Young couple who saved a fortune in 3 years share their financial secrets
Top tips for financial freedom
Paying off debts isn’t easy, especially when there are other financial hurdles to overcome. We spoke to Kelly and Wayne Peiffer, a 27-year-old couple from New Jersey who managed to pay off debt worth $116,000 (£86,000) in just 42 months. Despite paying rent and bills and working full-time jobs, the couple managed to completely squash their student loans and other debt. They told us their secrets to achieving financial freedom.
Just six months after graduating from college and getting married in 2013, Kelly Peiffer was inspired by friends to read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. The book, which provides seven steps to help you get out of debt and have a total money makeover, prompted Kelly to get “totally fired up about becoming debt free”.
Realise the importance of financial freedom
“Myself and my husband Wayne both realised that if we ever truly wanted to get ahead in life and be financially free, we couldn’t have debt,” Kelly explains.
Start by paying above the minimum
With a small emergency fund of $1,000 (£744), the plan was to put as much money towards their debt each month as they could. “So, in January 2014, we began by paying above and beyond the minimum on our cars and student loan payments to help get ahead,” Kelly adds.
Pay off the smallest debts first
“We started by paying off the smallest amount of debt first, and worked our way up to the largest,” Kelly explains. “This was a smart strategy for us, because it gave us a lot of small victories early on to see some progress. By paying off a few $1,000 (£744) and $2,000 (£1,487) student loans right away, it kept us motivated when paying off the biggest loan, which was $30,000 (£22,311).”
Make a monthly budget
“It is really important to make a goal and a monthly budget,” Kelly says. “EveryDollar.com is the budgeting system we use and it’s great. Just for reference, we were putting approximately 50% of our income towards debt every month!”
Accept the fact it won’t be easy
At the time, Kelly, who is a director of marketing, and Wayne, a fourth-grade teacher, had a collective income of $55,000 (£41,000). They still had to pay rent, bills and other living expenses, all while trying to accumulate thousands of dollars to pay off their debt.
Work hard to generate extra income
“We had to do whatever it took to make more income,” Kelly says. “We worked a total of 12 extra jobs over 42 months to make extra cash,on top of our full-time salaries, to put towards our debt.”
Combine your hobbies with work
In their spare time, the couple coached sports clubs, ran extra college classes, worked in landscape and construction and made and sold products on Etsy.
Win some, lose some
But not all of the extra jobs were enjoyable. To help bump up their income, Wayne also did shifts as an Uber driver. “Driving drunk people around at night was definitely the worst job I did,” he told Dave Ramsey during a radio interview.
Long hours will pay off eventually
The hardest part for Kelly was teaching college classes into the evenings. “I taught a few college classes at Cairn University, and while I absolutely love teaching, it is a lot of hours and some long nights teaching class after working a full day.”
Extra jobs can almost double your income
All the hard work paid off though. Through their extra jobs, Kelly and Wayne managed to almost double their income to up to $100,000 (£74,370) a year.
Put all extra money towards your goal
The extra cash barely saw daylight though. “Our rule for working extra jobs was that whatever money we made from extra jobs, we put 100% of it towards our debt,” Kelly says.
Life doesn’t have to be put on hold
Paying off debts and saving for the future doesn’t have to mean life can’t continue. During their saving spree, Kelly and Wayne also paid for graduate school so Kelly could study for a Masters degree in Business and Professional Communications.
Look for inexpensive ways to have fun
“Free time? What’s that? We had very little free time,” Kelly says. “But we always found time for dates, we just kept them really inexpensive. Picnics at a local park were among out favourite dates. We would ask for restaurant gift cards for Christmas and birthdays, so we would use those gift cards for our date nights.”
If you’re doing it with somebody else, communication is key
“Working on something so huge together really helped our relationship, but the key was communication. We realised that we had the same goals and it became really fun to have monthly budget meetings and be disciplined with our spending together. It was, without a doubt, the biggest goal that we have accomplished together.”
Stick to your guns and follow your plan… even when others tell you otherwise
“A lot of people thought we were strange and odd for doing this,” Kelly says, “but it was important for us to stick to our guns and follow through with our plan, even if people thought it was unnecessary. It was cool to stand strong together and just follow our hearts.”
Continue making goals
After you’ve met one goal, it’s important to keep the momentum going and to continue making more. “We are now working on saving a fully-funded emergency fund [3-6 months of expenses], saving for a big vacation for summer 2018, and saving for a house.”
Be mindful of the future
“We are also, of course, saving for retirement. Once we have our down payment for our house saved, we’ll start putting 15% of our income towards retirement. We are looking forward to seeing how the compound interest works,” Kelly adds. Pictured is Kelly's next read, Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan, which was gifted to the couple by Total Money Makeover author Dave Ramsey.
Gain control of your income
“Having the power to have your income and use it for the things you want to do is just so powerful. We can give more now, save more and even spend a little more because we have no debt. We feel more in control of our lives now that we are debt free.”
Be patient and the rewards will come
Think you have what it takes to pay off huge amounts of debt or save thousands in a short space of time? You’ll have to have some patience. “It took 42 months for us to pay off $116,000 (£86,000). We started in January of 2014 and officially became debt free on July 1 2017,” Kelly says. “We are now just really excited for what the future holds for our family.”