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Question of the Week – Tackling Debt


This is our Sunday series where we all respond to reader questions. If you want to submit a question, please go to this post.

Question of the Week

 Are you planning to tackle debt in an “all-out” kind of style or more of a “slow and steady wins the race” pace? – Jocelyn


Our plan is to sacrifice as much as we can stand to pay it off as quickly as possible. Life gets in the way sometimes but we just want that burden gone. 


To be honest, I am a little in the middle.  I am throwing the majority of our income, setting up our emergency fund and on debt.  But at the same time, there is a lifestyle that I have grown to love.  Being home when my children wake up, when they go to bed, and everything in between I simply love and for the most part am probably not going to change.  But as my income grows from all my ventures from home, more money will be thrown toward debt.


I did not even have to think about this one…I’m all in! I am so anxious to be out of debt and free up some of my income that every dime is thought and re-thought before it’s spent.  I have spreadsheets upon spreadsheets exploring different scenarios.  Granted, I have to balance my “all in” with four kids and their lives too, but I am pedal to the metal…all in!


Is it cheating to say both? To be fair, we’ve been paying down our debt for over a year now, but it’s definitely been at more of a “slow and steady” pace. Starting in January of this year we really got gazelle intense. I am SOOOO committed to eradicating our credit card debt. I am trying to tackle it with absolute dedication (examining all opportunities to cut costs, increase income, etc.). Our goal date for being credit card debt-free is March 2015 (one year after starting blogging here at BAD), but if I have it my way we’ll be finished by the end of 2014. But our credit card debt makes a relatively small proportion of our overall debt (which also includes a car loan, license fees, medical debt, and student loans). I see us staying focused and intense on paying off the car and license fees (and will continue blogging during this time). But If I am 100% honest, I feel much less urgency about the medical debt (which is interest-free) and student loans (which is NOT interest-free). Everyone I know with student loans basically finances it over the course of a mortgage:  15-30 years!!! I don’t want to be in debt that long, but the numbers are so huge and daunting, I would be lying if I said I am certain we can remain gazelle intense until its gone!!! I guess I haven’t fully decided regarding our pace of debt-repayment for these debts (medical & student loans). I’m hoping that as we continue along the journey, each additional “win” will help build momentum and make the process feel easier and more comfortable as it simply becomes our way of life. But if anyone would like to share a success story or tips for staying motivated, please leave comments! I find success-stories particularly compelling and would love any and all tips on staying motivated for the long-haul!


  • Reply scarr |

    Ashley – After I paid off my credit cards, I kind of just coasted with my student loans. Then one day I became really upset that I was ignoring these stupid loans – if I could pay off my credit card debt, surely I could tackle this? My husband and I gave ourselves 2 1/2 years to get the student loans paid off and we on on track to having them paid off in about a year. Student loans are with you until you die, so I would consider it an emergency to get those suckers paid down. Also, I looked at my estimated payoff amount if I took the entire 20 years . . . OVER TWICE as much as what I borrowed. NO THANKS! I want to own a home eventually, but I want to be as debt-free as possible when that time comes. Good luck!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for this comment! That’s really my main struggle too – wanting to be debt free versus wanting to own a home. I can see delaying home ownership 2-3 more years….but I have a hard time thinking about delaying it for another 7-10 years (which is likely how long it would take to pay off the student loans…and I’ll be 40 at the time). When the time comes to buy a house, I’d also like to have 20% (preferably more, but 20% minimum) for a down payment. So that splits our funds between “savings” (for home ownership) and “debt reduction,” which will make the debt reduction take longer. I don’t know. We are still totally undecided on this and since I’m applying for academic jobs we could still be moving in the next year so everything is kind of up in the air. I find it much easier to focus on the shorter-term debts right now (credit cards, car loan, license fees) and worry about the bigger ones later down the road when we (hopefully) know where we’ll be living and what our life will look like. Right now there’s just too much up in the air.

      • Reply scarr |

        I also want to have that 20% down payment (plus extra in savings) before buying. It does freak me out some days when I think about omg student loans. . . omg down payment . . . omg retirement!!! But like you said, sometimes you have to just focus on the one obstacle you are climbing over not the one’s coming up. It can be hard for me because I am a very list and detailed oriented person so I tend to take on more than I should all at once.

        I would be willing to only have 10% down for a house if it meant I was able to eliminate more debt prior to homeownership. I just feel that when you buy a home it should be a happy time not a scary experience and for me that equals less debt.

      • Reply Walnut |

        Hi Ashley – I know it’s tough to think you want to own a home by age 40, but play the upside of this. At 40, you’ll likely be purchasing the home that you will retire in, not a starter home. Buy only buying one home, you’ll incur the expense of taking out a mortgage once and at that point, you might have a solid bit of savings with which to work with mitigating the loan amount.

        I know it seems like everyone buys a house in their 20s, but doing what is right for your family is important. As long as your in a good rental situation, I wouldn’t think too much about a house right now. Enjoy the fact that you aren’t liable for major house expenses!

        For what it is worth, my parents were nearly 40 when they owned their first home. It’s a home they were able to custom build to be the only house they will over own. And because we lived in cheap-o rentals for so long and my parents are frugal, they were able to pay for the house in cash. The rental double-wide certainly wasn’t classy, but it was so, so worth it for the beautiful home my parents have now.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    I have to agree with the above comment. For some reason, I can’t find Jim’s totals, but I looked over Ashley’s again. Ashley, it is fine to tackle your debt in increments, but nonetheless, the bar must be continually set high. I hate to see you make statements like student loan debt is like a mortgage and will be with you for a long time. The number one rule of debt is Know Your Interest Rates! That should keep you fighting mad about what kind of money you would be throwing away over 15-30 years. Forget about what your friends and everyone else is doing.

