(The following is an abbreviated transcription from a video Linda & I recorded with Mel & Murph Stewart. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
Mel and Murph Stewart (of FitNFunds) have an amazing debt payoff success story.
Linda and I were so blown away by their accomplishment that we had to share their feat as an encouragement to all of our SeedTime community.
Ready for it?
They have paid off over $229,000 in debt!!!
We are simply amazed. No matter the amount of debt you have to tackle, this accomplishment shows that even a huge amount of debt CAN be paid off!
Linda and I recorded our discussion we had with Mel & Murph that you can listen to on our Podcast, or you read the full transcription below:
Mel & Murph’s Mountain Of Debt
Bob: Today we’re chatting with Mel and Murph Stewart and they have an amazing story that we want to share. I’ve been hearing about it all over Instagram in which you should go follow them, it’s @FitNFunds. But the gist of it is they paid off over $229,000 in debt.
Linda: I mean that is amazing.
Bob : And yeah, and we paid off, I mean, in terms of non-mortgage debt, it was about $46,000. And I felt like that was a lot. So when I hear stories like this, it’s this is crazy.
But anyway, Mel and Murph, thank you for taking the time to come chat about this and share this whole crazy thing that you’ve gone through.
Murph: Absolutely. We’re excited, thank you for having us.
How Did They Get $229,000+ Of Debt?
Bob: All right, so I want to talk first about yeah, so $229,000 in debt, like what was that made up of? What were the actual pieces of debt there?
Mel: Yeah. So it was a little bit of everything. We like to say, you name it we had it. Except for a mortgage. It wasn’t mortgage debt, but I mean, IRS debt, it was medical debt, credit card debt, lines of credits, car loans, student loans, a little bit of everything. The big, the biggest step that we had though is the student loan debt.
Mel: And that was as well over six figures.
Bob: Yeah. Student loan debt in our society, I mean, I think most people tend to think that’s reasonable debt or good debt. I have some mixed opinions about that. Having a good amount of myself. So was the credit card debt bad spending habits or was it all justified? Or how did you guys land into so much debt?
Acknowledging The Lack Of Financial Education
Mel: Yeah, I think it was the lack of education. Growing up, we really didn’t learn how to manage money, nor did our parents come from wealth. We didn’t really come from wealth, so we pretty much, well, I know when I went to college, I had no choice. I just didn’t really have the education to learn how to apply for scholarships or apply for grants. So it was just, let’s go get a student loan. And so I think that’s a lot of how it started for me. And then the college credit card came along and that was like copping money. And from there on it just kinda started accumulating for me.
Growing Up In Poverty
Murph: Yeah, I think the thing about me was I grew up on welfare. My mom was a single mom doing her thing, trying to raise two boys. And we eat a lot, especially me. But it was one of those things that you, you, you grew up in a household and not knowing that you’re at that poverty status. You’re, you’re just a happy go lucky little kid.
And, but as I grew older, I figured, I started noticing things that we weren’t able to do. And this is where I realized that my mom, she just wasn’t educated financially to help us along the way. I think she was so excited for me to go to college because I got a full scholarship for basketball and she was excited for that, but still I still took out student loans.
So why’d I do that when I had a full scholarship. It’s a lack of education financially that on the, I discovered. But yeah, so it was one of those things. Learned behavior patterns are the patterns that compound and compounded, and it just. Blew up the, the whole Mel and Murph household.
Keeping Up With The Joneses
Mel: The first four years of our marriage, we accumulated a lot more debt. We would try to as I say, keep up with the Joneses. And go out every weekend and spend a lot of money using like a line of credit. Or just money that we didn’t have. So I know that we probably racked up.
Thousands of dollars more in those first four years of, because we just, we didn’t know better. We had a lot of denial around the debt.
Needing To Change Financial Habits
Bob: So what was your turning point moment? Cause I think most of us who we all have some moment or moments where we decide, all right, we got to make a change here. And, what was that for you guys?
