business

How Sarah Earns $5,000,000 A Year With Shopify

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to start an online store. I recently had the chance to interview Sarah Titus of Million Dollar Shop and SarahTitus.com, who explains exactly how to start an online store and make extra income. If you want to learn how to make passive income, this is a great option!
Here's her easy-to-understand definition of what she does:
“An online store is the same thing as your local grocery store, except that it’s online. So you go to your grocery store, you see a bunch of products and you buy them. Same thing here. It’s a digital store. So instead of buying celery, you’re buying printables that help you organize your entire life, that create calm in the chaos for you.”
If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle, learning how to start an online store may be something that you want to look into.
Check out the interview below for more information. She answers questions such as:

How much money she currently earns
How much time this takes her
What exactly an online store is
What you can sell with an online store
How she finds customers

And much, much more!
Read below to learn more.
Related articles on how to start a Shopify store:

Want To Make Money From Home? Here Are 17 Of The Best Online Jobs
75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
My Online Business Income Reports
8 Items To Sell Around Your Home For Extra Money

1. Please give us a little background on yourself, how you started your online store, and how it’s going for you right now.
I was walking by my husband’s phone and he got a text. For some reason, it caught my attention and I looked at it. It was from a girl. She was saying she loved him.
My whole world, tears, came crashing down in an instant. He ended up taking my debit cards, then physically abusing me. I had ¼ tank of gas and had to get away. I called a local Pastor who helped me get out safely and ended up living in a homeless shelter with my two babies.
Fourteen years of marriage, down the drain in a millisecond.
After I got out of the homeless shelter, I got my first apartment. I was bent on not working outside the home. My kids ALREADY lost their dad. I wasn’t going to let them lose ME TOO!
I did what I knew. I sold on eBay. I’d go to yard sales, pick up stuff to resell. I’d get things, whatever I could, to survive and be home with my little ones.
I started doing pretty well. Making enough to pay all my bills. Then, I started niching down on eBay to selling Littlest Pet Shop toys. I was the highest paid Littlest Pet Shop toy seller in a market with over 40,000 ads on any given day.
My store on eBay was thriving. I was doing really good, and I learned how to sell something better than my competitors. I would dress them up like Barbies. Ship in pretty organza bags so they felt like they were getting a GIFT. I gave them coupons for future purchases ($10 off $50). I created a free website for Littlest Pet Shop coloring sheets, wallpaper, games, everything. I created a Pinterest account to drive traffic to my eBay store for Littlest Pets.
I was making good money ($18,000 a year at the time). Things were great.
But I wasn’t satisfied in my SOUL, you know what I mean? I was feeling like, selling a toy doesn’t change the world. It doesn’t help people.
I wanted to do more with my life. Be more.
So, I started blogging. Friends were asking me a ton of questions about how I was making income from home and living so well on so little.
They told me they were making $60,000 a year, yet here I was, making $18,000 a year and I had way more than them. WHY? HOW? They asked. Each question they asked, I turned into a post and that’s how I started blogging.
A few years into blogging, I was making really good money. Six-figures/year at that point, but I wanted to not have to work so much. Yeah, I was making six-figures, but I was working 80-120 hours a WEEK (yes, a WEEK!) for three YEARS straight.
I thought to myself, if I ever DO get married, I’m sunk. I can’t even date someone. I’ll never get married because I’m too busy always working my guts away. I wanted a different life. A life that could be more autopilot. I had this dream that, if I ever got married again, I’d make enough, passively, that we could travel or do whatever. We wouldn’t be tied to the computer working so much. And he could be home with me, as a family.
So, I took six months to start closing loose ends and systematizing everything. Once I got a handle on things, I wanted to sell my first product, a Blogging Binder. I put it on Podia but it didn’t sell but a couple copies.
I sat there in the middle of the night contemplating, what will I do? Give up? Is it the binder? No one likes it? I decided to make one last ditch effort, put it one more place. Through a google search, I found Shopify and tried that. It sold 52 copies! Just the platform alone did that!
My Blogging Binder released on May 9, 2017 and by June 17, 2018, it had sold 13,667 copies. Just that ONE product. No shipping, no envelopes, no lost in the mail, no post office fees. I’ve been able to keep a lot more profits than when I sold physical items. Plus, it’s not like eBay, where they nickel and dime you for everything. With Shopify, it’s one small low-monthly cost and a tiny transaction fee (for the debit card processing part). Easy peasy!

