Living Rich Debt Free!

debt free concept - text in vintage letterpress wood type on a digital tablet with coffee and pastry

If you’ve been lurking around LRWC for a while, you have heard me talk about the need for setting up budgets and my families journey to live a completely debt free life.  We are not there yet but we are working very hard at it.  It’s a process for us while putting 3 kids through college at the same time.  But, we are headed in the right direction.

I can’t stress how important it is to rid yourself of debt, set up a budget for yourself and throw away those credit cards.  After 24 years of using credit cards and not being disciplined with them, we threw them all away and have not used a single credit card in 2 years.  It’s been cash or nothing.  And, I can not tell you how good that feels.  Was it hard in the beginning?  Yes, yes yes!  But, it’s the best thing we ever did and I have been drilling into the heads of my 3 young adult children. I think they really hear me because I see lots of promise in the handling of their money, albeit a small amount at this time.

Well, it seems that some of you have heard me as well.  I wanted to share with you an email I received from reader Justyna.  I was thrilled beyond when I read it and I hope that her success will inspire you as well.  It certainly did for me.  Here is her email:

I am addicted to your website.  I check it at least 4 times a day.  I want to thank you for all the great work. I came to the US 16 years ago as a teenager.  Thanks to my wonderful mother I have finished college and married a wonderful man. I am living “the American dream”!!!. I have 2 kids ages 5 and 1 and boy do they always need something.  Thanks to your posts I am always able to find great deals for them, my husband and myself. You have motivated me to pay off all of our credit cards and today at the age of 32 I am mortgage free, purchased both of our cars for cash and have “0” balance on my credit cards.  It took some time, but it is possible and at the end makes you feel very proud of yourself.  From time to time I will get a negative comment about my “cheap” life style and waste of time clipping coupons–but you know what—-I DON’T CARE!!!! 🙂  I am happy that I do not have to worry about paying bills, buying formula or diapers for my kids, take them to the movies, enjoy family vacations  –and from time to time treat myself to something nice and expensive.  We also started saving accounts for both of my kids and started putting $ into them for their college  education.

So once again—THANK YOU!!!!  By reading my story you will see that what you do truly matters and makes changes in peoples lives.  I am your success story 🙂

Cue in the tears.  Because that is just what I did when I read her words.  Wow!  What an awesome story.  Congratulations to Justyna and her husband for that unbelievable accomplishment. Life is so much simpler when there are no worries of which bill to pay, when and how.  If you are not there yet or have not yet started, this should be your motivation.  The beginning is not easy, but the end result is worth it all.

Have you paid off debts?  Are you on your way to living debt free?  Share your stories!

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  • Rachel

    thanks for sharing! I am a stay at home mom of an amazing 2 yr old and pregnant with our 2nd due in March. My husband is a youth pastor (and we LOVE LOVE LOVE working with our groups – jr high to college age). But, needless to say, living in NJ on one income (and a ministry income at that) is not easy. We have been SOO blessed in so many ways and are working hard to get out of debt. We are working to have a $0 balance on all credit cards by the time the baby is born and it looks like we can make it!! yay!! next on the check list is my student loan…yuck!

    • paula

      What an inspirational story!! We too have begun our goal to be debt free as well. Your website is really amazing and I have gotten many holiday gifts already! It isn’t easy to live without those credit cards, but it is critical to do so in order to really be free. My husband started a business 5 years ago so we have much debt to get rid of now that it is doing well. Your website is setting me in the right direction and it gives me motivation to keep it rolling.

      Thank you for all you do!!


  • Stefani

    While I agree credit card debt is the worst type of debt you can have, we have always use our credit card to our advantage. It is more convenient than carrying cash especially for larger purchases and use it to earn cash back on purchases you make anyway. Many companies allow you pay their bill using credit cards, so those cash back can really accumulate fast, especially buying insurance.

    Treat it like it’s using cash because you have to pay it in the end anyway. Therefore, don’t use it unless you have the cash for the entire amount. For those of us who are budget conscious, that shouldn’t be too hard. We are just the opposite and hardly use cash unless absolutely necessary and earn a least $300-400 a year in credit card cash back.

  • Julie

    I try very hard to budget and I read all the blogs and use coupons all the time. The only debt we have is my school loan and our mortgage. We even have an emergency fund. I work part time and have two kids. I have always wanted to ask this questions so here it goes. What happens when your husband does not have the same budgeting desire as you? I do a budget and he blows it every time. He spends money like it is water. I had to go as far one time as taking all of his credit cards away and just give him one (I would leave him with none but sometimes he needs it for work items) He wastes so much money and no matter what I can’t seem to get him on the same track as me. I would LOVE to stay at home with my kids and know we could afford it if he would be on board but he is not. The main problem is that he was raised in a wealthy family and although over our 11 year relationship he has learned that we are not wealthy and have to live within our means he still has that little bit of overspending I can’t get out of him.

    Any suggestions?

    • Valerie

      Julie – I had the same problem with my husband. After many unsucessful attempts at taking away cards and giving him a cash allowance the ultimate saving grace was to find out what he really wanted to save for. He really wants a new car, so we agreed everytime he would want to make a purchase that we would normally fight about to put the money in savings instead. I think it will take about a year or two, but hopefully when we get to that point he’ll be so used to ‘budgeting’ and not being in debt that he’ll forget what it was like before that.