Murph: Such a good question. I think it was we were at I think 2014, I believe, so we got to a point of marriage that we were at almost a brinks to divorce. We were arguing a lot more. Really just at each other’s neck, she just wasn’t having it.
Getting Counseling And Introduction To Dave Ramsey
She started going to counseling and I joined a party. I started one counseling. And then I remember I was in the lounge waiting to speak to my therapist, and I had an epiphany. It was one of those things that I felt like now was speaking to me, giving me a refresher of someone’s name that I heard in the past and it was Dave Ramsey. No idea what I heard it from. I thought I heard it from her father-in-law back. I might notice that that’s no way to happen. And then was trying to figure out who I heard it from. But anyway, I heard Dave Ramsey’s name. I started instantly Googling and researching who this man was.
I found out that he was in a million dollars a debt. And he started helping a lot of people. I’m like wait, who is this guy? It really encouraged me because I started listening to his podcast and everything.
You’re Not Alone
And that pivotal moment for us to understand that we were first of all, not alone. And the amount of money that we had in debts, it could be diminished from our lives indefinitely.
I brought that back to Melissa and she was not having it at all. So it was one of those moments that I was so hyped and excited and really that mood of enthusiasm, but she wasn’t having it. Because, I guess, I was so aggressively trying to get as going.
I’ll let her speak on that behalf.
Being Apprehensive About Starting To Tackle Debt
Linda: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that because I was reading your story and I read that you were apprehensive about it. And I would love to know why. What was going through your head? And then I have a follow-up question after that, but I’ll let you answer that first.
Mel : Yeah. That’s a good question. I think when Murph brought it to me, I’ve always liked spending money. Spending every penny and like I said, I didn’t know better.
Bob: You know nothing about that, right?
Linda: Yeah. I know nothing about that.
Mel: Yeah. So basically when I would get those loan checks. If I had money left over for student loans, I would just spend it on clothes or different things.
Crunching The Numbers And Budgeting
And so when Murph brought this to me… I’m like wait what? And he always would calculate out, because he’s a numbers guy, he’d calculate out the numbers. Like how many years it’s going to take us. And I was just like, I don’t want to hear it. Have so much debt, and I had just gotten a new job.
I was like, I want to go shopping and get a whole new wardrobe for work. And no, we didn’t really need to start this budget thing. And I was just not having it. But I think that over the course of that year or so we, we played the podcast in the car and then we started having our budget meetings together.
It really helped me feel more comfortable with the process. And then I learned to like budgeting because it was a place for me to voice what I wanted or needed.
Mel: Over the course of that year-ish the first year, I think it was kind of tough for us because we were not on the same page. But gradually I think that I came to, even in year three and four of our journey.We were finally done with the consumer debt and I knew we had my big student loan left and Murph’s we have to finish this we’re not debt free yet. And I was like, are you what I thought we would be done? So…
Mel: I think that we finally agreed.
Murph: We gotta put a pinpoint there and circle back on that one, but yeah. I’ll let you do the follow up question because I want to add to it.
Getting On Board To Paying Off Debt
Linda: Yeah. Okay. So my follow-up question is. Okay. What changed? Like it can be from what changed in that first year of you, like starting to listen to that stuff, but also what has changed over the course of this period of time between not wanting to pay off debt and then being like I am sold out and onboard.
What was that mindset shift like for you? Cause we had a little bit of a similar situation, not maybe not as intense as yours. Cause I was more like, can you just take this problem off my hands? So I kind of just did whatever he told me to do. Cause I didn’t want to deal with it, but I was also like, I really like spending money.
So I’m with you on that for sure. But yeah, I just would love to know like the journey that God took you on from: I want to spend all the money I have and more to being sold out for this.
Having A Common Vision: What Is Your Why?
Mel: Yeah, I think it was partly like my own work and healing that I needed to do and encounter, but also, like I learned that once we had like a common vision and a why, that was my motivation and it became bigger than me. It was like before it was all about me, me, me, me, me.
And now, or over the course of time, and even now it’s well, what about our future generations. And what about their kids? And like really seeing those generational curses and there was a lot of other things too, that was our why.
