We Did It: Debt Free

After nearly eight years of stops and starts, forward progress and steps backwards, we did it. Over $100,000 in consumer debt has been paid off to get us debt free (minus house), including student loans, two new cars, 3 international trips, a wedding, furniture, and other various expenses that come with having two kids.

We did it by creating a debt payoff plan, tracking our progress, and most importantly, working together.

We stopped treating each person’s debt as a separate problem. “My” debt became “our” debt. We combined finances and efforts. We paid off debts from smallest amount to largest to build momentum.

debt free

Enjoying our debt free vacation. Trsat, Croatia

We even did it despite my wife losing her job and taking a lower-paying one.

Even though some told us that debt was normal, that it was okay to keep some around in order to free up cash-on-hand, we saw the writing on the wall in 2008 and no longer did we want to be slaves to large banks, entities that seem to become more threadbare as each year passes. We wanted to be debt free.

We had grown tired of renting our life, and although we made a decent salary, we had nothing to show for it (besides the Stuff we bought). We had no money saved up for retirement and no plan. The only option seemed to be that we must always continue to earn the same amount of money each year, and more, lest we fall behind.

We weren’t looking to get ahead, we were trying to stay afloat.

You Have to Get Serious (and Mad)

To become debt free, you have to get mad. Mad at yourself and mad at the system that makes it too easy for people to get in over their heads.

Once I saw that the rich would get a bailout, the poor would get a handout, and the middle class would be left out, it was the last straw. No longer would I buy things I could not afford, and no longer would I be beholden to a bill statement that comes in the mail each month.

The key is to be just mad enough that you stay motivated, and not so much that you give up out of anger and the crushing feeling of inevitability that comes with a lot of debt.

I now have a strong feeling of independence. If I want to take a lower-stress, lower-pay job that is more rewarding, I can do so because I’m no longer dependent on my paycheck being a certain amount.

You Can Be Debt Free, Too

I started this site for a few reasons. One, to track our progress and give me an outlet to express all the lessons I learned from trial and error, and countless hours reading books and the sites of other personal finance bloggers.

The second reason was to show married couples (with or without kids) that they too can harness the power of lifestyle design, and start to live more intentionally. Building a family doesn’t have to mean that you sacrifice your financial future to provide the best life for your kids. You can do it all debt free.

If everyone sacrifices everything for the next generation and their kids end up having to care for them, did we really get ahead? It’s okay to break the cycle and put your own retirement first, while still preparing your children for a solid future.

This is a place to ask questions, and question the answers. Nothing is sacred. The more conventional the wisdom, the bigger the target on its back.

What’s Next?

Some have asked me what’s next for this site, now that we are debt free (minus house).

Don’t worry, you will continue to get posts about money topics, and you may see some new topics in finance as our lives shift from debt warfare to building up savings towards retirement.

I don’t really plan to aggressively attack our mortgage debt, since we have equity and a home is something that can be paid off more gradually.


Readers: Where are you with debt? What is your plan?

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  1. Congratulations John! That is awesome!

    I always wondered about the title of your site and what you would do about it after you became debt free. I just checked… marriedwithoutdebt.com is already taken, but you could get the .net.. just saying.

    Epic quote in there with the bailout, handout and left out. Perfect for The Twitter.

    • Congratulations dude! Just stumbled upon your site!! So exciting to be debt free!!! I love how you talk about “getting mad”. Amen to that. If you aren’t mad, you won’t make things happen. My husband and I got mad about how much money in interest we would be losing if we didn’t try to pay the house off early. We started last year becoming totally debt free including our house, and we have one more year left!!! Can’t wait My plan is to stay mad and work like crazy until we are done.

  2. John- that is FANTASTIC!

    Anger and frustration are great motivators as long as you use them as fuel for positive change - and you did!

    Congratulations on reaching your goal! How fast do you think you’ll have the house paid off now that there is no other debt in the way?

  3. Congratulations John that’s amazing Monday Morning News!!!! When I hear of others taking the step forward and achieving their goals I know anything is possible. I hope your story inspires many others to step up to the plate and hit a home run just like the both of you!
    Cheers Mate,

  4. This is the best news! I’ve been following your blog now for 4-6 months and ever since then, I’ve been slowly but surely chunking down my debt. I’m not married, but the 10 rules still apply. Your budget spreadsheet is my best friend and I always get a big grin when I update it. I love knowing EXACTLY where everything is going so I can redirect more of it to debt pay-off and less from just surviving.

    Congratulations! I’m proud of you guys!

  5. Oh, congrats! I know you guys have been working really hard for it and I hope it helps you enjoy the rest of that vacation even more!

  6. Congrats on being debt free! What an accomplishment!

  7. Congratulations! Very, very nice stuff!

  8. Congrats! That’s awesome =)

  9. WTG guys!

    You’ll have to keep us updated on how it feels, and whether you have spending urges as time goes buy or not.

    Will you start attacking your mortgage as well or keep it?



