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How it all began
When Zach and Jen McCullock first got married back in 2014 in their mid-20s, they realized they had a problem. A very big problem indeed.
Between them, the two had $50,000 in debt, mostly from student loans. Both worked entry-level jobs at non-profits, so they weren’t going to pay it off any time soon.
“We looked at the amount of time it was going to take to pay it off and it blew our minds,” Zach told me over the phone. “Making minimum payments, it would take us 1o to 15 years, and we were like, ‘is this for real?’ and ‘do people really do this’?
And they’re not alone. According to CNBC, 70% of college grads have debt, and over 44 million Americans have over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt combined. Insane numbers, right?
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How they tackled their mountain of debt
Zach and Jen decided they needed to do something drastic to payoff their debt, so they bought a camper for $3,400, and planned to move out of their apartment in Oklahoma.
They paid $75 per month to park the camper on a piece of land, got rid of tons of stuff, and put the essentials in a storage unit.
“We only had room for our favorite 10 shirts, plus a couple pairs of pants and a few pairs of shoes,” Zach said. “We had to be selective. We’d go to the storage unit and swap clothes out during the seasons.”
The challenges of living in an RV
The couple said that even though the camper was cozy, living in it wasn’t always easy.
“We moved in in July, so we were there in the hot, hot heat of Oklahoma,” said Jen. “Our AC was broken, and we had to fix it. That was stressful. Then when it became winter it was so cold. We had a propane furnace which we couldn’t leave on all day. When we’d come home from work it was frigid.”
They also had a close call with a tornado, and hid in a nearby shelter while the winds thundered past.
“When we came out of the shelter, there were 100-foot trees down all around the camper, almost on every side, so it was crazy nothing happened to the camper,” said Zach. “We were blown away….not literally….it was amazing that somehow it survived.”
The two also cut back on their grocery bill, stopped eating out, and renegotiated their insurance.
And after 11 months, they were debt-free.
What they decided to do next
“When we moved back into an apartment, Zach and I wanted to start a business,” Jen said. “We have a big passion for helping others become financially free because of how much satisfaction it brought us. So, we launched a blog and a business for millennials called FreeUp.” ( www.
Zach said we should think of debt as a luxury.
“I’ve traveled in a lot of third would countries, and one of the main reasons people can’t get ahead is that they can’t borrow money to fund a business, buy a house, or go to school,” he said. “It’s a luxury we have, but it ends up being too easy for people just to rack up debt, especially when you ask 17 and 18-year-olds to sign 4-year student loans. I think in general that’s why we wanted to start the blog, to just to help people understand their debt.”
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I think Zach and Jen are awesome, and prove that sometimes, you just have to do what it takes to pay off debt. Debt can really cripple us, tie us to desk jobs we hate, cut down on our vacation time, stress us out. I think being debt-free should be the number one goal for everyone, and there’s something you can do to save today, whether it’s small, like cutting out cable, or big, like moving into a camper.