Happy Monday! As I mentioned the other day, I'm frolicking in Ireland as we speak. To help you not miss me as much while I'm gone, I've got some great posts lined up for you this week. Remember how I asked y'all to share your inspirational story with us? BOY did they have me in tears! It was pretty incredible.
It's finally time to start sharing them. First up is an incredible success story from a reader, Cynthia and her husband Travis, who are paying off $23,000 in debt even though Travis has been laid off 3 times! They are completely changing their family's fate for the better by doing such simple things. But let me let her tell you in her own words. Take it away, Cynthia!
Tell us about yourself:
Hi! I’m Cynthia. I'm a mom of 4 kids ages 1 to 9, currently starting up my business as an artist and mentor and my husband, Travis, is an auto mechanic. We live in a basement apartment in Saratoga Springs, UT.
How, when, and why did you first start reading FCF?
I started reading the blog about a year and a half ago. I had started using Deals to Meals and found this blog through them. I loved the extra financial tips and spunky writing style of Jordan. *Note from Jordan: see how I use Deals to Meals and do my grocery shopping for more info*
Tell us about your financial situation BEFORE you started implementing FCF principles?
My husband lost his job 3 times in one year, so we desperately wanted to get out of the hole we were in. We had over $20,000 in debt before he lost his job, so things were not pretty. And the jobs that he did get were just not cutting it. We couldn’t even afford our basic needs and all our minimum payments.
What was your “final straw”?
Well, of course losing income puts things into perspective. But when Travis finally did get his great job that he has now… we knew that things had to change. We had to get out of the hole we were in. And we want to pay off our debt so we’re not in that same catastrophe ever again, we want to be more prepared.
Tell us about the changes you made in your life?
We went to Jordan’s Frugality Boot Camp early last year, so learned all the cool tricks and tips… even though there wasn’t much we could do at the time to get ahead, because it was in the middle of the job losses and low income. But it inspired us to change and showed us how to make it happen. We started taking control of our situation more. We moved to a cheap basement apartment that we found a fantastic deal on! The rent is $300 a month less than what we were paying before. So that was a HUGE blessing right there! Right around the same time, my husband got a better paying job. We were behind on all our bills, but we slowly got current.
Some of the things we did:
- I got super focused on the food budget… Before all the job losses, we were spending about $600-$700 a month on groceries (and toiletries, etc..) for our family of six. Which isn’t bad considering we have 2 in diapers… but I knew I could go lower.
- I got better about menu planning and price matching and using Deals to Meals. I stretched out their menu plan, mixing in super cheap and easy meals in between.
- About 6 months ago, I stopped buying cold cereal and bread for the most part. Now I make bread most of the time and for breakfast, we have hot cereal, eggs, toast, etc… That right there saved us about $70 a month.
- We now do about $500 a month on groceries, did I mention I have 2 in diapers!!
- I’ve loved Jordan’s envelope method, even though we don’t usually have much in the “Other”category.
- The only change I made to it is that since my husband gets paid every 2 weeks. I just split up the grocery budget to be 2 weeks, instead of every week. It works, especially since I go major grocery shopping every 2 weeks anyway -Costco and Walmart. And then the following week is just for restocking milk and any produce we might need.
- The other method of Jordan’s that we’ve loved implementing is really just simplifying our budgets into those categories she talks about. I used to have a separate category for every little thing, and would complicate everything and it was really hard to stick to. So now we just have the four budget categories of regular family bills, (things that hardly ever change) his, hers, and then we have another category for the variable family expenses like car registration, Christmas, etc, we’ve tried to set aside some, no matter how little for that category. I love how much more simplified our budget is. Much easier to work with!
- Just recently we got a little loan from the bank for some debt consolidation. Because in our case, it was worth it. We had so many little debts with high interest and high minimum payments, and many were still not current, so they were racking up late fees. So with the loan we were able to get current and lower our monthly minimum payments. With one particular debt we were able to settle for a few hundred less than we owed!
- I’ve also recently got a little part time job working from home doing online work. I’ve also started selling some of my art, and am working on a commissioned painting right now. And I also have an art mentoring course in the works.
How long did it take for these changes to start positively taking effect in your life?
So obviously every little bit helps along the way. But I think the highest our total debt got up to was $23,300. That was over a year ago, and it was in the middle of our job loss crises. But it’s been 6 months since we moved to our basement apartment, and since my husband got his awesome job that pays a little more than we’ve ever made. And our debt is now down to $20,500! Plus we’re all current and on time on all our bills, woohoo!!
Tell us about the results of these changes?
Because we had been in job-loss mode, once the income did go up it was easy to stay living frugal and more motivating to change our finances for the better. It did take us time to get used to not eating cold cereal, it’s so much easier on those early school mornings! But we got used to it and it didn’t phase my husband, because that’s how he ate growing up.
What was/is the hardest part? What roadblocks, challenges, or setbacks did you/do you encounter?
The hardest part was seeing the debts and bills go up, when there was nothing we felt like we could do in the middle of our financial crises. It was so discouraging. But we learned how to be grateful for the small things, and tried our best to be positive, hopeful, and have faith that we would come through. Being negative about it just made it worse, so we tried not to dwell in the negative, and worry about everything. We instead looked for the small victories, and have gratitude. And that in itself changed everything.
What has been the best part of making these changes in your life? What has pleasantly surprised you?
That my relationship with my husband has been strengthened when it could so easily have gotten worse. We’re in this together, and that commitment was really tested, but we’ve pulled through.
Now that our joint income is going up. It’s getting even more fun to be able to stay current and on time on our bills, and even pay extra now! Once we pay down more debt, and improve our credit score. Our next goal is to buy a house! We’re so excited about that possibility especially since we’ve been renting our whole 10 year marriage, and we know that we’re not done with our family yet.
Anything else you’d like to say or share?
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not worry and dwell in a negative attitude so much. That just doesn’t help to get out of the situation. Know your numbers, and work on the strategies, yes. But the constant worrying just doesn’t help. Because then opportunities to improve are closed off, because they’re not so easily seen from such a dark and negative space. Having hope and faith, and a positive attitude help so much! Even if you have to play uplifting music while balancing the checkbook and working on the budget, it helps so much! If I can do this, YOU CAN TOO!
Cynthia emailed me this week and said this:
“Guess what? We just got our tax return, so now we have even more debt paid off!!! So that means less minimum payments each month, so leaving us with more money each month to pay off more debt, yay!! Our income is actually MORE than our expenses!!! That hasn't happened consistently (meaning for more than one month) for at least 4 years!!! WOOHOO!!”
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Is anyone else teary-eyed right now? I can't tell you the emotional effect these stories have on me, guys. I've been there. I'm still there. It's a never-ending process. But you can do it! I did it! She did it! It's not as hard as you think. And just as Cynthia said, it's FUN as long as you have a positive attitude about it.
Cynthia's story embodies everything FunCheapOrFree is about. I'm honored and thrilled to be part of such an incredible legacy. Way to go Cynthia! *chest bump high five butt slap bro hug*
Want to share your success story too?
Please please please pretty please DO! Email [email protected] and tell her you want to be featured! You can always use the hashtag #FreebsSuccessStory on Instagram and Facebook to show off how you are improving your life through taking charge of your finances.