Story: $47,000 of Debt Paid Off in 2 Years

Here’s a random story we came across on Reddit:

29 years old. Married. Two kids born in ’08 and ’10. Graduated in 2011 in Construction Management with $27k in student loans. I was working in an internship that rolled into a full-time job at $45k/year after I graduated.

My wife and I both fell into the trap of thinking “We deserve some sort of reward for all the hard work we’ve done” and went out and got two cars totaling $20k in loans.

A few months later we saw the light after sitting down and putting a budget together to see when we could realistically have a good down payment for a home. We were saving ~$300 while making the minimum payments on all of our debt. A down payment seemed impossibly far away.

One thing led to another and over the next 19-20 months we sold both cars and replaced them with a beater that I bought for $1 from my father-in-law, and a $3000 car that we bought from my wife’s grandmother.

After a year at my job I got a promotion and a raise to $55k/year and by then we were aggressively paying off our debt. Just this past March I got another raise to $62k/year and a $6k bonus that helped push us to make our last lump sum payment towards our student loan debt [2] .

What I’m actually most proud of is that we’ve cut our monthly expenses down from ~$3200/mo to $2100/mo while our income has increased dramatically.

We’re now saving ~$1800/mo towards an emergency fund and a down payment on a house as our two bedroom/two bath apartment is feeling a little small as our kids get older (and bigger).

Sorry for the wall o’ text. Like I sad at the beginning, I hope my experience can help and inspire someone else to keep pushing. My wife and I haven’t been on any vacations, birthdays and Christmas are on the cheap, and it hasn’t been very “fun” but definitely rewarding in the end.

Takeaways:

  • You don’t need an exorbitantly high level of income to make huge inroads to paying down debt. It comes down to managing the money you already make. 
  • Car loans are often the biggest hindrance to getting out of debt. The total value of the debt is usually near 50% of a households annual income, and the monthly payments are often so high that they prohibit any type of financial flexibility. Selling your cars is an easy way to free up cash to pay down higher priority debts (such as student loans and credit cards) – just remember, this is temporary. Once you’re out of debt, you can save and upgrade.
  • You have to WORK. It might mean getting a second job, or it might mean busting it at your current job to get raises. Either way, you have to be out there hustling.
  • To stay out of debt you have to trim your lifestyle and start saving early for future expenses -such as getting a bigger place to live.

 

Omar Usman

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @ibnabeeomar. Check out his latest project at Fiqh of Social Media.

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