Ellie is a 28 year old newlywed wife, stepmother, blogger, self-professed spreadsheet nerd and natural saver. She and her husband are working super hard to achieve a huge goal – paying off their home before she hits 30. Ellie is one of the most motivated and motivating people I've met in the debt free community. I really look forward to her fancy mortgage payoff chart updates every couple of weeks, because they give me hope on my own debt free mission. 

Without further ado, let's hear from my lovely friend, Ellie. 


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Please tell me a bit more about yourself. 

My husband and I got married in April of 2016 surrounded by our families in Savannah, Georgia. I was born, raised and remain in a small town in beautiful east Tennessee, about 20 miles west of Knoxville. 

My parents were blue-collar, factory workers who made no strides to teach me about money, other than buying me savings bonds and co-signing for my first loan at 18 years old. I earned my high school degree in 2006 and went to a community college for a couple semesters before concluding that I was not college material. 

At age 20 I landed a job in the sheet-metal fabrication industry and have been there ever since. This is not so much from being passionate about the industry, but the great pay and 100% employer-paid healthcare for my family and me is difficult to leave for now.  

What was your relationship with money like before you began your quest for financial freedom?

I have considered myself to be a Dave Ramsey follower since I was 19 or 20.  However, I never fully committed. I financed a car for the first time when I was 20 and paid it off in four years. I steadily contributed to my 401k since I was 21 and off and on to my Roth IRA through the years. 

I bought my first home at the age of 25 in December of 2013 by stupidly taking $10,000 from my Roth IRA and using it as a 10% down payment, financing the other $90,000. 

Since I had taken the plunge into more debt than I had ever had, about 18 months later I figured “why not?” and financed my dream car, a Grabber Blue Mustang GT Convertible for about $19,000. I suffered buyer’s remorse instantaneously but my love of the car kept it in my garage for about six months.

What was the final straw that made you want to become completely free of the burden of debt? 

I never had the “I’ve had it!” moment that I hear about when listening to Dave Ramsey's debt-free screams, but I did have a “flip the switch” moment as I refer to it. In early 2016, I came across the Build a Bigger Life Podcast with Adam Carroll, and one episode hit me hard. It was a short, 15-minute solo-cast titled, “The Four Legacies,” and I still listen to it every few months to rejuvenate myself.  

In the solo-cast, Carroll recalls encountering a software engineer at a conference who had pulled Amazon up on his laptop and ordered every single book that the speakers mentioned. Wanting to know how he could afford the money to order all of these books and the time to read them all, Adam takes him to dinner and is educated about the four legacies – financial freedom, time freedom, relationship freedom and service freedom – all starting with financial freedom. The idea is that financial freedom leads to time freedom, which opens the doors to spending that time with the ones you love and doing the work you love.  

This single episode was the inspiration that led me to create a blog to document my financial journey and is the reason for the parenthesis in the title of my blog, “The Quest for (Financial) Freedom,” as the financial aspect is only the first step to the freedom I desire.

how much debt have you paid off To DATE?

The only debt I had beside my house was my Mustang, which I sold two months prior to getting married. I sold it for $18,000 and put a couple thousand of that in my emergency fund. 

After the wedding, the only debt I gained from my husband was my engagement ring, which had about $3,000 left on it. 

We paid it off the night we got back from Savannah and landed on Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 3 (3-6 Months Expenses in Savings) after two days of marriage.

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Why did you decide to pay off your home early and so quickly?

Before getting to the why, I’ll provide a quick background of how we got to this point. During our engagement, we knew we needed to take advantage of having two incomes after marriage by not letting our lifestyle increase to match both incomes. 

We decided to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan and did our first budget together a couple weeks after our wedding. Four months later we arrived at Baby Step 6 – Paying off the House. We felt slowed down by the thought of following the plan and contributing 15% to our retirement, saving for our daughter to go to college (if she chooses), then putting the leftover money to the house. 

Desiring to have a paid-for house before my 31st birthday, we determined that we could accomplish our goal in two years if we halted college savings completely and lowered our retirement contributions to only receive our companies’ matches, which is 5% for my husband and 4% for me. Almost six months into our goal at the time of writing this, we now anticipate that the house will be paid off by the end of this year, about five months after my 29th birthday.

