Blissful and Domestic - Creating a Beautiful Life on Less: Top 4 Tips to Getting Rid of Debt

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Top 4 Tips to Getting Rid of Debt

 Hi there! I am Olivia from Snyders Tell All. I'm so happy to be a guest on Blissful and Domestic.  I just love it here and am thrilled to be on this blog.  I have been trying to come up with the perfect and most applicable post ever, since Danielle asked me to be a guest.  I've been wanting to write this post for a while on my own blog, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share!  The only problem was narrowing it down to just a few tips.  But here you have it...

How We Paid Our House Off in 33 Months

A Little Background:  When my husband and I got married five years ago, we had $8,000 in car debt and $110,000 in house debt (put $40,000 down).  It took us a little less than 3 years to pay it off and my income didn't contribute to our household finances until a year after he bought the house (I was in college and student taught).  We are both teachers in Texas, although now I stay at home with my 10 month old son, which is the reason we wanted to pay our house off so quickly.  So, no, we are not doctors nor did we inherit money.  Simple living, hard working Americans. :)  We did though find time and money to take several vacations and thoroughly enjoyed our DINKhood (DoubleIncomeNoKids).  I say that to emphasize this is very doable if you're willing to make a change now for an incredible change in the future!  Dave Ramsey is our hero and taught us what to do during this process.  We simply read two of his books (well my husband did...I read them later).
The Total Money Makeover
He gives 7 steps to paying off debt!

 Financial Peace Revisited
More good advice

Our son even likes the book :)
There are many things we did to spend wisely, but I chose four of the more important tips we stuck to while paying off our house!  I promise these will change your finances!  I'll start with important and end with most important!

1. GROCERY SHOP WISELY - Groceries is usually where a large part of a household's income goes (along with mortgage and a car), therefore it is really important to keep this low!  I know firsthand it is VERY easy to spend a lot on groceries - I love food and love cooking!  I'm going to give you nine tips "in a nutshell" for cutting your grocery budget that worked for us:
  • Shop at Walmart (assuming you have one nearby) - They are just plain cheaper!  I've done my research and on a daily basis, they have better prices.  Plus they price match, so if another store has an item on sale or cheaper, Walmart will price match it. 
  • Don't visit Costco or Sam's frequently - I love these stores and yes, we do shop at Costco, but ONLY for their items on sale that week.  And we still make sure it's a better deal than elsewhere.  Even if you have a big family this is often not the best place to go.  When I look back at our budget from the last five years, the months we blew our grocery amount, were the months we went to Costco/Sams.
  • Plan your meals - I've now started adapting Danielle's (Blissful and Domestic) method of meal planning and writing out a list.  I love it and it's certainly helped organize our meals and grocery list.  We shop every week though.   
  • Go with a list - This goes with planning your meals.  I now organize my list in categories and my trips to the store are so much faster and easier!
  • Buy store brands.  Don't be a brand snob (I can say this because I used to be one).  There are a few items I still get brand names, but most items are store brand.  Make sure to look at all the prices though.  Sometimes a brand name may be cheaper.
  • Use Coupons - I probably do this the least due to time of planning, but it definitely helps and there are many websites with coupons you can print out.  We usually use coupons for a few items we want to splurge on.  Be picky though.  Many couponers actually spend more because they're "getting a deal."  Just because it's on sale does not mean you need it.
  • Look at Store Ads - This is important so you know you get the cheapest price you can on your items, especially meat and produce.  We will briefly look through the ads, circle the items that we want that are cheapest, and make a list (item, price, store).  This way when we're at Walmart we can price match a lot easier.  I know some of you are saying "Eww, Walmart.  I can't buy my meat and produce from there."  First of all, it's not bad.  Second of all, that's fine, just go to the store that's selling it cheaper and buy it there.  There are some stores that we have to visit to get the item on sale if it's that store's brand (i.e. Kroger's chicken).
  • Don't go with kids - If you can, leave the kids at home.  I'll sometimes go at 9:00pm.  Kids at the grocery store can make you wanna poke your eyeballs out and they can really damage the wallet! 
  • Make a budget for the month - An important component of this tip is to write down what you spend after EACH grocery trip next to your budget (I'll share an example below in the fourth tip).  We typically budget $280 a month for groceries (usually spend $300 though).  That's about $75 a week.  When we were paying off our house, we budgeted $240 (and we actually stuck to it).  Therefore, budget low because you will spend whatever you budget, if not more!   Aim to spend 5-10% of your household income on food (that's dining out, groceries, etc...)...closer to 5% if you're paying off debt.  Like Dave Ramsey says, "Rice and beans, beans and rice."
Here's an example of our template filled out!  Below is a blank one you can download.

