Home > Managing Debt > Getting Out of Debt Saved Our Marriage

Comments 1 Comment

When Ellie Kay married her husband, Bob, over two decades ago she knew she was marrying a hard-working fighter pilot. “I was starry-eyed,” she says. What she didn’t know was that he was carrying about $40,000 in unsecured debt.

Bob had been divorced and had two children. When his first marriage dissolved, he took on most of the debt he and his first wife had incurred. Ellie, on the other hand, had no debt and some money in the bank.

“It was really devastating when I realized how bad off it was financially,” she says. “Plus I felt a sense of betrayal that I didn’t know how much consumer debt he had.”

Then Bob took a $50,000 pay cut when he left his job in aerospace engineering to join the military full time. Ellie became pregnant right away and between children and the frequent moves required by Bob’s military service, she gave up her job in financial services. “We had five children in seven years and we moved 11 times in 13 years,” she says.

The result of all these financial pressures was that there were weeks when they didn’t have enough money for groceries.

Debt could have easily destroyed their marriage, says Kay. But instead it pulled them together. “He was tired of being in debt and he was tired of the lack of freedom because of the debt load he was carrying,” she says. “He was ready for a change. So we came together and said we would do whatever we needed to get out of debt.”

Joining Forces to Get Out of Debt

The first things they did was create a budget. It was tight. One-third of their income went toward taxes, one-third toward child support and 10% was tithed. They had to live on the rest, as well as use it to chip away at the debt.

The second thing they did was to make a commitment that any extra money that came in would go toward paying off debt. Their first tax refund? It went toward debt. The $50 birthday gift from grandma? Same thing.

Ellie even went on The Price Is Right game show, where she won a camper. Though the Kays wanted to use it, they never did. Instead they sold it and used the money to pay off more debt.

The third thing they did was to set up regular meetings (which she now calls the “Sixty Minute Money Workout”) where they talked about their finances for an hour. She explained the concept in an email:

This saved us from barking back and forth about money matters because we could table the topic until our Money Monday night where we would set the timer for an hour and discuss the matter. Our ground rules for the workout included: no condescending attitudes, no arguing, no throwing food and no accusations. We worked on our debt for an hour, then stopped.

Their efforts paid off and two and a half years later they were debt free. In addition, their journey opened a whole career path for Ellie, who became an author, speaker and writer who has written fourteen books. Her latest is Lean Body, Fat Wallet (Harper Collins, 2014). She now tells her audiences, “Your point of challenge may one day be your point of strength.”

Ellie also proudly notes that she and her husband have very high credit scores, in the top 2% of consumers nationwide. And while she doesn’t regret a thing, she says if she were getting married today she’d want to see a copy of his credit reports, “just like I would advise my millennial kids.”

You can get your credit reports for free once a year and you can check and monitor your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Ellie now spends her time helping others find ways to overcome their financial struggles. “When you look at how we dug out of debt in two and a half years it bordered on the miraculous,” she says. Not everyone will have the same results, of course. “We can’t promise miracles. But we can promise if you set up a budget and make a commitment (to pay off debt), it will whittle down.”

More on Managing Debt:

Image courtesy Ellie Kay

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • heavyw8t

    One of their rules was “no throwing food”? Good thing they couldn’t afford to buy any, eh?

    Great story of recovery. Like a wise man once said here, “Plan your work, and work your plan.” It took them only 2 1/2 years to lose THAT much debt. That’s a great story. I don’t know how much selling the game show prize helped, but when the waters are that rough, it really is “all hands on deck”.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team