How To Destroy Debt And Live A Better Life (In A Camper!)

How To Destroy Debt And Live A Better Life (In A Camper!)

camper

What up debt destroyers? Today I have the BEST debt payoff story that I’ve seen to date! These two (Zack and Jenna) are legit. Basically…they moved into a camper to pay off their debt. Read on, you won’t be sorry. Enjoy!M$M

It all began about a year ago after my wife and I returned from our dreamy honeymoon in the Bahamas. We settled into our new life together in our cozy downtown apartment and began planning for our financial future. That’s when we realized that our financial situation was grim. Together, we brought $49,000 worth of debt from student loans and car payments into our marriage. We were crushed when we realized how long it would take us to pay off our loans by only paying the minimum payments each month.

Check here to see if your student loan rate is too high.

If you’ve ever had any large sum of money you owed someone else, then you know it is a paralyzing and daunting feeling to begin to know where to start. We knew we had to get our financial situation under control so we headed to the whiteboard and created our “Get Out Of Debt Plan”. I’ve included 3 specific steps that have been crucial to our progress.

Step 1:

We listed all of our assets and liabilities. In short, everything that we owned and everything that we owed. In order to understand what we needed to pay off we needed to know what we were bringing in and what was going out.

Step 2:

We focused on making as large of payments on the highest interest rate loan as possible, which for us was my wife’s car. It also happened to be the smallest loan we had so it made sense to pay that off first. We made $2000 payments each month towards that loan until it was fully paid off. This accomplished two things, it gave us momentum to stay motivated because we saw progress quickly and it also eliminated the highest interest rate loan, which saved us money over the long run.

Step 3:

We identified ways to save on our largest re-occurring monthly expenses. Things like: rent, insurance, phone plans, and eating out. We found a new insurance provider, got our cell phone bill paid by our employers, and decided we would allocate $300 per pay period for spending money. Additionally, we swapped our high speed internet for a cheaper plan, cut Netflix, Hulu, Audible, and other subscriptions.

Since implementing these strategies we’ve paid off our smallest amount and highest interest rate loan in roughly six months. At the time, we still had one problem; our largest re-occurring payment each month went to our landlord. Until one night, we were enjoying dinner and a life shaping discussion came up. “Why don’t we downsize and live in a camper to focus on paying off our loans?” I said to Jenna. We both laughed and smiled nervously at each other while I did the math on the back of a napkin…. “Nine months and we could be debt free” I said to my beautiful and nervous looking wife.

We sat quietly smiling at each other and Jenna said, “Okay, let’s do it!”

Inside of CamperWe searched craigslist day and night and ended up finding a great deal. Within a few weeks of our original conversation we had our future home. We worked late nights and weekends to fix it up. We remodeled it just enough to call it home, and as of two weeks ago we are moved in and are loving every moment of it.

Make no doubt about it, this was a stressful transition but it’s been completely worth it. We sold our stuff, donated half our wardrobe, and rented a storage space for the rest. Our goal is to be completely debt free in nine months and to celebrate by taking an extended backpacking trip to Europe.

We still have more to pay, but to date we have paid $17,000 of debt. We’ve had up’s and down’s but we’ve stuck with our goal and are learning that our sacrifices are finally paying off.

Although this is about our financial future, this season of life has been more than a quest to get debt free. It’s taught us how to dream together and work to make that dream come to reality. It’s gratifying when you unite together around a common goal with your spouse. And to think that we’re just getting started!

If we can do it, you can, too. Write out a plan that works for you and stick with it. The way we see it, if your plan is not challenging your lifestyle, it’s not changing the way you see your money.

Cheers!

Zack and Jenna

Happy Couple!

Zack and Jenna reside in Oklahoma with their Border Collie, Banjo.

If you are interested in starting an online business of your own like Zack and Jenna, please read How To Start A WordPress Site On Bluehost. This is a free tutorial that will give you the specific steps to create your own blog. Through my special Bluehost link, starting a blog of your own can cost as little as $3.49 per month!

Live differently. Your bank accounts will thank me later. -M$M

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41 comments… add one
  • Ali @ Anything You Want Aug 24, 2015, 7:56 am

    I love this idea! No better way to find extra money in the budget than to cut down on those recurring expenses. I know someone who recently spend a summer camping to avoid paying rent. Might be extreme, but I’m sure he saved a pretty penny!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 24, 2015, 8:43 am

      Yeah this story is awesome. I can’t wait to have them back on the site when they get get closer to being done!

