This guest post from Jaime Tardy is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity, and with all sorts of incomes.

In 2005, I was working more than 60 hours a week in a position that required me to travel around the U.S. I made great money, but I hated my job.

My husband and I wanted to start a family, and I knew that I couldn’t work so many hours with a baby. My goal was to work part time. The problem was we had over $70,000 in debt, and I made over two-thirds of the income.

I felt like I was at the bottom of Mount Everest looking up, but I knew I could only take it one step at a time. I was focusing on the top of the mountain when I really should have been looking at the start of the trail.

First steps
I started to read everything about personal finance and getting rid of debt. I found Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar. I read Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey.

We decided to start Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in January 2006. At the time, our debt looked like this:

  • Honda Civic $19,300
  • Student Loan 1 $3,400
  • Student Loan 2 $22,780
  • Home Equity Loan $24,560

We’d just bought a brand new Honda Civic two months before. It was almost one third of our debt, and I loved it. I had images of taking a new little baby home in it. It was going to be the family car. But we finally had to ask, “What’s more important: Driving in our awesome family car to work everyday, or having a clunker in the driveway while I stay home?”

I had heard that the second you drive a car off the lot it loses value. I was really scared to find out how much our Civic had depreciated. It turned out we only lost $1,000 on a trade in!

Having the guts to make such a hard decision really jump-started our journey. It pushed us to become stronger and work harder.

Our plan
In March 2006, I learned that I was pregnant. The clock was now ticking!

Our next steps were to get on a budget, and to sell everything we could. We realized two things in the process: We didn’t have a clue how much we spent, and we had no idea how much Stuff we had.

After a few months of selling things and reworking the budget, we hit our stride. We started working side jobs, and I started traveling more to earn the on-site bonuses my work provided.

My husband has a very sporadic income as a performing artist. He started doing website design and graphic design to make extra money. He took any job that he could and was working literally day and night on extra projects.

He worked like a dog for those months and dealt with a very pregnant wife, so I commend him at what a great job he did!

A safety net
A few months before our son was born, we realized that if we put all of our money towards debt, and we had issues with the pregnancy or the birth, we wouldn’t have any money to pay for the care. Instead of tackling the final debt, we decided to build up our emergency fund.

When Finley was born, we had one $23,000 debt and $23,000 in the bank. The birth didn’t have any complications, but I had come to rely on having money in the bank. I couldn’t fathom paying off that last debt, because I’d be quitting my job without any savings in the bank.

After careful thought, we decided to keep the emergency fund. I ended up going back to work after maternity leave, and we continued to push really hard. Less than three months after going back to work, we had enough money to pay off the final debt. We were finally debt free!

Jaime’s GRS contest video in which she tells her story in two minutes

Quitting my job
In April of 2007, I quit my job. It was one of the best days of my life knowing that we accomplished our goal, and I could be home with my son. Now I’ve even found a career that I’m extremely passionate about. I work part time as a personal and business coach, and I wake up each morning so excited to start my day.

At my blog, Eventual Millionaire, my motto is: Life is about more than money. First you have to find the life you want, and then you can make your million. That’s why I call myself an “eventual” millionaire. But I feel rich already.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After nearly a decade of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are.