  10. CONGRATS GUYS! What an achievement, you must feel fantastic, and so free! Now you’ve got that extra money you were devoting to retiring debt each month to invest, etc. The sky’s the limit now. Best of luck.

  11. Freakin’ Awesome! Congrats!

    I just started my journey to eliminate my debt and have a while to go, but stories like this inspire me. Must be an amazing feeling sending in that last payment to reach “$0.”

    Having a mortgage isn’t necessarily all that bad. It’s certainly a nice tax write-off.

  12. Congratulations you two! Wow, what an accomplishment. You’re story inspires so many of us, and you really walked the walk in this.

    I can’t imagine the feeling of being debt free after paying off $100,000 in consumer debt. Once our journey is finished, we’ll have paid off almost $50k, looking at you guys let’s me know it’s worth it :)

  13. That is great! Congrats. It is amazing to see these success stories when everyone is complaining about the economy, underemployment, and a laundry list of other things “outside of our control.” You took ownership of your situation and made it happen. That is awesome!

  14. Big congrats on achieving that debt-free freedom John! That must be such an awesome feeling. I really like that you are now considering switching to a lower paying career. As you read in my post today, I am seriously considering a career switch too. I don’t know if I could go after a lower paying career though. There’s still so many long term financial goals that I want to take care of. So for now I think I’ll have to continue to be a slave to the almighty dollar. At least I might also be able to find something that is more emotionally rewarding.

    On a side note, the new blog theme looks great!

  15. Woohoo! Congratulations John - you guys are rock stars! I love reading your story and everything you went through to get to this point. Paying off debt isn’t easy, and like you said, you’ve got to get mad. I experienced this too when I wanted to become debt free. I got sick and tired of the banks/bills dictating where my money should be spent. Finally I have my finances and life back in my control. And it feels great!

    I love your statement “the rich get a bailout, the poor get a handout, and the middle class get left out.” That is SO true!

  16. Congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment. I like how you also went on a trip, as a nice celebratory cap on your debt demolition. Did you find you enjoyed it even more knowing it was 100% paid?

  17. Congrats on paying off 100K! That’s a lot of debt.

    Our progress = $5000 car loan to go. Hopefully gone by next August (1 year)

  18. Congratulations!! Debt Freedom must feel amazing!!! I can not wait until it’s may turn to announce this.

    My progress is always the same, one step forward and two back. I have paid off one card this year so I’m feeling good about that.

  19. Congratulations John!!! That’s so awesome, and no small feat either!

    Are you planning on aggressively attacking your mortgage next, or are you going to work on building up savings next?

  20. Big Congrats to you! $100,000 is a lot of money and that takes dedication! As you read on my blog we have about 64,000 in student loans left that we are attacking in the next few years. I hope we have it done in 3 years but that might be tight. We will see how it goes! I hope to make a post like this one day soon!

  21. Congrats to you and your wife on being debt free!!! I’m totally woman enough to say that I am one jealous beast.

    Looking forward to the next chapter as well.

  22. Congrats! What a great feeling.

  23. Congrats! That must be a great feeling! The site looks great, too!

  24. John!
    Congrats on such a great job in a very short amount of time.
    You’re free as a bird now, and on top of the world. Knowing how you feel - been there done that my self not too long ago.
    Cheers to debt freedom!

  25. AMAZING work guys! No what?!

  26. That is so exciting to hear. We are close, possibly by the end of the year or mid year 2013 depending on a few things. I am working up the nerve to give details. Really admire you!

  27. Big congrats John! That’s a huge accomplishment!

    Love the site redesign…I am having a problem with your RSS though. It hasn’t been updating in my reader and I just tried to enter it again and it’s not working. You may want to look into that as you have time. :)

  28. Congratulations! You’ve made it. But now comes the hard part; Staying debt-free…forever (not counting the mortgage of course :)

  29. Congrats and well done!

  30. That is awesome! Congrats on being Debt Free except the house!!! We used to have $52,000 in consumer debt and it was a huge burden. Once we developed a plan and stuck to it, we paid off all that debt in 18 months. It was such a liberating feeling!

  31. Congrats guys, you’re an inspiration! Hope the blog will still remain.

  32. Awesome! That’s super inspirational. Being a couple is hard enough, but with kids and paying off debts - that’s fantastic.

  33. Great work - I wish everyone in America would follow your lead.
    We have been debt free for years and years (including mortgage).

  34. Today is the first time I stumbled on your blog and what an exciting day to find it… Congrats on this huge milestone!

  35. Hooray! Congratulations and way to go. You guys did it and I want to be there soon! I have paid off 30% of my debt since I start blogging in June 2011…I really want to be done with all my credit card debt by July/August 2013!

  36. That is so awesome! Congratulations!!! You must feel so free:)

  37. That is fantastic news, John! I would love to hear more about your strategy for paying off each debt (which ones you started with, etc.) and what kind of tactics you used to stay on track. Will you write more about this in future posts? We’d love to have you do a guest post about your experience at the ReadyForZero blog if you’re interested. Congrats again!

