Amy and Rob Allen are a husband and wife photography team that has been shooting weddings + elopements since 2012. Based in North Carolina. Available for travel.
Here it is. I wasn’t going to blog about this but I was told by multiple people that it could inspire some and if I can inspire just one person then it’s worth it! So thank you to my associates Amie and Jen for pushing for me to write this….again why they are my dream team! We push each other to higher limits and greater purposes in life! I also received several messages through instagram asking how we did it. How did we become debt free??? I am going to tell our story; the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is what worked for us and everybody is different so make sure you do whats right for you and your family!
When Rob and I met we were in over our heads in debt. He had just graduated from Campbell University with a large school loan and I had moved to Raleigh with a school loan, credit card debt (multiple), and a car loan! After dating and getting engaged we accumulated even more debt thanks to the wedding I had to have. Rob traded in his pride and joy (big Red) his red Chevy pickup truck to buy my engagement ring… WHAT A GUY!! Then came the wedding planning….I wouldnt change anything but as we all know weddings are very expensive, so there was another loan taken out for our beautiful wedding! YAY!! Also when you hear that planning your own wedding at a beach house is cheaper than using a real venue and planner, it’s not!!
After being married several years and living paycheck to paycheck we knew something had to change. We by no means tried to keep up with the Jones’s but knew we wanted more out of life than going to work, paying bills, and worrying about the money coming in. We knew something had to change and that is when we learned about Dave Ramsey! If you havent heard of him or listened or read any of his blogs or financial freedom books, this will help you a ton! I dont know what we would have done without his guidance throughout this process. So Rob and I sat down one night and listened to all audio from his book and decided this is what we wanted to do but knew it would be the hardest thing in the world! But we could do it, right!!
At this time Rob was in sales in Cary and I was a dental assistant/office manger at an office right across the street from his office. We talked about going down to one car since we literally drove the same way to work at the same time everyday! We were pretty much newly weds and loved being together anyways so why not go down to one car! So we did! We sold a car and had one car between the two of us! It was fun for a while but then while I was working for the dental office the first year in my business I was getting very busy. The inquiries were flying in and I had to meet with clients after work, I had weddings on the weekends and one car wasnt cutting it. So we bought a super cheap car and paid it off immediately. At this point I was working full time and shooting weddings on the weekend. I was super busy and loved it. I was making loads of money in the dental field and then building my photography business, doing my passion on the weekends. Well this girl got burnt out, real quick. It was a lot. I never saw Rob and when I did, it was a quick hello and off to a shoot. I decided to stick with it for about a year and then gave my notice. I couldnt do it anymore. We were paying bills with our full-time jobs (rent, 1 car payment (other car was paid off from only having one car for so long), both school loans, Amy’s Victoria’s secret and Old Navy credit cards, cell-phones, internet, cable, food, and gas). It adds up right!? All of my photography money was going straight to the loans. We paid off the one with the lowest principle first after getting rid of the credit cards (those suckers had to go). Every penny that I received from my photography business went into those loans. We were paying stuff off so quickly and it felt so good!
When I started my business, I had the cheapest camera. I grew my business from scratch. I knew I couldnt take out a loan for equipment because we couldn’t afford it. When I say I worked from the ground up , I did!! We saved every penny to pay cash for all of our equipment and when it was time to upgrade we saved and paid cash for everything!
While everyone else was out having a great time, going to dinner with friends, buying name brand clothes and shoes, going on extravagant vacations, and starting their families, we were sitting at home watching Castle and eating chicken and macaroni but we loved it. We knew one day it would be all worth it. The one thing we knew we had to do was tithe. So that was in our budget as well. We tithed from the money we made from our jobs and then I tithed off of every wedding we booked. Can I just throw this out there… the more I tithed the more I booked. That was something that was important to me, I knew we were being blessed way more than we deserved and I HAD to show my appreciation and gratefulness to our awesome God. I believe that was a huge part of us getting debt free as well but thats for another day!! 🙂
Our Clayton house! We definitely got a lot of house for the money out there which helped!! And look at that stud Mr. Moose!!!
After putting in my notice I found a nanny job that was less hours and gave me the opportunity to edit and work on my business a bit more! The kids were great and I couldnt have asked for a better position at that point! Rob and I bought our first house and we were super excited! We had paid off quite a bit of debt at this point and knew we were ready to buy! So we bought and Rob decided to go back to school! haha He felt God was calling him to get back into what he went to college for, criminal justice and he had to do what his passion is and what he knew he was called to do. So Rob went into BLET and I covered all expenses. EVERYTHING!!! I nannyed during the week and shots weddings, engagements, bridals, families, newborns, seniors, etc on the weekends. I also had editing that was nonstop! When I say we had no life, I mean we had NO LIFE!!! LOL I knew he had to do this though for him. I was living out my passion and so should he. After Rob graduated and got his job in Cary we decided Clayton was a little too far for us. A lot of my weddings were in Raleigh and Chapel Hill area and driving home an hour after a 9 hour wedding day at 11:30pm wasnt cutting it anymore! So we sold our house and moved to Cary. At this point Rob was back to making money and I was doing my thing still with both jobs. I started getting burnt out again. So an angel appeared to me in the form of Amy and Jordan Photography (haha) and they recommended a book called Quitter by John Acuff. If you are deciding between quitting your day job to live your dream job, read this!!! It was an eye opener and knew I needed to work a little while longer but was excited to know my dream would come true eventually! I read it and knew that within the next couple months I needed to quit the nanny job so I could focus on my business if I really wanted it to grow. So I gave my notice and put all of myself into the business! It was the scariest thing I ever did but I jumped and never looked back! Every penny Rob and I made went to debt. When we went grocery shopping we had out the calculator adding every thing up one by one. If we went over our grocery budget for the week before checking out we would put things back. We paid with cash so that we werent able to just put it on the card. Dave Ramsey goes over this in his financial freedom book!
