Today’s inspirational Debt Free Story comes to us from Andrew over at FamilyMoneyPlan.com. He and his family successfully paid off their mortgage in just 6 short years. You’ll definitely want to head on over to his site and explore all of the great information, inspiration, and resources he offers. Over to you, Andrew.
Tell us about yourself.
Hi there! My name is Andrew and I run the site FamilyMoneyPlan.com where I write about taking control of your finances. My family has just paid off a crazy amount of debt and we are focusing on making more money and becoming financially free.
How much debt did you have ?
When we topped out all of our debts we were just over $320,000. Now to be fair that was our mortgage. Which doesn’t really change anything. Debt is debt. I know there is a lot talk about good debt and bad debt. But if you are buying into that you probably aren’t reading this because you would only be reading this to learn about getting out of debt.
Where was I? Oh right.
Debt is bad.
What was the defining moment that made you decide to tackle your debt?
When we were in our new place with all this debt, the number 30 kept rattling around my head. I knew that a mortgage was normal. It was what everyone around us had, but when I would talk to others about extra mortgage payments I just got blank stares. That tipped me off to there might being something. If you do what everyone else does, you will get what everyone else has. Everyone else has a lot of debt.
There is this one moment that sticks out for me. We were doing some landscaping in the yard. Instead of hiring someone to plant these trees (we are talking 8 to 10 foot trees) I cheaped out because I didn’t want to pay $75 a tree to have them planted.
I spent a full weekend digging giant holes in my yard and planting trees. It may not sound like a big deal but if you knew me you would know this wasn’t my kind of thing.
By the end of that weekend, I had spent over 20 hours thinking about money and my future. You tend to think better when there is nothing else to distract you like a phone or tv screen. I realized that if I wanted to be financially free I would need to have this house paid off. I remember scaring myself and I realized that if I were to die planting these trees (which I thought could happen at one point) my young family wouldn’t have much to fall back on.
So I decided that it would be best to pay of our house and get our financial house in order. Getting debt free was a big part of that.
What was your plan for paying off the debt?
I had a spreadsheet of all our monthly costs. Then I made a rough spreadsheet to see how much we could put down on our mortgage. We had a money system in place and we rearranged everything to make it work. We started out and it wasn’t a lot. Both my wife and I bought into the idea of paying off our place. We constantly reminded ourselves.
As far as preparation there were a few concerns. One was putting this extra money down on the house meant that the money was gone. So if we managed to throw an extra $1000 on our mortgage we couldn’t get that amount back.
This scared us, because it meant living on the thin line of “What if”. What if we lose our jobs? What if we can’t make our payments? What if the car needs a huge repair? What if there is an emergency? What if? What if? What if?
One thing that happens a lot is when you decide to take bold action, a lot of doubts come up. It’s normal but knowing it’s normal doesn’t help.
I called our banker and talk to him about our options. We were in a 10-year mortgage (because I was afraid of rates jumping, I was wrong, let’s more on,) so I had to pay a fee to get out. But what we did get when we moved out of it was a line of credit on the house. The way this line of credit worked was if we put $1000 on the mortgage that gave us more room on the line of credit. We never planned on using it but it satisfied the peace of mind we were looking for.
A lot of times when we have concerns it just takes some time to work them out. For the record I don’t recommend people doing that. We did because we were good financially and rarely used a line of credit for purchases. If I had any doubts that we would start using the line of credit I wouldn’t have done it.
Where did you find the extra money to put toward the debt?
I found it in a bank robbery, just kidding. Honestly, we found the extra money through cutting down a lot of expenses. We cut out a ton of things, and cut down on other things even more. We always watched recurring expenses. One of the things I like to mention is we shared a flip phone between the two of us for the first 4 years. It was only when we knew we could complete our mortgage freedom plan that we decided to splurge on dual cellphones.
We cut down on eating out and found ways to eat cheaper. We entertained instead of going out. We basically looked at our lives and realized there were places everywhere that we could cut. So we did.
We also didn’t travel for most of the time.
Another thing, I feel compelled to mention this, was the mortgage wasn’t maxed out. I know a lot people when they are buying or building they max out their mortgage. We never did this so we had some extra room in there to pay it off too.
How long did it take you to pay off the debt?
6 years for the mortgage. It was a long time, but we had a young family and we knew we were in the sweet spot as far as kids go. Young enough to enjoy them, young enough that they think we are cool, ok cool-ish, … ok they don’t know what a geek is yet so that’s probably it.
Anyway our kids being young gave us time to stay home and focus on being a family. Those 6 years whipped by, and we are grateful we were able to do what we did.
How did you stay motivated to continue on your path to debt freedom?
I think it’s important to have a big why. Why do you want to be debt free? What’s so important about it? For me I thought being mortgage free in my 30’s would be a huge personal accomplishment. But I kept saying to myself it’s worth it. Remember first people will ask you why you are doing it, then they will ask you how you did it.
At the time, I never had any plans to share my story. I’m happy I have as people are telling me it has helped motivate them.
Did you make any mistakes or hit obstacles that slowed or stopped your progress?
Oh tons!!! Getting out of our 10-year mortgage made no sense financially. When the stock market was at it’s bottom I should have done things and didn’t. We also had to buy a new car towards the end of it. Which is a personal finance faux pas. We chose new since we tend to drive cars a long time. I figure we will keep this one for at least 15 years. I’m not a car guy so I’m not bothered by what year or make it is. Just so long as it doesn’t kill my wallet in repairs all the time.
How is your life different now that you are debt free?
I’m less stressed about money. I have peace of mind that I have always wanted. You would think it would fade but I still wake up with a smile knowing I’m debt free. There’s some pride with that. There’s also some freedom knowing that we can leave our jobs if we want to since our monthly costs are so much lower without our mortgage payments.
What advice or actionable tips can you give people who want to pay off their debt?
Get started. Every little bit counts. I know it’s a bit of an old saying but it’s true. The thing I would suggest is this. Think of your lifetime money. Your mortgage will most likely cost you double the original mortgage, once you pay all of that interest. So any amount you put down today can be worth double that. But the cost certainty you get from being debt-free, and the pride you experience is well worth doing in my opinion.
If you are wanting to learn more about paying off your mortgage quicker than 30 years, then you should check out my free ebook: How To Hack Your Mortgage and Save $1000s. In it I share the different tips and tricks we used to get out of our mortgage decades quicker.
Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story of debt freedom, Andrew!