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23 Tips to become Debt Free

As a refugee from Vietnam, I came to America seeing so much wealth and excess and thought to myself, wow, everybody has so much and so wealthy. I had an inferiority complex when I was younger, especially during my teenage years up until my early thirties, then I learned that it was not always what it seemed. People were mostly in debts up to their eyeballs for these things that they purchased that became apparent in the recessions during 1990-91 and 2001, and the most recent credit disasters and the long recession that started in 2008. 

When we moved for my husband's job in 2002, we began to live frugally and squirreled  our money away even only with his income. I was a stay-at-home mom with our two year-old daughter. I learned that financial situations can change very quickly since my husband lost his job just three months ago, and I vowed to be smart with our hard earned money so we would never get caught unemployed without emergency savings. Luckily for us, my husband did some consulting work that floated us through those white knuckles-sweating bullets months.

We've come a long way since our post college days, starting out without any industry experience, and now our retirement is looming. I'd like to share some wins with you and the stunts we pulled to save a lot of money mostly on his income and some of my freelance work. Read more on 3 Financial lessons Young Adults Must Learn for Debt Free Retirement, and side gigs

Things we got during a job negotiation-besides money:

  1. House on the ranch when my husband got his job as a winemaker in 1992
  2. Work & personal use car as a Sales Coordinator that didn't originally come with my post college job
  3. Work schedules of 6:30 to 3:00 so I can pick up my school kids

Free walnut and honey

Things we get for free:

  1. Organic honey by letting beekeepers use our land to park his beehives
  2. Olive oil by helping friends picking olives
  3. Cherries, grapes, and olives by picking leftovers that deemed not pretty enough for markets
  4. Fish from fisherman neighbors & friends
  5. Hunting on friends' property = meat for the freezer & curing
  6. Fishing on friends' boat = fish for the freezer & curing
  7. Read books from the library/friends hand-me downs
  8. Hand-me downs toys & clothes for the kids (let fam & friends know you're open to this)
  9. Swap petsitting or babysitting with neighbors & friends
  10. Walking for exercise on nearby trail & park and skip gym membership
Our home purchased without a real estates agent

Our home purchased without a real estates agent

Things we paid less than market price:

  1. Bought our home from a friend without real estates agent. I learned from my 5 year old son's play date that his friend's mom was selling her home, so we pounced on the opportunity
  2. Furnitures and paintings (for pleasure and investment) at estate sales at fractions of original price
  3. Get books from the thrift stores
  4. Pay cash for building, painting contractors, and major appliances (minimum 10% off)
  5. Grow our own garden vegetables, share & can the excess
  6. Buy high quality clothing & shoes during semi-annual sales only on need basis at retailers that offer rebates and points
  7. Travel off-season and use SkyScanner app or Google flights for cheapest fares
  8. Vacation Rental By Owners (VRBO) lodgings or swapping homes & cars. Read Travel Alternatives
  9. Routine oil change (AAA offers 10% off at Jiffy lube) & car maintenance = less major & expensive car repairs
  10. Routine health & dental checkups =less major & expensive medical bills

Hope these lists will inspire you on saving money so you can pay off debts, buy a house, put kids to college, and retire debt free :)

All my best,


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