We still tithed and went out to eat maybe once every couple weeks but we were doing it. We paid off Robs school loans, we paid off our wedding, and all we had at this point was my car and my school loan.
We increased our wedding packages as I got more experienced and higher in demand which helped with paying even more off and Rob started working over time to put a little more towards the loans.
At this point we were ready to start our family. We werent debt free but I couldnt wait any more! I needed a baby, ASAP! LOL SO we got pregnant and soon after Paisley came we built a house in Apex. I could not have been more excited!! I never in a million years thought we would ever be able to build our own house! After moving in we paid off my school loan. Again it was by the grace of God that kept the money coming in from our weddings. The business was busier than ever! I am so thankful to live out my passion and make money doing it!
Knowing we had a baby on the way I worked up until I couldnt anymore! We had double headers and wedding after wedding each weekend! I could have given myself an excuse to take a break but I knew we were so close at paying off more! Our last wedding before Paisley I was 8 months pregnant! Needless to say I was a tired momma, but pushed through!
We were so excited about starting the process of building and little did we know this house would pay off the remaining of our debt! Look at that sweet baby girl!!
We decided for me to be able to stay home more and focus a little more on marketing we needed to bring on a couple associates. This had always been a dream of mine but didnt know where to start or how to even go about doing it! Thankfully I found Melissa Jill and she helped us along the way! So not only do we have 2 amazing associates, I am able to stay home with Paisley more and actually be present without all the distractions.
After hiring these two ladies everything has gone from good to AMAZING!! They are such a blessing to me and Rob! Im so thankful I pushed past my fear and added them on!
At this point everything was good but we still couldn’t get rid of my car loan. It felt so far away that we had to do something drastic! After moving into our new home in Apex we knew it wasnt going to be our forever home. There was no back yard and the floor plan wasnt the best but we loved it anyway! We played with the idea of selling and the money we make paying off our last loan THE CAR!!! I have a ford explorer so its not the cheapest but I also knew I would rather sell the house than my car (I’ve dreamt about this car forever, Im kind of a car fanatic!) I knew we could always find another house especially since we knew this one wasnt our FOREVER home. So we put it on the market and it sold with in a month. Was I sad? Yes Did I cry? Absolutely! But it put us at where we are today! Just like that we were renting again in Cary but saving loads of money and we were finally able to pay off the car! Gone, zip, bye bye!!! No more debt! No more school loans, no more credit cards, no more wedding loan, no more car loan! Y’all we paid off close to $80,000 in 5 years! It blows my mind!!!! $80,000!!! Amazing how much you save when you dont go to Starbucks 3 times a week or what I liked to call “browse” etsy or zulily (it always ends badly)!
Finally, the car of my dreams and it’s paid off!!! We will be keeping this one until we win the lottery, which by the way Dave Ramsey says is a big no, no!!!
Our business has brought so much joy and I still can’t believe we are doing what we love! It’s hard and dont get me wrong it’s still work, but I would rather live everyday enjoying what I do than hating life with something Im not passionate about. I remember going to that 9-5 and hating it. If that is you, push through! Those times are what makes us stronger! Maybe put a date on the calendar and say I want this much paid off by this date and if that happens I will quit my day job and start my dream job! Goals y’all, goals!! Little by little you can do it!
This is us…. silly, two people that have found joy in their life and in what they do, thanks to a man named Dave Ramsey that made all of this happen!
So what’s next????
Since we have become experts at moving… we are in the process of looking for our forever home. We want Paisley to grow up in a house that has a back yard, that has a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and somewhere we can finally call home! Without the debt we are able to look into a higher priced home without the stress that comes with it. We still have a budget because we dont want to be house poor, but with no debt we can breath easier and really get what we want this time around! When we do decide to buy again, our goal will be to pay off the house. Who knows, maybe it will be sooner than later!! 🙂 All I know is this next time around I am going to be ecstatic since it will be where Paisley grows up! Some call us crazy for moving a bunch and we may be, but I am so thankful for the work ethic we both gained, the experiences we were able to achieve, and the debt that is finally gone! If doing what we needed to do to become debt free is crazy, then we are insane!!!!! 😉
I may or may not have gone out and bought a couple of name brand shoes as a reward (with cash), but we live very simply. We know the struggle is real in this day and age with trying to keep up with the Jones’s and trying to fit in. Everyone enjoys the finer things in life but debt wasn’t worth those things to us. When paying off debt you have to have in your head a goal and you have to keep your eye on the prize! There are so many times I wanted to head to the mall or go to Ruth Chris for my birthday dinner but we went to a cute little buffet in Clayton instead and I loved every minute of it! Now we are able to plan for a disney trip and pay cash for it, or go to the beach for a weekend trip and not have to stress over the money. We are able to live a life worth living. Just like Dave Ramsey says,
IF YOU WILL LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE, LATER YOU CAN LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE!
If you are in the process of becoming debt free and you need some inspiration or someone to talk to let me know! I know it’s hard! People look at you like you’re crazy and dont really understand why anyone would want to live so simply or give things up to become debt free and that’s okay! After childbirth it was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Look to the future at the reward and pray for strength! It helps so much!!! <3
So true, and so happy for you both!
Yes!!! and good for you for not giving up tithing!
Congratulations! I love this post and will be downloading the book Quitters ASAP 🙂
This is our goal. Thanks for the push to keep going.
I’m so happy that you wrote this. I’m so happy for you as well it’s the best thing to be debt free. We are reworking on that right now and I’m going to look into John Ramsey’s book. Thanks Amy