How Do They Do That: Indebted and In Debt

To our new readers: We like to take a weekly trip into the land of others and learn just how they make life happen! Have you ever caught yourself asking ‘How do they do that’? It’s not a matter of comparing ourselves to the Joneses, it’s the willingness to seek knowledge and understanding so, you too, can make the choice whether or not you’re willing to do that. What trade-offs are you willing to make?

Kirsten from Indebted and In Debt is joining in the fun today!

How Do They Do That: Indebted and In Debt

Indebted and In Debt

1) What about retirement? Are you saving?

Yes, but not enough. We are in significant debt, so our focus is on that. But because our employer matches 3.5%, we make that contribution to our 401(k) to take advantage of the free money. Because it’s free.

That’s it, though, and I know that’s not enough.

2) How often do you vacation? Where does the money come from?

Never. We don’t have money for that. Occasionally, hub’s family will pay for airline tickets for us to see them, but our last true vacation was pre-kids. We still had our student loan payments, but we didn’t have daycare costs.

Indebted and In Debt

3) Are you planning for college?

Um, yes. But no. I’m *planning* to tell my girls that student loans are evil (see what I did there?) So evil, in fact, that we don’t have money set aside for their education because of our own student loan debt. I plan to start coaching them early on how to get grants and scholarships and to look at local colleges and universities to keep costs down.

4) Do you have a car payment?

Again, yes but no. We didn’t. But we moved from Texas to the very far north and brought along my rear wheel drive SUV which didn’t do well in the snow and ice. And we have a long commute with two kids that come with us. When we couldn’t even get my truck up the hill to our driveway one day, my in-laws stepped in and pledged to do a couple of years of payments on a newer, safer vehicle. They have done more than they promised, but at any time, we could become fully responsible for the payment. We will then sell the car and buy whatever we can afford with the proceeds because we do not have enough money to afford the car payment.

5) Are you house poor? What is your mortgage/rent like?

Oh my, yes we are. I recently found our mortgage is about twice the national average. We live in an expensive area but not THAT expensive. It is a 30 year loan and it is not affordable on one salary. If we sold our house and bought something half the price, it would need a ton of work because everything here is super old, so that presents other challenges and costs.

But yes, our house payment, student loan payments, and daycare are over 50% of our take home pay.

Indebted and In Debt

6) How do you fund Christmas?

We save for it, but it’s pretty sparse. My in-laws go overboard, so there is really no need for us to go nuts. We buy stocking stuffers and one or two special things for each person in our house. For everyone else, we try to shop on a strict budget.

7) Let’s talk Home Improvements?

I’d rather not, this is a sore subject for me… But since you asked…

All the affordable homes in our area are super old, like early 1900’s, some late 1800s. So even the really “great” homes need work that you can’t even predict. Lots of work cannot be easily undertaken by an unskilled person (you have to worry, for example, about asbestos being in tiles, plaster, etc). We do budget (in theory) for a certain amount of repairs, but for improvements, my husband turns to the Bank of Mom and Dad.

So far, in the two years we’ve owned our house, they have paid for new blinds, updated light fixtures, faux carriage house accents for our detached garage, light bulbs that are iPhone controllable (and which you have to flip on, then off, then on again…, grrrr) and probably more that I don’t know about.

8) Do you save for school clothes?

The girls are not yet in school. So far, our family usually buys them clothes as gifts and covers their wardrobe. Thank goodness we have two girls, so the baby gets lots of hand-me-downs.

Indebted and In Debt

9) Do you deal with college debt?


My husband borrowed over $100k for a degree that starts off paying about $16k a year. He realized that career path had a lot of problems, so he got a Master’s degree. We paid for that out of pocket. I’m an engineer, and I borrowed about $45k for my degree, but my salary is completely able to manage those payments, which are much smaller than a typical car payment.

At the start of last year, as we entered our 10th year of paying on the loans, we were at just over $100k left. But in the last year, we’ve brought that down to just under $80k. We are making progress – finally.

10) Is your emergency fund where it should be?

No. We have about $5k. If I lost my job and we kept up with our payments, that would be gone in a month.

11) Do you carry credit card debt?

Not really. We have credit cards but we are pretty good about paying it off each month.

