How One Couple Paid Off Their Mortgage Before 30

The Keller family used to live paycheck to paycheck even though they earned good money. However, by becoming hyper focused, they were able to achieve their goal of 100% debt freedom (including the mortgage) in five years. They recently celebrated one year debt free in April 2017 and I'm so honored that they have taken the time to share more about their journey with me today!

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Learn how to pay off your mortgage early and experience 100% debt freedom. This family shares their frugal living tips, side hustle accomplishments and passion for getting out of debt.

wHO ARE THE KELLER'S?

The Keller's are a family of four from Cincinnati, Ohio. Drew is 29, Farrah, 28, Daisy, 2 and Scarlett is 1. Drew works full time for the Department of Defense and has a side business called Ask Drew How. Farrah also works at the Department of Defense part time and has a kids' t-shirt line that she runs out of the house called Lovely Littles Shop.
 

What are you most passionate about?

We love church and missionary work. We also love to shoot photos and videos that focus on family and a healthy marriage. We obviously love Dave Ramsey's financial teachings so we help to deliver those classes at our church one night a week. It’s been so busy with the babies and all our side hustles, that lately our hobbies have included sleeping (when we can) and traveling.
 

How much debt have you paid off? 

$200,000 in five years. Here's the breakdown of our starting debt below:

  • Kia Soul - Paid off $17,000
  • Kia Spectra - Paid off $4,500
  • Student Loans - Paid off $37,000
  • Mortgage Principal Amount - Paid off $133,500

Actual money put toward debt over five years = $200,000 (as a result of interest accrued during this time period).
 

Editor's note: If you have student loans and would like to learn how you could potentially lower your monthly payments and save thousands of dollars in interest, then use my exclusive link to complete a 3-minute survey. Or, click the image below to get started. 

 

What was your "AHA moment" that made you want to seek financial peace? 

Once we got married, we realized that even though we had great jobs and a good income, we could not figure out where all our money was going. Taking a good look at all our debt was the light bulb moment for us. We said “this can’t keep happening.” We also wanted to be able to buy a house with a conventional mortgage and knew we needed to get serious with our finances. There had to be a better way to make this happen.   

We had taken Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University during our engagement. However, we didn’t apply the principles until we were married and saw the mess we had made. We then re-took the class and never looked back. We mainly listened to the podcasts and watched Dave’s FPU and Legacy Journey.  
 

WHAT SPECIFIC STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO CRUSH YOUR DEBT?

  1. Making a budget and cutting expenses. Getting everything on paper was absolutely essential. We made great money, but it was going down the drain because we weren't prudent with our finances. Once we got on a serious budget, we found ways to cut back and also ways to make more money to throw at debt. 
     
  2. Bringing in more money. During this five year period, we got promotions, started side hustles and sold as much stuff as we could. Here are two examples of how we made extra money:
    • Find or make something to sell. For example, you can find things on the side of the road and sell them on Craigslist or Facebook. Another way to earn some extra income is to sell cheap, practical items at key times. For example, for 3 years, we sold glow necklaces at the local fireworks shows in our city during the July 4th weekend. We made a quick $1,000 every year. 
       
    • Start a side business. You don’t always need to come up with a GRAND idea or something that requires a big investment. Think of ideas that require don't necessarily require a huge effort but which have the potential to yield a solid profit. In our case, we created a t-shirt company with a startup cost of $500 that has done VERY well. It all started with a small idea that we knew we could handle and God blessed it.  
       
  3. Living below our means. In other words, if you're making $100,000, live on $50,000. We set our budget and lifestyle at the beginning of our journey and it hasn’t changed much even though our income doubled. Our expenses have slightly increased with the babies and some small luxuries but our lifestyle has remained pretty much the same during this process. 
     
  4. Teaching Financial Peace University. This has constantly encouraged us and reminded us of the important steps in Dave’s plan.
     
That’s how you smack debt…be diligent at first, live below your means and let God multiply your efforts.
— the keller's


How DID you stay motivated?

