Alright, friends. I’ve debated for weeks over whether or not I should write this post. It’s pretty personal, it requires a lot of vulnerability, and it’s a little scary to write all of this down for the world to see. But, I’ve had a fair amount of requests for more details on how we sold our home to get out of debt, and I’ve felt compelled to share our story – because if it helps encourage even one person out there who feels like they’re drowning in a mountain of debt, it’s worth it.
Plus, I’ve always tried to be as transparent as possible with y’all, and I don’t want that to stop now. So, if you’re interested in reading more about the story behind how Corey and I got ourselves completely out of debt (aside from our mortgage) last year, grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and enjoy. And, if personal stories aren’t your thing, I’ll be back next week with some more home decor inspiration – no hard feelings!
I feel like for this story to really make sense and be helpful, we need to start at the beginning. So, let’s go all the way back to the fall of 2016 when this whole crazy journey really began.
I’ll warn you that this post is long – our story is a bit complicated and in order for you to fully understand the amazing things God has done for us on this journey, I’ve got to lay it all out there. But, if you stick around until the end, I promise to add a few of my simple, actionable tips to help you achieve the same results if you’re working on getting out of debt as well.
August 2016: Corey and I were going through a pretty tough year – probably the hardest of our marriage so far. His dad was living with us (and had been since April), and it wasn’t really an ideal situation for anyone involved. We already had a fair amount of debt from things like large home improvements (replacing a bunch of windows and adding solar panels), my car, and various not-financially-sound decisions (like going on vacations when we didn’t have the cash or splurging on Christmas gifts for one another that we couldn’t exactly pay for). We had been trying to chip away at the debt, but we were in a cycle of starting to chip away at it, having something major come up (like a medical emergency or car troubles), and then falling a few steps backward. We were also struggling to support the additional adult in our house and found ourselves spending a lot of extra money (that we didn’t have) on things like going out to eat and going to the movies, just so we could have some quiet time as a family.
The whole thing was feeling pretty hopeless and, without trying to sound dramatic, we’ll just say this time in our lives truly was “rock bottom” financially. We had what felt like a hurricane of financial issues hit us all at once, and we had no idea how we were going to claw our way out of it.
It was at this point that we heard that our church was going to be offering Financial Peace University during the fall semester. It’s a financial class taught by Dave Ramsey and Corey and I were both relatively familiar with the principles in it, but we figured it would be a good idea to try to do something intentional to get control of our finances again. We signed up, feeling like it was our last hope.
November 2016: The 9-week course was finished, and we were feeling cautiously optimistic. Corey’s dad moved out in September, so by this point, we were slowly starting to feel like things were beginning to go back to normal. Throughout the course of taking Financial Peace, we had poured ourselves into following the “Baby Steps”. We had gathered our $1,000 emergency fund through what can only be described as a miracle (when you go where God leads you, crazy things happen), we had stopped using our credit cards altogether and managed to reverse the cycle of paying for everything with our cards – we were now operating solely from the money we received in our paycheck and hadn’t touched our credit cards since a few weeks after we started the class.
We were feeling excited about this new understanding of our how finances should work and feeling really pumped to start paying off our debt with “gazelle-intensity,” as Dave would say, but it was still feeling a little hopeless. Our income wasn’t high enough to make large payments towards the debt consistently, so we were looking at living a very cautious lifestyle for the next 5+ years while we chipped away at the debt. But, of course, we knew it would all be worth it in the end, so we forged ahead.
May 2017: About 6 months after we had finished the course, things were still trucking along. We had paid off a fair chunk of our debt but we were still looking at several years of work ahead of us. It was at this point that we felt God calling for me to leave my job. We had been praying and thinking about making this move for over a year (we had both felt like we were “supposed” to do it a year ago, but we were too scared to make the move then and waited). It was terrifying. Looking at our finances, it didn’t make sense. There were definitely months that I was making enough income to replace my teaching salary, but some months I wasn’t. And, we had been able to pay some additional money to the debt each month because of the extra income – without my teaching salary, that would go away. But, if we’ve learned anything in life it’s that when God clearly calls us to make a move, we need to listen. Even if it’s terrifying. I would continue receiving my teaching paychecks through August, which would buy us some time to figure things out, and then we would let God take care of the rest. So, I jumped.
July 2017: It was right around this time that the freakout really began. We were staring at our future with no teaching paychecks and wondering how in the world we were going to make ends meet – we were definitely making enough to pay our regular bills, buy groceries, and live our day-to-day lives, but once all was said and done we wouldn’t have enough money left to even pay the minimum on all of our debts each month unless I just happened to have a really good income that month. We knew we’d have to lean on God’s provision to get us through financially, but it seemed like a lot to be leaning on him that hard every month. We were both feeling the pressure, incredibly stressed, and feeling like something had to give.
