How Far Would You Go to Pay Off Debt?

I’ve seen a similar question asked on a couple of different forums I’ve visited. How far would you go to get out of debt?

For instance. Would you:

  • Take a second job?
  • Cut out all vacations?
  • Sell something of importance, such as a family heirloom?
  • Sell your house to move to a smaller, less expensive place?
  • Take your kids out of private school?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days. How far would I go?

For me, it comes down to family relationships. I believe it’s possible to be very frugal without hurting anyone in the family. However, I do believe frugality can be taken too far. My goal is always to pay off our debt as quickly as possible, without damaging family relationships in the meanwhile.

We had, and still have, debt that will take several years to pay off. We paid off the credit cards, but we’re still working on student loans, and as of last year we have a mortgage.

Since it’s going to be several years before our debt is paid off, I’m not about to tell my children that they can’t participate in extra curricular activities. They are only young once, and I want them to experience a variety of things. While I limit the number of things they can be involved in at once, I do allow them to participate.

We also took a vacation this year. We don’t take one every year, but every once in a while the stress level gets to the point where we have to get away for a bit. So we saved and paid cash for our vacation. Cash that probably could have gone toward paying off debt, but was well spent (I believe) on some needed R&R.

Now that we’re back from vacation, it’s time to get “gazelle” about repaying our debt again. To do this, we’ll continue to cut back the budget. I’ll continue to blog for extra income. We’ll continue furnishing our house with stuff we find on Craigslist, rather than buying new, perfectly matched stuff. And I don’t feel deprived at all. I know what my family’s limits are, and I make sure we never cross them…even though we may teeter on the brink sometimes.

So how far would you go to pay off debt? Have you done anything radical?


By , on Jul 16, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. I would push the short-term pain to the edge to achieve the long-term pleasure and piece of mind to be debt free. A year or two of austerity is worth the lifetime satisfaction.

  2. Well… Unfortunately, most of those avenues aren’t open to me.

    Second job? I can work part of a first one. Right now, hubby can’t work one.

    Cut vacations? Didn’t go on regular ones anyway, though I’m considering trying to do one on the cheap down to CA to hit some discounted amusement parks for my birthday. Probably won’t feel comfortable spending the $$ though.

    # Sell something of importance, such as a family heirloom? This I actually do have. And, no, I won’t. First of all, because this is not the economy for selling jewelry. But also because my grandmother gave it to me when she was dying. I could keep one or two items and sell the others, but I would like to stall on that decision if I can. We’re doing okay, if slow, on the debt reduction for now.

    # Sell your house to move to a smaller, less expensive place? Don’t own a house. Not many cheaper apartments that are centrally located and if we move from the one we’re in now, we won’t have use of my mom’s car.

    # Take your kids out of private school? No kids, no private school


    I am agreeing to move to a different state, where my husband can have fewer skin issues. The two times he lived there (over a year each time) he was relatively flare-up free. And he didn’t have to see a doctor there once. Here, he’s having to see or call his dermatologist at least once a month if not more about flare-ups.

    Arizona will probably be cheaper. (We can rent a house there for less than we pay for a 1 BR here in Seattle.) Also, there’s a much better chance he could work a regular job there. If not, he could probably work part-time. And, really, if it makes his skin even half as good as he remembers it being, I told him it’s worth leaving everything up here. Scary, but worth it.

  3. Sweet lady.
    What a funny coin-ky-dink! My family has gone pretty far.
    Last year (08) hubby lost his job 4 months of NO INCOME!!! We nearly lost everything. It was horrible!
    He finally regained employment and from that moment on…it’s been CATCH UP!
    We have not taken a vacation, gone out, shopped for clothes (we have 3 teens). We can’t!
    We are still so close to just losing it all. But God keeps us upright most of the time.

    Today…my middle daughter put all of her American Girl Doll stuff on ebay to sell. What money she makes…will be what school clothes money she and her 9th grade sister share. Otherwise….it will be another school year of no new clothes.

    Talk about humbling? Girl. This has done it.

    We are a normal family. Never been wealthy. But we have things we need that seem to be unreachable.
    God is good. We haven’t gone hungry yet.

    But times are very tough.

    Learning to do without!

  4. Marci:

    Just a matter of finding that balance that you (and the family) can live with. Frugality is a balancing act – always :)

    What did I do? about 14 years ago, newly divorced and trying to buy a home (which I did and paid off in 10 yrs) I worked 5 jobs – 8 days a week, as I called it :( One full-time weekdays, one Fri nite, Sat, and Sunday, and 3 fillers (nursing home aide, farm cleaner and calf feeder, and at home transcribing meeting minutes for my little town’s public meetings. Very tough 2 years, but I did what I had to to, which was sell my time very very effectively.

    When my kids were still home and in school activities, we limited them to two each – 4H and one other. Any more than that was overwhelming for the kids also, not to mention Mom/Dad running them around all the time – and with 3 of them, and a dairy farm, that’s a lot of running. It also helped them learn to set priorities, and to know that they couldn’t have/do it all. Good lesson for early in life.

  5. * Take a second job? I wouldn’t be able to do it personally unless it was late at night or online
    * Cut out all vacations? yes
    * Sell something of importance, such as a family heirloom? no
    * Sell your house to move to a smaller, less expensive place? yes
    * Take your kids out of private school? yes

    Such great ?s really makes you think!