Hubs travels internationally frequently for his job. He is able to book those trips on our cards and pay off the trip with company reimbursement. So he racks up the rewards and the company comes through to allow us to pay off the card.

12) How often do you eat out?

At least every Wednesday. We have Bible study that night at our church, which is 40 minutes away from home. There is no time to run home after work, eat, and then get to Bible study. So we eat out. When the weather warms up, I’m planning to do a picnic at a park each week that weather will support it.

13) Do you mow your own lawn and clean your own house?

We do mow our own lawn, but we hired someone to handle the snow this year. We have two small kids and my husband travels frequently for work. Since I have to get out and get to work myself, I needed someone to come shovel me out to our detached garage. I couldn’t leave a 6 month old inside while I handled that and we have no family nearby. Thankfully, we only needed the snow guy a few times this year.

We also hired some housekeepers while I started to freelance, thinking there was no way I could work full-time, freelance, and clean house. This is temporary, but it’s been nice. Hubs gets motivated to keep the house picked up before they come, so every two weeks, the house looks ok for a few days. It’s been worth it just to get my husband routinely motivated to help out.

14) Name a Frugal Fail?

The fact that I am not frugal at all 😉 If I realize one of the girls needs shoes or jacket, I will buy it new, and never make a stop at a thrift store or search Craigslist. I just want to get what I need as quickly as possible. My impatience works against frugality.

Indebted and In Debt

15) Your Question: Do you get an allowance?

We don’t really. There is no extra money in our budget.

Kirsten realized this isn’t the life she wants. She's ready to do something about it! Read more at How Do They Do That: Indebted and In Debt

Thank you so much for sharing, Kirsten! Are her kids adorable, or what?!!! Kirsten from Indebted and In Debt is a coffee lover, NASCAR enthusiast, slow runner, terrible vegan, and above all else, Christian. She is a full-time employee, wife and mother of two young girls and two really old dogs, filled with wanderlust, and consumed by debt. Kirsten and her family have been getting by because of generous family, but looking at her innocent daughter – whom she passes off to strangers five days a week – Kirsten realized this isn’t the life she wants. She’s tired of getting by and missing out on these early years. She’s ready to do something about it!

How do YOU do that?! Inquiring minds want to know about the choices you make.

Brave souls, willing to bare it all, click below:


How Do They Do That: It’s Your Turn!


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29 comments… add one
  • Kara @ The Daily Whisk Apr 29, 2015, 7:08 am

    Great interview, Kirsten! I love your honestly! And I love that little red coat, too!

  • kay ~ Apr 29, 2015, 7:17 am

    Wow, Kirsten, Wow. I don’t even know what to say. I remember being in your position. Wow. I didn’t realize how much I had forgotten about when we used to be in your position. Wow. I am praying for you Kirsten. I believe all of us pray-ers are. Excellent interview, Jayleen, with an excellent lady. 🙂

  • Daesha Apr 29, 2015, 7:19 am

    What an honest interview! Thanks, Kirsten, for sharing!

  • Christina @ Embracing Simple Apr 29, 2015, 8:31 am

    Great interview Kirsten! I could be more frugal when it comes to clothes for my little girl too, I typically always buy new (but drastically on sale), but I know that I could get such deals if I took the time to go to thrifts stores more.

  • Robin @ The Thrifty Peach Apr 29, 2015, 9:13 am

    Kirsten, your honesty always humbles me, and that picture of your girls is just too sweet!

  • Brian @DebtDiscipline Apr 29, 2015, 10:03 am

    Love the interview Kirsten. Great to get to know more about you and the family!

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 2:56 pm

    That coat was one of those gotta have a coat Target purchases I mentioned 😉

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 2:57 pm

    Thanks, Kay!!

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 2:58 pm

    Happy to see you over here!!

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 2:59 pm

    There are such great deals out there! I just feel so overwhelmed at thrift stores! And then if they don’t have what I need, it’s wasted time…

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 3:01 pm

    I don’t think anything of it 🙂 this is the real story, warts and all. Guess it helps that I’m semi anonymous!!

  • Kirsten Apr 29, 2015, 3:02 pm

    Thanks Brian!

  • catherine Apr 29, 2015, 6:35 pm

    Great interview, good for you guys for finally getting debt under 100k!