During this time, that I started having some insomnia. Maybe it was the stress, but a couple of times a month I started waking up around 3:00 in the morning or so and I wasn’t able to go back to sleep, no matter how hard I tried. Often, I would give up on sleep and head downstairs to watch some television, but one night I had our finances on my mind even more than usual and decided to spend the extra time in prayer.
I began praying for guidance – I knew God had a plan for us and I felt confident we had done the right thing by having me switch to working full-time for the blog. But, I just wasn’t seeing the plan – how was God going to pull it all together and make the money work? I was in the middle of praying when, like a lightning bolt, it hit me.
“You need to sell the house.“
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced God telling you something directly. If you don’t believe in God, maybe you’ll just call it an epiphany. That’s fine – but, I have no other way to describe the experience than that God was telling me exactly what needed to happen. This wasn’t something Corey and I had ever considered at all. It had never crossed our minds. It sounded crazy. But…was it?
I immediately grabbed my laptop and started researching what this could look like – how much could we sell our house for? How much would we have to spend on a new house? Do people actually just move to get out of debt?
The more I researched, the more convinced I became that this was a viable option. I anxiously waited for Corey’s alarm to go off, and as soon as it did, I pounced. I warned him that I had a crazy idea and begged him to hear me out before he said anything, and then I spilled my guts – I explained the entire story of what had happened that morning, went over some of my research, and told him I felt like this was the right decision for us.
Y’all, he thought I had lost my ever-loving mind. Poor dude. He just wanted to take a shower and go to work and his nutty wife was babbling about mortgages and debt and moving?!
He politely told me that he’d spend some time in prayer about it, but I could tell he wasn’t into the idea. We went about our morning routines and he headed off to work.
Not 20 minutes later, I got a call. Corey had been praying on his way to work. And guess what?
He wanted to sell the house.
It quickly became clear that this was the right decision and that, if we wanted to follow God’s lead in our lives, we’d have to take this crazy leap and move out of the home we loved so much.
Well, you know much of the rest of this story.
We made to do list and scraped together the funds to complete it.
We put out house on the market at the end of September and crossed our fingers.
We got multiple offers on our house within 48 hours of listing it. We accepted an offer for $10,000 over asking price. We found a cute little house right in our budget not far from where we were already living.
November 2017: I won’t pretend like it was all fun and games – there were a lot of moments where we had setbacks, felt doubts, or wondered if we had completely lost our minds and were making a huge mistake. But, we forged ahead and at the beginning of November we closed on our old house and PAID OFF EVERY LAST CENT OF DEBT WE HAD.
You guys. That’s the most fun sentence I’ve ever typed in my life.
We had to make sacrifices – we didn’t end up in our dream neighborhood with our dream school options. We bought a house that’s 500 square feet smaller than the home we had before. We let go of a few of our “must haves” in favor of saving a little money on our purchase price. In the end, the home we purchased was about $20,000 less than what we sold our home for. And, thanks to the equity we had built in our old house and the fact that we were able to list it for about $80,000 more than we had originally purchased it for, we walked away with a profit that was large enough to pay down all of the debt we had and then some.
Corey was able to purchase a nice, used truck with cash.
We were able to replace all of the flooring in our house immediately upon moving in with cash.
We had a lovely Christmas and splurged a little on gifts for Jackson and one another – with cash.
December 2017: But, the story isn’t quite over yet. Because you can’t talk about God’s provision without talking about the ways that he’s going to test you and push you and mold you into a completely new person when you come out on the other side.
Between going under contract on the sale of our house and actually closing on the house, we found out that Corey was being laid off from his job. We were told that he’d have a job through the end of 2017, and then they’d be outsourcing Corey’s entire department to a company in India.
Have you ever tried to find a new job around Christmastime?
It’s not easy.
And, despite the fact that God had just effortlessly pulled us out of what felt like a completely hopeless situation, and despite the fact that we knew we could trust his provision…we were scared.
It all felt a bit like a big joke. We had just worked for years to get out of debt, and God had pulled it off for us in a spectacular way, much sooner than we had ever anticipated. We thought we’d be able to sit back and enjoy life for a bit – finally save some money up. Go out to eat without feeling guilty. Maybe save up for a family vacation. But suddenly, we felt like we were in a freefall with no safety net at the bottom – and we were both terrified that in the end, we’d land right back where we started – in debt and feeling hopeless.
But we prayed. We asked for guidance. And we waited.
January 2017: And that brings us more or less back to the present. Corey spent about two weeks without a job (also known as what might be the scariest two weeks of my life) before being offered what I’m pretty sure will be the perfect fit for him.
