It might be hard to believe, but several years ago I struggled with debt. Through maxed out credit cards, hospital bills, and car payments my wife and I owed over 3,233,422,030 dollars. The sad thing is that anyone can fall into the debt trap, and end up owing billions of dollars.
With planning, saving, and a little luck, it is possible to reverse the bad fortune and get yourself out of debt. I did it, and you can too. I will show you how.
My story is one that many can relate too. I worked full time at the mill, but with two kids and a wife at home my paycheck was just barely enough. We scraped by as best we could, but it was hard. We only bought generic ketchup. Our kids only played on “discount” sports teams that mostly manufactured counterfeit handbags in a dimly lit basement. Even Netflix was too expensive for our budget. Yes, we lived like animals.
Soon after my daughter was born we started fudging the numbers. It started small. Buying an extra box of cereal at the store, or buying cat food instead of just bringing home roadkill. We even threw away extra smelly diapers instead of trying to re-use them.
These extra expenses were small, but they began to add up. We started paying bills late, or not at all. Our credit cards began to carry a monthly balance. Unfortunately, we ignored the warning signs and kept spending.
Name brand soda, fancy clumping litter, and vaccinations for the entire family. No expense was too much. We finally bought seat-belts for our car, and a subscription to “Wetflix”, a cheaper alternative to Netflix that only shows ocean documentaries and adult films.
We kept living beyond our means and the bills kept piling up. By Christmas 2006 the pile of bills in my office became so tall that my wife decorated it with ornaments and topped it with a little gold star. It was then, staring at the little “debt-mas” tree that it hit me: we were in financial trouble.
When I added up all the bills I was shocked. We owed over 3 billion dollars, all from normal stuff like hospital bills, maxed out credit cards, and utilities. You don’t have to be a mind reader to know it was not a merry Christmas. We had so little money for gifts that we had to tell our kids that Santa was dead.
Escaping Debt: The Plan
The first thing I did to escape the debt was formulate a plan for how we would pay off every cent. By carefully looking over a year’s worth of receipts I determined how much money we could spend each month on payments. Then, using that number, I calculated how long it would take us to become debt free.
|Monthly Debt Payment||Total Debt||Years Until Debt Free|
Obviously I was a little concerned. In 3 million years the human race will have transcended to another dimension. I didn’t want to be stuck on earth still paying off stupid hospital bills. I asked my oldest, Micheal (5) whether he would be okay inheriting billions of dollars of debt, but he didn’t seem to understand the question.
Based on the initial math it was pretty clear we needed to do more. Three million years was just not an acceptable target. We tightened our belt and poured over all of our expenses for the last decade. No potential cost saving tip was ignored, everything was on the table.
After slashing our monthly budget to the bone and finding new innovative ways to make a little extra, we found a way to pay off our debt in a fraction of the time.
|Monthly Debt Payment||Total Debt||Years Until Debt Free|
|$135 Million||$3,233,422,030||2 years!|
The key was to spend approximately 134 million more dollars each month on payments. This would allow us to reach our goal of having no debt 3,454,508 years sooner than expected.
Escaping Debt: In Action
After creating a plan we launched into action. Every month we scrimped and saved to make up the 135 million we needed to stay on target. If we found a little extra money, whether it be coins in the couch or proceeds from making our kids panhandle on the sidewalk, it went to payments, no questions asked.
Debt Tip: Every bit helps, no matter how small. It only took 540 million quarters to reach our monthly target.
At first it was hard to break out lavish spending habit. Gone were the glory days of name brand ketchup and odor eliminating litter. We still bought fancy cat food, but it was for the kids. Our cats only got what they could kill, plus whatever we hit with the car.
After a month or so of tightening our belts things got easier. We adjusted to living with less, and the whole family started to enjoy the challenge of living frugally. The cold showers we took to save heat were an invigorating badge of pride. Our son stopped crying when we made him hitchhike to kindergarten to save on gas.
Debt Tip: forcing your children to do your taxes is a great way to teach life skills. You can also save tons of money from their inevitable mistakes.
In addition to being frugal, everyone took part in finding new ways to make money. My wife held a bake sale with old bread she found behind a bakery. Our kids spent their free time rooting through trash for aluminum cans. They loved it because they got to miss school, and we loved it because those coins added up. At five cents a can, it only took 2.7 billion cans to hit an entire monthly payment goal of 135 million.
In the end, we hit our goal of repaying our 3 billion dollar debt in two years. In fact, through extra saving and very frugal spending we paid back our debt a full month early! All of those spare coins, bags full of cans, and strategic tax errors netted us an additional 135 million dollars in savings. After mailing the final check in we celebrated with a lavish dinner: Fancy Feast tacos topped with name brand ketchup.
The best part was we didn’t stop saving when we hit our goal. The whole family liked it so much that we decided to keep living frugally, albeit with a few exceptions. Hot showers were back in, and no expense was spared for condiments. We all agreed that the cats could keep using gravel from our neighbors driveway for litter, and the kids liked using the “bathroom bucket” instead of the toilet.
Debt Elimination Tips
Here are a few of the many methods my family used to pay back the 3 billion dollars we owed. Whether you need to pay back $100 or 100 million, these tips can help you save or even make money.
- Quit smoking, unless you use it for meditation.
- Teach your kids to repair damaged clothing instead of throwing it away. If they get good at it, have them to manufacture clothing on the weekends, mornings, nights, and after school.
- Check vending machines for loose change. Shake the machine vigorously to release any “stuck” coins. If that doesn’t work, prying it open with a crowbar can help.
- Recycle! Look through trash cans and dumpsters around town to find valuable aluminum. Even better, have your kids do it for you!
- A hole in your backyard can function just as well as a septic system at a fraction of the cost. No backyard? Just use a bucket instead.
- “Borrow” gravel from your neighbors driveway for kitty litter. When the cats are done using it, put it back.
- The cost of Christmas presents can really add up. Tell your kids that Santa is dead, and that there will no presents this year.
- Cat food is cheaper than store bought meat, and if you add enough cheese nobody can tell.
- Borrow as much stuff as you can from friends, family, neighbors, then have a yard sale with it.
- School can be expensive. By forcing your children to panhandle instead you will not only make money, but introduce them to the greatest teacher of all: the streets.