  38. SO happy for you guys!! I can’t wait to join you. Maybe we can meet up with you on one of your awesome vacations you’re sure to have more of! Congratulations! Definitely keep posting, because your blog is one of my favorites!

  39. Congrats on achieving debt freedom! Did you and your wife play the Braveheart theme and screen out “Freeeeeeedddooooooom!!” ala Dave Ramsey?

    We’re still chugging along. One student loan ($10,000) and one car loan ($9,000), then the mortgage. Taking little steps, but we’re making progress.

  40. Huge congrats to you both! You’re an incredible example of two people working together as partners in life. Here’s to the next 8 years!

  41. Congrats! Now you can use the money to actually LIVE your life instead of giving it to interest payments. Must be a great feeling!

  42. Congrats! This is amazing to me. I’m currently in debt about $26,000, down from $37,000 eight months ago. My plan is to have it paid off 24 months from now, hopefully sooner.

  43. That’s completely awesome and a great accomplishment! :)

  44. It takes a lot of dedication and strength of character to fight your way out of a situation like that rather than simply throw your hands up and give in. That kind of accountability is rare these days, and you guys should be very proud of yourselves. Congrats!

  45. Congratulations! That’s so great for you guys — I can’t wait to see what’s next. Nice site design, too, btw.

  46. Congrats on getting back your freedom. I have some school loans I am still working on, but yes I get mad everyday thinking about the debt and how much dollars goes to interest.

  47. That is awesome! Great job!

  48. So I’m away for one day and you post this?! Congrats. Way to go. It’s a great day.

  49. Congratulations!!! that is wonderful and just what I needed to read today. Well done!!

  50. Congrats!! My husband and I are still working on a lot of debt, but making some progress. We recently paid off both of our credit cards in full and are now focusing on his car loan.

    After that, it’s on to his massive student loans. These are the ones that definitely upset me most (even though they led to a great job), because they’re so daunting. At the most, we have about 8 years left of repayment, so there is an end in sight… but I hate throwing away $500+ per month.

  51. Way to go! Just yesterday we wired the final mortgage payment for our house to the bank and are now completely debt free! I saw this post on G+ via Peter @ BibleMoneyMatters and had to come visit a fellow debt killer.

    We’ve been tackling our mortgage for 7 years, and were able to make one really big dent in it when we sold my wife’s house that we had been renting before we got married. Then we just kept putting every bit of earnings we made against it. While our emergency fund is currently a little smaller than I’d like - today feels great!

    I would encourage you to consider paying off the mortgage. Even though the numbers don’t always say you should, in terms of risk free ROI, mortgage pre-payment still trumps other things like T-Bonds and Munies. And, if things go south at work or something like that, you’ve got one less thing to worry about. You can still live in your house!

    • Thanks Fred! That is a good thing to consider about house payoff- it does give you a better return than many bond investments, and probably most stock investments at this point. Thanks for reading.

  52. Congrats! My wife and I still have a long way to go. Most of our small loans are paid off, just the massive student loans are left. I may opt to pay off the mortgage first.

    So are you now Married with net worth?

  53. I may be late to the party but I wanted to personally congratulate you on your achievements! I still have a student loan to pay so I’m not entirely debt free. I’ll be reading your older posts to see how you did it and hope you stick around for a while :)


  54. This is amazing determination! I wouldn’t say paying off $30k in 9 months was easy for my husband & I, but at least we had a fast approaching light at the end of the tunnel. I am encouraged by your perseverance and intensity you tackled your debt with. Congrats!

  55. Congratulations! I’m really looking forward to your posts about retirement and building your savings.

    Again, congrats.

  56. Congratulations. I am so happy for you. Gosh what a feeling. I remember when I paid off my debt. It was truly liberating.

    Enjoy this moment and best of luck going forward.

  57. A huge major congratulations! What an impressive story. You must feel totally amazing having all of that debt paid off. I’m also glad to see the 8 year progress. I am one month away from having all of our credit cards paid off but our student loans, with my husband’s med school loans still accruing, are going to be tough!
    Cat @ Budget Blonde

  58. Awesome job!!!!
    Think of how much farther along you are without having that noose around your neck!

  59. Very impressive!

    The only debt that my wife and I are holding is in our rental houses, but since those are actually bringing in money, we consider it a “good” form of debt.

    I look forward to seeing what your next steps are toward building your savings and retirement.

  60. Whoop! Whoop!

    So excited for you guys. What a feeling! My husband and I joined the rank of non-mortgage debt freedom on September 1, 2010. What a difference it has made. And being out of debt is probably the best way to help your cash flow as well (not being in debt:)). When we realized we were spending $950 per month, $75 of which was interest alone, servicing our past lives, we set to work and paid off $25,000 in one year. During that same year we also put a down payment on a home, paid for our wedding in cash, and a new-used car once mine had broken down.

    It is possible!!

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