The Distance We’ll Go to Get Debt Free: 1,049.6 Miles

Today is kind of a big day at FNP. My husband and I have a big announcement. Scroll down if you want the short story. Read on if you want the backstory.

After we had Baby FNP, I started to think of her before me, focusing on her future education and the activities I could put her in.

My first stop was to enroll her in music. After shopping around, I was dismayed to see that the music classes for a 3 month old were a staggering $160 for 6 weeks!

$160 for 6 weeks. Let’s just sit back and let that sink in — focusing on the fact that this is for a newborn who would most likely either sleep, cry, or spit up throughout the entire session. And, it didn’t include a $50 activity pack required for every student.

So music was out. But then so was swimming ($140 for 9 weeks), drop in daycare ($25/2 hour session), and trips to museums ($20/adult).

I was living in a city where everything was available to me, yet because my family and I were in debt, we couldn’t afford to give her what I thought she deserved.

What can I give my daughter?

^^^^ That question rang through my mind. Sure, diversity is free and there are free or inexpensive classes offered at the library. But here’s the issue — what happens when she’s older and can appreciate or want this exposure but my husband and I still owe over $50k to student loans and credit cards?

We had to make a change, and we had to do it fast while FNP Baby was still young enough to not be affected.

The sacrifice.

We racked our brains on what we could do differently. We could budget tighter, live off of Ramen. I could take on more clients (even though I am drowning almost every night in work, trying to keep up). My husband could drive for Uber after work instead of coming home. We could sell our furniture and our car.

But would we be living? Would we be able to watch our daughter grow during this crucial age?

We had to make a sacrifice…

…And what we came up with broke my heart.

moving to get out of debt
Know someone in debt struggling to live in a high cost area? Pin it or share this picture.

Back in August, we decided on an exit strategy. What was holding us back was our location. Our beloved Chicago was tying us down, keeping us poor.

Even though we lived in one of the cheapest areas in the city that was still safe, we were not making enough money to pay down debts fast enough. We are only contributing about $100-200 a month on it.

Both my husband and I needed to do the cardinal rule of debt payoff: Make more. Spend less. 

So, husband went looking for a new position in a less expensive part of the United States (or internationally, since he is an EU citizen).

The call that shocked us all.

FNP Husband probably sent in roughly 50 applications until he started to receive call backs. The first few were misses. The job paid too little, the benefits were crappy, the position was boring or uninteresting to him.

Then, a small college in Wyoming called. They sent both of us out to visit, paying for our travel expenses. And while the town didn’t exactly wow us (it reminded me of rural Illinois where I grew up minus a Target), the job did something no other job had done before — excite us.

Pondering life’s big decisions at the foot of the Badlands. 

We all traveled home with butterflies in our stomach. If they offered him the job, were we really going to do this? It was a 15 hour drive, a 4 hour flight with a layover. We knew no one in the area. What about FNP Baby and her support system?

Still, we wanted this. And they wanted him too. A few days after returning home, they offered him the job. We negotiated the salary to factor in moving costs and occasional travel back home. And when they gave us that + amazing benefits, we said yes.

So in case you want the summary:

In order to get debt free, we’re officially moving over 1k miles from Chicago to Wyoming in 2 months time. 

The new debt plan

Before we said yes, I crunched the numbers. In Chicago, we were saving $389 a month (if everything went as planned). In Wyoming, we anticipate saving $1,069 per month! Furthermore, the new job’s retirement plan is about 4xs better than my husband’s current one, meaning we will be adding an additional $5-10k to our retirement per year!

This is primarily because Wyoming has no state taxes, our overall cost of living will be lower (though rent will actually remain the same), and we anticipate spending less on entertainment and shopping now that we are living in a smaller town.

Goodbye Target impulse shopping! I’ll miss your $8 cardigan sweater!

My goal is to put at least $500-600 per month on debt starting with hospital bills and credit cards. Once credit cards are done, we will do a massive snowball and start hitting my student loans.

The other $500 + extra income from my and husband’s job will go to travel back to Chicago (which we anticipate doing 3xs per year), future international travel, and long term savings for retirement and potential down payment for a house savings.

And then, after the student loans are paid off, we plan on coming home. Yes, you read that right. We plan on coming home.

The other exit plan.

Neither my husband and I know if we will like it in Wyoming. We don’t know if we will be able to pay off much loans as we anticipate. But, if we do the math correctly, we think two years will be enough to be credit card and (my) student loan debt free (roughly $34k).

Two years is the perfect time for us to reevaluate if what we are doing is working and if it is worth it for Baby FNP. In November of 2017, we will sit down and make the decision. Until then, we are staying put.

I know this sounds crazy and extreme. It is. And that’s the point. But we have to do something. We have to go to the ends of the earth to give ourselves and our daughter the lives we deserve. Even if this is temporary or fails horribly, we will do it together in the name of freedom.

Climb to success or stay put?

So, goodbye debt. Hello Wyoming. We’ll see you in January.  

What extremes would you go to become debt free?