  6. Carrie:

    I wish I had any of these things to cut out. The only thing we can do at this point is the job, but that’s why I’m in school. However, our only debt is student loans, but those aren’t going to be due anytime soon.

  7. Abby:

    I love your “get gazelle” line. We’ve paid off our credit cards, but still have a hefty second mortgage we want to pay off as quickly as possible, but I think I’m with you – our kids are young once. There are a few things that we’ll save for – and thoroughly enjoy! – even if it means reaching some of our goals more slowly. Vacations are one of those. Watching out kids dig in the sand and chase seagulls is worth a lot of sacrifice.

  8. karyn sweet:

    Our only vacations so far have been small camping trips and, since we have family near there, trips to the beach. I do have a second job in the evenings and we’re trying to figure out if there is a way to move to a smaller house (but we’re in a fixer upper that needs to be done first). I’m not willing to return to work full time because I want to be home to homeschool and to be with the little ones. I’m also not willing to cut out all of the kid activities because I agree with you that they’re only young once and should have the chance to experience new things. Our mortgage is our only debt but I look at our fixer upper as an investment, since real estate has been the only way we have made significant extra money. We just have to hope the real estate market improves in the relative near future!

  9. David:

    Sorry, but being such a part-time gazelle is not being frugal, in my opinion. The fact is that severe economic stress can make your situation collapse rather quickly so long as large debts exist–and various kinds of frills won’t get you where you want to go quickly enough.

    Various of your statements seem like pure excuses for doing what you want to do. “They’re only young once?” sorry, but what are you teaching your kids when their outside activities are more important than getting rid of debt? The children should *also* be contributing to the solution–and knowing they are contributing to it. It is incredibly valuable life skills training for them that will serve them throughout life.

    And how, pray tell, would living like the vast majority of people in the country today (and far better than people elsewhere in the world) “damage family relationships?” Sorry, I don’t buy it–unless you are catering to rather spoiled individuals who cannot now think of family goals as being as important as personal ones. Again, that is a serious lesson for the children as well as for the adults. It’s time to grow up as a family and work together, fully conscious of what is necessary to commit to in order to attain your dreams.

    Taking a vacation to “relieve stress” seems, again, to be something of an excuse. Many people in today’s economy are “vacationing at home” with far less stress than that normally involved in travel with kids…and for far less money.

    In other words, it sounds very much like “We’ll get out of debt as soon as there aren’t other priorities we think at the time are more important.”

    Until you decide that the debt problem *is* your priority as a family, you are only going part-way. Once you have it paid off, with a comfortable emergency fund, *then* you will enjoy more peace of mind and far less stress. That would be the time to assess your options, for the kids as well as for yourselves.

    Sorry, but it sounds as if you and your family would fall into the “frugal wanna-be” category. Let an unexpected emergency such as a major accident or illness happen and see how the vacations and extracurricular activities look then.


  10. My husband and I never took a honeymoon- 7 years ago when we married, I was starting grad school having quit my job, and he had just graduated and had no job yet. We did take a vacation in December 2005, to Florida (we live in Ohio). And wouldn’t you know, the next month I got pregnant. That has been our only vacation in 7 years. I started freelancing to earn some extra money this year. We both work fulltime for state government but each get 10 furlough days for the next three years, which is a 4% paycut, in addition to frozen wages, increased healthcare costs, etc.

    A vacation is a privilege, not a right. If you are that stressed out, escaping physically is not going to solve your problems (just like taking drugs or using alcohol is a physical way to “escape” problems that also is ineffective). I would think being debt free would be much more of a stress reliever. To that end, we own 60% of our home that we bought 5 years ago, and the mortgage is our only debt. We are working hard to pay that off entirely by December 2010.

  11. Dawn:

    Would I –

    Take a second job? – Aready have.

    Cut out all vacations? – Done this too, although I have a little cabin that I can go to on the weekends.

    Sell something of importance, such as a family heirloom? – Yep, if I had something like this. I don’t really have much of this though. My car I need for work and the family heirlooms I have are more sentimental value than monetary.

    Sell your house to move to a smaller, less expensive place? – in a heartbeat. If I thought I could sell my home in this market without losing a ton of money (more than I could save by moving) I would sell tomorrow.

    Take your kids out of private school – No children, so I can’t answer to this.

    However, to me, these things aren’t sacrifices. There are other things that are just as important to me that I wouldn’t give up – being able to spend some time out with friends getting lunch or dinner, being involved in my local arts community, eating healthy, local foods.

    It all comes down to values. Like you, I believe in working hard to eliminate debt, but not at the expense of other core values, for me these are – family, friends, art and health.

  12. Elizabeth Shepherd:

    I haven’t reached the radical stage yet but I do feel like I’m already doing all the “normal” stuff. It always makes me mad when they have experts on the talk shows telling us how to cut back by giving up smoking, alcohol, and Starbucks. I have NEVER spent money on those things and just wish someone publicize other ways I can squeeze all I can out of a paycheck! There are lots of great resources on the web about how to use coupons and where to shop when deals are on and blogs full of tips. ;) That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be on the national news and talk shows – where’s the info that we “in the trenches” folks really need?

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