014 at 10:54 am — Reply

    Reading your story never gets old, Laurie. Watching your journey has really been inspirational and I wish everyone trying to “live the life” had a wake up like you and Rick.

    • February 19, 2014 at 11:19 am — Reply

      Me too, Erin. I so want to get that group into a huge auditorium and beg them all to wake up. Life is so much better when you’ve kicked denial to the curb and are working toward financial fitness. Glad our story continues to intrigue you, Erin – it’ll be an even better one when the debt is gone. :-)

  8. February 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate your honesty about how you got here. It really is helpful to read personal stories and how people have overcome or are trying to overcome a difficult situation.

    • February 19, 2014 at 5:08 pm — Reply

      Thanks, Raquel – so glad it was helpful for you. You guys are doing awesome too – I just love reading your story as well.

  9. February 19, 2014 at 12:46 pm — Reply

    What I really love about your story is the message that “hopeless” is a myth. No matter how bad the situation, you can always start putting one foot in front of the other to make it better. Like you say, the progress might be slow, but it’s still better than not making progress at all. It’s a tough road, but you guys will be much better off for making the effort.

    • February 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm — Reply

      Matt, you’re SO right. As much as we are struggling right now with making the slow changes, I know it would be much worse if we hadn’t done anything at all. So, we’re holding on to that. :-)

  10. February 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm — Reply

    I knew kind of your background but not all of it. Thanks for filling in some of the details. Why did you move to a hobby farm? I ask because I’m not quite sure what that is. LOL! That’s the place you still live in now, correct?

    • February 19, 2014 at 5:44 pm — Reply

      LOL, right. :-) Yes, we still live here – it is a small farm – just under 8 acres, so, not like a working dairy or veggie farm, just kind of a wannabe farm. :-) We moved primarily because we were just feeling so claustrophobic in our “keep up with the Joneses’ ” suburb. We felt a lot of pressure, and needed a permanent vacation from it, so to speak Out here in the country, no one gives a crap what you wear, what your house looks like, or what kind of car you drive. In suburbia, we had a hard time not being sucked into materialism, and so it wasn’t a good place for us. Plus, we wanted more space for the kids to run and play. Financially, it may not have been a smart move, but in every other way, it’s been really good for us. I don’t know that we’d be on our road to debt free right now if we hadn’t gotten a glimpse of suburbia life from the outside looking in. Does that make sense?

  11. February 20, 2014 at 7:24 am — Reply

    Deffinitelly a share-worth story. I’m sure many can relate (including me!), and I like how inspirational you wrapped it. Good job!

    • February 20, 2014 at 7:34 am — Reply

      Thanks, Heidi! Glad you enjoyed it. If there’s one good thing we get out of sharing our story, it’s that it inspires others.

  12. February 20, 2014 at 11:05 am — Reply

    Hate the debt, love the story :-)! Personal finance blogs like yours and Grayson’s have been such an inspiration to me. There’s really a great group of PF bloggers out there and although each of us has a different story, I think the stories are relatable for all of us in one way or another. Good stuff!

    • February 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm — Reply

      I so agree, KK! It’s such a great community, isn’t it? I’m quite certain Rick and I would not be as far along as we are if it weren’t for great PF blog friends like yourself – thank you for that. :-)

  13. February 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm — Reply

    Glad to see you here Laurie! Your story is definitely one of the best and most imspirational I can read :)

    • February 22, 2014 at 11:47 am — Reply

      Thank you so much, Ryan. :-) I appreciate your kind words. Have a great weekend!

  14. February 22, 2014 at 10:37 am — Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. So many people become paralyzed and depressed when debt smacks them in the face. Your story is inspiring. Thank you.

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