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How We Fell Back In To Debt

This isn't a post where at the end I'm going to say..."Then we payed off all our debt and now life is great!" I'm writing this post in the thick of it. In the thick of debt and struggle. Not many people share DURING the process of paying off debt, but rather afterwards when they've paid it all off and have good news to share. I on the other hand don't have great news except we've had enough and we're ready to make a change.


I'm here to take you along as Alex and I work through this, but first here's how we went from being debt free to going back in to debt. 

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In 2014 Alex and I were SO proud to pay off $45,000 in student loan and credit card debt in three years. We did this while buying a house and having our first child.  You can read all about how we paid it off here! In 2015 we were driving paid off cars, paying with cash, and had one child in daycare. I knew every dime that left our bank account and was very aware of our monthly payments and daily spending. We were big fans of Dave Ramsey, and even taught his Financial Peace University.

THE BALL DROPS
In May of 2015 Alex and I totaled both of our vehicles. While in the hospital after my accident I found out I was having TWINS (read about it here). I was so caught up in having twins I really didn't think about the financial impact. Alex was FREAKING out about money. We bought two used cars (Honda Pilot and a Toyota Sienna), and began to pay monthly car payments. It's a blur how it all unfolded after that, but I began to pay less and less attention to our spending. I think newborn twins were keeping me busy ; ). Once our children were all in daycare I remember Alex saying we could barely pay our minimum bills and there was NO money left for clothes shopping, travel, entertainment, etc. Basically life was not going to be fun anymore in my eyes. We began to rely on our credit card more and more. Life happened. Monthly daycare bills, hospital bills, a broken air conditioner, another totaled car, and more.

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SELFISH SPENDING
I began to stop paying attention to our bills, and we didn't have a budget set anymore. It was basically a  DON'T SPEND ANY MONEY budget. I felt deprived of fun and thought I would be extremely unhappy if I had to be on such a tight budget. We got used to paying with a card, and months would go by without me looking at our bank account (which I used to look at daily). I didn't want to see the debt add up, and I avoided it. Every once in a while I would look and FREAK out and would say things like, "We're going on a spending freeze!" Alex would get so annoyed when I would panic, because I wasn't paying attention to our daily spending and it wasn't fair to flip out on him.

We would get our tax return and instead of putting it towards our debt, we would book a vacation or buy a camera. My thought process was...we work hard, and are raising three small children, and need a break so let's live a little and pay it off later. That was our mindset for the past two years. Don't get me wrong, I don't go on insane shopping sprees and an expensive meal to us is $50 total, but we definitely made bad decisions.

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THE BREAKING POINT
A few months ago I was dreaming about our next kidless vacation, and I kept trying to justify spending $3,000 on a trip to Costa Rica. One day I decided to look at our bank account, and when I saw our balance I knew immediately there was NO WAY we were going on vacation. I couldn't ignore it anymore.

Since that point a few weeks ago, I've been very conscious of what I spend money on. Alex and I still need to sit down and work on a budget, but for so long I've been scared of it. We're both scared of having to make a lifestyle change, but it needs to happen. I know it's going to be tough (we've done it before), but this time we have a few more lives we're responsible for.

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Photos by Joyce Tong Photography | Top & Bottoms: Sonnet James | Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens

I've received a lot of questions about our spending, budgeting, and tips on becoming debt free and how to AVOID going back in to debt. I'm going to address those in an another post, and will update you on how we're doing with our spending and debt. I'll also touch on how much we're saving for retirement, and what our monthly bills look like. Money is very personal and a tough subject to talk about, but I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with it and let them know they are not alone.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

7 comments:

Shelly @ The Queen in Between said...

I've been in your shoes Jesse and I know what a struggle that is. I honestly am not sure I would have ever gotten out of debt had my dad not passed away so young and left me money. I'm so afraid of ever going back there but can see how something like an accident, medical issues or a lost job could quickly put us back in that spot or definitely in a position to have to make some major changes. Good for you being honest and transparent and creating some accountability.

Lindsey said...

Love your honesty and it's a struggle while you're in it but it will be so worth it once you have it all under control again. I'm curious - have you guys already paid off your house too? That's the only debt we have left and I'm really wanting to get it paid off quicker so would love tips and suggestions on that!

Kristin said...

How do you pay for all the necessities like daycare and bills and also have “fun money”?

Lindsay Collins said...

I actually loooove talking about personal finance and am always so curious & nosy about how people handle their finances. I discovered you while listening to your Birth Hour episode and was immediately hooked when you started talking about having gone through that journey.

I sort of liken debt to weight. It's easy (haha -- says the woman always wanting to lose 20 lbs) to lose weight, then slowly get back into your old habits and find it has crept back on. Then when you want to rein it back in, you have to change your habits and get back on the train. Same goes with money and spending. You've done it before, so there's no doubt you'll be able to do it again.

Look forward to hearing more about it! My husband and I did the Dave Ramsey steps back in 2016 and paid off $39k in one year.

Jessie said...

Thanks for sharing your story. So many people are in the same boat!

T.J. and Celina said...

When can we expect a follow-up post? 😁

Erin Fust said...

I am so thankful I just found your blog and this specific topic is exactly where we are! We did the same thing... Debt-free (Thanks Dave!) to back into the cycle of "selfish spending" and "life happens". I'm looking forward to your next blog on this! Thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable!