Get on the debt-free boat


{UPDATE: We are doing a debt-snowball but we are no longer following Dave Ramsey’s plan. I talk a little more about it in this post.}

First,  thanks for your comments on yesterday’s post.  Your encouragement & kind words reminded me that there is much goodness in this world.  Thank you.  You are the reason I blog.


I am excited.  So, excited.   I have been waiting my whole life to get to this point.

There’s been so much uncertainty the past 4 years.  While Joseph was in law-school, debt kept accruing & I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.  I worked, which greatly helped reduce the amount we had to borrow, but we still took out the max amount allotted for financial aid.

Now, Joseph has a job–a bona fide career.  And one that he really likes.  I keep pinching myself, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but no–we have a steady, better-than-average income & it’s not going anywhere (at least for the next 4 years).  We’re never going back to the poor, debt-ridden student days. It’s thrilling.

But.  We also have a lot of debt.  Just saying that is heavy.  Debt.  It’s a heavy word.

After I shared this recent post on living-debt free, Joseph & I had a conversation about how much we should share on our blog about our finances.  After some discussion, we both agreed we felt fine about being completely open & transparent about our getting out of debt journey.  There’s so much shame in talking about debt, money.  And that is a shame.  It’s our hope that in sharing our journey, others can  be inspired & know that they can do it, too.

So how much debt?

Here’s the quick & dirty run down:

credit cards:  $18K
consolidation loan:  $24K
2nd mortgage :  $19K
(actually a grant that now has to be repaid since we are now renting the home)

sum-total:  $61K  

Add student loans:  $110K
& our 1st mortage on our home (now a rental):  $139K

TOTAL debt:  $310K


I know.  Depressing, right?

But there’s good news.

We’re doing the Dave Ramsey, cash-only, get out of debt program.  It’s awesome.  I think his program is the best for true financial prosperity because it’s built on solid, tried & true principles.

With our new budget & debt-snowball (here’s the free downloadable calculator I used to figure out our debt-snowball payments–I love the “debt-snowflake” payment feature, too!) I have so much confidence & hope for our future.

I know we’re going to get out of debt.   And not just get out of debt “someday” but get out of debt, soon!  We could take a little longer, & live more comfortably, but life is short & I am so ready to never be in debt again.

We will have all our debts paid off (except for our 1st mortgage), by March of 2015.  That’s only a little over two years from now.

We have a little jump start on the process since I’m living with my parents until December (this has enabled us to save $5K!).  We also get a good chunk of “extra” money through various military stipends related to Joseph’s training & since we moved/are moving ourselves (rather than having the military move us), we will earn a bit of money on that too.  We’re also due for a big tax refund in February of next year (more like, a EIC return).

All of this combined amounts to about $21K.

We’re going to use this to:

♥  repair our mini-van ($1700)
♥  buy Joseph a solid & trusty used commuter car for work ($7,500)
♥  stock our $1,000 “emergency” fund
♥  pay for security deposits related to renting, utilities  ($1800)
♥  random furniture & household items we’ll need once we move into our new place  ($800)
♥  fund next year’s “celebration fund” (birthdays, anniversary, & dates)  ($3K)
♥  pay for alt summit SLC (1/2013) expenses ($700)
♥  & use the remaining to throw extra payments at our debt

Joseph’s salary isn’t much to drool over.

He started out at $40K, in a few months it will be bumped up to $45K a year.  Not much, compared to other attorneys, but when you weigh in the benefits it’s a very competitive income.  They give us a generous monthly housing allowance, so we don’t have to worry about paying rent.  Joseph gets a stipend for food each month.  Both the housing & food allowances are tax-free.  Also, we have full medical benefits, good dental coverage.

And the biggest help?  They will repay $65K of our student loans.  The rest will be covered under a program for public sector employees, so with the help of the AF & this program, our student loans will be taken care of.  A huge relief.  When you factor all the benefits & allowances & debt repayment, his job brings in over $80K.  Not bad for an attorney starting out.

In the next 27 months, we’ll pay off $61K in debt.  This does not include the student loans (which as I mentioned before, we don’t have to worry about).

After the $61K in debt is taken care of, we’ll begin building up a 6-month savings, save for a new mini-van so we can buy one in cash (we’re hoping & praying this van will last us a few more years), start saving for retirement, & the most exciting of all–pay off our rental house.  Once we’re debt-free & have our 6 months savings, we can start adding extra payments to our mortgage each month, & have it paid off in 3 years after that.

All told, with a steady, reasonable (although not exorbitant) income & budget, we can live a comfortable, but frugal & disciplined life AND:

♥  be debt-free (besides the 1st mortgage on our rental) in 2.3 years
♥  be debt-free & have a 6 months savings, a newer (used) car paid for in cash in 3.9 years
♥  start paying towards retirement in 3 years 
♥  have our rental property paid off, therefore being 100% debt-free in 7 years

Getting out of debt & getting into a good place financially is much like losing weight.  It takes a lot of discipline & many of the principles are exactly the same.  It’s a long process, but as Dave says:  “live like no one else, so you can later live like no else.”


 P.S.  Now I just feel like I completely spilled my guts–this is way worse & more soul-baring than sharing my weight!   Hopefully once I press the publish button I won’t regret sharing all the nitty gritty details of our finances, but as I said before, any discomfort I may have, I hope is made up for the fact that you (or others) may be inspired to get debt-free too.


I’m going to feature a money/budget/debt-free living post every now & then & share insights into our journey.  What would you like to know about?  Questions you have about what we’re doing, learning?  

I’d love to know your thoughts so I can better tailor-fit the posts to meet your needs.  Thanks!


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  2. Diane
    on September 18, 2013 at 9:50 am said:

    We took the Dave Ramsay course and it changed not only our lives, but our children’s as well. The two oldest were teens when we started, (now 24 and 25) and they watched us get out of debt, then went on to be very careful with money. They’ve shopped at thrift stores while going to college, driven beater cars and, other than student loans, they are debt-free. It’s been a thrill to watch them do everything they can to stay that way from such a young age.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 18, 2013 at 10:12 am said:

      That is awesome Diane! It must be such a blessing for you to see your kids make such wise choices. I can only hope that my kids will experience something similar. They already know how undesirable debt is thanks to us working so hard to get out of it & because they love “The Farming Game,” where you quickly learn that having debts is no fun at all! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. lfwfv
    on November 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm said:

    I love that you are being so transparent and that your plan looks agressive and doable. Awesome. I can’t wait to see your joy a few years from now when you are debt-free!! I will be here cheering you guys on!

  5. Katie
    on October 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm said:

    Way to go Janae! Doesn’t it feel awesome to have a specific plan? I think you guys are amazing. It really gives you something to work hard for, to be debt free in such a short amount of time. I love financial transparency, and admire you for putting it all out there to rally everyone else into a better way of living.

  6. Meg in Progress
    on October 29, 2012 at 9:32 am said:

    Your honesty is so refreshing and motivating! My goodness! You can do it you can do it you can do it! (And so can I!)

  7. Jennifer Ott
    on October 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm said:

    Thank you for sharing! We are not in debt, other than our mortgage, but our income is very low (seriously, like $20,000/year with 4 kids), so I get it! My hubby is in nursing school, but we are taking the “long road” there to keep our expenses down. I stay home and homeschool the kids (and try to stay on budget)! You can do it!

  8. Kelly in SF
    on October 27, 2012 at 10:55 am said:

    How great that you and your husband are on the same page regarding debt. I have an aversion to debt, but my husband doesn’t flinch at it. He has a finance degree, so is always logically looking at the numbers and that makes sense, of course, but I always factor in how the debt makes me feel (nervous!) in addition to the number crunching. Debt that may make sense in calculations may still make me nervous, and doesn’t that count for something, too??

    BTW, I have an MBA, so I am no slouch when it comes to analysis either. I hope some day we can come together on this issue, but right now he’s pushing for us to take a $170K loan against our house to build an addition before interest rates go up again. I’m not for that, so we’ve got a lot of talking to do!

  9. Teresa
    on October 27, 2012 at 10:22 am said:

    Thanks for being open about your debt. I love that you have set a date and that it is only a little over 2 years away. You are an inspiration and I am now going to set a date of when my family will be debt free.

  10. Audrey
    on October 27, 2012 at 9:14 am said:

    That looks like a doable plan. You and the family will get pass it and be successful at it. Best of luck and all the best! xoxo

  11. Tiffany Nay
    on October 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm said:

    I LOVE DAVE RAMSEY! We listen to him just about every morning. My husband and I have been extremely blessed with the opportunity to get through college (a BA) debt free, so we haven’t had to use the debt snowball but we still use the rest of the steps for building up our savings and for investing. It feels so good to know that we have a plan for the future! His program just makes so much sense. Also, the other day on his radio show, he referred to us as “LDS” instead of mormon. Not that its offensive to be called mormon, obviously, but I felt like that was very…thoughtful, I guess? It just doesn’t seem like many people care to realize that that is our official name! Made me love him even more. I’m excited for you guys to go on your debt-free journey! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

  12. Kristi
    on October 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm said:

    Great post. Thank you for sharing. Makes me want to pay off our house after all!