Giving more and traveling more and all of that. But I think what I finally grasped, like the why behind it, the purpose, the vision that I was, I started to change inside and learn a lot more about myself. And when you’re paying off debt and you’re working and you’re and grinding there’s a sense of accomplishment and confidence that you gain in yourself and God and each other and your marriage. So it was just like a whole transformation, like who I was back in 2013/14, I’m a completely different person today.
Does Paying Off Debt Bring You Closer To God?
Linda: So do you guys think that paying off debt has brought you closer to God?
Murph: Well, let me think about that. Yes! And I know that was not a rhetorical question. It was actually a real question. But seriously it has. My belief level has increased substantially to the utmost because I could, God was a per the the spirit that gave me Dave Ramsey like, there’s no way. I didn’t know who this man was. I had no idea what his man was when I was sitting in that lounge, but he intentionally knew that at that time I was at my rock bottom, emotionally and I had to get some kind of hope. And he seriously gave me a lifeline.
And I think my belief in God, even though I was still a believer before that, it just increasingly got better over time. My relationship with him individually, you know. And of course our interdependency, with God too.
Walking In An Abundant Life
Mel: Yeah. And we started getting free from the debt and that was bondage for us. And we started walking in an abundant life. We’re like, wow, this is a real thing. Like what it says in the Bible, when you walk this out and you walk in obedience, it’s these blessings start chasing you down. And then it’s like real life miracles that would happen to us. So we’re just like, this is so cool.
Murph: She’s not saying something that’s really important to her was that we actually kept a miracle book of everything that occurred from day one, what God had did to us. And that really wasn’t pivotal, or more so instrumental element, of our belief in God. I wish we can go down and read them, but it’s this amazing things that happen throughout the course of over the five years.
Extra Provision Blessings
Mel: Checks in the mail, refunds and rebates…
Murph: Promotions, and everything was insane.
Mel: Anything we would increase, anything we got, we just wrote it down. It was just like, thank you, God. No a hundred thousand dollars check in the mail, but you know, it was…
Bob: But extra provision, one of the things we’re always talking about, cause I’ve heard this. I’ve been talking to people about this stuff for 14 years now. And this happened on our journey and I’ve seen this over and over and over and over and over again. And I say it non-stop is when you start doing the natural things, doing, taking those natural steps in your own ability, in faith doing the natural, and then believe God for the supernatural, he comes in like wind to behind your back and pushes you forward.
Results of Taking Action When Trusting And Obeying God
Bob: To reach this goal, in the case of paying off debt or whatever it is, and we saw that. It sounds like you guys are saying that. Because you were doing the steps and then God starts showing up with all these little miracles pushing it forward. I mean, is that correct? Am I saying that right?
Murph: A hundred percent.
Mel: We still write down our miracles, now that we’re on a wealth building journey. So yeah. It’s amazing.
Bob: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about some of the practical things, because yes, we see God at work. We see some of those miracles happening.
Making Practical Decisions
Bob: What were the practical decisions that you guys were making to do things differently? So you talked a little bit about setting up a budget, so that was one part of it. What other things were you guys doing to just move down this path?
Murph: I think I can instantly say, we looked at what we were having taken out of our checking account, subscriptions and what have you. We’re fitness enthusiasts. We love working out. So we lowered our gym membership fee. They were almost paying 100, some dollars, got down to $20 a month. So I was one practical thing that we did. We stopped eating out. That was very, very hard. You know we’re foodies too. So she started cooking a lot of meals. And lastly, we do not go on any vacations at all. We did not and the FOMO was real to say the least.
Murph: For sure.
Mel: I mean, we would do like little weekend trips once in a while, but you know, the, the Mexico vacations or Hawaii vacations, we just, we were working and side hustling too. I think that’s another part of it in addition to, our nine to five. Murph was driving Uber till midnight.
So we did what we could, but I think definitely practical steps. Number one is the budget, it’s the foundation. Just having that consistent, weekly, biweekly, monthly budget. You have to have a budget to do this.
