Several years ago I met Kathryn and Galen who live in Missouri. At the time, not only were they were drowning in debt; Galen was dealing with a protracted season of unemployment. Their financial situation appeared grim.
I agreed to work with them to set up a plan that, if followed diligently, would get them out of debt and on their way to financial freedom.
Together, we determined that given a scaled-back lifestyle and financial commitments, they were $1,000 short every month—an amount they would have to find somewhere, some how, if this plan were to work.
Never have I seen a couple so committed to getting out of debt. They didn’t complain or expect any pity. Instead, they adopted a “scorched earth” attitude as they became committed to doing anything and everything possible to reach the goal.
Here’s Kathryn’s list of the 25 things they did to find the $1,000 they needed every month in order to stay on track with getting out of debt:
1. Joined The Grocery Game (an online program that is no longer in business; an excellent alternative is TheCouponMom.com) to slash our grocery bill.
2. Accepted help from community food distribution ministries and ended up working as volunteers once we were back on our feet.
3. We replaced our oven and sofa with gently used items we found on Craigslist.
4. Made our own laundry detergent (instructions HERE).
5. Daughter withdrew from private college and moved home to attend local community college for a fraction of the cost.
6. Re-evaluated our insurance needs and reduced premiums by more than $200 a month.
7. Quit the salons in favor of beauty schools for haircuts.
8. Stopped eating out except for very special occasions.
9. Started paying bills online saving postage, envelopes, and time.
10. Borrowed movies for free from the library instead of renting or buying.
11. Enjoyed entertainment opportunities that were free and local (open houses, festivals, fairs) by looking in the paper.
12. Required kids to pay for things we used to cover (cell phone, gasoline, clothes). Have family meetings to update ourselves on where we are and what we can do as a family to do better and save more.
13. Were committed to thinking long and hard together before we bought anything—a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g!
14. We did not use credit cards or any kind of “free financing.” Period. We continue to pay for it now or we don’t buy it.
15. I did a lot more cooking from scratch using stuff I have on hand and learning all I could to keep doing better.
16. We made stuff last as long as we could and then determined to go for as long as possible before having to replace it.
17. I gave up my lunch-time Pilates class
18. We drove less and walked more. I continue to walk 1/2 mile to work.
19. I got a second job where I worked nights and weekends, which was also within walking distance of my house and daytime job.
20. Cut back all phone services (cell and landline) to bare bones—no bells or whistles.
21. Cancelled “maintenance contracts” on everything but our computer.
22. We all gave up soda and replaced it with water.
23. We made our Christmas gifts—baskets with homemade bean soup mix and cornbread mix with other goodies tucked in.
24. We took our lunches from home, all the time.
25. We sold stuff we didn’t need at yard sales, resale shops, and Craigslist. Gave lots to charity, taking full advantage of the receipt to reduce our taxes.
It took four years, but Kathryn and Galen made it all the way to debt-free. In that time Galen became gainfully employed, which turbo-charged their race to the goal.
It was a thrill for me to watch Kathryn and Galen cross that finish line. Their commitment to living debt-free continues to be so inspiring!