The 5 Strategies We Use to Pay off 80k in 2.5 years
Want to know how to get out of debt fast?
Here are the 5 ways we paid off debt fast! These are the TOP things we did to pay off $80,000 in 2.5 years! These tips really do work! I hope this post helps you feel super encouraged on start or even finish strong your debt-free journey!
My husband and I had just finished three years of an expensive private physical therapy school out in Los Angeles. When we received our first paycheck out of school we had a one year old. We realized in that moment wow, this is going to take a very, very long time to pay back.
In fact the length of our loan was at least the entirety of our son’s next 17 years at home. We couldn’t imagine that! The $80,000 for just a doctorate degree did not seem to make the income we were bringing in.
Something BIG had to change, because we were not satisfied to take the payment plan given to us. Otherwise, we be shackled with a $500+ payment each month. Most of which, would go straight to interest because of the length of the loan.
For a while we slipped into despair. Matt even thought of going back to school to become a M.D. Doctor. We were just brainstorming ways to increase his income, even if we would then accrue $100,000+ more in debt. I am soooo glad we didn’t go with that plan!
But after a year of slipping into a dark place of, “What have we done!?!” I started asking women in my little weekly prayer group to pray for us. Matt filled with regret for choosing a career that didn’t match a 3 year private school education. And I felt helpless as a new stay at home mom with a baby.
But then, a Physical Therapist in my prayer group asked if we had considered Home Health Physical Therapy? She said it paid more and was pretty demanding.
He had never really thought of that option, but the more we explored, the more God kept opening doors. We were pleading with God for a way out of this mess. Our current income and payment would make it difficult to save, give or even live the way we wanted. I believe that God truly answered that prayer, but the debt did not go away overnight.
From the moment Matt took that job it was 2.5 years until we we made our last student loan payment. The journey was super super hard. But now look back and realize that it was God’s kindness to not make the debt just disappear.
During the 2.5 year journey, God built in our hearts and marriage the grit and character we needed for the next leg of the journey.
Here are Our TOP 5 Strategies for Paying off Debt FAST!
1. We asked God for HELP and then we DECIDED there was no turning back.
We shut the back door as my friend Alleigh likes to say. So many times I think my mind likes to make excuses. Crafting reasons why a current circumstance or a certain purchase is the exception to the goals I have.
Oftentimes saying no to ourselves is HARD. I mean who likes discomfort and pain and is sane? But, I knew if we were going to do this thing. We had to STOP with the excuses.
There will always be “wants” or “needs” or “reasons” or “limitations.” At the end of the day we had to shut the back door in our minds and stop with the thinking that “We can pay off debt, if this or that happens, but not today when it is hard”
Like Moses coming to the Red Sea, there was no going back, only through.
That left us in a faith walk of sorts, because we were thinking,
“Ok God, what now? How can we do this? We don’t see a way, but we sense you are calling us to put this debt to death for sake of all the other plans you have for us. You tell us to flee from binding agreements of debt, by paying them back. That if we gave our word to pay back this money we borrowed, we should do it as fast as we can, because that was not our money we used to go to school.”
We need more than our strength and we need resolve on the hard days to not give up.
This verse was a constant nudge for me that God does think it is important to pay back the money we have loaned as fast as we can.
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor; go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
Proverbs 6:1-5 ESV
Now that it has been two years since we did our Debt Free Scream on the Dave Ramsey Show I see how pivotal it was that we paid off debt when we did. God was lining up a move, career change and a path we truly desired to go down, but just could not have afforded to take without our debt being done.
2. We worked BACKWARDS and OVERTIME
We sat down and worked backwards. One thing we have made a tradition as much as possible is to get away for two nights in January each year. We affectionately call this our Sullivan Summit and we have done it for 3 years now and are leaving for our next one in a week.
