This week we are excited to share another story from a Young Debt-Free Family. The story below features Holly and Greg from Club Thrifty. Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. With his wife Holly, Greg co-owns two websites – Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. The couple has also co-authored a book, Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.
I hope that you find this story as inspiring as I did. I especially enjoyed the perspective they bring from working in funeral homes for years. Having a front row to the deceased provides perspective on the important things in life. You’ll learn about how they moved out of the funeral business to building online businesses of their own.
From the photos below you’ll see how their financial situation have provided the opportunity to spend more time with their children and travel the world. I can’t think of a much better motivator for saving money.
Please read on to learn more about their story!
Young Debt-Free Families Interview with Holly and Greg from Club Thrifty
1) Start by telling us about yourself. Please include any details you feel comfortable sharing about your family, job situation, income level, and amount of debt paid.
My name is Greg Johnson and I am 39 years old. My wife Holly and I live near Indianapolis with our two young daughters, ages 10 and 8.
In our late 20s/early 30s, we made a decision to become debt free. Honestly, it was the best decision we ever made.
We’ve now been free of consumer and student loan debt for about five years. Over the last two years, we’ve also been able to pay off our primary residence as well as one of the rental properties we own.
Since deciding to become debt free, our financial situation has changed quite a bit. When we first made the decision, we worked relatively normal jobs earning a decent salary. To help keep ourselves financially accountable, we also started a blog.
As time went by, our website became more popular. This led both of us down a new, more lucrative career path, and today we both work full-time from home as bloggers.
2) What inspired you to payoff your debt? Did you have a specific moment where you decided to make it a goal to payoff your debt?
I’m not sure that I can pinpoint an exact moment when we decided to get out of debt. It was more the culmination of several factors colliding at once.
First, sometime after our first child was born, Holly and I came to the realization that we weren’t saving any money. We weren’t making six-figures or anything, but our combined income was somewhere near $75,000 at the time…and we had nothing to show for it.
Frustrated with ourselves, we decided to take a closer look at what was going on. What we found was shocking.
One of the biggest things we learned was that we were spending over $1,000 per month eating out…for 2 adults. We immediately decided to rectify that situation and cut our meals out to once per month.
Additionally, we realized that we’d been trading in cars like they were candy. I also had about $15,000 in student loan debt that needed to be paid off. All total, we had around $50K to $60K in debt that we’d accumulated in a pretty short amount of time.
At the time, we also had a pretty unique working environment. I was a mortician, and Holly worked with me at the funeral home. Every day at work, we were constantly reminded about how truly fragile life is and how quickly it can pass.
One thing that stuck with us was seeing others pass away before they could really enjoy their life. Almost every day, we’d hear stories from grieving spouses lamenting the fact that they never got to enjoy retirement together. Many of them wanted to travel. Others just wanted to spend quality time together. They worked their whole lives, and put off “living” as something that could only be done during retirement. Unfortunately, many of them never made it that far while others were too ill or frail to enjoy it once they did.
Holly and I knew that we couldn’t “wait to live” until it was too late. We knew we wanted to travel the world, spend time more time together as a family, enjoy our children while they were young, and not have to worry about working harder to pay off things we couldn’t afford and didn’t need. So, we vowed to make the most of every single day. To that end, we saw getting out of debt and using our money wisely as one of the most important things we could do to accomplish these goals.
3) How did you stay disciplined throughout the process to pay down your debt? Were there any apps, tools, or websites that were especially helpful in paying down debt?
The two most important things we did were to start tracking our spending and using a monthly budget.
Tracking our spending was what helped us realize that we had a spending problem. I mean, spending over $1,000 a month eating out was ludicrous. It was seriously eye opening and a major milestone on our financial journey.
Additionally, we learned how to create and stick to a budget. Personally, we love the zero-sum budget because it creates a plan for every dollar you earn. At the time, we thought we invented the concept…but, of course, people have been using this method for years!
Here’s the thing that a lot of people miss: A budget isn’t some restrictive sentence that never allows you to buy the things you want. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
A monthly budget helps you get more of what you want by creating a plan for your money. By forming and sticking to a plan, you’ll spend less on things that don’t matter and have more money for the things that do!
Since our goal was to pay off our debt as quickly as possible, we didn’t just look for ways to cut our spending. We took on some side jobs in order to increase our income.
Because we already had a family and full-time gigs, we searched for legitimate work-at-home jobs that we could do in our spare time. For us, that meant monetizing our blog and taking on freelance writing opportunities to earn extra money. Then, we threw that extra income at our debt, helping us to pay it off even faster.
4) How has becoming debt-free changed your family’s life? How do you expect it will impact your family’s life going forward?
Honestly, becoming debt free has changed our lives in almost immeasurable ways.
First and foremost, it gave us options. It’s amazing what you can do when half your paycheck isn’t going to somebody else every month.
For us, getting out of debt meant that we could take more risks. We were able to quit our jobs and work for ourselves without worrying about car payments, student loans, or paying off credit cards. Eventually, working for ourselves allowed us to reach far greater income potential than we ever would have found working a “regular” job.
Additionally, being debt free has led to a lot more personal freedom. We now travel the world for about 16 weeks a year, bringing the kids along with us when they are out of school. Because of our decision to get out of debt, we’ve been able to realize those dreams we longed for over a decade ago.
5) What advice would you provide to other young families who are overcome by the stresses of debt?
First, and most importantly, you can do this…but it takes some determination and a workable plan.
Get on a budget and start tracking your spending. Doing these two things alone will help you change your financial mindset and start you down the path to debt freedom.
Then, create a plan for paying off your debt. Use either the “Debt Snowball” or “Debt Avalanche” method to organize your debt and pay it off quicker. You should also consider starting a small emergency fund to help you handle any surprise expenses you’ll encounter along the way.
Additionally, consider supercharging your debt repayment by finding ways to make extra income. The more passive it is, the better. Even after you’ve paid off your debt, passive income is a super important part of building long-term wealth.
Finally, remember that your debt does not define who you are. There will be tough times, but – if you stick to your plan – you will come out the other side better off than you were before.
Seriously, you can do this!
6) Where can we learn more about your story?
If you’d like to follow our journey, you can always find us by visiting our website and/or following us on social media (@ClubThrifty). We’ve also written a book about getting out of debt called “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.” Check it out if your interested!
Thanks again to Holly and Greg at Club Thrifty for being willing to share their family’s story. If you are a debt free family and would like to share your story please reach out to us as we’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!