Grocery shopping with kids!
Looking through store ads is the most effective thing we do for keeping costs low

2. DINE OUT ON A BUDGET - Telling you "I love eating out" is an understatement.  I thoroughly enjoy it!  I have to say, I think my hubby and I are pros at this by now!  I can probably count on one hand how many times we've paid full price for a meal in the last five years.  We budget about $100 a month for this.  And I would say we eat something that's not made in the "Snyder Kitchen" about 15 times a month, whether that's breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Mmmm I love breakfast.  Ok back to budgeting!  Here are nine of our favorite tips "in a nutshell."
  •   Buy and use an Entertainment Passbook - They cost $25-35 at the most and they have TONS of coupons/discounts for your area.  One trip to a restaurant pays for the book.  We used this book for almost every meal out back in the day!  It allows you to visit really nice restaurants for half the value!  Check it out!  Sometimes, mama just needs a break from cooking. 
  • Look at the bottom of your restaurant receipts - Often times, they have free items if you complete a survey.  Wait, I promise it's not bad.  It's either an automated phone call or online.  Takes maybe two minutes!
  • Sign up to your favorite restaurants email list - They send you coupons and discounts, especially for your birthday or anniversary. 
  • Know restaurants weekly deals - Many times restaurants have deals during the week (i.e. kids eat free, half price appetizers, etc...) to bring customers in the restaurant.  We love Cristina's Mexican Restaurant.  They have $8.99 fajitas on Wednesdays, so we'll go and share that.  Then we get to splurge on chips and queso or their apple pie...or both.  Ok, usually both!
  • Drink water when you dine out - it's healthier and $2-3 per person adds up fast!
  • Share a dessert - We used to not order dessert when we were first married, but if we do, we split it!  Again, healthier and dessert is really expensive!
  • Don't drink alcohol when you eat out - I can see the eyes rolling on this one!  We are not big drinkers, so this one is easy for us and saves us a TON!  If you must have a drink, find out where the deals are.  Or save your drinks for home.  You can make it much cheaper at home.
  • Limit your restaurants to places that require a tip - For example, when we order pizza, we always go get it.  Usually one of us is already out and about, so we'll just grab it on the way home.  Did you know pizza places charge $2-3 for delivery, plus a tip?  That's $5-10 more just to have it brought to you. 
  • Use a cash system - We don't do this, but if you have bad self control or don't check your budget, set aside cash and when you're out, you're done eating out that month.
This is the Entertainment Passbook.  Click to go to website.  Often times, high school kids will sell these for $25 for a fundraiser. 
Free food?  Yes please!
Cash Envelope System

3. EVALUATE YOUR CAR SITUATION - Let me say that this tip is really, really important!  I promise!  I have SO much to say about this topic, so if you want better information, click on the link to get more details.  We follow Dave Ramsey's financial advice, so these tips are from his teachings. 
  • I'll start with a quote from Ramsey.  "Taking on a car payment is one of the dumbest things people can do to destroy their chances of building wealth."
  • You need to get rid of your car payment.  I know you can't do this tomorrow, but this is something you must eliminate quickly, whether you pay it off soon or trade it in.
  • The best way I can explain why you should get rid of you car payment is thisIf you have a $378 car payment (which is normal) your entire life (also normal), you just gave up $4,447,084 in investments! Is a car really worth that much money! Here's what Dave says - "If you invested $378 per month from age 25 to age 65 (a normal working lifetime), in the average mutual fund averaging 12% (the 70 year stock market average), you would have $4,447,084.01 at age 65. Hope you like the car!" 
  • How do you get a car without a payment?  Basically, pay cash for a junk car, save, then trade it in for a slightly better car, save, then repeat until you have the car of your dreams.  This video does a great job explaining smart car payments (which is NONE)!
This is what my husband bought in cash once we paid off the house and had some extra money (no kids).

