Resisting Temptation When Getting Out of Debt

The following is a guest post co-written by husband/wife duo, Johnny and Joanna. They are a 20-something couple with a brand spanking new baby girl. And while they’ve finally figured out the gist to managing their money, they write about their love-hate relationship with finances at the aptly titled blog, Our Freaking Budget.

There aren’t many outfits in my closet that I paid full price for — especially after marrying Johnny. But there’s one outfit that Johnny and I both own that set us back quite a bit: our caps and gowns. And at a cool tune of $20,000 (that we didn’t have), that’s where our post-college life in debt began.

Rewind to the semester before we graduated. Some friends gave us their copy of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover and encouraged us to read it. So we did. And we drank that Kool-Aid right up. Then and there, we started an itemized budget for the first time in our marriage — and actually stuck to it. And so when graduation day had come and gone, we decided we’d do everything in our power to get out of debt as fast as possible.

Johnny and I sat down one night (probably over a succulent bowl of Top Ramen) and drafted up a stricter budget and an 18-month payoff plan for our $20,000 in school loans. We’d have to make sacrifices, but fingers-crossed, we would be debt free in less than two years.

Fast forward to present day. We stuck to the plan, paid off our debt in full, and celebrated our first year of debt freedom in December. Score! But let me tell ya, it wasn’t easy. It seemed that all our friends were living the high life: eating out at nice restaurants, vacationing abroad, etc. It waseasy to compare and want to do the same. But we put on our keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s blinders and stuck to our guns. And so Johnny and I can promise you — from our own experience — that it’s possible to resist those spending temptations. So without further ado, here were our three most forbidden fruits and how we stayed away.

It often feels like there’s way too much work and not enough play. And when you’re paying off debt, this especially rings true because every last penny of extra money is going to loan payments. But I’m here to tell you that vacations are possible and necessary. BUT they don’t have to cost thousands of dollars. As a rule, we always spent less on vacation than the money we would be earning for paid time off. In other words, if our net income from our jobs each day equaled $150 and we wanted to go on a 4-day vacation, our total vacation budget was $600. By following that rule, it kept our vacation expenses in check while allowing us some much needed R&R while we paid off our debt.  

Eating Out
During our debt payoff process, we recognized food as one of our highest expenses. So to combat that, we kept a strict budget that involved mostly homemade meals and lunches, with enough money for a single takeout meal each week. But along came temptation. Friends would invite us to eat out almost every weekend at restaurants that would have obliterated our takeout budget. So we said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” A lot. We wanted to hang out with friends, but we didn’t want to spend the money. So Johnny and I started proposing to meet for dessert instead of dinner, which was much less expensive. We also started inviting couples over for a homemade meal at our apartment. And thus we saved our social lives and our freaking budget.

Keeping Up With Technology
Cell phones are a big monthly expense. Johnny had to have a smartphone for work, but I didn’t need one for my job. So while we paid off debt, I just had a basic dumbphone. And even though Johnny needed his smartphone, he wouldn’t get a new one until an upgrade came up. In talking with his company’s HR department, he also discovered he was eligible for a company discount and subsidy, which was super helpful. I really wanted a smartphone too (duh), so I started to do freelance work on the side to try to make enough monthly income to cover the cost. And two months before we slayed the Debt Monster, guess who got her first grown-up phone? This girl.

While debt is a terrible, awful thing that we hope to never even encounter again, Johnny and I are actually grateful to have started our marriage with it. No, we’re not sadists. While we had to hunker down and tighten our belts for a couple years, we realized that life was still awesome without a lot of spending money. And now that we’re debt free, we’re mostly still living on the same budget and lifestyle that we did during our debt days. When we take a step back and look at the big picture and what our ultimate end goal is, the sacrifices we’re making don’t feel like sacrifices at all. But most importantly, we control our money — it doesn’t control us!

Have you paid off debt or are you working to pay off debt? What are your spending temptations, and what are your tricks to combat them? We’d love to hear ‘em!
  • Fresh Start Solutions

    Great advice here. Thank you!