‘Til Debt Do Us… Part III: Debt’s Death

Our Debt Story: Part III

This is the final installment of a three part series of our get-out-of-debt story. We join your previously scheduled broadcast already in progress…

While we were preparing for our new adventure, we sat down to figure out the finances of our move from Utah to NYC. Moderate 15% salary increase? Check. Enough money in our bank account to cover the move? Check. Cost of living increase of 125%? Chec… owwwwhatt?! We knew NYC was expensive, but that’s just instanity. And not the Virtual kind. So we pushed some numbers around in our freaking budget and figured out a way to survive. And that meant pressing the big red STOP button on our get out of debt goal and settling for the monthly minimum loan payment.

$15,00015% salary increase + 125% cost of living adjustment = $15,000 + …gulp

We packed the contents of our $1000/month, charming, 1500-sq ft. Utah townhouse rental into a 16’ rental truck, drove across the country, and unpacked it into our $1650/month, dingy, 400-sq ft. box on the Upper East Side. But we were living in the Big Apple, so it was hard to complain. To celebrate our already limited apartment size, we decided to adopt a kitten in hopes of making bank off her potential YouTube stardom. She has yet to deliver.

It took some time to learn how things worked in the city: the subway system, all-the-time-rudeness (a FedEx man made Joanna cry our first week for signing his clipboard too slowly), your regular neighborhood crazy people, cash-only businesses, etc. But the biggest adjustment was figuring out a way to make our freaking budget work.

Throughout our newly-newlywed days, we learned to live on very little, so we went back to living like that. We eliminated almost our entire new clothing budget, shared an unlimited metrocard, went to museums on free days, joined up with our friends AFTER they had gone out to eat at NYC restaurants, and schlepped our bulk-item purchases from Costco in big duffle bags via bus to avoid paying for a cab ride. I always enjoyed the looks I’d get from the Costco highlighter dudes at the exits when they saw two bags over my shoulder and another in each hand.

Central Park

The longer we maintained this lifestyle, the better we got at it. And that started paying dividends with our budget. So we decided to get back on the horse and try to meet our January 2012 goal of being debt free.

$15,000$6,000 over nine months = $9,000

And just as we really started feeling like regular Yankees, life called an audible in October 2011 and we found ourselves moving to Boston to try out a unique, exciting job opportunity. It was a temporary position, but it paid well and was another interesting city and adventure we could chalk up as a life experience.

Despite the chaos of moving, changing jobs, and learning yet another dialect of the American language (don’t correct me), we cracked the whip on our debt payments. In order to reach our goals, we would need to sacrifice just a little bit more to make up the ground we lost in NYC. So in October and November, we threw down $2,500 each month.

$9,000$2,500(x2) + wicked smahts = $4000 + I still don’t really understand Bostonians

With the end in sight, we knew December would be our Debt Monster’s final hurrah. And on one fateful December night, I grabbed Joanna’s finger and joined it with mine to press the “Submit Payment” button on our final debt payment… BOOOM! Actually, it was sort of anticlimactic. I was kinda hoping that they would reward us with some sort of “You’re so awesome and you have lots of friends!!” message, or an animated celebration like the cascading cards after beating Solitaire on Windows 95. But even without it, we felt like winners. And that was good enough for us.

$4,000 – $4,000$0

And that’s how we killed the Debt Monster. [Microphone dropped]

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  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money December 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    That’s pretty awesome that you are getting your debt paid down! Congrats!

    • Reply Joanna December 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks! It feels good… really good.

  • Reply Kim December 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    So there’s… hope? I’m currently a (graduate) student lookin’ at a HUGE undergrad debt (but going to grad school for free–whatwhat!). 20k in 2 years and moving twice! That’s pretty inspiring stuff y’all!

    • Reply Johnny December 6, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Kim! If you’re already figuring things out BEFORE you graduate, than you’ve got the right mindset to slay your own debt monster. HOPE IS ALIVE! And that’s freaking awesome that you’re getting free grad school! Huge high five.

  • Reply Catherine December 7, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Great story! You guys rock. I’ve only been to NYC once and was expecting the stereotypical rudeness but found people quite nice. Yes the pace was crazy but people were still nice to us! I also love Boston, very much like Halifax where I live.

