Crushing Debt: The Sanders’ Family $119,000 Debt Payoff Story

Welcome to the “Mad Money” Miniseries Part 2! 

This is a 5 part miniseries showcasing exceptional debt payoffs!

We want to thank you all for reading our first miniseries. This has become a big hit so far, and we are so happy to bring you part 2! Please welcome our next family, as they so deserve recognition for their effort!

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Crushing Debt: The Sanders’ Family $119,000 Debt Payoff Story


My name is Martin Sanders and my wife Tonya, and kids Austin and Emily, started Dave Ramsey in Aug 2007. When I began listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio that Aug I kept hearing him talk about a class called Financial Peace University and was instantly intrigued about it, so I reached out to Dave and was immediately introduced to Leann at The Lampo Group(Dave’s parent company) so I could learn more about FPU and what it takes to get a class started. At that time Dave’s radio show was very new in our area and only a handful of places offered the class. I signed our church up to hold the class because I saw this as a great community reach out. Since then I have led 14 classes and in 2011 I began doing more one on one coaching and have worked with over 100 families.

How much debt did you start with?

When we started we had a total 10,000 student loan debt. Our house debt was 100,000. We were very fortunate to start this at that time of our life because if we had started just a few years earlier we would have been looking at closer to 80,0000 which would have been a HELOC, 2 new vehices, and credit card debt, but luckily we used common sense and had paid that stuff off. It took us 9 months to pay the student loan off.

Then in 2009, we ended up with 14,000 in IRS debt. That was the first year that the govt was allowing people to roll their traditional IRA’s to a Roth IRA. We did that and it cost us in taxes. I don’t regret that decision to do the roll over but I do regret not being educated enough to do it without activating so much in taxes. It took us a little longer to pay that debt off which was about 1.5years.

How much in total have you paid off as of today?

To date we have paid off 119,000 and have 6,000 left on the mortgage and will have it paid off in March 2017.

How many are in your family?


What is your biggest motivation to pay off your debts?

I think our biggest motivation to get out of debt goes back to Prov 22:7 and we no longer want to be a slave to debt, and having the ability to give extravagantly is a big part.

Has this been a struggle for you?

What has been the biggest struggle for me is having people mock, tease, and make fun of what we are doing. Also doing this for 9 years has made me quite tired and I’m ready to be done.

What is your family doing differently to put a dent in your debt?

We cut the budget down to the bare bones and I picked up as much OT as I possibly could, and I’m very thankful that I have a job that gives me OT every paycheck. My wife worked 1 day a week for several years and she picked up a couple of more days.

What advice would you give to a reader that feels stuck and hasn’t started their journey yet?

My advice is to keep this in front of you at all times. Whether you take or lead an FPU class, or listen to his radio show as much as possible.
Either one of these avenues will help keep you moving forward and when you are feeling stuck, the debt free screams you hear daily will really help. As far as FPU goes, its hard to be leading something if you aren’t doing it yourself.

For those who haven’t started yet, we were all there once. My advice to that person is to either read The Total Money Makeover or get registered for an FPU class asap. Many many churches start classes in Jan so now is a perfect time to take it. Whatever you do, do what Dave teaches exactly as he teaches it. Don’t add to it or take away from it, and if your going to do it you have got to give 100% to it, this is something that you cant “sorta kinda do”. You are either “all in” or not and if your not your chances of succeeding are slim.

If you had to choose, what is one debt you wish you had never gotten in to?

Well of course I wish we had never got into debt at all. But the one that I’m really more ashamed of, is the IRS debt. It all goes back to knowledge. I did not have all the knowledge at the time to make a good decision. I’m glad we did the rollover but again I wish I had gotten more answers as to how it would affect our tax bill.

If you have children, what are you teaching them about handling their money?

When we started this journey, Austin was 15. When he turned 16, he got his first job and we had him open a checking account. Every month I would work with him and doing his budget and taught him how to use Quicken on his computer. He is now 23 and is on his own. Does he still do a budget every single month, no! But, he has the tools to manage his finances and I am very proud that he never comes to us asking for help. He just bought a car for cash and has no debt.

My daughter, Emily was 6 years old when we started. Since she was so young we weren’t quite as intentional with her. What we did do was we set up a clear jar like Dave recommends for small children and every time she earned money we would crumble up the money and put it in the jar. Now that she is 16, she just opened her own checking and has a job. So like with Austin, I work with her every month on doing a budget and learning how to manage Quicken on her computer.

What is your 2017 financial goal?

Our number 1 goal is to be 100% debt free by the end of March. We are taking a family vacation to Gulf Shores to celebrate and we will also be going to Nashville to do our debt free scream.

Once your debts are paid, what are you going to do?

We will start using all of my wife’s income to start saving up to buy a condo in Branson, MO which is where we plan on retiring. We hope to have enough cash saved up in 6 yrs to pay for it. We will be increasing our “extravagant giving” by setting up an account and funding it every month.

Any extra advice/tips that weren’t mentioned?

Some other advice I might give a person is that if you are married, it is imperative that both spouses are on board 100%. If you aren’t doing this together it is an extremely hard thing to win at. Also, for the nerds out there like me, if you have a free spirit spouse you are going to have to learn to “lose a few battles, to win the war” Dave has talked about that many times and it is very true. Whatever you do, DON’T EVER QUIT!! No matter what, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much life is throwing at you, no matter how many people are making fun of you. The go to verse that I have gone back to time after time when I was struggling with these things is GAL 6:9: Don’t get tired of doing what is good, for just at the right time, you will reap a harvest of blessing ,if YOU DON’T GIVE UP.

Thanks again for taking the time to read our new Miniseries!

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.






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