An Arizona couple who decided to combine their finances after getting married found out they had a total of $52,000 in debt. They set to work paying it off as quickly as possible and cleared the mammoth debt in just 18 months. Today they are sharing their tips on how they did it and believe that anyone else who finds themselves in the same situation can too.
Deacon Hayes, 40, and his wife Kim, 41, hail from Phoenix and currently live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with their two children: Finn, 7, and Avery, 5. Kim is a stay-at-home mom, and Deacon owns and operates the personal finance blog Well Kept Wallet.
After their marriage in 2008, Deacon told The Epoch Times that he realized that he and his wife’s combined consumer debt of $52,000 consisted of credit cards, a car loan, and student loans.
“We thought that it was normal to just get a loan to have the things we wanted,” he said. “When we wanted to go on our honeymoon, we put it on a credit card; when I wanted a newer car, I financed it; when we both wanted to go to school, we took out loans to help pay for it.”
Deacon admits that neither he nor Kim knew how to handle money well, but they decided to tackle their debt as a united front. During this time Deacon was a wood flooring salesman, and Kim was a history teacher at a high school in Phoenix. Combined, they made around $70,000 per year and had expenses of around $4,000 per month.
“The first thing we did was put together a budget,” Deacon said. “We needed to have a snapshot of where we were, in order to know what steps we needed to take to improve our financial situation.”
As a “big fan of learning from people who have been successful in their field,” Deacon turned to books by Dave Ramsey, Ron Blue, and Howard Dayton for ideas. He was inspired by the “debt snowball” method that was promoted by Ramsay. Following this method, Deacon and his wife listed all debts from smallest to largest and paid any extra money they had toward paying off the smallest debt first.
“Once that debt was paid off, we then put the money we were paying on the first debt, toward the next debt,” he said. “The money would snowball and therefore we had more and more money to put toward a single debt every time we paid off a debt.”
The couple was also “very intentional” about their debt repayment plan. Deacon printed out a debt tracker and posted it on the fridge as a tangible reminder, got a second job as a pizza delivery driver for weeknights and weekends, and exchanged his expensive car for a cheaper second-hand model, saving $400 a month in expenses and eradicating $17,000 in debt.
Additionally, Deacon started visiting garage sales on weekends, scouting for bargains that he could buy and resell for a profit online. He and Kim both reduced the number of meals they ate at restaurants, and when they did eat out they swapped their normal drinks orders for water.
“Another way we cut our expenses was by calling our current service providers and asking for a better deal,” Deacon said. “We were able to call our internet, cell phone, and insurance.”
Between the extra income they made and selling Deacon’s car, the couple was able to put $1,000 per month, sometimes more, toward paying off their debt. During that time, they also received a tax refund of $4,000 which went straight toward paying off the debt.
The couple loved watching their progress on paper. Their excitement lent constant momentum to their goal, and in just 18 months they had paid off the entire $52,000 debt.
However, the process was not without challenges. During that time period, the hot water tank in their condo went out, but luckily, Deacon and Kim had already begun saving on an “emergency fund.” Through saving, they also learned how to avoid the lure of credit cards, so they were able to pay for this expense via cash.
“When we first paid off our consumer debt, we celebrated by saving up cash to pay for a trip to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia,” Deacon said. “It was an amazing trip that felt so good knowing we could pay for it with cash, and did not have to worry about paying interest on credit cards.”
At five years of being debt-free, Deacon told Insider in 2015: “Today, Kim and I have about $20,000 set aside for retirement on top of our $15,000 emergency fund. We also have another $5,000 designated for travel and gifts, so we aren’t blindsided by baby showers and birthdays. What’s more, after significantly paying down the mortgage on our condo, we sold it toward the end of 2014.”
Between their equity and an extra $8,000 in savings at that time, the couple was able to put a 20 percent downpayment on a new, larger family home.
Deacon firmly believes the key to debt repayment is rethinking how we pay for things.
He told The Epoch Times: “One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people think the only way to have something is by borrowing money. I know, because I used to think that way too. However, what I have found is that there are usually many other options to get what you want in life.
“For instance, if you want to go to college, there are thousands of scholarship and grant opportunities. If you want a better car, it doesn’t have to be new … if you want to go on a trip, get a side hustle and make a few hundred more bucks per month so that you can save up and pay cash.”
For anyone trying to pay off their debt, Deacon advises:
- Creating a budget to fully understand your financial situation
- Identifying areas in which you can cut back if you are spending more than your actual income
- Getting a part-time job to expedite the process
He added: “One of the best tips I would recommend is to have regular meetings to go over your budget. Kim and I would meet almost weekly at first, just to check in and make sure we were on track. If we needed to adjust something, this would be the time.”
Even small changes yield huge results in the long run said Deacon, adding, “There is hope, no matter what your financial situation is.”
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