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Lad and lady slay debt monster

By Janet Reusch · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

The Debt Movement (DebtMovement.com) kicked off in January with a goal to gather as many people as possible to pay off a collective $10,000,000 in consumer debt in 90 days -- while educating and inspiring participants along the way.

As a sponsor of the movement, Bankrate has awarded participants Kyle and Diana with a $2,000 "Debt Scholarship." With discipline and hard work, this couple paid off an incredible $30,000 within a year. Here's their story.

Tackling our debt has made us a more resourceful and inventive couple, so it seems only appropriate that we delight you with a fairy tale story to depict our journey thus far and the heroic adventure of how we stood up to our debt monster.

Once upon a time, a handsome young lad named Kyle met a fair maiden named Diana and the two fell madly in love. It wasn't long before the two youngsters were married on a beautiful fall day and joined their lives. Within several months, they had already bought a small castle to call their own and furnished it beautifully, and Kyle treated Diana like a princess by surprising her with a larger diamond for her wedding ring. Life was grand, and marriage was full of bliss and naivety until the evil debt monster appeared and confronted them with a reality they could no longer deny or ignore.

Kyle and Diana

Kyle and Diana

It all started one dark day while Kyle and Diana were on vacation celebrating their first anniversary. Kyle needed to visit the magical ATM wizard and decided he should check his checking account balance first to see how much was available. While examining his account on his phone, another number jumped out and grabbed him -- their credit card balance. The couple's balance was already dangerously close to their limit with much of the month still remaining.

How quickly life's pleasures had sucked them in and added up to a frightening total. As they returned to their hotel room not long afterward, Kyle and Diana were overcome with despair. They knew that their credit card spending represented only a portion of their debts, so they decided it was time for a change. They made a pact then and there to crush the debt monster no matter what it might take. They cancelled that night's dinner reservations, and found a grocery store to buy dinner from instead. It was the first small step of many to come.

Overtaking the debt monster would be no easy feat. You see, this debt monster could be quite sneaky. He knew just the kind of lies to whisper in Kyle and Diana's ears to help them justify spending money. "Kyle, you don't want to scrimp and pinch like your parents always had to. You deserve a better life. At least you don't have loads of credit card debt like your friends. Your debt isn't really that bad. Diana, you can’t help it you grew up in a beautiful castle as a child and have such fabulous taste. You have a better job than most 23-year-olds … it's your right to live in a way that glorifies that and honors your great taste." He also caused Kyle and Diana to blame each other for their financial situation instead of taking accountability for their own damaging actions and beliefs. Realizing that they needed to shut out the lies and be honest with themselves was the first big step in Kyle and Diana's change. If they were going to annihilate debt, they needed to work together as a team to do it.

The battle continued. Boy, was that debt monster a giant! His large stature consisted of student loans, study abroad debt, car payments, money borrowed from parents, engagement ring payments, and a mortgage. Kyle and Diana decided to focus on the most dangerous parts of the debt monster first and came up with a plan to do it. They would go into training and learn to employ a stealthy weapon called a budget. Together, they created a shared spreadsheet available on their computers and phones and had some very honest conversations about what they could and should be spending in each category each month. And then they tracked every dollar they spent.

The months that followed were not easy, especially starting out. All sorts of questions and doubts filled Kyle and Diana's minds. What would their friends and family think of their more frugal lifestyle? Could they really achieve their goal to pay off $30,000 in debt in just one short year on their small incomes? What if something awful and unexpected happened to throw them off track? The budget was a mighty weapon indeed, but still required constant discipline and communication to be most lethal against the debt monster. Mastering the budget required sacrifices large and small -- as large as turning down alluring vacations with friends and family, and as small as drinking just water at home instead of juice or milk. The more sacrifices Kyle and Diana made, the easier it became to resist temptation because they were becoming stronger and more confident. When their crafty adherence to the budget wasn't enough, Kyle and Diana became resourceful warriors, finding additional ways to wound the debt monster by selling things they didn't need or working hard to earn some extra income.

The results were magical. Kyle and Diana became careful and purposeful spenders and the debt monster shrunk in size each day. Today, the two are only $2,000 from ridding the debt monster from their lives, and then the only debt they have to focus on will be their mortgage. They are on track to reach their goal of zero debt in seven months instead of 12 as originally planned. Best of all, throughout the process, they fell more and more in love.

These days, the debt monster is far less scary to Kyle and Diana, because they know they are more powerful than their debt, especially when they work as a team. They will never forget how intimidating he used to be, and have promised to never succumb to the debt monster and his dirty tricks again.

In the future, they cannot wait for little ones to join their family and share their castle with them. The debt monster will be but a distant memory by then, but you can bet Kyle and Diana will tell their children the daring story of how scary that monster was and how they battled together to overcome him. They will tell of how different times might be today had they allowed the debt monster to grow larger and larger instead of taking control of it and their future.

Kyle and Diana's story is not yet over, so it's impossible to foresee exactly what their long future holds, but you can be sure that their story will have a happy ending with a comfortable retirement and many wonderful years leading up to it. The end.

Update from Diana:

We amazingly have only just a bit over $2,000 left in debt, so this will mean we're free and clear with the exception of our mortgage! Because we believe very strongly in sharing our blessings with others, we'd like to not just pay off our debt, but also use this (Debt Scholarship) money to make an anonymous gift to a family in need with four children who struggles financially and works very hard to make ends meet and provide a good life for their children.

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1 Comment
Jen
November 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Wow. Sure it's great that these youngsters were able to pay off so much debt, but it's also hard to feel sorry for them. Sure wish someone would give me $2000 to pay down my $60K of medical bills debt (what's left after liquidating my 401K to pay even more). And it's even harder when you have to do it in your 50s, especially when now you have NO retirement fund.