    Think of those little girls and the kind of life you want to give them. It’s so much better to tackle this while they are little. Believe me, I have been where you are, and we found it was best to keep fighting. I hope a good job comes up for you in the near future so you will have more to throw at debt.

    Jim, you can have a wonderful family life and still tackle debt!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I totally agree! And the APR on my student loans is really ridiculously high (caps out at 8%, when I have friends who were able to lock loans in for as little as 3%). I’m not saying that I WANT or PLAN to have my loans forever….just that I am not sure if I can stay gazelle intense for the 7-10 years it would take to pay them off. I’m just not. I have other goals in life: home-ownership, being able to take family vacations, etc. I can delay that stuff for now. I can even delay it for a few years. But if I’m TOTALLY honest with myself then I’m just not sure I can delay it for a decade. And, honestly, I’m not sure it would be a worthwhile investment to continue renting for a decade when I could be building equity in a (small, reasonably-priced) home. It’s not even a topic on the table at the moment (until at a minimum all of our “short-term” debts are paid off), but I would bet that we’ll be home-owners before my student loans are paid off. This flies in the face of everything Dave Ramsey preaches, but I’m trying to be honest and real. I’m NOT saying I wouldn’t care about the student loans or would continue paying minimums forever, but just that I don’t think I can keep at our current pace of debt-repayment for a decade. But who knows – if our income continues to increase then maybe our debt-reduction can continue at the same pace, but it would represent a smaller proportion of our overall income so it wouldn’t “feel” as tough as it is now. I don’t know. This comment has gone on way too long and I know people are going to disagree with me, but at least you can’t penalize me for lying. I’m keeping it real, here.

      • Reply Walnut |

        Before you think about the equity you’re “losing” because you are renting and not owning, take a look at the 30 year amortization table on a home loan. Look at how many years it takes for any equity at all to start building up.

        If you wait until your student loans are paid off to buy a house, then you can buy an affordable house on a 10 or 15 year amortization table and ACTUALLY build equity. You will be able to do this because you’ll have enough cash flow to pay the higher payment.

        I sincerely wish I would have looked at the 30 year mortgage amortization table before buying my house. It’s astounding. It motivated me to refinance that sucker into a 15 year as soon as I had the income/cash flow to swing it.

  • Reply Ashley |

    Okay….crunching some numbers….
    We’re currently paying approximately $1700 toward debt/month (= $20,400/year). If we keep at our current rate (snowballing our payments every time something is paid off), then once we finish all of our other debts (credit cards, car loan, license fees), it will only take an extra 5 years to pay off the student loans! Holy crap, I thought it would take much longer than that!?! But I guess that still equates to about 7 years from now (because I have to pay off our other debts first). Something to think about, though, because it just seemed like it would take much, much longer than that.

    • Reply Juhli |

      I didn’t finish paying off my grad school loans until my oldest was a senior in high school. That was depressing and my interest rates were wayyyyy lower than yours. I highly suggest you see it for what it is – a debt that is costing you money and not building any equity. Pay them off quickly and you will be so relieved.

  • Reply Den |

    We were gazelle intense on cc repayment until our oldest started college (yeah, we started late on the Dave Ramsey thing)….and now our third (and youngest) is in college and we’re continuing to pay the minimums on our final two cc while helping the kids with college (helping – NOT paying) and we’re comfortable with that. In 3 more years all three kids will have finished college and we’ll finish the final cc debt – and even though it’s taken a bit longer we’re happy with our decision to slow down on debt repayment while the kids were in college. Life isn’t a straight path and I applaud you for your understanding of that!

  • Reply Joe |

    It’s easy for us (the readers) to always say faster faster faster. As with everything else, it is always about individual psyches. As long as you are making good progress and keeping an eye out for good opportunities to make even better progress, make sure you do what you need to do to ensure ultimate success!

    • Reply Shoeaholicnomore |

      I agree with Joe. You have to do what is right for you and your family and if that means becoming “less intense” and using more money for fun after your CC debt is gone then so be it. No one can stay “intense” forever. You have to take a break and treat yourselves sometimes or you’ll go crazy!

  • Reply KK |

    Ashley – Student loans are my big burden right now! I left school in 2011 with around $19,000 in loans ($18,000 in loans and $1,000 in accrued interest). As of today my loan balance is ~$10,800. If all goes according to my spreadsheets, I should be student loan free in 2.5 years! I try and always make an extra payment each month on the loans, no matter how small. I signed up for automatic payments because it meant a 0.25% decrease in my interest rates. Also, I’m trying out the 52 week savings plans (save $1 on week 1, $2 on week 2, $3 on week 3, etc.) and then I’ll use that amassed savings to pay off a chunk of the loans.
    I’m determined to get these suckers paid off as soon as possible, because I have other things I’d like to spend my money on! Just think of all the fun things that could have been done with that $8,500 I’ve already paid off. That’d make for a ton of vacations!
    Just keep up with a momentum you’re comfortable with. If you can only manage an extra $100 payment every so often, that’s fine!

So, what do you think ?