  • Jennifer @ WanderlustWallet Apr 30, 2015, 3:24 am

    I really enjoyed reading the interview! Congrats on the progress you’ve made paying down student loans in the last year. Your daughters are adorable, Kirsten!

  • Kristina-Cents and Order Apr 30, 2015, 8:08 am

    I’m loving this series. It’s interesting to get a sneak peek into how others handle their finances!

  • SavvyJames Apr 30, 2015, 9:00 am

    A terrific interview. It is always interesting to see how others are approaching retirement planning (and execution), particularly when existing debt plays a significant role.

  • Chela @SmashOdyssey May 3, 2015, 9:44 am

    Great interview! Kirsten, I love your wedding picture, and your girls are so beautiful! I think the picnic in the park idea sounds great, your girls will love it. And even though your house might be a financial pain point, at least it´s gorgeous!? Wow, really, it´s lovely. Chin up, girlfriend, you´re doing great and kicking that debt to the curb!

  • Rosemarie Groner May 7, 2015, 6:40 am

    This is such a fantastic interview! I don’t think you’re impatient at all, just super busy. I remember exactly how that feels. I worked a gazillion hours a week on a weird and constantly changing schedule, plus trying to be a mom wife and homemaker. It was the most stressful period of my life. I found ways to make up my income from home and took a leap of faith. 3 years later, it was the best thing I could have done. I have about the same amount of money as I did then, but I have time! Time to make more money, to pursue dreams and to take chances. Hang in there… Step by step you’re getting closer.

  • Tracy May 7, 2015, 8:25 am

    Sounds like you need some Dave Ramsey. You depend too much on your in laws for things your responsible for. Seriously you need some Dave…

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:35 am


  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:36 am

    Thank you 🙂

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:36 am

    Jayleen definitely had a good idea here. It’s good to see the good and the bad.

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:38 am

    If I had understood more about retirement in my teens, I don’t think I would have allowed myself to have student loans at all. (Of course, my student loans aren’t the biggest part of the puzzle).

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:38 am

    That was our first house – before we got smart. We are on our third house now. Smaller, cheaper 🙂

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:39 am

    Thanks, this is very encouraging.

  • Kirsten May 7, 2015, 10:53 am

    I once posted my complete budget to a forum of Dave Ramsey afficianados and left them stymied. They had no clue how to help me. Hubs can’t work a second job because he travel internationally and on short notice. He’s also been trying to find a NEW job for 2 years. I can’t work a second job because I’m already expected to work 60 hours a week at my current job. We eat rice and beans at most meals since I am vegan. We have no cable. We are trying to sell our house, though we know we’ll end up somewhere with lead pipes, asbestos everywhere, and mice in the cabinets. We have cut every single area. Your comment isn’t terribly helpful – I know all about Dave.

    As far as the in-laws support with clothes and the truck payment – if they ceased paying the truck, we’d sell it and be just fine. They pay it and it’s fine. All grandparents buy their kids clothes and it just turns out that we make do with what they send us and we don’t buy more. I don’t know why they buy home upgrade items, but usually what happens is they come to town to vist and they’ll take my husband shopping at Home Depot. It’s their idea. You know why I think they do it? Because they feel guilty that they had enough money to pay for his college, but didn’t, and left him with $100k of student loan debt. I do wish they’d just pay the loans instead, but I think they don’t interfere with the loans for fear of making us feel like a charity case. They offer the goods and the cash by way of “presents” to seem less invasive, but I think I have their game figured out 😉

  • Heather @ My Mothermode May 8, 2015, 6:18 am

    Sounds like you are doing as much as possible to help the situation. More ideas….
    Do you have children’s consignment sales in your area? They are a quick & easy way to get a complete wardrobe for a few dollars. Also, The Children’s Place has some amazing clearance/coupon code deals.
    An older home is fine! It is not too hard to seal it with new paint- you can do it. Get a cat or put out mouse bait/traps (use a pet-safe type.) I found a free 1 yr old cat that was already spayed!
    Maybe you can put your foot down about the 60 hours/week or look for a new job yourself? Prayers going out for you…

  • Sarah May 8, 2015, 6:22 am

    This is a wonderful interview! I am really glad to hear that there are other people out there that are living exactly like me. And ready to change. I can’t wait to get to a place where we can be cofortable, but right now we also live off of the bank of the in-laws and being behind on things. Thank you so much for this interview!

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