Paying Off $250,000 of Debt And Full Of Doubts

paying off debt

You guys! I have an awesome guest post this Friday from the one and only Mrs Picky Pincher. Mrs PP is a frequent reader of MwM and one of my favorite bloggers! Mrs. Picky Pincher is the blogger and money-saving maven at Picky Pinchers. She writes about paying off debt while living the good life.  Today she’s sharing a bit of her back story and some of the battles she and her husband have been going through on their journey to knock out a quarter million dollars of debt.

Back in the summer of 2015, I was newly married and spectacularly clueless about money. Even though I was flushing my earnings down the toilet in the form of Starbucks and salon trips, I felt entitled to the American dream of home ownership.

It wasn’t until Mr. Picky Pincher crunched the numbers that I realized there was no way we could ever buy a house with our financial reality. All of our money was tied up in bullshiz. We paid $850 a month on car payments. Another $1,000 went to groceries. I easily spent $75 a month on my beauty regimen. Nearly $2,000 went to random crap that we weren’t even tracking.

We were in dire financial straits and didn’t even realize it! Never mind owning a home: we were living paycheck to paycheck with no end in sight. It was depressing. I remember crying over my pint of ice cream, feeling utterly helpless. I had no idea what to do.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a certain illustrious Mustache that I realized the error of my ways. I was throwing my money at stupid crap and didn’t want to accept responsibility for my actions. It was time to stop blaming the system or other people and get my finances in gear.

Hot damn, it works

The change didn’t happen overnight. We slowly but surely adjusted our lifestyle to put more money towards our dream of owning a home and getting out of debt.

We started cooking at home. We canceled monthly subscription services. We started shopping at the thrift store. We used the library to rent free DVDs and movies instead of going to the theater. We made our apartment energy-efficient. We even sold my car and I walked to work.

Before I knew it, I saw slivers of extra money ~magically~ appear in our bank account. Oh, the rush of saving money! We became bolder.

We moved to an apartment in a less-nice part of town to save $400 on our rent each month. We started using reusable handkerchiefs and napkins instead of Kleenex and paper towels. We switched to Google Fi for our phone service to save $150 a month.

Editor’s Note: I’m totes switching to Google Fi and will have a follow-up post on this in the future.

Before we knew it, we had extra money on our hands. I looked at our budget sheet one fateful day and told Mr. Picky Pincher, “Hot damn, this stuff actually works.”

Once we had more money on our hands, it was time to get rid of our credit card debt and save for a down payment.

We started by slamming money onto our $14,000 credit card debt. In 9 months, that was gone. Next, we started saving for our dream: a house. We saved for a year before we were able to put a healthy down-payment on a house, as well as renovating that suckah in $16,000 cash.

After I got my American Dream, we decided that wasn’t good enough. We’re now in the process of decimating our $65,000 student loans (with $25,000 of it out of the way).

Wait, is this a good idea?

Getting out of debt was hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t worry about money nearly as much as I used to. We’ve been hit with a few minor emergencies, like fallen trees and broken vehicles, which we’ve been able to cover without selling our bodies to science.

But I gotta admit something: making a big lifestyle change doesn’t happen without a lot of questioning and mistakes.

Our biggest mistake was not investing sooner. We’re still young and need to use our gift of time to make money work for us. At the time, we were so focused on eliminating debt that we didn’t want to invest. We’re now contributing to IRAs and 401ks, but I know our money could have grown more if we’d started earlier.

I’ve also questioned whether buying a home was the right move.

It was something Mr. Picky Pincher and I wanted for so long. We worked hard for the keys to this house. But after living in our home for over a year, I’ve come to see how expensive it is to own a home. The cost of home ownership isn’t just in your monthly mortgage. Countless other to-dos like lawn work, water leaks, and appliance repairs eat into your budget. I do like living in a home of our own, but yeah, it hasn’t been a money-saving endeavor.

Plus, the bank has us by the cajones for a $150,000 mortgage, which we’d also like to pay off early.

Another big component of our FIRE journey is paying off our student loans. Right now we’re slamming $3,000 a month on our student loans to make them go poof. It’s definitely effective to pay more than ten times the minimums on our loans, but it hasn’t come without compromise.

I used to love traveling when I was a teenager. It felt like half my life was spent on airplanes bound for Europe or Asia. But now that I’m an adult, those trips come with hefty price tags, and no one else is footing the bill. Because of our rapid debt payoff, I haven’t been able to travel much during my 20s. I’m still grateful for the debt freedom journey I’m on, but I can’t help but question whether I’ll regret these compromises when I’m on my deathbed.

The bottom line

It’s easy to read these personal finance blogs and think that other people are so in control of their lives and finances. It seems so absolute. But what’s hard to see are the (sometimes hilarious) mistakes and doubts that plague even the most financially-apt person. It’s okay to have fear, to doubt yourself, and to make mistakes.

Stay true to your path, but don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing if that’s your new reality.

We want to know:

Have you ever doubted your financial decisions?

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  1. I am SO GLAD that the PF community at large is starting to get real about life, and how personal finance is personal. Therefore we are all human and we make mistakes. Everyone’s story is different. I love hearing yours, keep up the good work!

    1. Totally agree! It seems like there are always trolls but by and large the majority of the personal finance community tends to be positive, uplifting, and encouraging. I love Mrs PP’s story because she shares some of the real thoughts about maybe regretting going so aggressive against debt later on in life. Those are real things that we’ve all got to grapple – weighing the “living today” vs “saving for tomorrow”.

  2. Working on debt is a great process to start. Those who have debt because they like to spend have less money to spend because so much of it goes to paying off the debt. No debt means better cash flow and more freedom.

  3. Wow, wonderful story, thanks for sharing Dave. Mrs. Picky Pinchers, you’ve come a long way, your grocery recaps and delicious food pics makes me so surprised you were spending $1000 a month on groceries! Now it looks like less than $400 a month- amazing!

  4. Amazing story Mrs. Picky Pinchers. I agree change don’t happen overnight, if we want to change our saving habits, we need to start slowly otherwise we will be disappointed and discourage. Getting out of debt is also like a saving. These days i am trying to use more cash than credit cards which is also one of the best saving hacks.

    1. I personally prefer credit just because it’s easier to track and I get rewards. I think it kind of varies based on person – some folks cash works great, others not so much. I find the cash tends to burn a hole in my pocket and I actually spend more freely if I have cash vs. a card.

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