Couple shares tips for becoming debt-free

An Indianapolis family paid off more than $127,000 in debt in four years.
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Some key money-saving tips could help get you out of debt in a few short years. An Indianapolis family proved that, paying off their bills with money to spare.

The plastic crown that rests on Cherie Lowe's head is there for a reason.

"A friend of mine said, 'You are like the Queen of Free,' and I said, 'I like it'," Lowe said.

Even the crown was free, Lowe didn't pay for it. She and her husband, like a lot of people, ran up a mountain of debt.

"We had well over $80,000 in student loans," she said.

Add on another $16,000 in credit card debt, graduate school loans, medical bills, car loans - you name it, they had a debt for it.

"If we needed something for one of the kids, it went on the plastic," Lowe said.

At her husband Brian's prompting, she wrote down all of their debt, weeks before the couple's second child was born. They owed more than $120,000.

That was four years ago.

"We have paid off $127,482.30. Sallie Mae actually owes us 32 cents now," Lowe said.

So how did they do it? Lowe says it is like any other change in behavior - one step at a time.

First, she says, look at your bank account. Lowe says most people don't even know what they have in the bank.

Then, spend less than what you make. Sure, it sounds like novel advice, but very few people actually follow it.

The biggest tip Lowe has to give is to use cash at the grocery store, which forces you to stick to planned meals.

"Cash in the grocery store will save you more than any coupon, because when it's gone, it's gone," she said.

Lowe is not an extreme couponer, her weekly savings average around $9-40, which all went to pay off debt. Just following their simple rules, at first, gave them an extra $100 a month toward debt. After four years, she continues to find ways to save money by making her own cleaning supplies, like laundry detergent.

The Lowes expect to save enough for a comfortable retirement, then start giving.

"Be able to give like nobody else can give, that is really what it is all about. To be in a position where we see a need, where we can actually help somebody who is hurting," Brian Lowe said.