2. How much do you currently earn through this?
Within my first month on Shopify, I made $52,060!
I knew pretty quickly into it, I hit on something pretty major. All those 21 years on eBay paid off in Shopify. I knew how to market, how to sell, how to give discounts, how to treat customers, and most importantly, how to set up a store in a way that GETS people to give you their debit card number and BUY!
Since opening my store in the middle of the night on June 1, 2017, I’ve made $6,481,108.60 to date (July 12, 2019). I make $5 million a year currently in Shopify.
What started out as a bad situation, turned into something much better than I ever thought imaginable. It sucks about my ex-husband. I’ve been blessed more than I ever thought possible.
Opening a Shopify store for me, has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my entire life! Not just because of the money, but because now I don’t have to work a bunch of crazy hours. I’m truly FREE!

3. How much time do you dedicate towards it?
Between me and my team members, we work a combined 16-20 hours at the moment (this number includes everything I do: my blog, the store, courses, etc.)
I work around 9-10 hours a week myself. I do work on printables sometimes online as a hobby, but it’s just goofing off or stuff I wanna do. I WORK 10 hours a week.
Mostly, I only have to MAINTAIN the store now. In the beginning, I had to put more time into it because I was creating products to sell. Now, I just create one new binder every month. It takes me 2-3 days to create a new binder usually. If it’s a really hard one or super lengthy, a week, but on average, it’s just a few days to create.
Binders for me, are what I use to GET people to the store as well as to stay on my list. I give the binder free for the first three weeks, then charge for them.
Outside of that, it’s just email support, which is VERY low because I have most all of that automated. This helps keep the customer service requests down so I can spend my time creating more products.
The last thing I do for my store is email my newsletter list. Most of the time, it’s just about getting them to the store with the free binder and they do the rest. They see other things they like and buy them or there’s a deal in the header bar at the top of the site that gets sales. So, I just focus on that and it’s not salesy or pushy in any way. They build up my reviews and then because of the reviews, others come along and buy.
My audience also sometimes pays for things that are free. They are seriously sweet. They say they receive so much free stuff from me, they wanna pay. It’s the sweetest thing ever.
I don’t do any paid promoting at this time. I would like to get into Facebook ads soon, but right now, how I get all my sales is simply giving out free stuff and coupons to drive traffic to my store.
Related: How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year

4. What exactly is an online store? Can you explain this more for those who have no idea? Do you have to be a blogger?
An online store is the same thing as your local grocery store, except that it’s online. So you go to your grocery store, you see a bunch of products and you buy them. Same thing here. It’s a digital store. So instead of buying celery, you’re buying printables that help you organize your entire life, that create calm in the chaos for you.
You can sell absolutely anything you want to (within reason, not illegal stuff, etc. obviously) in your store and best of all, you own it. It’s stable because it can’t be taken away from you!
You don’t have to be a blogger to sell on Shopify. But if you want to start a blog, you can have a separate blog, or you can even have your blog on Shopify, which is great as well.
The only upside there to having a separate blog while selling on Shopify is that Google tends to send more traffic to a great SEO’d website over a shop, but one of my friends gets just as much traffic as me to JUST her Shopify blog/store, as I do to my separate blog and store.
So if you’re just starting to set up a store, I wouldn’t recommend setting up a blog at the same time. It would be too complex. Just focus on one at a time and then add another as time goes on if you want them separate.
Either way, you do not have to be a blogger, as long as you promote your store. You have to have a way to drive traffic to it. That could be on social media, YouTube videos, talking to friends about it, handing out business cards, handing out fliers. I mean, there’s a bazillion ways to get traffic to your store, ESPECIALLY if you offer something FREE!!!

