Warrenton’s Jen and Thomas Stevens Celebrate Paying Off $118,000 in Debt

Submitted by Jen Stevens, Warrenton

Newly married, and recently relocated across the country for work, we thought our life was swell. But we had goals. We wanted to honeymoon abroad, throw a massive wedding reception shin-dig and indulge in spontaneous adventure. There was just one large problem we were ignoring: money. We understood the concept on living on less than we make, yet we had no idea how to put budgeting to practice. We spent money on a whim, if our bank account said “no” our credit cards would surely say “yes.”

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Jen and Thomas Stevens, of Warrenton, used Dave Ramsey’s free tools to create a budget. Photo courtesy: Jen Stevens

On month eight of our marriage my social work heart could not say no to the neighborhood baby who needed an emergency foster-type placement. Literally, over night we found ourselves the temporary parents to an adorable little guy. In hindsight, suddenly parenting a 12-month-old brought incredible focus to our not-so-focused life. I had heard of a particular financial program and even listened to some of the podcasts. It seemed we could no longer be in a pre-contemplative stage of change. So, deep breath, we took the plunge.

In early June 2015, with baby toys surrounding us, we sat down to our first budget meeting. With everything on paper in front of us we realized we didn’t have the funds to cover our minimum payments. It was a somber evening. We were not to be conquered though, we acknowledged our foe and made a plan of attack. We made a budget using (yes it’s free!) www.everydollar.com. We committed to communication, hard work, and diligence.

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Jen and Thomas Stevens signed Dave Ramsey’s wall to signify paying off their debt. Photo courtesy: Jen Stevens

With the goal of financial freedom forefront in our minds, we charged ahead. There have been seasons of what feels like endless work. The Christmas season of 2015 I worked approximately six weeks straight. We have packed lunches, ate dinner at home, and said no to social functions that involved cost. We use a cash system, limiting ourselves to the money for each designated purpose – no money in the envelope, no spending. We’ve saved up for moves, a new vehicle, major repairs and appliances, necessary travel and more. We’ve learned to project what our needs are. We’ve learned to work together. We know that this is a season of sacrifice as we work toward being debt free.

The methodology we subscribe to is taught in Financial Peace University, also known as the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps. A large portion, $54,000, was paid off with the sale of a home we did not want to keep. During the first 21 months alone we cash flowed $52,392.07 out of our family’s income.

Ultimately, the journey took 731 days and on June 1, 2017 we accomplished a debt-free goal, while living separately on opposite sides of the globe. I was in Warrenton, and Thomas was stationed in the Middle East. In total, we paid off about $118,000.

Dave Ramsey hosts a radio show. On Thursday, October 12, 2017, we were able to celebrate by yelling “WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!” in the lobby of the radio show.

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Jen and Thomas Stevens celebrated paying off $118,000 in debt over the course of 2 years and 1 day with a visit to the Dave Ramsey Show. Photo courtesy: Jen Stevens

This journey was transformative, that is an understatement. However, what I think made that scream so emotional and celebratory was the depth of change in our lives. The change that occurred was like scar tissue, it’s permanent. It’s changed the way we handle situations, spend money, and how we communicate. We aren’t stressed when common big expenses (ex. tires, unexpected medical bills, household repairs) arise. If you’re reading this, and an unexpected $300 repair keeps you up at night, or you have a heap of student loan debt, try something new. Check out the Dave Ramsey Show, or everydollar.com. It’s all free and it just might change your life… it changed ours.

Now that we are in a post-debt life, the possibilities seem endless. We can finally honeymoon, build the tiny house we are dreaming of and adventure any way our budget allows.

Money has a way of burdening folk; I have observed many a friend and relative oppressed by looming bills or mortgages. This journey has been exhausting, exhilarating, and liberating. The trajectory of our lives will never be the same, and my hope is that everyone can experience the freedom that budgeting and goal setting brings.

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