Options Over Items: 5 Sacrifices We Made to Become Debt-Free

To become rich, first, you must learn how not to be poor. Becoming debt-free is a great start. Here are 5 choices we made to help us get there.

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Hey frugal fanatics! Welcome back.

So, we’ve been debt free (except the house) for several years now. Let me tell you, it’s fan-freakin-tastic. Our stress levels are down, we can do more of what we love, and life just seems happier.

I’ll be honest with you, when we started our debt-free journey, I didn’t expect it to make this big of an impact. Sure, I knew there would be benefits, but I really just wanted more freedom. I craved more security. I wanted to know that if something terrible transpired we would be alright. All that has happened and more.

Becoming debt-free has meant more than a bigger savings rate; it’s helped us earn more, as well. I never would have felt secure enough to quit my job and pursue freelance writing full-time while we were still in debt. That risk paid off big – allowing me to earn enough money so Greg could quit his job too. Living debt-free has opened more doors than I could imagine, but we had to be willing to go after it first.

Of course, it didn’t happen over night. This stuff takes planning and time. Truthfully, it wasn’t all roses and butterflies either. Getting to this point required a serious effort to change our habits, including some big “sacrifices” that others rarely make.

5 Choices We Made to Become Debt-Free

Don’t run away yet! I know the idea of saving extra money isn’t as sexy as making extra money. Most people would rather search for a quick fix instead of changing their habits. I get it. Unfortunately, you rarely hear about all the hard work, extra hours, and constant hustling it took to reach that level of success.

To get rich, you need to find ways to increase your income. There’s no doubt about that. But, it won’t matter how much you earn if you don’t change the way you spend it first. Making a lot of money only gives you the opportunity to become wealthy. To become rich, first, you must learn how not to be poor.

[bctt tweet=”To become rich, first, you must learn how not to be poor.” username=”ClubThrifty”]

You can start by asking yourself, “What is really important to me? What am I willing to do to get it?” For us, living the life of our dreams started with becoming debt-free. Here are five choices we made to get there.

We Stopped Eating Out

Greg and I used to eat out almost every night. We worked at emotionally demanding jobs. We had a young baby. We were tired. So, we created the excuse that we could “treat” ourselves to dinner… like 4 times a week!

This ridiculous practice wasn’t just bad for our waistlines; it was horrible for our finances. Once we started tracking our spending, it was clear we were spending over $1,000 a month on food alone. That woke us up and we vowed to make a change. We scaled back our restaurant excursions to once or twice a month. I cut coupons. We ate cheaply until we were out of debt. Now that we’re debt-free, we’ve added a some restaurant spending back to our budget. But, it’s still nowhere near the $1,000 we were spending back then.

We Quit Trading Cars

Constantly trading in cars is a fast way to sink your money battleship. Before becoming debt-free, we were trading in cars like they were candy. I think we went through 4 cars 4 years.

Eventually, we did the math and realized we’d never get ahead. We were just trading one car payment for another. Worse, we kept upgrading to more expensive vehicles, digging ourselves deeper and deeper in debt. It took a while, but we learned the only way to get our money’s worth from a car is to pay cash for it and drive it into the ground. Don’t believe me? Think of all the things you could do if you weren’t spending more than $500 a month on car payments!

We Lost Our Dream House

When Greg took a job in a new town, we started shopping for houses. During the search, we found our dream house. It was big. It was beautiful. It even had a basement. So, we made an offer.

After our first offer was rejected, we had another chance to buy the house. Still, something felt off. Instead of submitting a new offer, we moved on… and I’m glad we did. Eventually, we found our current house in the same neighborhood for a price tag of almost $80,000 less. Had we bought the house we wanted, Greg wouldn’t have been able to quit his job and work from home. Since he’s been home, my income has doubled – so that wouldn’t have happened either. In essence, our dream house would have cost more than just the 80 grand, interest, and lost income. It would have cost us our freedom.

We Ditched Cable TV

While getting out of debt, one of the biggest changes we made was cutting the cord to cable. At the time, we were paying something like $150 a month for cable, internet, and a landline. We had 250 channels – 247 of which went unwatched – and a landline we didn’t need. So, we cut back to just internet, saving us about $125 a month. (If you’re counting, that’s $1,500 a year in savings.) More importantly, we got our time back.

Cutting cable was easily one of the best things we ever did. We stopped engaging in mindless channel surfing, plus we freed up time by watching less TV. (Incidentally, we used that time to start this blog that changed our life!) Sure, we had to adjust our viewing habits, but these days there are plenty of great shows on streaming channels. Sports lovers can even watch live through Sling TV (7 day free trial here). To be honest, I feel like we didn’t really give up TV. We gained our life back instead.

We Gave Up Our Time

While cutting cable helped us recover some of our time, we gave up some of it to become debt-free. We used that time to plan our budget. We made more meals at home. We spent our time cutting coupons, searching for sales, and working on ways to increase our income.

You see, you can’t make big changes without putting in the effort up front. That takes time. But, we all prioritize the what is important to us. To create more options in your life, you must be willing to put in some extra work. While it seems costly at first, using your time wisely definitely pays dividends down the road.