4. MAKE A BUDGET - This is what I get asked about the most.  I saved this for last because it is the foundation to paying off all your debts and living like no one else!  I have to say, my husband is the brains behind the budget.  He came up with this awesome acronym for the word B-U-D-G-E-T.  Can you blame him, he's a teacher! 
  • B - Borrowing is BAD!  Proverbs 22:7 states, "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender."  Do not borrow your way out of debt.  It doesn't work.  Get rid of your credit cards!  Use cash or a debit card.  Did you know 60% of Americans do NOT pay their credit card amount on time?
  • U - Unity!  Your spouse must be on board for this to work!  Finances are the #1 thing couples fight over and 57% end up in divorce over it.  Marriages have better success with honest communication.  Pray and work together for maximum wisdom!
  • D - Discipline!  Every month have a finance meeting and put everything on paper before you make purchases.  Hold yourself accountable to the written plan.  You will want to give up, but give it 90 days to form a habit!  
  • G - Giving!  No matter the hardships you face, continue to tithe (giving at least 10% to your church).  God will bless you and your family.  He is the creator of money.  Trust that he will provide.  This will probably be the hardest thing to do when on a tight budget.
  • E - Education!  Seek wise counsel.  Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" provides a simple plan to pay off debt.  It's the best $10 investment we've ever made!  Also, read what Scripture says about money.  It will provide a peace of mind when things get tough.
  • T - Time!  The bigger the debt, the longer it will take to get out of debt.  Stick to the plan and remember there is light at the end of the tunnel!  I cannot explain to you the freedom we felt October 2009 when we wrote that last check for the house!  I'm living my dream now of being a full-time mom to my baby boy at age 27!      
Where to Start?  Look at these recommended percentages to know how much  you should be allocating to different areas of your budget.

Example of Budget - Many people ask to see what our budget looks like.  I'm happy to share!  You would probably be really surprised to know that we WRITE IT ALL DOWN!  Old school, yes, but it works!  We find that if it's digital or on your computer, you're less likely to visit it!  If it's written down, it can go everywhere with you!  You and your budget should be best friends!  Plus, it's super easy to thumb through previous months and compare.  But whatever works for you, use that system.  That's just us personally.  We use a 3 subject spiral since they're thick!  Below is a picture of our budget, but I've also created a digital version here so you can see it better and use if you wish.  To understand the budget, I've included a ton of notes above the document when you click on it.  I've also included a blank template you can download and make adjustments to fit your needs.
This is exactly how we write our budget:

I want to end with Dave Ramsey's famous one liner:

 "Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later!" 

Will people think you're crazy for living a more frugal lifestyle?  Possibly even make fun of you?  Probably.  But that is a very good sign you are on the right track!   I hope these tips help you financially.  Feel free to ask me anything!

Snyders Tell All


  1. I absolutely loved this article! My husband and I are finally getting rid of our debt after reading this book and America's Cheapest Family. Such a great reminder!! Thanks!

  2. A lot of good advice here and I can assure you that it works.

  3. This is a lovely post. I am a HUGE fan of Dave Ramsey and listen to his podcast every day first thing. Thanks for the encouragement and adivce, there are some great tips in here! :)

  4. This was a good read, thank you!

  5. Thank you for the sweet comments! And thank you Danielle for having me! Taryn, I'm going to have to go get that book. I've heard about it a few times now!

  6. Love this! I'm in so much student debt its crazy. Really difficult not having a job at the moment too.

    1. Thanks Helen. Student debt is a killer huh! Once you get a job of any kind, throw as much money as you can towards your loan! You can do it, you really can!

