If you were to look at our life you would never know we were swimming in debt. A successful photography business, a job as a CPA, a gorgeous house, not too fancy of cars…. I shopped mostly at thrift stores for clothing and have always been cost conscious…but still there we were.. in debt.
I think it came down to decisions and just liking “stuff”. We started our marriage with no debt except for school loans. At that point though we didn’t make a lot of money.. but still wanted “things”. We slowly started getting into debt… it was slow… but it was there.
Then we bought a house… honestly, it was a modest house and fit our needs… we didn’t go crazy and could afford the payments. We lived within our means. House payment, car payment (2 cars), and a little credit card debt.
Then… my business…. oh where do I start? Running a photography business is hard. There are things you “HAVE” to have in order to do well… much of that for me was equipment… camera equipment is not cheap and with the camera’s, computers, etc… it’s a lot of dough to put out. Slowly the debt started…. THEN… I decided to have a studio outside of the house. Don’t get me wrong, my business was doing well, and I wasn’t in horrible debt, but I wanted to grow more… so, I rented a space. It had to look amazing, so I did a build out and put A LOT of money into my new space. It was gorgeous and I loved it… but it was all on credit.
As I worked I started to slowly pay it off, but with employees to pay, my salary, and all the other things that continued to come up, it was taxing.
Then, circumstances happened, and I had to leave my brand new gorgeous space that I had put SOOO much money into, and find another space. This one was bigger and AGAIN, needed a build out. So, because I had to… I went ahead and poured more money into a new space... and again, had to put it to credit.
Business was doing well, and the new space was gorgeous… but again, my team was growing... and with employees, my salary (which was minimal), the expenses of a studio (super high), and the debt from the build out…. man life was rough. There is lot’s of stress when you have all of that on you, and I felt it.
After awhile I knew that things had to change. I didn’t want to be putting money to rent and my landlord wasn’t the nicest person in the world and let’s just say I was on pens and needles that I would do something that would make him mad and I would get sued.… I knew I had to get out of my studio because I feared the worst would happen if I stayed. I couldn’t do any more build outs so we decided to personally buy a bigger house and have the studio there. Perfect idea!!! Dream home and I get to work from home again.
We found the best home ever… our dream home… with the help of my business and our personal expenses, we would be able to cover the mortgage and everything would be amazing!!!!
But.... let’s go back to debt again…. Debt is a horrible thing that follows you and holds onto you. It’s pulls at you and digs into you. You feel stuck and it’s hard to get out of it. You owe money to people and they, in a way control you.
We are HUGE Dave Ramsey fans, and at this point had tried so hard to pay off our debts… we were doing the Debt Snowball and seeing some success… but we’d get to a good spot and then give in and start spending again. Nothing huge… but it added up.
At this point in life we now had School loans, personal debt, business debt, and quite a bit of expenses. I don't think people realize the expenses is running a small business... marketing, insurance, product expenses, computer and storage expenses… the costs are crazy.
So, we moved out of the big studio and to our new house. We thought this would help the expenses, but honestly, it didn’t. Our new house now had many more expenses, higher air conditioning, things to continually fix, lawn services (we don’t do good with doing things like that on our own - don’t judge), cleaning services (again… don’t judge).
Then, I got pregnant… and I got sick… and I didn’t have as much energy to put into my business as I wish I did. Then I had a baby… and he was always sick… and it pulled me away from my business more than I wanted.
While my business was doing well, I needed it to do AWESOME. So many expenses and so much work… We really wanted out of debt but it seemed that we couldn’t make it happen.. not matter what we did, how little we tried to spend… debt wouldn’t leave us. We were stuck in the debt cycle. Honestly, I was always stressed. Stressed because if I didn’t work we couldn’t pay our bills and if I didn’t do AMAZING… we would never get out of debt.
While on the outside, our sweet family looked perfectly happy (which we are very happy)… the debt was killing us and stressing us out to the max. We realized we didn’t want it anymore… we had to find a way out. BUT HOW???? How can you pay off almost $80,000 of school loans, personal and business debt? How can you do that and still pay a huge mortgage payment and all of the other bills?
