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Live Life On Your Own Terms: Get Out Of Debt


Debt is a thief that steals your choices and happiness. We felt this reality as our choices started to leave us trapped and suffocated under a pile of bills at the end of each month. 


I realized we needed to find debt freedom and get our lives back. We worked too hard and too long with too little to show for it. Simply put, we were broke. 


With a mountain of debt and a wallet full of credit cards, guilt set in when I shopped with friends or went to dinner. Soon, guilt evolved into fear. I was afraid of what would happen if we didn’t get our financial life together. That fear propelled me to look for ways to get out of debt and become financially stable. 


If you are feeling this too, while also always searching for a way out of the ‘rat race,’ I am about to share how we did it-- one day at a time. 


Debt steals your life choice


I like to think of debt as a toxic ex. The one person that you keep going back to even when you know it's a bad idea. One day, you wake up and decide enough is enough. You need a new, healthier start.


It’s the same situation with a little thing called debt. You need to decide that enough is enough. Get mad at debt. Debt is the villain that makes you say ‘no’ to your dreams. 


Debt makes people feel like they have no choice but to stay in unfulfilling jobs, relationships, or locations. A single mom who hates renting but feels she has no choice. A young family that would love to travel, but are living paycheck to paycheck. A new father who would love to stay home with his young children, but they cannot afford to become a one-income home.


This sounds terrible. So, if is sounds like your life, perhaps it’s time to get your life back. To stop letting life happen TO you, instead of deciding where to go with your dreams.  No more being the victim of the circumstances around you.


Your mindset may be allowing debt to prevail, holding you back from living your best life.   I know because this WAS me.  


I have heard every excuse. People love to live in debt-nile. People start operating like an ostrich with their head in the sand.


I’ve heard it all:

  • “I live in the real world.”
  • “It takes too long.” 
  • “It is too hard.” 
  • “We have too much debt.” 
  • “What if we die tomorrow? YOLO!” 
  • “It is a nice idea.” 
  • “People can’t stay out of debt long term.” 
  • “It must be nice.”
  • "You are too obsessed with money.  That is no way to live."

Starting is the hardest part.


Let's be real, getting started can just be the WORST.  


I spent three months reading everything I could about personal finance instead of actually starting. 


The thing that scared me the most was adding-- and it was not because I dislike doing the math. It was because adding up all the debt we had meant I would have to acknowledge how big of a mess we were in.  I was too smart and worked too hard to really be HERE.


It seemed like we had payments on everything: The leather couch I ‘had to have’ to furnish our new home. The new hardwood flooring. My wedding ring. Our cars. A motorcycle. New rims and tires. A water softener. Parts for our furnace. A new electrical panel and wiring in our house. A new transmission. Our dog's emergency vet bill. A DUI.


By the end of July of 2016, we realized that our two-income household was going to become a one-income household by winter. It was that realization that made me do the math.


I sat down on the floor of our bedroom and cried at the mess we had created in just one year.  It was time to get on a first-name basis with Dave Ramsey. 


There was light at the end of the tunnel. 


While I’m not proud of the mess we created, looking back, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Those moments felt like the movie. Namely, ‘The Perfect Storm,’ except, the names of the three merging storms were debt, poor choices and family drama. 


Through crawling our way out of debt, we learned to communicate about money in our marriage. Honestly, we have learned to communicate better about everything. 


I also realized I had no clue how to manage money. We are still learning what works for us. Even after becoming debt-free and investing in real estate, it’s still a learning process. Real estate takes a whole new skill level, mostly in organization.  Having a baby totally changed the communication needs.


I am forever grateful for Financial Peace University and the Smart Money events we attended. This really kick-started us being able to tackle our debt as a couple.   


If we can do it-- if we could pull ourselves out of the mess we made, you can do it too. Thousands of people before you have followed this proven path to financial independence and there’s no reason you can’t do it too. We did it in under two years. And there is probably some other family out there who had less income, more debt, more student loans, a higher cost of living, and 27 more kids than you do. Try to avoid those comparison traps, build that budget, and start crushing goals that work for your family.  The Jones, and probably most of your coworkers, are broke too.


I really started to make moves when I checked my excuses at the door. Mindset, knowing you can, and taking responsibility for your own actions. 


The time to start is now. Have no clue where to begin? SAME. I didn't either. You’re in good company! If you bring the hustle, I will keep on bringing the kick-ass content. 


Still unsure about this whole ‘get out of debt thing?’   


The first thing you need to do is change how you view debt. Stop believing debt is a way of life. Stop glorifying being broke. Stop joking with your family and friends about your YOLO spending, and hoping your cards don’t decline. Budgets are cool now.  Living paycheck to paycheck sucks. 


Time for a new talk track in your mind. 


I started by spicing up my morning commute to work. I downloaded the Dave Ramsey App and listened to the Dave Ramsey Show. I unfollowed people that didn’t fit my new mode of thought. Mostly accounts that made me want to buy all the clothes.  I surrounded myself with individuals that inspired me to become debt free. I unfollowed the detractors. And unsubscribed from all those emails that reminded me of sales and more mindless spending. 


Remember: If I can do it, so can you. I believe in you. Anyone can if you want it bad enough. Now, it is time to believe in yourself too.  


Ah, it sounds like you are super obsessed with money. 


If you on the outside looking in, and have never tried to break free of the mindless spending and "normal" debt, it probably does.  


Most people get up early every day.  Maybe take their kids to daycare (that price tag tho, eeks).  Head off to a job they hate.  Spend 40-50 hours per week at a job they dislike, for the next 40 years.  If money wasn't simply a tool we all need, then people would not sign up for the insanity that is spending the majority of their time, doing tasks they do not enjoy, all while being away from their family and the ones they care about the most.


This isn't about the money.  It is about getting your time back.  Time back to focus on what matters.  Time back to work less hours while spending more time with the people in your life that truly matter.  I find it odd people are obsessed with working a job forever that is not fulfilling.  And the more than pay you, the more hours you work, and your true dreams fall to the way side.    


We picked this path so that we no longer have to worry about money.  We do not have to trudge to jobs we hate.  Or when employers treat us poor, often leaving us to feel dispensable.  We can live a life based on our dreams, because we have worked hard for under 10 years, and finances are no longer a stressor.  


This is all VERY different to what mainstream culture says, and it is a whole new world.  And it starts with getting out of personal debt.  You got this, y'all. Baby steps.  


Happy Debt Slaying, Aspiring Retirees. 


-- Sarah 


Sarah Brandenberger is the founder of Nerds Guide To Financial Independence, a brand dedicated to showing that financial independence is possible through real estate investment. She began her debt free journey in 2017 and quickly became a voice for budgeting and personal finance information as she and her husband paid off over $100,000. They discovered real estate investing and now own four properties while help others towards the path of FI.


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