Get expert advice delivered straight to your inbox.

Skip to Main Content

What to Expect on Your Debt-Free Journey

So you made the decision—you decided to kick debt out of your life forever! That calls for some serious celebrating.

But before you start dancing circles around Sallie Mae, make sure you’ve completed Baby Step 1 by getting $1,000 in the bank. If you haven’t yet, back up. You’ll need this money if any unwelcome emergencies try to crash the party. So buckle down, get focused, and pile up that $1,000 as fast as you can.

When you’re ready to start your debt-free journey with Baby Step 2—paying off all debt except the house—make sure you find inspiration along the way to help see you through. Millions of people have been where you are today. And you’ll be where they are sooner than you know it!

Until then, check out our list of 18 things you can expect while on your debt-free journey. And remember, you’re in good company!

1. You’ll have some doubts.

When you face a mountain of debt, doubts are totally normal. Don’t beat yourself up for having them. Instead, redirect that energy into confidence. You’re doing the right thing for you and your family tree, even if no one else understands it. You’ve got this!

2. You’ll get gazelle intense.

Imagine you’re a gazelle grazing in the wild. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a starving cheetah, your biggest enemy. Should you sit there and wait to be hunted down or run like your tail is on fire? Run, Forrest, run! You want to get out of debt like a gazelle gets out of harm’s way—fast! We call this being gazelle intense. So, find your animal instinct. You’re going to need it on your debt-free journey.

3. You’ll listen to (or watch) The Dave Ramsey Show—a lot.

When you listen to your broke friends talk about how broke they are, you become like them—broke. But when you listen to inspirational folks talk about how they destroyed debt, you become like them—inspired! So fill your mind with daily encouragement by following us on Facebook or Twitter, listening to the podcast, experiencing the Ramsey Network on your smart speaker, or watching The Dave Ramsey Show video channel.

4. You’ll start selling stuff—and lots of it.

If you haven’t used it in the past year, you probably don’t need it. That’s why Craigslist will suddenly be full of all your old camping gear, Christmas decorations, and cell phones. When you’re laser focused on debt-free living, you’ll start parting with all that stuff you don’t need. You might even sell the car if you have to! You’re just that hardcore.

5. You’ll become a bargain shopper.

Oh, you don’t coupon? Well that’s about to change. It’s time to get real familiar with some awesome coupon apps out there. Hey, if you can get something on sale or for a discount, why would you mess around with paying full price . . . ever? That’s more money in your pocket and less debt in your life.

6. You’ll make a monthly budget.

This may be your first time budgeting, or you might just be buckling down. Either way, you’re going to have a handle on your income—and it’s going to feel so good! Our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, makes it super easy to stay on top of things while on your debt-free journey. When you’re giving every dollar a job to do, you’ll know exactly where each dollar is going.

7. You’ll start carrying cash.

Using cash to pay for things will totally alter the way you spend money. When the cash is gone, it’s gone. Pretty simple, isn’t it? No overdraft fees. No sky-high interest to pay. Cash is king, baby!

8. You’ll get your family on board.

Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to start talking to your kids about money. Getting out of debt takes a team. When your kids buy into your debt-free journey, they’ll stop complaining—and start saving. It’s amazing. Invite them to your budget meetings and show them how important they are to making your family goals become a reality!

9. You’ll work hard.

Sometimes it takes a second job or some freelance work to earn what you need to knock out your debt. Get creative and start finding fresh ways to bring in some extra cash. Whether you’re delivering pizzas, driving for Uber, or house-sitting over the holidays—it all adds up. Your hard work will pay off!  

10. You’ll start thinking visually.

A goal tracker and a rewards system are small ways to turn something as boring as electronic payments into easy-to-see wins. Even a celebratory pizza party with the kids can be enough to keep you all going on your debt-free journey.

11. You’ll learn how to say no.

No—it’s a complete sentence. And it’s okay to use it regularly when you’re getting out of debt. There are things you need. And then there are things you want. You’re going to become one of the rare people who knows the difference. While you’re paying off debt, your budget is all about needs. You’ll get to what you want after you’ve said farewell to debt once and for all.

12. You’ll eat leftovers and brew coffee at home.

Hello, microwave! Goodbye, $12 lunches out every day. Leftovers are going to be your new best friend. Make meals that will give you leftovers to pack for lunch the next day. Slow cooker and casserole recipes are great for stretching your food budget. And when it comes to coffee, you can save a nice chunk of change if you brew your daily dark roast at home instead of buying it on the way to work. Those small grocery savings add up over time! See ya later, barista.

13. You’ll learn who your true friends are.

True friends don’t care what brand of jeans you wear or what model car you drive. They don’t care if you can’t go out for dinner. True friends will support your efforts to improve your life by becoming debt-free. And they won’t expect you to keep up with their lifestyles—even if they aren’t quite ready to get out of debt themselves.

14. You’ll learn to practice contentment.

When you start living on less than you make and paying off debt, you’ll be amazed at how content and grateful you can become. Filling our lives with useless stuff has a way of leaving us feeling empty instead of fulfilled. Isn’t it ironic? Instead of constantly consuming more, you’ll be pleasantly content with less.

15. You’ll pray.

Work like it all depends on you, but pray like it all depends on God. Give it your absolute all every day, but realize God owns it all. He’s in control. So trust Him as you go along your debt-free journey.

16. You’ll get creative.

You know what they say—necessity is the mother of invention! With all your extra cash going toward debt, you’ve discovered how to stretch a meal with rice, wrap a gift in tie-dyed newspaper, and bungee cord your car mirror back on. No shame. Wear it all with pride.

17. You’ll pause your 401(k) contributions.

Womp, womp. Yeah, it’s a bummer, but don’t fret—you’ll get back to contributing to your retirement soon. But first, you’re going to put everything you’ve got toward getting out of debt. (Yes, even if it means missing out on your company match temporarily.) Just think of it this way: Pressing the pause button on investing is a great motivator to get out of debt ASAP! Once you have zero debt and begin investing again, you’ll be starting a new journey toward becoming an everyday millionaire!

18. You’ll find a community.

You might feel like you’re alone on this debt-free journey or that you’re the only weirdo out there who’s fed up with debt, but you most definitely are not. Get connected with others who are fighting and clawing their way out of debt just like you! Believe us, they’re out there! A Financial Peace University class or Facebook group like The Ramsey Baby Steps Community are great places to find people who are going through this debt-free journey too.

money icon

Pay off debt fast and save more money with Financial Peace University.

Making the decision to eliminate debt from your life is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, your family, and your future. When it gets difficult and you start to doubt yourself, stay the course and find encouragement by reading and listening to others who have been where you are and have made debt-free living a reality. Your debt-free scream is closer than you think!

If you want the extra boost to make it happen faster than ever, check out Financial Peace University (FPU). This course will teach you how to manage your money the right way, pay off debt, save for emergencies, and build wealth for your future. It's just what you need to take your gazelle intensity to the extreme (in a good way). 

You've got what it takes to kick debt out of your life—once and for all! Start FPU today.

Did you find this article helpful? Share it!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

Related Articles

Photos of people who have become debt-free.

How to Pay Off Debt

If you're sick and tired of payments eating into your paycheck every month, it's time to learn how to pay off debt. For freaking good.

Jade Warshaw Jade Warshaw