The Correlation Between Frugality And Debt Repayment

My wife and I are still working to become debt free.  In fact, we are now within a month of paying off her car.  It will be the first time in our marriage we will be without a car payment (look for a celebratory post next month)!  While working our way through debt repayment we have found that living frugally has helped by creating more disposable income to use to pay down debt.  Let me use an example from this past weekend.

Can coupons help you get out of debt faster?

We have been members of The Grocery Game for some time now.  It is a service that lines up coupons and store deals to notify you of rock-bottom pricing deals at your favorite store(s). We diligently collect the coupon fliers from each Sunday paper and file them by date in our filing cabinet. When planning a grocery trip, we print out the latest Grocery Game  list and clip the coupons from the weekly flier.  If you sign up for The Grocery Game, I would appreciate it if you would plug my email address jason[at] in the referral box – I think I’ll earn a couple free weeks if a number of you do it).

Last Friday my wife headed off to take the kids to school and planned to do a little grocery shopping on the way home.  Then she realized she forgot coupons.  Dilemma.  Return all the way home to pick up coupons, or just go on to the store since she was sitting in the parking lot when the missing coupon realization came over her.  She decided to go shopping, sans coupons.

Despite her best efforts to find store deals and generic brands, she still spent a considerably more without our coupons. Normally, this wouldn’t be that big a deal – we would simply adjust the budget a bit and write it off as a lesson learned (we should really keep our coupons in an accordion file in the car for this very reason).  However, since we are so close to paying off our car early, and set a goal to do it by June, every bit we can save goes directly towards that car loan balance.

A penny saved is a penny earned, or one you can use to pay off debt

Of course, this is just a recent illustration of something we’ve known all along. For every penny we spend it is one less penny that can be used to repay debt, or build wealth. This is easy to see when setting up a budget – an increase in one category means a decrease in the other. However, it is harder to recognize during the day-to-day grind.

We also recognize that living ultra frugal while in debt is extremely difficult, because your family is already making supreme sacrifices to get out of debt. Now you are asking them to not eat out, stay out of the movie theater, and skip the annual vacation.  Don’t be surprised if you meet resistance.

If you can manage to live a frugal lifestyle while in debt, the payoff will come when you pay off those debts.  We’ve already experienced this feeling with a couple credit card balances, and now it’s time to knock out this car loan.  Who would have thought clipping all those coupons would help us pay off our car.


  1. It really is amazing what the “little” things can accomplish when you add them up to pay off debt. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s a good reminder to be prepared, and it’s a good reminder of how even something seemingly small can make a big difference.

  2. I won’t set foot in the store without my coupons and list because I know some expensive treat will find its way into the basket if I don’t exactly what’s on my list and nothing else. (The list also means I know what treats are on sale and okay to get, so we actually have more yummies, more often because of the strictness of the list.)

    We’ve saved about $500 over the last two months of GG, which was a nice chunk of change to send at our car loan. When looking at our weekly savings, it didn’t seem like that much, but when we checked out the end of the month budget, our jaws dropped.

  3. Sometimes I feel like the little pig who built the house made of bricks. I was pretty frugal and were lucky enough to pay off our mortgage recently. I feel about 10 years younger now with all the pressure off.

    So I took – and take heat because I’m very mindful of where the money goes but it really pays off so keep it up!

  4. We paid of our cars a few years ago. When my shopaholic friend found out, the first thing she asked was “if you do not have a car payment, what do you do with all your money?” I am ashamed to say that I made up a bogus excuse about have tons of student loans that we need to pay off. I could see that she was re-evaluating our relationship based upon how much debt she has and how little debt I have. I do not relish the idea of having her tell me “but you can afford it” when I pass on something in the future.

  5. Good for you!

    I think coupons is the next step in my “debt-free” progression. But for some reason I can’t get into them.

  6. I keep my coupons in a notebook with baseball card holders. I try to arrange them like the layout of the store so I can flip through as I

    I used the GG for a while but it got to where the best deals were gone or not available in my store and there was just so much junk food or female oriented product’s on the list. It was good at teaching me about sales and coupons.

    I did end up with about a years worth of shampoo for free though.

    I do miss the Triple .75 from Albertsons though. It’s nice to have to buy a candy bar at check out to keep from going negative.

  7. It definitely takes an adjustment to one’s lifestyle to become debt-free. This adjustment can be a little painful, but it is amazing how fast you can clean up years of bad financial behavior with intense focus. You obviously have this focus. Frugality definitely puts you on the fast track to financial freedom!

  8. I was a chronic coupon-forgetter. So now I just keep the coupon organizer in my purse. There are still times when I space out and forget them. Since I have health issues, it’s usually not an option to run back home and get them — doing that means I probably won’t go back out.

    So, when I forget coupons, I try to get only what we absolutely need, and come back for the other specials the next time I have the energy to go. (Usually one to two days later.)

    I’m definitely celebrating the small payments. I finally got paid from, and am pretty close to a couple more payouts. It’s always nice to stack them in a deposit and know you have an extra $20 or so to put against debt.

    It’s still frustrating at times. My husband is on unemployment; I’m on disability and only able to work a few hours a week. If even one of us could work full-time, we’d pay off the credit cards in no time. But for now, we just chisel away at it with whatever we have.