In about 5 years, we paid off approximately $200,000 of debt! (You can watch the exact moment we became debt-free on our YouTube channel.) However, we didn’t just want to make that last payment and then forget about this huge accomplishment. We wanted to have a debt free celebration in The Great Smoky Mountains.
Why we chose the Smoky Mountains
Why would we want to climb a mountain as our celebration? Well, because we are nostalgic people who like to like to refer to the past to better appreciate how far we’ve come. After all, becoming free from debt feels a lot like climbing a mountain.
When we completed our first budget and totaled up our debt, I originally thought that once we paid off 50% it would be downhill from there. However, I was wrong. It didn’t feel like that at all.
For us personally, the last year in our debt-free journey was the hardest. We had to resist spending unnecessary money even more because we no longer felt the heavy burden having a lot of debt.
Denying yourself “stuff” is a lot harder when you have very little debt.
Paying off debt felt like an uphill climb up until our very last payment was made. But once we reached the “top” and succeeded, the overall feeling and outlook has been beautiful, just like climbing a trail in the Smoky Mountains.
So to celebrate this milestone, we wanted to recreate our journey by exchanging the feeling of climbing a debt mountain to physically climbing an actual mountain. We wanted to relive all the beauty and the fatigue.
Lastly, we knew that once we reached the top of the trail, it would indeed inspire us with the natural beauty of God’s design. This ending is not a coincidence either.
God didn’t create his children so we could be a slave to debt. Therefore, for these reasons, we couldn’t think of a better place to document our journey and have our debt free celebration.
Did we follow Dave Ramsey?
This question is asked a lot. The short answer is the one that Dave hates the most. Which is, “sort of.”
We attempted to follow his exact principles when we first discovered that we were in financial trouble. Unfortunately, his baby steps weren’t working fast enough.
In order to get ahead we needed to practically starve ourselves for many years. That was very disheartening because we were already starving! For two years we did nothing fun and ate the Ramen noodle diet, yet, we still didn’t make a dent in our debt.
Something else needed to happen. After eye-opening research, I discovered The Financial Independence Community.
The FI community represents a small community of people who sought to become financially free and retire early. They shared tips and constant motivation. This was a huge game changer for us and we were able to discover financial methods that would work better for us.
So while we like Dave, we did not follow his steps. However, we do listen to his advice and we follow some of the principles he teaches, such as having an emergency fund, the importance of giving, and paying off our home early.
Our debt free scream
We’ve always been intrigued by Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Free Scream.” I’ve watched people go on his show from time to time and my inspiration was rebooted every time I heard someone yell, “We’re debt free!”
Unfortunately, Ramsey only allows people on the show who follow his steps exactly. That means NO credit cards and NO alternative methods that go against what he recommends.
However, the truth is that credit cards have actually helped us become debt free. I would never give them up. Credit cards have given us thousands of dollars in cashback and allowed us to travel for nearly free.
Also, if you’ve read From Food Banks to paying off over $100,000 of debt, you would know that we also used a HELOC to accelerate paying off our mortgage. These methods have worked well for us.
For these reasons, we wouldn’t be eligible to go on his show. Are we mad about that? Absolutely not. Ramsey preaches one traditional path to becoming debt-free and he has a lot of very traditional followers. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Here at Family and FI though, we believe that there is more than one path to financial freedom. Additionally, we believe that ANYONE can do a debt free scream if they want to.
So if you want to celebrate with a scream… DO IT! You don’t have to go on a show. Instead, you can do what we did and scream it at the top of a waterfall, which is way more awesome anyway!
Our debt free celebration video
The trails in the Smoky Mountains are plentiful. The journey to the tops may be difficult to climb but are so beautiful. If you’ve never visited, you are missing out on one of God’s most beautiful creations.
In this video, we take you on the Abrams Falls trail. This trail is filled with peaceful streams, green landscape, wildlife, and of course ends with a massive waterfall.
Within the video we share what we did to pay off $200 thousand dollars of debt in 5 years. Additionally, we share our hardships, successes, and our ultimate goals.
So, sit back, grab your favorite drink, and be inspired.
We hope you enjoy!