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.