- Who: Lauren and Kyle Mochizuki
- Where: San Juan Capistrano, California
- Total Debt: $266,000
- Type of Debt:
- Credit card: $2,000
- Car loans: $34,000
- Mortgage: $230,000
- Time to payoff: 2.75 years
- How they did it:
- Picked up work shifts
- Got a second job
- Made a chart with all their debt and celebrated every win
- Budgeted in YNAB
- Changed lifestyle
Learn more about Lauren and Kyle’s story below:
How They Met
Lauren and Kyle Mochizuki met at the hospital where she was a nurse in the ER.
“I’ll never forget the day where Kyle strode in the double doors of the ER. I just remember thinking I need to know him, this handsome paramedic guy,” Lauren said.
Kyle saw her too—and had to try for weeks to get her number.
“I didn’t want to let him think it was too easy,” Lauren said.
They ended up going out and that was that. They got married in 2009.
On Money: “We Just Wanted to Have Fun”
Between a month-long back-packing trip around Europe, financing two brand new cars, vacations, and a mortgage, they spent without giving much thought to money.
“We weren’t very organized with our money. We were just nonchalant and reckless—we just wanted to have fun,” Kyle said.
Between credit cards, car loans, and a mortgage, their debt grand total was $266,000.
The Debt Turning Point: A Car Ride Home
Kyle watched as a friend started aggressively paying down debt: selling his condo, changing his lifestyle. “He was going bananas,” Kyle remembers. And at the time, Kyle wanted none of it.
But not too long after, as Kyle was driving home—he spontaneously tuned into the Dave Ramsey radio show, where they were talking about paying off debt. At this point, Kyle was 10 months deep in two car payments, and he had to time them just right to make sure money was in their accounts. The stress from debt was starting to weigh heavy, and the debt-free message was finally falling on ready ears.
He got home and asked Lauren what she thought about paying everything off—to be debt free. After a bit of hesitation and a bit of convincing, she decided to be on board too.
Scaling the $266,000 Debt Mountain
Kyle and Lauren started viciously attacking their debt—first using money they had saved to pay down some of the balances. They started picking up extra shifts to bring in more money.
They also tried to cut expenses as much as possible. Here’s some of the things they did:
- Kyle went through every single utility to figure out if there was a way they could cut it or decrease it.
- They went out to eat less.
- They meal planned more.
- They did a lot more free things together—going to the beach, playing cribbage, riding bikes, and spending time outside.
“Gosh we practically lived at the beach when we weren’t at work,” Kyle remembers.
They would make their assembly-line sandwiches (a system they had perfected) then head out to the beach to spend the day. They’d bring books to read and leave screens at home. With their heavy work schedules, they were intentional about the time they did have together.
“I would always be mindful of our days together. Those were on the calendar. We would reconnect, refresh, and then keep going.” Lauren said.
At the beginning of the month, they would both sit down and look at their budget. They would plan for the month ahead and where the money needed to go. The stress and money fights that used to rear up seemed to disappear almost overnight. Kyle credits the budgeting tool You Need a Budget for giving them both clarity around what was important during this all-out sprint.
“Those little money tussle fights that used to come up were no longer there,” Kyle says. “It actually brought us quite a bit closer.”
They started seeing traction and picking up steam. Their debt snowball got bigger as they checked things off, paid things off, and got to a point where only the mortgage remained.
The Final Debt: The Mortgage Balance
After doing some calculations, they figured the mortgage could be paid off in eight to ten years.
They didn’t have any children at that point, but knew they wanted a family eventually. This time was a chance to get debt free before their first child arrived. If they were working like crazy before, now they were on hyperspeed.
“I remember a few people wondering why I was working so much. I just remember saying, we’re just trying to pay off our debt. It seemed like something so simple but it was just so, so radical to our peers.”
They made a chart to show their total debt remaining and tracked their progress. Each victory was celebrated—however small. They had a champagne toast when they were paying more principal than interest every month.
Debt Free After 33 Months
After 33 months of intense debt payoff, they became debt free.
A year later, they welcomed their first child—a baby boy named Owen—into the world.
“Bringing Owen into the world with no debt was one of the best decisions that we’ve ever made,” Lauren said. “We didn’t have to worry about money. That was one of the best feelings ever.”
After Owen was born, Lauren was able to take a full three months of maternity leave with no financial stress. They didn’t have to worry about a mortgage payment, a car payment, a credit card payment: it was all done. And she knew when she went back to work, she could work fewer hours and they’d be just fine.
Kyle was able to transition to a fire department closer to home, which meant starting at the bottom of the totem pole after 15 years of experience. It was a risky move in his line of work—but he knew his finances were taken care of. Because they didn’t have any debt, the scary job change and life change felt more manageable. With the switch, he went from an hour-long commute to a station a few minutes away.
“I think in the back of my mind, I knew having all of that debt done and having a family was going to be valuable,” Kyle said. “I guess I didn’t realize how valuable it was going to be.”
They Found Their Dream Home
After months of pack-and-plays and bouncers strewn about their 1,100-square-foot condo, Kyle and Lauren were starting to feel a bit cramped. Then their dream house came up on the market. It was a quirky fixer-upper a mile away from the beach and in the same neighborhood as close friends. It was quite a bit pricier than their condo, but with the money from their paid-off condo, they were able to put down 50% of the mortgage and still have money left for renovations.
“Having gone through our whole debt-free journey, we now have a mortgage payment and that’s it. And I feel like that’s all we will ever have. Eventually, we would like to pay that off. We are not in quite the rush we were before we had children. We’re in our dream home, now we just enjoy the time.” Lauren said.
What Life Looks Like Now
They now have a second child, a baby girl named Emma. Lauren typically works four days a month per diem as a nurse. Kyle works two days on, four days off as a firefighter. Some days they hang around the house, some days they get up and go to the park, the beach, ride bikes, or go to the Mission.
“I spend most of my time with the children. It’s been really, really awesome to have this time and watch them grow up,” Lauren says.
Owen is starting school soon—Kyle isn’t ready. But he’s enjoyed the flexibility his financial journey has allowed him. “We can enjoy this time that we have with our little family while it lasts…it means a lot to us to watch those little guys grow up.”
“Having the option of what you can do with your time, I think, has been huge. There is no greater gift.”