I firmly believe that while people do get lucky in life, many times it’s because they put themselves in a position to take the “lucky” opportunity. One of the biggest ways to set yourself up for opportunities is to take charge of your finances.
For the last two years, my husband and I have traveled the country in our RV. While we have run into other people in the 20s and 30s that are fulltime RVers, we definitely meet more retirees. In Fargo, one older man said to my husband, “you’re either a 15-year-old drug lord, 25-year-old pimp, or you’re way older than you look to be a full-time RVer.” There are definitely preconceived notions of our lifestyle.
A lot of people have said, “oh, it must be nice to just take time off work and travel. I wish I had enough money to do that.” It has been nice and we are really thankful to be in this position. But there are two things most people don’t know:
- We both run our own businesses and are definitely in “start-up mode.” i.e.- we work a lot!
- We spent three years working our butts off to put ourselves in this position.
Why did we want to become debt free?
When we first got married, our minimum debt payments were around $2,500/month. No joke. And Nate was running a small business and I was working as a marketing manager but definitely not at a manager’s salary. We didn’t have money to go out and we certainly didn’t experience any financial freedom. We took a finance class together (Dave Ramsey) three months after we got married and it was one of the smartest things we’ve ever done for our marriage. We made a plan and had the same language to talk about finances.
We wanted to be in a position where we could take an opportunity if it came up. Maybe live in Thailand for a year, or have the freedom to start a business of our own. In about 36 months we paid off more than $130,000 of debt, which was everything except for our mortgage.
I’m thankful that we sacrificed then, so we can live the life we want to live now. I want to share with you some practical tips on getting debt-free, so you can experience the same type of freedom.
Here’s how we did it:
1. We committed for the long haul– It’s one thing to not buy new clothes for three months to save money, and it’s another to commit until the debt is done. While we didn’t completely deprive ourselves, we were very frugal during that time.
2. We took a finance class. We went through the Dave Ramsey program. First, we saved $1,000 for an emergency fund, then paid off debt and now we’re saving for a 20% down payment on a house. Going through a finance program together got us to have a common language about money. We were on the same page and I can honestly say that we’ve never had a big fight about money because of it.
3. We prioritized what was important. Health and fitness are both really big for us so we decided weren’t going to give up Crossfit and eating healthy. When you’re in debt-free mode for the long haul, you need to give yourself one or two small luxuries so you don’t burn yourself out. That was enough to get us through the times when we didn’t buy new clothes.
4. We got rid of car payments. Nate sold is Miata and we bought a $1,400 Camry with cash.
5. We tracked every penny. And I mean every penny. I knew where were spending everything. You would be surprised at how much you spend on little things until you track it all.
6. I shopped the sales and coupons. I rarely ever bought something that wasn’t on sale, and that included food.
7. I worked multiple jobs. Yes, it’s a pain for a while, but it helps out because you’re getting extra money and using the time to work instead of going out and spending money.
8. We still gave at least 10% of our income to charity. This is important because I believe a person is never completely fulfilled unless they’re giving back.
Paying off debt allowed us to take a chance running our own businesses and travel the U.S. It’s literally changed our lives and given us the freedom to take opportunities as they come. Are you looking for financial freedom? What opportunities would come if you didn’t have any debt? Comment below and please reach out if I can help!