Alcoa couple offers advice after paying $92,000 in debt in 2.5 years

With great discipline, an Alcoa couple paid off $92K in debt in three years.

ALCOA - When Emily and Bryant Adler faced a debt of $92,645, mostly in student loans, the couple did not cringe.

They tackled the bills head-on.

"We came up with that number, and it was just like we were floored," Bryant said. "We wanted to travel, we want to do all these things, buy a house, and it was like this mountain was standing in our way."

Of that debt, $70,000 was for the couple's four college degrees in teaching. The remaining money was for a car loan, a couple credit cards, and a medical bill.

The Alcoa teachers decided to get their bills paid off one at a time, smallest bills first to their monster college loans.

The catch is they paid all those bills off in just 30 months.

"We used the Dave Ramsey method," Bryant said.

"You take the minimum payment from the smallest, when you've finished it, and put it on the next smallest. So then your minimum payment builds up and creates that debt snowball that he talks about," Emily added.

To get to the goal, the Adlers had to cut back -- big time.

"I think it started with a budget. We wrote everything down, and we saw where every dollar was going," said Bryant, "From there, we basically cut everything that we could. We lived below our means in every aspect of our life - from cell phones to food to clothes to everything. We cut every dollar that we could to put towards that."

They went from iPhones to flip phones, cut off cable, and didn't shop for clothes unless it was with gift cards for Christmas or their birthdays.

"We became big Netflix people," Bryant laughed.

Financial planners have heard of cases like the Adlers - but nothing like paying off that monstrous debt so quickly.

"It really takes a dramatic lifestyle shift, albeit, maybe for just a season of life that most people are not willing to do," said Paul Fain with Asset Planning. "A budgeting or spending plan just doesn't have to be horribly complex... it's just that the process of a daily or weekly check-in of what you're actually spending to that goal, and then making adjustments."

The Adlers said the first thing one can do to battle personal debt is to write down a budget, and figure out where a person could make a cut or two.

"Your life doesn't have to stay how it is now. You can change your circumstances," Emily said. "You can do this."

The couple still does not have cable and they still use a flip phone. They created a blog called the "Adler Debt Project," giving advice on what others can do to save.

Bryant and Emily said they will be the "Dave Ramsay Show" in March.


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