Bob: Yeah. It’s so funny because so many people, and I felt this way, think that, well, I, man, a budget, it’s just, it’s going to be pain in the butt and we’re going to save like $30 a month. It’s just not worth it. And as well as I do, if you have even an average income and you aren’t budgeting, like you’re going to save hundreds, if not many hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month by doing this, like we see this over and over again. And I’m sure you guys have as well, right?
Being On The Same Page
Murph: Oh yeah, definitely. I think when we really started agreeing upon the mutual agreement of a budgeting. And we literally saw more money in our account, which was so weird. It was just like, what, how did, how did we have extra money in our account where we had the same income, not doing a budget, but now here you are doing a budget. And now we see more surplus in our account. It was just. It was, it was almost like a breath of fresh air believe it or not.
Mel: There was literally times where we had no money for groceries. And we would just go off our line of credit.
Murph: Yeah. Revolving door.
Mel: Then start to see like money, extra leftover. Oh, what are we going to do with this money? Oh, well we get to pay the debt or put it in savings or whatever. It’s just like a whole new concept for us.
Linda: That’s amazing.
Bob: Murph, I remember you had something you wanted to tie back to. Do you want to jump back to that point or do you remember that?
Murph: Yeah, well, I definitely remember it because it’s made an impression on me.
Conquering The Shackles Of Debt
Murph: So she was saying that, there was a point where we got all done with the consumer debt and we paid it off. And we’re now about to attack her student on the sixth figure student loan. And she, I remember her saying to me, Hey babe, let’s just say we’re we’re debt free now. And when she sat down, I’m like, what?
No, we have so much momentum we are not stopping. I didn’t say like that. I was more loving of course. Right. I wanted to make sure my pay my money. Baby we can actually do it. Look how far we’ve come. And she was point that she, because I think what it was, it was a sole tie that I was attached to that student loan.
And we can maybe go on that if she wants later on, it’s up to her. But it made her so angry at what that student loan meant to her. That she wanted to ignore it and I’m like, I want it to accomplish paying it off because I knew that we had the momentum building and we wanted to release her from those shackles stronghold to be free.
And that was the whole, concept and I was trying to help her comprehend.
Linda: Wow. So there was more tied to it than just the dollar amount. There was something in your heart that you needed to get cleared up. So, I mean, that’s amazing too, cause it’s God takes us on this journey and it’s not just for one thing. It’s not just to be out of debt it’s for multiple different things, which I think is just so wonderful.
Mel: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, that once I finally, got that out of my life for good. It was like, I could really get past that. Whatever, whatever that, that hurt and that pain that, that was attached to and forgive and be an acceptance and be like, you know what, it’s okay.
We took care of this and with God’s help, of course, and we can move past this. And, so yeah, like you said, it’s a lot more than just paying off debt. I mean, it completely changes.
Giving Is Instrumental
Bob: All right. One other thing I wanted to ask about, cause when I was doing some research on you guys, I think I saw some of this. So I’m curious, what role did giving or do you feel like giving played in this debt payoff?
Murph: That’s a good question.
Mel: I think it was, it was instrumental. Tithing was always at the top of our budget, that was one thing that we said, we’re not going to let go of, and I think there was another, portion of sponsoring a child that we said we’re not going to let go of. So those two things we kept, regardless of our income. We were like, okay, we’re going to honor God with the first portion of this. And it was a non negotiation. to this day, it’s that’s the first thing.
Murph: Yeah, I’m laughing because she says sponsor a child. And it just brought back a memory, because I did not want to do it. I’m like babe, we’re not doing this. And here I am at church, listening to Israel Houghton and the New Breed praising God, they’re wanting people to sponsor a child. I’m like, we’re not doing that. But here we are, fast forward still sponsoring that same child.
Should You Tithe While Paying Off Debt?
