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For Justin and Lauren, their financial struggles began as soon as they got married. Their go-to response for every new purchase was to finance it. "We borrowed for everything," Justin said.
Lauren handled the bills and, despite their best efforts, they were always out of money.
Justin was a sales representative at the time, and decided to kick it into high gear at work to supplement their spending habits. "I’d sell more so that we could then buy more," Justin said. "And then we’d buy more... and I’d have to sell more." They were caught up in a vicious cycle.
Then Justin switched jobs. He negotiated a higher salary so he and Lauren could support their new baby boy. But after a month or so into his new job, they were still barely scraping by—and racking up more debt.
Their wake-up call came as they were preparing for their son’s first birthday party. Lauren was driving to the store to pick up food and supplies when she realized they were dangerously close to reaching their credit limit—within dollars.
"I was just done," she said. "I was so tired of playing the game."
Justin and Lauren were willing to try anything, and a friend recommended The Total Money Makeover. Something just clicked for them after they finished book, and they embarked on their debt-free journey.
"It was that turning point that made me realize we have to do something different," Justin said.
They cut up their credit cards, set aside their $1,000 emergency fund, and started paying off their debt. Six weeks later, they enrolled in Financial Peace University. When they finally saw their debt on paper, the reality of their situation sunk in. They realized their financial future would be fraught with uncertainty if they didn’t change. Justin realized the payment on his new truck was eating up their budget. Without it, that chunk of money could make an enormous difference toward paying off their debt. So he gave it up. Getting rid of the truck completely changed Justin and Lauren’s perspective.
"I realized that’s not what life is about," Justin said.
Living with a purpose, making their money work for them (not the other way around), and knowing exactly where every dollar went was truly life-changing. The couple paid off $85,000 in 17 months!
"Everybody that we knew thought we were crazy," Justin said.
But after seeing their debt-free scream, many of their naysayers are now on their own debt-free journeys, following the same principles Justin and Lauren did.
"It was a struggle," Justin said. "But looking back, it was worth every bit of sacrifice."
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