17 Real-Life Success Stories from Debt-Free and Frugal Living Masters!

Debt Free living & Frugal Living Success Stories!

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This Debt-Free Living & Frugal Living Inspiring Stories Page contains a growing list (17) of success stories from our readers on how they avoid debt and live life joyfully!

If you’re looking for encouragement to keep going, you’re going to love reading these frugal living success stories from real people. Some struggle with debt, others are finding joy in living within their means. Keep reading and get stoked about the possibilities!

1. Frugality Helps You Sleep

I want to let you know how much your book and website have helped my family during this past year. I have had ongoing health issues (surgery, pneumonia, hearing loss, and ongoing tendon issues in both feet).

As a result of my health has missed a total of five months of work. As of today, I am still on work disability, but I only have one month of family leave left. My job could be in jeopardy, but because we only owe a little bit on our home mortgage, I am able to sleep at night.

Yes, money is tight, but it is doable. We took your advice in your newsletter to do some caulking, and get out more blankets. This way we could keep our heat between 62 and 65 degrees. With all your other tips, I do believe we will be okay even if I do lose my job.
Donna – Dowagiac, MI 

RELATED ARTICLE: How We Paid Off Our Mortgage in 9 Years

2. BudgetGirl Pays Off $33K in Debt on a Low Income

Here’s a great video about Sarah Wilson/ BudgetGirl eliminating a crushing amount of student loans, by budgeting and doing side hustles!

3. Frugal Living Allows for Indulgences

Although I have done without many luxuries during my life in order to save toward retirement, I have come nowhere near matching your money-saving accomplishments. I was proud of having made the final payment on my house after about 20 years on an average income of less than $23,000.

Cheetos on a plate - a guilty pleasure for debt free living

Even during months when I had no job, I managed to make the house payment, and we never went hungry. However, while you and I both packed our lunches for work, I was splurging on my passions for cigarettes, rented videos, and Cheetos. I stopped smoking two years ago, saving about $1,000 or more yearly, and I’ve cut way back on my movie rentals. However, I have to leave my cash and checkbook at home to avoid buying those crunchy, cheesy little morsels of delight.
Marcia –  Omaha, NE 

4. Frugality Takes Away Money Fears

We are another frugal living success story!

My hubby was downsized out of his job after working there for nearly twelve years. This could really sink a family financially, but we have no fear because we’re debt-free except for the mortgage. In addition to that, we have saved up an emergency fund of between six and nine months of living expenses – depending on how much we spend.

We should be fine for anywhere from nine to twelve months (and that includes our son’s tuition payments) with a bit of focused budgeting and some extra money-saving strategies. Our son has two years of college remaining. Please remind those out there who are just starting out on their financial journey that frugality really pays off! The peace and lack of fear that we’re experiencing are something we never want to lose.  Bonnie C. – Lakeville, MA 

5. Debt Free Count Down

Both my husband and I are grateful for this Money Smart Family website. We are still working on disciplining ourselves when it comes to money. Currently, we have managed to stop the bleeding as far as credit spending goes and have only been living on what we bring home in our paychecks. We traded down our vehicle and cut our auto payment by two-thirds.

We’ve set up a schedule for paying off our credit card debt and are counting down the months until we are DEBT FREE!!!! The goal of living without debt is something that we never thought we’d attain. Thanks for giving us the tools and advice to help us down the path.
A & S — Hixson, TX

6. New Job, Less Money, More Peace

Just a quick note to say, “Thank You” for all you do! I so admire your values and example. In fact, I have quit my job for one that is saner. . . and family-friendly. Even though I took a pay cut, through your advice and helpful website, I know we can make it! Catherine Wyman — Phoenix AZ

7. A Debt-Free Christmas & New Life

We are so thankful for how much you have helped us! In December we did not put one gift on a credit card —the 4 kids were happy with their gifts— and we paid off an additional 1000 dollars to our medical bill. We were laughing one night saying who makes extra payments in December? The peace of mind and fun we are having are priceless!
Keep up the good work and Happy New Year! Conrad & Crystal Zecher — Kempton, PA

RELATED ARTICLE: Magical Christmas on a Small Budget

8. Gratefully Debt Free

Having all of your money-saving resources means that we can refer to them regularly. We are so grateful for your help in bringing us to the place of becoming debt-free so many years ago.