Bob: It’s funny. Cause sometimes people ask me and I probably asked you to should I stop tithing and stop giving to pay off debt? Because I want to pay off my debt a lot faster. It’s not a math problem. Like it’s just not how God works. And I’m not going to tell anyone, what they should do. But for us, it’s the same way. We’re not going to stop giving to pay off our debt. And we’re convinced as well that by giving that was how we ended up getting it paid off faster. Cause that’s just the way it works in the kingdom.
Murph: Love it.
What Does Being Debt-Free Feel Like?
Bob: Yeah. Well, that’s good. All right. And so I want to know just for people who are watching and listening, What has it done for you? Like having that burden to $229,000 of debt, now it’s gone. What was that transition? What did it feel like? How did it affect your spiritual life, your marriage, your personal life, like everything emotionally? What did it feel like?
The First Year Sucked
Murph: So that first year sucked.
Bob: After you paid the debt off?
Murph: Yes. The year after.
Bob: This is fascinating. Go ahead.
Murph: You know what it was because we were so ingrained with the same pattern, the new pattern behavior that enabled us to pay off the debt. So we were still grinding down. So driving Uber and Lyft. She was still working over time.
We weren’t really doing any of that at home in regards to in kind of celebrating. We were still in that ingrained in that mindset. That’s why I think it was so hard. It was so hard to break that, that new, element of thinking that we were in. So that’s why, in my opinion and why it was so hard at first year though.
Mel: Yeah. And not having, we didn’t really have the next goal.
Murph: Exactly, very true.
Having A New Goal
Mel: So when we finished. It was just like, already to the finish line and then, okay, well what’s next?
Bob: So did you not enjoy paying off debt? Did you not enjoy having it paid off?
Murph: Oh we did.
Mel: And that’s what I was going to say at the same time. We finished probably about a year before COVID. And we did get to do traveling. We got to take a celebration trip to Cabo San Lucas. And, that was like a whole new world. It was just so exciting. We did a lot of upgrades.
We got to move cashflow and move and and then fast forward, a few years later, it’s like our lives are… like money is not an issue anymore. There’s no financial stress or weight anymore. It’s like we get to budget for things like taking this trip, and just…
Murph: Give more.
Mel: Give more and live our lives and build wealth. And it’s just amazing.
Like it just, the opportunities that have opened up for us. And…
Mel: We drove through one of the old towns that we live in today and we were just like, How did we get here? Like where we are now?
We’re just so grateful but God almost had to take us back there today to show us like, look how far you guys have come.
Cause we used to walk around that town all the time, when we were paying off debt. And it was, it was a hard season for us, but we still have issues and problems and this and that. It’s just, yeah, it’s just, wow. When that financial burden isn’t in your life anymore.
And it’s just not there. It’s just such a better life and marriage.
Murph: I love it.
Figuring Out Where God Wants Next For Your Journey
Linda: Do you feel you had to, like you said that first year was really hard, cause it was a transition of well, what do we do now? Do you feel like you just had to figure out like where God wanted to take you next?
Murph : Yeah, I believe so. Because I think after we actually, we prayed more got kind of like a community around us more at that time. And I think that’s when we started FitNFunds, or am I tripping?
Mel: Once we establish the community, like Murph said, and we started to, figure out what the next goal was. I think that we started the enjoy our debt-free life a little bit more.
Mel: Yeah, it was an adjustment. A good adjustment, but like Murph said, it was hard. It was, it was hard at first.
Bob: Well, that’s great. All right, well, appreciate you guys taking the time and sharing your awesome, amazing story. It’s so cool. Seeing what God’s doing in people’s lives. So people, @FitNFunds on Instagram, they can see you because you’re sharing so much great stuff there. Website, they can find you at?
Murph: FitNFunds.com, and that’s F-I-T-N, as in Nancy, F-U-N-D-S.
Bob : FitNFunds. Yeah that’s great. All right, guys. Well, thanks for taking the time. Appreciate getting to chat, love having you on.
Murph: Thank you. God bless you guys.
Mel: Thank you so much for all of this.
Bob: All right. Appreciate it guys. Bye-bye.