This is a post from my husband, Jeremiah.
After this was posted, MSNBC.com had covered a series of stories of people across the country describing their budget with a $50,000 a year income. It was titled “We are the Median.” This is our story of our life living with a Median income. Since our post was published, our budget and income has changed.
In 2 in a half years my wife and I managed to pay off $33,111.00 of debt on a middle-size net income. We were able to build a family and buy a bigger house due to our debt reduction plan. Are you looking for the same solution to how you can pay off your debt and invest in what you want? Then keep reading my friend. Before we divulge into our 18 ways we paid off our debt and purchased a 4 bedroom, 2 bath 3 car garage with two kids to boot, you have to memorize three very important steps.
1. Make sacrifices
2. Learn how to manage your money
3. Don’t spend it on something you don’t need
Get rich, with your Current Income
The reason we don’t have the money we would like to have is because we do not make the right choices when it comes to spending our money. All we want to do is spend, spend, spend. I know this for a fact. I was once in that situation myself. I had got myself into a lot of debt. How you ask? I went out and spent the money I did not have on things I did not need. The following lists my debt and how I obtained it, how I managed my money, and how I paid it off and turned that debt into an extra income.
How I got into debt
1. Purchased a vehicle with a loan.
I went out and purchased a brand new truck that I had dreamed about for a very long time. $24,900 later I had a brand new 2007 Nissan Titan with only 37 miles on it. Nice! Right? My payments were $475.00 a month, gas to get from A to B was $425.00 a month and insurance costs $110.00 a month. That is $1,010.00 a month for a nice looking truck. Once I purchased my truck, I couldn’t stop buying all the little bells and whistles that I wanted to have for my truck.
2. Credit Card Debt
The bells and whistles cost more money, and to buy those bells and whistles I ended up with a credit card debt of $5,211.00 (but at least my truck looked good).
3. Purchased a Diamond Ring
Shortly after my new ride, I met this beautiful woman who is now my wife. Following tradition, I had to buy her a ring which brought me into even further debt. A wonderful $3,000 ring that has many diamonds in all kinds of shapes twisting around the sides. It is B-E-A-U-T-F-U-L. Why so expensive of a ring? I have no idea what I was thinking. I think she still would have said yes it were a $500.00 ring. We did not trade this in, but with changing things in our budget we were able to pay off the ring within a year.
One advise I can give is to try not to add debt before you get married. The total of my debt is now $33,111.00 (truck, credit card, diamond ring).
How We Reduced Our Bills and Got Out of Debt
After a while of living paycheck to paycheck we got tired of not having money to do anything. We decided to make some changes to our lives on how and what we spend our money on. For starters, we traded in my truck.
Step 1. I switched out my Nissan Titan for a Nissan Altima where my payments were $337.00 a month, $100.00 a month for gas, and insurance was $78.00 a month. With getting rid of my truck, we saved $5,940.00 a year.
Step 2. I added my wife on my cell phone plan so we could have a lower payment. Mine was $59.00 a month and hers was $73.00 a month. Our cell phone bill is now $82.00 a month, a saving of $600.00 a year.
Step 3. Groceries is always a hard place to cut back on. When you go grocery shopping, make sure you go with a full stomach and you should always take a list with you. You need to stick to that list no matter what. Don’t buy any junk food and only buy the meals you need. My wife and I use to spend about $120-$150 a week on groceries. When we came home, we had about two meals for the week.
My wife and I have a magnetic calendar that we keep on the refrigerator. We meal plan for every day of the week. We spend an average of $75-$100 a week. You can also coupon, but it takes a lot of time to organize, prepare, and shop to make your dollar stretch. We do not use coupons. That’s right, we buy most of our groceries by store-brand not name-brand. We save anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 on one item by using the generic store-brand.
Before our girls came along, my wife did coupon. I remember a time we went grocery shopping and saved $60.00 on a $110.00 bill. Were all our items worth a full week of groceries? No, but we stocked up our pantry. With meal planing, it’s a saving of $600.00 a year.
Step 4. Purchases from the internet. Ordering off the internet is another way to save money. You can find items that you would usually by at a store on the internet and it would be a lot cheaper. For instance, one item we buy off the we buy off the web is ink cartridges. We buy them for $2.50 each, but if you were to buy them from Staples it would be $63.00 for all four inks. My wife buys them from 123inkcatridges.ca and she uses internet coupons. Our latest package of ink cartridges only cost us a max of $12.00. That is a savings of $41.00!
Step 5. DIY. The web is also a good way to help you learn how to do certain things like working on your house or even fixing your car. Learning how to do things yourself can save you a lot of money. When you have a professional do it for you, you are paying for labor and sometimes the materials are marked an extra 15% from the store purchase price.
You can also save money on your utilities. A few ways you can do that is make sure your doors and windows on your home have good weather-stripping and make sure they aren’t torn or missing. You can wear extra clothes during the winter so you can turn down your temperature. On summer/spring/fall days where is not scorching hot you can have your windows open with your fan on. You should also change your furnace filters every 2-3 months depending on the kind you have so that you can have a good air flow. If your filters are clogged then your H&C unit has to work twice as hard to get the air cooled down or heated up. The more you change your furnace filters, the more money you save.
Make Money from Your Credit Card
Before you jump the bandwagon and stop reading this, credit cards can SAVE you money, believe it or not. They’re actually money makers for my wife and I. On an average year, we make $500.00 from our credit card. Our credit card company pays usto use them. You’re probably thinking to yourself “What is he talking about? You can’t make money from your credit cards.” If my wife and I do this, then you can too. All you have to do is get a credit card that has a cash back feature on it. The more you use your card the more cash you will get back. Now I’m not talking about going out and start buying stuff you don’t need. Only buy things you need and also use. For example, my wife and I use our credit card for gas, groceries, cell phone, utilities, dish, cable internet, insurance, cell phone, doctor bills, etc. We use it for everything that will accept a credit card. Here’s the kicker: The only way you make money from your credit card is you have to pay it off in full every month. My wife is the CFO and she makes sure that we stick to our budget and not spend more on our credit card than what’s in the bank.
After I got my $5,211.00 credit card paid off, I switched to my wife’s card who had a cash back feature.
In the end, due to how we changed our budget, reduced things that we did not need (such as extra channels on the TV or a truck), we were able to pay off our debt in two and a half years on a medium-sized income. Our debt was reduced rapidly from $33,111.00 to $0.00. (Autumn chiming in. The biggest tip we can give is that we tithed during all of this. Give God his glory due of 10% of what you bring home, no matter what. He blessed us in return and with his help, we managed to pay off our debt of $33,111.00 just in time before baby number 1 came into our lives. We now have two beautiful baby girls and if we did not change our spending habits we would be living in a cardboard box).