5. Is Shopify easy to use?
Shopify is THE most easiest thing I’ve ever learned to do online. No kidding. I literally remember setting up my shop in around 5 minutes and was like…am I done?
I was actually done. Then, it was just about making things pretty and professional and using my knowledge of how to get sales and get those conversions.
That’s the part that no one seems to know. And using my 21 years’ experience on eBay, I know EXACTLY what to put and where to make people feel comfortable enough to buy my stuff. Your store is like a map. You need them to come and buy, not come and leave and it’s all about HOW YOU SET IT UP that matters.
It’s easy to set up. But so many people set up a Shopify store and never make more than fifty bucks.
There is a lot more than goes into it. People are giving you more than their email address. They are giving you their home address, phone number, and debit card number.
Do you just give that stuff out to anybody?
No, right?
Neither will your customers. You have to set up your store in a way that makes them feel SAFE. Like they TRUST your site and YOU. So you have to set it up very specifically or sadly, it won’t convert. All of that is taught in my Million Dollar Shop® course.
How to get reviews, how to set up reviews so you get them and why it’s so important, how to set up your store so they buy, what free apps to use that’ll make your life so much easier, what bylines and legal verbiage you need to use to protect yourself, how to systematize your store to keep customer service requests low, how to set up products and what to say to get people to buy, and so much more is included in that course! I go through it all. Absolutely everything you need to know to run and have a successful Shopify store.
Click here to check out Shopify.

6. What can a person sell? Where do you find products when starting an online store?
You can sell literally anything you want (within reason). There’s a list here of things a person CAN’T sell on Shopify here under the B.5 section. Things like drugs, copyrighted stuff, gambling, pornography, get rich schemes, etc. These are all outside to scope of what any of us would want to sell.
But for example, if I wanted to sell Littlest Pet Shop toys again today, I’d have my OWN store on Shopify rather than go through eBay, where there’s SO much competition. Having my OWN store, makes the sales come easier (if it’s set up properly) because I’m not fighting anyone else for that sale. The buyer is just seeing MY stuff at the time. I have their full attention.
However, after selling physical products for SO long, I highly encourage you to sell digital products instead. There are far lower overhead costs with digital products. You don’t have to worry about shipping, people not getting orders, things breaking in the mail, a wrong order being sent out, cost of the product, shipping costs, gas to pick up or find items to sell, etc.
Some people try to drop ship as well. I find most of those stores fail. Most drop shipping (99.9%) is just a scam. The other, legit 0.01% is not worth it because of the things mentioned above. I’ve seen a lot in my years of making money online and wouldn’t touch drop shipping if my life depended on it. It’ll just ruin your credibility and it’s not something YOU own. You can’t control it when they ship the wrong order and you lose a customer because the customer gets mad. I’d stay away from drop shipping. You just don’t want a business that relies so heavily on someone else like that. If they go out of business, your whole empire you built is gone in an instant.
For me, I sell printables. If you don’t know how to make printables, I have a full course where you get to sit side by side with me and watch as I create them from start to finish! I show you the entire process. It’s one of my favorite courses, because it’s so much FUN. Creating printables is addicting for me. It’s the most funnest thing ever and I get really into it.
One of my other courses, Top 13 Things To Sell in Shopify (That Makes the Most Money), is a great course if you’re trying to determine which path is right for you to sell. It covers the top 13 most profitable things to sell on Shopify and then gives a bird’s eye view of good, working strategies of HOW to go about selling that particular thing successfully.