Saying “no” and breaking old spending habits was difficult at first. BUT it's been the best character growth for us to become content with where God has placed us. Here are some ways we stayed motivated:  

Visual aids. We would keep our goals on paper on the fridge. We had little temperature gauges that tracked our debt. These visual aids along with monthly budget meetings kept us on track and accountable.

Celebrating small wins. We always celebrated our successes. Every time we reached a milestone, we would go out to eat or take a vacation. All of this was done within a budget.  

Including a "fun money" budget for each of us. This way, the journey wasn’t too strict. For example, if Farrah wanted a pedicure, she would make extra income by selling something on Craigslist in order to pay for her treat. 

Recognizing each other's strengths. We learned to respect each other and our capabilities. Farrah is great at creating the vision and setting milestones. On the other hand, Drew is good at executing and data and numbers. For example, Farrah would say, “lets buy new couches” or “I want the car payment gone by October.” Drew would figure out the numbers, redo the budget and brainstorm ways to make more money to get the goal accomplished. By the way, new couches feel good. And your car drives a lot better when you actually OWN IT and have no more payments.

We are what God wants us to be. Good stewards with a laser focus.
— the keller's

How did you celebrate when you became debt free?

  • We made a few purchases that had been on our list for a while. Delaying purchases and learning to be content has been a huge part of our growing process. The first thing we actually bought was a new shower head! Yes, it only cost $30, but it was the principle behind it.
     
  • We had a massive dinner and ordered soda (instead of our usual, water)!  
     
  • We went to our bank and wrote the last check IN-PERSON. We wrote about this experience on our blog
     
  • A month later we went and saw Dave Ramsey and did our "debt free scream" live on air. See a video of us here
     
  • We have continued to celebrate with friends, family, radio shows, blog and social media posts.  
     
  • We took a mini vacation to Florida.
     
  • FINAL: We travel all the time for fun and work (budgeted of course) but next year we will cut loose and do something insane like Europe.
     

What habits did you form while being debt free that will now stick with you for the long term?

  • Practicing contentment. 
     
  • Sleeping on purchases.
     
  • Talking about everything with each other before buying. The purpose of this isn't to “get my spouse's approval” but rather to share thoughts and get encouragement. Sometimes the other person might have a better idea or may know of a better approach. 
     
  • Drinking water when we eat out.
     
  • We buy a side of beef for Christmas ever year as our gift to each other and enjoy steak all year long (for a fairly good price). We also order chicken when we eat out (because steak in restaurants isn’t as good as Drew’s grilling).  
     
  • Under spending for things that are temporary, lose value or that we would like to test out for the first time.
     
  • Investing wisely in things that have a good return on investment and that we understand e.g. good computers to do video design work and run our T-shirt company.
     

Was there something that you gave up that you will go back to now that you are debt free?

Additional giving to missions and the local community. We ALWAYS tithed 10% and gave extra here and there when we felt like it during our debt free journey. Now we have a totally different budget that will allow us to give like never before. We are still looking for God to speak to us in this area but believe 2017 will be the year for crazy things from God.  

In addition, Drew was the “spender” and used to buy tech toys, gadgets, etc. During the journey he nipped that in the bud but will probably start that back up (cash flowed of course).  
 

What are your goals now THAT YOU are 100% debt free?

  • Giving to missions and philanthropy.
  • Increasing our babies' college funds.
  • Investing more. 
  • Having more fun and enjoying our babies. 
  • Saving up cash for the next bigger house. We do not plan to ever get another mortgage. 
  • Continuing to teach FPU and share this "[Dave] Ramsey Gospel" with anyone who wants to change their life, marriage and family tree.
     

What advice do you have for someone who is paralyzed by their debt load, but wants to be debt free?

  • Get in Dave Ramsey's class immediately!
  • Don’t look at your small income or your huge debt and say its impossible. Your income is a shovel, the debt is a hole. Get to digging and God will help you to achieve your goal.  
  • Send any red cent you can scrounge to the debt.
  • Share a goal with your spouse and keep it in front of you as motivation when times get hard.

Kellers, thank you so much for being so generous with your responses and helpful to others who might not be sure where to start on their debt free journey!

Be sure to check out their blog, Where Love Takes Us and follow the Keller's on Instagram for more debt free motivation!