10 Minute Read
Everyone has a story.
The journey to becoming debt-free is marked by triumphs—and sometimes even tragedy—along the way. Every story is unique to the individual or family, but one thing unites them all: hope.
We’ve heard plenty of debt-free screams on The Dave Ramsey Show. Each one is filled with struggle, determination and a triumphant outcome as they finally get to yell, “We’re debt-free!”
Want to know how it all began? Watch the trailer for our new 25th Anniversary documentary Never Give Up: The Story of The Dave Ramsey Show debuting later this fall.
We’ve been doing this for 25 years and it never gets old. Each debt-free scream marks a life that was changed and a family tree that was forever altered. Here are 10 memorable debt-free screams from throughout the years. (And yes, it was nearly impossible to select only 10!)
#10: Lauren — Columbia, SC
$105,000 paid off in 4 years
You’ll want to have the tissues handy for this one. Lauren and Jay were adamant about paying off their house. “We had an overall goal of wanting to live and give like no one else,” Lauren said. Unfortunately, a year and a half into their marriage, Jay was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. Because they had been working the Baby Steps, Lauren and Jay were able to use their emergency fund for the medical expenses and avoid going into debt. This newlywed couple found themselves in the middle of fighting two battles at the same time—paying off their mortgage and fighting for Jay’s life.
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Despite Jay’s failing health, he was determined to create a debt-free future for his wife. “That was the legacy he wanted to leave,” she said. Lauren took up the mission and was able to pay off their house just four months after he passed away. She stayed the path and finished the journey they started together.
Watch Lauren’s powerful story, including her victorious debt-free scream!
#9: Cinthya — Greenville, SC
$60,000 paid off in 22 months
This one’s another tearjerker! Cinthya’s story began with her husband, Dennis, who faithfully listened to The Dave Ramsey Show. This South Carolina family was in the middle of paying off their house when Dennis suffered a stroke at the shocking age of 29. In an instant, Cinthya became a young widow with three children and $60,000 to pay on the mortgage.
With a fighting spirit, she continued the charge and vowed to become debt-free to honor his memory. “It was our dream to make this happen,” she said. “God is truly good.”
This one made Dave cry! Watch this family’s inspiring and unforgettable debt-free scream.
#8: Stephanie — Dallas, TX
$66,000 paid off in 44 months
Stephanie graduated from Baylor University with student loans weighing her down. She knew she had to pay off the loans—but how? Luckily, Baylor had played a video featuring Dave to their graduating students. Stephanie was intrigued by the concept of being debt-free and enrolled in a Financial Peace University class. As a registered nurse, she began to take on extra shifts to wipe out her debt. “They knew who to call to work day or night,” Stephanie said.
The most difficult part of her journey was spending time away from her 5-year-old daughter, Victoria. But the short-term sacrifices Stephanie made will impact her family for years to come. She kicked $66,000 of debt to the curb and is building a new life for her daughter!
Watch as this mother-daughter duo share their memorable debt-free scream together!
#7: Ken — Wasilla, AK
$394,000 paid off in 18 months
Ken’s debt was tied up in a wide variety of things—a mortgage, taxes, credit cards, furniture, motorcycles and even a snow machine. Hey, it’s Alaska after all. Ken’s turning point happened one night in a motel room in the middle of Michigan. His motorcycle broke down while on a road trip, and he found himself on the phone begging the credit card company to increase his line of credit so he could get back home. It was that night Ken said, “I’m done with this,” and vowed to become debt-free.
When he got back to Alaska, he changed his schedule to be working in the oil field three weeks on and one week off. He even picked up a second job washing cars! Knowing he needed something extra to get through the final push, Ken sold his home to knock out $245,000 of his mountain of debt. What does he say is the best part about being debt-free? “Freedom. No one owns me anymore.”
Watch Ken’s awesome debt-free scream that was so loud, you could nearly hear it all the way in Alaska!
#6: Zach and Jalaine — Pensacola, FL
$32,000 paid off in 12 months
Zach and Jalaine were the typical American family of four. They felt “normal” being plagued by car debt, medical bills, and financed cell phones and computers. But shortly after their move to Pensacola, things began to take a turn. Money was tight. There was a pile of debt payments to be made each month and not enough money to cover them. Desperate for help, Zach sat down and Googled “how to get out of debt,” and Dave popped up!