Our first Sullivan Summit was at an Airbnb cabin tucked in the Smoky Mountains by the river. We literally holed ourselves up in this little cabin on two bitter cold January days with our little 8 month old girl and prayed, dreamed and calculated how we could pay off our debt by the end of the year.
At this point, we had already been paying off debt for a year and ½. We were making good progress, but we wanted to see the debt die in 2019. Our audacious goal was to have our debt paid off by November of that year.
Matt and I started by making an excel sheet that showed how much extra we had to put towards the debt each paycheck, beyond our regular payment. A concrete path forward made the goal even more possible. It would be super hard to reach that goal, but we could see the way forward. People need vision.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18 KJV
My husband took a lot of extra visits since he was paid by the visit.
He saw one extra patient a day, about an hour extra per day, that he called his Dave Ramsey visit haha. This was hard! I was home alone with the little kids and I wanted nothing more than for Matt to come home as fast as possible. But I knew these extra visits were worth it.
Everyday when the time rolled around that he would have been home without doing that extra visit, I felt the weight of our choice to take out debt and I felt the weight of paying it back. We lost an extra hour to an hour ½ every day of precious time together to achieve this goal.
But when the paycheck came in and we could throw that extra money at the debt it was worth it!
3. We took any extra money and threw it at debt IMMEDIATELY.
As soon as we got paid, the first thing we did was tithe. It was testing our hearts to give, but we knew God could take the 90% left over and still accomplish this goal for us.This was a part of the faith walk piece for us.
Then we knew the number we had to live off of, so we set that money aside.
Next we took the amount of money left over after our tithe and the budget to live.
After that if we had $1,500 left over, we could pay the student loans number we had pre-decided. Then we would leave around $300ish for extra unexpected things that did not live in our budget or to pay extra bills that had come in or to cover any overages from the previous month. But after that we would try to throw as much as we could beyond our goal toward the debt.
Even an $50 thrown towards debt moved the needle and when we plugged in this extra payment to our excel sheet we could see the payoff date move up sooner. It was so rewarding to see that even an extra $50-$100 would help us pay off the debt sooner.
If the paycheck was extra big, we might set aside $50-$100 extra for some personal fun money. We always tried to celebrate the wins, have fun along the way and treat our family to keep the perseverance going.
4. We cut chains to CELEBRATE as a family
After we got back from the Sullivan Summit we had the idea to take the 37k we had left and create chains for each 1k. We hung the chain in our living room as a reminder. I actually went to Hobby Lobby and got the prettiest paper I could. I mean if I am going to look at chains for almost a month they better be pretty hahaha.
We made the chains as a family and everytime we paid off a 1K we cut a chain as a family. We actually have all of the videos saved on my personal instagram, under the highlight Chains.
5. We made our goal PUBLIC
This was powerful for us. We had a tangible way to see the debt be cut away AND we shared the journey on Instagram, which made our goals public.
We couldn’t just flake on the goal without everyone knowing. This also meant that we had people genuinely cheering us on. That was fun!!
It also inspired other families to do something similar and we have some stories of other couples who started after us and are now out of debt. So it amazes me just how setting a goal, making it public can spur others on.
“People care more about what you do, than what you say.”
People were genuinely following along with us on the journey.
We later found out that some other people who were watching decided to do the same. It made this goal even bigger than us. If our debt journey could help someone else on their debt journey it was all worth it to share this big audacious goal.
We also taught Financial Peace at our church several times. When we were rewatching the content of FPU, teaching it to others and talking with them about their debt free journey, it held us accountable too. We would never want to ask someone to do something that we ourselves weren’t doing. So making our goals public as a teacher was big too!
CRAZY story twist
We not only met our goal in 2019, but we finished several months sooner at the end of July on one income. Yes we paid off 37K in 6 months!
We have never been so motivated in all of our lives to pay off debt as we were those last 6 months of the 2.5 year journey and I really believe it was because of these 5 principles I shared here.
I hope and pray that you will get more motivated than ever to see your debt leave your life for good.
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