How to Pay Off $48K of Debt in 2 years

Danielle was born in New Jersey and raised in the most southern part of California. However, she currently lives in a quaint and cutesy town located in Minnesota with her husband, J and their daughter. They've been on an inspiring debt free journey and have paid off close to $50,000 in just two years. Let's learn more about their recipe for success. 

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Please tell me about your background.

J and I met and began dating in the summer of 2010, we eventually tied the knot in the summer of 2012. We merged together your typical kinds of debt, student loans and car loans (no credit card debt, thankfully). Even with that being the case, we were about $30,000 in the red between the both of us.

As newlyweds living in Southern California, we quickly realized that renting out a 600-square-foot apartment at a price point of $1,300 a month just wasn't going to cut it. This is what drove me away from the beautiful state of California. We wanted to be homeowners! The cost of living was ridiculous, so just two months after we got married, we decided to move out to J's home state of Minnesota to start our new life. 

After settling in with my in-laws, we immediately started saving for a new house. Unfortunately, despite our efforts to focus solely on saving our money, we took on more debt - a loan on a new vehicle and more student loans. Eventually we were able to save enough for a down payment on a house and closed in June of 2013.

We were actually living quite comfortably and doing well for ourselves. We had a house, functioning vehicles, and steady jobs. I genuinely loved our home and our life. There was just one thing that kept irking me, our friends and families would claim and actually believed that we "had tons of money". The stark reality of it all was that we had about $73,000 in debt!

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Why did you decide to get out of debt?

In 2015, we were vacationing in California celebrating J's accomplishment of graduating from college. I also hadn't been back to my hometown since moving out to the Midwest (three years too long!). So in a sense, we were killing two birds with one stone. One day during our trip, we decided to take a drive up the breezy California coast - we passed by the beaches, million dollar homes, and people "showing off" their expensive vehicles.

Everything screamed wealth...I felt a bit envious that day.

During that drive I had asked J, "Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up everyday and walk to the beach?". He replied, "Yes, but we don't make enough money for that".

I remember peering in his direction with a stoic look on my face as he kept driving. In that moment, I wanted him to say something more along the lines of, "Yea, let's do it!". Unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen. We didn't have the money. It was in this moment that something switched inside of my brain, I knew we both had to change the way we managed our finances.

How much debt have you paid off?

As of May 2017, we have paid off about $48,000!

In rough estimates, it breaks down into the following numbers:

• $27,000 in my student loans
• $10,700 in J's student loans
• $10,200 in vehicle loans

And we paid this amount all in cash! In all, we managed to destroy about 66% of our debt, and it only took us two years!


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How much debt do you have remaining?

Currently we have about $26,000 remaining in debt. This debt consists of what is left of J's student loans with interest rates ranging from 3.4%-6.8% (never refinanced, but reduced to 3.1%-6.8% with auto debit) and our car loan, with a 0% annual percentage rate.

We are projected to pay off our remaining debts by the end of 2017 if all goes according to plan.

Ready to start digging your way out of debt? These tips will help you get started on your journey to debt freedom!

What specific steps did you take? 

We were able to pay off our debt mainly by making extra money:

  1. We sold stuff: If we didn't need it or didn't want it, we sold it. In 2016, we made over $3,000 by selling the things that were no longer necessary in our lives. Although it would have been nice to spend our earnings on vacations and material things, we chose to refrain. Instead, we put it all toward our debt.
  2. Downgraded cable service: One thing that we downgraded was our cable service which left us with mostly basic channels. This move saved us about $50 per month. May not seem like much, but for us and our journey, every bit counts.
  3. Created a budget: This was our biggest money maker, creating a budget for everything and sticking to it. We use to monitor our spending and work very hard to stay within budget. Sure, there have been months were we have went over, but those are the moments that help make the next month a success.

What was the biggest sacrifice you made in paying off debt?

Every month, we allot ourselves only $40 of fun money. Sacrificing our once $100 monthly fun money budget was hard on me. Also, we choose not to have a dining out budget. We only dine out during special events or occasions. This saves us a pretty penny on a monthly basis. In fact, we spent about $665 on dining out in 2016, combined! The national yearly average for dining out is over $2,700 per household!

WHAT KEEPS YOU motivated along this journey?

Being on the same page financially as my husband is one way that keeps me motivated. Having that accountability partner makes a huge heck of a difference! I feel very blessed to have married someone whose spending habits and views on money are in sync with my own.

Listening to Dave Ramsey's Debt Free Scream segments on his radio show is another way that helps me get through this journey. Hearing the successes of other people is very encouraging and inspires us even more to want to attain financial freedom.

Lastly, keeping an end vision in mind. Once my family is debt free, I want to travel. Sure, we can save and travel now, but we choose not to take that option. Once we pay off all of our debts, we have every intention of traveling both internationally and domestically.

Any advice for someone who WANTS TO BE DEBT FREE?

If you are in debt and ready to embark on this journey, I would advise that you to make an admission that you are actually in debt. Denying or accepting your debt can be damaging to your financial well-being. As human beings, we have the propensity to want more things even when our wallets are empty. This behavior could very well land you further into debt if you are not careful.

So make that self-admission and discover the power that it has to launch toward financial freedom!


There are actually two books that I have read which have positively impacted my debt free journey: Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

These two books are very different from one another, Your Money or Your Life essentially teaches you how to transform your relationship with money. This book is not intended to teach you how to get out of debt or how to become wealthy. However, it is a book that can be used to teach you how say no to unconscious spending. This in turn allows you to refrain from spending your life energy on things that don't bring you fulfillment.  

On the other hand, The Total Money Makeover focuses on teaching readers how to get you out of debt with an end goal of attaining financial freedom, building wealth, and giving. His book consists of 7 Baby Steps designed to help you eliminate all debts from your life. My husband and I do not follow his steps through and through, but we did start our journey off that way and I must say, it has helped us get to where we are financially. 

Please be sure to check out Danielle's blog, The Pennies We Saved to stay updated on their journey! 

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