We were in debt up to our eyeballs. Here’s how we dug ourselves out of it and bought a home

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” 

Oh wait, we were talking about home buying? Ah… always the renter, never the owner.

It’s the way so many of us feel. We watch as our family members and friends buy homes, and we congratulate them with a housewarming gift in hand and a smile plastered across our face. We’re happy for them—we truly are. But there’s this nagging voice on the inside always asking, “Why not me? When will it be my turn? How in the world were they able to afford that?”

If we’re being honest here, it’s hard not to be flat out jealous of people who are able to buy a home in this market—or the folks who got in before interest rates went through the roof. Those lucky duckies. We can’t help but feel that we’re somehow behind in life’s race to home ownership. And that, somehow, we’ve been dealt a bad hand or given a raw deal. I remember that feeling all too well. 


Back in 2007, my husband, Sam, and I got married. Initially, we moved into his small town house. But within a year, instead of upgrading to a bigger home, we went “backward.” We sold the town house—and all of our furniture—and moved into a one-bedroom apartment we could afford. 

If I could give you one piece of advice: Don’t be afraid of long timelines. The time’s going to pass, anyway.


Then, a year later, we took it a step further and rented a cheaper place where we could have roommates. That’s right, we got roommates to help out with the rent. Two married people living with two other married people. I can hear some of you saying, “Awesome, that would be just like “Friends” or “Three’s Company.”

Image of cast of "Friends."

“Friends” aired during the late 90s and early 2000s on NBC.  (NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Nope. It wasn’t. It was our rock bottom. Trust me, there’s nothing awesome about living in a shared condo and sleeping on an air mattress while your friends are off buying houses and having babies. Talk about feeling behind in life! But we were racked with about $460,000 in consumer and student loan debt. We knew we wouldn’t have peace about buying a home without first walking the journey to pay off all our debt and get to a healthy place financially.


For us, renting was a necessary step in the journey to homeownership. It bought us the time we needed to pay off our debt and save up to buy a home the right way. In truth, our goals were very simple in concept but very difficult to accomplish. But if we can do it, you can too. These were our goals:

1. Save $1,000 for an emergency fund.

2. Pay off all debt.

3. Save up 3–6 months of basic expenses.

4. Make sure we’re playing with a stacked DECK.

Here’s what I mean by DECK:

D. Down payment: Save at least 5%. (If you can hit 20% and avoid PMI, even better!)

E. Earnest money: You need to be prepared to put this money down up front when you make an offer to show you’re serious about buying a home. (It will get applied toward your down payment when you close.)

C. Closing costs: These fees can be around 5% of the purchase price, and they’re usually rolled into your mortgage loan. (This matters because it affects your monthly payment.) You can pay for these fees in cash or increase your down payment to offset them.

K. Keep in mind and save for miscellaneous expenses—like inspection, appraisal and the actual move!


What made it most difficult for us was the timeline. These aren’t goals you complete in just six months. Or even in six years. Saving money to do all these things when you don’t have a ton of margin takes time. You need time to save and time to increase your income, so you can save more. It took us 10 years to complete everything on the list. Yep, we rented for 10 years. We went from hitting rock bottom in 2008 to turning the key to our first home in 2018.

If I could give you one piece of advice: Don’t be afraid of long timelines. The time’s going to pass, anyway. And you can spend that time being overwhelmed and jealous and pointing fingers at all the bad breaks you’ve endured, or you can spend that time getting busy building the future you desire. Trust me, comparison is futile. It only wastes valuable time and mental calories.


Here’s the thing: There will always be people “further ahead” than you (if that’s even a thing). And there will always be times in life when wages aren’t high enough, cost of living isn’t low enough, and real estate conditions aren’t as favorable as you’d like. But those things will hurt far worse if you don’t have your finances under control.

If you’re anything like me, the key to getting the keys to your first home likely involves a journey toward getting your finances in order. Even if you don’t have debt, simply saving for a down payment at these prices will take time. But don’t let time scare you away from your dreams. It might take longer than you want to get your house, but that’s OK. Because when you get it, it will be far sweeter, and you’ll be far more grateful and appreciative. 

Jade Warshaw is a personal finance coach, bestselling author of Money’s Not a Math Problem, and co-host of The Ramsey Show. Jade has a professional background in entertainment and has performed in over 92 countries worldwide. Since paying off over $460,000 in debt with her husband, Sam, Jade’s been helping others learn how to get out of debt and take control of their money. As a co-host of “The Ramsey Show,” the second-largest talk radio show in America, Jade helps people take back their power by teaching them to shift their mindset and actions around money. Follow Jade on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and X, or online at

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