Living life debt free

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- According to, military members carry a higher debt than civilians, but for one military spouse and her family they were able to pay off a total of $253,000 in debt in six years.

“We got married in 2009 with $253,000 of debt in our name,” said Ellen Prescott, family child care provider and wife to Tech. Sgt. Bennie Prescott. “After we had our son, our outlook on money changed. I did not want anyone raising our son or experiencing moments that we should be there for.”

Bennie and Ellen had never made a budget, but decided in the spring of 2011 they would live on one income.

“After sitting down and making a budget, it was pretty easy for us,” Bennie said. “We were on the same page about becoming debt free, and even made a debt thermometer that we had on our fridge to visualize how much we had left to meet our goal.”

Bennie and Ellen began making small but big changes financially.

“We started making monthly payments of $900 to student loans, got rid of cable and instead of having birthday parties for the kids we took road trips to nearby places,” Ellen said.

In 2012, they sold their house, and put the money toward the debt; bringing it down quite a bit.

Ellen also begin cleaning houses and babysitting for extra income.

“In December 2016, I wanted to use my teaching degree more, so I started teaching kids online who were academically behind in reading and math,” Ellen said. “By then our debt was $18,000, and when we saw that we strived to knock the rest out as quick as possible.”

Ellen began getting up at 4 a.m. to teach English to Chinese students online Monday through Saturday, and only spent money when absolutely necessary.

On April 13, 2017, the Prescotts were officially debt free.

“At the beginning we followed people on blogs and podcasts who wanted to get out of debt, but then we started following people who wanted to be financially independent,” Ellen said.

According to Bennie, those people helped them throughout their entire process.

“We work hard for our money and should be able to enjoy it,” Bennie said. “It is a huge relief not having to think about paying someone every time payday rolls around.”

According to Ellen, the kids were never once not included on their money decisions through the entire process.

“We constantly teach our kids about money,” Ellen said. “We have a chore chart on the wall for them, and every chore the kids complete we pay them.”

Bennie and Ellen also have a savings account set up for their kids.

“When we pay the kids, they have to put some in their savings and can spend the rest,” Ellen said.

According to Ellen, they also try to teach their kids about debt in a way they can understand.

“We tell the kids that if they want a toy they have to have enough money to buy it,” Ellen said. “They can’t borrow from the other, because then they will owe them money.”

The process has taught the family a lot, according to Bennie, but through it all remembering the “why” is what kept them going.
“You have to figure out why you want to accomplish the goal,” Bennie said. “Once you figure out your why, then stick to it. Write it down somewhere that you can see it multiple times throughout the day.”

To help stay on her goals financially, Ellen kept an index card in her wallet to remind her whenever she had the urge to spend money.

“My family and I have worked hard to get to this point in our lives,” Ellen said. “One of our goals is to not get back into debt.”

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center offers financial classes on building credit, buying a house and making budget to name a few. If interested contact them at 731-4900.

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