Our Journey to Financial Freedom

I am super excited to share a guest post with you this morning from Camilo! I met Camilo on the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram (haven't checked that out yet? You absolutely need to!) Camilo and his Husband Justin are tackling their debt, living a busy and beautiful life and are sharing their story with us this morning! Huge thanks to Camilo for being part of this month's guest contributors! Without further ado, I'm so excited to introduce you to the man behind @thedebtfreeguys , Camilo! 

My name is Camilo and my husband and I live in Central PA where I work as an accountant and he teaches at a local college. We met while we were finishing our degrees at Temple University and we had been together for 5 years before we got married.  Unwittingly, we actually cash flowed our wedding and honeymoon last year, but it was at that point that we sat down to have the difficult conversation about debt. In the years following college, we both knew we had student loan debt, however it was not until right after the wedding in September 2017 that we sat down and tallied it up. We were $153,000 in debt!  About 90% of our debt is student debt and 10% is our car loans. Up to that point, we had been paying the minimum and we figured one day we would pay it off but the total was shocking and disappointing, to say the least. We were facing a reality that we would be paying back student loans well into our careers, if not longer. We needed hope, which came from an unexpected place.

One day at my client’s office, I was making small talk with an accountant there about student loans and difficult it is to pay them back. She told me about Dave Ramsey, and his baby steps.  To be honest, it went in one ear and out the other at the time. Why would we reroute our hard earned money to pay our student loans early? Fast forward to that day we figured out our total debt amount. I couldn’t help but think about Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey. We quickly Googled “Dave Ramsey’s baby steps”, and we’ve never looked back. We had some extra wedding money that we had not spent and I immediately asked Justin “Can we complete baby step 1, and throw the rest at our smallest debt?”, he encouragingly said “Let’s do this”. For the next few weeks I searched for the #daveramsey hashtag on Instagram and was surprised to find that there were people who were documenting their journeys. That was when we realized we were not alone.  That was a great feeling, so I followed some people for a few weeks. On October 8, 2017 I created our debt free Instagram page, I searched and found people that had similar starting debt like ours and was encouraged by seeing how close they were to paying off their debt. I began sharing our story on Instagram, we were inspired by all the different accounts of people who were paying debt. That same week we began using cash and sticking to our budget.

planting seeds

We make decent money but we never learned to budged or keep track of spending, so we were living paycheck to paycheck. We would usually go grocery shopping with no meal plan and spend close to $150 for a week.  We would then get home, put away the groceries, and go out to eat the entire weekend. We were caught up in a culture of consumption and did not even realize it. We would go to store when we were bored and buy things we did not need.  We would buy things that our friends had just so that we could keep up appearances. As soon as we started budgeting, we realized that it was possible to pay our student loans early. We could do this! During the first month of using cash and budgeting we were able to pay $2,573, which was a great feeling and the push we needed.  In the continuing months, we stuck to our plan, which includes using cash and sticking to a strict budget.

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As we continued, we started looking for other ways to make income that we could use to pay off our debt.  We also sold unused items on Ebay, Facebook Market place, and every cent that we made went to our student loans. We began looking for small jobs in the shared economy to make a few extra dollars here and there. For instance, we found an app called Field Agent that pays to for photos and answering questions at different stores. When I traveled for work, I would stop at every single store on my way to my clients. Justin also taught extra classes and did different events at the College that paid additional money.

Fighting debt and finding financial freedom!

I cannot say that this has been easy.  We’ve essentially had to eliminate going out, so there are very few date nights and almost no eating out unless it has been planned.  Trust me, there is nothing more disappointing than coming home after a long day at work and having to make an entire meal and lunch for the next day.  That has certainly limited our ability to be spontaneous or even lazy. We’ve had to turn down several dinners and trips with family and friends, who do not always understand what we are doing.  To them, it seems we are withdrawing or just being rude. Even if we try explaining it to people, they tend to feel slighted when you do not show up for an expensive birthday meal or take a weekend trip out of town.  This has also forced us to communicate more often and has led to disagreements about money and budgeting. Sometimes we are on different pages when it comes to what is a need versus a want. For example, recently Justin really wanted to make some changes to the backyard but after some talking and initial disagreement, he agreed that was not necessary at the moment.  Instead, he settled on buying some berry plants.

Through all of this, our struggles and achievements, we’ve shared our debt free journey on Instagram.  This past month we reached a milestone. We paid off $40,000 of principal in 7 months. The support from the debt free community on IG has been amazing. We continue to be inspired by others and we hope to inspire people with our story, as well.  People from the debt free community have been supporting. I think one of my favorite things about having the debt free Instagram account has been the inspirational messages people share with us. People tell us that because of our journey, they’ve been encouraged to start their own debt free journey. It is so humbling that our story has inspired others to start their own journeys.  This not only makes us extremely happy but also continues to encourage us to pay our debt. I always say that this journey is not easy, but it is so worth it and all of our sacrifices are temporary.


Are you on a debt free journey!? I would love to hear about it! Be sure to comment on this post or social to share your story! - Lauren

Camilo and Justin: The Debt Free Guys!

Be sure to drop by Instagram and say 'Hello!" to these two! Full of motivational posts, grocery hauls and so much more!