Debt. Most of us have it. All of us hate it. From school loans to credit cards to mortgages, most have us have been acquainted with that dreaded four-letter word. Getting out of debt is a long, arduous journey, but thanks to stories like Kimberlee's, we know it's possible. When she posted her "Paid in Full" letter board photo, we knew we had to learn more about her journey and share her inspiring feat. 

📷: @cuppakim

We were so excited to celebrate your debt freedom vicariously! Tell us a little bit about your journey.
I had always considered myself "good with money" (I'm a numbers person, a math nerd, a spreadsheet junkie), but in the fall of 2016 I tallied up my monthly debt payments (mostly normal things — car, home improvements, student loans, and a small credit card balance that never seemed to go away) and realized how much money I had obligated to things of the past, and nothing to hold for the future. I was shocked, and extremely motivated to take care of business. I started the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps immediately, including the "debt snowball" which is the processing of paying minimums on all debts and then throwing every dollar at the smallest balance. Once that is paid off, you do the same and "snowball" those funds to the next smallest. I set a goal for myself and got to work. It took a couple of months to really get a good groove going and to figure out a budget that worked for my life. But once I did, things started really coming together and the snowball was rolling. It took me 20 months to pay down $52,000 of debt.
So how does it feel to be debt free? 

It feels so great. I've been debt free for a little over a month, and every so often I am reflecting about how much less complicated things are without all kinds of bills and payments going out every which way. It is exciting that I can now focus on the future, and most importantly, I have more opportunities to give generously. As a believer, I find it super important to be generous and a good steward of what I have been given. Becoming debt free was a big conviction I had, and I know that the Lord is the one who is the giver of all things, and I want to be wise and do the best I can with what He has given me.

I saw that you mentioned Baby Step 3 in your post, what does that mean?

Baby Step 3 is saving for a 3-6 month emergency fund. I am getting started on that ASAP. I will definitely be doing a six-month fund, with a little extra cushion. Since I'm single and a homeowner, the responsibility is solely mine if anything happens to me. So having a good safety net is super important for financial peace.

Who helped you the most with support and whatever you needed during your journey out of debt?

Literally everyone around me. My family, friends, and coworkers were all cheering on the process. I won a cash prize at my company Christmas party, which went almost entirely to my debt snowball, and seeing how excited and happy everyone was for me was incredibly encouraging. My coworkers were always championing me on payday. My family was so supportive and I'd get a few meals from them when the budget was extra lean. And my friends were always asking about the debt snowball.

Did you do anything fun to celebrate?

The day I became debt free my sister, dad and I went to a nice lunch — my treat (and in the budget!). I went to France two weeks later, all saved for with cash. It had been my goal to become debt free before doing this vacation so that it would feel like a real celebration. I also bought myself a nice handbag that I had been saving for. I feel like I celebrated to the max! And now it's time to get to business on Baby Step 3.

Any tips for those of that need some encouragement to get out of debt?

If someone is looking to get out of debt, the first step is to find out exactly how much debt you have. A lot of people, like me, don't realize how much debt they actually have until they total it up. And then the most important thing is to create a budget. Add up your monthly necessary expenses and you'll know how much else you can put toward debt. I used to hate the word budget, but I have learned that a budget "gives you permission to spend" without guilt. I actually have my budget loosely typed out through the end of next year. I have a plan for saving up for Baby Step 3 and beginning Baby Step 4 (which is saving for retirement). I know what is coming up and how much money I should have to spend on the necessities, as well as the fun stuff and my next travels.

And of course: what’s currently on your letter board?

My current letter board is inspired by my France trip. I like to do a letter board for each trip and then I use that photo for the back cover of my Shutterfly Album and iPhoto Album. It says "DE TOUS LE LIVRES CE QUE JE PREFERE C'EST MON PASSPORT," which translates to, "Of all the books out there, my passport is my favorite." I read a few other great books while I was gone, and I think I found a quote or two for my next board!