On top of all of this… I NEEDED to be home more with the kids… I didn’t want to HAVE to work… I needed to be able to choose what I wanted to work on and to be able to pick the kids up from school and be their MOM. They needed a mom who wasn’t stressed with working and “having” to bring home the bucks. I wanted to be PRESENT and not always be on my phone, or on my computer. Things HAD to change.
We had no clue what, but we knew we had to find a way.
Then…. Jamie lost his job. Yup… out of the blue… we didn’t see it coming AT ALL… one day he had a job, the next day he didn’t. That night we talked… what did God want us to do? What was HE saying?
After crying and prayer and trying to figure it out… we KNEW life had to simplify.. not because of the job thing, but because of LIFE… we needed a simplified life that didn’t include DEBT. We didn’t want a HUGE house payment and have to always worry about where the money was coming from. We wanted to start fresh and do things right.
We knew what we had to do… we HAD to sell the house. Over the last 4 years the market had risen, which meant that we had a lot of equity in the house…. if we sold it, we could pay off ALL of our debt.. every penny.
But then… my fear… where do we live? Yes, the market went up and we could sell our house for a profit… but if the market went up for us, it did for all other houses too… and to get another house right now would mean a smaller not as nice house for the same amount of money we owe… I felt like there was no point. So we prayed. And We listened. And we heard.
We called my parents and laid it all out. They currently live with my grandma and are taking care of her. That means they have 2 houses in Pinetop that aren’t being used and we thought maybe we could move in there for low rent for awhile. As we talked to them, another idea came to pass. My parents also have a house, near where we live, that my sisters family has lived in for 10 years. My sisters family is on their way to moving to the Bahamas to help with economical development and were planning on moving out of the house…. so my parents offered to let us stay at the house for inexpensive rent, to help us get on our feet.
Ok… so let’s be honest here… part of me wanted nothing to do with this idea. I live in a 4000 square foot - GORGEOUS house, in a beautiful neighborhood. It “feels” good to say that… it’s like we “made” it… but as you can see from all of this, it “looks” like we made it…. we really didn’t because we still owed people… we were making it off of “debt”… and I had to humble myself and say… it’s not worth it.
So, after much asking God to help me get my heart right, we agreed. We were going to sell our house, pay off ALL of our debt, and move into a 1200 square foot place and “live like no one else, so that we could live like no one else” (Dave Ramsey).
So there it is my friends..... we made a VERY hard choice.... one that I wasn't really sure that I could do..... but we did and I am so thankful. My parents, in one month remodeled the place for us so that I could feel like it was “home”… and i’m so so so so very thankful for them… We put our house on the market, and it sold within 2 weeks….We packed and (cried a lot)… and packed some more… and got rid of TONS of stuff. We moved from 4000 square feet to 1200 square feet and are still, 6 months later are unpacking boxes.
BUT... here is the amazing thing... two months later we paid off ALL of our DEBT. Every penny. We have no house payment, no school loans, no personal debt, no business debt, and no car payments. Can I say FREEDOM??
We sat in our little cozy house, surrounded by boxes, sleeping kids, and each other. We paid off each bill and at the end curled up and watched our new favorite show (Quantico).
We have peace. We have each other. We have a cute cozy home that is going to bring us closer together as a family. Jamie did get a job - so we have jobs, food, and a roof over our head. And, NO DEBT.
There is freedom in listening to God and doing what he asks us to do. Is it easy? NO… it’s so very hard… but is it worth it… do we have peace? YES YES YES.
Why do I share this on this page? Because this page is ALL about finding balance and becoming happy in life. Finding freedom. Debt is not freedom, it doesn't make you happy. Living within your means, living like no one else, and changing habits that are not good for you, are things that help you to change. I never understood what this would do for ME, but it's changed me for the better. Way for the better.
Now onto a new chapter in our lives. Now to be smarter and do things right. Now to simplify life in more ways than one. Life will be different and I’m thankful for that.
I need simple… I need different…. Deep sigh….. Thank you Jesus.