Zach and Jalaine began listening to The Dave Ramsey Show podcast, started doing a monthly budget with EveryDollar, and enrolled in FPU. They were all in! But they were so strapped for cash, they weren’t even sure how to pay for the class enrollment. “I justified it as, It’s $93 and we get a babysitter for nine weeks!” Zach said. They went full speed ahead and began paying their debts from smallest to largest. To cut costs, they even lived in an RV for six months! “It was a team thing,” Jalaine said. “We had to do it together.”
This debt-free scream will warm your heart!
#5: Jennifer — Houston, TX
$262,000 in 15 months
Jennifer and Craig began their debt-free journey together back in 2015. The couple sold their stocks and were able to pay off all debts except for their house. At the same time, they discovered Craig was in need of a liver transplant. It was then Jennifer and Craig decided to pause their debt snowball and stockpile as much cash as they could. Later that year, Craig passed away. But Jennifer knew she needed to finish their goal of becoming debt-free. She made the decision to sell their house and use his life insurance benefit to pay off the remaining debt.
This debt-free scream was “the last thing I needed to do to finish what we started,” she said.
Watch how Jennifer honored Craig’s legacy with this emotional debt-free scream.
#4: Andy — Winchester, WV
$206,000 paid off in 44 months
Andy and Sherri were at a crossroads—they could continue to live with $206,000 of debt in their lives, or they could draw a line in the sand and make a change. Although Andy was of age to retire, he didn’t have much money saved up. The debt hanging over their heads forced him to keep working. Wanting to take control of their finances, Andy and Sherri began Financial Peace University Home Study. They blazed through the entire class in three days!
For eight months, they made great progress on their debt snowball by paying off car loans and credit cards. During this time, Sherri went to the doctor for a routine checkup and discovered a serious health issue. But they didn’t let the diagnosis cause their focus to stray, and they continued their debt-free journey. Unfortunately, Sherri passed away before she could see their dream become a reality.
“After that, I had to rely on myself,” Andy said. “I cut everything down.” He cancelled the cable, cut back on overall expenses, and even sold the house to get rid of the remaining debt. Now, Andy is debt-free and saving all his extra cash for retirement!
Watch this touching moment as he dedicates his debt-free scream to his wife, Sherri.
#3: Cynthia — St. Petersburg, FL
$220,000 paid off in 4.5 years
All her life, Cynthia was a hard worker. She served her country in the Navy and went on to nursing school to continue building a future for her family. On top of the credit card debt she already had, going back to school added $170,000 of student loan debt to her name. Cynthia decided to make a change when she was given The Total Money Makeover for Christmas. She couldn’t put the book down! Dave’s words resonated with her as she flipped through the pages. “Once I read it, I was hooked,” she said.
Cynthia cut back her overhead costs and learned to live on a budget. She began using cash to pay for groceries and other expenses. “You have to love yourself, your family and your kids enough to do it,” she said.
#2: Chris — Augusta, GA
$16,500 paid off in 16 months (473 days . . . to be exact)
Chris noticed his brother watching The Dave Ramsey Show and was intrigued by the principles Dave shared. He decided to pick up The Total Money Makeover, and read the entire book in one day! Chris was inspired to get rid of his motorcycle lease and student loan debt. Even on a salary of $27,000 a year, he knew he could do it!
Along the way, he never lost his sense of humor. “It was beans and rice . . . well, not exactly. I made beans and rice one time and it was horrible,” he said. “I didn’t realize you had to soak them!” Chris used to be the type of person who would get paid on Friday and then spend the entire check over the weekend. Now, he’s the kind of person who makes a budget and sticks to it. “I did everything I could to create new habits,” he said. Those fresh habits worked, and Chris is completely debt-free! “Now, I’m going to work to pay for the future and not pay for the past,” Chris said.
Are you ready to hear one of the most intense debt-free screams in history? Watch Chris’ story.
#1: Troy — Jacksonville, FL
$42,000 paid off in 24 months
At 28 years old, Troy was still living with his parents and had no goals for his future. With the gentle nudging from his mom, he traded his video game console for pencil and paper in the classroom. After graduating at the top of his class and making more money than he had seen in his entire life, he realized he needed a plan for his finances. Troy discovered Dave’s teachings and began to implement them in his life. Just 24 months later, he became completely debt-free!
“If you set yourself up with a goal, you can make anything happen,” Troy said.
Troy took the initiative to change the course of his future, and says anyone else can do it too. “Live on less than you make, have a plan, don’t borrow money. It’s really that simple,” he said.
Watch Troy’s incredible story of determination!