Hawaii, Ireland, and $49,000 of debt gone!
In this interview, Celeste and Rita share how they’ve balanced saving money with what’s truly important to them, the sacrifices they’ve made for their goal, and the unexpected result from their debt free journey.
Here is the interview:
ME: Thank you for sharing your story with Our Debt Free Family! Please tell us a little about yourselves so our readers can get to know you.
We are Celeste and Rita, and we are both 44 years old. We’ve been together for five years and married for two, and we live in Portland, Oregon.
Rita works in law enforcement. She enjoys listening to podcasts and the radio show from her hometown, running, and playing with our dogs.
Celeste works as a nurse part-time, volunteers, and enjoys making things with her hands: knitting, sewing, and crafting.
We have two dogs and two cats. We both love to travel, IPA craft beers, updating our 1957 home, and ’80’s music.
ME: Welcome! What made you decide to focus on becoming debt free?
Rita will be able to retire in about 11 years so the idea of enjoying our retirement without the weight of debt is a no-brainer.
ME: How much debt have you paid off, and how long has it taken you?
With your guidance, we’ve paid off $49,048.83 in the last 18 months. Woohoo!! We now have $279,604.76 left including our mortgage.
ME: Congratulations!! What kind of debt was it?
We have paid off three credit cards, a motorcycle, two cars, and a good portion of student loans, along with making our regular monthly payments.
ME: You’ve crossed off a lot of items from your debt snowball! What did you do for work while you’ve been paying off your debt?
We both worked our jobs mentioned earlier. About ten months ago, Celeste decreased her work hours from about 35/week to about 10/week, which also decreased our income.
ME: What has your annual income been during this time?
About $65,800.00, which includes both of our incomes and rental income from the attached apartment we rent out.
ME: Did you do anything to increase your income?
Rita volunteered for two work trips where she was able to earn overtime.
ME: What sacrifices did you make to reach your goal?
Rita going on those trips was a huge sacrifice for us. She was gone for 30 to 77 days. It’s tough to be apart and away from home for so long.
We also decided to downsize from two cars to one. Now we only pay insurance/maintenance/gas for one car and one motorcycle. It has forced us to think ahead and to limit those trips “for just one thing.” We also use public transportation and ride bikes or walk whenever we can.
ME: What are your best money-saving tips?
Perhaps the most important thing we do is buy with intention. We ask ourselves, “Do we really need this new item? Can we borrow or share an item? Can we purchase the item second hand?”
We would rather spend our money on experiences than “stuff.”
With Celeste not working as much, she’s explored DIY methods to save money and decrease toxins/plastics in our home.
She makes our laundry soap, hand soap, lotion, almond butter, shampoo, and toothpaste. She’s also made produce bags from old t-shirts and reusable hankies from an old sheet.
We buy most of our dry foods (i.e. spices, rice, beans, flour) in bulk to decrease packaging and save money.
Because we produce less trash we’re able to use “on-call” trash pick up about every 6 weeks.
We wash our clothes in cold water and use the clothesline whenever possible. We both take lunch to work, and Rita has her coffeemaker at work to cut down on runs to the coffee shops.
ME: You’ve done a lot to cut your spending! What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own debt free journey?
We haven’t stopped doing the things we enjoy in order to pay off our debt faster. Instead, we just do them less often to keep us sane. Everyone is different and has different ideas of happiness. This works best for us.
Also, don’t beat yourself up for slipping sometimes. Most people haven’t been taught about money management. It takes time to learn and of course, practice and patience. Taking little steps can make a difference.
ME: That is great advice! Have you made any big purchases with cash? If so, how long did it take you to save up?
Rita is from Ireland and goes back every year to visit family. In 2015, we both visited for about $5,000. We also took a vacation to Hawaii and spent about $3,000 on the trip.
We started saving for the trips about a year in advance, saving $100 of each paycheck ($400/month). We also used some money from Rita’s work trips for these vacations.
We bought a much-needed new mattress and box spring set for $1,700. We used money from Rita’s work trip and bought when it was on sale. Celeste made a cool headboard for $200 to go with it. The fabric for the headboard was discounted with coupons.
We also put in a small deck with used composite material for less than $200. The composite decking itself would have been $800 if we had bought it new!
ME: You’ve accomplished a lot in the last 18 months! What has been the best part about your debt free journey?
Learning about healthy financial habits has been really liberating!
An unexpected benefit is how it’s enhanced our relationship.
Combining our bank accounts and debt was really hard for Celeste due to her large amount of student loans. She didn’t think Rita should pay for the debt Celeste incurred before they were married.
It’s been a process, but through it we’ve become more of a TEAM. We’ve opened up our communication, and it’s brought us closer.
We are on track with each other and our goals are now in sync.
ME: Thank YOU, Celeste and Rita, for sharing your story with us!
Now I’d love to hear about you!
What parts of Celeste and Rita’s story did you find most inspiring? Which tips can you apply to help you reach your financial goals faster? Share in the comments below.