I’m not here to tell you how to cut back on your water bill, cancel all your subscriptions, or never buy paper plates. Neither will I tell you how we had to just endure until our debts were paid off. The opposite, in fact, is what we’ve found to be true! Our journey to becoming debt free has given us clarity on what our real priorities are. We’ve learned to focus our time and money towards those things in order to fully enjoy and use the life we’ve been given. The freedom we have experienced far surpasses any small sacrifice we’ve made along the way. That’s why I’m excited to share with you about our journey to be debt free on one income even as our family has grown!
Why did we choose to live debt free on one income?
Before we were married we knew that it was important for us that Nick be the sole provider of our income, and that I would stay home with our children and homeschool if there was not an affordable christian school near us. I worked part time when we were first married, but we only used that money for extras so that we didn’t become dependent on it for our necessities and regular monthly expenses.
After we were married, we moved to where my husband had been working to establish a career as a self-employed painting contractor. With a new business to get off the ground and a family growing shortly after, we took on debt for a new truck, an overpriced home we couldn’t afford, and business expenses.
I wouldn’t say we got in over our heads, but even the amount that we had accumulated on credit and cards felt like a noose around our necks always waiting to choke us! We wanted to get out from under it, but didn’t know how to as we were already trying to live a pretty frugal lifestyle.
The first steps to becoming debt free
Enter, Dave Ramsey and my father. My husband started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio and then read his books. We became convicted that not only was debt not fun to have, but it was not what God wanted for us! We started to believe that we felt the pressure of debt because God wanted us to feel free. Free from that bondage and to walk in faith and trust like we had set out to do early on.
Cutting up the cards, and learning to trust
My dad gave us an interest free loan to pay off one of our small credit cards and that really helped us feel motivated. It felt so good to pay off the card and cut it up! After that, we sold the truck and tightened up our extra spending habits even more. It wasn’t easy and the babies were coming every couple years, but God always provided. It would seem like every time we stepped out in faith to follow where we felt the Lord was calling us, even when it didn’t make financial sense, God always provided. He provides even when we make stupid mistakes, and take on too much debt or foolish financial decisions.
It took us a couple years, but now we have been debt free, besides a mortgage, for 16 years! By God’s grace, perseverance and sacrifice, but it has been totally worth it. We’ve moved a lot, changed careers several times and had 9 children during that time, and God has always been faithful to provide as we’ve sought His direction and obedience to His calling first
What does living debt free on a single income entail?
For us, it has meant making lifestyle adjustments to be able to live within our means, and still enjoy life fully. We have really been able to hone in on the things that make life feel rich that don’t take away from our lives.
We’ve learned to prioritize time over things, and figure out what makes our children’s lives feel the most full and blessed. For us that has meant, a lot of time outside together, watching sunsets, library outings for new books, lots of playdates with friends, going on adventurous to a new town or on a hike, raising some of our own food, learning new skills together, and teaching them everything we are learning along the way.
We have so many wonderful memories together over the years, that even when things were tight, it didn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice to make.
Cook from scratch and eat whole foods for health and savings
This not only will save you money on your budget, but also on your health insurance. One of the things I have put alot of time to studying over the years is nutrition and healthy cultures and people groups. Something I have found in my studies is the healthiest and happiest people usually eat the most simple and whole foods. That doesn’t mean food bought at Whole Foods- definitely not budget friendly! heheh… whole foods are the ones you find in the perimeter of the grocery store! We usually couldn’t afford organic, free-range, grass fed anything, but we could buy REAL food, and we have all been very healthy! 9 healthy pregnancies and 9 healthy babies! Plus, likely tens of thousands saved!
Learn what you actually want and buy used or on sale
We’ve learned the skill of making do with what we have or buying used. It is only in the last several years that we can afford to buy more retail and full priced investment items. For the first 10 years of our marriage we wore hand-me-downs, used and sale priced clothing and household items. This doesn’t’ mean we looked like ragamuffins! We just prioritized finding the items we DID like, for less.
Be happy with less by simplifying
When we focused on only owning items we really wanted, and sourcing them for less, we learned that we really didn’t want alot of ‘stuff”. We didn’t feel compelled to get more things that just stressed us out more. We prioritized what worked for our family, what toys, clothes, etc we needed and stuck to that. It is so much easier to keep things tidy and not spend frivolously if you already like what you own.
Save a $1,000 emergency fund
After buckling down our budget more, we began to have a little extra. So, the next step was to tuck away $1,000. This helped prevent us from going into debt when small unexpected needs came up. However, this was not to be used for things like extra grocery money or Christmas, but things like unexpected car or house repairs etc. It really helped give us a sense of freedom and control right away. Of course, we still were trusting in God’s provision, as at any time a need bigger than that could happen, but we trusted him and tucked away a bit for a rain day in faith.
