How One Couple Paid Off $130,000 in less than 2 YEARS!
My next debt free story is about Ashish Mesepam and his wife. They paid off $130,000 in debt including their student loans in less than 2 YEARS!!! They followed the Dave Ramsey plan just like we did. Check out the book that has changed everything, The Total Money Makeover. It is truly life changing!
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Quick intro, age, family demographics, career, income if comfortable sharing, anything unique about yourself.
Hello everyone, my name is Ashish Mesepam, and I’m 30 years old. Currently it’s just my wife Alicia and myself but in September we will be welcoming our first child, our daughter Bellemy! My wife and I are both Doctors of Physical Therapy. One of my favorite hobbies is watching Chopped on Food Network and then trying to cook various ethnic foods.
How much debt did you have when you started your debt-free journey?
My wife and I got married in August 2014 and together we had debts that totaled ~$130,000 which included student loans and a car payment. In July of 2016 we bought our first home and currently have a mortgage of $180,000.
How long did it take you to pay off?
In November 2014 after successfully passing our boards we began working. My wife and I were able to pay off our student loans and car note within 15 months. In May 2016 we finished paying off our loans. The only debt that we have remaining is our mortgage.
Did you do anything extreme to pay off debt?
I analyzed our expenses for 3 months and created a budget for our family. I attempted to minimize as many categories in our budget as possible. I cut the cable, read books on personal finance, hopped on my parents cell phone plan to get lower rates, stopped eating out and cooked at home, I used the Mint app to track every dollar spent, and followed our budget strictly.
We wouldn’t consider what we did extreme, but others possibly would. We decided to only live off of my paycheck and use my wife’s to split between savings and loan payments. From my calculations it would cost us approximately $60,000 a year to sustain the both of us. So any excess that I had remaining from my paycheck would be thrown at our loans.
What kind of comments did you get from others while paying off debt?
The overwhelming majority of people we talked with every extremely supportive of us and were asking for our advice on how to improve their financial situations.
Family members expressed their concern that I was not enjoying life and that I worked too hard to be living the sort of lifestyle that becoming debt free created. We had several discussions on how our mindset was different from theirs and that we were content in the decisions that we made.
There were a few people who thought we were foolish for paying off our student loans but not investing at the same time. I had to explain to them that paying off our loans and the car was a form of investment. It gave me a guaranteed return without risk and increased my net worth. But if I had put my money in the stock market, there would be risk associated with it. Since I’m ‘debt-averse,’ I decided that I’d much rather pay off the debt with ‘gazelle-like intensity!’
Do you still have a mortgage?
As I mentioned earlier, we bought our first home in July of 2016 with a 20% down payment. Up until then we had been living in an apartment and we saw our rent go from $1100 to $1400. I decided that since I was paying the amount of a mortgage payment, I might as well put that money into a real mortgage so I could use the tax laws to my benefit and claim my interest rate payments. I do not plan on living in this house forever and therefore I am in no hurry to pay off my mortgage.
Do you follow Dave Ramsey and if so, why and how long?
We received ‘The Total Money Makeover’ by Dave Ramsey, from one of our friend’s as a wedding present. I had previously heard of Dave Ramsey in passing, but never actually knew what he taught. My original plan was to pay off our loans within 5 – 10 years. However, after reading the book, a couple months after starting our job, I was completely hooked. I decided to immediately get started on the journey to becoming debt free.
I’d be lying to you if I said that I follow Dave Ramsey 100%. I do not agree with all of his teachings but I do agree with most of them. Baby step 1 says to save $1000 as an emergency fund and then start paying off all your debts. I wasn’t comfortable with that so I saved a $3000 emergency fund for more peace of mind.
I also don’t agree with Dave on not using credit cards. Credit cards can be such an amazing tool IF they are used appropriately. We have 2 credit cards that we use, one is for cash back on groceries and gas (cause those are 2 of our main expenses) and the other is a mileage card where we get double miles on every purchase.
We would make the minimum payment on our student loans from our checking account and then make any extra payment on our credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. This way we paid off our loans and got miles rewarded to us.
Other than that, we used Dave’s snowball method for paying off debt and achieved great results. We have been using his 7 baby steps as a template to this day.
Have you ever bought a brand new car? If so, would you again?
Our first car that we bought together was a new Toyota Camry. We wanted something that would be dependable, last forever, and would not cost us an absurd amount of money to purchase or maintain.
In hindsight, I would not have purchased a new vehicle. A vehicle is not an investment; it’s a liability. The darn thing is not even worth however much you paid for it once you drive it off of the lot.
After much research I discovered that it’s better to purchase a gently used vehicle that is approximately 1 or 2 years old. Because it has done most of it’s depreciation already and by this time if there were going to be any major mechanical problems they would have already surfaced by this time.
What can you do now that you couldn’t when you had debt?
After we finished paying off our student loans and car loan we went on a trip to Bora Bora. What an incredible experience. Being able to tell your money where to go to work hard for you without the pressure of meeting minimum payments is such a great feeling.
I have more discretionary income to use now. So instead of raising my standard of living, I’m funneling that money into investments and savings goals.
What are your current financial goals?
My 1 major financial goal is to be financially independent. For me that means, not having to exchange my time for money. I want to be in control of my time. I want my wife to be able to stay home and spend time with our children if she wants to.
I’ve decided that to become financially independent I need to start a business. A business will require a lot of time and work up-front but then have all the pay offs in the end. This is how I will be able to take back control of my time, by being my own boss.
What piece of advice would you give someone who is currently in debt and/or working to pay it off?
Paying off debt and becoming debt free is not just another thing to do. It is a lifestyle. You must be 100% invested into it. You must be willing to sacrifice pleasures today to experience pleasure in the future. To borrow from Dave Ramsey, “you must live like no one else, to one day live like no one else.”
Anything else you want to share to inspire others to be “weird”? Why did you want to become debt-free? What started the journey for you? Any books you recommend? How did you stay motivated? Anything else you think is important for your journey that you want to share?
Going into higher education, there has always been talk about the years of your life that you will spend paying back debt and how you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities because of the weight of debt that is constantly tied around your neck.
I was determined to not make this my reality. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been pretty stingy with spending. I assume these traits are what made me really ‘debt-averse.’
The biggest benefit you can have from being debt free is the freedom to allocate your hard earned money into investment and savings vehicles that will work hard for you. This in turn will grant you the ability to take back control of your time, if you so choose.
This journey is a lifestyle and requires support and encouragement because it can really weigh on your emotions along the journey. Staying motivated can be hard so it’s important to set small short-term goals that lead up to your long-term goal. When you meet these short-term goals, give yourself a little treat. The psychological boost that this can give you can be quite powerful.
Dozens of others have done it before you and if you stay committed to your debt free mindset and lifestyle, you can do it too!