I don’t want to begin a story of deprivation. In fact, most of what I do in life is anti-deprivation. Sure, I compromise here and there, but ultimately I try to do everything I can to give us all what we truly need and want.

So if you’re here to get inspired by a family that scrimps and saves, this may not be the story for you. I’m not here to talk about how we paid off large sums of debt on a small income because, you know, that’s just not relatable. I personally don’t believe that the only way to have a good debt story is to put yourself through misery for a few years.

What I am here to say is, we’ve taken small steps overtime to get ourselves to a place where we’re ready to pay off our debt. We’ve been active minimalists for the past year and I’ve finally got a handle on my shopping addiction, which helps a lot. But we’ve also gotten ourselves to a financial position where we actually have extra money to put into debt.

I’ve learned that the road to financial freedom doesn’t always start with money.

Really, it starts with you. It start with getting your head on straight and getting yourself to a place where you feel confident taking control of your finances. If you’re not used to keeping your house in order, making intentional purchases, or making your own food, finding extra income to pay down your debt will be much harder than it needs to be.

Our financial history and why it’s taken us until now to start tackling debt had a lot to do with how much we were bringing in each month, but it also had a lot to do with our habits. How we viewed money and how we handled it went hand in hand and now, we’ve finally got a hold on both.

So, to get to the point: We are ready to start paying off our debt. Here’s how much we have and how we plan to pay it off.


The bulk of our debt is from student loans. Years of college attempts have left us in a bit of a hole. That, along with a small mountain of credit card debt (partly from all the moving we’ve done and partly because we had a few moments of weakness and irresponsibility) and we’ve got a total of $64,189.85 that we owe. It’s a lot of weight to carry and we’ve had it on our shoulders for years. I’m not saying we don’t deserve it or that we don’t have control over the fact that we are here. I am simply saying that we needed to get to where we are today before we could really get a chance to start making that number shrink.

As much as I’m really nervous to dig into the details of our finances, I know that transparency is going to be the most helpful thing for anyone who is hoping to start their journey to a debt free life.

So, here’s a breakdown of our debt:

  • Credit: $7,537.82 (monthly min - $150 | interest - 17.90%)

  • Student Loan 1: $12,767.00 (monthly min - $265 | interest - 14.4%)

  • Student Loan 2: $15,234.58 (monthly min - $98.80 | interest - 7.9%)

  • Student Loan 3: $11,635.76 (monthly min - $138.43 | interest - 6.8%)

  • Student Loan 4: $16,552.51 (monthly min - $145.21 | interest - 6.41%)

Overall Total: $63,727.67 | Monthly Total: $797.44

It’s pretty hefty all on paper and honestly, this is the first time I’ve really sat down and gotten a good idea of what our debt looks like as a whole which has made me feel terrified, but in control.

The next thing is our income and expenses. It’s a very important aspect in a debt-free journey because, well, we all need a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and other modern-day necessities that all cost money.


While there are a few variables that will change, for the most part, this is what the money coming in and going out looks like on a monthly bases.

These numbers are starting this month. Our finances have looked much different than this all throughout previous years together which is why it has taken so long to start tackling debt. In 2014 - 2018, our debt to income was about half (as in our income was half our total debt amount) and our monthly expenses to income ratio was about 1 to 1.

That being said, here is our projected monthly income + expenses for 2019 (rounded to the dollar):

Income: $4,000


  • Rent: $999

  • Bills (internet/electric/cellphone/TV): $256

  • Debt Minimums: $692

  • Car (insurance/gas): $120

  • Food: $500

  • Family Activities: $70

Total Spent: $2637

Total Left Over: $1353 - give or take

This is what we’ve been waiting for. That left over amount is usually $0. Maybe $100 tops every once in a while, but nothing nearly big enough or consistent enough to really tackle our debt.


Our plan is simple: pay off debt while still maintaining a certain standard of living.

I believe that paying your debts does require sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean deprivation.

We’re not saving for a house or other large purchases. We’re not indulging in fancy vacations. We’re not upgrading our furniture or indulging in fancy wardrobes. We’re not spending money we don’t truly need to spend.

In all honestly, despite our recent pay raise, we are going to live within our previous means and attempt to use all extra income just for debt.

We are, however, maintaining quality meals. We’re indulging in outings as a family throughout the month. When we do need things, we’re going to get the version we truly like in order to prevent future spending and waste.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few ways we plan to pay down this debt.


We’ve decided the best order to tackle our debt is highest interest rate to lowest. We’ve looked into consolidating all of our debt to just pay off one big loan, but the way our loans are structured doesn’t allow for that. So for us, this is the next best plan for paying off our debt.

