For the last couple of months, I’ve been on a book launch team for Slaying the Debt Dragon, the inspirational story of how one family knocked out more than $127,000 in debt in just four years. Search any social media site for #SlayDebt and you’ll see quite a buzz about the new book.
Author Cherie Lowe has been on a media tour, but had some time to answer a few questions from my own inquiring mind. Here is a bit more insight into life during, and after, her journey to slay her debt dragon. And be sure to enter to win a copy of the book.
Did your faith ever waiver – faith that it couldn’t be done, faith in your own self-control, faith in your family to persevere?
Is Every. Single. Day. an appropriate answer? Ha. Of course it did. Ironically, the last three months of our journey were the most difficult. We had already paid off $120K in debt and yet that last $7,482.30 seemed so illusive that I found myself stumbling in bitterness and darkness. It was an incredibly stretching time in my life. As best as I could, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to focus my eyes on the end game, and continuing in the daily choices that had brought us that far.
I also reached out to some older and wiser friends and said, “Hey, I’m not OK. Can you pray for me? And more than that, can you spend time with me?” It seems like a simple step but I hate to bother anyone. Everybody has his or her own busy life. However, if you are discouraged, you need to talk to someone.
I also ran quite a bit. Maybe it was symbolic but physical activity always helps when I’m struggling mentally and emotionally. Everyday I ran to clear my mind and open my heart. On the day we paid our final debt, I had just come back from a four-mile run with one of those older and wiser friends.
How has your meal planning changed after slaying $127k in debt?
It really hasn’t changed drastically. I discovered that we loved frugal foods like oatmeal and rice so those are a regular part of our regimen. I still meal plan on Mondays by using the same steps I always have. The biggest differences are probably having meat in almost every meal. During the last six months of our journey, we limited eating meat to the weekends and then eventually dropped it all together for a small stretch of time. It’s not a decision I’d encourage for everyone, but a sacrifice we were willing to make.
I upped our grocery budget by about $15 per week, allowing some room for foods I love, like fresh mozzarella (at ALDI, it’s affordable), fresh herbs (when I can’t grow them myself in the summer), and occasionally ice cream.
I also still hand-write my meal plan using the free printable from my site. Practice what you preach, you know? 🙂
What has been one fun ‘splurge’ that you maybe missed out on, in the debt payoff process?
OK, so of course I have three “splurges” that I missed desperately while we were paying off debt and now revel in spending on. The first was real vacations. For four years, we depended on the kindness of others, surfed couches, and didn’t spend from our own money on vacations. During the last six months of paying off debt, I began to plan the beach vacation of a lifetime. After we were debt free, we saved up cash (of course), scored a great deal on an oceanfront four bedroom, three bath, beautiful kitchen rental home ($167 a night after tax, BOOYAH), and took some friends and family on vacation with us. It was glorious.
My husband Brian and I also gave up gift giving while we were paying off debt. So no Christmas, anniversary, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, just because, etc. gifts for four years. We did keep birthdays in place but they were very simple. I really like both the giving and receiving of gifts so this was an intense sacrifice for me. But on the other side, I’ll admit it was totally worth it. Now, I try to focus on buying presents that he will really love and use rather than just giving a gift to have something to give. He does the same.
Finally, I LOVE the opportunity to be spontaneously generous. Buying someone’s groceries on a whim, taking a tired mom out for a cup of coffee, filling a college student’s refrigerator with food, or purchasing a book I know someone else would love. From cookies to Kickstarters to 5Ks, I want to give to it all! Sign me up. However, while we were paying off debt, generosity like this had to take on a non-monetary approach. I had to learn to show love without spending. It wasn’t always easy. Now, on the other side of debt, we have all of the above and then some. It is truly amazing to have a budget devoted specifically for acts of generosity.
About Cherie Lowe
Since 2008, Cherie Lowe has been confidently wearing a plastic crown and encouraging others to dream big dreams. Together with her husband, Brian, Cherie paid off $127,482.30 in a little under four years. She scribed the ups and downs of their debt-slaying journey on her popular website, www.QueenOfFree.net.
A graduate of Asbury University, Cherie strongly believes that something can come from nothing and that there is always a way for her readers to simplify their lives and their budgets. More than anything, through speaking and written word, Cherie longs for others to know that there is hope for getting their finances under control. Her family’s story has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, Redbook magazine, AOL Daily Finance, NBC News, and more. Cherie and Brian reside in Greenwood, Indiana, along with their daughters, Anna and Zoe.