Years ago, I was $170,000 in student loan debt. It was one of the worst, most overwhelming feelings and times of my life. I remember feeling a lot of shame. I didn’t want to admit to anybody that we had that much debt. And I also just remember feeling so jealous of anybody who wasn’t in debt. I remember feeling like I specifically remember so many times going to the grocery store and just dreaming of the day that I could go to the grocery store and buy all the produce I wanted, not just whatever was super cheap or on sale.

I know that it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that you’re in debt, nobody wants to admit that they’re not struggling financially or that they are struggling financially. And I think that especially with social media. I used to get so confused when I would see all my friends going on vacation or buying all the cute new clothes or with big beautiful homes. I realized, once I started talking to them, holy cow, they’re in massive amounts of debt. When really on social media they look like they are living their best life.

I want to just reduce the shame around this topic. For women, and this is highly researched, the number one shame trigger for women is body image, but for men, the number one shame trigger is not being able to provide for their families, not being enough, not making enough money.

This is why I think this is such an important topic because one, even for men or women, it can kind of trigger some shame feelings, but two, especially if you’re struggling in your marriage or any relationship for you fight about money a lot. I hope it can be a topic that can start some conversations that are usually pretty uncomfortable to talk about.

Years ago my ex-husband and I were $170,000 in student loan debt. Isn’t that crazy? Some people say why in the world would they take out that much debt. I came from a family that struggled, my mom was such a wonderful loving woman. I looked up to her a lot, but they didn’t have a lot financially and I was one of 10 kids.

My ex-husband and I both had academic scholarships, but it was just a really expensive school, so we still had to take out some student loans and our debt was eating us alive. I remember right after we had our son, my ex-husband came to me and said, I’ve crunched the numbers and I know I have a good job, but our expenses are just too high and unless you want to go back to work, we only have about two months left before our savings runs out. Together we really started to look at the debt and we really started to think, do we really want to live like this for the next 20 years?

This is when I stumbled across Dave Ramsey and if you guys haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey yet, his program truly made a difference in influenced our life. I obsessively started following his system and these are some of the things that helped me the most.

I wrote our budgeting goals out on a whiteboard and I split it into thirds. We had our family health goals, our personal growth goals, and our family budgeting goals. The reason I think doing it that way worked for is, because I literally saw it multiple times a day, every single day. It was just a daily reminder.

Another thing that helped was keeping track of every single expense in an excel spreadsheet. Every five to seven days I would just dump all of our expenses from our bank account into the spreadsheet. That way we had a list of every single expense and in the middle of the month, we would do a review where we would go through the spreadsheet.

During that time I was doing everything I could to help pay off our debt. I literally took on every side job imaginable. I remember Dave Ramsey, saying that if you have a massive amount of debt, you better get a big shovel. I could dream of making six figures or whatever, but at that point in our life, our income was not that big. So I would take on side jobs and make our shovel just a little bit bigger to dig ourselves out of that debt. I babysat, we mowed lawns, I started selling Scentsy. I know this system might not work for everybody, but that’s what worked for me.

I would encourage you to write out your emotional goals, the things that you dream of? For me, for a long time, it was being able to go to the grocery store and seriously buy any of the produce I wanted without having to worry about how much it cost. I think sometimes if you can pay attention to like what really drives your emotions, it makes it a lot easier to change your habits. Also, surrounding yourself with the right people and constantly, constantly feeding your brain with that content. Like even if you have to do what I did, listen to the Dave Ramsey podcast every single day for the next three years.

And, you have to show yourself some grace. Of course, you are going to have some months where you screw up your budget, or maybe you’re on a variable income and you might have some months where your revenue was way down. You need to learn to adjust accordingly and show yourself grace.

I hope this helps.

Your friend,
Natalie