So, there I was… Sitting in a hotel room on my “food bed” dining on some sushi (on the company’s dime) and I had this idea…
Why not feature some amazing personal finance folks who’ve paid off debt, or are in the midst of their debt free journey?
Ok, wait… I know I breezed right over the “food bed” thing. If you travel alone for work and get a room with 2 queen beds, one automatically becomes your “food bed”. This means you eat your dinner there and sleep in the other bed.
That little tidbit of knowledge is free. You’re welcome.
Anyway, back to the idea… Selfishly, I knew by featuring successful debt-crushers I would be gaining some free advice, but I also knew that their stories would be both inspirational and relatable to anyone who reads.
A few twitter posts later and Kalen sent me a message. I was excited to receive his message because I’m a big fan of his writing style and specifically a post about living with confidence.
After reviewing his debt interview, I have a crazy level of respect for him and his family. They made changes and sacrifices that 99% of the population would never make. I hope to someday meet Kalen because his story really touched me.
Also, I think he’s pretty badass for a few reasons:
1: He’s a War Planner… I have NO idea what that is (beyond knowing what war is), but it sounds pretty badass… right?
2: He was able to change his life after some amazing self-reflection
3: His family was able to become consumer debt free on a single income with 5 kids!!!
Let’s get to the story!!
Tell us about you
My name is Kalen and I run Freedom Sprout. I’ve been blogging since 2013, but Freedom Sprout is my newest blog.
After years of blogging and personally helping many people set up a plan to get out of debt, I started thinking… if we teach financial literacy to kids, we won’t be showing them how to dig their way out of debt later.
Freedom Sprout, where I equip parents to raise money-smart kids, was born that day.
For my day job, I’m a War Planner for the United States Air Force (active duty). My wife and I have five kids, and only my income.
I’m in school now, and only three classes away from a BS in Finance, but I’ve learned exponentially more outside the classroom through books, seminars, and videos than I ever have in college.
Between the military, our rental property, and my writing, we’re in the $80k-$100k range, depending on the year.
Let’s talk about your debt:
How much debt did/do you have – $144,000 when we started digging out
Break your debt down in detail
$122,000 – Mortgage
$10,000 – Credit Cards
$14,000 – Consolidation Loan (including more credit card debt and a car loan gone bad)
When and why did you decide to become debt free?
My wife controlled the finances, but it was my spending that was out of control. One day she couldn’t handle it anymore, and she handed off the finances to me.
That’s when I realized how toxic my spending had become, and that I had to fix my mess. To make matters worse, I couldn’t join the Air Force yet, because my debt/income ratio was way too high (it affects security clearances).
So it actually took several things combined to finally force me to action.
Describe the process you used to pay off debt
First, we turned our 2400 sq ft home into a rental property and started earning a surplus each month, instead of barely making the payment.
We moved into a 600 sq ft mobile home (a family of three at the time).
Then we used the debt snowball and paid off the remaining $24,000 in consumer debt, over just under two years. My wife and I worked way more than we should have, but it did pay off in the end.
At one point, I was working full-time as a manager at Domino’s Pizza, full-time at an auto body shop during the day, and I used the daytime on Saturday and Sunday to make extra cash doing construction.
(me interrupting) THAT’S HUSTLE!!
We also ran a paper route from 1am-3am every morning, which was, sadly, the only time we spent together.
Do you have any debt remaining? If so, when do you expect to become debt free?
We’re 100% free of consumer debt!!
We still owe $80k on our house, but we have a plan that will automatically pay it off by 2028, and someone else is paying it off for us now.
How did you celebrate paying off your debt?
We had a nice dinner (ok, a few nice dinners), but the main celebration was being able to join the Air Force.
What are your top 2 – 3 tips for anyone just starting on their debt free journey?
- Change your lifestyle first. Many times, getting out of debt is as simple as selling a car or two, and then paying off the rest. We had already messed up and consolidated an upside-down car loan, so that wasn’t an option for us. If it’s an option for you, take advantage of it.
- Don’t kill yourself with work. Get focused and intense, but don’t sacrifice large amounts of time with your family just to pay off debt. It’s not worth it. If you follow step 1, you won’t have near as much debt to worry about.
- Automate everything! Automate your debt snowball/avalanche. Once one debt is paid off, simply change the automation to reflect the next debt. Automate your bills, giving, saving, and investing. That basically automates your budget and makes life so much easier.
What are your financial plans for this year?
We’re saving to pay cash for our next home. That’s our main goal. We’re also living in Italy for the next two years; so much of our money is going to traveling across Europe, until we leave.
What’s your ultimate financial goal?
Complete financial freedom, which for us means living without the need to work, and only working out of passion. We’ll achieve this through rental properties, writing royalties, and investments.
Where can people read more about you?
Leave us with what helped inspire you to continue paying off debt.
I had a dream to join the Air Force. I had always wanted to, and debt was keeping me from it. Find what motivates you and think about it every single day. It will be easier to pay off debt that way, but more importantly, it will help make those lifestyle changes easier.