In our big picture of this whole adventure, assuming our income and expenses stay relatively the same, we have a best case and worst case scenario:

BEST CASE: 3 Years

Year One (2019):

  • Create an emergency savings (about $3,000), invest ($1000).

  • Pay off credit debt.

  • Begin paying off Student Loan 1.

Year Two (2020):

  • Finish paying Student Loan 1.

  • Pay off Student Loan 2.

Year Three (2021):

  • Pay off Student Loan 3.

  • Pay off Student Loan 4.

Worste Case: 5 years

Year One (2019):

  • Create an emergency savings (about $3,000), invest ($1000).

  • Pay off credit card.

Year Two (2020):

  • Pay off Student Loan 1.

Year Three (2021):

  • Pay off Student Loan 2.

Year Four (2022):

  • Pay off Student Loan 3.

  • Pay down Student Loan 4.

Year Five (2023):

  • Pay off Student Loan 4.

HOW We’re Doing It

So there’s the general idea of how much we think we can do. Personally, I’m routing for best case scenario, but spelled out like this; five years to living debt free really isn’t bad either.

But, in order to make any of this happen, we’re going to need a few tricks up our sleeves to see it through.

Weekly debt Journal

The first thing I needed to do was get to know our finances really well.

I’ve started my debt journal with all of the breakdowns I’ve shown you above and from here until the debt is gone, I’m going to track our expenses weekly and do a monthly overview that I’ll share here.

This report will include our income, expenses, and how much we were able to put into debt.

Every Monday, I’m going to sit down at my computer and track everything. I’m going to put it in a format where I can see exactly what happened with our money that week/month.

The biggest goals with this are to keep our spending in check so I can know if we’re spending too much in one place and not enough in another along with understanding how much we really have left over each week. I don’t want to fall into a situation where I think we have extra money to put into debt, we pay off some debt, and then we don’t have enough to pay for a bill or something.

This journal is the best way I can think to stay on top of everything to make the most of our debt free journey.

Separating our accounts

I have organized our accounts by Main Checking, Secondary Checking, and Savings.

  • Main Checking is linked to a card and will be where we have all of our spending money; coffee dates, gas, groceries, etc.

  • Secondary Checking will be where I set aside money for regular monthly expenses; rent, insurance, bills, etc.

  • Savings will be our personal emergency fund that we only use, well, for emergencies.

This is how I’ll be able to spread out our expenses throughout the month to make sure we have the money we need to pay for the things we need. It’ll also give me a good idea of what is really left over money vs. money that we need that just hasn’t been spent yet.

Paycheck to paycheck

No, I don’t quite mean living paycheck to paycheck. I more mean spending paycheck to paycheck.

Because children and living and having family that lives far away, our monthly expenses will fluctuate. They are mostly predictable, but I want to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck when it comes to putting money into debt. Because of this, I’m going to pay off our debt per paycheck. This means each new paycheck we get, I’m going to take the remainder of the last paycheck (after splitting the necessary funds between all the accounts) and put that into debt.

In my mind, this seems to be the best way to make sure we’re putting as much as we can into our debt each month.

WHy Share?

So now that I’ve gotten real open with you guys, I want to explain why this is something I want to share.

My goal for this project is two-fold.

  1. It will hold me accountable and give me the drive to stay aware of our finances and find creative ways to pay off as much as we can as quickly as we can.

  2. I want for others who are where we’ve been or where we are to have a realistic perspective on what living with debt is like and to be an example that, as long as you can keep yourself stable, there’s no reason to sacrifice years of your life just to pay off debt. It’s all about keeping up and doing what you can when you can.

Like I said before, this is not a story of deprivation. I know all the tricks I could use (maybe even could’ve used) to get out of debt quickly. I understand that you don’t always need to wait until you have more in order to find extra income. We like to eat good food, we enjoy the occasional coffee shop visit, and we like being able to live comfortably. Not large, not extravagantly; comfortably. We’ve shaped our priorities and desires to where we don’t need to buy the newest stuff or the nicest stuff all the time, but we are not willing to sacrifice our quality of life just to pay down debt.

The important thing is, I think there are many different ways to handle your finances. I’ve seen, and even follow, some people who take caution to the wind, live in their parents basements (or live off of a low mortgage), eat beans and rice every meal for years, and don’t buy anything at all until their debt is gone. It’s an inspiration to get perspective on what we really need, but it’s not realistic for all of us.

Some of us don’t have a basement to crash in for years. Some of us like eating good food. Some of us don’t want to put our lives on hold until our debt is gone.

And that is exactly why I want to share this story. I want to diminish the guilt of living happily with debt.

So if you’re like me and you hope to pay off debt without sacrificing quality of life, follow along our journey. It’s going to be one full of realistic expectations, honest numbers, and unwavering priorities.