To Pay Off Debt You Have to Get Gritty


4458032012_8708d57574_z Photo by Brettro

My husband and I do not have debt. We avoid getting debt like we avoid stepping off cliffs, walking on broken glass and driving into oncoming traffic.

We are older – in our late 30s and early 40s – so it’s not that big of a deal to announce being debt-free at this age. But with so many younger people struggling to break out of the debt-cycle, I wanted to give my two-cents on the subject.

Here it is:

If you want to escape the debt-trap, you’re going to have get some grit.

What is grit?

That’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it. And, frankly, I don’t see it in people that often anymore.

My parents had it.

They were California hippies starting out their married lives in a VW bus, and when they had enough money they moved to a “shack” (as my mom puts it). And when they could afford it, they moved up to a trailer (yes, that’s right, the trailer was a step-up from the shack). And they continued to live below their means until they had started a successful home-building business. They always bought used cars – with cash. And one summer, in between spec houses my dad was building, we camped out on the deck of an unfinished house (with all of our furniture and belongings on the deck) in order to save money on a hotel or rental. They didn’t believe in debt, and they were willing to do the things no one else would do to get ahead.

My husband has it.

Just read these random facts about how he made it through two degrees with zero debt and money in the bank. He had just paid off his first house when I met him. This guy is oozing with grit. (Actually, he could stand to be little less gritty.)

I learned to have some, too.

When I was in college, I racked up some credit card debt buying stupid things (like clothes and eating out). When I finally realized how idiotic I was being, I took a second job at night preparing taxes for Jackson Hewitt on the bad side of town. (That’s a whole other blog post, let me tell ya.) I worked freakin’ hard and paid every dime off, all the time feeling like the biggest schmuck for falling prey to the scam-artist credit card companies.

Now, I’m on fully onboard the Grit Train and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Grit means doing the things others won’t do in order to dig yourself out of a hole or get ahead in this life. People might think you’re a freak, but then those who do are probably living in denial about their own mountain of debt. 

Bring gritty means:

  • Never buying a lunch out. Like, NEVER.
  • Canceling your cable.
  • Going to the library to rent your movies.
  • Forgoing the steak and buying beans instead.
  • Shopping at Goodwill or garage sales for your clothes.
  • Thinking of the many ways to forgo buying something… instead of thinking of all the things you can buy.
  • Being open to the unconventional: like camping out for a summer to save a buck, or living in an RV, or taking on roommates (like my husband did when he was single, renting every room out of his house including the dining room) or raising some chickens in your yard.
  • Eating those leftovers for umpteenth time even though you’re dying to just go grab a burger.
  • Working at night when you’d much rather zone out in front of the television.

And there are more – many more – examples I could add to this list. But I would like to know what you think.

Tell me some of the “gritty” things you have done – or do – to save a buck. In the meantime, I’ll go reheat some black beans and rice for lunch. ;)


Becca April 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm

having no cell phones
not having the latest, fastest computer if the one you have works just fine
buying in bulk if you have the room
turn off the lights!
use ‘free days’ to go to the museums, galleries, movies, bowling
take the bus
duct tape fixes a lot of things

Melanie April 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Awesome as always, Rebecca. ;)

My favorites out of your ideas — which are also the ones I think are the grittiest: take the bus (ouch!) and no cell phone (we did that for a few years).

The best one: “Duct tape a lot of things.”


Grace April 6, 2011 at 2:32 am

Okay Melanie first of all you black beans and rice looks darn tasty I must say!! Well you know coming from our family we are very gritty indeed. I also took out too many student loans in college that were very idiotic and I regretted it later. Lets see gritty things our way. We used to have a friday date night at a decent restaurant and spend about $50 bucks on two dinners and two drinks. Now we red box a movie $1 and cook a good fish or steak and potatoes about $12. We put any extra money into the house. We have replaced a roof (with outside help too), re tiled our kitchen and bathrooms, put down hard wood floors, painted the inside and out ourselves. DIY has saved us a fortune on fixing our house. We have bought all our furniture online…used of course but is excellent condition. Wow cooking at home was tough at the beginning but I have learned that cooking can be very simple and so delicious. I have joined a cooking club and we have dinners every month and we trade new recipes and its lots of fun. Let see what else….we do not have cable..we do have lite dsl internet. We cancelled our home phone service because we both have cell phones….Do you know any deals out for cell phone service? We pay about $80 a month on two phones….I think its too much. Well great blog….I dig it!!

Melanie April 6, 2011 at 3:21 am

Grace, your family wrote the book on being gritty to save a dime!

Love how you traded the dinner out for a Redbox movie and homecooking. Boy, does that make a huge difference, right? Cooking clubs are so much fun… and I think will only get more popular.

We have one cell phone (our only phone really) and it’s the Wal-Mart straight talk, no contract thing; we pay $45 for unlimited everything (talk, text, internet). For just unlimited calls, it’s $30 or so. (I think?) Your brother did all the research on that deal, so I can’t really tell you anything else about it. We just like not having a contract. (Straight Talk uses Verizon towers, too.)

Thanks for stopping by, Grace! We miss you guys!

crestedibis July 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Um…how about earning money? That has always been my solution to financial problems and avoiding debt. I have avoided debt for 54 years by having a multiple jobs at once. It helps to be skilled in a variety of disciplines and live in an area where your skills are needed.

crestedibis July 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I mean, if your ONLY goal in life is to save money, yeah, cut every corner possible. But I’d rather live in an apartment than an RV, have a regular job, and be able to have a few luxuries AND save, rather than making saving my only reason for being.

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