7. How does an online store owner find customers?
This is the fun part! You can find customers in any way you want!
There are a bazillion and one ways to find people who will fall in love with your stuff and pay you to have it. You’re only capped by your imagination really, but the first thing you’ll want to do is establish how YOU want to go about getting traffic to your store.
The easiest way is to work off what you already have going for you. So, if you have a blog already, add a store and drive traffic that way. If you have social media pages or groups, drive traffic that way.
Another way to drive traffic is by paying for advertising. This is something that I haven’t ever done yet (I hope to in the future, but haven’t yet). Things like Facebook ads or Instagram ads would work great.
Likewise, having an Instagram account for your store is a great thing to do. One of my friends, makes $5k/month in her Shopify store consistently and she drives traffic from her blog, her newsletter, and she created a cool Instagram account specifically for Instagram. She says she gets most of her sales from Instagram (she does a mix of posts and little videos showing how to use her products).
Social media is great! You can create YouTube videos (unboxing videos, product videos, etc.) For me, I have videos that show the printables like a book with the pages turning. I show how to create those specific videos in the Million Dollar Shop® course under the products section.
Another way to drive traffic is by installing an affiliate app. You can get affiliates to help spread the word. I don’t currently have affiliates on my store as I just sell way too much to keep up with what I have now, but I know there are some affiliate apps out there worth giving a shot to.
After a while, you become known and people remember you. For my site, direct traffic is the #1 way I gain traffic. People remember, know me, and come back, and they’ll do the same with you.
The best overall way that I’ve personally found to drive traffic to my shop, is to give away something highly valuable to other people. For me, that’s a 100+ page binder. They like it, sign up for my newsletter, and instead of giving them some download straight from my blog, I make them order it free, using a discount code, in the store.
This gets them used to the process of ordering in my store, they already have an account, etc. so the next time they want to order, they are already in the system and feel comfortable using the platform and have no reservation purchasing.
My returning customer rate is really high. In the past 30 days, it’s at 70.2% and I’ve gotten 8,775 traffic sessions (this is sessions, not pageviews).

You definitely want to strive to get repeat customers because it’s MUCH easier to sell something to the same person then selling something to a completely new person. However, you do want new customers too, so a good balance is what you want to shoot for.
I personally shoot for no more than 75% repeat customers. This means I’m getting at least 25% of people in the store that are new and I’m growing, gaining traction, and getting new word of mouth sales. You can determine your own goals and what works best for you. When I first started, it was near 50/50 and that’s a great balance too.
Both the Top 13 Things to Sell in Shopify and Million Dollar Shop® courses go over how to get traffic in a much deeper way.

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?
It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. A Shopify store is only $29/month and that includes a blog if you want it. Then they have super tiny transaction fees by PayPal when you make a sale. If you want additional apps, those can vary in price. I use several apps, which I go over in Million Dollar Shop® and only pay $15/month in apps.
Then, when you start making $1k/month+, you’ll want to move to the $79/month Shopify plan because that includes better analytics. You can see how much sales you’re making for each product and that helps you determine what KIND of products to create MORE of.
All in all, it’s very inexpensive. They don’t nickel and dime you like some other platforms do and if you ever get stuck, they have 24/7 chat support, which is a really great feature that most other companies do not offer.
Another great thing is that they give you the theme free. They have many themes to choose from and I’ve BETA tested a few of them and share all my findings in the Million Dollar Shop® course. A free theme on Shopify is great, so that’s another thing you don’t have to worry about paying for.
If you want to save even more money, you can talk to chat and they can give you deals if you purchase by the year or 2 years, etc. Since my store is extremely stable and makes me a lot of money, I bought the 2-year plan and it saved me some significant money.
When you’re just starting out though, you’re only looking at $44/month + tiny transaction fees based on the price you sell your item at. Shopify gives you a generous 14-day free trial period to take it for a spin too and get things set up before you have to start paying, which makes it super nice.

9. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to learn how to start an online store?
I think the main thing is really deciding if starting a store is right for you and if it is, going for it full throttle. Not saying, “Well, if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it won’t”. That kind of wishy-washy attitude won’t get anyone anywhere. You have to be bold and just jump in!
Having your own online store is such a fantastic way to earn money. In my 20+ years of making money online, I’ve quite literally seen everything, and this is by far, THE BEST way to earn money the fastest and easiest, that I’ve ever seen.
Think about it. After 20 years of my selling on eBay, I was making $3k/month. After 2 years blogging, I was making $23k/month. After 2 years on Shopify, I’m making $5 million/year.
The other ways of earning money are fantastic and nothing to sneeze at, for sure (!!), there’s just a lot more POWER and profitability when earning money in a store. It’s also the fastest way to go. If you start a store today, you can be earning money by this afternoon. With other options, it takes more time to set up, to establish yourself, etc.
They are all great ways to earn money, but I believe that Shopify has a lot more power to make money quicker. If you wanna make money online, that’s the way to go, for many people.

