If you listen to or watch The Dave Ramsey Show, you might often hear Dave talk about changing your family tree. It’s the idea that the money decisions you make now can have a huge impact on the future of your family—not just your kids, but your grandkids, great-grandkids and so on.
Over the years, we’ve seen many families take that idea to heart and change their lives by going through Financial Peace University, reading The Total Money Makeover, or attending one of Dave’s live events.
But never have we seen one family change their family tree in such a dramatic way as the Sicklers, an amazing family who recently traveled to Nashville to make their debt-free screams.
The Sicklers’ Stories
It all started when Liz attended a couple of Financial Peace University classes with her mom. Not long after attending that FPU class, she caught the get-out-of-debt bug and ended up paying off $67,000 in 25 months, cash-flowing a master’s degree along the way, and moving to China to begin teaching.
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Liz’s brother Andrew and his wife, Amanda, saw what Liz was doing and wanted to get in on the action. At the time they also had about $67,000 in debt—made up mostly from student loans, car loans and credit card debt.
"We had always wanted to be debt-free, but we never had a plan," Amanda said. So after seven years of marriage and living in debt, and with Liz’s influence, they decided to make a change.
"We started the debt snowball after our youngest daughter was born," Andrew said. "It really started hitting us that the borrower is slave to the lender. We felt trapped because of the weight of the debt. We couldn’t do some of the things we wanted to do, like travel overseas or go visit Liz in China."
"It really started hitting us that the borrower is slave to the lender. We felt trapped because of the weight of the debt." -Andrew
Andrew and Amanda realized they could be debt-free before they were 30, so they got moving quickly before paying everything off.
Meanwhile, the little sister of the family, Rebekah, started her own debt-free journey. Liz inspired Rebekah to get started, but they both ended up pushing each other to stay motivated throughout the process. "She was willing to call me a fruit loop if I was about to make a bad decision," Liz said.
Rebekah paid off $130,000 in five years and, at age 28, is completely debt-free. She made it her personal mission to pay off all of the $118,000 in student loan debt she had accumulated. "The biggest thing for people with student loan debt is to take ownership of your mess," said Rebekah. "If you were old enough to get in on that mess, then you’re old enough to take responsibility to clean it up."
Rebekah said she lived with roommates to decrease her rent, took a second job delivering pizzas, and put every extra penny she had toward paying off her debt.
Getting Out of Debt
What was the hardest part for the family as they got out of debt together?
"Just getting started," Andrew said. "Pushing that snowball up the hill and knocking out those first loans. About a year into it, we really got moving and started paying off the debt much quicker."
Liz says the hardest part of getting out of debt was saying no. "I don’t have a ton of self-discipline so I need the envelope system and my sister to help tell me what I didn’t need to do," she said.
"I don’t have a ton of self-discipline so I need the envelope system and my sister to help tell me what I didn’t need to do." -Liz
What was the key to getting out of debt?
"You need an accountability partner," Rebekah said. Even though Liz was teaching in China for part of their journey, she said their Skype sessions really helped hold each other accountable.
"Sometimes we wanted to give up," Andrew said. "Life might seem easier if we could spend money again, but that’s how we got into this situation in the first place. Plus, by just being content—happy with what we have—we realized we don’t need all those things we wanted to go into debt for."
"Life might seem easier if we could spend money again, but that’s how we got into this situation in the first place. Plus, by just being content—happy with what we have—we realized we don’t need all those things we wanted to go into debt for." -Andrew
Amanda said the budget allowed them to have a vision and a goal. "It was fun to cross things off and visually see how we were getting closer to that goal."
Walking the Debt-Free Journey Together
The Sicklers were all in this together. They got out of debt as a family and they made their debt-free calls as a family, even if that meant delaying their trip to Nashville so Liz could take part when she returned from China.
The people you allow into your life can have a major impact on your debt-free journey. This family is just one incredible example of that truth.
If you ever want to know what it means to truly change a family tree, ask the Sicklers. They are a family that will never be the same.
Andrew & Amanda:
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