Finding Freedom in a Budget – Our Financial Transformation5 min read

Finding Freedom In A Budget

Shop Till You Hit Rock Bottom

It was a dreary Spring evening back in 2016. I was headed to the grocery store to pick up some necessities while my husband took care of our one-year-old son back home. I filled my cart, rushed up to the register and anxiously planned what I'd throw together for dinner as I waited in line.

The cashier rang up my groceries. I swiped the card. The cashier's kind smile abruptly turned to a confused frown. "It says your card was declined...Would you like to try again?" My face burned with embarrassment.

All of our credit cards were maxed out. I had no cash. Now there wasn't even enough money in the bank to buy groceries. I muttered an embarrassed apology and practically ran to the car where I called my husband in tears. "We have to do something," I sobbed, "I can't do this anymore."

The Free Spirit Life

My husband and I are both very free-spirited. During the first three years of our marriage, we lived in typical free-spirit fashion. We bought what we felt like, went wherever the wind blew us, left jobs without anything else lined up and did as we pleased.

When money got tight, we applied for credit cards or took out loans. We never intended to max them out. They were just "to get us through". We would pay them off once things got better.

Things never got better.

We had to get better.

Transforming our Money Mindset

A few weeks after the grocery store disaster, I found out about a Financial Peace University (FPU) class being offered at a friend's church. I immediately signed up. My husband reluctantly agreed to join me, as a last resort.

After the first class, we were both hooked. Dave Ramsey made sense. If he made it through his financial mess, maybe we could too.

We jumped in headfirst. We were the students who didn't miss a class, did all the homework and hung on Dave's every word. Our future depended on it.

While putting together our first budget, we quickly realized why things "never got better". With just the necessities, we were overspending our income by $300-$400 per month (and let's be honest, we never stuck to just the necessities).

Although both of us work full time at decent paying jobs, we had wracked up so many bills and credit card payments that our income wasn't enough to make ends meet.

I asked our FPU coordinator to review our budget and help us figure out what to do. After a few minutes of pouring over the numbers in silence, she sweetly commented, "You are doing all the right things (we weren't yet, but we'd written the right things on paper) just need more income."

Earning More, Spending Less

Those words lit a fire under us. Get more income- that is something we can control. It was like someone hit the start button and off we went.

I started freelance writing, translating. My husband took every overtime shift offered. About a year later, he started a side business as well.

We stuck to our budget as if it were written in stone. At the same time, we learned to live on significantly less. We made all of our cleaning supplies and most personal care items from scratch. We got rid of our TV, found discounted phone service, and traded our leased car for a junker. Our spur of the moment dinners out and vacations were put on hold. We had something more important to do- become debt free.

buying a car debt free

"We got rid of our TV, found discounted phone service, and traded our leased car for a junker." Photo Credit Vanessa Ruiz

Wanting Debt Freedom More

I'd like to say that we have been gazelle intense, sprinting toward debt freedom ever since ending Financial Peace University back in June 2016, but that would be a lie. We have hit plenty of roadblocks and fought our way through unexpected expenses.

However, even in the tough times, we know we want debt freedom more. More than the dinners out, vacations and nice cars, we want to bring home every cent of our hard-earned paychecks.

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Two Years Into the Journey

Now, almost two years after finishing our FPU class, we have paid off and cut up all of our credit cards and tackled a few loans, a total of $31,758.95 of debt erased from our lives. During that time, we have also paid cash for more hospital and car repair bills than I want to count and purchased a car with cash.

We have gone from relying on credit cards and loans just to get by, to surviving countless potential financial disasters just by writing a check. Our finances, and our money mindsets have been completely transformed.

Although we are still free-spirits who want to explore the world and live as we please, we've found freedom in life on a budget. Now, we are in control and we decide where our money goes instead of watching it slip away.

So, for now, instead of exotic vacations and name brand clothes, we will stick to trips to the local zoo and second-hand treasures. Quite frankly, we are too busy freeing ourselves from debt to care.

Are you ready to finally take control of your finances? Let my budgeting spreadsheets help!

Just fill out the form below and I'll send you the link to get the same exact budgeting spreadsheets that I use each month!

Included in the workbook:


  • Monthly budget form
  • Breakdown of savings form (for your sinking funds)
  • Overview of your financial plan

I've been using these same forms since August 2011 and have grown my family's net worth 500% tracking our money using these forms!

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Vanessa enjoys helping others pay off debt without crushing their free spirits. She is a mom, lover of all things DIY, and an encourager to the core. You can join her in finding creative ways to pay off debt, like making your own cleaning supplies, at

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