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Today, I have another debt freedom story! This one comes from Ryan over at MillennialLegacy.com. After reading his story here, you will definitely want to check some of the other stuff he’s written and sign up to receive email updates from him! I hope you enjoy his story of debt freedom as much as I did! Take it away Ryan…
My Debt Free Journey
As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I knew little to nothing about personal finance. I occasionally heard my parents fight about something money related. But they never sat down with me and gave me any guidance on how to manage money.
As a kid watching my parents fight about money, I made a promise to myself that money would never be an issue for my future family. Money was a taboo subject for my parents generation and still is today. Instead of talking openly and honestly, it seems that they prefer mystery.
So naturally, I have taken the exact opposite approach with my kids. They are very young, but I’ve already started having conversations with them about money. It still baffles me that money is such a HUGE part of our lives yet there is little to no practical instruction on the subject in public schools. If your parents don’t teach you how to manage money you just strike out on your own. Luckily for me, things haven’t turned out too terribly, but they could have been much worse.
Related: How To Support Our Kids Financially
I had two defining moments in my adult life when it came to personal finance.
The first was a math teacher in my senior year of high school that taught our class about the amazing power of compound interest (this still amazes me to this day).
The second defining moment was shortly after I graduated from college. I read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This book completely changed how I thought about money.
Both of these moments were huge opportunities for me to take a lesson that I learned and apply it in real life. The problem was that I took little to no action on either of these learning experiences until several years later.
Everything in my life financially came to a head shortly after my wife and I got married.Combining finances can be a beautiful thing. It can also be a very scary thing. Click To Tweet
My wife and I both brought roughly $30,000 of debt into the marriage. After the wedding, the reception, the honeymoon and a second reception, we finally sat down to analyze where we were financially and where we were going.
That’s when I had my “oh crap” moment.
In that moment I realized that if we continued to make only minimum payments on this debt not only would we be paying on it for the next 15 years but we would also be paying an astronomical amount of interest on that debt.
The Journey Begins
We came to an agreement about what needed to be done, made a plan and began paying off our debt. We knocked out a couple of small debts real quick and it felt great. It was just the kick-start that we needed. We used Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball approach. If you are not familiar with this method it is very easy to explain. Basically, you pay the debt off from smallest total balance to largest regardless of what the interest rate is on each loan.
We had a child along the way to debt freedom which probably slowed down our debt snowball by about 6 months or so. Once we found out that we were pregnant we stopped making all extra payments on our debt and threw all of our extra money into a savings account until the baby was born. If you weren’t aware, not only are kids expensive to raise, it is also very expensive to actually give birth to a child in a hospital. We stopped paying down our debt during this time so that we could save to pay hospital bills, etc. Thankfully, this child was perfectly healthy. The extra money we had after paying hospital bills was used to throw at the debt to get our debt snowball rolling again.
The Train Wreck
After the baby, we were back on track and moving right along. We were down to our last $10,000 of debt. One last student loan. Our single biggest debt. The end was in sight.
And then, we got house fever…
This was the biggest mistake that we made during this period of our lives (other than getting into debt to begin with, of course).We took our eyes off the prize for just a moment and got distracted. Click To Tweet
A lesson in what NOT to do
What we thought was the perfect house for us in the perfect neighborhood came up for sale. We thought we would just go look at it.
What could it hurt to just take a look?
We knew that we were still a couple of years out from buying a house but wanted to keep our eye on the market. Also, houses that were even close to our price range didn’t come up for sale very often in this particular neighborhood.
We went and looked at the house and, of course, we fell in love with it. We were nowhere even close to being financially prepared for buying a house. However, if everything fell into place just right and we stretched our budget a little bit, we could make this happen.
Since we were throwing all of our extra cash at our debt we had very little cash in the bank, so we had to get creative. The first thing we did with our offer was ask the seller to pay for as much of the closing costs as legally allowable.
The next thing we did is actually hard for me to even admit.
We asked for a loan from our parents for the down payment. I knew that this was a terrible idea, but we did not have enough cash for a down payment and it had to come from somewhere.
NEVER EVER BORROW MONEY FROM FAMILY!
One bad decision (buying a house when not prepared to do so) was now turning into multiple bad decisions. Looking back at this moment in our life, I don’t know where my brain was. We had let emotion dictate our decisions. This wasn’t choosing the toppings I wanted on the pizza I was ordering. This was buying a freaking house! Probably the biggest purchase I will make in my lifetime!
We finally came to an agreement with the seller on the price.
We had purchased a house….
The next thing that happened was the best thing that could have possibly happened for us. We hired a reputable company to do a home inspection. The inspection came back garbage. There was a list 20 pages long of things that needed to be repaired.
So of course we asked the seller to fix all of these things. They were not interested. We negotiated back and forth and they wouldn’t budge. It was more than $5,000 of repairs. They wanted to give us $1,000 and call it good.As much as we loved that house we finally came to our senses. Click To Tweet
We knew that we didn’t have the money to fix everything that needed repaired. We cancelled the contract and walked away. In the end, we wasted a lot of time and about $500 on the inspection. The best $500 I ever spent.
Race To The Finish
So, after this major detour on our road to debt freedom, we finally got back on track. We put the housing search behind us and moved forward. Six months later we were debt free.
In all honesty, I think we were very lucky that things turned out the way they did. We could have very easily purchased that house, moved in with zero money in the bank and chaos would have ensued. If the basement would have flooded or the roof needed repaired we would have had no way of paying for it. We probably would have gone back into debt to pay for those things and who knows where we would be today.
Related: Emergency Fund 101: Why You Need One
It is easy to get distracted.
The key to getting out of debt and getting out of debt quickly is to stay focused on the task at hand.
Remember why you want to get out of debt. Think of how many more options you will have when you don’t have a payment in the world!