We always tell people that outside of our salvation, marriage, and children, being debt-free is the best thing that ever happened to us. As a result, we are always encouraging those we live with here in Guatemala and back in the states to embrace the frugal life. And to also work to be completely debt free! We can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to live this way.
Art & Lisa – San Lucas, Guatemala

9. Once-A-Month Cooking & Financial Stress Reduction

We are a military family in DC. Most military families hate coming here because of the financial pressures — it’s very costly to live in D.C. We have been able to take some stress out of our lives by using the Once-A-Month-Cooking concept. Although I haven’t been able to get my shopping down to once a month, I am able to make it last for 3-4 weeks — that’s pretty close! With rising gas prices and considering how far away from the base (where the commissary is) we had to live to be able to find affordable housing, this is fantastic. I also can’t say thank you enough for this newsletter. I’ve learned a lot. I was not very good at economizing before and your tips have helped so much. Charla Rudesill — Herndon, VA 

10. Beating Down Debt

I would like to give you an update on my progress. I just finished paying off my credit card bill and am now working on paying down my mortgage. The trick I used was to make bi-weekly payments on my credit card bill. Then when I received my income tax refund check, I finally eliminated that bill! Anonymous 

Professional, Affordable Help To Get Out of Debt

Years ago when we managed a volunteer financial coaching ministry at our church, one of our most valuable resources for managing debt was Consumer Credit Counseling (also known as Money Management International in some areas — CCC/MMI).

We invited representatives from their organization to teach our volunteers, and we would regularly refer families we were coaching to them for help. They are a nationwide company, have agreements with thousands of creditors, and can negotiate payment terms for you when you’re overextended and can’t make your payments. They’ll usually be able to drastically lower your monthly payments.

But you need to know that they aren’t for everyone, you’ve got to have income and you’ve got be willing to set up a budget to repay what you owe. They negotiate with most credit card companies to eliminate interest, penalties, and other fees. They become your financial agent, managing your monthly payment to each creditor.

They’ve been in business for over 60 years and are one of the most trusted names in the credit counseling business. They charge a minimal fee — averaging about $20 per month. The fee depends on your financial situation. They provide counseling, training, and accountability. But more importantly, creditors know that CCC / MMI has a stellar track record of helping people pay off their debts, so your stress level will drop incredibly if you are working with them.

Money Management International Logo

Their website has loads of information on the financial decisions you may be struggling with.

Visit their website MoneyManagement.org or call them for more information at 866.889.9347.

11. Be Smart with Credit Cards

Two credit cards with Papa logos and Mom & Dad logos on them.

A question about using credit cards from a website visitor:

I’ve been told to only use a credit card because they are safer and you are less financially exposed to loss than with a debit card. What do you guys say?

MoneySmart Family Answer:

Debit Card Facts

We’ve used our debit card to make airline reservations, rent cars and we’ve even earned enough bonus points (some banks offer this incentive) with them to buy several round-trip airline tickets.


Debit cards are more readily accepted and safer now than ever before—especially with the new chip cards. The major brand debit cards—VISA and MasterCard—when processed as “Credit,” without using a PIN (personal identification number), are protected against fraud the same as a credit card.


Debit card usage rivals credit card use. In 2010 more than 1.3 trillion dollars were spent in the U.S. with Visa and MasterCard debit card transactions. By comparison, the Federal Reserve reports that in 2011, the combined total of all credit cards transactions totaled 1.9 trillion dollars.

In 2016 statistics show that 40 percent of consumers chose to use credit cards versus 35 percent choosing debit cards.

In the past couple of years, the consumer preference toward using credit cards increased by 5 percent while debit card usage dropped 6 percent.

Debit cards were the chosen method of payment for smaller transactions like groceries and gas. But larger purchases at home electronics stores, department stores, and restaurants were made with credit cards more often. 

Bank Charges

Overdraft protection is no longer automatically applied to your checking account (this is a good thing). You’ll now have to opt-in if you want it. Overdraft protection varies from bank to bank. Some require you to have a linked account where funds can be automatically transferred from, others treat it like a line of credit. Without overdraft protection, if you do try to spend more money than you have in the bank, your card will be denied (this is not a bad thing). Otherwise, if you spend more you’ll pay a fee for that privilege.

Holding Fees

This can be a negative if you don’t carry a larger balance in your checking account. When renting a car or a hotel room, most companies put a hold on a certain amount of funds if you’re paying with a debit card—somewhere between $100 and $200 is what we’ve experienced. At the end of the transaction, the money is put back into your account and you’re charged the agreed-upon price for your transaction.


Some people say that debit cards are less protected than credit cards. We disagree. Our experience has been that it’s easier to get a refund or contest a charge on our debit card than our daughter Becky had when she contested a charge on her credit card. There was also a time when our bank called us because someone had charged a 43-cent transaction in California on our debit card. Their fraud group was alerted and we canceled the card. We were told that someone, probably at a restaurant, stole our card number and ran a test transaction. If the transaction worked, they would try to sell our card information. We immediately canceled the card and were refunded the 43 cents.

The bottom line is that debit cards are as safe as credit cards, but the temptation to overspend or to go into debt is much less.

