How They Did It: Amanda PAID OFF $60K IN DEBT

Amanda is a wife and dog mom living in California. She and her husband Josh have been working hard to destroy their debt and fulfill a lifelong dream of quitting their jobs and going sailing full time! How cool is that?! I was so pleased to have the opportunity to interview Amanda who shares more about their incredible journey below. 

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

What was your starting debt and how much have you paid off to date? 
Our starting debt was a whopping $131,623 just over 26 months ago. This amount included 1 personal loan, 2 car loans, 8 credit cards and 16 student loans. Since then, we have paid off $59,859 and are almost credit card debt free!

During this time, we also cash flowed our wedding, honeymoon and dental work.

For clarification, I was working Dave Ramsey's baby steps for a year before Josh got on board. So some of my responses will say "I" and not "we" :)

Here's a snapshot of what our timeline looked like:

  • December 2014: Amanda started working on the debt snowball 
  • December 2015: Josh hops on board
  • April to October 2016: Amanda and Josh got engaged/funded wedding
  • October 2016: Restarted the debt snowball 10/16

What made you want to get out of debt?
My grace period for my student loans was nearing the end and there was no way I was going to be able to afford the student loan payments. I wasn't given a big fat pay raise right after I received my bachelor's degree like a lot of people think you get. The job I was in was related to my field, but didn’t directly benefit from the degree, so I wasn't given a raise just for having it.

That's when I realized that I had to do something to get out of this mess. I enrolled back in school to get my master’s degree and to defer my student loans while I worked my way out of debt and advanced my career.

To directly answer the question, I wanted to be free from debt so I could spend my time doing the things I enjoy. I didn’t want to spend the next 10 years living paycheck to paycheck because of bad spending habits and student loan payments. 

What are specific steps have you taken to achieve your goals? 

These are the main ways that we have changed our relationship with money and taken control of our finances.

Budgeting. The first and most important step is having a budget and sticking to it. This is actually my second time on the Dave Ramsey plan. The first time, I would pay all my bills and use my debit card like normal. At the end of the month I would throw what I had left at my debt. My progress was minimal which lead me to falling back into old habits. The second time, I stuck to a zero-based budget where I told every dollar where to go. By doing this, you get control of your spending and you're able to put the maximum amount towards debt each month. 

Working the debt snowball. Look at all the minimum payments that we don't have to pay anymore! All the debts highlighted in teal have been paid off and the money from the minimum payments are now being thrown at my student loans. This is why the debt snowball method (paying off the lowest balance first and working your way to the highest) really works. You get a quick win on your first debt and it really motivates you to continue on and not give up. Personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge. 

Debt Snowball

Boosting our income. The second step we've taken is increasing our income. Josh and I both moved into new roles at our current jobs, which came with generous salary increases.

Using cash only. The third step we've taken to change our relationship with money is using cash instead of a debit card. Using cash may seem scary at first, but it has helped us stay on track immensely. Instead of swiping your card all the time and wondering which how much money you have in each category or how much your spouse has spent, you just look in your wallet at how much you have. You feel the purchase more when you use cash and I feel like it simplifies budgeting. 

What's been the hardest part of your journey?
The hardest part of our journey was when we paused the debt snowball for six months to fund our wedding and honeymoon. It was difficult to stay motivated and on track when the amount of debt wasn't going down. 

Now that you're almost at the half way point in your debt payoff (woohoo!), how are you staying motivated?
Going through Financial Peace University once a year helps with the motivation, but my main source comes from the debt free community on Instagram! It's so motivating to see posts of people budgeting and paying off their debt. I love that we all cheer each other on, celebrate our victories together, and provide reality checks when needed. 

What are some of your financial goals for the rest of the year?
Some of our financial goals for the rest of the year are to cash flow my school/graduation and to become debt free!! I’m hoping we can make it because it’s going to be a close call. 

Any advice to the readers?
My advice is to get started on your journey today! Do not wait. Figure out how much debt you have, create your budget, and immerse yourself in everything debt free related. Making sacrifices for a short period of time is worth it to have a lifetime of freedom. 



Amanda was also gracious enough to share some fun facts below:

  • I tried avocados for the first time four years ago and I've been obsessed with them ever sense.
  • I worked on three different cruise ships over an eight month period as a Massage Therapist in my early 20s.
  • My dad was in the Air Force while I was growing up. We were fortunate to live in Amsterdam, Montana, Nebraska and Tennessee.

Be sure to follow Amanda on Instagram @debtfreeinsunnyca for more motivation. She shares the good, the bad and the ugly as she and Josh tackle the remainder of their debt! Thanks for joining me, Amanda! 

Related Articles:

How They Did It: Amy Paid Off $30k 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


Do you have an inspiring journey and would like to be featured in this series? Please send an email to or leave me a note in the comments below.