Live A Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life

As a teen, Lauren had trouble with shoplifting and wanting everything she couldn’t have. Once, her mom found some clothes Lauren had stolen and made her mail them back to the store with an apology.  Lauren’s desire for things never ceased which fed her spending addiction. Growing up, Lauren watched her mother pay all of the household bills, so she thought it was her job when she got married.  After Lauren and Mark were married in 2002 (both were 21 years old), Lauren paid all of the bills and overspent their money. “We got into debt,” she says. “I never told Mark we were in so much debt because I didn’t want to stress him out,” she says. For years she tried every personal finance system available, but she had no success.  Lauren says things were so bad they were $40,000 in credit card debt and running a $1,000 deficit every month.  She couldn’t pay the bills. Finally in 2006, Lauren decided to lay all of the credit card bills on the bed.  She called Mark into the room telling him she needed to talk to him.  Mark saw all the bills and was silent.  Then he said, “I forgive you.  Let’s get through this together.”  Both Lauren and Mark were raised in Christian homes so divorce was not an option.  “When we started working together, our relationship got better and so did our relationship with God,” says Lauren.  Two years later, Mark and Lauren were debt free!

Lauren calls herself a Recovering Spender. She says “recovering” not “recovered” because she still has the tendancy to overspend if she allows herself.  “I had been spending with abandon for years,” says Lauren. Oftentimes, she would hide the purchase in the trunk of her car so Mark wouldn’t see them.  “I felt guilty, but that didn’t stop me from doing the same thing over and over again.”  Looking back, Lauren realizes she wanted to appear as if she “had it all.”  She says the average household in America is $15,000 in credit card debt! She reminds those who overspend to: (1) Take a look at your values.  “If you look at what you’re spending, you will see what you value the most,” she says.  What do you value the most? Security? Family? Retirement?  When you say no to buying things, you are saying yes to your values. (2) Declutter your finances.  Take all of your credit card statements and consolidate your credit cards to lower interest rate cards.  “Get simple with your money,” says Lauren. Get rid of things.  (3) Set appropriate boundaries. You can do whatever you want within the fence but you have to stay within the boundaries.  “If you have a problem going to Target, don’t go to Target.  If you have a problem shopping online at Amazon, take the credit card information out of the website and say no.  It all goes back to the value system.”  (4) Establish a budget that works for you and stick to it.  No one likes the “b” word.  Lauren equates living with a budget to living within a fenced-in area.  The fence is designed to protect you as well as provide security for you as you live freely within the fenced-in area.  

When Lauren and Matt decided to get out of debt, they sold their custom home with a $2,000 monthly mortgage in South Carolina and moved back to Upstate New York.  They rented a townhouse for a year and then bought a house half the size with a $900 mortgage payment.  Now their mortgage will be paid off after less then 10 years.  They take all extra money, including birthday money and tax returns, and pay down their mortgage and put funds in savings.  She also cut their food budget from $1,000 a month to $200 a month. She got a job working nights and sacrificed family time.  She also cut coupons. “We put the gas pedal on and got it done,” says Lauren. While learning to spend $50 a week on groceries, Lauren started posting on Facebook how she was getting free stuff using coupons.  Her friends wanted to know more, so Lauren started a website which is now www.LaurenGreutman.com.

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Author, The Recovering Spender, Center Street, 2016

Founder, www.LaurenGreutman.com (formerly IAmThatLady.com), a top frugal-living website dedicated to helping women contribute to their families’ financial needs

Husband: Mark

4 children


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