Monday, November 5, 2012

Debt-Free Decorating

I started this blog to write about interior design, to show what I've done in my house, and to dream about bigger projects. Most of what I have done is in the low-cost, or free, category. The reason for that is I have been paying off some pretty big debts. 

In April 2010 I added up everything I owed and I got scared. It wasn't the first time I had thought about my debts--the credit card, the student loans, the car payment. Since my first job out of college I had been wanting to pay it off, but just seemed to slip deeper into debt. In 2010 I also had an attorney bill and an out-of-control daycare tuition bill that I never had enough extra money to pay for at the end of the month. This time was different, too, because it was just me. Any mistakes I made were mine alone, but I was also totally in charge in a way I had never been before. 

My mom recommended Dave Ramsey and a good friend sent me a copy of his book The Total Money Makeover. I felt so hopeless I still didn't do anything for a bit longer. If you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey, I suggest you visit his website and start listening to his show, which airs everyday at 2 p.m. or you can listen to archived episodes via the website. 

That's what I started to do and I got "gazelle intense" at some point--perhaps it was after I got a collection call from the attorney a few days before Christmas. I changed the way I thought about spending and began to snowball one debt after another. I figured out ways to save and to not spend that would be sustainable over the long term. 

I stopped using credit cards, made a deal with my dad to pay off the stupid lawyer, and chipped away at everything. I paid off the daycare first. In September 2011, I wrote them a check for $2,300 out of the overage from my escrow account (yes, my mortgage company had been waaaayyyy overcharging me). My dad and I had agreed that I would pay the "dad loan" off in $75 installments over the course of a year. I paid him off at Christmas last year, a little early, but in the wrong amount. He wasn't going to say anything but I caught on and paid the rest. 

Those two successes were the momentum I needed! This spring, a few weeks early, I paid off my auto loan. I transferred part of my credit card balance to one with a promotional zero percent interest rate, then worked on the one that I had had since my sophomore year of college. All the while paying $96.80 per month since the year Griffin was born in student loans.

Today I made the very last payment on what totaled nearly $30,000 in April 2010. I am debt-free!!!! 

It's a great feeling and I'm glad I'm finally in a position where I can think about building wealth instead of paying off debt. To be a giver rather than a taker. And like anyone who has seen something really really bad and come out the other side, I never want to go down the path of debt again!

January 2010. Walt Disney World Family Trip.
I had an idea for awhile that I would take a road trip down to Nashville where the Dave Ramsey show is aired, stand in his lobby, and do a debt-free scream. Then, I would tell him and the whole world that I was taking my babies to Disney World. But, that's not terribly practical. It's really far from here to Nashville to Orlando, WDW tickets and lodging are not cheap, and the kids have school. We did go to Disney a few years ago with my entire family, which was extra special, and Bela still talks about that trip.

Now I have the contentment of knowing that we could go again, on our own terms, not when some outer force or whim strikes. 

I also have to give the largest share of the credit to my lovey, who was so encouraging and supportive through it all. He reminded me of what I wanted to do, kept me accountable, and rewarded me along the way, as well as being a great example of living debt-free.


  1. What a huge victory for you, Carrie! I think you should send your story to Dave Ramsey (not sure who he is but glad he inspired you). Who knows...maybe a free trip to Nashville?

    1. Thanks!! I'm so pleased about being debt-free. :) Thank you for the suggestion, too; I may try to contact the show. Another design blogger who paid off a lot of debt wrote a story on their blog today (isn't that an interesting coincidence??).

  2. Carrie, what an awesome story! And what a wonderful place for you to be :) I absolutely feel the overwhelming burden of my student loan debt, among others, and am in the "trying to figure it out" phase. I can relate to the burden you felt all those years, and hopefully one day, will also be able to relate to what you feel today! Congratulations!!!!

    1. Thanks Sonia!! I'm so happy to be in this place now. Good luck with your pay-off! If you ever need encouragement, I'm here. :)

  3. Wow, this gave me chills!!! I am so thrilled for you, congratulations!!

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I dreamt last night that I di my "debt free scream". :)

  4. Whooooohoy!!!!

    Great story Carrie, well done!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love to read what you have to say. ~Carrie


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