    • Reply Joanna December 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Thanks! We can’t help but love both of those cities, despite their pricey cost of living. Neither Johnny nor I have ever been to Halifax — or Canada for that matter! We’ve got some exploring to do up north!

  • Reply K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! December 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Congrats on all of your efforts! I relocated from Montreal, Canada to NYC this year to join my now husband and oufff it’s freaking expensive here! But, we do a lot of what you did to contain our cost of living and are managing pretty well. I’ll also be debt free in a few days and I am so excited at the possibilities of living life without debt!

    • Reply Joanna December 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      Congrats! That’s awesome. The nice thing about NYC is although it’s expensive, it’s an exciting place to be! This time of year in the City is especially magical!

  • Reply Cait December 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    What a great story! Honestly, the best part is seeing how good you two work together. Gives me the warm fuzzies.

    • Reply Joanna December 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks! It definitely wasn’t easy with both of our stubborn personalities, but after 5.5 years of marriage, we’ve learned it’s much easier to tackle problems as a team 🙂

  • Reply Laurie January 9, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Great story, guys, and love the site! Kudos to you for getting your act together while you’re young, and congrats on that new baby!

    We are in our 40’s with 4 kids and are just now starting on our debt free journey. It’s never too late.

    But you’ll be even more glad 20 years from now that you started your journey when you did!

    • Reply Johnny January 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks, Laurie! We feel very fortunate to be where we’re at. It’s a hard path, but it feels so freaking great when you make it out alive and debt free.

      And you’re absolutely right about it never being too late. Congrats on taking the Debt Monster by the horns and getting started. Look forward to following your journey!

  • Reply anna March 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Entertaining story (the beer goggles and Youtube cat bits were my fave), and what an inspiring ending – great job to the both of you!

    • Reply Johnny March 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

      Thanks, Anna! I’m still pretty bitter that we didn’t pick a potential YouTube cat-lebrity, but I’ll get over it someday.

  • Reply gigi March 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    wow!!! what a great story! towards the end i was reading frantically and the you did the ultimate: dropped the mic!!!!

    • Reply Joanna March 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Haha, that’s right, Gigi. You can always count on Johnny to deliver a dramatic ending!

  • Reply Tara | Treble in the Kitchen May 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm


    I am a very new blog reader, and LOVED your story “Til Debt Do Us Part.” My fiance and I are in our twenties. He graduated 3 years ago from undergrad and is now a full-time dental student living 100% off of student loans. I graduated 2 years ago and work full-time, and have student loan debt from undergrad. We are in the process of trying to figure out OUR freaking budget and our friend just gave us the Dave Ramsey book….looks like we should read it! Thanks for the inspiration… I will be back for more!

    • Reply Johnny May 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Tara! And your story sounds an awful lot like ours. Definitely start with the Dave Ramsey book. On the whole, it’s a great way to change your perspective and figure out a plan to get rid of your debt.

      Best of luck!

  • Reply Lauren May 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Not that many people can make me laugh like I just laughed. Not at how much debt you all were in, but in the lightness of it all. It’s a very real story in our society. I am one who was trapped in a small amount of debt. I have a student loan to finish paying off and I to will be in the “debt free club”. I’m sad there are no parades… Thanks for sharing your story, I devoured every minute of it!
    God Bless

    • Reply Johnny May 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks so much, Lauren! If we had gobs and gobs of cash, we’d love to fly out and throw parades for anyone and everyone who joined the debt free club. But until that day, we wish you luck in slaying that Debt Monster ASAP!

  • Reply Taryn June 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    When I paid off my car, I felt like throwing a party. But the bank I had the loan from didn’t even send a letter saying “You’re done paying off your loan.” Just got the title in the mail and that was it. So lame. So I told the world and got a few congrats in exchange. Better than nothing, right? HUGE congratulations to you two for paying it all off!

    • Reply Johnny June 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Haha. I mean obviously the bank/lenders are kinda put out that you’re done giving them money for nothing every month, but the least they could do is PRETEND like they’re happy for you.

      Congrats on paying off your car, and thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Erin November 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    So awesome! I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m feeling more motivated than ever. My husband and I both went into marriage with MASS amounts of student loans…. we’re talking $60k+ We’ve been attacking it like crazy w/ Dave’s inspiration and even writing a blog series on it as well!

