Couple: 'We Paid Off $114,151 in Debt in 23 Months' - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine Summer 2019 Issue

Money is always a sticky subject when it comes to relationships. It’s the reason why most marriages end in divorce. Instead of letting debt take over their lives, this couple tackled it head-on. BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with Jhanilka and Anthony Hartzog, a millennial couple who had to face the reality of discussing finances and finding a pragmatic solution to tackling their overwhelming debt.

When did you know you were in over your heads?

Christmas 2016, we were excited to get gifts for the family. We put a ton of gifts on our credit cards, as we normally pay them off when due. After the holidays, we quickly realized we were in over our heads with credit card debt and had to dip into our savings to pay them off. As a New Year’s resolution, Jhanilka decided she wanted to save more and travel more. We were completely aware that this would be a difficult thing to do. However, in January 2017, we sat down and discussed our debt as a whole. In this discussion came to the decision to pay everything off (student loans, car, credit card debt, etc). We had never realized what our total amount of debt was. We had $114,151 in total debt and that was when it hit us.

What was your first step to paying off debt?

Our first step to paying off debt was to calculate the total and create a game plan. Anthony religiously listened to Dave Ramsey’s podcast The Dave Ramsey Show and read his book The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. This helped us to know where to start on our journey. We began with a budget. In addition to our budget, we adopted the debt snowball method, paying off the smallest to largest debt and tracked it on an amortization spreadsheet. From there, we were able to project how long it would take us to pay off the debt by only paying the minimum. We decided to start to take on more side hustles and did this in order to move the timeline of paying it off it into 23 months. We were able to meet our goal right in time for Jhanilka’s 30th birthday.

What were some everyday practices you executed to get rid of the debt?

Some everyday practices were making sure we stayed on track with our budget (this took us 4 months to successfully accomplish), as well as having our monthly budget meetings to go over our spending habits and discuss how we could save more. Money has become a part of our everyday conversations. It came to the point that we were excited to see our progress and hold each other accountable.

What are some practices you implement now to stay out of debt?

We are staying out of debt by not taking on new debt, not using credit cards and being more intentional with our money. We now have a 6-month emergency fund. This will help us avoid taking on new debt in the event of any life-changing circumstances. We also continue to do our budget and have our monthly budget meetings.