We started our Total Money Makeover with $74,600 in debt, not including our house. Like most couples just starting out, we were young and didn’t know much about money. We would buy things and finance them because that’s what everyone else did. We owed money on a car, a truck, an acre and a half of land we eventually wanted to build on, a mattress and some other random stuff on credit cards.
Baby Step 1: $1,000 Emergency Fund
We quickly completed the first baby step and saved up $1000 for an emergency fund.
Baby Step 2: Debt Snowball
Then we started the debt snowball. The idea behind the debt snowball is paying off your smallest debts first so you can add that payment to your next debt, and once you’ve paid that off you have more money to tackle the next. It really does give you a sense of accomplishment to have those small wins and start to see the process work.
It took us about 18-24 months to complete our debt snowball and get everything but our home paid off.
Let me tell you, not having payments really opens up what you can do with your money. I also believe that when you manage your money well you are given more to manage. My husband and I both went from making modest salaries to now making very comfortable salaries. It’s been nice to have control of our money and be able to help others with what we’ve been given.
We try to only purchase things with cash but, sometimes I say we’re on the Dave Ramsey Lite program, since we’ve occasionally borrowed to make big purchases which we try to pay off within a year or so. I think we like the thrill of the debt snowball.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is very helpful and motivating. Use the Debt Payoff Schedule template below to track your progress.
Baby Step 3: Emergency Fund
After completing our debt snowball we saved up our emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses, more on the 3-4 side, very quickly since we no longer owed money to anyone but our mortgage. Now if we have to buy new tires or fix the air-conditioner a $500 expense is no big deal. We’ve got the money saved.
Baby Steps 4+
I’m currently working on building our retirement percentage and have started our son’s college fund through an Educational Savings Account.