How We Paid Off $52K of Debt in Under Two Years

Kim and DeaconIn the LearnVest Personal Stories series, everyday people share the details of their money lives, discussing the individual choices they’ve made and how it’s impacted their financial journey.

Today, one man recounts the moment he realized that he and his wife were drowning in debt, and how digging themselves out transformed their finances, their marriage—and his calling in life.

Before tying the knot, my wife, Kim, and I never discussed money.

It wasn’t an intentional choice to be secretive—we just never prioritized sharing details about our income, spending habits, or debt when we were dating.

But I had financial skeletons in my closet. With $18,000 in student loans and another $18,000 from an auto loan, I brought a significant amount of debt into our marriage.

I guess I didn’t worry about fessing up to Kim because I wasn’t too concerned myself. I figured, with a little discipline, I’d get around to paying it off at some point.

What did alarm me, however, was an incident that happened shortly after our wedding.

In the course of one month, Kim charged $600 of new clothing and designer handbags to our joint credit card—a fact I discovered while looking over the statement one day.

I was truly shocked, and it got me thinking: Did we have a spending problem?

What I realized, after taking a closer look at our finances, is that it wasn’t just Kim who was threatening our financial well-being. In just a few months’ time, we’d run up a $7,000 balance on our credit cards, thanks to a combination of Kim’s shopping, my overspending on everyday expenses, and our $1,400 honeymoon cruise.

When I combined that balance with my own debt and Kim’s outstanding $9,000 in student loans, I realized we were on the hook for $52,000—plus another $350,000 for our mortgage.

RELATED: Money Clinic: ‘My Boyfriend and I Are Paying Off $200K of Debt—Together’

  • Lee

    Wow! Great job in getting out of debt! I’m glad you guys were able to pull yourselves out.

    It never ceases to amaze me how two people can get married without knowing each other’s financial situation, though. This story turned out great, but so many others don’t.

  • Kay-Lee

    This is such an inspiring story. I’m working on making the same small changes that you all have made. Hopefully, I can get similar results. Congratulations on the new baby!!

  • GottaBeSomethingMore

    In reiterating the other comments, well done to the couple on disciplining themselves and getting out of debt. However, the article states that they held at least a $350,000 mortgage (not counting the down payment) and they made a combined income of $70,000. How on earth did they get approved for the home loan, combined with the other debt? Perhaps it was before the crash? That just seems unreasonable…

    • flours

      I was thinking the exact same thing…also, I am assuming by Debt Free they are not referring to their mortgage…I think people need to remember that a mortgage is Debt…it may be debt you are willing to have, but it is still Debt.

  • TaiNYC

    Congratulations on getting out of debt as well as your new bundle of joy! You guys will be setting a great financial example for your little one.

  • JW

    this sounds like they did the Dave Ramsey plan, they should note that so other people can actually use their exact same program. This is literally straight from his play book.

  • Jamie

    I applaud this couple for their hard work. It’s hard to be disciplined regarding debt repayment but the reward is far greater than any temporary discomfort.

    However, I do want to point out the comment made about wanting to be a good role model to his child and teach responsible money management. He then goes onto say that both of his parents divorced and filed bankruptcy – saying this made them not so great examples. I would have to 100% disagree with this statement.

    I had parents who did not divorce, who taught me money management and budgeting from an early age. I carried those into adulthood and into my marriage. However, after 10 years of marriage and my husband constantly losing his job…my finances and credit tanked . We filled for divorce and I did everything in my power to repair my credit and not file bankruptcy. However, as many of you know, with marriage, all debt is community debt. Even though I was responsible with my finances, I got stuck with debt I did not incur nor benefit from. I was forced to file bankruptcy a few years later when a joint car loan we had was defaulted on by him causing the lender to file suit.

    I have managed my finances very responsibly, repaired my credit and spent the next three years rebuilding it. Today, my credit and finances are better than they have ever been. And, I am educating my children on finances, credit, banking, ect. I don’t think my bankruptcy has made me any less qualified in teaching them. If anything, I know better than ever how much you need to protect your self, even in a happy marriage. I am happy to say I am remarried but have taken steps to protect myself from this ever happening to me again.

  • Katie Joy

    Great story! Like JW below, I definitely noticed that it sounds like they are following the Dave Ramsey plan – common sense becoming common once again. It’s so encouraging to read about people taking control of their lives and their money.

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  • SJ

    I wonder how Deacon negotiated his cable bill down that low. I pay $60+ for internet only with Verizon and have been trying for months, to no avail :(