  7. That was a great post. I listen to Dave Ramsey every day on I heart radio. We started budgeting in Feb 2012. We unfortunatly had $72K in debt between cars and student loans when we started. We are down to $52K and will pay off my car Nov.1 and then start on my husband's car and then on to student loans. We do our budget on excel but its great to "put a name to every dollar". It probley will take another 2 years to fully get out of debt and save up our emergency fund again but I know it will be worth it.

  8. I am so loving this post!! My husband and I are currently going through Financial Peace University with our church on Wednesday nights. It has totally opened our eyes to how we spend our money. We are currently using the envelope system for groceries, and are spending much less than what we used to when we just swiped the card. Dave does a great job of explaining EVERYTHING and gives you the hope to finally take hold of your finances and realize that you control where your money goes, not the credit card company or bank. I must say, the Debt Snowball is the best "invention" known to man. That was a huge eye opener for us and we love it, and are working on taking care of our debt so we can concentrate on getting rid of the mortgage. For those of you who haven't read a Dave Ramsey book or even heard of Dave Ramsey, he has his radio show on IHeartRadio, and right now is running a Facebook promotion for Financial Peace University. Give him a listen or read one of his books. He can and will truly change your life. Thanks Olivia and Danielle. Awesome choice for a blog post :)

  9. Great article. We love Dave Ramsey. We are hoping to achieve a similar feat. We have 180,000 to pay off our loan and we are hoping to achieve it by a 2 year deadline. A month in and we have paid off $9000. It is achievable, and thankyou for the article. It all helps towards developing a "financial debt smashing mindset!!!". Thanks Olivia and Danielle

  10. What a great post! My husband and I follow a loose budget - which really just means that I take care of all of the bills and such and know exactly how much we are spending on whatever it is we are buying or paying off. We are hugely fortunate that my husbands' parents pay our mortgage, but we do have around $18,000 in credit card debt, currently 3 car payments (don't even ask) and 1 student loan. One of the cars will be paid off in a year, and the other two only 2-3 years behind that. My major focus is paying off our credit debt - I have 3 major credits cards with balances and husband has 1. My three should all be paid off within 3 years, and then I'll get his paid off.

    Mixed in with all of that are the soon-to-be happening roofing expense and tree removal. As bad as it might appear that our debit is, I'm still managing to save almost $300 a month, plus our two IRAs and life insurance policies. Of course, the two incomes and no kids bit helps a lot.

  11. Umm looks like I forgot to attach the budget with examples. I guess if you read the comments you'll get to view it. It explains all about our budget. Whoops.

    1. Olivia, when I go to the link, it's asking me to log into the BOX account.

    2. Here ya go. It's linked in this post.

  12. I thought this post was great! We are currently working on paying off our debt in hopes that several years down the road we will be able to buy a house. I loved your tips about grocery shopping, I have become crazy organized when it comes to budgeting and grocery shopping. I realize now just how much money we wasted before and it makes me sad. We had been doing fairly well until my husband lost his job while I was on maternity leave with our twins. That was a giant shock and we had to quickly change our spending habits, and it was really really hard at first, but has gotten easier. It surprises me still how many people don't follow a budget or even a grocery list.

  13. God Bless You, thank you. Please pray that I can get my husband to read this. Maybe he and I can start this plan or something similar. AMEN!

  14. I don't know about other places, but here in Phoenix you can purchase those entertainment coupon books at Walgreens. Last year I bought my copy with a $10 off coupon Walgreens ran in their weekly ad. The coupons expire the beginning of November every year so the 2013 books should be out really soon if they aren't out already.

    I am getting married next week and we are using the coupons to help the cost of our staycation honeymoon. There are a lot of buy one get one free or half off admissions to places like art museums, the botanical gardens, the rennaissance festival, boat rides at the lake, hot air balloon rides and a lot more.

  15. Thanks for the wonderful tips! We are actually in the process of seeing a car reach the end of its useful life, sad. We have been without car payments for 3 years, which was great with 2 small children, but those flashy car ads sure are tempting! While we try our best to be budget conscious, we haven't reached the point of writing it all down yet, hopefully we will take that step this month.

