Extreme savers pay off $100,000 debt in four years
Matt and Amy Kroezen, their daughter Tanami, and baby Violet Sierra live just outside Nashville, TN. But their savings adventure began in Atlanta.
Click here for a transcript of a live chat with the couple.
"Atlanta was my introduction to America and it was such a vibrant place - different backgrounds, different colors," said Matt Kroezen.
Matt, who's Australian, and Amy met at ballroom dancing. He was an instructor.
"My accent got me a much prettier wife than I deserve, that's for sure," said Matt.
It also got him into debt. Amy had just graduated from interior design school and her student loans totaled more than $116,000.
"When the first bill came in, it was for $990 a month and that is devastating," said Amy.
"We decided to make little, tiny goals and the major goal being, we thought we could pay this off in about four years," said Amy.
Step one: Give up the Brookhaven apartment and move to Duluth. A savings of $450 a month in rent.
"Then we cut out all unnecessary spending. That meant buying all generic brands at the grocery store, shopping only for sales, using coupons," said Amy.
The couple lived off one paycheck and sent the other straight to the student loan.
"Each month, we had an envelope - for rent, water, electricity, groceries, gas, insurance and whatever bills we had and savings - and we would put the money into the envelopes. That means that if you're at the grocery store and you run out of money, you put something back," said Amy.
In one year, the couple made a $30,000 dent in their debt. That success put them into savings overdrive.
"Anything that we can do to find the cheapest way around, we will do it," said Amy.
Amy got power tools for Christmas and started building her own furniture. She also buys second-hand clothes and repairs them, makes her own household cleaners, laundry detergent, deodorant, face cleanser, hair shampoo and conditioner, body and baby wash, first aid ointment and more.
Amy also saved a bundle by breastfeeding and buying reusable cloth diapers.
"It's better for the baby, it's better for your budget," said Amy.
The family enjoys free entertainment - like board games and dancing - and their frugal lifestyle has paid off, because they're now debt-free. But they haven't stopped saving.
"A massive, massive secret to our success was establishing savings. Not savings so you can go on a holiday or a vacation, but savings because one day you're going to have a bill," said Matt.
Today, the couple still shares a cell phone and survives on a strict budget: $100 a month each for extras. But they don't feel like they're missing out, because living within their means and without debt makes it all worth it.
"It's hard and you need a really good support system. And it's not glamorous and it's not fun but at the end, it's like...ah...yes!" said Amy.
If starting to save "the Kroezen way' leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed, the couple suggests starting small. They say if you can only do one thing, bring your lunch to work. That by itself could save you $50 a week, or $200 a month.