    • Reply Johnny November 18, 2013 at 2:56 am

      Awesome! We love fellow Dave-rs (if that’s not a thing, it is not). And we’ll definitely hop on over to your blog and read about your progress. No better way to get motivated or remotivated than reading others’ stories.

  • Reply julieroshan November 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your debt story; it was fun to read and very insightful. I will now turn this station to be returned to my regular life to look at my budget. LOL.

    • Reply Johnny November 18, 2013 at 3:04 am

      Thanks for reading. It gets weird in parts, so I’m glad you weathered the weirdness and made it to the end.

  • Reply Sabrenah November 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, that was such a good read. I needed that encouraging story!

    I used to cry when I found out I would have to take out student loans for my tuition. But The Prospective Future Architect & Interior Designer job won that battle, and I took the loans and started on my dream job’s educational journey.
    I am so glad I got to see YOUR debt journey, and to learn that with the right sacrifices, you can really pay off your debt while still young. Thank so very much for the “You Can Do It!” story and taking the time to share it with all of us out here.

    • Reply Johnny November 20, 2013 at 2:15 am

      Thanks for the comment, Sabrenah! We count ourselves lucky that our debt was relatively small (compared to many others) and that no major surprises threw us off course.

      We love doing this blog because we’re constantly encouraged by others’ stories. It’s awesome to surround yourself with other likeminded folks who are all striving for similar goals. It’s contagious and boy, do we have that fever. 🙂

  • Reply Anna January 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Sounds a lot like what my husband and I did (with more debt and minus all the moves to crazy big cities :-D- we just moved to Arkansas and are now in Idaho). We were VERY happy to have the debt gone! Big sigh of relief! btw, Hi Joanna!

    • Reply Joanna January 9, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Hi, Anna! Congrats to you and your husband for paying off your debt! It’s great to hear about like-minded couples like you guys. I’m sure you had to make sacrifices to get it paid off, but it’s so worth it.

      Also, you have like the cutest little girl ever! And big congrats on the little one on the way!

  • Reply Mariel January 23, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks so much for this blog! My boyfriend and I are in the same situation paying more than $1,000 each a month towards our debt and still trying to travel as much as possible at 22. Trying to kill student loan and IRS debt monsters. Good to know we are not alone and there IS light at the end of the tunnel and it can be done with hard work and budget dedication! Thank you and I am excited to read more tips that you have.

    • Reply Johnny February 18, 2014 at 1:12 am

      Yay! We love to read about people in the same boat — not the in-debt boat but the getting-out-of-debt boat. And good for you two for starting so young. Keep at it and look forward to hearing your progress!

  • Reply Joseph Hogue November 24, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Wow, impressive story. Congrats on paying down your debt so quickly.

    I’m a little more relaxed on the debt and would say it was a good investment (the student loan portion). It allowed you to get all those job offers and the opportunity to live in some great cities around the world.

    While it’s technically debt, loans for non-depreciating assets like a home and your education shouldn’t be lumped in with credit cards and other debt. I think too many people wait until they’ve paid off tens of thousands in student loan debt to begin investing for their retirement. It takes a decade to pay off the student loans (most don’t have your discipline) and they miss a big opportunity for compound returns on a tax-advantaged retirement account.

    Love the story.

  • Reply Johanna November 4, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Love your story and the way you tell it! I married my husband and is $260,000 worth of medical school loans. We’ve been married 5 years, have 2 children, and have moved 4 different times due to work and school, in which we’ve had to rely some on credit. Was in search of some motivation and feasible tips for our financial journey and I think I’ve found just the place. Thanks!

  • Reply Nurse on Fire - Brandon April 1, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I stumbled onto your site this evening from Vic over at Dad Is Cheap and wanted to say hello. Loved your debt story and found myself laughing several times throughout. I especially enjoyed your “WWDD” mantra, as he was my initial induction to this whole world of personal finance, as well. Really sorry to hear about the douche bag FedEx guy in New York…I never see our FedEx guy, as he likes to leave boxes sitting in snow on our porch, so I’d occasionally like to make HIM cry! lol

    Anyway…I’m now following you guys and look forward to reading more from you. If you have the chance, I’d be honored if you’d stop by my site sometime and say hey. Until next time, have a nice day!

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