12. Debt Weary — But the End is Near!

The End is Near Street Sign.

Encouragement Question:

Hi, I don’t have a specific budgeting question, but I’m feeling the need to hear words of encouragement—and you guys are the BEST at that!

My husband and I have sacrificed a lot in order to become debt free (it has taken us a little longer than expected, but on December 22 we’ll make the final payment!!!!

While I’m so very happy about what we’ve accomplished, I sometimes feel a little down about the process of culling things I don’t really need. I feel silly about that reaction, and need to get a better perspective.


Wow, what an awesome accomplishment! Hang in there, the end is in sight!

We remember the days when all our friends were buying bigger houses and fancier cars than we had. They also had designer clothes and took exotic vacations, and all the while we were making sacrifices so we had a stable financial foundation. It was hard to watch, but it was so worth it!

You will reap rewards as you are faithful, keep plodding the path. You are sowing seeds that will bless you and others around you for a long time!

13. Debt Free Gratitude from the UK!

A single mom recounts her journey from a debt-riddled existence to debt-free living! She’ll never go back! Receiving letters like the one below really make our day. We are so proud of you Marie—keep going!

I wanted to say thank you to you both as you have quite literally changed my life. This seems to be an awfully big statement but if you bear with me I will tell you why.

I am completely Debt Free as of yesterday (apart from the mortgage which will now be overpaid till it’s gone).

I have paid off nearly  £30,000 in the last few years, as a single mum of two, working full-time and not having any knowledge of budgeting or saving until I found your website and had a lightbulb moment.

There was always “too much month” at the end of my money and it didn’t matter how much I earned it was never enough, so I bought your books, sat down, and got myself an education.

Passing Financial Education Down to My Kids

I also sat my two girls down and gave them the same education (wish my parents had done this years ago) anyway, fast forward and I use the envelope system for everything, have savings in the bank for the first time in my life (i am nearly 40) and

I have savings in the bank for the first time in my life (i am nearly 40) and
have paid all my debt off, what a relief! I feel so light and free, my money

I feel so light and free, my money is for me and my girls, not some faceless company. My girls sit with me every month and we do the budget, I find this is such a godsend as they can see where the money goes.

They know that just because I earn X amount it does not mean I can afford whatever they want that month. There are outgoings to consider as well, and it saves so many arguments and stresses.

We shop together, getting bargains and trying to beat each other with savings, it’s great fun. Plus, I know I am teaching them real lessons for when they are older.

Anyway, I wanted to say thank you, as even though I am ‘across the pond’ and
a lot of the advice is not relevant to me there is still a lot of information
I can and do use it.

And I wanted to say thank you, as I feel you have quite literally saved the roof over my head and showed me the way and I will be eternally grateful.

Wish you all the best, Marie

14. Money Stress Can Destroy a Marriage

Thank you so much for all you do to help others like myself be practical with our money. My husband and I made so many mistakes over our 11-year marriage. Unfortunately, we were under so much financial stress combined with other problems that our marriage ended this past summer. We sold our home and paid off all of our bills and debts and still walked away with some cash in our pockets. I’ve never gone through anything so horrible and I’m really sad.

With all of the stress I’ve been under, I didn’t apply much of your advice. But this experience has made me grateful for all the things that really matter. Now, being a single mom with three kids, ages 8-, 14- and 17 years old, I will be reading your newsletters and using every tip I can.  Michelle—Kent, WA

15. Poor Money Choices Meant Drowning in Debt

Just wanted to express how thrilled I am that you were on 20/20 in January. Your segment seemed way too short, I KNOW that you have so much to offer everyone.

We were one of those families that were thousands of dollars in debt! Unfortunately, we ended up filing bankruptcy, not just once but twice! I know that it’s terrible. I was filled with guilt and shame. It’s strange how credit card companies don’t bother mentioning the “extra perks” that go along with owing money! Not that it’s their fault, it was our bad choices, year after year.

But praise the Lord, we finally started making some GOOD choices. We were STILL in debt, so we sold our house that we loved so much, paid off the remaining debt, and are now free to give to others, as we were created to do. I thank God that He has forgiven our stupid, irresponsible behavior in the past and given us another opportunity to show ourselves as “good and faithful servants.”

This time, we never intend to go into debt again. We do not have any credit cards, only a debit card, if we don’t have the money, we don’t buy it! God bless your family. Melissa – Mesa, AZ

16. Credit Card Gone, Mortgage Next

I would like to give you an update on my progress. I just finished paying off my credit card bill and am now working on paying down my mortgage. The trick I used was to make bi-weekly payments on my credit card bill. Then when I received my income tax refund check, I finally eliminated that bill! Do you have any tips about paying off the mortgage early?

