$30k in wedding debt...all paid off
One year after a splurge, Doug and Tina Koch are free and clear. Here's how they did it.
By Tina Koch, as Told to Amanda Gengler, MONEY Magazine staff reporter

(MONEY Magazine) -- "My husband Doug and I charged more than $30,000 to pay for our wedding, which MONEY featured in May 2005.

But before we picked out a single centerpiece, we agreed to take on only as much debt as we could pay off by our first anniversary. To determine that amount, we tracked our spending: For a month we used only credit and debit cards, which gave us a paper trail for every dollar we spent.

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Doug and Tina Koch

If we needed cash, we wrote the purpose on the ATM receipt. If we cut out the non-necessities, we discovered, we could pay off $30,000 in a year.

Once we started keeping track of our money, we were shocked at some of our habits.

Eating out was costing us $1,200 a month. After the wedding, that couldn't continue so we went out only once every two weeks and packed lunches.

We found cheaper ways to hang out with friends, such as grilling in our backyard. I cut out shopping, and Doug stopped buying pricey toys like ATVs.

There were some unexpected expenses ($1,000 for Doug's back surgery, for example), but each month we mailed a check to our credit-card company.

Eleven months later we'd paid off the entire balance.

The experience got us thinking: What if we could save even half that amount each year for retirement? So we've now found other ways to save.

We just downsized into Doug's previous home, which has no mortgage; I sold my SUV for a smaller car. But the nose-to-the-grindstone period is over.

On our anniversary trip to Seattle, we walked into a mall - for the first time in a year.

___________________________

Debt reduction planner

Money 101: Controlling your debt Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.