The following is a guest post by Julie at The Family CEO.

In the last 14 months, we’ve paid off over $40,000 in non-mortgage debt. $44,513 to be exact.

That number surprises even me. In fact, I pulled all the statements and re-checked the numbers on the spreadsheet just to be sure.

That number doesn’t include our mortgage, which is on a 15 year payout. We paid $11,700 toward that during the same time period.

That brings the grand total of debt paid down during those 14 months to $56,213.

So what happened?

Did we rob a bank? Sell the house? Win big in Vegas?

None of those.

In fact, while our income is good (so good that it allowed us to qualify for lots of debt), our expenses have never been higher.

We have one child in college and we’re paying for that in cash. We have another in parochial high school, which we are cash flowing as well. We’re paying down that mortgage I told you about. And – since we’re in our late 40’s — retirement suddenly seems very, very real.

It feels a little like trying to turn a big ship around. A Very. Big. Ship.  But it’s working and it’s exciting.

In the event that you’re also trying to pay down debt or reach another big financial goal, here are three things that have helped us on our journey:

Assigning jobs to income streams.

A couple of years before our daughter left for college, I began earning some money by writing online. I earmarked that (modest) income stream for her college costs, which it mostly covers.

I’ve done the same thing with the part-time income I earn from doing the bookkeeping and payroll for two very small family businesses. That income stream has a job too, which keeps it from getting eaten up by day-to-day living.

That leaves our primary source of income from my husband’s business free to pay our expenses and kick in some extra for debt reduction too.

Taking advantage of big wins.

Nothing keeps you motivated and propels your debt reduction forward like some big wins. We used life insurance cash value and some business bonuses to take big bites out of our debt. A large tax refund or selling something big would work too.

Creating lots of little wins.

Between big wins – which don’t come along very often – we created lots of little wins. I sold stuff on eBay and Craigslist, opened a bank account that paid us cash back for debit card purchases, and found some money owed to us on an unclaimed money website. We also took every rebate, birthday check, and even jury duty pay that came our way and applied it as extra payments on our debt.

So what’s next?

We have $14,785 in non-mortgage debt left to pay off. We hope to have it knocked out in the first half of 2012. Then we’ll beef up our emergency fund and start applying all of these techniques for something more fun than paying off debt.

In 2006, Julie hired herself to make her family’s finances her business. She blogs about her experiences – including paying off debt – at The Family CEO.

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