My family gave me a $200 gift card for Christmas to buy a TV. I saved it for several months, then just the other day I went to Walmart to buy a TV for the living room. The price was $468.00 for a 51″ TV, so I used the gift card and my Walmart employee discount. My final price was $258.00, and I had that money saved up in cash!

I’ll let you know how I’m doing on my mortgage. I’m hoping I can pay it off in about one year from now.

Money Smart Family Response

Thanks for sharing your update with us. You are really staying focused on eliminating debt. The last time you wrote was about 7 months ago and you owed $2500 on your credit card.

Paying off a mortgage is much the same as paying off a credit card. Control your spending with a budget so that you have extra money each month to pay toward the loan principal (the money you borrowed).

As your income increases, take some of the increase and build your savings; another portion to pay on the house; and a little bit of the extra that you are earning to enjoy. We wrote about this in our first book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money – in the Savings Chapter section about windfalls. Having a plan BEFORE extra money comes in will help you eliminate debt faster.

By the way, we love your story about the TV – you saved a lot of money by being smart and patient.

17. Patience with Money Decisions – Wins!

The biggest money saver I’ve discovered is patience!

If you do your research and know what you want and then wait for it to be on sale you’ll save a huge amount of money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved 50% or more just because I watched and waited.

Patience really helps me save money! Dianne Guastella – Midlothian, VA

If you’d like to read more about how to Make Some Extra Money, click on the words.

For more information about surviving a financial crisis, please visit this blog!
If you’d like to read some great finance books to inspire you, click here.

If you’d like some more great tips for debt-free living & Frugal living, visit our Pinterest Page and click on the board called Budgeting/Debt/Savings

Visit some of our Frugal Friends

– Mike & Tawra Kellam at LivingOnADime.com they’ve got lots of frugal living tips too!

– Gary Foreman at DollarStretcher has been promoting and living the frugal lifestyle for decades

If you have a debt-free/ frugal living tip that has worked for you, please leave it in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “17 Real-Life Success Stories from Debt-Free and Frugal Living Masters!

  1. Hope Ware

    We’ve been married for 29 years, lived under the national median income for 24 of those years, survived and thrived on 1 income for 20 years, and been debt free for 19 years. Oh, and we have raised 4 sons (age 20, 18, 13, and 9). Nope! That’s not a typo. I was 43 and my husband was 50 years old when we had our last son! In 1988, about 6 months after we got married, the local Christian radio station I worked for began airing programs by a man named Larry Burkett. It was all about financial freedom. I came home and told my husband, “We’re going to live on a budget and pay cash for our next car.” He thought I was crazy! We both made $5 an hour! We took a $1000 loan on the next car, paid it off in 6 months, and we have paid cash for every car since then. When we bought our first home, we found out what the bank would loan us and cut that amount by 30%. Then we looked only in that price range. In November of 1992, we bought a 2 bedroom bungalow with a walk-up attic, built in 1930. We were the 2nd owners. Making double payments, we paid off the 15 year mortgage five years later. We continued to live there for the next 13 years, making mortgage payments to ourselves. Seven years ago are updated to a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, brick ranch in a great neighborhood and paid cash.

    Here are my tips:
    1) Learn to embrace delayed gratification. Ask yourself, “Do I need this?” “Do I need this now?” “Can I afford this?” “How will this purchase affect my savings goals?”
    2) Nickels and Dimes add up to dollars. The small amounts of money you mindlessly spend DO add up. In reverse, the small amounts you save DO add up too!
    3) Get a team! If you are married, your spouse is your team member! If you aren’t married, find a mentor who will encourage you in your goals.
    4) Live on a written budget – every single month. Do what works for you. If it’s pen and paper, that’s fine. If it’s computerized, that’s fine too. Do whatever you have to, to track every expense regularly.
    5) Have a list of short, medium, and long-term goals. Track your progress toward these. Even after 29 years of budgeting, my husband and I have a quarterly “team meeting” to see how we are progressing on our goals.
    6) Remember to kill the fatted calf! When you reach a major milestone, celebrate! Kick up your heels. Dance, laugh, get a latte!
    7) Don’t compare yourself to others. While others may look like they are rolling in the dough, they may be rolling debt. Hold your head high. You are living within your means! You have a plan! You are working toward goals!
    8) This is the most important. I tell my boys all the time. Life is a JOURNEY, not a race. Stop and smell the flowers, enjoy each moment, revel in the little blessings which you receive every day.

  2. Tricia

    Not debt free yet! However we have paid off our cars, 2 credit cards, and our mortgage. We still have a second mortgage, and a credit card left. Plan to pay those off this year.

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      Tricia – You are doing FANTASTIC in pursuing the debt-free life. There is nothing more fulfilling than owning everything you have and owing no one! Keep going – you’ll be there soon!

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