Today I’m thrilled to welcome my special guest, Paige Pritchard, to MendingPockets! Paige and her husband, Ryan, paid off $98k in consumer debt while cash flowing some other pretty major events simultaneously. She also decided to embark on an exciting new side venture, coming in August, during her debt free journey. I’ll let her tell you more about that a bit later!
Let’s meet Paige and find out more about her story!
MP: Hello Paige! Thank you so much for agreeing to share your debt payoff story today. You’ve inspired me, and I know that your story will encourage others also. To start things off, would you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your life and interests!
PP: Hi There! I’m Paige Pritchard, and I am just a normal 27-year-old girl currently living near Ann Arbor Michigan with my husband Ryan and our two fur children, Ellie & Poppy.
I’m a native Texan who grew up outside of Dallas, TX in a town called Coppell. I graduated from high school in 2007 and headed off to Texas A&M where I earned my undergraduate degree in Marketing.
I met my husband Ryan shortly after graduation at my first “big girl” job selling cars at Sewell Cadillac in Dallas, TX. Two years later we made the decision to return to Ryan’s home state of Michigan where I started a new career in information services at a company called IHS Markit. They serve large automotive manufacturers like Ford & FCA. I still work there today four years later!
About a year after moving to Michigan I made the decision to earn my MBA part-time at night. In August 2016 I graduated with my MBA with a dual concentration in Marketing & Finance.
Ryan and I also got married last summer, and we celebrated our one-year anniversary this June 5th!
I’m an avid college football fan, Nutella addict, reality TV junkie (GUILTY!!), and I also love interior design.
MP: Congratulations on your anniversary! I definitely understand the addiction to reality TV, especially home reno shows [Fixer Upper anyone??!!]
How Much Did You Owe?
MP: Despite the fact that talking about money seems so taboo in our society, you’re excited to share your story today. Tell us about that and also how much consumer debt you had when you started your payoff journey.
PP: I love sharing my story with others! I truly believe it is so important for those going through the same journey to realize that it is possible to achieve freedom from debt, and most importantly they are not alone.
Between Ryan and I, we had $98K of debt. I had $40K from my undergrad student loans, and Ryan had $58K between his MBA student loans and credit cards that he used for his living expenses while earning his MBA.
Our story is unique in that it’s not your typical story of paying off a huge amount of debt in “no time at all.” It took us five years and five months to pay it all off because we decided to achieve certain life milestones simultaneously like:
- Buying our first home
- Cashing flowing a wedding and a honeymoon
- Cash flowing my MBA.
Because of this, our debt payoff story was slower than others, but we still achieved our goal of having no consumer debt by the time Ryan turned 30 (on May 30th of this year). We were officially [consumer] debt free on Dec 19, 2016 – we beat our goal by five months!
MP: Not a typical story in any sense. You talk about how slow you went, but you CASH FLOWED your wedding, honeymoon and an MBA at the same time you paid off your debt!! It amazes me what you two have accomplished in only five and a half years! That’s a huge accomplishment, and it took some serious determination and focus.
It’s All in the Details
MP: Will you please share with us some details on how you paid off your debt?!
PP: Sure, I’d love to! Both my husband and I were blessed to have full-time corporate jobs the entire time we were paying off our debt that provided us with steady incomes. I also became a consultant for Rodan + Fields, a direct marketing opportunity which I love and still do today to pull in extra income where I can.
Our payoff method was the Debt Avalanche, tackling our debts by largest to smallest interest rates. Naturally, this meant that we started with our credit cards that had interest rates in the 15-20% range. Once those were gone, we started on our student loans where the interest rates were in the 5-8% range.
With my job, I would earn quarterly bonuses, and Ryan would earn an end of year annual bonus. Every month we would allocate a set amount to our debt that was left over after all our necessary expenses. Then, every single bonus we got went straight to debt.
Not a single penny of our bonus money was saved or spent on anything other than debt for that five-year period which really helped to expedite our debt payoff. This also prevented us from having to dip into our $2,500 emergency fund while paying off our debt.
I used an Excel spreadsheet to track our payoff and progress. I’m also an avid user of Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar app. Not only was it great to keep track of our debt payoff, but I also used it (and still do) to create our monthly budget.
Personal Capital is another great site that tracks the progress you are making on your net worth. That helped us keep track of how paying off our debt was positively affecting our net worth. So, I still use this today to track our net worth month to month.
MP: You kept up a very high level of intensity for those five and a half years! It helps a lot to have a good system in place for budgeting and keeping track of every single dollar and what job it has or will need to do in the future.
Additional Resources to Guide Your Debt Payoff Journey
MP: What debt elimination resources, other than the software tools you mentioned, would you recommend to the readers?