It’s one of those jobs that we would never have dreamed of asking for or seeking out because we didn’t even know it was possible. It’s a job that fits his personality so perfectly it’s as if it was tailor-made for him (and, let’s be honest – it was). It pays a little better than his old job and should provide him with a better commute and more time at home with us. It’s less stressful, will keep him on his toes and engaged, and will provide exactly what our family needs right now.
Goodness, isn’t God just good, y’all?
And now? Now we get to begin that second chapter. The part where we’re debt-free, making enough money to cover our day-to-day lives, and looking forward to the future. For those of you familiar with Dave Ramsey and his steps, we’ve made it to Baby Step 3 and are working on saving up 3-6 months of emergency expenses.
Oh, and I didn’t even share one of the best parts.
That Financial Peace University class at our church? The one that completely and utterly revolutionized our lives?
Corey teaches it now.
The semester after we took it, the teacher was leaving his post to take on another role within the church and he asked if Corey would be interested. It was a resounding yes. And Corey is currently going through his second cycle of teaching the course and he loves every second of it.
I don’t know what will happen next. Maybe God will throw another curveball at us. Maybe we’ll actually get to sit back and relax a little bit.
But you know what? The not knowing part? I’ve learned that it should be embraced. Because I have no clue what’s in store for me, but God does – and he’s gonna make sure I come out on the other end okay.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11
5 Quick Tips for Getting Out of Debt:
As you can see from my story, I really believe that each person’s journey to getting out of debt will be unique. I know that not all of you believe that God has a hand in your lives, but I’m telling you – this whole thing is a lot harder if you try to take it on yourself. I don’t know that we would ever have gotten out of debt if we hadn’t surrendered control and trusted him to take the wheel. But, regardless of your beliefs or philosophies, here are a few things that I think might help you out:
- Look into taking Financial Peace University. This is a Biblically-based course that is usually taught in churches, but I promise it would be helpful to you even if you aren’t a Christian. This course teaches very simple and basic principles and will challenge all of your attitudes towards money in the best possible way. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed our lives. You can look into where the course is being taught near you right here (don’t purchase a kit until you choose a class – some places, like our church, will cover some of the cost!), and Corey and I would be happy to answer any questions you have about the course and what it teaches.
- If you own a home and have lived there for at least 5 years, ask yourself if moving would be helpful. For us, we knew we would make a significant profit off the sale of our home – the key was finding a new home that wouldn’t immediately eat up all of the profit and finding a lender who supported our desire to pay off all of our debt in the process. By the grace of God, we managed to find both. This might not be a move that would work for everyone or in every situation, but if you’re serious about getting out of debt, it’s something to consider.
- Stop using your credit cards. I know. It’s hard – you may be like us and in a situation where you are paying all of your bills on your cards before you’re paid each month, and feeling like you can’t break that cycle so you can never stop using them. I promise, there’s a way. Spend a few months pinching every penny until you’re able to reverse that cycle, then cut up the cards and don’t ever look back. Your life will be better for it.
- Sell everything that isn’t nailed down. Dave Ramsey jokes that you should sell so much stuff your kids will worry that they’ll be next. Have the ability to go down to just one family car? Sell the other one. Have some fancy jewelry or nice clothing that you don’t wear much anymore? Sell it. Every dollar counts and once you get yourself into the mindset of looking for things you can sell to make a bit of extra money, you’ll be amazed at what all you find. Once you’ve sold stuff, though, don’t blow the money! Use it to pay down some debt or to help you reverse the credit card cycle. BONUS: I just wrote a post all about how to sell furniture online through places like Facebook Marketplace!
- Live like no one else. This is another Dave Ramsey principle that really stuck with me – he says that we should live like no one else, so later we can live (and give) like no one else. What does that mean? It means that while we’re getting out of debt and building up our savings, we need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. We need to have some bean burrito dinners, stop buying new clothes, embrace the joy of a quiet night at home, and live like no one else. Once you start looking at specific and small ways you can save money, it just might shock you how many little changes you can make that will add up to make a big difference. Things like cutting cable, re-evaluating your insurance policies, cooking dinner at home every night, and instituting a family game night at home instead of going to the movies will add up fast and help you shift your mindset to one that will help you get out of debt. You just have to put the work in.
I know this post was long – and I know it wasn’t for everyone. But, if you’ve made it this far I just want to say thanks for listening to our story. It’s not often that I truly pour my heart out like this here on the blog, and it means a lot to me to know that our story could help some of you out there who are also struggling. I promise I’ll get back to our regular schedule of DIY and home improvement, but it was important to me to share this information for those of you who have asked, and I hope it encourages some of you to begin your journey to being debt-free!