How We Said NO to Debt and Credit

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I’m unabashedly pro-cash. I’ve partnered with sponsor My Job Chart to tell my story about credit cards and debt:


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It’s been six years since we stopped using credit cards. I don’t miss it at all. I really don’t miss paying a big bill at the end of the month. I really, really don’t miss worrying about being late to pay, usually because I just forgot.

Out of sight, out of mind. That was money for me.

I’d always been a “frugal” person, so it’s weird that I got “drunk” on credit. But, I did. Six years of financial sobriety has been very, very good. Our marriage is less stressed; I’m less stressed. We enjoy our purchases more because they are actually paid for.

Life is so very, very different, I can’t imagine that we lived the way we did.

In case you missed our GOOD (Get Out Of Debt) story, here it is again:

Back in May of 2007 after a substantial season of unemployment, my husband and I faced the cold hard truth that we were living beyond our means. Sure, we paid off the credit card every month, but that month and a half of no work left us with no resources. We’d used all our savings and found ourselves saddled with three mortgages (two on our home, one on a rental property), a car loan, and several credit cards carrying balances. We also had no plan for changing our habits.

We spent more than we made. Yet, credit cards and loans allowed us to do so without any real consequences.

Those around us kind of shrugged it off. They didn’t think it was a big deal. Thankfully, God convicted us that it was.

Getting Out of Debt

Over the following year and a half, we paid off $18,000 of consumer debt. It was pretty depressing, especially when there were so many things we wanted to buy and do. Instead,

  • We stopped using credit cards.
  • We wrote a budget every month, giving every penny a name.
  • We listened to the Dave Ramsey podcast to hear stories of failure and success and be reminded of what was important.
  • We audited our expenses and cut everything that could possibly be cut. We ate LOTS of rice and beans.
  • We sold lots of things that we didn’t need  and took side jobs in order to increase our income.
  • We took the long view that  the end result of being financially free would justify any cuts and sacrifices we made along the way.
  • We focused on experiences over things.
  • We spent more time together as a family.
  • We learned to talk about money in a less stressed way.
  • We became happier in many, many ways.

Today we live without credit cards and only buy what we can pay for outright. We have an emergency fund. We plan for purchases. We have savings.

We learned the hard way. And we have the frequent flyer miles to prove it. We started down the path to debt, enticed by the rewards promised by American Distress. All those miles we gained? We’ve used them once and it was a disaster of a plane ride.

Our kids learned with us as we went on a rice and beans diet to pay off our debts and “act our wage”. They know first hand that spending more than you make is really not worth it. And we’re working to make them mindful of money.

The statistics about Americans and money are rather sobering:

DrunkOnCredit Infographic

I’m intent on my kids’ knowing the value of the dollar, working for what they want, and be responsible for their expenses. Our kids are not going to learn fiscal responsibility unless we teach it to them. The culture is bent toward credit — in many places kids even pay for their school lunches with plastic. We, the people, are the only ones to set it straight. And it starts in our own homes.

My Job Chart is a free, easy to use, online chore chart and reward system for organizing and motivating your kids to learn first hand how to save, share and spend. Listen to Dennis Miller chat about MyJobChart and being Drunk on Credit.

While I realize that some folks feel more comfortable using a credit card and paying it off each month, it’s just something we no longer feel comfortable with. Yeah, we’re weird. But, you knew that already, right?


This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

Have you said NO to credit and debt?

Tell us your get-out-of-debt story.

Disclosure: I have received financial compensation from My Job Chart. All opinions are my own.

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  1. We took Financial Peace through our church about 2 1/2 years ago. I’d been listening to the radio show and wanted to get my husband on the same page. I dragged him to the class kicking and screaming and now he’s a convert, sometimes annoyingly so! We’ve paid off $65K in debt–CC, 2 cars, our camping trailer, and student loans. We have savings for emergencies and “planned emergencies” like home or car repairs. We’ve purchased new (to us) instruments for our musical children, new hearing aids for one of our children, insulin pumps for two of them, and we’re now on a full cash budget. We’ve refinanced our home to a 15 year mortgage and we make an extra payment every year. We’ve also been able to send our son to Europe this summer for the experience of a lifetime, all paid in CASH. We travel and pay for things as we go rather than after we get home! Now we’re looking at college for our older children so we’re still making careful choices with our resources, but it’s so freeing to know that we’re (mostly) debt-free!! It was a struggle to pay for today and save for tomorrow, all while trying to pay off yesterday, but we did it and I’ll never go back. A 3rd car would sure be nice for our busy family, and we could get a 5 year no interest loan….tempting? A bit, but security feels SO much better than any new car!!

  2. We own our house and one car and are right side up on our truck. We have 2 adult children that are working and are paying for things with cash. We’ve taught them about opportunity cost and to weigh the value of things.