  13. Ashlee @ Plant Infusions
    on October 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm said:

    So, I wanted to tell you that you inspired me!

    I have never bought jeans before at a thrift store, and have always hated paying name brand prices. But I thought I was just stuck — if I wanted nice jeans, I needed to pay nice jean prices…big money.

    But, I have been trying to live more simply recently (this fits into being debt-free?). Not only with my meals, but now with purchases. Spending less, and overall, buying less. It feels so good!

    So I wanted to try out one of our best local thrift stores to see if I could score me some classy, inexpensive jeans.

    Sevens! I got a pair of Sevens for $10. I couldn’t believe it. People pay around $150 to $200 per pair! And it seemed like they were custom fit, just for me.

    I was thinking about writing a post about how good it feels to live simply. With food, too. Instead of getting caught up in fancy vegan recipes, sometimes it feels so good to just cook some brown rice, some broccoli, squash, or beans. Salt and pepper. Eat. Simple.

    Anyway, thanks for the idea about the jeans. I will probably do it again.

    I really feel like not being obsessed with attaining *THINGS* all of the time, and spending money, is such a relief of burden. It’s a lot of hard work to be a consumer. I am happier when let go of that pressure, and give that burden back to the clothing/food industry. I don’t need half the stuff they are pushing on me, and my family. I am happy with a bowl of soup and an evening outside with the family. Doesn’t cost a lot. But it brings a lot of peace.

  14. Joy
    on October 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm said:

    So brave, Janae. The past decade has brought me a mountain of debt too. The student loans are…another story (I think of it as my mortgage). But I’m in the same boat, and I’m happy to say that as of next spring my credit cards will be paid off. Like you, I’m looking forward to living debt free from then on out. I can’t wait. xo

  15. Lindsay
    on October 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing. It is motivating to hear other’s stories and real situations of handling debt.

    We try to follow Dave Ramsey too. We have all the books/ cds and my husband took the courses for free through his work. We have paid $30k in student loans over the past 24 months, with about $10k left, and my husband’s salary is in the $70ks. I try to do the cash system, but I think we have only done it about 4 of the past 24 months! I am the one who does all the bills and budgeting and it really is difficult to find the “right” amount to put in each envelope/ category. I keep some of the money in savings for certain categories and we transfer to checking when needed. My husband’s commission varies greatly and it’s very hard for me to figure out month to month how much to put where. But we are trying, maybe not our best, but we’re getting there!

    I would love to hear how you will do the envelopes. Like I said it’s motivating to see how other people get this done!

    Also, amazing for your family to have housing and food as those are the biggest parts of our spending. Again, thank you for posting!

  16. Sara
    on October 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm said:

    Thank you for this. You have to know that so many of us are in the exact same boat! I left my marriage with nothing but debt, and being a single full-time parent and full-time student brought on even MORE debt for me. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but with some planning (and actually sticking to the plan, the most important part!) I see that it’s not a lost cause. You’ve inspired me. I’ll be on the job hunt in a couple of short months and I want to have a plan in place for how I’ll pay off my debt and build up some savings while living comfortably (but not extravagantly) when I start making money again.

    Life can be SO expensive. I am often baffled by it.

  17. Alissa N
    on October 26, 2012 at 11:51 am said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I can only imagine how scary it was hitting publish on this one!! But I personally really appreciate it. I mentioned in your last post that my husband and I are in the same boat with our debts. He was promoted this year, so combined we are earning a very good income now, but looking at the figures can be incredibly overwhelming. I love how you compared it to weight loss, because it was spot on. You want to be at the end goal and chipping away at it slowly makes you feel like giving up sometimes. I like how you allocate money for celebrations. I want to feel like I can still do the things that bring smiles to my life like getaways and dates. This post gives me so much hope for us!! I am loving this series, and thanks again for being so honest. <3

  18. Micah
    on October 26, 2012 at 10:57 am said:

    Dear Janae,

    Thank you so much for being brave and sharing about your debt. My husband and are are both students and have a lot of debt as well. I am doing a PhD right now, so its a lot. I will forward this to my brother who is in medical school and has previous debt from a Masters degree too. Its true that today the average person has more school debt than credit card debt! Thank you for baring your financial soul – it was a great encouragement that we can be free too. Your last name suits you! 🙂