PP: I listen to Dave Ramsey’s YouTube Channel and Podcasts. I’ll be honest, I don’t agree 100% with all of his teachings, but I think that 90% of what he teaches and the process he endorses (i.e. the 7 baby steps) are excellent for working to get out of debt. I’ve read most of his [endorsed] books:
- The Total Money Make Over by Dave Ramsey
- Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze
- Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan
These were all huge inspirations for me. The Millionaire Next Door was also one of the first personal finance books I ever read which really showed me that building wealth isn’t about making a huge income, but more about being modest and responsible with what you do have.
Sacrificing for the Greater Goal
MP: Budgeting shows you where you’ve planned to spend your income, but it also involves making choices. Describe one tough decision you faced when choosing to prioritize debt payoff.
PP: For us, the biggest area of sacrifice was traveling. All of our friends are getting married and/or having babies right now. There were countless showers & wedding invitations that we had to decline. Many of these events were in other parts of the country which would have required round-trip airfare, rental cars, and hotel rooms adding up into the thousands of dollars to attend. Unless either of us was in the wedding, we declined to attend.
It was difficult for me because I wanted to be there for my friends to attend these special moments in their lives. But at the end of the day, I knew that getting out of debt was our #1 priority, and not much more came before that.
Murphy Comes Calling
MP: Along the road to debt freedom, talk about other struggles you encountered and what words of encouragement you can offer to others facing struggles themselves right now.
PP: The hardest part for me was that it felt like every month we were barely scraping by because every spare penny we had left over after paying our bills and budgeting for necessities went towards our debt. I’ll be honest, the stress and fear that comes with scraping the bottom of the barrel for every last spare cent every month really wore me down a couple of times.
I remember one time in the summer; our utility bill skyrocketed due to a broken A/C unit that was working overtime to cool our apartment. Our bill was $400 more than what I had budgeted.
I remember checking my email with our statement on my way to work one morning and bawling my eyes out the entire way into work because I didn’t know where we were going to come up with the extra money to cover the bill.
We were able to shift some categories around in our budget that month to cover the difference, but it was more the initial shock and fear that sent me over the edge.
In hindsight, that moment seems so distant, and I feel silly for getting so upset. But anyone getting out of debt knows that the process is stressful and terrifying, but also exhilarating and liberating all at once. It’s a roller coaster of emotions.
For anyone currently on the downward slope, I would encourage you to focus on the end of the ride. Just know that the way you are feeling right now is hard & draining, but it’s nothing compared to how ecstatic you will feel once you are free from the chains of debt.
It will be one of the biggest challenges of your life, but the experience and lessons learned along the way will be life altering.
A Life Altering Experience
MP: You talk about the life-altering lessons learned, share with us your biggest lesson learned while paying off your debt.
PP: Now that we are out of debt, we won’t ever go back. Our life is now governed by certain simple common sense principals like “if you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it” and “spend less than you make.”
Seems almost rudimentary, but these are the behaviors that got us out of debt and worked for us, so we are going to keep living our lives this way.
Our goal now is to grow our wealth so that we can create a great life for ourselves, our future family, and give back to others to make a meaningful impact in others’ lives.
Support from Others
MP: Did you share this journey with family and friends along the way? Tell us about your decision.
PP: To be honest, we kept our debt payoff journey very private, and we didn’t really start sharing our story until we were out of debt, even with family. In fact, most people didn’t even realize how much debt we were in until it was gone!
It’s not that we were embarrassed about our financial situation (trust me, we knew that we weren’t the only ones strapped with student loan debt).
For Ryan and I, our debt free journey became this intimate adventure between the two of us. It really felt like it was us against the world.
We really held on to the notion that this was a goal we were going to achieve because it was the two of us working together in harmony – without any outside noise or influence.
Of course, we had times when we would turn down invitations from friends & family and say “we just can’t afford it,” but that’s where it would end.
I can say that the outpouring of support and well wishes has been huge from our family and friends once we shared with them what we have accomplished. It has been so appreciated.
I have had friends reach out to me to say that they are so encouraged by my story, as they are working with their spouse to get out of a mountain of student loan debt. Even little conversations like that make sharing my story worth-while.
MP: I love how you said that this became an intimate adventure between the two of you, that it was you two working together in harmony. So often finances become a source of tension in a marriage, but this experience bonded you two more closely together!
Finally FREE From Consumer Debt!
MP: Describe for me your final debt payoff moment and how you and Ryan felt afterward!
PP: I remember the moment so vividly that we paid off our last remaining student loan. Ryan had just received his end of year bonus. It was a couple of days before Christmas, and we were both home from work that day.
