How a 40-something couple paid off $109K in debt in just 50 months originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com
Brian and Lynn Brandow of Ronkonkoma, New York, admit they "never really had a plan" for their personal finances.
It was this lack of planning that landed them in $109,000 in debt just a few short years ago.
"We thought having credit cards and minimum monthly payments are normal. When I was trying to plan a summer vacation for the family and realized we didn’t have any cash savings and were basically maxes out on all of our credit cards, I realized we made too much money to be in that situation," Brian Brandow recently told "Good Morning America."
After learning what he could about paying off debt and using a popular method, Brian, 49, and Lynn, 48, crushed that debt down to zero in just 50 months. They even started a blog in the process.
"Good Morning America" is highlighting inspiring individuals who became debt free at various stages of their lives with "GMA’s Ultimate Debt Diet: Debt Free At Any Age.”
The Brandows embody a smart couple who had to retrain their personal spending habits and get an education in debt management to turn their financial situation around for good.
After realizing the avalanche of debt they were under, Brandow said, "I sat my wife down and told her we were out of options. The credit cards wouldn’t extend their line of credit. We were backed into a corner ... We owned a home with a mortgage. Had a second mortgage and 5 credit cards."
So, Brandow took action by listening to financial podcasts, cutting up their credit cards and getting the interest rate on their cards reduced.
"In the meantime, we agreed not to charge any further debt on the cards," he said. "The first couple of months were rough. It was getting used to new behaviors and spending less. We created a budget. Subscription services like Sirius satellite radio and Gamefly for the kids, we got rid of to save money."
The family also used the "snowball method," where you "pay down your first card so that bill is gone and then you can use that money to pay down the next and so-on." It basically helps you gain momentum so that paying off debt gets easier and easier.
With five cards to pay off, the gratification along the way helped the Brandows keep going.
"When you knock out that first credit card, you’re down to four," he said. "The momentum builds because you’re taking that payment and dropping it on the fourth card. Then when you pay off the fourth, you’re down to three. Then it builds. You’re constantly building momentum."
Today, the family is still credit card debt free and with the kids in college, it looks like they've learned from their savvy parents.
"They’re going to SUNY schools to reduce costs. Ultimately, being in debt was good for the family," Brian said. "Especially the kids, because it helped us talk to them about money and see that you can come through on the other side. They have a good foundation for things that my wife and I never had growing up."