How Far Would You Go to Pay Off Your Debt? 3 Extreme Stories of Success
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"It was definitely a test of patience. We had to constantly remind ourselves that the payoff would be worth it."

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We Didn’t Pay Full Price—for Anything—While Paying Off $86K Over Two Years

Jen, 28, and Travis Smith, 30, an acupuncturist and aircraft mechanic in St. Petersburg, Fla.

After tying the knot in October 2015, Jen and Travis Smith were on the hook for about $86,000 of debt: $79,000 student loans, plus a $7,000 car loan. Wanting to start off their marriage on the right financial track, the newlyweds kicked their repayment plans into high gear.

They just crossed the debt-free finish line at the beginning of September 2017, thanks to income-boosting side hustles, banking tax refunds, slashing their monthly expenses and one other game-changing hack: never paying full price for anything.

"We quit buying groceries at the more convenient (and expensive) grocery chains and opted for budget-friendly stores like Aldi," says Jen. "It's out of the way and the selection isn't as great, but doing this, along with meal planning and couponing, shaves about $200 a month off my grocery bill."

The Smiths also swapped in Walmart for Target and began buying clothes at Goodwill and ThredUp instead of the mall. They've applied the same idea to their health care expenses: Joining a religious nonprofit where members cost-share medical bills saved them $1,500 in the last year and they cut another $250 by purchasing prescriptions through a discounted online provider.

Discount sites like, Groupon and LivingSocial have saved them about $300 on everything from teeth cleanings and tire alignments to tickets to events in the community, says Jen. "If you do just a little bit of research, you'll find that you very rarely have to pay full price for most things."

This isn’t to say it came without sacrifices. There were time the Smiths had to skip out on budget-busting activities because they couldn’t find discounts. “Missing out on time with friends definitely stung more than putting off trips or furnishing our house,” Jen says. “But over the years, we found friends who wanted to spend time with us and didn’t need the ‘going out’ part.”

In the end, The Smiths say they have no regrets. Not only did they hit their total goal in just under two years, but their efforts helped them pay off $50,000 in the first year alone.

Editor’s note: Marianne Hayes contributed reporting.

September 6, 2017

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