Inspired by Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover, Brittany and Josh Evans decided it was time to knock out their $231,000 mountain of debt.
Now four years into their seven-year plan for financial freedom, the Sioux Falls couple is preparing to make some major life changes — but first, they’re sharing their inspiring story on the latest episode of our podcast, Common Cents on the Prairie™.
Knocking out debt
Adam: Josh and Brittany, thanks so much for being here. I’m excited about this. Tell me about your story.
Josh: A little over four years ago, a friend knew of our financial situation — that Brittany had gone to grad school and accumulated a lot of debt from that — and he had just finished Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 2 at that time.
He said, “If I buy you The Total Money Makeover, will you both read it? And then, would you be interested in doing it?” We read the book. We were motivated at that point. Created a budget. Realized we did have a little wiggle room.
Basically, we started out with more than $231,000 in debt. That was about two months before we had our first son, which was kind of our motivation too. So, four years later, we just got under the $100,000 mark.
We have since had a second child — another boy. We want to maximize our time with them while they’re still living in our house, and one of the things that we’re really intrigued to do is travel. And we’re like, “Well, we’re three years away from being able to do that,” because we won’t go anywhere until we get out of debt.
One day we were talking about it, and Brittany kind of joked: “Unless I take a job as a traveling physical therapist.” And I went to my computer and started looking things up — like, what does that look like?
I thought that would be really intriguing, and we could cut into that debt a lot faster. I brought it up maybe a week later and said, “You would never actually do this, would you?” And it just took off from there.
Adam: How long are you going to be a traveling physical therapist for?
Brittany: We’re assuming probably a year and a half. Our oldest will start kindergarten in two years, so we’d like to come back and settle down in the Midwest near family once he’s ready for school.
But we’re planning on taking that whole time to go and experience new things — get the debt paid down first, and then maybe have some more fun travel assignments.
I think one of the big motivators is that one of our goals, on top of traveling and making experiences for our kids, is we’d love to live on an acreage someday. And not too long before this came about, we went to look at one that we were interested in. We sat down and crunched the numbers and were like, “We are much further away from this than we actually realized.”
Even though we’ve come a long way, we still have this mountain of debt to overcome. And that’s where I really started to get frustrated with it. We’re budgeting, we’re doing what we can, but we still have a long way to go. That’s when the travel thing kind of came into my mind.
I think, in the beginning, I was joking about it. We have two kids — like, how are we going to uproot them every three months, moving across the country? It’s just not feasible.
The more we dug into it, we realized, “You know, this is actually something we could do.” And finally, we just decided to dive into it and knock out this debt.
Adam: This is an incredible story. How long have you been together?
Brittany: We’ve been together for 12 years. Married for eight.
Josh: I knew that. I was seeing if she did. [all laugh]
Adam: Brittany, a lot of this debt was yours. I always use myself as an example — when Diane and I got together, the $220,000 in student loans that we had, that was all mine. So, that came with a lot of feelings for me. Did you have any feelings about that debt?
Brittany: I felt bad that most of what we were taking on was mine. But at the same time, I love my career. I love my job. And if I went back, I don’t think I would change it. And now we’re going to get to experience something really cool that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Adam: Can the two of you think of a time when the weight of this debt and what you were going to have to undertake became real?
Josh: We knew we had a lot. So, we laid it out. Talked with a financial advisor. He put all that information together and said it will take seven years.
Brittany: I think it was the same thing for me — to sit and list all that out and realize just how much debt was behind our name. And then, the seven years thing was a little daunting knowing that we were about to start a family.
Adam: Do you think starting a family changed the way you viewed your financial future?
Brittany: Definitely. We not only want to have experiences for ourselves, but for our kids. That’s a big driver for us, is we want to experience things with them. We want to share the world as much as we can with them.
Adam: What lessons have you learned throughout this journey?
Brittany: We have to be on the same page about things. I don’t think, from the beginning, we would’ve been able to knock down as much as we did without having that open communication.
Because it’s easy to go to Target and just spend money and not realize where it’s going, but when you have to sit down and actually talk about it, then you realize where things are going. Without that, this would’ve been a very difficult, if not impossible, journey.
Josh: Having a budget also allowed us to pay for our medical bills after having children. We were able to pay that in full right away.
Brittany: That was a big deal for us that we took out of The Total Money Makeover: the budgeting.
Adam: A lot of people, I think, view budgeting as being handcuffed. Like, you can only spend so much. And there is certainly a component of that when you budget, but I’ve found that it also gives you some freedom to say, “Okay, we’re going to spend X, Y, or Z in this category. But then we have some left over, so what do we want to do with that? Do we want to pay down debt? Do we want to go on that vacation?” So, in a sense, it’s almost more freeing than not knowing your financial state.
What are you most excited about for this next stage of life?
Brittany: Not having to budget all the time. [all laugh] I think we’ll still have a budget, and we’ll still know where our money is going, but I’m most excited to not be in a constant state of, “Well, how much does that cost? Is that feasible right now?”
Then, just being able to enjoy those travel experiences. Taking our kids to new places. We have a hefty bucket list of places we want to go and things we want to see.
Josh: For me, it’s always in the back of my mind that you spend money and it’s like, “Do I really need that?” So, I think just to get rid of that will be nice.
Adam: Have you given any thought to how you’re going to celebrate the moment when you’re debt-free?
Brittany: We talked about going on a trip to Disney World. And who knows where we’ll be in our travels at that point, but we thought that would be a good way to celebrate — to take the kids and go on our first real big trip as a family.
Adam: What advice would you give to another couple that’s in a similar situation?
Brittany: I would say, don’t be afraid of it. Write it down. That was a big deal for us, to actually write it down and see our debt. And it was hard to look at the $230,000, but if you just sit down and write it out and really think about where things are going, I think it’s attainable.
You just have to take that first step, focus on it, have open communication, and then start.
If, like Brittany and Josh, you’re looking for a financial advisor to guide you through those first steps, send us a note; we’d be happy to help!
And, check out the episode “How We Money: Married With Debt” for another great story of a couple who paid down massive debt.
Any comments, insights, or strategies discussed in this article are intended to be general in nature and, therefore, may not be suitable for you and your situation, whatever that may be. Before acting on anything written here, please consult with your attorney, CPA, and/or your financial advisor.