Welcome back to our Debt Free Series! This week we did an interview with Jessi, who recently became completely DEBT FREE!!
Yes, she and her husband paid off over $144,000 in debt, which included their mortgage.
Let’s find out how they were able to tackle such an amazing task at such a young age!
Jessi, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Jessi Fearon, a wife and a mom to three kiddos. We live in Georgia and I run a blog that details my family’s financial journey and debt-free lifestyle at jessifearon.com.
For fun, I love to go camping. There’s no better place in the world to me than sitting in the woods by the side of a river.
How did you end up in debt and how much debt was it?
Our debt was made up of two credit cards, a car loan, my student loans, and our mortgage. Our total consumer debt was just over $55k and our starting mortgage was just over $89k.
What was the turning point for you where you decided to start paying off your debt?
At the beginning of 2013, I was expecting our second child and I decided to create a mock budget to see how things were going to change once baby two arrived.
Through that exercise, I discovered that things were going to be tight and that caused me to panic. After some really tough conversations with my husband, we decided to jump on the debt-free journey and make paying off debt a priority to create more wiggle room in our budget.
How long did it take you to get rid of your debt?
In all, it took us 6 years to become 100% debt-free (including the house).
What was your motivation to pay off all that debt?
Our motivation was that we wanted me to be able to stay home with our children. We simply didn’t want the chaos that would happen as a result of me having to fight metro Atlanta traffic every day to get to work, then daycare, then home and then have to rush to cook dinner and get kids to bed just to do it all again the next day.
We craved a slower pace of life and we realized that was going to slip through our fingers if we did do something drastic soon.
Did you run into any “bumps in the road” when you were trying to pay off your debt? If so, how did you overcome them?
We ran into several bumps in the road including our debit card being used to pay for someone else’s past-due medical bills. My husband’s doctor had somehow put our card information in another person’s file by mistake and that mistake was discovered when I was trying to buy groceries and the debit card was declined.
They had taken over $600 from us and it took weeks to get it back.
The best thing we ever did was set up a “slush” fund which is a simple savings account that acts as our buffer account between our emergency fund and checking account. We had to pull money from our slush fund in order to make it through those weeks while we sorted things out.
Did budgeting play a factor in you being able to pay off your debt?
Absolutely! Without a budget we wouldn’t have known how much extra we could pay on our debts, nor would we have realized how desperate our situation was becoming without a budget.
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What’s the strangest thing you did to save money while you were trying to pay off your debt?
I participated in a lot of focus groups and surveys in order to save money. We got baby formula and diapers for free in exchange for my opinions.
We even got free date nights in exchange for our reviews of area restaurants. It was awesome but also a little crazy because you have to answer some interesting questions.
If you could give 2 pieces of advice to someone trying to pay off debt fast, what would they be?
Start small – pick your lowest balance debt and kill that one off first. If you try to work on the largest balance first, you’ll get overwhelmed and possibly burnt-out.
And second, ignore everyone that tells you debt is a part of life. It’s not – my family is living proof of that.
What steps are you taking to ensure you stay out of debt?
Savings, savings, and more savings. We have several savings accounts that we’re funding to keep us from having to sink back into debt.
Now that you’ve paid off your debt, what financial goals do you have next?
We’re currently working on buying another property in the future. We’ll use the sale of our paid-for home to pay off the new home…or at least that’s the plan! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jessi! You guys have done what most of us only dream of doing, and at such a young age.
Here is yet another story of how with a little determination and focus, you really can live a debt-free life.
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