The bank teller looked confused when Brandon Gibson walked up and said he wanted to make a $16,000 payment on his mortgage.
“Do you mind if I ask why you’re paying that much on your house?” she asked. “Isn’t there something else you’d want to do with this money?”
For Brandon and his wife, Lindsey, the answer was no.
That money went a long way toward their goal to pay off their house early. About a year later, on Good Friday of 2022, Lindsey and Brandon gathered up their three kids and drove to the bank—this time to make the final payment on their house.
They brought signs that said “We’re debt-free!” and took pictures . . . and got some strange looks from the bank manager.
“We own the grass in our yard now,” Lindsey said.
That moment was the culmination of 10 years of work to pay off $163,000 of debt and cash flow another $55,000 of expenses.
For the Gibsons, the dream to be debt-free was planted when they both took Financial Peace University at church in 2009. That class is also where Brandon and Lindsey first met. Lindsey, who had just started a career as a dental hygienist, took the class with her parents. And Brandon was there to try to figure out how to get a handle on his student loans.
Sparks didn’t fly at FPU, but a few months later, Lindsey spotted Brandon at a wedding.
That’s that guy from that class, she thought.
And the two struck up a conversation.
“We shut down that reception,” Brandon added.
A couple of years later, Brandon and Lindsey got married and bought a house for about $100,000 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Brandon also brought $42,000 of student loan debt into the marriage.
“We saw that the worldly way wasn’t the right way to manage money and happiness,” Brandon said. “We worked the Baby Steps before we got married, and neither of us had ever been that financially secure before. We decided that our marriage was going to be financially secure, and we fully committed to the program after our wedding. We always lived by the motto ‘Live like no one else so later you can live and give like no one else.’”
Going to Extremes
The Gibsons didn’t have expensive stuff to sell to pay off debt, and their income was about $80,000 a year. For them, slow and steady won the race.
“We had to buckle down and bite it a little bit at a time,” Lindsey said. “We were really extreme. We had to be.”
They didn’t take vacations or go out to eat at restaurants—even though they felt bad saying no to invites from family members. After a while, their parents even asked if they were doing okay.
“We were going against the grain,” Lindsey said. “We’re different. We’re weird.”
In 2013, the Gibsons had their first child, and Brandon suggested naming her Ramsey.
“I tried, but I got vetoed,” Brandon said with a laugh.
They cash flowed the medical bills for their daughter and later for their son, who was born in 2015.
And then Murphy visited the Gibsons.
Lindsey was on unpaid medical leave when Brandon’s income got cut due to budget deficits.
“In three months, we lost almost $9,000 in income,” Brandon said.
But rather than throw in the towel, the Gibsons got even more intense. They cut all their TV subscriptions and got cheaper phones.
“We cut everything we could to the bone,” Brandon said. “When you’re at that level, you learn what you can do without. After that situation, it was game on.”
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During that time, they also found out their house had termite damage, and they had to use their $1,000 emergency fund (plus more) to pay for repairs.
“We never thought of giving up,” Lindsey added.
The following year, in 2016, they paid off their van and Brandon’s last student loan—and they were debt-free except for their house.
Strength in Community
While on their debt-free journey, the Gibsons taught FPU several times at their church. Sharing wins (and losses) with other couples in the class helped them keep up their intensity.
“It held us accountable,” Lindsey said.
After paying off their student loans, the Gibsons focused on paying off their house before Brandon turned 40. And they also began the process of adopting a child with Down syndrome they were fostering.
They paused their debt snowball to save for legal fees for the adoption, but after finalizing the adoption in 2021, they had $16,000 left over to put toward their mortgage.
In addition to all the debt the Gibsons paid off, they also cash flowed $55,000 of other bills and expenses, including a new roof and AC unit for their house, medical bills, and a truck to replace Brandon’s 17-year-old truck.
During that time, their household income increased from $83,000 to $132,000 a year. Brandon is a human resources manager, and Lindsey is a dental hygienist.
The Envelope System
The Gibsons were sticklers when it came to budgeting and using cash.
“The envelope system clicked with us,” Lindsey said. “It’s hard, but you’re doing the right thing.”
Spending nothing on eating out meant homemade pizza on Friday nights instead of Papa Johns.
The Gibsons taught their children, ages 10, 8 and 6, about spending, saving and giving. They got to know Dave Ramsey’s voice all too well while listening to him on the radio.
“We referred to him as Uncle Dave in the car,” Brandon said.
In fact, the kids still call him Uncle Dave.
Some months, the Gibsons only paid $100 toward debt, and other months, they’d find an extra $800. Lindsey calls it “God math.” She once found $20 in the gas envelope she was certain was empty (just like her gas tank) the day before.
“It’s the little wins that put wind back in your sail,” Brandon said.
Brandon said that contentment is a big key to staying on the journey. He drove a 2002 truck until 2019 and doesn’t see the sense in having a car to impress people you don’t know.
Lindsey said a big key for her is not paying for things she can do herself—like cutting the grass, cleaning the house or washing her car.
“Now, my car might be dirty for three months, but I can wash it in the driveway instead of paying $20,” she said.
When the Gibsons were about two months away from paying off their house, they loosened up a bit and took their kids to Disney World—and paid for the trip in cash.
“Going on a vacation was our main celebration,” Brandon said. “We had not taken vacations.”
And they went on a beach vacation this past year. Years of sacrifice paid off for the Gibsons.
“We’re a real-life family. We don’t have one of those crazy fast stories where we did it all in just a few years,” Lindsey said. “Our journey was slower and longer, but it’s been a journey. We’re in a great place. Our kids are young. Even for the people that can’t do it quick, that doesn’t mean they need to quit.”