    ~Kim from

  16. AWESOME post!!! For real!!! Thank you so much!!!

  17. Great post- we went through the Dave Ramsey classes and are slowly getting our baby steps checked off. You mentioned above to "shop at Walmart" and while Walmart is cheap, the quality is not great and not really the cheapest option out there. I think *most* states have the grocery store Aldi, that is where I do about 90% of my shopping, and I save at least 50% on groceries compared to a traditional grocery store or Walmart. They have a 200% guarantee (which means yet will replace the product AND give your money back if you're not happy with an item), and to offer something like that you know their product must be quality.

    1. Aldi is great! At least I hear. We have one but it's further away. I need to check it out and see if it's worth the drive for us. Our Walmart is 1.5 minutes away. :)

    2. I love Aldi!!! Their food is great and so are their prices!!!!

  18. Wow! These are such great tips! Congratulations on paying off your debt so quickly, that's impressive. I love Dave Ramsey and you obviously took his advice to heart. So much info, I will be bookmarking this one to come back to each week. Thanks for the time you put into this post and for sharing.

  19. This is a great refresher for me. My hubby and I are huge Dave Ramsey fans. We have paid $33,000 (car and student loan) worth of debt off in 2 years. Only $14,000 to go! It is an amazing feeling. Difficult, but amazing!


  20. Great article with some brilliant tips!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  21. I'm glad I found this blog post procrastinating on pinterest. I've been praying about getting control over our finances, we were thinking on buying a van but didn't need too our two cars are payed off and running fine, it's that we are expecting baby #2 this may and we thought we need it more room in our cars. hmmm now that I run into reading this blog. I'm thinking that we could save monthly car payments and if one of the cars breaks down we could have money saved and pay for a bigger car (we have a suv and a hatchback )...TMI i know.! :)... I just love your ideas on budgeting I'm a stay home mom as well.

  22. Thank you for this - and particularly for the printables.
    I feel I can 'play' with the printable sheets for a week or two - probably the first month - and then work out what type of system will be best for us.
    We are quite likely to stay with the debit cards as our account already allows us to 'send money away' to various savings accounts each month ... I have one for optician/dentists expenses and one for Vet treatment, for example, meaning that if an animal has a accident we can take them directly without worrying about the consultation fee.
    I have had a lot of success with saving for specific items using a 'send money away' system and I do think that this could be adapted for use with budgeting for daily life as well.
    Now - just to get my husband to stop coming back from the store with twice as much as he was asked to buy and a whole bunch of sweets, cookies, cakes, etc.!
    Helen (British family in Sweden)

  23. Don't consider debt consolidation or consumer credit counseling agencies your first stop. These should be a last resort! Although they may be tempting, if you're going to get your act together, doing it on your own will help you learn the skills you need to fix your own problem and avoid getting in this situation again.
    Paul D. Mitchell

  24. When using cash for everything, do you still carry your credit cards in your wallet just in case?

    1. We do not use cash for everything. We use credit cards. Credit cards can be useful (benefits) if you are disciplined enough to pay them monthly. If we were using cash, I'm sure we would have an emergency credit card, but only for true emergencies.

  25. So thankful for this post! My husband and I are both teachers, and I was beginning to give up on my dream of being a SAHM... We don't have kids yet and with both of our incomes, I know we can defeat the debt beast!

  26. Wow, What a great tips here! Thank you for these useful tips. I'm sure this will really useful to everyone especially who are going through bankruptcy!

  27. Burned your mortgage in 33 months? Thats awesome!!!

  28. I don't agree with the car payment thing. I had owned a car and every time I turned around I had to fix it and that adds up real fast! I sold it and got a new car and a car payment I figured either way I'm gonna have a headache. Either I spend money on fixing the thing or I have a car payment. No debt is not realistic for most people. Going into debt for stupid stuff and not being able to pay it back is another problem all together. Most of us have debt with house and car payments that's life but paying for things you cannot afford on credit that you cannot pay back is the problem.


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