    That being said, the government is not like a household. As a nation we are responsible for the global reserve currency for better or worse. None of us have the ability to create money, the government does(or at least I hope none of you have printing presses in your houses.) One of the ways to actually stimulate an economy is for the government to actually spend money. One of the reasons our economy is struggling right now is the government has pulled back on spending and demand in the private sector is low. There is an air of economic uncertainty and our government is in some respects making it worse.

    To put things in perspective of that 16.7 trillion over 8 trillion is money we owe OURSELVES. It’s money we owe to pay for the elderly to retire on, its money that our banks and municipalities invested in and was gladly lent because it was backed by full faith and credit of a government that has the world’s largest economy. It’s one of the safest investments an investor can make. That’s why places like China and Japan purchase bonds (or our debt) from us. By all means we should have a conversation on money but it needs to be an honest one, not one that misrepresents investment as debt.

    I really dislike the premise that our government is acting “liquored up” by paying for things like roads, schools, ensuring food and water safety, food for children that aren’t fortunate enough to be born into households with enough, or many of the other multitudes of things that define who we are as a nation and our VALUES. Don’t get me wrong I think there should be some discussion about whether or not the nation as a whole agree with what we spend on(I am completely opposed to the closed door negotiations on health care, energy, financial and trade policy that has occurred behind closed doors under BOTH political parties. It’s completely undemocratic and it makes me sad that while I served for 12 years I failed to realize how plutocratic we are becoming) and how we pay for it. I just think that pretending that microeconomics is exactly the same as macroeconomics is disingenuous and I have a hard time with sites that pretend that how I spend my money is exactly the same as how a country deals with its currency.

  3. I am in the process of digging out of credit card debt and then I’ll be tackling student loan debt (just received my graduate degree) as a single mom on very low income. It’s been a tough road and I haven’t had steady income for quite some time but as of yesterday I received a job offer that will change all that. I can’t wait to REALLY tackle my debt.

  4. We are learning this lesson right now. A year ago we moved 700 miles to somewhere with a lower cost of living as part of our plan to improve our finances. Two months later my husband was laid off from his job and is still unemployed 10 months later. Luckily I have a FT job with benefits but our income was cut by 60%. Not exactly what we had in mind for improving our finances. However it did make us re-evaluate how we spend our money and pushed us to make permanent changes. Yes we had to cash in some assets to pay off the debt but that made more sense to us then being trapped by our credit card debt. It felt suffocating! No more credit cards to buy things we want but can’t really afford at that time. Painful but necessary lesson for us and for our kids.

  5. I love to read articles and stories like these! We are still digging out and paying off debt. But we are no longer using credit or transferring debt from one place to the other. We have a plan and will be paid off by 2015, excluding the mortgage, at least that’s the plan on paper right now. We are teaching our teens to never fall into the trap of credit and to use cash and save. Dave Ramsey and YNAB and EEBA are our biggest resources right now. It literally makes me sick to think about all that we have charged and paid in interest over the years. I so wish we had “seen the light” much, much sooner!

  6. We are in the middle of digging out. The financial crash of 2007/2008 hit us hard and right before~ we built a new home before selling the one we were living in…….it took close to three years to sell that home and instead of a $300,000 gain we actually lost money on the sale. That home had a 15-year mortgage and that was rough making that payment every month until it sold. Unfortunately that caused us to rack up about $15,000 in debt on credit cards. We will be finished paying that off soon and have made the commitment to never EVER live with debt again. I’ve decided that I like using cash…..

  7. We are cash only too and have been for about the same amount of time. We are working our babysteps and have been debt free (except for the house) for 3 years. It is very liberating and once you break free of the bondage of debt, you can’t imagine living any other way. This journey has been so good for our marriage and our family. I think it made us stronger and better people because of it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. Our debt free story is different than most. My mother died while we were digging ourselves out and her life insurance policy and money she had from the sale of her home paid our debts. It was very humbling and I feel so blessed to have a mom that cared so much for me that she left behind a financial legacy. Thankfully when it happened as already stated we were already on our road to becoming debt free so we had learned our lesson about credit and living beyond our means already, so her gift really was used wisely.

    1. What a beautiful legacy from your mom. I think I remember your saying that before?

      We received an inheritance when we had about $1K left to go. It was a bittersweet way to pay it off. I’m very thankful.

    1. congratulations sonja! we are sending our own girls through college with the ‘no loan goal’. cashflowing one semester at a time with all hands on deck working towards that goal. we want our daughters to have options after graduation that their friends may not have. thank you for sharing your story because sometimes i get so focused on the day and feel like ‘whats the use’ that i forget to look up into the sunset.

      my husband and i loved to use debt to get out of debt. with no more options left, by the grace of God, we just got serious almost 4 years ago paying off $26k in consumer debt, cashflowing a $9k property tax assessment, building up an emergency fund, buying used cars with cash, and taking life head on. and then teaching our girls about money was a double whammy. all our hard work is going to leave them a legacy, not to mention that my husband and I can enjoy our retirement and sustain joy in our life along the way.