We woke up and checked the bank account to make sure that his bonus hit. Then we went straight over and paid off the remaining balance on our last loan.
We were sitting on our couch in the living room and pressed the “Submit Payment” button together. After it had processed, we both just looked at each other in disbelief. We had actually crossed the finish line!
That night we just had a couple of friends over to our house for dinner and drinks. It was the perfect way for us to celebrate. To be honest, it took a couple of months for the realization that we were debt free to sink in.
Our mindset had been so intensely focused on the debt for all those years that it took some time to alter our mindset and realize the months following that we didn’t have to make our student loan payments.
A Cause for Celebration!
MP: Did you celebrate any milestones along the journey, for motivation?
PP: The only milestone we celebrated was paying off our credit card debt. For some reason, even though we had way more student loan debt, the credit card debt always seemed so much worse to us – because the interest rates were so high. To us, it represented borrowing money to buy things we couldn’t afford in the first place. Once our credit card debt was gone, we went out to dinner to celebrate.
MP: Is there anything else about your debt payoff journey that you’d like to share with us?
PP: My primary message to people is your life doesn’t have to stop while you’re paying off debt. Achieving financial freedom is a challenge and requires sacrifice no doubt, but it’s not a death sentence.
Ryan and I were able to accomplish some pretty incredible milestones during our debt free journey through being organized, disciplined, and living on a detailed budget.
Stay patient and focused. Before you know it, you will be crossing the finish line. Once you do, you will realize just like I did that there truly is no better feeling than the peace of mind that comes with being debt free.
It makes all the sleepless nights, hard moments, and difficult sacrifices 100% worth it.
MP: Yes, the end result does make the sacrifices worth it!
What’s Next, Financially Speaking?
MP: Now that you paid off all the consumer debt, what do you plan to tackle next?
PP: The next big financial milestone for us is becoming 100% debt free, which means paying off our mortgage! Our goal is to accomplish this in the next five years before Ryan turns 35. During this time, we are also going to ramp up our savings and investments in order to substantially grow our net worth.
Warren Buffett said, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” This is one of my all-time favorite pieces of advice when it comes to personal finance.
I think it’s so important to prioritize saving or paying off debt over spending. When I was younger, I would spend first, then save what was left – which never really seemed to be that much because I would spend most of my income. Now, we save first, then spend what is left after saving. It has made such a huge impact on our financial well-being.
MP: Very soon you’ll press that last “submit payment” button together and pay off your home. You’ll not only be 100% debt free but also well on your way to financial independence. Your choices today will truly change your family’s financial future forever.
An Exciting New Adventure on the Horizon!
MP: During your debt payoff journey you’ve discovered some things about yourself and have some exciting news to share!
PP: Yes! I am so excited to be starting a personal finance blog called The Purposeful Penny. It will be launching in August! The website is www.thepurposefulpenny.com
During our debt free journey, personal finance really became a passion of mine. I want to use my experience and the knowledge I acquired during this time to help educate others going through the same situation.
Navigating the muddy waters of personal finance can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for young adults living on their own and managing a budget for the first time.
Also, so many Millennials coming out of college are strapped with student loan debt. Because of these two issues, I figured that a blog would be the perfect channel to convey my story and share the lessons learned during my debt-free journey to serve and help others.
I am so excited for the launch of my blog in next couple of weeks.
Thank you so much, Paige, for sharing your story with us today! I look forward to the launch of The Purposeful Penny! I wish you much success in your goal to help other young adults with their finances!
Paige and her husband Ryan worked together on a common goal and paid off a large amount of debt in five and a half years. They did it through making tough choices and prioritizing their debt over other spending desires. They also chose to save a portion of their income throughout their debt payoff in order to cash flow some major expenses along the way.
What Steps Can YOU Take Next?
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great, but I’m single and have to do this by myself!”
Everyone’s journey looks different, but remember to:
- Create a detailed budget and prioritize saving and paying off debt over spending for wants.
- Tell your money where to go and keep your eye on the end goal.
- Don’t let short-term wants distract you; this season will finish much sooner if you stay focused.
You can do this! Imagine your future without monthly payments to lenders. What can your money do if you had the option to save or invest it instead of paying off debt?
For other inspiring stories of women who’ve paid off their debt, check out these related posts:
- Brianna’s $38,000 Student Loan Debt Payoff Story!
- Sarah’s $64,000 in 16 Months Debt Payoff Story!
- Katie’s “From Only $560 in the Bank to Debt Free in a Year” Story!
- Idara’s $30,000 in 12 Months Debt Payoff Story!
If you, or someone you know, has a debt payoff story that would inspire others, please contact me!
Until next time, xo!
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