  • Zack Aug 24, 2015, 8:57 am

    Glad you liked it Ali!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 24, 2015, 10:17 am

      Zack, do you ever take the camper on trips to other places or does it stay parked in one spot all the time?

      • Zack Aug 24, 2015, 10:35 am

        M$M, we have plans to take it to Colorado at some point! We laugh because if we want to go on a quick vacation we don’t have to pack anything up, it’s all ready to go!

  • Maggie Aug 24, 2015, 10:11 am

    Awesome! Way to make some drastic changes! I love the whole tiny house thing and it would certainly get us closer to early retirement a lot sooner, but I don’t think I can handle such a tight space with three kids! 🙂

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 24, 2015, 10:17 am

      Hahaha the kids part would definitely be a struggle.

    • Zack Aug 24, 2015, 10:39 am

      Thanks Maggie, kids do complicate it a bit! We feel fortunate to be able to do this at this point in our lives because we don’t have kids just yet. Although, we do know a couple that lived in a camper for about 6 months while they built a small cabin and they told us that it was tough but something they look back on and laugh about.

  • Fervent Finance Aug 24, 2015, 10:11 am

    Plain and simple that’s bad ass. Plus you’re living in nature. I definitely love the shows about tiny houses. I plan on some RV living in the future.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 24, 2015, 10:15 am

      Yep. The nature part is the reason my wife would have NO part of this. 🙂

    • Zack Aug 24, 2015, 10:41 am

      Definitely worth it if you can manage the minor adjustments. One of our goals is to build a tiny house someday!

    • Claudia @ Two Cup House Aug 24, 2015, 7:53 pm

      I completely agree–this is awesome and easily one of the best strategies I’ve read. If we lived in a climate where we could do this, we definitely would have considered it before buying our small house. I can’t wait for the debt-free post to see what they do next!

  • Royce Aug 24, 2015, 3:02 pm

    Way to go
    You’re gonna make it and realize the true freedom so few experience!

  • Dr. Penny Pincher Aug 24, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Brilliant idea! Moving into a camper shortly after getting married is a great time to do it, before you have time to accumulate too much stuff.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 25, 2015, 8:06 am

      They even SOLD a bunch of stuff. I really liked the idea of getting storage for anything left over too.

  • fehmeen Jan 6, 2016, 11:32 am

    I was looking forward to seeing more pictures of the interior of this camper van! These guys made a really bold move to sell their house and half their stuff to move into this thing, but they made an adventure out of a financial journey that many people struggle to complete. Can’t wait to hear more about their progress.

    • Millennial Money Man Jan 6, 2016, 12:38 pm

      I am going to do a follow-up post with them later down the line – I’ll be sure to ask for more pictures!

    • Zack Aug 23, 2016, 9:13 am

      Hi Fehmeen,

      We ended up remodeling the inside of the camper when we bought it. If you send me your email I could shoot you some pictures of what it looked like when we sold it this last June.

  • Doreen Feb 4, 2016, 11:49 am

    My husband and I are 48 years old. We are going to move into a camper to pay off debt and buy our final home before the nursing home. We borrowed money from a title loan company to take our 20th Anniversary vacation six months ago, and it has been a nightmare since. Our children are 19 and 20, they both work and go to college. This summer, they’ll both go to dorms. This will be a definite culture shock, but we can’t wait to reap the benefits at $420 a month campsite, which utilities are included.
    I hope to start a blog and share as we watch debt go down the drain and savings build.

    • Millennial Money Man Feb 4, 2016, 12:17 pm

      Doreen – sorry to hear about the title loan fiasco! Looking forward to seeing your blog, let me know if you need any help getting started. I’ve got a “how to start a blog” tutorial on my main menu. Maybe you can give us an update when you get settled in to the camper? Thanks for reading!

    • Zack Aug 23, 2016, 9:14 am

      Doreen,

      Good luck on the big move! I hope it goes well 🙂

  • Keenan Feb 24, 2016, 11:51 am

    First off congrats on the marriage! Jenna this your favorite Ymca coworker keenan (Adele loving, golden girls watching gent lol). But this was so cool to read & motivating also. The dedication you 2 put in to get things done really is a motivation! Continue motivating and reach yall goals …. So cool!!