What do you think? What have you given up to become debt free or chase your dreams? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. We\’ve done these things as well…also switched from expensive cell plans to Republic Wireless. Two phones are now about $35 a month vs. $100+ before. We also have a few raised beds for some square foot gardening. That has helped reduce the grocery bill.

  2. I never like to think of these things as “sacrifices.” Usually these cost-cutting measures are the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’d never go back to my old ways. Embrace the modest life with positivity and these changes won’t seem like sacrifices, but more sustainable methods of living.

    1. I agree – you get used to it. Then you’re just glad to have the money instead of wasting it.

  3. Some choices I made to save more were to get rid of my cable (most people gasp when I tell them this), turn off my TV streaming services every few months, eat out less, stop buying clothes I don’t need, use coupons when grocery shopping and grocery shop at places like Walmart and Aldi more often. There’s more on the list, but many of the things I did weren’t necessarily sacrifices, but lifestyle changes.

    I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I actually feel freer because of how much I’ve been able to save. I was able to pay off my car a year early, I can take more expensive vacations and I was able to purchase a house. It all comes down to what you’re priorities are.

  4. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    Please tell me what internet provider you have that is $25/month? We have one provider in our area and they just raised the price to $64.99. I tried customer service, a supervisor and retention we got nowhere. Basically because they know we have no choice! We don’t want cable or a phone line but internet is a necessity.

    1. We use AT&T now. They try to raise their prices every year or so! We no longer have home phones.

  5. Ditching cable seven years ago was a great decision that we don’t regret at all. Especially nowadays when there are so many streaming options, it seems silly to pay $250 a month for cable/phone/internet. I pay $80 a month for all three, and that includes about $25 per month we could cut out if needed. Plus it includes Amazon Prime, which has benefits in addition to the streaming video.

    1. Very nice! It is surprising people pay so much when there are cheaper options out there. We get plenty of TV with Hulu and Netflix. Sure, you don’t have all the channels, but you just learn to watch what’s there.

  6. Daniel Palmer says:

    It’s incredible how much a house can affect the rest of your finances! We learned that the hard way on our first home purchase. After switching to a smaller more reasonable home, we were able to save more and go down to a single income. And we still love our smaller home.

  7. I love this. Thinking about what you’re willing to give up to get where you want to be is a really important mental exercise. Putting it into action is where is really matters, though. Before we got married, we ate a lot of our income. In fact, I can’t quite believe how much we ate out! And then there was the bar scene. Oof. The most recent cut we’re experimenting with now is different carriers for our cell phones now that one of our contracts is finally up and the other is up next month!

  8. We’re doing the same things to become debt free along with delaying home ownership in general. I think all that’s left to work on is increasing income.

  9. I shop in my own closet for whatever I already have that is similar to current styles on web-sites. I then only buy 1 or 2 new items to add for the latest looks. Usually, just a new top or sweater and shoes for each season.

  10. Hey Holly,

    Were you spending $1,000 each? Total on food out and groceries?

    I love your writing, love your values and mentality you and Greg have. I get just as much from all the people who contribute in the comments and your replies as I do the original article. Thank you both.

    1. Hey Tyler. We were spending $1,000 total on food and dining out, but that’s still a lot!!! =) Thanks for stopping by.

      1. $500 a person a month for food(and drink) based on a 30 day month is $16.67 a day for food. You are saying that that is “way to much” and “a lot.” That you ate out “all the time.” I am trying to find out how, I have been racking my brain, have read everything you guys have written and posted on what you eat and looked it all up. I purchased the $5 meal plan you advised which is about $7-$11 a meal for a couple (really good cheap meals, good advice). From my calculations and extensive research I really cant see how you were eating out all the time,or ever, let alone that being a place to cut a lot of spending. At $16 a day it doesn’t add up, and your saying that could be a big financial cut as well? Am I still misinterpreting you is it $1,000 each, but it was total eating out and groceries or am I missing something? Could you perhaps enlighten us with an example week, or even just a day? Thanks Holly, Greg!

        1. I think you’re overthinking it, honestly! =)

          Before we cut our spending, we were spending $1000+ (it varied) total on food for two of us. Usually (this is an estimate) that meant we were spending around $150 per week on groceries and $100 per week dining out each week. $250 per week on food is around $1,000 per month.

          $150 in groceries is more than a week’s worth these days. And the $100ish we were spending dining out each month was like 2-3 meals at Applebee’s or something similar.

          These days, we spend around $500-$600 per month TOTAL on food…..but for four people. I actually wrote a post about our full food budget for The Simple Dollar:


          Let me know if it makes sense! I break it down into the actual meals we eat on a regular basis.

  11. Holly, were you and Greg automatically on the same page about this or did it take some convincing from one of you? I’m curious for any advice on how to get a not-so-eager partner on board with my expense slashing 🙂

  12. Alimuhamad says:

    wow, it’s great!

  13. Holly, were you and Greg automatically on the same page about this or did it take some convincing from one of you? I’m curious for any advice on how to get a not-so-eager partner on board with my expense slashing

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