  • Patty

    I know it is hard for some folks to control their spending with credit cards, but my husband and I, like Stefani, pay our balances in full every month and always have. We have a ‘GM’ World card that has provided us with $3500 towards a new GM car (twice!) in the last 15 years. You can accumulate a max of $500 a year for 7 years. We bought a car 7 years ago and plan to trade it in plus use the 2nd $3500 we’ve saved towards it. We have another card that gives 3% Driver’s Edge ‘rewards’ on groceries, gas and meds and we use it exclusively for those items. If you have the discipline to only charge what you can fully pay off each month, it works! for us anyway!!

  • lisa

    Just wanted to say that we also use our credit card for virtually everything we buy so that we can get the cash back on it and, as mentioned by the others, it works great as long as you have the discipline to pay it off every month like we do. I also wanted to mention that it’s a bit tricky when you’re the only one in the family who is a deal hunter; my husband doesn’t buy a lot of things or spend a ton of money, but he just does not have the patience to look for any good deal when he needs something so he just buys it at regular price, which is pretty painful for a major coupon clipping deal hunter like me. Oh, but I think he spent some worthwhile money on one of my birthday presents (tomorrow) when he got me Quicken (he wanted to make sure that I really wanted it, so he gave away the secret – and I couldn’t be happier). Call me a total geek, but I’m looking forward to start budgeting with Quicken instead of the regular Excel spreadsheets I’ve been using for years. It’s going to be much easier!

  • James

    Discipline is the key word here. After my wife and I married, we used all our money to buy a house and pay off almost all credit card and automobile debt. In the three years we have been married, and with the economy tanking, we built up debt once more. Now to add the mortgage and all house expenses, we were at the end of our rope. Once the credit cards starting hiking rates and slashing available balances, i knew we were going to be in trouble. I contacted every credit card and set-up a low or no interest payment plan to get rid of the balances, cut up the cards and set up a very tight budget. this site has been a blessing. We used to be happy saving $15 on a $100 trip to the supermarket. But how much better is it when you save $75 on that same $100 trip!. It has definitely helped keep our heads above water.

    Our goal is to be rid of all credit card debt by the end of 2011 so that we can start a debt-free family. I hear those kids can be quite costly!

  • Anya

    I am relatively new to being a housewife, we’ve been married 3 years now. This past year has been particularly difficult because I lost my job, and since we have so much debt that is now considered the norm (mortgage, student loans, car), it has made things tricky. While I haven’t found a job yet, the information and deals on this site have made our living situation a lot more comfortable. Because of this I can literally make ends meet, thanks Cindy and company!

  • Alaya

    Cindy, Our family embarked on our debt-free journey 11 months ago and were really challenged in finding a way to reduce our monthly expenses. We were already brown-bagging it and we thought we already trimmed as many areas as we could. I never throught that trimming our grocery budget significantly enough to make a difference was possible until I found your site. Well now I know differently, and using your site has put us over the edge. We are so intense about paying our debt and your site is such an invaluable resource for me. We made our half way point last week. 37K of our total 74K is gone in just 11 months. Thank you for your part in that. I think spreading the debt-free message is so key, because everything in our culture points against it. I’m glad your story such an inspiration to all your readers!

    • Katie

      That is amazing!!! Great job!

  • Lisa

    I have a very good question for all the folks that are good with money and budgeting, how can you make a budget when you are one or two months behind on ALL your bills? How can you catch up?

    • Cindy

      Lisa, that is the hardest part. It really is. It was brutal in the beginning. When we started we cut everything. I don’t think we spent a penny (except for our bills) for about 3 months. Nothing except for gas and we even cut back on that. We only drove to work and back. We cut everything out of our budget to get ourselves on track. It hurt and it was hard. It really was but I would do it again in a heart beat. After about 3 months we could begin to breath and then it really turned into this wonderful place where you have such peace of mind.

      You have to put everything down on paper and start working it that way so you can really see where you are and where you need to be and what you need to do to get there. It paints a complete picture and makes you see things a lot clearer. It is hard, but it will be worth it.

  • Justyna

    Very important thing to rememer after you get out of debt is not to get too comfortable with the whole debt free situation. You still need to save, lok for low prices, clip coupons and make decisoins ” due I want it” or “due I need it “. It is a change that will have to continue for the most of your life not just one or two years, otherwise many people end up broke again.
    I hope that everything that we learn from Cindy will stick with us for the rest our lives–no matter how poor or rich. And since it is so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas I
    would like to suggest to take adventage of all of those great deals and use them as a donations to your local food banks and other local charities. Paying $.50 for a can of soup will not get us broke, but it will feed those who are hungry and in need.

    • Anna

      It is cool to know that there is someone else from my country clipping the coupons.

  • egregg

    My husband I and have only had to amountsof debt since we got married almost 3 years ago, our car loan and morgage. Last month we decided to take money from our savings andpay off the car!! We immediately set it up so the money that was going towards the car is now going straight into our savings. It will take us about 6 months of doing that to put the money we took out to pay the car off back into savings. Once that is done the extra money will be going into our morgage payments. We are also currently looking into refinancing.

    It amazes me that we are able to do all of this on on income (a low one at that) while supporting ourselves and our 2 children. This site along with one or two others has really help me make it possible!