10.Why should a person take a course on this subject? Is it hard? What will they learn with your course?
The truth is that a lot of people set up Shopify stores and they think they can go it alone. But they can’t. They crash and burn and never get any sales and wonder why.
The problem is because they haven’t laid the proper foundation. Even if they try to mimic or copy me, they don’t know WHY they’re doing what they are doing. Not having that knowledge of WHY do this or that or how to make their own decisions of how to determine what works best for them, isn’t going to make someone succeed.
Another problem is that, some people try to start a store on their blog and use plug in stores like WooCommerce, etc. Those plug in stores, out of all the people I’ve coached, I’ve only seen it work for ONE person and that’s because her husband is an engineer!
100% of the people I’ve coached, who’ve started out on a store plug in on their blog, move to Shopify and they INSTANTLY start making more sales. This is because customers TRUST Shopify and PREFER THEIR checkout over other solutions. My last customer I worked with, made 400% more just by switching platforms (WooCommerce to Shopify). Like my own fail with Podia, it really IS all about the platform and how you set it up.
After you set up your store on the right platform and in the right way, you need to begin your strategy of how to get people to your shop and how to get sales. Million Dollar Shop® teaches all that, from start to finish. It guides you through the entire set up process, then teaches you how to get sales, in a hand-holding friend style.
Then, if you want to sell printables and don’t currently create them in professional software (that’s key to your sucess) or don’t know how to make them, How to Create Printables, is the perfect course for you.
Million Dollar Shop® trainings (the whole platform) has sold over 40,000 products to date. These courses aren’t just something put up by someone, somewhere online. They are taught by someone who’s been in e-commerce for 21 YEARS and have been tested by tens of thousands of students to work! You just can’t get this information anywhere else. It’s a complete system that I created myself and have perfected over the years.
P.S. You can get 15% off by using the code MAKINGSENSE15.
Are you interested in starting an online store?
The post How Sarah Earns $5,000,000 A Year With Shopify appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

How We Paid Off $100,000 of Debt on a Single Income

Hello! Today, I have a great debt payoff story from Sarah. Sarah is a Southern California mom of 3. She blogs over at Let's Talk Mom Business about the budgeting and frugal living strategies she and her husband used to crush $100,000 in debt while living on one income.
Shortly after having our second child 6 years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted to get serious about paying off our debt.
We had been making our monthly payments, but we weren’t really making any progress. Some months we were even adding to our total debt by paying for unanticipated expenses on our credit card.
I am a stay-at-home mom so we were living on one income, and we knew that carrying such a large amount of debt was dangerous, especially without much of a savings.
We outlined a strategy to budget by paycheck using a zero-based budget, and I created a budget binder to help us track our finances.
This strategy helped us pay off $100,000 in 4 years on a single income while growing our family (and we’re NOT rich!).
Other debt free stories to read:

2 Strategies and 3 Habits That Helped Me Pay Off $93,000 of Debt in 3.5 Years
How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months
How Amanda Paid Off $133,763 In Debt in 43 Months

Where Did Our Debt Come From?
When my husband and I got married, I was completely debt free thanks to my parents’ help with college and a car. My husband’s debt wasn’t over the top, but he did have around $35,000 in school loans.
The rest of the debt was accumulated in the first several years of our marriage. My husband needed to have $20,000 worth of dental work done over a 3 year period.
We also moved quite frequently for my husband’s job, and we sold a home after only owning it for a short period of time. We took a fairly substantial loss on the home after all of the real estate fees.
And we can’t forget credit cards and car loans on two new cars. We had essentially been living slightly above our means month after month causing us to rack up around $12,000 in credit card debt.
In total, we had just slightly above $100,000 in total debt.