    • Zack Aug 23, 2016, 9:14 am

      Keenan,

      Thanks for the shout out! I’ll tell Jenna you said hello 🙂

  • diana Mar 13, 2016, 1:38 pm

    Did you guys have to get some sort of permit? To be able to live in a camper?

    • Zack Aug 23, 2016, 9:17 am

      Diana,

      No, since we had some land outside the city that we put it on we didn’t need to get a permit. Usually, if you do this within city limits you have to consult with the city on different codes. We actually have some friends that are doing this now. It can be done within city limits though!

  • Susan M. Jun 30, 2016, 8:56 pm

    I’m fascinated by this RV idea? I’m a 60 year-old widow with limited resources. Where does the RV sit? On a rented lot? If not, how do you handle water, sewage, etc.?

    • Zack Aug 23, 2016, 9:16 am

      Hi Susan,

      We actually had some land that we put it on with an electrical hook up and water hook up. It was challenging to figure out all the initial details but after we got settled it was not too bad. If you have any other questions let me know and I’d be happy to answer them

  • Karen W Aug 26, 2016, 11:46 am

    I’m not sure I understand how this saved you money. You have to have water, electric and sewer hookups plus you have to pay a rental fee for the campground . From what I have seen camping can get expensive…especially if you stay for an entire month. Just curious. We own a camper so I am just wondering how this saved you money.

    • Jenna McCullock Oct 26, 2016, 8:06 pm

      Karen,

      We actually saved a lot of money. We paid rental fee’s of about $700 a month at our old apartment and when we lived in the camper we only ended up paying $100 a month in total. We had the opportunity to live on some family members land and that helped us greatly, but we still paid a monthly fee. We followed all of our steps and we have now been debt free for about 4 months.

      -Jenna

  • Joyce Eveler Oct 19, 2016, 10:39 pm

    We JUST did this for 6 months! We are empty nesters and wanted to downsize and, surprise, our house sold on the first day we had it on the market! Lived there 26 years and had to be out in 5 weeks. We did a major remodel/addition on a little cabin in the woods and finally moved in 6 weeks ago. Saved a bunch on rent and were able to oversee the renovation since the camper was parked at the new place. Must say I truly appreciate a regular toilet and shower but would do it again (just hope we don’t need to LOL). It can be done!

    • Millennial Money Man Oct 20, 2016, 6:33 am

      That’s incredible! I actually know someone right now that is building something similar to move in on. The biggest concern for me when people ask about living in a camper is the cost of parking it somewhere.

  • Amanda Dec 26, 2016, 1:36 pm

    I’m so excited for you and your wife. My husband and I currently own a home and we are considering selling and buying a camper. We have found a great deal on one. Did you and your wife take out a loan to get the camper or did you buy it cash?

  • Heather Jan 2, 2017, 1:16 pm

    Three years ago my husband and I purchased a condemned 800 square foot house. For a grand total of $16k we had it fixed up and livable (including the purchase price). Most people think we are crazy for living in such a tiny space with our 3 kids. However, 3 years later we are 100% debt free, and are slowly accumulating more and more wealth. I’d say not bad for two 35 year olds. Sure, we talk about buying a larger house, but neither of us feel like we want to take on a mortgage right now!

    • Millennial Money Man Jan 2, 2017, 1:19 pm

      That’s awesome Heather! It’s crazy how many of the people around you want you to spend more money isn’t it? You’re doing the right thing by ignoring them!

      • Heather Jan 2, 2017, 1:27 pm

        You would not believe the naysayers. Every single person we talked to about our plan said it would never work. They were all convinced that within 6 months we’d be out of this house (or out of our minds). I guess I we are a little crazy!

        • Millennial Money Man Jan 2, 2017, 1:55 pm

          Oh trust me – I believe the naysayers haha! I’ve got more than I could possibly count 🙂 You’re definitely doing some things right when you have them!

  • Brenda Jan 4, 2017, 3:50 pm

    Zack n Jenna, I’ve been thinking about moving from the apartment life to a camper. I have no problem selling my belongings. I do have a little debt I’d love to be rid of!
    My concerns are my low credit score and very little money to put down on a camper.
    Would I be laughed at for the idea of maybe owner finance?? How should I go about getting a camper? Please Advise…

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