Over the years, a larger sum of money would always be providentially provided right before we needed it. We would get our tax return, then a car would breakdown and need to be replaced. Or we would get an extra job and provision, right before an unexpected need would arise time and again.
Start putting extra money towards debt
After we gained some momentum by saving our emergency fund, and getting one credit card paid off, we began putting any extra towards our other debts. Just by living within our means and not taking on more debt meant that when any extra money came in, we could use it to put towards our debt! We knew that if we could live within our means then once our debt was paid off we would actually have extra instead of getting further behind. What an incredible feeling! We felt empowered to keep our living expenses low so that we had that extra when it was needed or even wanted.
Only buy cash cars
One of our large debts was payments on a new truck for the business. Once we realized the debt wasn’t worth it, we sold the truck and bought a cash car instead. We saved a bit out of each paycheck for repairs and maintenance and also invested in AAA. This saved us tons of money living in a ski town for 8 years and needing a tow or two every winter! My husband was already pretty handy, but he continued to learn how to fix our vehicles by asking other mechanics and looking up resources online. We’ve saved literally tens of thousands of dollars with this skill he built. Driving older vehicles are also easier and cheaper to repair!
Keep our housing expenses to less than 25% of our monthly income
Even as our family was growing, we really made it a priority to keep our housing costs low. Initially we had taken on a mortgage too high, so when we sold that home we decided to not pay more on our monthly mortgage that 25% of our monthly income. Sometimes this has felt impossible! But, each time we have waited and trusted the Lord to provide the next home within our budget, and He ALWAYS has done so when we’ve been patient. Sometimes it’s seemed like almost at the last minute! We began in an overpriced 900 sq. ft home, lived in someone’s basement twice, and a modular home. But, that is how we are able to now afford our 4,000+ sq. ft. home, because we have bought low, remodeled ourselves, and sold high.
Do our own repairs
Instead of immediately calling the appliance repairman or plumber, we have tried to figure out how to do our own repairs. This actually saves a lot of hassle. It’s much easier to spend some time researching and even sourcing used parts, than waiting for repairmen to show up and then sometimes have to wait weeks for parts to come in! We’ve bought used hot water heaters, all of our appliances, fixed our HVAC ourselves, plumbing, toilets, you name it! It’s really satisfying to accomplish something that saves us so much, and also teach our kids valuable skills along the way.
- Budget bathroom makeover (renter friendly)
- Powder bath makeover
- How I decorate for less
- Budget office makeover design plans
- MORE TO COME!
People over the years have tried to convince us that it saves so much money to buy new and not have to replace old used appliances that are going to break down sooner. But, we’e never found this to be true. We’ve had to replace some sooner than expected, but we still always saved thousands in the long run. Even being able to upgrade along the way to better quality pieces that are more efficient.
Prioritize enriching activities over possessions
Spending time outdoors together has become one of our family’s favorite ways to spend time making memories. It’s free, healthy, and so enjoyable to get out and hike or explore a new area together. Even in the winters we took up ice skating and hockey. This has truly blessed our family and we’ve never felt like we were missing out on some other kind of fun. We’ve also found that buying yearly passes to places we really enjoyed saved us a lot of money and offered us more options to enjoy throughout the year without needing to budget extra every time.
How can we live debt free on a single income especially with a large family?
Much of what I mentioned above applies to having a large family, and has helped us get by when things were tight, and believe me, they have been at times. But, we have known from the beginning we would welcome children as blessings not burdens and so we’ve adjusted to fit them into our lives instead of making room and then welcoming them.
Let go of the worlds standards for lifestyle- they will never satisfy.
Quality education does not have to be expensive- more on that here.
Eating simple Whole Foods – makes healthy kids and easy on the budget. tips for picky eaters here.
Outdoor entertainment is free and the best activity we can do with our children- more inexpensive activity ideas here.
Lots of siblings makes for lots of fun!
As they grow up, they contribute back to the home not financially, but through help and buying their own things.
What we’ve gained
Even though we have made sacrifices along the way, we have gained so much more! The sacrifices we have made really haven’t even felt like it. Here are some of the ways we’ve grown and what we’ve gained choosing to make this lifestyle choice
- I get to stay home with the children
- The children get a solid Biblical education
- We have gained new skill sets
- We have become more financially independent
- Enriching experiences have become our focus instead of stuff
- We have been able to upgrade our housing from 900 sq. ft to 4,000 sq ft home on 1.5 acres
- Our children are healthy and happy!
- We have learned how living with less really is gaining more
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I hope this post has inspired you to consider where your priorities are and make some choices and sacrifices to give your children a rich, free and full life, as well!
Thanks for being here today, friend!
In His service,