How to Create a Plan that Works for Your Family
I truly believe that there is no one size fits all approach to budgeting, because every family has different priorities and resources. There’s no set amount you should spend in a specific category or save as an emergency fund. Those things are very different from family to family.
The very first thing we did was to sit down and talk about our goals and priorities along with what we were willing to give up.
Like most couples, my husband and I are different in the way we view finances and how we prioritize things, so we needed to compromise on things like eating out, clothing purchases, leisure activities and vacations.
This conversation helped us outline spending categories and set realistic goals around how long it would take us to pay off our debt. You may decide to be more or less aggressive on your debt payoff time table than us based on your own goals.
Our main priority was that I continue to stay home with our kids, so we had to outline our budget in a way that allowed us to pay off debt but also add to savings to protect ourselves from things like unexpected job loss or large emergency expenses.
Next, we printed out 3-6 months worth of financial statements to include checking account, savings accounts, credit cards, and loans. We wanted a realistic picture of what we were actually spending each month in our budget categories. For example, we thought that we were spending $800 per month on groceries, but we found out we were actually spending around $1400.
I find that a lot of people, ourselves included, believe they spend far less than they actually do in many areas of their lives. Looking at our spending history over several months gave us a more accurate picture of our spending habits.

The Budgeting Method We Chose
We are paycheck budgeters who use a zero-based budget to track our finances. I am the one in charge of our family’s finances, and I have been a pen and paper person over budgeting apps since the beginning. We could never figure out an app that both of us could stay consistent with.
Budgeting by paycheck means that you create a mini budget for each individual paycheck. When you receive a paycheck, you essentially write out all of the bills that fall within that given paycheck. You then take the amount that’s left over and assign that to your variable expenses like groceries, entertainment, dining out, and so on. You can adjust how much you spend in these variable categories to open up income to allocate towards debt and savings.
You assign every single dollar of that paycheck a job until you have zero dollars left to plan for, which is a zero-based budget.

Who does Paycheck Budgeting Work Best For?
I honestly think that we will always be paycheck budgeters, even if we have a lot leftover at the end of the month some day in the future. I believe in assigning a job to every single dollar and being intentional with finances.
That being said, paycheck budgeting is amazing for people living paycheck to paycheck like us. I really struggled with a monthly budget, because if you give me $800 to spend on groceries for a month, I’ll spend $600 of it in the 10 days leaving nothing leftover at the end of the month.
With paycheck budgeting, you’re setting goals for a shorter period of time, which I find much easier to track and stick to.

The System We Set Up for Our Finances
When we first started budgeting by paycheck, I had a sticky note on my desk that listed the paycheck amount along with all of the bills that needed to be paid with that paycheck.
When it came to our variable expenses, savings, and debt, I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants tracking everything and tallying totals. I decided to create my own budget binder to track all of our personal finances in one place. I ended up with a 25 page budget binder that I use to track and manage all of our money.
I follow the same steps every month to track and document our progress towards various financial goals.

How We Track Our Finances Step-by-Step

Step 1: Print Out a Blank Monthly Calendar
Each month we print out a blank monthly calendar and write down which days we receive paychecks along with due dates and amounts for our fixed bills. This helps me see which bills I will need to pay within a specific pay period.
I also write down any special events where we may need to spend money outside of our normal budget. This could be things like holidays, birthdays, scheduled date nights, kids’ extracurriculars, scheduled car maintenance, or pretty much anything that’s anticipated but not typical to every single month.
This gives me a really good picture of what to expect for that month so I minimize surprises.

Step 2: Outline a Monthly Budget
I know I said that we budget by paycheck, but I still outline a monthly budget at the beginning of every single month. Seeing the bigger picture of a month helps me set up more realistic spending goals in our variable categories.
I use the monthly calendar that I created to account for any unusual expenses and adjust our budget accordingly for the month.
A monthly budget is also really helpful if your rent or mortgage is a very large portion of your budget. We have been in positions over the years where our housing expense has been 40-50% of our monthly income. That means a mortgage or rental payment will take up most or all of an entire paycheck. A monthly budget helps plan for how much you need to roll over from a previous paycheck to cover all of your expenses.