The best way I can sum up the “why” is that we are determined to have freedom from hope. Most of us rely on hope much more than we realize.  Hoping to not be laid off, hoping to not have to miss a few hours of work, hoping one of us does not lose our job, hoping nothing comes up that slows down our financial goals, hoping the day/week will go by fast, hoping we will be alive and healthy enough to enjoy retirement at the ripe age of 65…need I continue? Paying off our last and final debt puts us on a new road, where the opportunities to spend our time the way we wish are within reach. 

What are 3 specific steps to achieve your goal? 

  1. Living on one income. After deliberating for a couple weeks, we decided to live and budget strictly on my income, including standard monthly mortgage payments, and to use all of my husband’s income as principal payments on our mortgage. 
  2. Separating needs from wants. There is nothing that I will sacrifice this lifestyle for. I can wait a couple years to get my dream car and remain debt free
  3. Creating a monthly budget – and sticking to it. We start preparing for the upcoming month by starting a list a couple weeks prior and adding to it when we think of something that will or may come up. We also have seven separate savings accounts at our local credit union for sinking funds, not counting the account we opened for our emergency fund. One of these is labeled “Annual Payments”, and we make a monthly transfer of one-twelfth of our annual payments.

What's been the hardest part of your journey?

The hardest part has been the frustration that comes from friends and family not getting it. They just don’t understand. Sometimes someone will say, “Yeah, I should do that too,” but they take no steps to even make the first goal. Being a part of the debt-free community on Instagram has really helped me feel less alienated.

What has been the most surprising? 

The most surprising part has been my husband’s willingness to take this journey with me. He is completely on board and can see the light at the end of the tunnel with me. It is both refreshing and comforting having someone to run with, hand-in-hand and side-by-side, to reach our dreams. 

After paying off your home, what will be the next goal you tackle?

Our next goal is to save cash to purchase new cars in 2018. Since my husband has made the sacrifices of ambitiously working as much overtime as possible, his vehicle will be first. He is not sure what he wants yet, but anyone who knows me will not be surprised that mine will be a Mustang GT convertible, perhaps a 2012-2014 Roush or California Special.

Once we have the cars out of the way, the wealth-building begins. Our plan at this time is to purchase (with cash, of course) 10-15 houses in the next ten years, starting with one house per year, as passive real-estate investments. We will save during 2019 to purchase our first rental in 2020. I am listening to podcasts now in an effort to start familiarizing myself with real-estate and will devote my daily reading to learn more once the mortgage is paid off.

Any advice to the readers?

We live in a “give me” society who has it backwards – most people make long-term sacrifices for short-term rewards. Take pride in being unlike them and think for yourself.  

Also, when I say think for yourself, take that a step further. Do not limit your knowledge, your mindset, your worldview to one sector of the financial world. I see so many people in the debt-free community who only read books written by Dave Ramsey personalities and will not listen to opinions of people who incorporate debt into their financial lives. I continue to read books that are not anti-debt and continue to listen to several podcasts that are not anti-debt, many of which are of the opinion that Dave Ramsey is completely insane. My mindset is constantly being reshaped from reading books and listening to podcasts such as these, and they do not affect my decision to live without debt. 

Finally, think beyond the anticipation and excitement of reaching the split second moment that you finally become 100% debt free and remember that it is only the first step. Think realistically of life after debt, not imaginatively of a fantasy world of endless vacations, new purchases and doing/buying whatever you want. Think big-picture, unfollow the people whose social media lives make you jealous, and never lose sight of your version of freedom.


Thank you so much, Ellie for sharing your amazing story and words of wisdom. Be sure to check out her blog at and follow her on Instagram @elliemondelli! 

Related Articles:

How They Did It: Amy Paid Off $30k in Debt
How They Did It: Amanda Paid Off 60k in Debt
How They Did It: Sami Paid Off $157k in Debt
How They Did It: Alli Saved $35k
How They Did It: Grace is 100% Debt Free


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