16 comments for “The Distance We’ll Go to Get Debt Free: 1,049.6 Miles

  1. November 5, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Good luck on your new journey. One thing I have to point out in regards to the opening section is that your desire to give your baby a lot of experiences is great, but I wouldn’t feel disappointed by the fact that the swimming or other things didn’t work out. I think spending money on activities for kids has to be done when it’s age appropriate, and I think at 3 months, they just need love, good care, nutrition and comfort. Music and all that is great, but I think spending that kind of money would be something that, especially with a focus on reducing debt, you would hopefully realize might very well be best spent later.

    • Michelle
      November 5, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Yep! And that’s why we decided to move. It’s not a big deal to us that we cannot afford it now. But it will be when she turns, say, 4. We realized quickly that despite us living where everything is available, nothing is really available to us if we cannot afford it. And at 6 months, she can’t enjoy it even if we could give it to her.

      So, better to move now to a low cost area, get out of debt, and maybe give her one class that’s very affordable (already found a swim class that’s $40/10 sessions). And then, when she is old enough to love the city like us, move back debt free!

  2. November 5, 2015 at 9:14 am

    How exciting! I can’t wait to follow along w/ your new journey!
    I visited Jackson Hole several years ago and I loved it there! But, I’m from VT so I’m used to rural 🙂

  3. November 5, 2015 at 11:09 am

    We moved to Arizona for my husband’s health, but it definitely sped up our debt repayment too. Things are just cheaper down here.

    I know it sucks to leave a beloved city (mine was Seattle), but good for you for doing what needed to be done. And services will probably be cheaper there too.

  4. November 5, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Wow, this is so exciting!! Congratulations and good luck on the move, it sounds like it’ll be an amazing opportunity for you and your family.

  5. November 5, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    This is exciting news! I hope the new job goes well and that you guys are happy with the move.

  6. November 5, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    What a great post. Congratulations to your husband with this new opportunity and as a family to move and get out of debt. I would certainly do the same thing if I needed to. You can always move again if you REALLY want to move back to Chicago down the road. We do what’s best for our family. Well done. I look forward to the updates.

  7. November 5, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Wow, big news! That’s a huge life step. I think it’s great that you’ve mapped out how long to be there to pay off debts and save some money. I’d just encourage you to be open to the possibility of actually liking wherever you go. Allow yourself to treat wherever you are as home, so you don’t use up years of your life waiting to get somewhere else. Looking forward to following you on this journey!

  8. November 6, 2015 at 5:58 am

    Wow, exciting! When we last moved we made a sacrifice too- we purchased a much cheaper and smaller house than we really wanted because we knew it would allow us to get out of debt that much faster. It has seriously been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I know that’s not the same thing as moving to an entirely different state- but I think the financial gains you will make will help it all be worth it!

  9. November 6, 2015 at 10:33 am

    I know this sounds scary to you Michelle but it sounds so exciting to me! The universe has presented a great adventure to you and your family and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. Right after I got married, I was offered a job in Florida (I was living in Atlanta at the time.) I had NO desire to move to Florida but it was a bigger opportunity for me, so my hubby and I packed our bags and moved two months after our wedding. While in Florida, we met some of our greatest friends, and enjoyed our five year adventure down there. Good luck with the move and enjoy the adventure!

  10. November 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Congrats! I applaud you for making a bold decision to tackle debt.

    As a Chicago area resident, I can appreciate what you have dealt with in terms of high cost of living. I can also appreciate the longterm interest in returning. As this is a really good city/area. But you never know, maybe the mountain west will really appeal to you long term. Best of luck with the move!

  11. November 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Congratulations, Michelle! This is so exciting and wonderful. It definitely sounds like you thought this out and I totally agree with the sentiment that it’s better to do the hard work now and reap the benefits later. In my own life, it means I’m living without a car for about a year while I knock out my student loans within the first year of graduation. For some people, a carless life is super extreme, but for me, it just makes sense. And ten years from now, I won’t even remember a year of taking the bus. Good luck as you prepare for the move! Working for universities is the BEST! (I currently work for a private university in San Diego) Such great benefits, vacation and *free* retirement money! Enjoy your new adventure 🙂 I’m excited to follow along.

  12. November 7, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Way to go, Michelle. I think you’re making the right decision for your family. No state income tax is one of the things that’s kept me in Tennessee. And I remind my parents about that every time they try and convince me to move home to Massachusetts. I can’t wait to read more about your exciting journey!

  13. December 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    That’s the spirit. When I became a father, all priorities changed for my kid. It was like I was greatly motivated to do anything for my kid’s future.

  14. December 13, 2015 at 1:50 am

    I know you can be debt free in just 2 years Michelle. All you have to do is to stick to your plan. Never ever be discouraged. If there is like a time when you feel like giving up, just think of what you have already accomplished and that you’re almost there. You can do it Michelle.

  15. December 14, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    That’s a bold decision, Michelle. I think it’s best time to be debt free as you have a daughter to take care of. The only way to be able to meet her needs and to provide a good future for her is to be debt free first. Good luck.

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