Step 3: Break Your Month Into Pay Periods by Paycheck
Once I have a good picture of our monthly income versus expenses, I can budget by paycheck. We receive paychecks every other week (bi-monthly), so I set up two mini budgets within each month.
For each paycheck, I write down the amount of income received and list all fixed expenses such as utility bills with their amounts. I then calculate how much we have leftover after fixed expenses to allocate to our variable expenses including: groceries, dining out, entertainment, and miscellaneous.
Once I’ve assigned a budget to our variable expenses, I calculate how much we have leftover in that paycheck to assign to debt payments and savings. After I’ve accounted for these, we should have zero dollars leftover in our calculation.

Step 4: Set Up Systems to Follow-Through
Of course it’s amazing to have our budget outlined and ready to go, but it’s only a bunch of numbers on some paper without a plan to actually stick to it.
The first thing we did was to automatically withdraw our savings from each paycheck. This went towards a retirement account and an emergency savings. The amounts were taken out of each paycheck automatically so that we weren’t tempted to spend that money. We basically adjusted to a new paycheck amount.
As soon as the paycheck hit our checking account, I immediately made our debt payments. We found that if we waited until the end of a pay period, we overspent on variable expenses and weren’t able to pay off as much as we wanted.
Once our savings was transferred and our debt payment was made, we were left with the money that would go towards fixed expenses and variable expenses.

The Simple Method We Use to Track Our Spending
When we were in the midst of our debt journey, things were really tight. We set up a realistic plan that we felt we could both stick to, and we knew that if we swayed from that plan we would be living outside of our means.
Cash envelopes were (and still are) all the rage at the time, but I did not like the idea of carrying a large sum of cash around me with me. I was scared I would lose an envelope and our entire grocery budget would just vanish.
I also didn’t want to have a several different check accounts with their own debit card linked to it to create a digital version of cash envelopes. It just felt too complicated.
To track our variable spending each pay period, I created my own cashless envelope system. I created three envelopes to track our spending:

One was marked food and covered our grocery spending and dining out as a family.
The second was considered miscellaneous and covered any family entertainment, random purchases at the store, or anything that didn’t fit within a category.
The third was my husband’s lunch and coffee budget for work. He liked to go out occasionally, so this gave him the freedom to do that.

I put the ‘food’ and ‘miscellaneous’ envelopes in my minivan. I’m the one doing the bulk of the shopping, and we’re typically all together as a family in that vehicle on the weekends. I used these envelopes to collect receipts and track spending on the outside of the envelope. This made it easier to transfer everything over to my budget binder.

How to Communicate as a Couple
Before jumping into our debt journey, my husband and I hardly ever discussed our finances unless something major was happening. About every 2-3 months we would take a look at our accounts and wonder why our debt was adding up so quickly when we didn’t feel like we were overspending.
The way we worked to improve our communication was to start weekly money meetings. These weekly money meetings became a part of our budget binder and walked us through our progress and any challenges each week.
We were able to identify areas we were overspending sooner so that we could make adjustments before it got out of hand. It also reduced arguments since there were never any surprises.
Each of us has an area where we struggle to reign in our spending, so it helps us hold each other accountable. Also, seeing all of the numbers on paper regularly really helps to keep our motivation levels up.
Related content: Family Budget Meetings – Yes, You Need To Have Them

What About When Debt is Paid Off?
After 4 years we were finally able to say that we were debt-free! It would be so easy at that point to loosen up, but we set our sights on new goals. We don’t have debt anymore, but we are still living on tighter margins where we have to be really intentional about saving money.
Our goals have shifted to more specific savings goals, and we are using the same paycheck budgeting method to do that. This method really helps us avoid lifestyle inflation and falling back into the debt trap.
Related content: What To Do After You Pay Off Debt

Final Thoughts
Paying off a large amount of debt often feels like a huge mountain you’ll never be able to overcome. I can still remember feeling slightly hopeless that our financial situation could actually change just a few years ago.
You can create a budget that is easy to track and allows you to live a little. Long periods of feeling deprived make it hard to stick with it. Prioritize your goals and find a system that works for your family.
To grab a free copy of my budget binder, you can go HERE.
It is so worth it on the other side when you’re able to plan for the future rather than paying for what happened in the past.
Do you have debt? What are you doing to eliminate it?
The post How We Paid Off $100,000 of Debt on a Single Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.