Hey everyone! I'm so stoked to share this interview with you today!!! I recently reached out to all of you in search of some great debt repayment stories, and I got so many that I'm still sorting through them. This particular one from a reader named Elizabeth stood out, so I wanted to share her and her husband's story.
She has some killer tips on side hustles, making sacrifices, and even included the budget she uses (which you can download at the end of the interview). Enjoy! ~M$M
1. How much was your original debt load, and was it all student loan debt?
Our original combined student loan debt was $72,000. We do have a mortgage, but plan to double our monthly payments on our house as soon as we get our student loans paid off, and establish our fully loaded emergency fund!
2. What did you go to school for and what do you do now?
My husband and I both went to school and got our BA in Ministerial Leadership. With those degrees, my husband is a full time Worship/Creative Pastor, and I work part-time as the Assistant Site Director to our church’s Ministry College on campus.
Before going back to school to get ministry degrees, I recieved a culinary degree in baking and pastry, and use that degree and skills from school to do cakes on the side.
3. You said you paid off $13,500 in the last 3 months (which is incredible)! What were the most effective strategies that you used to make it happen?
The most effective strategy has been doing the Debt Snowball, suggested by Dave Ramsey. We drained our saving account to just $1,000 (it almost gave me a heart attack), and with that we paid off a higher interest $6,000 loan.
We also used our tax return money to tackle a good portion of that debt, as well as use our side jobs to throw as much extra money as well could to the loans.
The biggest way we earn side money is through renting out two of our rooms to friends at the church. That brings in almost $600 a month that we don’t have to work for or really think about to put towards loans.
Thankfully our house is set up where our Master bedroom is on the other side from the other two rooms and their bath, so we still have plenty of privacy, and my husband and I love the community renting out those rooms does in our house.
4. What were your biggest sacrifices to make such large payments?
The biggest “sacrifice” would be sharing our home with people. Though we love it so much, it doesn’t really feel like we are sacrificing anything. We seriously love the community, and life it brings to our home.
A lot of our friends say that they could never do it, but it is that extra money my husband and I can use to go on a date night guilt free, or maybe take an inexpensive weekend trip without having to worry too much about the budget.
5. Do you talk to your friends and family about your story or do you keep it to yourself?
I love to tell our story. Just the other day, one of the other staff members at church told me I should think about teaching a financial class on a Wednesday night to encourage people mine and my husband’s age that you don’t have to carry debt with you into your later adult years.
Also, with running our Ministry College on campus, I am able to encourage 15-20 college students to start thinking about ways they can repay there loans now.
I have helped many of them develop a budget that works for them, and always stress the importance of saving for a rainy day.
6. You mentioned your mad budgeting skills when you sent me your story…do you have specific programs or Excel templates that you use?
Yes! I have tried many different apps like Mint and EveryDollar. However, the most useful budgeting method I found was on Google Sheets. It is their excel version, and they have a budget template that lets me input ALL of my spending, and then it categorizes it into the budget I created.
It has three columns, what I plan to spend, what I actually spend, and the difference. There are so many tools you can use out there, but I landed on this one, because I am a very hands on person, and this lets me customize my budget as little or as much as I want!
Real also: The Best Free Excel Budget Templates
(Keep reading to download their budget template!)
7. Tell me more about your side hustles! How did you get started with them?
My husband got started with DJing about four years ago, he would help a friend do gigs, and then eventually the friend started double booking himself so he could do a gig, and my husband, Taylor, do the other.
After about a year of Taylor doing gigs for our friend, he was like “I could do this myself”, and so we saved the money he made from his friend to buy his own equipment to start his own side gig.
Because I had a Baking & Pastry Degree, I was already doing birthday cakes, and wedding cakes on the side for friends, and so I got the idea of offering a combo DJ and Cake package, and hence our side hustle, “Cypress Events Services” was formed!
Read also: 8 Side Hustles You Can Start This Weekend!
8. Do you have any tips for people that want to start a side hustle that helps with paying off debt?
The best side hustle comes from something you already enjoy doing, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of work. If you are miserable making a little extra, then I feel like it isn’t a good trade off for getting out of debt quicker.
What are your hobbies, or what do you not mind doing for a few extra hours on a Saturday afternoon? One of our friends started a pressure washing business, and can choose to work as much or as little as he wants!
I think having a flexible side hustle is also important, because you still need to make time to enjoy your life, family, and friends!
9. How long do you think it will be before you pay off the rest of your student loans?
Our goal is before I turn 30. We started tackling the loans the month before my 25th birthday, and I calculated as long as we are able to throw $1,300 a month towards the loan, we can accomplish that goal!
My husband is six months younger than I am, so to be able to say we are debt free from everything but our house before we get into our thirties is huge for us.
When I first told my husband the number we needed to hit, he was and still is a little hesitant. You see, $1,300 is a huge chunk of our take home pay. After we pay bills, groceries, and gas, we don’t have a lot left over.
Because of that we rely heavily on our room rentals, our side hustles, and even selling some stuff to hit this number (my husband sold his motorcycle just so we could knock out another of our twenty one loans).
I understand reality happens, and there are some months we aren’t too busy with our side business, or the car needs to get the AC fix… again…. but as long as we strive towards that goal every month, I know that we are putting as much towards the loan as we can, and that is what matters to me.
It also helps that I calculated on the high side, and months were we get three paychecks, and tax returns will help us tremendously to achieve our 5 year (or less) goal!
10. If you could give people one piece of advice about money, what would it be?
The most important advice I can give is don’t let money consume you. I have to be very careful not to let every dollar control my life.
When we first started our debt payoff, I didn’t want to spend anything extra. I was perfectly okay with becoming a hermit just to get out of debt.
Thankfully my husband is there to balance me out, because without him, I wouldn’t let us have any enjoyment out of our earnings.
So I encourage you, even if you have to set aside one dollar everyday, save up for date nights and still be social with friends. There are so many less expensive items you can buy on the menu and still have good time.
When you do go out you can ask friends if they want to split a meal, order a kids meal, always get water, or encourage people to go get Mexican so you can just eat the free chips and salsa (yes I have done that multiple times)!
Also, it helps to keep your goals in front of you. On our refrigerator we have a list of all of our loans printed out.
Every time we are able to pay off a loan, we cross it off. Being able to see our progress helps us keep motivated and encourage that all of our extra work is paying off!